Lead Well: 5 Ways to Best Face the Challenge of Life

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”– my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths [Proverbs 1:10-15]

Life is a challenge. I would go as far to say that life is one long test. Things go well, things don’t go so well. Good days and other days.

I have made big mistakes which have had little or no impact on me, while other smaller, daft ones, have had the potential to cause major consequences. You just don’t know sometimes.

The challenge then becomes about protect yourself. To protect your future. To protect the God-given future. It doesn’t mean doing nothing and taking no risks. Verses like these in Proverbs have helped me to create some non-negotiables for how I travel, make decisions and walk with God through life.

Do not consent. Stay strong. Learn to say NO. There are some things which I should just not agree to.

Be alert to ambush. Keep an eye out for what’s going on around you. Call them boundaries, guardrails, whatever. Put them in place, they will keep you from getting caught out.

Stay away from the place of danger. Don’t go to those places where temptation may be too strong. It’s too easy to justify our behaviour sometimes but ultimately it only hurts us.

The crowd is not always right. This may be the message of the world but we are not meant to just go with the way of the world. It doesn’t matter everyone else is doing it or even that society says it’s ok. Do what is right because it is the right thing to do.

Hold back when appropriate. Take a moment. Look. Really look. Fools do rush in. It can be difficult but learn to wait for Gods lead.

All with the power of the Holy Spirit helping you too. This is the adventure of leading well in life. Go for it!

Would you add anything else to the list of non-negotiables?

Honest, Open & Transparent 

What is actually going on in my heart will always reveal itself. The same is true for every person.

We might say one thing but what’s going on in our hearts will ultimately drive our actions. It’s like saying no but then displaying a yes, telling others that we are not going there but then we there go anyway.

In this matter, people no longer surprise. The heart always rules.

So why not be honest, open and transparent. Why not just be clear. Not in an unkind or inappropriate way. First with yourself about what is going on in your heart, and then, if needed, with others. After all, actions will follow the heart eventually.

We will still love you, believe in you but most importantly of all, we will understand you better. It could just be the beginning of a whole new journey with God if we could only give up what’s going on in the heart. To empty the heart of the wrong and allow God to fill it with the right.

Don’t believe me, then look at what Jesus tells us. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Words spoken are driven by what is in the heart. Actions are prompted by what is in the heart. We may honestly think we can’t help it, however I think these two things will help…

1. We need to guard our heart, for out of it spring the issues of life

2. We need to allow our hearts to be filled with the fullness of God.

How do we do them? Maybe we don’t. We can’t strive to make them happen. The beautiful thing is that Jesus has made a way for these things to be possible. Jesus guarded his heart and wasn’t led by his emotions but instead went willingly to the cross, which brought about a great exchange, where we receive a new heart from which springs forth a new way of life.

Then, as we live out that new way of life through the power of the Holy Spirit, obedient to the words of Jesus, our hearts are filled with the fullness of God, just as Jesus spoke about telling us that He and His Father would make their home in our hearts. [John 14:23]

I am encouraged. I want Jesus and the Father in my heart. I want only good, graceful, life-giving words and actions to be prompted by what is going on in my heart. I am grateful that although I may not be able to do this in my own strength, I know that I can because of Christ who strengthens me.

What do you think about that?

X-Ray Your Motives

This was Gods word this morning…then every church will know that appearances don’t impress me. I x-ray every motive and make sure you get what’s coming to you [Rev 2:23b]

I definitely sat up when I read this.

Image maybe meaningful within the world. The idea that we must ‘have’ certain stuff or have attained a certain ‘level’ of success. The risk is that stuff and success become the reason for our existence, the focus of our energies and the basis for how we think people might view us.

Yet it seems that appearance is nothing to God. Such things don’t impress Him.

Instead, God x-rays every motive and rewards it accordingly. He sees the good in our heart. He also sees the selfishness in out heart. He sees faith in Him that resides in our heart. He also sees the obstacles of unforgiveness, of pride and hurt that can also be in my heart and get in the way of that faith.

So I ask myself the obvious question ~ what are my motives for doing what I do? After all if God examines my heart then He recognises the why behind the what ~ why I am doing what I am doing.

Am I looking for approval?

Am I looking for personal recognition?

Am I looking for my own success?

Am I going after applause? Or…

 Will I just serve faithfully even if I never receive any public affirmation?

Will I give without any guarantee of return?

Will I put my trust in God and that my reward will come from Him?

So I make a response today: that I will reflect on my motives and repent of any that are misplaced, selfish or not mindful of God’s best interest for me and my family.

How about you?

My Greatest Leadership Challenge

The other evening with a bunch of young leaders I was asked a great question ~ what has been your biggest leadership challenge and how did you overcome it?

For a moment I struggled. Not that I have never had a challenge in my leadership, but when you reflect on a question like this it can be difficult to articulate your answer. All along my leadership journey there have been times of challenge, you just don’t always realise it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve just got on with it and with Gods help, overcome them.

My answer (prompted by my wife) was ‘2008’.

The leadership challenge in 2008 was this – I could have left church. I thought I was exactly where God wanted me to be. Then, without notice, things changed. A combination of events knocked me, which created a challenge I am convinced that all of us will go through at some point…

I am offended. What will I do in response to what has been done to me, to what has offended me?

All I can say is that there will be moments when you will be offended. Guaranteed. Someone is going to say something, do something, respond in a way that upsets you, something you have been doing will be taken from you. An ‘unexpected event’ that will ask questions of your motives, your values and quite likely, your faith.

Somehow I chose to respond in the right way.

Well, I hear you cry, that’s easy for you, you’re a Pastor. Not sure why people think that way. I’m just a normal person who gets upset about the same kind of stuff that everyone else gets upset by. Plus I wasn’t then, at least not in the role like I am in today.

This is not about me bragging. Looking back the reason I survived that challenge, and therefore my family survived, was because my heart was not going to be moved. At some point previously I had determined that come what may, my heart will not be moved.

My heart is for God. My heart is for my family. My heart is for His church. My heart is for Xcel. It is my home and I have no intention of leaving home. I don’t ever want me or my my family to be homeless.

On reflection, 2008 wasn’t really that much of challenge because I had already passed tests on other occasions. I just hadn’t realised it. Yet when I look back on my life I can see the times when my heart was tested.

1998. Some difficult work stuff as a Financial Adviser.

1999. Would I move to London for a job?

2001. A huge step of faith.

2003. Looking for some extra income which led to a ‘miracle’ job.

Then 2008. And since then, some even bigger challenges that have tested my heart.

My only advice, especially to those who lead. Choose today where your heart should be and then stay there. I have learned that there is nothing SO big that happens where God is not BIGGER, that He cannot help me overcome.

Psalm 15 puts it like this…

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honour those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.

That is the kind of life I want to live. My prayer is that with Gods help and the Holy Spirit, I can.

Go For a Full Court Press

Get your full-court press on. Don’t give your opponent time to gain any forward motion.

I used to love a game of basketball. I was actually school captain. I remember that no team we faced would ever play full-court press all the time. It would be far too exhausting, although it has been proved that it is a worthwhile tactic for teams of lesser skill and ability in overcoming those who are the better basketball team. [*Malcom Gladwell ‘David & Goliath]

In life, we need to get our full-court press on. Don’t let our guard down.

Jesus tells us that the pure in heart are blessed, they will see God [Matthew 5:8]. We have been made perfect through Christ, for which I am thankful. Not of my own efforts, it is the incredible gift from God. Now comes my response – don’t allow the enemy [the opposition] in. Get my guard up. Full court-press. Don’t give him any space, no way through.

To be pure hearted means to remain unpolluted and undefiled. It is about staying ‘unmuddied’. What a great word. Unmuddied means to keep clear of sediment. The small stuff, the rubbish, the sand and grit that gathers under the surface which, for instance, eventually causes a river to break its bank when it becomes overwhelmed. I think that’s a great picture of our heart. All those little bits that get in there, those impurities, things that eventually have an influence on what comes out of our heart.

Simple response then. Guard your heart.

A full-court press demands greater fitness, greater energy levels, a greater sense of awareness. It’s a team play that requires each person on the team to fulfil that role to the best of their ability, then the opposition cannot break down the defence. The same is true for you and me. When we become stronger, fitter, more aware, then we are better able to keep our guard up. When we have the right people around us, like-minded individuals with the same sense of determination, then we are better able to keep our guard up.

The enemy is on the prowl, looking for who he can devour. He wants to kill, steal and destroy. Don’t give him any space and he can’t do that in your life. Too many times we here about the failing of someone. Staying pure in heart is not easy. There’s a lot of stuff clamouring for our hearts attention. Maybe it’s time for a dredge, a clean up, a bit of purification to be done. If you recognise some ‘muddiness’ in your heart then get it sorted. Be determined to not allow anything in that shouldn’t be there. Go for a full-court press. Set the boundary lines. Get the guard in place and don’t let it drop. With the help of the Holy Spirit – we can do this!