But to all who did receive Jesus, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God. -John 1:12
Two weeks ago the kind staff at our local hospital were crazy enough to let my wife and I bring our baby boy Rory home. Having him here now means that today is my first official Father’s Day as a Dad, so with the holiday here I thought I’d take a moment to share some quick reflections on these first few weeks of Fatherhood. Specifically, I want to share what becoming a father has taught me about the heart of God.
One of the most amazing teachings of Jesus to me is His insistence that God is not an idea or concept, nor a distant and removed deity, but is instead a loving Father. Over and over again in His teachings Jesus emphasizes this aspect of God’s being. In light of this incredible focus of Jesus on the Fatherhood of God it is not too much of a stretch to say that if you haven’t come to know God as a loving Father, you haven’t come to know God at all.
You might have heard, but it’s an election year this year. As someone who spent his growing years planning to become President one day, this season always excites me. This election year has of course been that much more exciting with how particularly unpredictable it’s been. Trump? Seriously? The non-traditional candidate who has intrigued me the most though is Bernie Sanders, the fiery 74 year old Independent Senator from Vermont.
A few weeks ago comedian Steve Harvey committed one of the greatest gaffes you’ll ever see on live television. After an afternoon of stellar hosting as the Miss Universe contest on CBS neared its end he had one job left to do- declare the winner. That’s where it all went wrong. In a moment that will live on forever in Youtube infamy, Mr. Harvey announced the actual runner-up Miss Colombia as the winner.
One of the best leadership skills you’ll ever develop is the ability to ask wise questions. The best leaders I know are ferocious question askers. They’re always looking to learn, and there’s no one they can’t learn from.
Leaders are readers sure, but the best of them are also questioners.
Questioners of the status quo, questioners of those who are succeeding in their field, and questioners of how much of what most would call impossible really is.
While I don’t know him personally, I imagine that Andy Stanley is a phenomenal questioner. A while back on the “The Art of Inviting Feedback” episode of the best leadership podcaston the planet, he actually introduced a question for leaders to ask their teams that was scarier than any I’d ever heard. In fact as soon as I finished the podcast, even though Andy’s challenge was for the leaders listening to go and ask this question to their teams my first though was, “There’s NO way I could ever do that!”
Words are unbelievably powerful. It’s a fundamental principle of both Scripture and life in general, yet is one that’s all too easily overlooked. Recently I had an experience where I was challenged on the words I use in my leadership that deeply impacted me. The experience grew me greatly as a leader, and I share it with the hope it may do the same for you.
I knew that I was in trouble almost as soon as the conversation started. It was the end of a long work day and I was in a meeting with a colleague where we were discussing a particularly sensitive issue. Emotions were running high, as the subject being discussed was one that had proven to be a pain point for this individual in the past. Against my better judgment, I chose to continue the conversation instead of recommending we pick it up when we were both a little calmer, and things quickly took a turn for the worse.
Where do you tend to spend your money? As Jesus once so memorably taught, because our hearts are where our treasure is, if we want to get a sense of what’s most important to us we need look no further than our bank statements. Which leads me back to my opening question, where do you spend your money?
While there’s no one “right” way to use our financial resources I do believe that some are more fruitful than others. As I look back over my own credit card statement each year I’ll confess that I too often see frivolous purchases that added very little to my overall well-being. But while there are any number of ways to waste our spending money there’s one use of my own that I never regret- vacation.
A 30 something American who was completely shut off to Jesus for most of his life who now helps direct a multimillion dollar ministry in Nicaragua. A 60 something woman who was running as far from Jesus as she could through a life of vicarious partying before an earthquake no one else felt woke her up and sent her to church where she came to know Jesus.
A 20 something biologist from the suburbs who has a heart for Hispanic students and wants to one day teach at a school in the inner city about the integration of science and faith. These are just a few of the stories I had the privilege to hear over the last week as I took two Graduate School classes at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary’s Charlotte campus.
Plateaus, those moments where it feels like progress has stopped and the stagnancy of same has set in. Everyone experiences plateaus, but I’ve yet to meet the person who would admit to enjoying them. Whether in relationships, life, or leadership, getting stuck on a plateau can quickly strip all the joy of the work that came before it away, leaving only frustration and angst in its wake.
Painful as these plateaus may be they’re a reality of life that can’t be escaped, but I’ve found that with the right mindset any plateau can be pushed through. Want to make sure a plateau doesn’t keep you from accomplishing all that God has laid on your heart to do? Here are five ways to push through the next one you face.
Any leader worth their salt is well familiar with criticism. For leaders the question isn’t, “Will I be criticized?” but rather, “How will I respond when criticized?” I’ve certainly faced my fair share of criticism in my leadership journey, of both the constructive and destructive sort. While I wish I could say I’ve always handled it well, the truth is I haven’t. Even after countless hours spent learning about the value of criticism and knowing all sorts of Biblical texts that speak directly to the need to heed wise and godly rebuke by heart, criticism still has a way of getting under my skin in the worst possible way.
Recently, about a week after receiving some helpful criticism from one of our lay leaders, I realized that I’ve settled into a repeated process of dealing with criticism. While this process is by no means perfect, it has been healthy for me to learn to walk through, and I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of my own journey with you on this issue. Perhaps you’ll see some of your own journey reflected as you read. So here goes. I’ve learned that I’m responding best to criticism when I (in order) get angry, get processing, and get better.
I once heard a leader reflect that if you want to be liked by everyone all you’ve got to do is stand for nothing, say nothing, and do nothing. Unfortunately for those of us committed to making a difference in our world that’s just not possible. Leaders by definition are people of intense belief and committed action, otherwise you’re just not leading!
What I’m getting at here is one of the most fundamental truths of leadership there is. Namely, that if you’re a leader not everyone is going to like you. It’s one of the most difficult, yet most important realities of leading to accept, but coming to do so is necessary because a failure to will doom your leadership for these three reasons.