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All posts for the month September, 2014

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(Below is an excerpt from my Masters in Strategic Leadership program’s discussion board – http://lifepacific.edu/academics/graduate/)

Jeremiah and Ezekiel identify corruption within the “shepherds” of Israel (Jeremiah 21-23 and Ezekiel 34) and in doing so, show the justice and mercy of the chief shepherd. Laniak points to the fact that, in Jeremiah’s day, the abuse of power by “shepherds” was “fundamentally, a failure to understand the character of YHWH” (Laniak, 2006, p. 135) “Ezekiel depicts shepherds who show no regard for the obvious needs of the flock, and they appear oblivious to the expectations inherent in their role as undershepherds” (Laniak, 2006, p. 152). Revealing the shepherds’ corruption in their leadership shows the nature and character of God’s leadership in how He punishes those shepherds. Their abuse is in direct contradiction to the character of God and lacks submission to the chief shepherd. Add to this metaphor what we find in Psalm 23, that “the condition and growth of a flock depends greatly on the care, attentiveness and skill of the shepherd” (Laniak, 2006, p. 53), we find a God who shepherds with great concern for the flock and thereby requires His “undershepherds” to lead accordingly.

The shepherd metaphor has strong validity in pastoral leadership. The biblical narrative defines the character of God within the framework of this metaphor, giving present leaders a definition of leadership that can be helpful in “tending the flock that God has given”.

As a pastor of a larger church since last October, it seems to me that megachurches have done much to diminish the shepherd metaphor in pastoral ministry. Many large church pastors are great communicators, visionaries, type A personalities and a common thought is that these characteristics are opposed to those of a “shepherd”. At worst, the metaphor speaks against the idea of a highly charismatic leader who is alone at the top of a mega-organization; at best, it speaks to a lowly, meek and slow moving leader of a small flock. I think megachurch pastors are also leery of defining their ministry as a shepherd because the sheep will immediately think they should be readily available to them as their shepherd. Laniak helped me process this in his writing. “While a competent shepherd can handle as many as 500 sheep and goats alone in open pasturelands, the comprehensive work of animal husbandry over the course of a year requires a number of able workers” (Laniak, 2006, p. 51). We need to redefine this imagery to be more reflective of what Jesus meant by being “the good shepherd”. Jesus led thousands, but He was a shepherd. Again, it comes back to a study of theology to help inform us leaders about why the Father had Jesus describe Himself as a shepherd and His followers as sheep. There is something very powerful in this imagery if we can recapture the heart of it.

Laniak, T. S. (2006). Shepherds after My own heart: Pastoral traditions and leadership in the Bible. Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity Press.

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As people who influence others, leaders must choose a philosophy of life that they draw from as they influence. Isaiah 49:1-3 talks about one option and is the primary mission of every Christian leader in any field of work or family – to reflect God’s glory.

The Mission and Vision of a Leader

Leaders must give their lives to causes that count. They must sense that what they do matters to God. Only then will they feel deep satisfaction for their work. Isaiah 49:1-3 speaks some incredible words about the Messiah’s mission as a Leader:

– He was called from His mother’s womb (v. 1).
– He was gifted with specific resources (v. 2).
– He was protected supernaturally by God (v. 2).
– He was given a particular divine mission (v. 2).
– He was ordained to reflect God’s glory (v. 3).

While any leader might well covet these descriptions, only in the life of the Messiah, God’s servant sent from heaven to redeem earth, were they perfectly fulfilled. Yet they serve as a model for us as we pursue our God-given mission and vision.

(Taken from reading the @YouVersion plan ‘The Maxwell Leadership Reading Plan’. Check it out here: http://bible.com/r/GE)

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The Model for Leadership

We must never forget that the greatest model for leadership always comes from the life of God Himself. Isaiah 40 makes it clear that God, as the Ultimate Leader, models:

Comfort and Security – God supplies comfort and cleansing to His people (vv. 1, 2).

Empowerment and Delegation – God makes the path straight for others, then has them speak His words (vv. 3–8).

Shepherding and Direction – God proclaims good news and guides His people like a Shepherd (vv. 9–11).

Power and Authority – No one can challenge God’s strength. He is a Leader with unequaled power (vv. 12–17).

Creator and Developer – God is the transcendent Leader who builds and develops others (vv. 21–26).

Wise Counselor and Provider – God is the source for every need we may have (vv. 27–31).

This is the @YouVersion plan ‘The Maxwell Leadership Reading Plan’. Check it out here:

http://bible.com/r/GE

I really enjoy preaching, most of the time. Do you know when I hate preaching? When it’s just spiritual truths that haven’t been lived out by me. Those messages always fall flat and they are void of passion and conviction. Today’s devo from John Maxwell encouraged me to practice before I preach, not just what I preach. How does this look in your life?

Being Before Doing

On the basis of King Artaxerxes’ decree, Ezra traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:1–10). As a priest, he felt committed to establishing spiritual priorities among the people, especially as it pertained to their new temple. One verse reflects the heart of a leader fully committed to his God: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (7:10). Do you see the order of priorities in his leadership?

– Learn it: Ezra studied and discovered the truth himself.
– Live it: Ezra practiced and applied what he had learned.
– Loan it: Ezra passed on to others what he had already embraced.

Successful leaders must learn to follow Ezra’s model. Dwight L. Moody suggested the greatest tragedy of his day was that Christian leaders attempted to traffic in unlived truth. It is our tragedy as well. We cannot give away what we don’t incarnate. We must import truth before we export truth. God wants to construct our “being” before our “doing.”

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To honor means “to regard with great respect”. I love this word and I love it even more when I see people honoring another. We honor various people in our culture: those older, those in certain positions. But what if we honored every person we meet today, not because of how old they are or what position they have, but because we see the value that they are for simply being a child of God.

Maxwell focuses on honoring those with whom you work. Give it a try today and let me know how people respond to being honored.

Leaders Honor Their Teams: Put 10s on Their Foreheads

Solomon spoke delightful words that honored and lifted up his bride. Many scholars believe this song is actually a metaphor for Christ’s love for His people. The song also gives leaders a beautiful picture about how to communicate honor from the heart. How can we best communicate compliments to those we lead?

Make them sincere. Be genuine and authentic about what you say.
Make them specific. Get very pointed and detailed about what you say.
Make them public. Declare these honoring words in front of others.
Make them personal. Be personal about what you say.

Whenever I see my staff, I put an imaginary “10” on the forehead of each individual. This helps me treat each person like a 10, a high performer who makes a difference to me and the organization. Inevitably, they respond as if they are a 10!

If you don’t already do this, why not start today? Put “10s” on the people you lead. Treat them based on their potential, not their performance. You’ll be amazed how both will rise.

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Part of my current Masters degree in Strategic Leadership is a class I am in now called “Leadership Theology”. It is the study of God and in what ways His character informs our leadership. As I read the devotional this morning the following verse jumped out at me:

I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. (‭Psalms‬ ‭119‬:‭15‬ NLT)

In studying and reflecting on God it enriches one’s leadership, not just in the church but in the world as well. Principles from His person can make anyone a better leader and a better person.

Leaders Cannot Show the Way Until They Know the Way

The longest psalm in the Bible is a song about the priority of the Word of God. For 176 verses, Psalm 119 holds high the words and wisdom of God and convinces us to treasure it more than anything else in life.

Why is this challenge so crucial for us? Leaders in our world face two realities:

1. Change happens faster than ever, so leaders must remain adaptable.

2. We need timeless values more than ever, so leaders must remain principle-driven.

Psalm 119 provides a roadmap for getting the wisdom, values, and principles we need to lead effectively. Consider what Psalm 119 teaches about adopting God’s Word as our source for leadership principles. Our leadership will…

– be blessed (vv. 1, 2)
– remain pure and ethical (vv. 9–11)
– be strengthened and revitalized (vv. 28, 149, 154–159)
– insightfully answer criticism (v. 42)
– enjoy liberty (v. 45)
– gain wise counsel when needed (v. 66)
– remain steady even when afflicted (vv. 67–72, 92)
– display more insight than our teachers (vv. 99, 100)
– be enlightened and intuitive (vv. 105, 130)
– have a reliable guide even for new issues (vv. 129, 160)
– enjoy inward peace and poise (v. 165)
– get divine help (vv. 173–175)

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As we journey to become like Jesus, there are passages in the Bible that describe God’s character in His leadership which inform us on our own leadership parameters. In Psalm 32, it describes God’s leadership in our lives and thereby describes how we should lead those around us.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. (‭Psalm‬ ‭32‬:‭8‬ NIV)

What a great description of God and those He calls to leadership. Here’s what John Maxwell writes on this passage. What jumped out at you?

Leaders Are Not Perfect, but Whole

God does not expect leaders to be perfect, but to be whole. Have you appreciated the enormous difference? To have integrity means to be whole, as in a whole number (an “integer”). Despite his or her human frailties, a leader can effectively guide those who follow.

Psalm 32:8 reminds us that leaders must closely observe the flock for its needs and problems. God expects spiritual leaders to serve as guides. A guide gets a person or group safely to a planned destination. The Hebrew word for “guide” gives us several clues as to what God expects from those He uses as leaders:

A guide is a spiritual head who unites and directs people in their walk with God.
A guide takes people on the straight path that leads to fellowship with God.
A guide gives accurate and godly counsel to those who need it.
A guide leads with gentleness and trustworthiness, making others feel safe.
A guide bases his or her direction on the Spirit and the Word of God.

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It’s been almost one year since the transition here at Westside and it has gone so well. There have been challenges, mostly in my leadership. I just started a 30 day devotion from John Maxwell on leadership and the following really spoke to me in this season (devotion at bottom).

The distractions have been numerous. I knew a lot would start coming to me, but really had no idea how much would come to me. It would be so easy to allow disagreements and disputes to derail me from God’s calling and purpose. I have also had adversaries that have unknowingly helped me get back to mission.

Thankfully I am not self-absorbed and I am still unimpressed with the whole big church thing. But I see the temptation to think I am something more than I am and how easy it would be to start believing what other people say about me. I am reminded how easily people can turn, as they did in the last two weeks of Jesus’ ministry.

At the end of the day, I am still desperate for the presence of Jesus and do everything I do to please Him and not people. It’s a constant tension, but with God’s help and a church that is as desperate as I am for Him, we will see the glory of The Lord in our lives and communities.

Distraction, the Enemy of Direction

1 Kings 11:1-43

How could the wisest man in history turn away from God? How could the leader whose gifts and focus once made him the talk of the world get distracted from his calling? The temptations that enticed Solomon continue to attack every leader. Once we “arrive,” it becomes easy to stop feeling hungry for growth and excellence. How quickly we become satisfied—and how soon we begin to spiral downward. Note how this process of decay looked for Solomon:

– Distractions: He deviated from his call to lead and be a light to the nations.
– Adversaries: God raised up adversaries to steer him back to his priorities and call.
– Self-absorption: He became consumed with himself rather than his call.
– Loss of God’s presence: God withdrew His anointing.
– Pursuit of pleasure: He became even more obsessed with his own pleasure.
– Emptiness: He finally grew weary of his pursuits and recognized his emptiness.

I just finished day 2 of the @YouVersion plan ‘The Maxwell Leadership Reading Plan’. Check it out here: http://bible.com/r/GE

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Studying proverbs – what do you think is the one thing that causes the following:

– poverty
– scarcity
– a lack of purpose
– being weighed down
– blocked at every turn
– hunger

Check it out and let me know what you think causes all these things:

Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4; 12:11; 12:25; 15:19; 19:15