For Such A Time As This

“Trying Times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for him.”

Don’t miss the moment. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

You are called to a Savior, a Kingdom, and a moment. What are you going to do in this moment?

For such a moment, you must lead. And lead you must. Nowhere in the Bible is cowardice or apathy rewarded. In fact, cowardice is punished (Numbers 14). Moral courage is always rewarded and blessed. Standing up for righteousness is an act of obedience.

We must recover and embrace God’s definition of ‘leadership.’

“Biblically, leadership is not someone at the top or someone out front. (A leader) is a person who takes the initiative and takes responsibility for either the opportunity or the crisis right in front of them…. That is what we must recover.”
– Os Guiness

Trying times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for Him. For God’s sake lead! Whether it is your family, your community, your workplace, or your church, you are called to take initiative and responsibility for the opportunity or crisis you are facing right now. If God placed the crisis or opportunity in front of you, don’t be fearful – Be faithful!

“It is going to take an enormous amount of biblical commitment, theological clarity, and individual and congregational courage to stand against the tide of the moral and ideological revolution of the culture.”
– Albert Mohler

Do not miss the moment. It has arrived.

The question is, “What are you going to do in the moment?

Reflect and meditate on the following scriptures that will challenge, equip and encourage you to lead!

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation….” Acts 13:36

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” Acts 17:26

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” Galatians 4:4a

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

“Those who know God’s plans are responsible to live courageously for Him.” – Dr. Bill Egner

Calling the Church to Courage

Calling the Church to Courage

Christian courage emanates from the heart of Christ who faced the cross for our sakes and His Glory. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we must continue to call the church to courage.

Fear of anything but God is sinful unbelief. “Fear naturally produces cowardice in people… wherever it (fear) prevails, it extinguishes Christian courage and strength.” – John Flavel

As I wrote in December of last year in a post entitled “Deposing the Tyranny of Fear“, fear is a tyrant – a slave-driver’s whip that drives men into traps and bondage. A spirit of fear has enveloped the world (including the church). The church has been slow to awaken to this reality. We are witnessing a growing number pastors and church leaders stand up. But, we must continue to exhort and call the church to courage.

Sirens from the Spirit of the Age have bewitched and lured the captains of the Church into their snares with their beautiful songs. The mighty ships of Christ’s Church have sailed dangerously close to the rocky shores where the Siren’s call. The irresistible melody makes the Christian forget his first love (Christ) and fall in love with the Spirit of the Age (the world). Only when his ship sweeps close to the rocks and his eyes see the terror, will he awaken to his folly. But, fear grips him. Is it too late?

By no means! As long as breath reaches our lungs, we call the church to courage. And this is not just calling to the captains, our dear pastors at the helm. We call each other to greater courage. In order to break through the fog and run-through the spirit of fear with the sword of the spirit, it will require ‘all hands on deck.’ The Church is one body with many parts. Therefore, it will take the full force of the saints in one accord to crush the spirit of fear with robust biblical faith!

If our souls are committed to the care of God, then Christians laugh at threats, cruelties and the spirit of fear and only grows more resolute by them (to paraphrase a witness of the torture of Marcus, bishop of Arethusa).

The Puritan, John Flavel reminds us that over the centuries, “Christians have put their enemies to shame by smiling at their cruelties and threatenings… (this courage is not particular to an age long past) but the same spirit of courage is found among Christians in all ages.” That means, today! S.M. Huchens diagnoses our malady of timidity;

“But the world has turned and a new age is upon us. Anyone who is paying attention to its movements knows that Christians are going to have to decide to think and act like Christians or not—to cause offense by it or not—and to pay what it costs.

 

It is time for those who are called to be pastors in the Church of the next age (for God will not stop calling them) to gird up their loins and put an end to the cowardly dalliances of so many of their predecessors in my generation and the one preceding it, owning the Christian faith to be what it is and no longer advancing the bastard offspring of the Spirit of this Age and those who are afraid to trust God by doing battle with it. The seminaries are by and large emasculating theaters full of large smiles and hollow chests, and there is a terrible dearth of orthodox, learned, and courageous shepherds—men who carry and know how to wield their staffs—but there seems to be no lack of hirelings who run when the wolves appear, making wolf-noises as they leave their flocks in the twilight.

 

Nor do I see how the fight can be fought apart from a new asceticism among all believers, which needs to be intelligently planned—something like what Rod Dreher calls for in The Benedict Option. Not many of the churches of any denomination, as currently constituted, full of the spreading rot, unwilling or unable to fight it, can be expected to cooperate, nor can they be expected as a matter of course to give livings to ministers of a boldly scriptural faith in the face of its enemies. But there are still brethren in the weak and fallen churches—even those that have a name for “orthodoxy,” and ways must be found to not abandon them, but feed and strengthen them for the Last Days.”
S. M. Hutchens

Remember, sinful fear is rooted in unbelief. The remedy is faith and fear of the Lord. “To the extent that our souls are empty of faith, they are filled with fear… The weaker the faith, the greater the fear; unbelief generates fear and fear strengthens unbelief.” – John Flavel

Fear is not the fruit of the spirit.

Christian courage emanates from the heart of Christ who faced the cross for our sake and His Glory.

We dare not fear the death he died for us. Otherwise, the cross is emptied of its power. We dare not commit the sin of fear that drove Adam and Eve into the shrubs of shame. Either we accept Christ’s words as true, “Fear not, for I am with you (until the end of the age)” or we trade the truth for a lie and worship the creature over the Creator. Remember, we worship what we fear. We should fear God only and take courage. Faithful courage in the face of fear glorifies God and courage is contagious!

God Commands and Commends Courage

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

Proverbs 28:1
The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

How can you call your fellow Christians to courage today?

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How The Mighty Fall – A Primer for Successful Leadership

How The Mighty Fall - A Primer on Successful Leadership

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline.” – Jim Collins

As leaders of families, teams, companies, platoons, churches or any organization, learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do.

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline”

– Jim Collins

In 2009, Dave Ramsey and his team gifted me with a small library of leadership books. One stood out from the rest. If you walk into my home office or my office at the church or search my backpack, there is a high probability you’ll find a Bible and this one small book.

Fast forward to 2016.

I was in a conference room in Dallas with Dave Ramsey, Patrick Lencioni, Seth Godin, George W. Bush, and Jim Collins. I put a question to Jim Collins (bestselling author and speaker). “Jim, what is the best book you have written to date?” I fully expected him to reply, “Built to Last” or “Good to Great.” Both are excellent books. However, I was surprised by his answer. He replied without hesitation, “The best book I’ve written is a little book entitled “How the Mighty Fall” (2009).” Jim went on to explain that if we don’t know why and how great organizations fall, we won’t know how to make a good organization into a great organization.

As leaders of families, teams, companies, platoons, churches or any organization, learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do.

Failure as a Favorite Teacher
I have a long list of failures and mistakes I’ve made in business, ministry and leadership. I call them my “playbook of what NOT to do’s.” I joke with people and say, “If you learn from all of MY mistakes and failures, you will be successful!” Failure is a better teacher than success. Just as pain is a better teacher than pleasure.

“How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In” is a primer to understanding how to be a good leader of any group of people, whether a Fortune 100 Company or your family. Even when we read our Bibles, it is replete with stories of failure. Each with its own lesson to teach us in our own historical moment.
Click on chart images in this post to open in a new window and enlarge and/or download if you wish.

Pride (hubris) always marks the beginning of the fall
Proverbs 16:18 clearly states, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This is true of individuals and organizations. Arrogance in the face of problems is incapable of seeing them in the first place. Pride blinds us to the truth. Past success does not promise future success. Failure to cultivate and renew the soils of traditions, values and competencies that led to initial success will create conditions for failure. When leaders replace “why” with “what” questions, they miss the opportunity for deeper reflection and basic understanding of why the organization was successful in the first place.

Most important of all is what Collins calls a “decline in learning orientation.”

Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers.” (Jim Collins, p. 43).

I would add that leaders must “read widely”, not just sticking to their side on a topic or their area of expertise. Read to understand counter or competing positions. Read and learn outside your career domain. When we are lifelong learners, we understand that we never completely arrive. The more we learn the more we understand our own inadequacies and limitations – allowing humility to invade our lives.

Are you on your way up or on your way down? The dynamics of Leadership-Team bahavior chart below is a helpful tool for determining where you are headed.

In conclusion, understanding a situation is a precondition to responding appropriately to a situation. As a leader, if you misdiagnose a problem, the solutions you create will harm the organization you are leading. The Bible tells us to “know the state of our flocks.” (Proverbs 27:23)

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline… By understanding the stages of decline, leaders can substantially reduce their chances of falling all the way to the bottom.” – Jim Collins

Every once in a while, I put “How the Mighty Fall” back on my bookshelf. Somehow, it makes its way back on my desk or in my backpack. I’m thankful Jim Collins wrote this little book.

Here is a link to a summary by Jim Collins….

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

The Power of Stories

The Power of Stories

Everyone loves a good story. We all want to be a part of a good story. Stories form the architecture of our lives.

Stories are powerful. Everyone loves a good story. We all want to be a part of a good story. In fact, stories form the architecture of our lives. We all have a story of our individual lives. At the same time, we all are part of a bigger story together. What is so interesting to me is that God created reality in such a way that we can contribute and impact each other’s stories – hopefully in a good way, right? Even when we miss the mark and negatively impact someone else’s life, we can ask for forgiveness in the hope of redeeming and restoring a story. That is amazing!

As I have been reading “The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers” by J. R. R. Tolkien, I have realized that modernity has robbed us of the riches of story reading and story telling. The beautiful thing about good stories is that we have so many ways to tell them. A good story is a good story.

Everyone you meet has a story.
Everyone you meet has struggles.
Everyone you meet has sinned.
Everyone you meet has hopes and dreams.
Everyone you meet is created in the image of God.
Every life points beyond itself.
Everyone you meet is extraordinary.

C.S. Lewis once said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Beautiful stories are poetry in motion. They have all the hallmarks of tragedy, redemption and triumph woven into something quite moving. Stories are deeply human.

Below are links to two stories. First, if you not have seen Jane’s (Nightbirde) story, it’s worth watching the seven minutes. Second, is a story about Chuck Colson called ‘Unlikely Hero.’ Before you watch, take just a moment and consider ‘why’ we like good stories. Good stories can change the trajectory of your day… and perhaps, your life.

What is the story you want to write today as if it we your last?

Video 1: Nightbirde’s Original Song Makes Simon Cowell Emotional – America’s Got Talent 2021

Video 2: Chuck Colson – An Unlikely Hero

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Did You Know You Were Made For This Time and Place?

Did You Know You Were Made For This Time and Place?

The Gospel isn’t a formula you apply to your life; it’s the Story you’re meant to inhabit.

Do you know your role in the story of which you inhabit?

We live in an extraordinary moment in history.

Do you know your role in this world?

What are your responsibilities and opportunities in this cultural moment?

Where do I start in the square inch God has placed me?

If you are redeemed in Christ, then you inhabit the greatest story ever told. The Gospel is not limited to the way of salvation. It is bigger than that. Yes, your faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is important. But, the Gospel I believe is not the Gospel of Lance. It’s not about me. Neither is the Gospel about you. Our salvation is not the end game nor is it the over-arching theme of the Bible. Jesus Christ proclaimed the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom.’

Michael Craven said, “The Gospel is so much larger than the personal plan for salvation. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the in-breaking rule and reign of Jesus Christ as King over all creation – redeeming and restoring all things. Through Him, the Kingdom of God has come into this world. Jesus has completed the atonement (payment) for our sin on the cross. By his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father, He is presently ruling and reigning over creation. Christ is reinstating his righteousness on the earth.”

J.I. Packer said, “The Gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that he, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us… Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is and understand the salvation from sin.”

The bad news is that our modern American gospel is man-centered not a God-centered Gospel. A God-centered Gospel is indeed Good News. There are two competing gospels, the gospel of the world vs the Gospel of the Kingdom. The former leads to death and destruction the latter leads to eternal life and human flourishing.

“Calling is at the heart of scripture.” – Os Guiness

God calls us, moreover, God invites us to inhabit His story. “When Christians see everything as calling from the Lord, we realize the dynamism of our faith” (Os Guiness). As we respond and enter into the overarching story of all of history, we go about setting things right in the world. In other words, we bring order to the disorder we find in our time and place.

“The Gospel isn’t a formula you apply to your life; it’s the Story you’re meant to inhabit.” – The Colson Center

A Unifying Vision:
As Christians, we must cultivate a unifying vision of the Lordship of Christ over the domain of our individual and collective lives as the local church. We shall live lives that are holy and pleasing to the Lord as we exercise dominion over that which God has placed in our care. The hallmarks of Christian maturity are; holy living, the ability to articulate a Christian vision of total reality, and a zeal to bring ALL things under the Lordship of Christ as co-reagents of His Kingdom – redeeming and restoring that which is lost and dying in the place and time in which we live.

We are witnesses to the ‘in-breaking’ rule and reign of Jesus Christ into history as we redeem and restore that which God has placed in our care. We beseech the lost world to be “reconciled to God” in Christ Jesus as we take our place in His great story.

As Christians, we are transformed through Christ. We are commanded to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with a lost world. We are also given another command called the Cultural Mandate or Dominion Mandate. “The cultural mandate is the command to exercise dominion over the earth, subdue it, and develop its latent potential (Gen. 1:26-28; cf. Gen. 2:15).” (9Marks) We create good, true and beautiful culture that transforms the world and the story we inhabit.

The late Chuck Colson said,Transformed lives transform lives – transformed lives transform culture.

We live in an extraordinary moment in history. We have an extraordinary God. We inhabit an extraordinary story. You Were Made For This Time and Place.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Author’s note: The piece I’ve written above are deeper reflections of my experience and what I’ve learned through the Colson Fellows program over the last two years. “Gain wisdom, live faithfully and act courageously.”

 

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Detachment and Reflection to gain Perspective – what have you learned?

Detachment and Reflection to Gain Perspective

What have you learned in the past 12 months?

Two of the best disciplines we can adopt are detachment and reflection in order to gain perspective and make plans going forward.

Yesterday the church cabinet staff had our regular meeting. Our cabinet is comprised of pastors and ministry leaders representing about two dozen ministry areas of the church. We were asked a reflective question that can help shape the future of our ministries. I think this question is applicable life, family and business as well as ministry.

Here’s the question:

What have you learned in the past 12 months?

My process for answering the question…

So much has changed in the last year. I invested more time reflecting and praying than planning. Some would argue that focusing on the future and moving ahead are more important than reflection. I am a contrarian and argue that detaching in order to assess events, changes in the ministry environment and taking an honest look at the good and bad are keys to planning. I’d say that the more complex the issues and events of the past, the more important reflection becomes.

I intentionally employ a slowed-down version of the OODA Loop.

The OODA Loop is an acronym that stands for:

Observe
Orient
Decide
Act

The OODA Loop concept was put forth by the great military strategist Colonel John Richard Boyd, United States Air Force. Simply put, it is the decision-making that occurs in a recurring cycle of observe – orient – decide – act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.

To put it another way, “(The OODA Loop) explains how individuals and organizations can win in uncertain and chaotic environments.” – Tyler Pearson

You and I run through the OODA loop thousands of times per day. Next time you are driving somewhere, you’ll stop at a red traffic light (hopefully). Your act of stopping at that light was acheived by the process of the OODA Loop. You observed an intersection ahead and saw a red light. You oriented yourself in proximity to the intersection and the vehicles around you. You decided that you were going to stop at the red light (smart move). Finally, you took action and applied the brakes and stopped your car at the intersection. You just experienced the OODA Loop. When the traffic light turns green, your loop begins all over again. Check out the video below this post to learn more…

Observe Slowly:
In my reflection, I take time to observe what has happened and how all that has happened is effecting current conditions and how past decisions (good and bad) have shaped current conditions. This must be an honest assessment of self and my decision-making. Honest feedback must be gathered from trusted partners. This is where the organizational hierarchy is allowed to be flattened where all team members are on the same level with the leaders and everyone has a seat at the table to provide input.

Orient Carefully:
I take in information I have observed and start to carefully orient myself and get my bearings. I’ve had some experience and training in land navigation (Land Nav). “Land navigation is the discipline of following a route through unfamiliar terrain on foot or by vehicle, using maps with reference to terrain, a compass, and other navigational tools” (Wiki). Honestly, I am terrible at it. However, I understand the most important exercise in Land Nav is ascertaining my current position on a map. If I don’t know where I am on a map, there is no way I’m going to reach my destination. The same goes for orientating myself in the current moment in time in order to decide or plan for the future.

I learned two major lessons in the last 12 months in ministry. It struck my how these lessons apply to life, family and business.

1. BE FLEXIBLE: There is a great line from Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) from the film “Heartbreak Ridge” where Highway is addressing his platoon of misfit Marines. He said that in facing adversity on the battlefield a good Marine will, “improvise, adapt and overcome.” In other words, we must be flexible. In the last year of ministry, I had to learn to be flexible due to changing conditions and challenging situations in ministry. Our 2019 pre-COVID plans were often set aside, particularly in regard to events. Therefore, we had to improvise and adapt ministry operations in order to overcome obstacles and accomplish our mission. COVID never changed our mission but our means of achieving our mission changed dramatically.

2. BE DEPENDENT ON GOD: Another lesson I learned was not to hang on to anything too tightly. Due to challenging circumstances and changing conditions, I learned a deeper dependence on God. He reminded me that He is in ultimate control and He would see to it that His purposes would reach completion. Sometimes God puts us in a place of desperation where we come to realize that He is the only one who can make things happen. And sometimes God accomplishes this in surprising ways. Therefore, I learned to be open-handed with my plans and projects knowing that God could step in at any moment and change things. There is a kind of freedom in that experience.

What does all this mean for you?

I believe that if you take time to detach, reflect and observe how things have unfolded and decisions you made (good and bad) in the last 12 months, you can orient yourself. Then, you can make plans and decide how to best move forward. Finally, you can act (completing the OODA Loop).

Remember, being flexible is key to success in an ever-changing environment in ministry, business and in the home. At the end of the day, remember that God is in charge. Your responsibility is to pray, plan and walk in obedience to His Word and purposes. Leave the results to Him. His plans and ways are higher than yours. Be open-handed with your plans and projects knowing that God owns it all and loves you. He will surprise you beyond your understanding.

(Comment and share your thoughts below)

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