When I first started leading people I thought it was my role and responsibility to show that I was well rounded, smooth edged, without any major flaws. As a result I spent a good amount of my time trying to work on my weaknesses while neglecting my strengths. This seemed to be logical to me, and it was certainly in line with what I had been taught in school and home. Unfortunately, this kind of advice has its dark side.
Neglecting my strengths left me slipping behind, losing my edge and feeling like I was treading water rather than swimming with the sharks (for those who know me this is an ironic illustration!) Let’s be honest, for any leader worth their weight in salt, treading water is the same as drowning. I needed a radical shift. Then I was recommended to read Marcus Buckingham’s book “Now, Discover Your Strengths.” It turned my world on its ear, and it was my first step towards fulfilling the leadership potential God had placed in my life from a young age. I realized that working on my strengths was the only way to ensure forward momentum in my life and leadership.
On the flip side, there are times and seasons when we all have to work on our weaknesses. As someone who does my best to weight train on a consistent basis, I know that if I don’t train my weaker muscles my strong muscles will not increase in size. This isn’t about being well rounded but it is about making sure that my weaknesses don’t capsize my strengths.
In the meantime, I better get working on my next message. Communicating is one of my strengths. I’d like to keep it that way!
I purchased my first guitar in 1999. A friend of mine was in between jobs and desperately needed money. So did I (I was a youth pastor!) but I forked over $300 to help him out and was handed an Ovation electric acoustic guitar in return. I was determined to be one of those hip guys at the campfire who can play kumbaya, the latest worship song, or a few licks from Metallica. The future was so bright I had to wear shades.
Then I took it out of its case, tuned it up and started to play. It was a LOT harder than it looked. My hands wouldn’t cooperate with many of the chords, my fingertips were burning, and all the cats in the neighborhood were howling at my pathetic attempt to play this instrument of destruction. So what did I do? I packed that guitar back in its hard shell case and stuffed it in a closet. Once a year I would take it out, wondering if our relationship would improve…it never did.
Last Christmas, Sean Morton our Music Pastor, decided to do a guitar orchestra. In his infinite wisdom he decided that this would be a prime time for me to finally learn how to play. I accepted the challenge. Then I got the music, wept profusely, and started to play my six-string until my fingers bled. Over time, the pain in my fingers and in my ears started to turn to pleasure. I was able to do a few more chords, and my transitions were improving, all because of practice. Did you catch that leadership principle in the middle of my guitar lesson? Our pain can turn to pleasure with practice and perseverance.
Now I play as often as I can. I don’t want to lose the calluses on my fingertips nor the memory of the chords from my mind. My perseverance is slowly starting to pay off. I have not transformed into a hip, campfire virtuoso. But I am improving, and having a lot of fun in the process. And I have learned that regardless of the situation perseverance and practice will turn pain to pleasure.
Well that’s enough writing for now. I have to play some more “Every Rose has a Thorn.” So sweet!
I don’t often blog about politics (hey I’d prefer not to be too controversial!), but since this news story is Alberta based and involves my favorite hockey team as well as issues of righteousness and justice, I thought I’d better write.
In recent months there has been controversy as to how a shortfall of funds will be made up in order to build a new arena in the downtown core of Edmonton. It seems neither the city nor the Katz group, the owners of the Oilers, are willing to budge. Enter the leader of the Wildrose Party and official opposition, Danielle Smith. She suggested that the lottery game Keno be used to generate additional revenue that could be used to fund the arena.
Aside from the critics who feel that more Keno machines would just cannibalize revenue that is already being directed in other ways rather than generate new revenue, there are moral and ethical considerations that I think need to be discussed. Gambling can become a serious addiction that hurts. I have met countless people who have had their lives torn apart by the lure of winning and rush of adrenaline that gambling provides. Families are torn apart, bills can’t be paid, and children often feel the brunt of the pain that it causes. Am I suggesting that all people who gamble are addicted to it? Of course not. Am I suggesting that ever person who gambles is willing to spend their last dollar chasing the dream of a jackpot? No. However, many people who feed the coffers of the Alberta government through gaming are the people who can least afford it. Adding more Keno machines in Alberta would only take more money out of the pockets of lower income families and into an arena that houses millionaire players and a team owned by a billionaire. It would simply be a tax on the poor-something that would not go over well with the average Albertan if it were posed in those terms. But I believe that is exactly what it is.
The biblical imperative is to protect the poor, and to live our lives looking out for those who are unable to protect themselves. We are called to live with righteousness and justice as our core values. More gaming in the province in order to finance an arena is neither right nor just.
I’m optimistic that people are trying to come up with creative solutions, but this idea deserves to be scrapped. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. We are a province of innovators and entrepreneurs. I’m sure something creative can be brought to the surface that doesn’t create more destruction for families in need.
On my reading list for the Christmas holidays this year was “Sun Stand Still” by Steven Furtick. Once I started it, I found that I had a very hard time putting it down. This usually means that it is addressing a favorite topic of mine or that God is trying to get my attention. I would say in this case it is definitely the latter.
Furtick urges his readers to have an audacious vision for what they could accomplish for God and to pray audacious prayers to see that vision fulfilled. He uses Joshua 10 as his text, where Joshua prayed in front of the Israelite assembly his literal ‘sun stand still’ prayer because he had a clear vision from God that he was to take the land of promise.
I know that my life used to be marked by the miraculous and my prayers were powerful because my faith was engaged and I believed with my whole being the promises of God. However, through loss, hurt, disappointment and death it has subconsciously sent me into a Post Traumatic Faith Disorder. I believe God can do the miraculous, I just don’t know if he will do it in my life. Maybe you can relate. So then when we pray we end up hedging, asking God to heal a friend with cancer while we secretly wonder when the funeral will be. Or we pray for a dream job while knowing that we would never be able to qualify, and that it is out of God’s realm to answer these prayers anyways.
I had to repent of my mediocrity and disobedience. God wants to accomplish great things in and through me for his glory, so I shouldn’t be wasting time with ‘help me have a good day’ prayers and anemic vision. With this in mind I have started to pray for great things, relying on the character of God; he is great and good. He is powerful enough to do anything, and loving enough to want to.
May God grant you audacious vision that requires audacious prayers in 2013. I can’t wait to see the results!
More to come in the future on how to develop an audacious vision…
I love to throw large pieces of cow flesh on my grill. It makes my mouth water just thinking of tenderloin, striploin and ribeye done perfectly medium rare. This afternoon I chipped away the ice and snow from my grill to enjoy the flavor that only a grill can impart, and I was rewarded for my diligent forays into the freezing cold.
People have been roasting meat for years, and in 1 Kings 19 it records that after Elisha received his calling into ministry as a prophet to the nations of Israel and Judah that he made a bonfire from the wood of his plow and cooked the oxen he had been plowing with. Then he had a tailgate party with his fellow workers.
Until this point we have heard nothing of Elisha. He was a very average Jewish male working hard as a laborer in the fields, plowing with a team of oxen. One day, out of nowhere, he has Elijah place his very own coat on his back, signifying that he would be Elijah’s successor. We are told that Elisha accepts the position enthusiastically and only wants to get some things in order such as saying goodbye to his mother and father. However, the act that I think is most impressive is that Elisha burned his plow and BBQed the oxen. This was total commitment! He In order to follow God’s call on his life he fully committed himself and didn’t leave an option for going back to what he has once known.
I read this scripture and made notes on the significance of his plow burning episode and then in what can only be described as a ‘God Wink’ (a heavenly coincidence) I ordered and began reading a book “Greater” by Steven Furtick. In it he describes the significance of this very event and what it could mean for us as we try to live greater lives for Christ. He says, “Some people never get greater because they’re not willing to leave good behind. There is a cost to pay. Whether it’s giving up something from your past or relinquishing control of your future, you will have to make a sacrifice.” This got me thinking…what is the cost I need to pay? What will be my sacrifice? There is a cost to following Jesus, but we must remember that there is an even greater cost of not following Him.
It’s time to light the BBQ and devour the good that will hold us back from great.
Sometimes you just need a good shout to get things off your chest.
This morning I stumbled upon a sermon that James MacDonald (www.jamesmacdonald.com) preached on Isaiah 64:1. In a passing reference to the first word of the verse he makes an interesting point that caught my attention and ties into the readings we have been doing of late at North Pointe. The word “Oh” is with an exclamation-there is longing in the word. Isaiah wants the heavens to be pulled apart so that there is no barrier between he and God. And in his prayer there is a sense of urgency, passion and zeal.
In 1 Peter 2:3, the Apostle Peter urges his hearers to “Cry out” for spiritual nourishment like a baby cries out for milk. Seems like these words ring hollow on many hearers today in North America. It is not polite to shout or cry out to God. How dare we talk to the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe this way! Then there are the social implications of desperate prayers. Where can you go where you won’t be thought of as a sideshow circus freak if you pray this way? I remember watching the movie “The Apostle” and Robert Duval, the title character, is praying to God through the night in absolute desperation; shouting out his feelings and frustrations, laying his heart bare before the Lord. I think prayers like this have far more in common with King David, Isaiah and the Apostles than my flowery utterings to God that often mask my true feelings.
Where you pray, when you pray or how you pray has a lot to do with your personality and circumstances. However, we are all called to pray and call out to God. So, don’t be afraid to break open your voice and pour your heart out to God. It’s biblical, therapeutic, and even helps you stay focused.
It seems to me that when it comes to developing a relationship with Jesus that sticks through the thick and thin, there is no substitute for a personal experience. In the book of Joshua we are told that the Israelites “served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and leaders who outlived him-those who had personally experienced all that the Lord had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31). The history of Israel is not that stellar after the death of Joshua and his generation. “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
We all have short memories. Even those of us who have experienced God, whether it be through an answered prayer, a confirmation, or a timely word of direction that could only be attributed to the Divine, we are easily tempted to deny the experience or at least forget about it when things aren’t going our way. How much harder is it for those who have not had an experience of God in their lives at any point? I think this is one of the reasons why I am such a proponent of healthy children’s and youth ministry. We need to create room for the coming generation to experience God in a way that resonates with them. I am thankful that I was able to experience God through listening to Petra or DC Talk while wearing my clothing backwards Kriss Kross style. I pray that my children will have equally profound moments with God in whatever way it takes to be rooted deep within them.
It has been said that the greatest distance information has to travel to become transformation is from our heads to our hearts. For the Israelites, those who experienced God first-hand were able to acquire heart knowledge. Those who heard about God second-hand had head knowledge, but it wasn’t enough to bring about a change in their attitudes, behavior and lifestyle. Anyone who wants to can experience God. God wants to lead and guide us, speaking into our lives; we just have to create room for him to do it. This requires surrender, obedience, patience and persistence. Are you ready to experience God? Call out to him and he will answer!
We all have causes or issues that we are passionate about. You may not even realize that you are a crusader for a cause until the topic comes up in conversation and you find yourself talking louder, trying to convince people that they should see the issue from your point of view. This can be about serious issues such as child slavery, environmental impact, or international banking practices. Or it can just be about who is the best or most deserving team to win the NBA finals (of course it’s Oklahoma City…do you really want LeBron and the Heat to win it all?)
In an interesting and rarely talked about vignette in Numbers 25 we are told about a man named Phineas who killed a man and a woman in a burst of passionate zeal for the holiness of God because of sexual sin in the Israelite camp. Without delving into the story too deeply, we are told that his passionate zeal was what turned away the anger of the Lord against the Israelites, and he was rewarded for doing the right thing at the right time (Numbers 25:11). While others were paralyzed with fear, or simply too indifferent to do anything about the situation, Phineas acted on what he knew was right.
It seems to me that the longer I have known Jesus and the more involved I am in the local church, the less passionate I have become about the issues of holiness that are central to the character of God. Why is this? It seems to me that the more I get to know the heart and nature of God, the more my heart should break for the things that break the heart of God, and the more willing I should be to do what is right even if it means stepping out of my areas of comfort. If I am willing to give an impassioned diatribe on the merits of physical exercise and balanced eating, should I not be more willing to speak to issues that are of eternal significance?
I was challenged as I read this scripture this morning. I hope you will be challenged as well to a passionate zeal for the things that God is passionate about.
A simple definition of renaissance is a “rebirth or revival.” I have noticed in conversation over the last few months I am using this word to describe what I am currently going through in my relationship with Christ, and in particular, my reliance on the Holy Spirit.
As a young Christian I had no illusions about where my strength and power for witness and living a pure life came from. Without the Spirit I was lost, destitute, and so I took the words of the Apostle Paul to heart to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). However, somewhere along the line I allowed myself veer away from reliance on the Spirit, to a growing dependence on my giftings, skills, abilities and past experiences. This change was almost imperceptible at first, but I realize that my prayers weren’t desperate, and I wasn’t asking to be filled by the Spirit of God on a daily basis for wisdom, strength and power. It’s little wonder that my walk with God and ministry was anemic at times.
In the last three weeks I have been teaching our Alpha class about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and how they can be filled with the Holy Spirit. As I was studying, teaching and finally discussing the material with the participants in the class, I was craving more of the Spirit of God in my own life. I have seen the fruit of a Spirit-filled life, and I don’t want to go back to the place where I rely solely on systems, strategies and skill as the basis for my life and ministry. I want a renaissance of the Spirit in my life. I need a renaissance of the Spirit in my life.
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me, and on those whom I come in contact with.
Since January I have been more consistent with taking care of my physical body through a more balanced diet, regular weight training, and my least favorite part, running. I realize the benefits of running but even as a kid I wasn’t very good at it nor did it come very natural. I was always described as a “husky” boy rather than a svelte Kenyan runner! I have short legs, broad shoulders, and my footfall is more like Godzilla than Usain Bolt. However, with practice I have started to improve my stride and have greatly improved my cardiovascular endurance. So much so that just last week I completed my first 10k run, and did it in under an hour. Prior to this minor accomplishment I had only run 7kms at one time, so at least I know I am improving!
This whole experience has been stretching for me, but thankfully it has not broken me, it has just expanded my abilities and shown me that I have much more to give than I had once expected. It seems the more I am stretched, the more I feel I can stretch. What once was a pipe dream is now fait accompli. Now I must continue to push myself and stretch or become lulled back into a static lifestyle that offers little reward.
In what areas are you stretching yourself right now? Let me know, I’d love to cheer you on.