Leading Through Adversity

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The word adversity tends to create a sense of panic and stress within us.  As we look ahead to the mountain in front of us, our mind dreams up the worst case scenario, which in turn creates more anxiety, which in turn creates a more sever scenario, more anxiety…. you get the picture.

The issue with adversity is that it is always worse in our heads that it is in real life, with exceptions of course.

We should, instead, look at leading people through adversity as weight training.  We get to lead people to do things they didn’t originally think possible.  We lead people to become stronger.  When we lead people successfully through difficult situations, we, they, the organization is stronger as a whole.

Andy Stanley says that as leaders one of the greatest gifts we can give an organization is imbalance.  Before you think that makes no sense, let me ask you this?  What is the role of a leader?  To lead.  To make the organization better.

If I want to become stronger as an individual, I begin weight training.  I put my body through routines that force it into imbalance, so that muscles long forgotten, begin twitching, and griping, and stretching, and put into use.  Believe you me the next day those muscles I never knew are in protest (people can be that way as well).  The day after?  More protest!  But the third and fourth day the pain subsides and I have a stronger muscle.

We put ourselves through years of difficult schooling.  We study.  We take tests.  We gripe and complain about school-work.  Then graduation comes and we are better for it.

It is the same concept from James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Adversity is difficult.  Lifting a dumbbell or doing star crawls is difficult as well.  In leading through adversity we face resistance and soreness.  But on the other end of it we should have a stronger organization just as we have a stronger body.

Who Does What?

There is a story I heard several years ago in a leadership round table about the famed Peter Drucker.  Peter Drucker is described as “the founder of modern management.”  And I would dare say much of what we learn today about leadership and read in various books form various authors stems from many of his ideas.  The story goes that in his old age, Mr. Drucker was before a crowd of young leaders eager to absorb any morsel of knowledge that dripped from the old codgers mouth.

One studious young man stood up and asked this simple question, “Mr. Drucker, what is the most important decision a leader can make?”

The old man, slouched over in old age, thought for a moment.  And as if it took every morsel of his energy, breathed in a deep breath (as if it were his last), sat straight, and exhaled, “who….. does….. what.”  With that burst of wisdom, he slouched back over and continued taking questions.

What a simple truth but so profound.  I got to see this in action this past week in Israel.  Bethany Ufema, Lifepoint’s Creative Director did an amazing job leading the filming of our 2015 Easter project.  And in part, she did such an amazing job because she got the right people around the table… er… behind the cameras.  We joked with her that she formed a dream team.  One has his own production company (You da man John).  One has worked on audio in major motion pictures (Jonah has golden ears).  One understands the culture of Lifepoint so well he knows what Bethany is going to ask before she asks it (Wes is a beast).  One has such a heart of serving and caring that it made a grueling trip so much easier (Paul is my long lost brother).

Bethany UfemaWouldn’t leadership be so much easier if we had the right people around the table.  Who.  Only when we have the right ‘Who’ can we determine ‘What.’  We too often slide into the mistake of answering that question in reverse.  ‘What’ motivates us because it gets things done. ‘What’ keeps us awake at night, because, let’s face it, if ‘what’ doesn’t get done, we’re toast.  But that is such shallow thinking.  If we focus on the ‘Who’ first, we’ll see such better results.  And besides, isn’t the ‘Who’ the most fun anyway?  ‘What’ is boring.  ‘Who’ is what life is built of – relationships.  Focusing on the ‘Who’ makes the fruit of ‘What’ so much easier.

John Carl

Jesus knew that.  He got the correct group of ‘Who.’  They may not have looked like it at first.  But He knew what He was trying to accomplish and hand-picked a group of misfits that changed the world.

“Who does what.”  Allow that to sink in.  God has the right ‘Who’s’ in mind.  Get your head out of the weeds long enough to see them.

DreamTeam

Leaders Do Before They Call

In reading about Capernaum I noticed an interesting thing about Jesus – he began his ministry without any followers. The message of the gospel was primary. He began to share it first before calling the disciples. In Matthew it says:

When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea… From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! ” As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people! ” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (‭Matthew‬ ‭4‬:‭12-13, 17-20‬ HCSB)



I think sometimes we hesitate to move because we don’t have a team, support, or help. Make no mistake, Jesus knew he was going to call the disciples to give everything up to follow him. But he didn’t hold his primary message back until that point. He was in the business of accomplishing his mission when he called the disciples. He didn’t wait. He was doing as he asked them join him in what he was doing. 



As leaders the important lesson here is that people want to join you in what you are a part of; they want to join you in what you are doing. As you build teams you give ministry away. But the idea is that you have ministry TO give away. The joke with people who can’t get a job is that they are holding out for a management position. When in actuality they are stalling. Instead they should do and work their way up. Same in leadership. Don’t hold out. Start. Then lead. 

Ordinary People, Ordinary Places

IMG_4284 The thing that encourages me the most from traveling to Israel is the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Israel is a small country.  It’s beautiful, but so is California.  The Jewish people, well lets face it, they messed up a lot.  The sea of Galilee is a small area in a small country.  The disciples were a motley crew.  They were mostly fishermen plus a tax-collector.  An unimpressive collection of hot-heads, thieves, rednecks, self-promoters, religious radicals, and barely believers. IMG_4308 And in this small region, in this small country, with a shaky cast, Jesus changed the world and forever changed our destinies.  The extraordinary out of the ordinary.  And it gives me hope, as it should you.  No matter how meaningless you think your life is, no matter how small your town may be, no matter how tucked away your cubicle might seem, God sees you, just as Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, Zaccheus in the tree, and Matthew at the tax booth.  He sees you and He wants to use you and He can use you.  What we see from each of those 12 men were a willingness.  Oswald Chambers calls it a “reckless abandon.” IMG_4257 The story of God’s historical tapestry is not woven with fine golden thread and silk.  Rather, it is entwined with those of us made of ordinary cotton, burlap, and wool.  But in God’s hands, those ordinary ingredients can form something so beautiful, so powerful, it can change thousands of years and millions of people. IMG_4301

Awakening

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I’ve gotten into the habit of fasting at the beginning of the year using Pastor Stoval Weems’ book “Awakening.”  My wife hates it when I fast simply because she has to cook two meals.  I believe she’d think it easier if I just did a water or juice fast instead of my normal Daniel Fast.  And fasting around a 5 and 7 year old is quite comical.  They think I’m on a diet.  And it is hard to explain why I am fasting or what it is.

But isn’t that the case for adults too?  When you explain fasting to someone who doesn’t understand it, you begin to sound like you are from another planet – dare I say another culture.  That brings up a totally different subject.  As Christ-followers, why don’t we sound like we are from a different culture on a regular basis?  But I digress…

I used to be really bad at fasting.  I’m still not the best, to be honest.  I can starve myself with the best of them.  But devoting myself to prayer is difficult with a busy mind and a busier cell phone.  Information comes too quickly and my mind wonders.  But this time around I really dared myself to concentrate on the reading and prayer portion of the fast.

So what is fasting?  It is a time where you give up something to focus on drawing closer to God.  How does it do that?  For me, every time I have a desire to eat, or to partake in something I give up, I pray.  Its that simple.  I did a Daniel fast this last time.  That is where I eat only whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and water.  If it sound horrible it really isn’t.  My wife makes incredible bean salads and I like hummus.  Still, I want a cheeseburger or Krispy Kreme doughnut.  When I had the desire, it reminded me to pray – which was quite often.

If you’ve never fasted, I encourage you to try it.  Start by fasting 1 or 2 days.  Fast from sugar, or social media, or meat.  Just try it and stick with it.  And don’t forget to pray.  What should you pray for?  Whatever is on your heart.  But I would stick with a theme for the duration.  Maybe your theme is finances, or health, or spiritual growth, or your children.  It can be anything, but it should be something that is near to your heart.  You’ll be amazed at how God will honor the time and begin making things clear to you.

Dating on a Dime

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Pastor Daniel, this past weekend, emphasized the need to date your spouse.  I can’t stress how important this is to a married couple.  We date on the front end…. we date a lot!  But when we get married we tend to coast.  We tend to let life get in the way.  And we too easily fall into a mode of just existing with a roommate.

Dating allows you to stay connected outside of your responsibilities.  It gives you a platform to share your thoughts, your dreams, what you are excited about, what scares you, and it simply gives you an opportunity to laugh and enjoy each other.  Dating also gives you a glimpse into your past and reminds you of why and how you fell in love.  It serves as a reminder of why you got married.

But I’m a cheapskate.  And this was a hard concept for both Jennifer and I to embrace.  Why?  Because there was always something ‘more important’ to spend our money on.  But I was challenged on that and I want to challenge you as well.  You can date.  And you can date on a dime.  Here are some ideas we have used in our 12 years of marriage:

  1. Reallocate funds to things that are truly important.
    1. Cancel trash service and take it yourself.  Use the money to go on a date.
    2. Cancel cable and spend it on dating.  Who knows…. without TV to watch you might find yourself doing other things at night.
    3. Mow your own lawn and use the money to go on a date.
    4. Eat out less at lunch and eat out with your spouse on date nights.
  2. Coffee and a book.  Grab a cup of your favorite coffee and head to your local bookstore to peruse.
  3. Just go out for dessert.  Dating doesn’t have to be a dinner and a movie.
  4. Picnic lunch.  When we first got married Jennifer would meet me at my job and we’d go on a driving picnic.  When we moved to the area I would meet her downtown and we’d have a picnic in the park.
  5. Road trip.  Just drive!  Go look at your favorite neighborhoods, or houses, or country roads.
  6. Grocery shop together.  Now I know this may cause more problems than it solves, but we like grocery stores.  We are going to buy groceries anyway.  Why not do it together.
  7. Go on a walk.  Some of our favorite times have been walking the local battlefields.
  8. Lastly, if you have kids, find another couple with kids and swap out babysitting.  Its a free way to get a date night all alone!

Ephesians 3:14-20

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom every familyin heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.