CRISIS LEADERSHIP LESSONS #1

As I continue my journey of reading the Bible in a year, I came across one of the most tragic episodes in Israel’s history. While Moses is enjoying a wonderful encounter with God – the people fail again so badly.

This was Aaron’s ‘big break’ and he handles responsibility very poorly. He had a great chance to prove his leadership yet this becomes one of his worst moments in life. And to be fair, it happens so very often to any of us. We ‘blow’ unique chances at exactly the most inopportune moments. As always – maybe there are some lessons for us:

Beware of the ‘big break’ – they often say that you are most vulnerable when you are doing well, when you enjoy success and when the world seems to be your oyster. Maybe Aaron was so flattered and overwhelmed emotionally by the chance to lead that he either lost his sense of discernment or simply became arrogant. And that’s when he became vulnerable and stopped leading. Probing question: ‘how do you respond to success and promotions?’

Beware of impatience – the people wanted an instant, 3D worship experience. Just like the pagan nations around them. Moses was delayed for too long and all he would bring down was a boring set of tablets. Not as fancy and shiny as the golden calf they built. So, DIY is in order. They cannot wait and they make it happen. Probing question:’ are you getting ahead of God and doing His work for Him?’

Beware of ‘mob rule’ – this was so rushed and so ad hoc. No leadership meeting. No praying. No waiting. Just people crowding Aaron out and applying peer pressure. They were unhappy and they were numerous. They could easily become violent. Survival instinct kicks in and the crowd have their way. Probing question: ‘who do you live to please?’

Beware of ‘negative momentum’ – any leader reading this could identify in some measure with Aaron’s situation. things have a way of getting out of hand and troubles easily escalate. Was Aaron really prepared to take it that far or things simply went from bad to worse? Just as much as positive momentum will take to places you have never even dreamed of – so can negative momentum take to your worst nightmare. Probing question: ‘if i take this route – what is the worst case scenario?’

Beware of substitutes/fakes – this must be so tempting for any leader. To have a crowd – and one that is pleased with you (Mr. Popular) and a crowd that are having a good time. Most leaders dream of this. Yet for Israel and Aaron – it is all fake. They do not respect him and trust him as a leader – they simply use him as a push-over. They are not having a worship time – they just indulge in a ‘copy-cat’ worship experience common to the pagan nations around. Probing question: ‘Is that experience authentic or a cheap copy?’

 

GETTING READY #3

As I continue adding some thoughts on preparing for the Sunday gatherings – I would like to bring some practical ideas for those who serve every Sunday, using their gifts for preaching, caring, praying, music and hospitality.

  • START EARLY – Pray/listen/study/practice through the week – take time to let God speak to you and inspire you – be as well prepared as you can be. It honors God and blesses people. Often I like to start the preparation of my messages early in the week so God can deepen the Word, its meaning, emphasis and focus as well as preparing my attitude for delivering it.
  • YOU FIRST – You are a vessel in which God pours out His gifts – don’t ever forget that your own personal devotion and holiness is the most important gift to the people you serve. Let God’s encouraging/convicting words or songs impact you first. That way you will overflow with authenticity and passion. God’s message will own you.
  • TOGETHER – Take time to pray together as teams on Sunday before the services. Not as a ritual that is meaningless but as a thoughtful act of a team desperate to see God touch people’s lives. That demonstrates a healthy level of dependency and unity. I would be the best reminder that it isn’t your show or your stage.
  • TAKE A BREAK – if you sense that you are just going through the motions, not honoring God and caring for people, step off and re-evaluate. Who are you doing it for? Why are you doing it? Otherwise you probably will do more harm than good. Learn to appreciate the privilege of serving and keep that appreciation fresh!
  • KEEP THE FOXES OUT – Solomon was right. Small issues can cause great damage. Watch out for annoying bad habits, unforgivenes, ego trips, lateness, bad communication, forgetfulness, insensitivity towards the techies, rudeness and ungratefulness. These problems can cause more damage than any theological heresy. Deal with them wisely, honestly and graciously – otherwise the price will be high.

GETTING READY #2

As promised a few days ago, here are some tips for preparing for the Sunday gatherings. Maybe some of them might seem very arbitrary and might not suit your particular context at all. Some of them might have an even wider application – i.e. small group gatherings, youth events, etc.

I never look at such tips as a rigid set of rules but more as ‘helpful tools’. Look in t he box and see what you need to help you (and your family) to have a Christ-centred focus that can also encourage/witness to others.

  1. IT’S NOT A FIX – while Sunday gatherings are great for praise, prayer, instruction and care – they will never replace your week-long daily devotional life. Therefore prepare yourself through the week. Pray for yourselves and those who will be ministering. Listen to God for ways in which he can use you to encourage someone with the way He has encouraged you throughout the week. What you will ‘input’ in your soul throughout the week will affect you and the rest of the congregation.
  2. DON’T COME SHOPPING – if you are approaching the Sunday gatherings as a consumer, you will set yourself up for disappointment. No one can satisfy such unhealthy expectations. You will be likely to be judgmental and your focus will be distorted. Come to give God glory and ready to serve your brothers and sisters. With such a focus – the gatherings will be revolutionized.
  3. EARLY NIGHT – this might be more relevant to some than others. If you’re a not a morning person, make sure you get to bed at a reasonable time so that you can be fresh next morning. You would be the best judge of what that would be.
  4. EARLY RISE – although tempting to have a ‘lie in’ – try to avoid that. Have a nice breakfast (with the family together, if not single), celebrating His provision. You could read a passage/Bible story and ask the Holy Spirit to enable those who will serve you this morning and set your own heart(s) right. If you get delayed – arguments and frustrations are far more likely to disrupt the morning. Maybe you can even get the clothes and the breakfast table ready the night before.
  5. GET THERE IN GOOD TIME – this will give you a chance to connect with people and get settled in with as few disruptions as possible for everyone. Lateness will often create frustration and it will possibly ‘rob’ you of precious time of worship.
  6. ONCE THERE – FOCUS AGAIN – I love churches where there is a friendly atmosphere yet before the service people just stop and prepare their minds and hearts – asking God to be focal point of their attention.

GETTING READY #1

I recognize that I am pretty unique in the fact that for me Sunday is probably the most significant day of the week. When I am engaging in conversations at supermarket tills or even with friends, the questions is often asked: ‘Any plans for the weekend? Getting away anywhere nice?’

My vocations enables me to probably reach the highest number of people in my congregation on a Sunday and engage in something very unique: the gathering of very different people that come together to glorify God, encourage one another, pray and submit themselves to the authority of God’s proclaimed Word. As you would expect, I try to make sure that I am prepared about it.

I will attempt to write some (hopefully) helpful and very practical  ways in which we can prepare ourselves for the Sunday gatherings very soon. In the meantime, just to start us off, I will re-post part of a superb prayer that Tullian Tchvidijian posted yesterday:

As all of us prepare our hearts and minds for worship tomorrow, my prayer is that we go, first and foremost, expecting to encounter the glory of God.

I pray that, as we sleep, God would expand our want to sing of who he is and hear of what he’s done.

I pray that we go ready and willing to feel the grief of our wreckage so that we can feel the glory of his rescue.

I pray that we go to see God on display, not preachers or musicians. A worship service is not the place to showcase human talent; it’s the place for God to showcase his Divine treasure. A worship service that contains the power to change us (even us preachers) is a worship service that leaves us with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality. Isaiah did not leave the temple in Isaiah 6 thinking, “What great music, what a great building, what a great preacher.” He left thinking, “What a great God.”

Perhaps John Stott’s words will be used to grow our love for the great gospel we will encounter tomorrow:

The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.

Amen!

Remember: we gather for worship not to escape the real world, but to be reminded that this present world in its present fallen state is not all there is. For the Christian, the best is yet to come.

So worship humbly and hard tomorrow. You need it…So do I!

ROCK BUT NO ROLL

The year has barely started and there are plenty of reminders that we live in very challenging times. We have stepped into a new year full of hopes, dreams, fears and perhaps a lot of uncertainties and the ‘knock-backs’ have probably already started… These might be issues that we face on a global level as well as our own individual personal lives.

There are questions that dig into my mind and heart… How can we face the hours, days and weeks ahead with a sense of courage? Where can we draw hope from? How can succeed in jumping over all the obstacles ahead – and finish the race well?

There is a very interesting part of Moses’ Curriculum Vitae in Hebrews 11 that I want you to notice and ponder on: ‘…by faith he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.’ (27) Here are different other renditions of the same expression: ‘He endured’ (NASB); ‘He kept right on going’ (TLB); ‘He never flinched’ (Moffat).
What an amazing description of someone’s obedience and faithfulness in following God. If I am allowed to write it – I even envy him. But remember that Moses’ life was peppered with very difficult obstacles. here are some that you may consider and even identify with:

  • Guilty past – having committed manslaughter in a moment of anger.
  • Leaving safety behind – choosing to lose his royal privileges.
  • Opposition – the number of times Pharaoh threatened him.
  • Criticism – His people grumbled constantly and accused him.
  • Betrayal – His co-leaders/family let him down several times.
  • Negativism – spies returning from Canaan.
  • Feeling a failure – the people around making him feel like that.

Well, this man knew about hardships, no doubt about it. Therefore he can be a trusted fellow pilgrim or even mentor. I feel like asking him, ‘how did you manage to persevere Moses?’ The author of Hebrews provides us with an insightful hint: ‘he had his eye on the One no eye can see’ (MSG)

That is the simple secret we can take to heart in the midst of a topsy-turvy world – keep Jesus central, focus on Him, serve Him, let Him guide you – let Him be your everything!
This is not as simple as writing words on a blog – I know that too well through personal experience… It is unbelievably challenging. In fact it is totally impossible – on your own.

But with His equipping, strengthening and empowering all things are possible! But it is also matter of personal choice. Daily surrender. Constant. Dynamic. Unconditional. Whatever your dreams, hopes, battles and obstacles – remember that!

 

 

FROM A LEARNER TO SOME YOUNGER LEARNERS

This week is challenging week for many of the teens in the Church, who are facing exams – so I wrote these few lines for you. Real, strong, impacting men and women of God have always been shaped in the furnace of tests and trials. If I mention Esther, Ruth, Daniel or David – you would know what I mean.

This week I know many of you will be tested academically through your exams. I also know that probably you are apprehensive about them. And that is very human and understandable… Yet I want to encourage you to see them as unique opportunities.

You ought to be really thankful to God for the opportunity of a free education. Many would love to have that chance, and sadly either cannot afford it or they simply live in a context where education just isn’t available. As a way of demonstrating your gratitude you should work with diligence and strive fir excellence.

From another perspective, an exam is an opportunity that God takes to ‘show off’ with who has made you. You are all gifted – differently and unique – but gifted for sure. And this is your chance to be a witness of God’s as a brilliant Creator that made you. Btw, don’t compare your results to the others around you. It’s insulting to God. He created you as a unique person. You are only accountable to Him and supposed to compete with yourself alone, doing your best.

I am sure some of you might feel guilty or disappointed with your preparation and maybe it’s all a bit late to change anything… It’s not to late… If you feel guilty – grace awaits you as you come and admit your mistakes to a compassionate God.

Some of you might have your identity wrapped-up into your academic success. If you do well – you’re accepted and acceptable, you tell yourself. Don’t make that mistake. Your identity isn’t defined by that.

Your relationship with God ought to be the defining factor of your identity. How He sees you is the true and accurate perspective. Character and integrity are important to your future success in life too.

I pray that God will empower you to display His power, grace and love in every circumstance of life.

‘And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.’

Daniel 12:3

 

 

UNEXPECTED BENEFITS

We have just started the year as a Church with a week of prayer, We gathered together, prayed in small groups, prayed with the youth and had a prayer room (different people came in and prayed every hour) set up since Friday until tomorrow lunch time. I expect it to be a significant time – personally and as a church. Here are some of the benefits of a renewed emphasis on prayer:

IN PRAYER we humble ourselves – this is is the most evident sign of humility. It’s an admission of defeat, a cry for desperate help, a recognition of our own inadequacy. Bu praying we declare that gimmicks and programs are not the solution. Our confidence relies on God alone – the Only one able to satisfy, lead and empower our lives.

IN PRAYER we hear Him clearer – by taking time away and shutting out distractions, we cultivate a rare sensitivity to His voice. As He has our focused and undivided attention – we become more aware of His character and His promises. Prayer is not a monologue or a formula. As our hearts hunger and thirst for Him – He reveals Himself afresh.

IN PRAYER our hearts are changed – books, tapes and seminars are useful, but nothing changes our minds and hearts like prayer. As we meditate on His Word and recognize His will and as we earnestly pray that His character might be formed in us and His will fulfilled through us – authentic transformation takes place. On our knees, compassion, peace, forgiveness, conviction of sin and passion for the lost are released afresh. Without such a change we are religious robots blindly fulfilling someone’s vision or our own fake pursuit for spiritual significance.

IN PRAYER we find a renewed authority – only those who learn to bow down before the King, will be brave enough to live lives of integrity. We remember our identity as His ambassadors as we remember who is the One that sends us The quest for truth is birthed in time spent with Him. Every courageous history maker knew that secret. They all had a secret chamber where the greatest victories were won.

OPPORTUNITY FOR HUMILITY

Since some parts of the Church celebrate the Lord’s Baptism (Boboteaza, RO) today, I was reflecting on Jesus’ baptism by John. If I had to sum up the whole passage in one word it would be ‘humility’. Read again Matthew’s account:

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

John’s reaction is so unexpected. He would struggle to fit in a 21st century leadership model, even a Christian one. Instead of basking in the glory that the Messiah was coming to visit him – he tries to dissuade Jesus from getting baptized. He could have used the event as shameless self-promotion publicity stunt. Instead, John remains consistent in his humility displayed even before the event. That shows character. He remains true to his conviction when temptation was handed to him on a plate.

But as much as I admire John, it is Jesus Himself that shows incredible humility. He goes to John. He goes through a shameful public act that was meant to display repentance and regret. Just like the crucifixion on Golgotha, He goes through with the Father’s plan – as difficult as that was. And the Father is so appreciative of it. He ‘shows off’ in His recognition of the Son’s obedience. In a way, just like the other people who were baptized by John, for Jesus it was a new beginning.

Today is a a day to remember the two examples of authentic humility. Humility, in the face of many temptations to show pride. A great encouragement to us to remain humble. If God has called you – obey with a faithful heart. If you lead, lead with humility – letting Him get the glory! And I can guarantee that even if you look like a ‘loser’ in the deceived eyes of the world – in His eyes you will be a son and a daughter that He is well pleased with.

‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.’   (1 Peter 5:6)

DECEPTIVE VISION

One thing is sure – for all of us. We will have to make choices in life. The other certainty is that our choices will have circumstances. Some incredibly brilliant, others quite tragic. Therefore the way we make our choices is crucial. In Genesis 13 we find a terrible lesson:

’10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.’

Lot is in a privileged situation in being offered the chance to pick first. It just proves that starting in ‘pole position’ is not always an advantage. He made a decision that humanly speaking seemed right – he chose the right business environment. He used his sight to evaluate the prospects and made a decision. History proved it was the wrong choice.

His mistake was to simply rely on his own wisdom. And it failed him and it wrecked his family. He simply left God out of the decision…

  • How do you chose?
  • Is God part of you decision making?
  • Who/what sets the tone in your life?
  • What/who could deceive you?

May this year bring God’s wisdom in your decision making!

PRIDEFUL PLANS

Happy New Year to you all. It already feels like we are back to ‘normality’. Something ‘struck’ me during my reading this morning in Genesis 11: it is very easy to start something noble and well-meaning which often deteriorates with disastrous circumstances.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

As soon as they stumbled upon success, pride took over and rather than desiring a very reasonable improvement of their living conditions – they wanted fame. Pride has such a sneaky way of creeping in. We see it so often in ‘celebrities’. They get their 15 minutes of fame, and often we are very sympathetic.

They get some financial reward that enables them to secure a better home or support their families. But often, it all ‘goes to their heads’, they begin to believe their agents’ hype and become very unpleasant and arrogant characters.

And just as you might think that I am judgmental – I know this does happen to me too – at a smaller scale obviously. A ‘victory’ of any sorts can easily breed pride. I might not want to build my empire but I often become self-sufficient, ego (Edging God Out) fully enthroned.

If you read the story further in Genesis 11 – it all ends up in tears. A stark lesson and a helpful reminder. If you are a leader/entrepreneur – this is a point of vulnerability – remind yourself that life is not about you, your name and your fame but HIM and HIS renown. After all – He made you, gave you the skills and surely He gave you that ‘big break’…