LEADERSHIP LESSONS

Leadership matters! If you had a boss, you know it does. If you are a boss, you know it does. You can lead as an encourager or as a tyrant. You can inspire or bore people to death. You can be an example or a hypocrite. And whatever end you find yourself at – you need help. Either help to lead or help to help the leaders.

Yesterday evening we had a chance to explore a couple of leadership lessons. I acknowledge that being in a church setting , I focused on a Biblical character. And since I could choose, I went for Moses, one of my favourite Old Testament leaders.

It all starts with a CALLING. Although God was at work, behind the scenes, as soon as he was born, the calling came much later. I would have mistakenly guessed that God planed a ‘inside job’ at Pharao’s palace with Moses’ fortunate adoption. But God worked differently.

Having been on such a joyride at the palace, Moses needed to come to the place where he had to realize that this wasn’t a man-centered, superhero mission. He tried, and he failed. Lesson learned. Seemingly sidelined for nearly 40 (forty!!) years.

It was all about an encounter, a revelation of both the greatness of God and the weakness of man. And as Moses drops the superhero act and stops the DIY, all you find is a humble(d) man who although honored by God’s call, keeps saying: ‘I can’t…’

Yet in that memorable encounter something happened. Moses’ inadequacy was the perfect fit for God’s ability. Here was a leader in the making who was willing to risk, serve God and love people. All because he saw something, heard something and stepped up to God’s challenging call to lead.

If you feel like God is raising you up as a leader, don’t do it to cover-up your insecurities or lured by the lie that leadership is glamorous. Don’t push yourself forward. No one in the Bible was self-anointed… Listen carefully to God’s call. Listen to the discerning (not just well-wishing, wishy-washy, nice Christian) believers around you. Don’t be to shy either, as that can be a subtle form of pride too. If God has gifted and called you – the world would miss God’s gift through you, if you shy away…

Christian leadership calling simplified: It’s not about you, your passion or even the noble cause and the people it represents – it’s all about God. In you. Through you.

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UNDER THE INFLUENCE

The world is filled with influential people who affect the way we think, eat, dress, talk and send our time. You would be naive to think otherwise. The old adage that ‘no man is an island’ is so true. You are under the influence. It could be family or a spouse, a friend or a celebrity, a faith or a passion.

Role models surround us but I wonder how many are truly worthy of that description. To be fair, sometimes the media that artificially creates them also dismisses them. They never declared themselves role models… Who is yours? And most importantly, why?

Most of mine are probably authors, thinkers or pastors. Some dead, some alive. Some familiar, some very distant. I relate to them through their experience and work. I feel enriched and better equipped through them. And then there are a few people who individually influence me through their friendship, wisdom, compassion, boldness, resilience and humour. None of these are perfect or have a sense of completeness, yet they are influential.

I was pondering today on Paul, the trailblazer of the first century Christian faith. And his statement: ‘Follow me as I follow Christ’… Talking about influence, Paul had his priorities right. Jesus impacted His life in such a way that he was unashamed in boasting about this great influence, despite the fact that he could have easily talked about the great scholars who taught him.

And even more staggering is the fact that he humbly yet confidently was exhorting the believers in the Church in Corinth to follow him. Risky business you might think. But when it is an overflow from his Jesus obsession, it works just right.

Could you say those words as boldly as Paul? Would you say them? Could people see that in your life? These are just questions I ask myself.

I pray for you as I pray for myself. May we become influencers as we are under the influence of Christ’s Spirit, and give he believing world no reason to say, ‘I like Jesus but I can’t stand Christians’.

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WORTH THE HYPE?

Rather than attempting to do a a wordy review, which I am sure many others could mange to craft far better than I ever would, I just want to highlight why I enjoyed it so much.

1. It reminded me of a childhood story that has all the essential themes of a hero/heroine engaged in a battle between good and evil.

2. It really was a page turner for me, written at a brilliant pace, without any unnecessary detail (to my shame I could never finish The Hobbit because of that).

3. It is written in a pictorial style. This has got to be one of my favourite features of this type of fiction. I genuinely created a movie in my head as I was reading it. (it would be interested how my mind’s images match the vision of the director).

4. It describes a dystopian society segregated in two. One that seems to resemble a Victorian age poverty stricken society, the other something futuristic out of a polished sci-fi movie.

5. It does have the obligatory love interest and ‘relationship’ lark. The way it is described and handled had me far more interested than the Twilight saga, which I found a tad female reader oriented. This is far more restrained and uncertain. Which keeps you guessing….and wanting to read more.

6. It is über contemporary in conveying the modern obsession with a voyeuristic media. As a reader you find yourself both appalled at the crassness of the spectators while you yourself are an involuntary participant, as you read on.

7. It has an ethical moral edge. It gets people talking and debating. It has the innocent wrapper of a teenage adventure while describing a totalitarian political regime with all the spin and fears known to any of those who experienced such a life.

8. It has a likeable set of heroes. Both Katniss and Peeta are vulnerable, humble and unsuspecting heroes. They are the outsiders that manage not to take themselves too seriously. So far, not many reasons not to see them as almost role models (manipulation and survival killing aside, of course).

9. The motivation of Katniss is truly heroic. She dos what she does out of love and care for her family. You could not have a greater reason to cheer for her.

10. You just know that after reading the first book you WILL want to know if they will have a relationship, what about Gale, will their rebellion create ripples, and how will the despotic government react?

This thoughts are based on just reading the first book in the trilogy.

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ENJOY THE SILENCE

We live in a noisy world. Step into a supermarket, especially today, and you will hear the confusing hum of tens of different voices. You’re in the car and something is on he radio. Your phone beeps with text message alerts. You have a new ‘like’ on Facebook or a new Tweet just sprouted up.

We are the generation that multi task par excellence and noise is our constant companion. And maybe for many silence is a threat just because of that. It makes us feel lonely and isolated. It makes us feel like we are missing out. It actually leaves us with ourselves.

And that, perhaps is our greatest fear. We often don’t like to think about ourselves. Not like that anyway. Not about the problems and the dreads. Not about the hurts and the betrayals. Not about the unfulfilled dreams and the many question marks. So, noise becomes our panacea for all that we fear might surface if we let silence settle.

Today is the silent day during Holy Week. Nothing written about it. Much speculated. What happened to Jesus? Where did He go? What did He do? Questions we will never probably find a certain answer to, this side of eternity.

Yet to me this is all I need to now. Silence has it’s place. It is that dreaded ‘dash’ that splits the tragedy from triumph in the Gospel story. Silence normalises our mundane struggles with this ‘in between’ stage of our journey. The silence of not yet answered prayers. The silence of waiting for a result. The silence of a God that seems uninvolved or uninterested in your issue.

Yet you and I know that this is not the end. This is just a passage. A stage in the journey. And something glorious is ahead. So take heart and…enjoy the silence. Switch the devices off. Allow your ears and eyes to connect with a new reality. Let Him, the Father who saw His only Son mangled by the ones He came to save, let Him hear you and speak to you in that silence. Don’t hide from Him. He understands…

If you can, enjoy the silence….

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CROSSROADS

Often we are far too familiar with people or things. And it causes us to lose the amazement and delight that ought to be there. Relationships are easily destroyed through that. Boredom and entitlement sets in. And perhaps that is somehow explainable as we live in an increasingly fast paced world, where our attention span is becoming shorter by the day.

You and I are likely to see the symbol of a cross almost daily. A necklace, an architectural artefact, a funeral stone, a monument, a tattoo… Yet few would remember why it is there and what it represents. Common symbols with a lost message.

Today, as you rewind the years back, on a day like this, Jesus was crucified among two thieves on a hill outside Jerusalem. Almost to add to the drama, it was named the Skull. It was a sight just as familiar to those passing by as it is alien to us today. I think of the public stoning of women in Afghanistan or the hangings from football posts. Shivers run through you, just as you think about it.

But this wasn’t a socio-political plot to execute a dissident. Even though it looked like it, on the great invisible stage of the Universe, this was arguably the second most meaningful act after Creation. Allow me to pull back the curtain and let you into the truths about Good Friday.

It wasn’t an accident. Jesus was born to die. It was His mission, and although He struggled at a few points, He went all the way.

It was the end. These were Jesus’ famous last words. They were not words of relief but victory. ‘it is finished’ was a proclamation of defeat over sin, suffering and Satan himself.

It wasn’t the end. As prophesied, three days later Jesus is risen from the death, to seal that victory and bring to us all the possibility of a brand new life.

It was for you. Although Jesus died for all, it was not a number or a faceless mass. When He willingly gave His life He was paying for your own sins.

Most important truth is this. It demands a reaction. All who passed by reacted. Some in disbelief, others in mockery, even some in with despair. Two thieves. The same sentence. Two reactions. One arrogantly rejecting Him. The other desperately accepting His reign. Which one are you and I resembling today?

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SHOCKING SERVICE

We all enjoy a good service in a restaurant or a shop and often that can be the single most effective way of making sure we go back. Businesses know this only too well and that’s why some excel and others fail. Customer service can make or break a brand’s reputation, and often that is irreversible.

Yet it isn’t about that kind of service that I want to write on this day during Holy Week when we remember one of the most remarkable episodes in Jesus’ life and ministry. As the disciples were all gathered for the Passover festival and He was supposed to be the centre of attention, as their teacher, He did something staggering.

He chose to act as the house servant, doing the obligatory job for his master’s guests. He washed off the dirt and dust from their feet, readying them for the meal. This was inappropriate and surprising. Yet it wasn’t just a PR stunt, like many that we see in today’s savvy marketing strategies. It was an incarnational, literally hands on demonstration of what Jesus was all about.

He did it because He knew they would remember.
He did it because He was modelling a different kind of leadership.
He did it because He loved them and cared for them.
He did it to establish the value of humility and servanthood for His kingdom.
He did it because He knew this would become an example for many generations to come.
He did it because He was not arrogant, snobbish or image driven.
He did it because in His weakness there was greatness.

Let’s make it personal. Don’t leave this episode just for the paintings and commentaries. Let it become a motivational reminder that causes people just like me and you to become part of a new revolution. A revolution that chooses to despise arrogance and pride and embraces a humble selfless sacrificial servanthood. Just ask the Spirit of God to open your eyes and ears, move your heart, inspire your mind and use your hands and feet to encourage and bless others. And then, just do it!

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PRAYER

Prayer is desirable if you are a Christ follower. You read about it in famous biographies. You hear it mentioned in conversations and you hear it preached on Sundays. No one I know would claim to be excelling at it and almost everyone I know would blush at their prayer ‘ratings’ (no such thing exists or should exist).

We all struggle to pray. The barriers may be different but the reality is similar. Some of us are lacking faith, others motivation and more often than not a basic sense of priorities and discipline. And no matter how many books you read and how many experts you listen to, it remains a struggle.

As I keep learning, one thing seems to become more and more obvious. In times of hardship and challenge, my prayer life awakens. I guess it becomes instinctive. I am cornered and I have run out of ‘other options’… I have come to an end of all my resources, people cannot help and ordinary means just won’t do. And that’s when I am most active in prayer.

Jesus was so different. He listened and prayed as he went on about His daily business. He also withdrew from the noise and the hype. When things got tough, he was sweating drops of blood agonising in preparation in prayer for the coming ordeal of interrogation, torture and crucifixion. Even on the Cross, He prayed. Always. Constant. Praying.

How rude, I think, to treat this privilege so glibly. How insensitive to be so ignorant of the One who invited me to call Him Father. How selfish in my pragmatism. I confess, that at times I feel like a ‘user’ in my prayer life.

Yet the mind blowing truth is that He always welcomes me back. No lecture. No extra homework. No pre-conditions. Just ready to listen to my heart’ pleas. Like a deeply caring Heavenly Dad. And that isn’t because of me or because He is naive. It’s all because of His Son who made this relationship possible.

So, as we spend time pondering the events of Holy Week, return or turn to prayer. It will change your life and others’. Also, please join me in praying for my friend H, in her mid-twenties, with a severe brain haemorrhage in a critical condition, in hospital.

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CATCH 22

For those of us living in the zone of the Western Church, it is Holy Week. Being in many ways bi-cultural, there isn’t a more obvious time when the differences between the two Christian cultures.

In Romania, Easter is such an important time of the year. In some ways arguably, even greater than Christmas. In growing up, Holy Week meant, fasting, attending evening meditations every night at church, Communion on Thursday and a set of very somber, introspective services on Friday. Then on Easter Sunday, everyone turned up at church in their new outfits and had celebrated in an exuberant way.

I loved it because it was a stop-gap from the mundane rush. It was an opportunity to walk daily along with Jesus in His last week. It was a way of deepening your relationship with God, through Scripture reading & prayer. Yet, though I miss it, there is something within me that feels that it was somehow habitual. And the trouble is that habits have a way of becoming meaningless rituals.

Why do I only do it during Holy Week? Why wait for that?

Yet somehow, I know it did my soul good! and I miss it…

Here, in the West, we don’t seem to have the same sort of structure. Things will be happening in small groups. Some public events on Friday. But somehow I always feel like we rush the devotional input to make room for some shopping and leisure. It seems like here we like to ‘clock in’ and then get on with our ‘real lives’.

And maybe that ‘pushes’ me towards a more personal, thoughtful initiative. Why not carve out time to use this season to let the greatest truths of our faith, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection come alive?

I have to confess that maybe the divide isn’t that great nowadays… As materialism and modernism takes it’s toll on the Romanian church, some priorities might have changed there too. I say this graciously, not judgmental.

I have some plans about using this week differently. Not as just a ritual. But because just as much as there are seasons in nature, there are seasons of differing focus for the soul too.

What are you going to do during Holy Week?
Here is a good motto that echoes Paul’s ambition:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.   PHILIPPIANS 3:10-11