Leadership Devotional 2011, Day 5

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say on a variety of topics, including the value of wisdom, practical advice on subjects ranging from debt to friendships, and the dangerous allure of immoral women (hey, I didn’t write it, I’m just telling you what’s in there). Most of Proverbs is written in short, easy to memorize sentences, almost like what you’d expect to find on a fortune cookie. Of course, merely memorizing & parroting platitudes doesn’t equate to wisdom – unless put into action, they’re just nice-sounding words.

“My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted.” (Proverbs 2:1-12 NLT)

Leadership Devotional 2011, Day 4

The Bible has a lot to say about the simple concept of work, starting with Adam being made to work the land to survive. Just as God gifts some to lead or teach or preach – and calls them to do so with excellence – He blesses others with skills such as woodworking, smithing, architecture and administration. God gave people the specifications for the Ark of the Covenant & the Temple in Jerusalem, and He gave people the skills needed to do the difficult work of making them.

What should we expect of the people who work for us? From a Biblical perspective, regardless of who we are or what we do, God has set a high standard: do our job to the very best of our ability, and treat our employer (whether that’s a boss or a company as a whole) with the respect they are due. Sounds simple, but how often is that your experience you walk the office floor? The truth is that some jobs, some tasks, some responsibilities are thankless and anonymous. Work can be drudgery. Work can be unrewarding. Sometimes our efforts go unnoticed or under-appreciated. But God is aware of everything we do, and rejoices in even the little things we do right and well that may fly under the radar.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 NLT)

Leadership Devotional 2011, Day 3

One of the last things any leader wants to talk about is personal weaknesses, but one of the hallmarks of a good leader is the capacity to recognize and contend with them. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have felt inadequate for what I was being asked to do. Work doesn’t get any less fun than that, and yet we don’t need to let that defeat us because God not only knows that we’re inadequate in our own strength, but He tells us that’s OK because it gives us the opportunity to rely on Him and not ourselves. This seems counter-intuitive to the modern, self-made leader who is taught to suck it up, put on their big boy or girl pants and conquer the world without relying on others. This is a lie, one that has doomed many leaders. If you want a great example of this from the Bible, read about Saul, the first king of Israel, in 1 Samuel.

Failure and disappointment are regular companions of all leaders. What will we do about this? First and foremost we must take these things to God and ask Him to work through our circumstances so that His purpose is accomplished. I’ve learned a lot as a leader through what felt at the time like failure, but if we’re open to learning the lesson we will be able to look back on an experience or season of life and say “I wasn’t happy to have gone throughout that at the time, but in retrospect I’m glad I did.”

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 NLT)

Questions for reflection:
What do you think are your weaknesses? Why do you think you have them? Do you think you’d be a better leader without them?
Do you feel comfortable talking about your weaknesses with others? Have you shared any of your difficult work/life lessons with people you lead?

Talk is Cheap

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:20 NLT)

This is one of the values of being in God’s Word daily…sometimes you hear exactly what you need to hear, whether you like it or not! I was convicted by this verse this morning. The message was clear: it’s not enough to talk about the importance of ___________. Either do it or stop talking about it.

This isn’t part of the series I started 2 days ago but it felt urgent enough to post today.

Leadership Devotional 2011, Day 2

Each of us is a leader. Have we thought about why? Why us? When did those leadership traits in our lives begin to emerge?

Leadership is a role – a gift – divinely given by God. This doesn’t mean that only Christians are talented leaders, or that Christians blessed with leadership should only lead within a church or ministry setting, or that leaders so blessed don’t make mistakes. What it does mean is that God has blessed some of His people specifically with leadership gifts, and we are called to use those gifts to inspire and build up the people within our sphere of influence. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, encourages us to “take the responsibility [of leadership] seriously” which, I think we could all agree, some people in leadership roles do not do. Because it’s a gift from God, we should seek His help to be the best leaders we can be – not perfect, not flawless, but willing to learn and be taught along the way.

Another important principle here is that God gives every person unique gifts, talents, interests and strengths. As leaders, it is important that each of us take time to cultivate those traits in others, and encourage them to own their own development. We must also learn to rely on others to play their parts and to take on responsibilities for which we are less (or not) gifted. This is why Paul uses the human body as an analogy for the Church (the Body of Christ) – each part of the body has it’s function, and the body would not function effectively if every part did the same thing. Clearly this is true on our teams too, so always look for ways to add & cultivate new skills to your teams, while growing & stretching those already evident. Many people, Christian or otherwise, fail to recognize their talents, or even downplay or suppress them out of fear, so be ever mindful of the role you may play in helping others fulfill their potential!

“Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages.” (1 Corinthians 12:28 NLT)

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8 NLT)

Questions for reflection:
Do you consider yourself a leader in all aspects of your life? If so, how are you caring for your growth outside of the office? If not, why not?
Does the idea that God may have called you into leadership change how you view yourself and your leadership role(s)?

Leadership Devotional 2011, Day 1

Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. (Proverbs 12:24 NLT)

Many people, whether they are Christian or not, believe that the Bible has nothing to say about contemporary life, that it’s all simply rules & stories from a bygone era that are irrelevant in our sophisticated, post-modern era. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truths contained in the Bible are as vital today as when they were recorded, and there’s so much we can learn for our everyday lives…if we’re willing to dive into it.

One morning last year I woke up with this thought in mind: compile some verses & reflections from Scripture about leadership and work for a meeting I was attending out of town. I assume it was divine inspiration because it wasn’t anything I was consciously planning. The meeting was four days long, and my hope was to lead a voluntary time of reflection each morning. That didn’t work out, and it occurred to me during a walk last night to share that material here. I’m going to break the content up over more days than four. My prayer is that you’ll find a takeaway for each day, and perhaps be inspired to do your own study of the Bible on these themes. I would love to hear where your own reflections take you.

Panic or Pray

Where am I going to put my faith in the moment of crisis – myself or God? Should be an easy choice but too often my focus is on the wind, the waves, the storm or the boat, and inevitably that’s when I start to sink.

But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:37-41 NLT)