Monthly Archives: May 2016

“In The Eyes of the Lord”

eye ballKeep your eye on the ball…  in the eye of the storm… a bird’s-eye view… beauty in the eye of the beholder… a second set of eyes… in the blink of an eye… camel through the eye of a needle… eye for an eye… evil eye… I could go on and on but I think you get the point. I played baseball in my younger days and heard the “keep your eye on the ball” idiom all the time.  I use this phrase when I teach my own kids to catch a ball or attempt to take a swing at it with a bat. “In the blink of an eye”, this phenomenon occurs when you put a bowl of candy or chocolate in front of some sugar crazed kids.

“In the eyes of the Lord”. This is a common expression used when we read through the books of 1 & 2 Kings. Most of the introductory words we read in respect to the reign of each king tells us up front the outcome of their rule. Quite simply they either “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” or “did evil in the eyes of the Lord”. We don’t have to read much further to understand all the particulars of what ‘right & evil’ are. I do believe it is a valuable lesson to spend the time to read deeper into the actions of the kings, to understand how what they did shaped the culture and ultimately the lives of the people. When I reflect on what each of the good and bad kings did, I came to this conclusion: the bad kings focused their actions through their own (self-centered) eyes and the good kings measured their actions as though they were looking through the eyes of the Lord (doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord)

What if we all operated our leadership focus from within this perspective, “lead, teach and preach through the eyes of the Lord. Our eyes, our perspective, has been skewed by the the cultures we live in.  1 and 2 Kings lay out some very clear principles and some not so obvious examples of both “good” leadership, and leadership “folly”. We can learn from the good and from the bad. Learning from those who came before us, should encourage us not make the same costly mistakes. We live in a day and age where our focus is easily distracted and pulled away from what is right in the eyes of the Lord. Spending time in God’s Word, reading, reflecting and praying for direction will help sharpen that focus. It will help us to lead in a way that is right and good.

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Determination and Loyalty.   

Seattle's Canine Police Force

Have you ever seen a police dog at work? There is an uncanny sense of determination that drives these highly trained animals to do their job. With a single command from their handler they jump to their feet ready, focused and set to complete thier mission. One other characteristic that stands out is the incredible sense of loyalty they have to their human counterpart, a loyalty that often rivals that of human relationships.

Elisha was confident of his calling to serve the Lord (an important leadership principle). In some respects, his story reminds me of that of Solomon’s. Elisha followed closely in the footsteps of Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of his time. It is Elisha’s response to Elijah’s question that is reminiscent of Solomon’s response to God’s question. When asked what he (Elijah) could do for him, Elisha did not request the desire for status or fame. He requested a double portion of his Spirit, a request that shows us his desire to serve the Lord in ways that go far beyond his human capabilities. 2 Kings chapter 2 highlights the story of Elijah’s spectacular parting from this world to be with God in heaven. As I read through this chapter my attention was drawn to the determination and loyalty of Elisha to stick by Elijah’s side despite his attempts to have him stay behind. When I consider the loyalty displayed by Elisha to follow his mentor, I can’t put aside the bigger picture, his loyalty to God. Elisha was on a mission for God.

Elisha was a regular guy, working what was likely a regular job for many in that time. The text tells us that he was ready to follow Elijah when he came and “claimed” him for service. The words “ready to follow” carry a powerful message here for us in context to Elisha’s calling. For many of us today, God had been preparing or is still preparing our hearts for His service. Life carries us in many directions. One day we could be plowing a field like Elisha and be called into leadership or we could be working in the wholesale plumbing business and be called into ministry. Wherever we are, young or old, the Lord has a plan for our lives and when He calls we need to be like Elisha, ready and determined to do great things.

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Wisdom, Experience & Humility

In Over his Head“What have I gotten myself into? “Have you ever asked yourself this question? It is one of those moments in life when you know you are into something, and it is way over your head. You feel like you have lost control and you are considering a long run into the hills. I took on a project once that sent me into this particular state of frenzy. I remember the sluggish sinking feeling that seemed to consume all my energy and to be honest I can’t remember how I made it through. I know I did because there was a finished product to show for my efforts.

I believe Solomon had a similar experience. Listen to his confession before the Lord, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.” (1Kings 3:7-8) It is said that Solomon was around the age of twenty when he became king and had already established a certain stature of wisdom according to his father (2:6,9). We might consider the words “a little child” an expression of inexperience, trepidation or even humility. As a young man Solomon had the privilege of growing up with the example of His father David as king, he was married to Pharaoh’s daughter, he had a son but he knew that this next stage would take him in over his head.

I have to wonder what Solomon’s dream would have been like when the Lord appeared to him for the first time? There was a question, a conversation, an exchange of epic proportions and then, he woke up realizing it had been a dream. The narrative that continues through the next number of chapters in 1 Kings proves that the Solomon’s dream was in fact a new reality for him. He lived on to make decisions that made an impact throughout history, decisions that allow us to gain wisdom into our own leadership. Solomon’s request, his heart’s desire for wisdom to discern between right and wrong and lead the nation in obedience to God’s will should inspire us all. Eventually this story of wisdom and inspiration take us to a place where the forces of darkness take a hold of Solomon’s life, an unfortunate scene we see all too often in today’s world. These lessons  both positive and hard are recorded for us so that we might learn and live a life pleasing to our God, so that we might lead with integrity and love. 

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Red Light, Green Light

Signal LightHave you ever considered the amount of time that passes between a green light and a red light as you are driving? Depending on the speed zone you’re in, it can vary from 3 to 5 seconds. Given that amount of time our brain has to make a quick decision, release the accelerator to slow down or as the old saying goes: “put the pedal to the metal”. At times some of us ignore the yellow warning light all together, our focus is on the red or the green, the stop or go that controls our momentum.

The first chapter of 1 Kings introduces us to a man named Adonijah, one of the sons of King David and third in line to the royal throne. (Let’s consider him the “pedal to the medal” green light type of guy). Then we meet Nathan and Bathsheba (our more cautious red light, action stopping counterparts). What we have here is a collision of ideas, thoughts and emotions about who is going to become King. Adonijah recognizes his father’s failing health and jumps the gun and appoints himself king, “I will be King” he says, completely ignoring the “yellow light” that prompts us to think about our actions. Was he ready to be king? Was he qualified? Did he have the blessing of the current king? Did he seek direction from the Lord? On the flip-side we have Bathsheba making her plea to King David to make good on his promise to have Solomon be his successor, an appeal that ultimately puts a stop to Adonijah’s plan. Bathsheba’s actions seem self-serving at first glance and they may well have been as she feared for her life and the life of her son Solomon. I do believe that our sovereign Lord used each of these events to shape the direction of leadership for His people.

When I reflect on God’s call in my life to be a leader in the church I must admit I spent a lot of time between the red and green lights. Unlike Adonijah, I took a considerable amount of time to listen for God’s direction in my life. Although I may have had some “green light” drivers encouraging (nudging) me from behind, I needed to be sure that the decisions I was making were not self-serving.  We may not know the plans that God has for each of our lives but as we trust in Him and seek His direction He will reveal them to us. Our job and a good sound principle of Christ centred leadership is taking the time between the green and the red lights to listen for God’s direction.

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A Gold Standard

400-oz-Gold-Bars-AB-01

If you look closely at the image you can see stamped in each bar of gold the number 999.9. This number represents the measure of purity of the gold which can also be read as 99.9%. When I consider its weight, it’s value and the process of refining to get to that high measure of purity I have to ask these questions: “Why not 100%”? “What is it that binds to this natural element that holds is back from perfection?” A quick search online will tell you that the 0.1% is comprised of other metals that give the gold strength and uniformity in shape.

The book of James carries a lot of weight when it comes to practical instructions for holy living. We read about facing trials and temptations, listening and doing, faith and deeds, submitting to God and many other valuable lessons. When we consider the holiness of God and living a life that reflects that holiness we have to have a measure to stand against, James 3:17 helps put that into perspective: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The degree of purity that James refers to is that of 100%, a purity of wisdom that is unmatched on this side of heaven. In the previous verses James use some very strong words to describe any wisdom that does not come from heaven. In the light of this pure and holy wisdom flows the instruction to us today to live as James describes, peace loving, considerate etc.

You can’t add anything to 100%, it is the fullness of itself. As hard as it might be because of who we are and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be a percentage of vulnerable space in how we live and act in this life. Instead of mercy we may offer up revenge or harshness, in place of being considerate we may be disrespectful or impatient. James tells us to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (1:21). The beautiful part about this challenge is we don’t have to do it alone, we have a God who leads and guides us. We, like the gold need more than just our own strength to live a holy life, we need a God who is full of mercy and grace. As His church and His people we need each other, and to me that is worth more than gold.

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Gravity and God.

GravityHow much thought have you given to the concept of gravity? To be honest I don’t think about it a whole lot, for the most part I just take it for granted. When I do the things I do, I stay in contact with the ground beneath my feet, as do the objects around me. We can’t see gravity, we can’t turn it off, it is always active. We have all heard the common phrase “what goes up, must come down.” It seems like a simple concept but there is a lot of depth to understanding the how and why of gravity. I will leave the mind-numbing details on the topic to the great scientific minds of the past such as Newton and Galileo.

When we reflect on the extensive description and character of our God and His holiness, we must consider that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. All throughout scripture we are reminded of His great power, plan and presence and the book of Esther is no exception. It is interesting to note that throughout the story God’s name is never mentioned. When I read through the story of Esther and her rise to become queen, I can’t help but see the works of an all-powerful God. This story isn’t just about a beautiful woman who catches the eye of a King, it is about God using one of His servants to set in motion a plan to save his people from complete destruction. In an earlier entry I talked about the faith that Esther had and how she was the “superhero” of the story when really all along it was God working through His servants to accomplish His mission and fulfill His promise.

The book of Esther has all the elements to stand alone story, a good plot, action, tragic events, suspense, passion and ultimately leads to a happy ending. When we consider the “gravity” of the story, when we read it through knowing that God had orchestrated each and every moment from the beginning to the end for His purpose, it helps me reflect on how He continues to work today. Some would say that we live in a “Godless society” today, and for many this is true. I know that I live in a world where God is alive and active, and yes, sometimes I take that for granted, just as I do the principles of gravity. Just as God worked through the life story of Esther, He continues to work in all of our lives with a purpose. Sometimes we may not see God working in the day to day of our lives but He has a plan (all-knowing), He walks beside each and every one of us (all-present) and has the power to change and use us for His purpose (all-powerful).

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