Don’t Leave Home Without it!

pexels-photo-210742.jpegEach week, I receive in my inbox a Friday Update from my friend and fellow pastor Mike Woodruff.

His mailings are invariably filled with wise, stimulating ideas for the journey of faith and life.

Among this week’s mailing was a quote from a book that I read a few years ago. The quote is so good, I thought I would pass it on to you.

Losing Our Soul

In her book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Ruth Haley Barton compares losing your soul with losing your credit card. She says, “you think it’s in your wallet, so you don’t give it much thought, until one day you reach for it and it’s not there. The minute you realize that it’s gone, you start scrambling, trying to remember when you last used it or at least had it in your possession. No matter what is going on you stop and look for it, because otherwise major damage can be done. Oh that we would feel the same sense of urgency when we become aware that we have lost our souls!” Capital One’s marketing campaign for their credit card asks, “What’s in your wallet?” Perhaps the better question is, “have you seen your soul lately?”

This quote reminds me of the sad account of Samson. Due to carelessness and cavalier attitude, he lost his soul, his strength, and his intimate relationship with God. Here’s the sad account of what happened when he realized his sad reality:

Then Delilah called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” When he awoke from his sleep, he thought, “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.”

But he did not know that the Lord had left him. So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles; and he ground at the mill in the prison. Judges 16: 20-21

I also wonder if there is a correlation between the moral and spiritual meltdowns we see in leaders and the failure to keep one’s soul healthy. Just wondering….

Lord, restore my soul, and the soul of all who read these words. Keep us from the foolishness of sin, and all that destroys and scars. Have mercy on us for we are prone to wander from you, the Fountain of Life. Amen.

Dead Leader Walking

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A costly error

I recently read some of the saddest words ever said about a leader:

So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord; moreover, he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David, son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14 NRSV).

What do I find so disturbing about these words? Not that Saul died (this is tragic), or the way he died, but that he did not seek guidance from the Lord.

Saul was anointed and appointed by God. He had all the right leadership tools, except one: humility in seeking the Lord with all his heart.

As his leadership started unraveling, he began losing confidence and broad support from his trusted leaders and the people of Israel.

He became a “dead leader” walking–willing to do anything to solve his problems. Anything but seek the Lord.

Instead, he went to a medium and in desperation, tried contacting the spirit of Samuel.

Like a dehydrated person in a desert craving a drop of water, Saul was yearning for wisdom, direction, and help. The weight of leadership was crushing him. If you are a leader, you know what this feels like. 

Jealousy toward David, his son-in-law, was slowly building a prison in his heart and this was when he took a foolish shortcut, and it cost him everything.

Leaders, remember that nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God.

Jesus was unequivocal when he said, “Apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). The task of leading an organization is challenging.

Leaders who have nothing to rely on but their degrees, their raw, brute strength to carry the load, will inevitably hit a wall and fall apart. They will not endure over the long haul that is often required of those who lead. Most of all, they will not finish well.

Source of the problem
Many leaders struggle in their prayer lives. They trade the short term comfort of immediate results for the longterm gain of seeking God’s best. Prayerless leaders are more common than we care to admit because prayer is slow, humbling, hard work. 

Those who pray, feel like it is a waste of time. Like Smeagol, in Lord of the Rings– the creature with the obsession for the shiny ring–many leaders are smitten with shiny leadership tools that they think will spur growth within their organization, their church, motivate people, and raise vast sums of money. Leaders want results. I get that!

I am not trying to dismiss leadership resources. I am saying that we must wisely choose our tools. Speaking through Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6: 16).

Come back to the ancient crossroads. Seek for the ancient paths–spiritual leadership that is centered on devotion to God. And in doing this, leaders will discover that God’s power is greater than anything they can do in their strength and that the wisdom of God and the plans of God are often revealed through prayer.

Remember…

Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers: The Story of Success) points out that virtually every person who has achieved success has done so, not only because of their talent, intelligence and hard work, but also because of an incredible set of circumstances that has given them advantages others have not enjoyed. Most studies on the traits of effective leadership include the attribute of humility—from Kouzes and Posner to Jim Collins; from Lencioni to Covey to Drucker. All of them recognize what Einstein taught: we are but a speck in an unfathomably large universe. Every leader who seeks a legacy of effectiveness realizes that he or she stands on the shoulders of someone else. They know that their abilities, opportunities and even their very breath come from the hand of God. William Loritts (Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence) writes, “For a Christian leader, brokenness is a dear friend, and pride is the enemy.” Leaders who would be grateful, humble and broken must begin on their knees, thanking God for his grace and mercy in their lives. (From Do Leaders Really Need To Pray?: The Role of Prayer in Leadership)

What are you doing to maintain spiritual vibrancy in your leadership?

Ordering Your Private World

Integrity

For me, Ordering Your Private World (OYPW) is one of the best books I have read in the last thirty-years on what it means to live with integrity, authenticity, and openness to the Spirit of God, as a father, husband, pastor and human being.

Warning: Do not read this book if you prefer to live unruffled at the level of mediocrity. OYPW shatters our propensity to live with private and public selves. We spend time propping up the public self for many reasons: it’s good for business; we can create a persona that makes people shower us with accolades, or deep down we are afraid of what people might think if they actually saw us from the inside out.

This explains why many of us ignore the private world—that uncharted region of the soul that no one actually sees—that we don’t even know, except for our Creator. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7.

Not long ago a young woman told me how surprised she was at the many fans and followers who loved and adored her much-acclaimed father. She later remarked, “I don’t understand why they love him so; he’s a different person at home.”

OYPW helps the reader integrate these often-divergent worlds so that the follower of Christ might be “holy,” in the real and complete sense of the word.

Do not read this book if you are afraid of being challenged in several key areas of your life.

•I’m living at too fast a speed.
•I am awash in too many choices, and I’m not good at saying no.
•I’m overwhelmed by the complexities of my organization.
•I compare myself to other people…and I always feel like I lose.
•I think that technology and talent can solve my problems, but they can’t.
•I am tempted to think that all I have to do is preach to people and they come around.
•I have not expected the force of the anti-faith culture I’m living in.
•I am not seeking times of deep reverence, prayer, in the presence of Jesus.
•I fritter away my time on things that do not matter in the eyes of God.
•I live with self-pity instead of dwelling in the full and rich grace of God.
•I want to stop living with secrets, lies, and fears.

But do read this book if you are interested in growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.

Do read this book if you are ready to live a life with significance and steward the time you have on this earth.

If you are a pastor, parent, man, woman, teenager, believer, unbeliever, or just a person seeking to harness your gifts, your time, your energy in full-hearted devotion to Christ, then this is the book to read or in some cases, re-read.

What’s your greatest challenge in ordering your inner private life with your outer public life?