Category Archives: Faith

Hope

I would argue that we currently live in a society that is largely void of any real hope.  When I lived in Italy it was common to hear Italians express low hope for change within their country or their personal situation.  They would often comment that “the beautiful life” in Italy had vanished.  The world is certainly a more connected environment than ever before.  People are anxious over the world economic situation, over constant war and terrorism, over environmental issues, over issues of poverty and social justice.  Anxiety seems to be overwhelming hope.

Hope, according to the dictionary, is to cherish a desire with anticipation-with the expectation of obtainment.  Hope is always future oriented.  Hope looks into the future and longs for fulfillment.  Hope may be directed towards something very specific or towards a general desire for change.

The Bible has much to say about hope.  The Bible offers hope for now because of a hope-filled certain future.  Below are several biblical passages that speak to hope.

Psalm 42:11  God as the supreme object of our hope

Psalm 62:5-6  God as the source of our hope

Isaiah 40:28-30  Hope in an eternal God, One who created all that we see

Romans 5:1-5  Hope in seeing the glory of God because of His justification for us through Jesus Christ-Hope through godly character

Romans 12:9-12  Rejoice in hope

Romans 15:4  Hope through endurance and through knowledge of the Bible

Hebrews 6:18-20  Hold fast to the hope set before us

Hebrews 11:1  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for

1 John 3:1-3  Hope, as a child of God, in the certainty of becoming like Jesus

The seven most important words in the Bible, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (found in Colossians 1:27 as often quoted by Dr. Bill Bright)

5 For Leadership

Here is “5 For Leadership” for the 3rd week in July.  There are some great posts this week.  Don’t miss some of these authors.

Women Don’t Take Risks Like Men  This is a great read from the Leadership Freak that counters the notion that male leaders are riskier than female leaders.  Dan sites Alyse Nelson’s work to demonstrate that women simply do risk differently-not less.

Real Leaders Learn To Give  This is a guest post on the Leadership Solutions blog by W. Mark Valentine, who is a colonel in the Air Force.  Mark talks about the necessity of getting the right verbs attached to the function of leadership.  This too is a great read and might cause you to make a paradigm shift.

10 Real Reasons Pastors Quit Too Soon  This post is by Tim Peters on the Churchleaders.com blog.  Tim highlights that over 1700 pastors leave the ministry EACH MONTH.  That number should get your attention.  He lists some very telling reasons that impact that number.  Every person in ministry should read this.

Pastor: Do You Know The 7 Characteristics Of Advancing Leaders?  I also found this on the Churchleaders.com blog by way of Thom Ranier.  This list was compiled over different generations of leaders in Thom’s research and provides a good grid for what to look for.

Kindling Words From God’s Daughters  This is a very good post from my friend Judy Douglass.  She highlights five women as leaders of the Christian faith who made their mark for the cause of Christ.  Judy lets these leaders speak in their own words-be inspired!

There are the five for this week.  Lead well!

Saint Patrick-The Person Behind The Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of those strange holidays we mark without truly understanding the meaning behind it.  Culture largely celebrates with alcohol and green.  But there is a story of a man that God used greatly to draw a people to Himself.  It is a story of inhumanity being turned toward salvation.  It is a story of courage to face your fears.  It is a story of obedience to calling.  It is a story of leadership.  It is a story we need to contemplate today.

I don’t usually do this-but for this post I will link to another web site for telling this story (biography.com).  I will get you started.  Follow the link and finish the story.  You will be encouraged.

St Patrick was a Christian missionary. Two authentic letters from him survive, the only universally accepted details of his life. When he was 16, he was captured in Britain by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. He escaped, returned home and became a bishop. He later returned to Ireland, but little else is known. By the seventh century, he was credited as the patron saint of Ireland.

Here is the link for the rest of the story.


3 Thoughts on Life in Transition

“I am in transition.”  This is what I keep preaching to myself several times a day, every day.  Six weeks ago my family and I made a move from Florence, Italy to Austin, Texas.  We lived in Italy for five years and experienced many highs and lows.  You would think coming back to your home culture would be easy-but it’s not.  There is a general malaise that will hit me at any point in the day.  I can’t tell if I am longing for what I had or anxious about what I don’t yet know-or both.  We are experiencing what most would call a major transition.  But transitions come in many forms and can still have the same effects.  Transition can mean changing jobs, changing teams, changing locations, experiecing tragedy, losing a role, losing a community, etc.  Here are three observations I have made so far about life in transition.

1. Transition is Always Disorienting-Transition is defined as movement, passage or change from one position or state to another.  Whether we seek transition or transition seeks us, it necessarily involves change.  And change is always disorienting to one degree or another.  We leave the known for the unknown.  We move from that which has defined us to the realm of being experientially undefined.  This disorientation usually causes stress behavior.  I see it right now in my wife and children.  Of course I am not exhibiting any stress behavior-right!  My tiredness and my anger are just underneath the surface.  I can simultaneously yell or fall asleep depending on the circumstance.  Unfortunately I pride myself on remaining under control.  What I am learning is that I have to embrace this season of transition.  I must recognize the season I am in and recognize the ways that it impacts me.  AND I have to realize that it is OK.  There is a rock that is higher than I.  And I must turn to Him in my moments of sanity and realization.  Only Christ can provide me with true north to balance the compass of my disorientation.  I think the answer lies in pursuing Christ personally and as a family, embracing transition and fully trusting Him to take us through it.

2. Transition Always Involves Gain and Loss-Change is like that.  As a family we chose this transition from Italy back to the U.S.  We fully believed that this is what the Lord had for us.  Yet we lost many things in the process.  We left a country that was beautiful, had incredible food, and valued relationship.  We left American friends.  We left Italian friends.  We left a ministry that had been challenging, exciting and rewarding.  We left behind a vision and a dream of serving overseas for the cause of Christ that will not be easily recaptured.  We left behind an incredible season of growth as individuals and as a family.  And though we carry the memories with us, we have left behind the real experiences of smiles, tastes, sounds, images and conversations of a season past.  We also gain a lot.  We have linked our lives to a new and fresh vision.  We have entered into new experiences that hold the promise of new relationships, new learning, new opportunity and the application of fresh faith.  Not all of this is realized yet-and that is what makes the pain of transition so real-leaving the known and quantifiable for the unknown.  I think the solution is in giving thanks for what we have already experienced (good or bad) and believing God for what He has yet to do, but will reveal.

3. Transition Always Tends Towards Isolation-I don’t think this observation is just about me or just about being male.  When we are disoriented and unable to get our bearings there is a tendency to look inward.  There is the tendency to give in to our tiredness and a desire to feed our thirst for comfort with that which is less than satisfactory.  I think this is where temptation lurks, desiring to suck us in to it’s vortex of self gratification and temporary pleasures.  I think the answer lies in community.  In the midst of transition and all of its highs and lows-we desperately need the fellowship of like minded people who can keep us balanced and pursuing that which really matters.  Today I had lunch with a good friend who helps to anchor me and provides me with godly perspective, so that I don’t do something stupid.  In transition I am always prone to do something stupid.

What are your thoughts?  How have you faced and handled transition?  Please comment below.

3 Leadership Derailers

Earlier this week I began to think about aspects of a leader’s life that cause them to go off track.  What ultimately causes a leader to fail?  What causes them to make bad decisions, personally and in the mission?  What most hinders them in their relationships with those they lead and those they seek to influence?  Three aspects came to mind.  These three “leadership derailers” can show themselves in very obvious ways or in subtle ways.  But over time they will severely negate a leader’s influence.

1. Fear-I have talked before how I think this is one of the greatest threats to any leader’s life.  A leader who leads from a base of fear will make many bad decisions.  Usually fear is not tied to a leader’s circumstances as much as it is to the threat of their sense of significance.  When a leader feels threatened in their leadership they become afraid.  But the very presence of fear reveals something about the leader.  It reveals that the foundation that they have built their leadership upon is the wrong one.  This aspect of a leader’s life speaks more to who they are as a leader.  It speaks to why they lead.  What foundation are you building upon?

2. Anger-A leader who regularly exhibits anger does so because of blocked goals.  When ever any of us experience a blocked goal their is the opportunity for anger.  We want what we want.  Often this expresses something relationally in the life of a leader.  We see a person behind a blocked goal.  It could be animosity towards someone on the team or towards someone we seek to influence.  But the person may not really be the problem.  Over the years I have tried to maintain a perspective that “there are no problem people, only people with problems.”  The real question may be whose goals are you seeking to reach?  Are other people really the enemy or are they a part of the goal equation for development and blessing?

3. Discouragement-A leader who is discouraged is usually so because of the results.  It is difficult to throw yourself into something and not see the desired outcome.  Results are sometimes deceiving though because they could reflect the wrong measurements or the wrong timing.  Results are simply a measurement and are most helpful towards learning-not always toward leadership assessment.  But when a leader leads from a base of discouragement it will be very difficult for those around them to sense hope, clear direction, and energy toward the vision.  Discouragement is as contagious as courage.  Do you have the right measurements?  Are you learning or are you wrongly internalizing?

The wrong leadership foundation can lead to fear.  The wrong goals related to people can lead to anger.  The wrong measurements or use of results can lead to discouragement.

For the spiritual or secular leader-only the gospel can cure our brokenness and bent towards functional saviors that cannot provide what we need to lead well.

Living in Fear or Certainty

Earthquakes in Hatti and China.  Landslides in Brazil and Kenya.  Floods in Tennessee.  Oil spills in the Gulf.  A volcano in Iceland that disrupts travel and almost takes down an industry.  Terrorist plots in Times Square.  Economic upheaval and political meltdowns.  The threat of renegade nations with nuclear capability.  And then there are our daily lives.  It is easy to live in fear these days.  I have begun to wonder if one of the downsides to social networking and a truly connected global society is that we are over aware of life in a fallen world.  We know everything in real time.  I am watching people shrink back-trying to protect and insulate themselves from any harm.  Whenever I travel to the States I become keenly aware how afraid people are of Islam and immigration.  I don’t mean rational awareness and thoughtful dialogue-I mean fear.  No doubt the media plays upon this.  Most of the “good” stories are predicated upon fear.  And I can fall prey to the unending barrage of knowledge that presses in on me and tries to force me into hiding.  Where do we turn?

As a follower of Christ I have a true alternative.  God’s revelation in the Bible points me to a sovereign God.  This is never more evident than in Psalm 46.  Listen to how the psalmist begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear . . . ”  The writer goes on in verses 2-5 to take note of nature and all of her fragility.  But he points us to the Creator who put it there in the first place and reminds us that He is in the midst of all created things.  This is not pantheism-this is God who is in control and is taking all of history towards His ends.  In verses 6-7 the psalmist addresses the threat of nations.  He accurately describes how they can “rage” and “totter”-but with one utterance of God’s voice they melt and do His bidding.  Verse 7 reminds us, “the Lord of hosts is with us.”  The “withness” of God is a very strong theme throughout the Old Testament and finds its culmination in Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  And note that it is the Lord of hosts-this is metaphor for our Warrior God with all of His heavenly army-a picture of total strength to match our fear.

The psalmist gives us three antidotes to our fears over a broken creation and a broken political world:  “Come, behold the works of the Lord”,  “Be still and know that I am God”, and “The Lord of hosts is with us”.  First he tells us that the One who created it all is still in control of it all.  Second, he tells us that God will be exalted among all the nations and in the earth.  Third, the One who is transcendent is also immanent-meaning the One who is all powerful and able to control is also deeply personal and able to meet us where we are.

If I pay more attention to the media of our day than the living media of God’s word then I will continue to retreat.  But if I “behold”, “be still” and rightly consider then I will engage in faith and confidence that the God of the universe revealed in Jesus Christ is in control and is with me in all that He calls me to do.  The true alternative to fear is faith in the one true living God.

Whom Will You Exalt?


I was reading in Exodus 9 today and was struck by the contrast of leadership that is on display in this part of the Biblical narrative. Moses, the one time adopted child of Pharaoh, is now the somewhat reluctant leader of Israel. Along with his brother Aaron, they are demonstrating bold courage (that flows from humility) on behalf of their people to free them from slavery and see them through to the land that God has promised to them.

Pharaoh, on the other hand, is somewhat of a foil in the narrative. We read simultaneously that he has hardened his heart towards Yahweh and Yahweh has hardened his heart. But make no mistake-Pharaoh is ultimately responsible for his own choices. In the midst of the plagues that Yahweh sends upon the Egyptians-we see both God’s ultimate purpose and the cause of leadership gone bad. Nestled in verses 16 and 17 we read this, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.”

Did you catch that? God’s ultimate purpose is to make His own name great in all the earth. His power is on display as a contrast to Pharaoh’s power. Egypt was the greatest nation on the planet at this time-most would have seen Pharaoh as the most powerful man alive. But Yahweh is out to prove that His power is vastly superior-and he does so to the proclamation of His own name. As Christ-centered leaders this should be our purpose too. We are to be about making His name great in all the earth. We are to trust in His power alone to accomplish this-because his power is vastly superior to our own-or that of any would be spiritual foe. But we must be very careful not to fall prey to the Pharaoh syndrome-self exaltation-even in the midst of clear evidence that he was being made little of while God was being made much of.

I can live out the Pharaoh syndrome in many ways-most of them quite subtle-some of them quite obvious. Whenever I am trusting in my own power over that of the Holy Spirit I am leaning towards self exaltation. Whenever I secretly want credit for the success around me or run from credit when failure occurs-I am leaning towards self exaltation. When I see my team or those I minister to as there to advance my agenda-I am leaning toward self exaltation. These attitudes are about me making my name great-not His.

I need the three allies of the faith to avoid the Pharaoh syndrome-the Word of God as a regular dietary part of my day; I need the Holy Spirit in all of His convicting power in my life-and to choose to respond to His probing instantly; and I need the community of believers to speak truth into my life (and leaders, you will have to openly and honestly invite this into your life).

What are some other ways the Pharaoh syndrome shows up for you? Where are you leaning towards (or possible basking in) self exaltation? How will you purpose to lean into His power today and make His name great in all the earth?