Thursday, 18 May 2017

A New Book Shows It's Old Hat

3.5, that is the number of months I have remaining in Kenya. As such, I have refocused my efforts here to make sure I am spending my time wisely. One thing that being in a new place has caused me to do is to write reviews of where I am every four months. I look at my home life, my work life, my spiritual life, and my social life. Based on my observations I write out recommendations for myself for the following season. I analyze my performance on past goals and set new ones to refocus my efforts and increase the value of my time here. This is a practice that I hope to continue when I return home. It has been invaluable to my learning and growing here in Kenya and I think it'll work for you to if you want to be a person of growth. This picture is how I visualize my goals for the next few months.

One of my goals is to read three new leadership books in the course of this next term. I started by picking up John Maxwell's "Developing Leaders Around You," as it seems very pertinent to my future plans. in it he talks about what makes a good leader. I read through chapter four thinking it was good advice and noticing lots of similarities in his other book "Developing the Leader Within You," also a good read, but it was not until I read through 2 Corinthians later that day that I realize these leadership principles are no new thing. In fact, the Apostle Paul demonstrates them so well, he basically wrote the book on it... Well okay not really, but the way in which he relates to his followers -and those he is training into leadership, has so many similarities to Maxwell's advice (he is a preacher, so who knows, maybe he got his tips from Paul).

I was so impressed by the similarities of Paul's discipleship approach and Maxwell's advice on developing leaders I thought I would share a few of the parallels. I will start by sharing few of the principles outlined by Maxwell and then will relate how Paul expertly uses the same methods. Before I jump into this, however, I want to share with you that 2 Cor is a letter written to a church with whom Paul had a long-standing relationship. He had spent time with them, built churches with them, and given them correction for misconduct. As you read the letter you can see Paul is very specific to details dealing with their situation and their history.

Show Transparency 

Paul knows who he is and what he has been called to. He shares of his weaknesses (12:1-10 -not a typical act for leaders wanting to "impress" others with their having it all together) and he tells of his hardships as well as admits when he is speaking from his own boastfulness (11:16-30). He does not carry the presumption that he has everything together and is intentional to discuss areas of conflict in his plans to come see them (1:15-17). his open communication on this also shows that he understood that when you don't say something, you still say something. if an area of uncertainty/change is left unaddressed by the leadership then those following will make up their own minds about why their expectations were not met. paul was clear to address these areas and make sure no one made false assumptions about his reasons for what he chose to do. 

Offer Time 

this is one thing that paul did and did very well. I mean, he was pulled in many different directions as ministry often requires, but he purposed to spend time with the Corinthians. He mentions several times that this will be his thrid visit to them. Acts 18:11 tells us that Paul spent a year and a half pouring into the people in Corinth. Time is valuable, it is something you can give and won't ever receive back, but Paul knew the importance of spending time with people. There is no quick-fix replacement to spending quality time in developing people. 

Believe in People 

Paul believed in his followers, despite their hard fall from righteous living as seen in 1 Cor, he still loved them and encouraged them and told them he had boasted about them to others who would visit (7:13-16) and to other churches about their generosity (9:2). He looks passed their faults and builds them up by affirming his belief in them. He says, "I am glad I can have complete confidence in you. (7:16)" What would it feel like to have someone who you look up to say that about you? It would be awesome, I think it would even make you want to live up to that high expectation. 

Give Encouragement and Hope

All through the letter Paul is encouraging them by reminding them who they are in Christ (3:1-18). He gives them encouragement about their future of being with the Lord (5). he calls them to be separate from the world and encourages them that they can have the righteousness of God (5:16-21). he also gives grace and hope for the sinner by telling the people that the repentant sinner should be welcomed back and forgiven (2:5-11), he also expresses his hope for the people and provides encouraging words about Go, their comforter (1:3-7).  

Exhibit Consistency 

Paul is consistent in character and backs this up through his telling of his rights to true apostleship (10-11) and through his explanation of changed plans (1). Throughout thee letter, he not only defends his ministry and integrity but also admonishes them to follow in the consistency of walking with the Lord, as he has shown. 

Lead with Confidence

Paul's ministry exhibited an unusual confidence, he wrote with boldness and speaks with authority that is firmly grounded in his calling as an apostle of Christ. he boasts in God and the call he has. in chapteer 10, Paul defends his ministry and throughout the letter he firmly establishes himself by speaking with authority given to him by God. Confidence is one thing that followers and future leaders need to see modeled, they won't want to go where there is not a sure direction

Provide Security 

Through his forgiveness and acceptance of those who had done wrong and then repented, Paul shows that there are open arms in the body of Christ that provide a welcome to those wanting to return. he demonstrates that there is no being "kicked out" forever; there is security in God's family when you turn back to Him. Paul is also free in sharing of his love for them and urges them to share this love as well (6:11-13). This affirms that their relationship is secure, as he speaks to them as his beloved children. 

Reward Production 

This one is not followed in the business sense of the word, the idea is that you reward people for doing what you want them to. Paul's goal was to bring his followers to repentance. he praises them for their repentant hearts and for their godly sorrow, (7) all the while, affirming his love for them and his desire not to hurt them. 

Establish a Support System 

Paul worked within a network of churches. He shares this freely and encourages the Corinthians to be generous to their brethren. As well as his call for generosity, he says how he has boasted of them to these other churches and how they are accountable to them and to God. he had also sent support to them through other churches' donations (8-9), he gives them emotional and spiritual support through his encouragements. 

Discern and Personalize the Journey

This point is the first one that jumped out at me as I read through 2 Cor. You can tell immediately that he is speaking to a people with whom he has a history. he cares for them and speaks to their needs. he is not shy in addressing their problems and gives tailor-made solutions and advice. he trains them based on their needs, as opposed to giving just generic advice; such as we find easy to give such as: "pray about it," and "WWJD?" He told them what they needed because he knew their situation and was invested in their success.

These are just a few of the principles mentioned in Maxwell's book and I am sure that many more could be found through the life of Paul. I hope that you've found it encouraging, if not just interesting, to see these similarities.

What principles do you think are needed for good leaders?

Where have you seen them modeled in Scripture?

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Is That You, God?

So first off, I am sorry it's been a while. I've not had the inspiration when I've had the time and not had the time when I'm inspired. This had led to an empty void of 3 months passing with no new thoughts. Regardless, I hope you think this one is good.

Have you ever wondered if you hear God or if that voice inside is just you? Well today that happened to me. Let me tell you what happened.

I found myself today at a cross roads, literally. I was standing at the t-junction deciding should I go left and try to get home before it rains on my clothes hanging on the line or should I go right and continue with my day's plan of going to the gym before dinner plans at a friend's place?

I was feeling a little tired and I could see the traffic that was stacked up and a little voice inside me said I should go home before it poured. Stopping for a moment, I asked if this was the Holy Spirit directing me. However, on the other hand I was just minutes away from a great workout, which I had been looking forward to and planning since the start of the day. I had all my things ready to go, maybe I was just being lazy by wanting to go home. ...So with that thought, I continued my original plan and walked myself to the gym.

Upon arriving at the gym I was still feeling a bit "ish" about the whole thing. Not sure if it was me or God giving this hesitation, I stopped outside to reconsider and then deduced it was me needing to, 'just do it,' as Nike would say. So I locked up my things and changed into my stunning workout clothes (yes, this is sarcasm, one can only be so stunning in shin-high socks and capris). I eyed the weight floor and saw I was there just before the wave of testosterone usually hits (around 5pm when work lets out and you can't find a bench or dumbbells to work with). With enthusiasm I found an unused weight bar and began my deadlift warmups.

I was one rep into my first set when I felt a nagging feeling; one that said I really should not be there. At this point I can no longer put it down to my laziness, I was reallllllllllllllly looking forward to throwing some weights around. With the fact that I had allowed myself to get all this way and I was still feeling the urge to go home, I said it would be better to leave and look like a crazy person (I mean really, who leaves the gym just 5 mins after changing into the proper clothes?) then to stick around if I were not meant to be there.

On the way home, traffic was still terrible, but it was not for this reason that I decided to walk. The voice inside me led me to just walk home. As I walked, I prayed, boy did I pray! I mean whatever the reason for interrupting my workout, it must have been pretty big. Everything and everyone who came to mind I lay at the feet of Jesus, I claimed healing by the blood, protection by the Son, new life, love and revelation! Walking still, I found that maybe it was not for any of these things that I was pulled from my ever-so-desirable workout. Maybe, just maybe, it was because God knew if He got my attention I would be focused on Him in those moments rather than being focused on adding 5 more kgs (yeah, here nothing is in pounds, that's a transition if you're used to lifting 25s and now can only do 10s haha) to the squat rack.

I'm grateful that I chose to listen and to go spend time with my Savior, who I realized is very jealous over me. Am I 100% totally convinced that God told me to quit my workout? No. But I'm happy that I did. And who knows, maybe something awful would have happened if I didn't listen, or maybe something good happened because I did leave; some things we will not know until eternity. There is no telling what harm is avoided or what good will come of one simple act of obedience. You say that it can't be obedience if I don't even know it was for sure God who was speaking.

Well, you have a point. However, I would much rather be obedient and look a little silly in the process to do something that isn't directly from God (obviously, I know this direction to leave the gym is not against God's will; if it were, that's a different story), then to miss what He has for me because I'm too busy trying to work out if it is really His voice.

Don't quote me on this, but I think that sometimes God will speak to us just to see if we are listening. He will give us chances to follow Him in what seems like a pointless task or a useless ask; then, only through our obedience will we find out that He was wanting to bless us through it. When we are faithful with the little things, we are then able to handle the bigger things. I can say that I was truly blessed by putting up my weights and walking home with Jesus. We talked, I prayed, He reminded me how He likes "us" time, and you know what, I even got a workout! That is no short walk home, I tell you. :)

So I challenge you, the next time you feel "prompted," instead of dismissing it as something crazy, take a step of faith, trust God and go for it! What do you have to loose by obedience? There's a lot greater loss in missing out when you go your own way, and there is so much to gain when you obey!

*Please note that God will NEVER contradict His written Word. If you feel that inner voice telling you something contrary to Scripture, it is NOT the Holy Spirit or of God. I hope this story helps you in your journey just a bit. :) Feel free to comment and share your own "Is this God or me?" moments. :)