Brewed Awakening - Nancy Gibson

2 Comments

Brewed Awakening - Nancy Gibson

The rich, familiar aroma of coffee wrapped its self around me like a warm embrace, alerting my senses to the weekly rhythms of the bible study taking place in the family room below.  Tucked quietly near the top of the stairs, I eavesdropped on the familiar chatter and my 11-year old ears perked up when I heard my name and the words “she is so mature for her age”! Throughout my teen years, I wore those words like an Olympic gold medal and began to think that evidence of growth and maturity in some areas of my life meant I was equally as advanced in every sphere. Believing that I was somehow gifted beyond my years, I took every leadership opportunity that came my way and soon began to struggle under the weight of responsibility. Imagine my surprise when I was unable to maintain the facade and I was eventually exposed by my own pride and the lies requires to hide my inadequacies. What appeared to some as “maturity” was in fact striving to appear mature regardless of the cost. That was a pivotal moment in my life, when I began to recognize maturity as an ongoing internal process with God, not a goal to be attained.

 

Several years later, while doing some research on coffee in preparation for opening a café ministry, I came across a photo of a coffee plant laden with cherries.  Like many fruit trees, the branch carried both green cherries and bright red berries ready to be picked.  What surprised me the most was that the same branch also still had several blossoms mixed between the berries.  This phenomenon of continual flowering, growing and ripening means that there is not just one picking of mature fruit, but a continual harvest of berries.  The coffee industry rates the quality of coffee based on whether the coffee was harvested by stripping the plants of both ripe and green cherries, or the slower, laborious process of selective picking, where only the ripe cherries are picked at their optimal level of maturity.  I found it interesting that the best coffee plants are able to carry the blossoms of potential fruit at the same time as a ripe harvest, therefore in constant production of multiple levels of fruit readiness.  This example resonates with my own experience.  There are times that I am in the pruning process and yet marvel at the fruit being produced in other areas of my life.  At other times I cringe at the lack of maturity in one dimension and celebrate the growth in another. In different seasons of life, I will simultaneously be at varying stages of development. 

 

The bean, though mature, is just a hint of what is to come.  The coffee cherry is not the end product, because the cherry is not what we typically consume. Its highest value is in the cup. If I had continued to believe that I was mature at 11 years old, I would have been quite shaken by the life experiences that have continued God’s refining work in my life.  As James expressed in his writing, “Consider it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV). When I moved overseas as a global worker, one of the most uncomfortable processes was going through cultural adjustment.  If only that was it! As a single woman in leadership I once again became confidant and even comfortable with God’s refining work in my life.  There were areas of my life that had blossomed, been pruned, cultivated and I had become fruitful. But when I got married at the age of 34 and God gifted us with three sons, it didn’t take long before I was confronted with several incredibly under-developed areas of my life.  There is nothing like marriage and parenting to uncover selfishness and a lack of patience!  When our character formation and spiritual development lag behind our leadership or parenting responsibilities, we know we are in for a developmental growth spurt!

 

So, the next time your fingers embrace a warm cup of coffee, take a moment to consider the cultivation happening in your own story. What new things are beginning to bloom in your spirit?  How are you intentional about maintaining a learning posture, ready to embrace continual growth and development, unashamed of the green areas that coexist alongside great fruitfulness? What spiritual disciplines keep you rooted in difficult times? Do you have trusted leaders or mentors that gently point out areas of stunted growth? May your life continually bear good fruit and as you increase in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:9-10 ESV). Celebrate good fruit, and welcome growth, try something new, and be kind to yourself - God’s not done with you yet!

2 Comments

5 Simple Ways to be a Great Teammate

Comment

5 Simple Ways to be a Great Teammate

Throughout elementary and high school, there was always one type of assignment that I hated: the group project. As soon as one was assigned, my mind would immediately flash back to memories of long nights spent scrambling to finish paragraphs that no one else had written, or hastily gluing grainy pictures (that should have been given to me days ago) onto chloroplast. I preferred to work alone.

Over the years, however, I’ve been blessed to work on some fantastic teams. Working in environments that have been characterized by high levels of trust, mutual respect, and collaboration have taught me so much about what makes someone great to work with. The art of being a great teammate is underrated; in my opinion, a leader can’t be great unless they know how to be a great teammate.

The good news? It’s not hard to be a great teammate. Here are 5 simple practices that are fundamental to being a great teammate:

 

1 - Do What You Say You’re Going to Do:

Show up to events, practices, work bees, etc. when you say you will. Send the group emails that you said you would take care of. Honour deadlines and weekly appointments. It’s important that your teammates can trust you when say you will do something.

Repeatedly, the Bible reminds us that “not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made… had failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:45) Keeping our word not only builds trust, but reflects the character of God.

 

2 - It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It:

 Have you noticed that a good amount of space in the book of Proverbs is dedicated to the way we talk to each other? For example: “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.” (Prov. 15:4 MSG)

 Ask yourself three questions. Is what I am saying honest? Is it clear? And is it gracious? If we’re missing one of these three elements, we run the risk of creating an opportunity for distrust, bitterness, and confusion to take root in our teams.

 

3 - Ask for a Hand (or their Two Cents):

In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner dedicate a chapter to helping leaders foster collaboration among their teams. Why? Because “people who reciprocate are more likely to be successful than those who try to maximize individual advantage.” (p. 233)

So ask for a teammate’s opinion once in a while. Let them know if you’re overwhelmed and need help with a task (and thank them with coffee afterwards). Make sure that they know you’re asking out of respect for what they can contribute, not out of a desire to be lazy. Let them know you’re available when they need you, too.

 

4 - Respect the Boundaries:

Following that point, respect your teammate’s boundaries by accepting their “no’s” with grace. Don’t try to persuade, coerce, or pressure your teammates into doing something they aren’t comfortable with.

Respecting boundaries also extends to our gifts, strengths, skills, and personalities. For example, it’s not fair for an extroverted teammate to expect an introverted teammate to be act just like them at a gathering with lots of people. Remember that your team is one body with many important members, just like the church (1 Cor. 12:12).

 

5 - Honour Your Teammates:

The Bible instructs us to “outdo one another in showing honour.” (Rom. 12:10) When things are going well, this is easy; when we don’t see eye-to-eye with our teammates, or when we’re facing unexpected challenges, this becomes crucial.

Shut down divisive or malicious talk about your teammates immediately. See the best in your teammates; don’t assume the worst of them. Encourage and affirm them whenever possible. Share credit for your wins. It’s not about flattery or smooth talk… it’s about a purposeful reorientation of your own perspective.

 

Comment

Doing the Brave Thing - Dayna Slusar

1 Comment

Doing the Brave Thing - Dayna Slusar

If you’re sitting with a decision that scares you, that threatens failure, that you know you’re meant for but fear holds you back, be encouraged that we are called to be brave.

When was the last time God asked you to do something so crazy that when He asked you, you felt sick to your stomach and full of unease at the cost? Were you brave, or were you full of fear?

I remember being faced with a choice between staying with the predictable and walking into the unfamiliar. In the process of that decision that I learned a lot about what it means to be brave.

Even when we feel fearful, we can be brave.

When we feel unprepared, we can be brave.

When the decision is inconvenient, we can be brave.

As leaders we can get comfortable with what we know we can lead well. But we are not called to stay comfortable. We are called to be brave.

Doing the brave thing can be anything from deciding to lead that Bible study to deciding to move across the world if God asks you to. The thing about God asking you to be being brave is that He promises to be with you. He helps you to be brave.

In trying to figure out which way to decide, to be comfortable or courageous, I started to think of reasons why I shouldn’t be brave. The thing is, if you’re looking for an excuse, you’re going to find one.

My excuses were found in feeling unprepared, inexperienced, and genuinely fearful of this major change in my life. These criteria never stopped God from calling His people.

I also feared failure in taking the brave step. If the fear of failure is keeping you from being brave, I want you to hear this—failure is inevitable, but it does not disqualify you.

When a fear of failure keeps us from doing the brave thing, remember we don’t have a spirit of timidity. Paul says in 2nd Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

A spirit of power reminds us that the power within us is the power of Christ. He has called us His own and there is nothing we have to prove. Doing the brave thing is about trusting Him, giving Him the glory, and furthering His kingdom by showing others who Jesus is. 

A spirit of love is important when facing a brave step because change requires a lot of grace for ourselves and others. And Christ’s perfect love casts out all fear, so we don’t have to fear our failure because we know that God sees us and loves us no matter what.

Other translations write the last term as self-control or sound judgement. In my opinion, these alternative terms help to make sense of our situations.

Let me explain.

When we’re faced with a brave choice to make, a spirit of self-discipline can help us to get prepared for it with God’s help. A spirit of self-control can save us from trying to step out in zeal instead of with God’s guidance. And a spirit of sound judgement can help us discern if this brave choice is in God’s will or not.

If God is calling you to do a brave thing, either something to let go of or something to step into, know that He has given you the power, the love, and the sound judgement to see it through.

That being said, if you’re looking for an excuse to stay in the safety of the predictable, you will find one. And that’s okay. There is grace for that. But there is greater joy and a greater plan waiting for you on the other side of your obedience.

So that brave thing you’re facing today—the step you know you’re meant to take but you’re afraid of what it might cost—know that a spirit of fear is not from God. 

He will be with you every step of the way.

1 Comment

Keep Showing Up, Jesus is Worthy of His Suffering - Carmen Kampman

1 Comment

Keep Showing Up, Jesus is Worthy of His Suffering - Carmen Kampman

Keep Showing Up, Jesus is Worthy of His Suffering

Recently at church we had a guest speaker, and at the end of his message he challenged us by saying to us, “Jesus is worthy of his suffering.” And he was relating this to our responsibility to keep showing up. To keep preaching the gospel. To keep reaching out.

And then just this week, the week that I am sitting down to write this blog post, someone preached from 2 Timothy 1:8-9, NLT, which says:

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me [Paul], either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

Sisters, if ever there was a time to keep showing up, it’s now. We cannot deny that there will be suffering for the sake of the gospel. We cannot deny that we will hurt in this journey. We cannot deny that there will be great joy in this journey. Jesus is worthy of our commitment, no matter the cost.

Here are a few things that we can cling to in this journey:

1.  God promises to always be with us!

                     “...And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NLT)    

2. We are anointed of God and can trust that his Spirit is poured out on the daughters as well as the sons. (Joel 2: 28-32, CSB)

                     “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28, NLT)

3. The expression of God is diverse, and you need to stand tall in your own armour and unique expression. David models well for us what it means to shake off and lay down an imposed upon armour. (1 Sam 17) Be you!

4. We need to continue to encourage and champion one another on and keep fighting for the unity of the Spirit. If Jesus prayed for it, he did so for a reason. Do everything you can to keep the unity of the Spirit. (Jn 17.21; Eph 4.3)

                     “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” (Ephesians 4:3, NLT)   

5. Try new things! David did not want to go with Saul’s armour in part because it did not fit, but also in part because he had not “tested them”.  It’s okay to try new things on, to take a risk on doing something a new way. ALL experiences can be learning experiences. God’s got you - try new things!

I pray that you not lose heart, sisters. Please keep showing up and doing what only you can do, Jesus is worthy of his suffering.

Much love to the sisterhood,

Pastor Carmen

1 Comment

The Fight Club - Rebekah Malbrecht

1 Comment

The Fight Club - Rebekah Malbrecht

Ding. Ding. Ding. Another round has started. I’m strapping on my boxing gloves, climbing over the ropes and bouncing on my toes around the ring. 

Leadership. Sometimes it feels like a boxing match. It’s all swings and jabs, bobbing and weaving. Not so sure this is what I signed up for…

Leading people means getting into the ring. Sometimes you are fighting for people. Sometimes you are fighting with them. It means taking punches, using strategy, having good people in your corner to coach you, and going the distance no matter how many rounds it requires of you.

In the past season of my life, God has stretched me in this area of leadership. I was scrambling as far from this reality as I could get. If our instincts tell us fight or flight, mine were screaming “FLY!” But the truth is, true leadership does require that of us at some point. We have to learn to fight well because, well, that’s what makes us a good leader. 

In my reflections on this I have come to realize that, although I am no masochist, I deeply appreciate the friction I encounter. It is exactly when we are in tension that our lines of connection pull tightest. Intimacy is established in our weaknesses, not our strengths. We can lead very sincerely but as soon as we encounter an uppercut to our good intentions, we are tested. We are required in that moment to engage with people in a manner that is so familial you are flashing back to the back seat of the family vacation road trip with all its crammed space, “she-did-this-he-did-that”, and huffing and puffing that drove our parents crazy. 

…THAT’S THE POINT! Suddenly, in the friction and the fight, we have the opportunity to treat each other like family. We’re in this for the long haul, duking it out every round, because family is fight club and fight club is family. Friction is bound to happen and the test of our leadership is how we choose to engage with it. When we love people we fight FOR them even when they swing at us. We take the punches. We sometimes get knocked out. We have the difficult conversations, we challenge the bad behaviour, we take the honest feedback, we check ourselves, we have coaches who keep us balanced and we take the blows.

As leaders we have the onus to healthy conflict. We must lead the way in our maturity, growth and courage. To step into the ring means to be present with those we lead even when there is tension. To step into the ring means we are valuing relationship over results. To step into the ring means exposing our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Paul alludes to this as he presents the word picture of an athlete in training in 1 Corinthians. He says “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor 9:26-27)

This is it: practicing what we preach so WE will not be disqualified. We aren’t just shadowboxing and making a show of what it means to be in the ring, we are actually in the ring with people. We are in with the swings and the jabs, the bobbing and weaving of real relationship and real life. Being in the tension reveals our true character. It tests us and refines us. Do we really love those we lead? For what is more disqualifying in the Kingdom of God than ministry done without love?

“If I do not have love I have nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2b

Real people come with real friction. Real faith is applied to the raw, the gritty, the imperfect parts of life.  We don’t walk away from them. We don’t ignore what’s going on. We don’t lash out.

We get in the ring.

We develop endurance.

We measure ourselves.

We engage in relationship.

We stay in the boundaries of God’s Word.

We love people enough to do the hard things.

We join the fight club.

1 Comment

Playing the Long Game - Jordan Hageman

1 Comment

Playing the Long Game - Jordan Hageman

My daughter came home from school the other day completely devastated. She was participating in a speech competition and round one was giving a speech in class. My daughter’s speech received the highest mark, but the teacher chose to have the class vote on the top three speeches to see who would move on to the next level.

The class voted on someone else.

I could only imagine the feelings flowing through her as she hugged me and cried: rejection from her classmates; the unfairness of the situation—she had the highest mark and deserved to move on; why work so hard if it’s not going to pan out the way she thinks it should. It was a difficult few days in our house as we navigated all these emotions with her. At one point she turned her baby blues on me and said, “Can you tell the teacher that this isn’t fair, and I should be the one to go to the next level.”

Oh boy.

Parents and leaders face these situations all the time—having to choose between fixing the immediate felt need or playing the long game.

It’s always about the long game.

Paul knew this when he wrote in Romans 8:18: “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

A lot happens in our lives and in the lives of the people we lead where we need reminding that the finish line of this race we are running is not set in the here and now, but the goal and prize is in what is to come. And we need reminding that joyous hope comes in knowing that the Spirit of the living God is working in us, helping us in our weakness and disappointment and is working everything together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:23-28).

So, I looked right into my daughter’s baby blues and said: “No, I’m not going to talk to your teacher. It’s his class and he makes the rules. You’re right, it seems unfair. But this speech competition is not going to dictate your future. The vote does not reflect your worth. I know you worked so hard and I am proud of you. Keep doing that.”

Because I know that the process of writing a speech will not be wasted, the practice of speaking in front of her class will not be wasted, the wrestling of disappointment and the sense of unfairness will not be wasted—in fact, all of this is probably laying foundations in her life that will blow her away when God works it all out in her future. That’s what God does!

There will be many disappointments as we lead. There will be many times where the hard work we put it doesn’t give us the outcome we desire. But we’re playing the long game and we’re playing on God’s team. We run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). For His glory. For His kingdom.

1 Comment

The Wrong Leadership Question - Tricia Gibb

1 Comment

The Wrong Leadership Question - Tricia Gibb

I love personality tests.  It started when I was a teenager and used my babysitting money to buy Seventeen magazines.  “Are you Rachel or Monica? What do your favorite scents tell you about your future?  If your life were a movie what would it be called?  Take this simple quiz to find out!” Oh Seventeen magazine pulled me in every time as I desperately tried to discover who I was and what I would become.

 

Now as an adult, well into my journey of “becoming” I am still searching for those answers.  Seventeen magazines have been traded for books and online assessments as I try to discover what kind of a leader I am, where my shortfalls are and how I can develop my strengths.

I love it, this journey of discovering and becoming, and I find it so incredibly helpful.  But I am also learning that this is a lifelong process and sometimes I ask the wrong questions.

 

Moses struggled with this too.  Fresh off the field, having settled into a life that he was quite comfortable with, God interrupts his plans with a leadership calling.  And Moses first question in the moment of becoming is: “Who am I?”

 

“Who am I?  Who am I to lead?  Who am I to speak?  Who am I to influence?  Who am I to take on this job, this role, this position?”  Ever asked those questions?  (Both of my hands just went up in the air... that’s a double yes for this girl).

 

“Who am I?”  Moses asks God.  I imagine Moses frantically pulling out the Old Testament version of Seventeen magazine quizzes and showing the results to the voice in the Burning Bush.  “See here, it told me my ideal career path is shepherding.  It says I’m best suited for a quiet life in the country.  My brother Aaron’s skills assessment test said ‘leader’ not mine.  Who am I God to do this?  Who am I?”

 

Now if I was God (everyone exhale, thank goodness that’s not the case) I would respond back to Moses with a resounding speech, the kind coaches makes before the team plays the big game.  I would tell Moses exactly who he is.  “Moses you’re a leader!  Moses you were born for greatness!  Moses you are the man for the hour!”

 

But God saves that speech for another day.  Instead He responds to Moses’ profound question of “who am I?” with a strong, emphatic answer of: “I will be with you.”

 

That is not the answer Moses was looking for.  In fact, it appears like that is not an answer to his question at all.  “Who am I?”  “I will be with you.”

 

Maybe God misheard Moses’ question.  Or maybe God knew that it was more important for Moses to know who God was and where God was, than for Moses to know who he was.

 

All these personality tests that I’ve taken over my life (and will continue to take) have been so helpful.  But at the end of the day, what I’m called to still feels daunting to me.  I still look at the tasks on my day planner, the dreams in my heart, the people I am called to lead and think: “who am I to do this?”

 

And then I remember: who God is.  And I hold onto the promise that He is with me.  And that knowledge is more empowering to me than any other truth I know about myself.

 

Who am I?  Who are you?  We are leaders.  We are women of influence.  We are women with a calling and a holy destiny.  But greater than that... God is our Provider.  He is All Sufficient.  He is the Miracle Worker.  He is More than Enough.  He is the Great I Am.  And He is with us.

 

Thanks Seventeen magazine for all your assessments and predictions.  But on days when I’m uncertain, I know the answer that I need, is found only in who Jesus is.  And His promise that He is with me.

On days when leadership feels like it is beyond what you can handle, I pray that you my friend, will know your answer to “who am I?” is that He is.  And that alone should make us lace up our shoes and get back to work.  There’s a calling to fulfill.

1 Comment

Follow the Leader - Rachel McAlister

Comment

Follow the Leader - Rachel McAlister

Over the past few months, I’ve been reflecting on a thought that, at first glance, seems a little out of place in leadership conversations.

Let me backtrack a little.

A few months ago, as I was talking with the Lord and asking Him about leadership, He said to me very clearly, “In order to be a good leader, you need to be a better follower.” This wasn’t a reprimand, it was graciously matter-of-fact. To be a good leader, you need to be great at following the person, values, and / or mission you esteem. You are motivated by their vision and cause. Whether you like it or not, their voice is the trump card.

The more I reflected on this concept, the more I sensed the Holy Spirit’s gentle invitation to slow down, un-hurry my spirit, and allow my heart to grasp the basic truth the Father was speaking to me in that moment: true leadership comes down to following Jesus well.

As I sought to respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation, I grabbed my journal and pen, and started listening. With that in mind, here are a few lessons learned on leadership that stem from following Jesus:

 

  • Leadership is followership

    • When you compare the Kingdom of God to the world we live in, the “currency” of leadership is very different. God’s standards have nothing to do with making a name for ourselves, belittling others to get ahead, or working ourselves into the ground. When James and John argue about position in the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” (Matthew 20:26). In fact, God-ideas and God-strategies can look and feel crazy to the outside world. Is it any wonder that the Kingdom of God is upside down when we examine leadership through followership? Our leadership “wins” are based on a rubric that make little sense to a world that doesn’t adhere to heaven’s economy. Our job, as followers of Jesus, is to ask God to strengthen our faith backbone and lean into a language, culture and currency that is not native to us.

  •  We are fueled by a mission and vision that is outside of ourselves

    • John 10:27 -28 gives an account of Jesus using the illustration of the Good Shepherd: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” We are the sheep, Jesus is our Good Shepherd; we can trust that what our Good Shepherd says innately reflects who He is. Our ability to successfully move forward as leaders depends on our ability to recognize and respond to His voice in obedience. And, because we know that what He says reflects who He is, we can move forward with confidence in a mission and vision that is outside of ourselves, trusting the very nature of God. As we grow and mature, our rhythms and habits evolve to reflect our spiritual maturation. There is an immense amount of self-control, sacrifice, and surrender that is brought before the throne of grace so that we can be the spiritually fit leaders God has called us to be. As we grow, and our relationship with the Lord deepens, so does our confidence. We can hang our hat on the fact that God is faithful and that He is who He says He is. So don’t lose hope. Keep your eyes on Jesus and move forward in confidence. 

  •  Faith is sometimes spelled R – I – S – K

    • There’s an element of risk associated in following anyone, since we are trusting something outside of ourselves – this is true of our relationship with God. As followers of Jesus, we can fall back to His nature when we feel the prompting to take a risk: Look at how faithful He’s been! Look at how He made a way for me! God is who He says He is. He is my Father, and I am His child – I can trust Him. Lean back into the truth of who God is when you feel “the nudge.” Declare those truths confidently over your life and lean in! What do you have to lose? And more than that, there is so much more to gain! Our limitless, powerful God is inviting YOU to partner with Him in His Story. Let’s allow the supernatural to become so very natural in our lives so that we can be confident disciples of Jesus who make Christ known to the world around us.

 

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15 – 17 MSG)

That’s great, Rachel, you may be thinking, but what does this look like every day?

Here are a few suggestions for us:

  • Take stock of who and what you follow:

    • Who are you following?

    • Are they good for you?

    • Do they cheer you on in Christ’s mission?

    • Do they have more influence over you than Jesus does?

For me, this has meant inviting the Holy Spirit into my social media portals. I’ve asked Him to speak to me about who I should and shouldn’t be following. Maybe this sounds “extra,” but at the end of the day, I want to walk with Jesus and follow Him well; I’ve learned that when you invite Him to speak into an area of your life, He’ll do it. And, I have to admit: I am so much better off for it.

  • Ask God for a spiritual bowel movement. Yes, I went there. Have you ever noticed that sometimes we, as Christians, look and feel constipated? We’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders and are owning things that are not ours to own in the first place. It’s caused a “back-up” in our own system. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). We want to become like the person we’re following. We want to become like Jesus. And he is LIFE. And JOY. This chorus keeps coming back to me: “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me, it makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors, sets the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring up, oh wells!”

It's ironic, isn’t it, the idea that leadership depends on followership – namely, following Jesus well. Our ability to follow Jesus and say “yes” to him influences and impacts our ability to influence others. Here’s what floors me: Abraham’s “yes” blessed an entire nation. As you follow Jesus’ voice and step out in courage, not only will that obedience bless your life, it has the power to bring breakthrough and freedom to the lives of those around you. All it takes is one moment of insane courage as we turn our eyes toward Jesus and put one foot in front of the other.

Comment

Strengthening Our Mind - Leanne McAlister

Comment

Strengthening Our Mind - Leanne McAlister

What happens when we are not grounded in our faith intellectually, and instead rely solely on our feelings?

 

It feels like a big question. An important question.

 

This fall I read again through Paul’s letters to the churches.  One of the greatest pitfalls of the early church was false teaching. False prophets would blow through towns with new fads, watering down the gospel. This grieved Paul and he  continually reminded the believers of the original and potent gospel of Jesus. The gospel that had not and would not change.  

 

We live in challenging times where we are experiencing cultural shifts at a speed that is unprecedented. (Can anyone say whiplash?!?) Like in Paul’s day, there are teachers who are re-writing the gospel, re-packaging it for a new generation, watering it down to make it more palatable. Culture is working hard to “shape us” into its own image.

 

A few years ago I was invited into an academic setting to share my experience of being an ordained woman in pastoral ministry. I agreed to go, but said I would not enter into a debate and instead would simply share my story. After the presentation the professor gave me some unexpected feedback. He noted that I was approaching the subject with a “hermeneutic of feeling.” Now hermeneutics is the study of the interpretation of scripture and this prof was observing that my understanding of being free to minister as a woman was not based on solid scriptural support, but rather on my “feelings” on the subject. I am not going to lie, it was a hard moment in my life and frankly felt a bit unfair, but I learned something valuable:

 

I needed to strengthen my mind. I needed to strengthen my thinking around what scripture says. I believed that as a woman I was free to minister, but had I done the rigorous intellectual work around it?

 

In Mark 12:29-30, in an encounter with the religious leaders Jesus said this:

 

 ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’

 

Have you ever thought about loving God with your mind? To not just emotionally respond to Him but to work to understand who He is and how He operates.  

 

We have all been given the incredible gift of our mind. We are able to think, reason and judge and in this we are fashioned after our creator. It is a part of how we bear God’s image and because of this, each of us bears responsibility to develop our mental capacities to their fullest. Not all of us will be academics, but all of us are called to love God with our minds.

 

But how?

 

We need to stretch ourselves. I love the example of Elizabeth, who is a part of my church community. Even though she has been retired for many years, she continues to take courses in order to “keep fresh.”  She stretches herself. (I want to be like Elizabeth when I grow up!)

 

Here are some ideas for you:

  • Take a class at a local college, university or seminary in a subject of interest. Too intimidating? Consider auditing the class.

  • Join a bible study that’s central focus is diving deep into the Word. Do your homework!

  • Download podcasts of reputable teachers. You can use your commute in the morning to learn. If your commute is 45 min long, that translates to 367.5 hours yearly. Imagine what you could learn in that time?  

  • Take one topic a year to explore. Choose from the traditional branches of theological study

    • Church history – We are a product of “the church” that is 2000 years old, and as my professor Dr. Van Johnson said, you can’t really know who you are unless you understand where you come from!  

    • Biblical studies – This concerns the interpretation of scripture where the goal is to understand the meaning of the text as it was written for the original audience and then (and only then) drawing out conclusions from it for our use today.

    • Systematic theology – The study of Christian doctrines

    • Ethics – Based on what we understand about God’s words and His works, how then shall we live? What a great question! Based on what we understand about God:

      • What is our relationship with money? 

      • How do we operate in a consumer world?

      • What is marriage? 

      • Are we free to have any kind of sex we want?

      • These are BIG QUESTIONS and they cannot be answered with our “feelings.”

    • Apologetics – This is not “apologizing” for our faith.  Rather, it is this: How do we rationally explain and defend our faith today in this age of unbelief? I Peter 3:15 says, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. The “Hermeneutic of Feeling” doesn’t cut it with our friends and neighbours.

 

Why does this matter?

 

As I said before, we are in an unprecedented season of change and all of us are susceptible to the winds that will blow. We are vulnerable to false teaching that tries to pass itself as the gospel. It reminds me of the picture in James 1:6, where the believer is blown and tossed by the wind, being unstable in everything they do. They have no confidence and the results are devastating.

 

Now, more than ever, we need to be grounded in our faith and strengthening our minds grounds us.

 

You are being shaped each and every day through every conversation, every random blog, every viral video and every social media post. Therefore, it is imperative that you ground yourself in the truth and use the Gospel to shape who you are and how you live.

Comment

Fresh Start - Leanne McAlister

4 Comments

Fresh Start - Leanne McAlister

I LOVE January! Besides being my birthday month, (which tends to perk up the dreariest month of the year), it is a time of dreaming and re-imagining for my life. Like many of us, for me, it symbolizes a fresh start and a clean page… with no mistakes. Yet.

Did you know that God loves fresh starts too?

In Isaiah 43:18-19, Isaiah (speaking for God) says,

 

“But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

For I am about to do something new.

    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

Isaiah wrote these words at a time when Israel was in captivity in Babylon. The Israelites had made some bad choices (again) and I imagine them sitting in a foreign country feeling discouraged, maybe even thinking that God had given up on them.

 

Through this prophecy, God says, “Listen… that stuff that happened, that was in the past… but this, this is now!” Essentially, God points Israel to hope, explaining that they were getting a fresh start. It was like God was taking them by the shoulders, shaking them a bit, saying “don’t get stuck here in captivity… this cannot be your focus… this is not who you are… I am doing something new!”

 

It is so easy to get stuck.

 

In my early 30’s I went through a “serious-ish” depression. (Is that an actual clinical term? I am quite sure it is.) I had essentially burned myself out trying to accomplish “great things for God.” I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I was focused on doing things for God, instead of pursuing intimacy with Him. It was a very difficult time for me and I felt like I had been put in the penalty box. I was sure that God could no longer use me. I couldn’t be trusted. My proverbial ship had sailed and I got stuck there… for a few years.

 

Have you ever been there?

 

Are you there now?

 

Are you discouraged because a long-held dream seems to be elusive? Have you had a failure that you just aren’t sure you can recover from?

 

Here is the thing: Holding on to the past keeps us from moving forward.

 

The “God of the fresh starts” is coming towards you TODAY. Today he is saying to you, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?”

 

Do you see it?

 

It is difficult to see God at work in us when we are discouraged. But just like germination happens in the dark, in the quiet, God is doing new things within you and preparing you for a season of great fruitfulness. There is something fresh on the way and all we need to do is stay in step with the Spirit and pray to see where He is at work in and through us.

 

This is a posture of faith and anticipation! Can you see it?

 

The path to freedom for the Israelites required crossing hundreds of miles of wilderness. Anticipating this journey God said:

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

What a promise! If you are anything like me, when I am in the wilderness, I see nothing but DIRT. I see the obstacles. I see why this could never happen. But God is clear when He says “I will make a pathway.” All we need to do is follow his leading as he removes the obstacles and opens a path before us.

 

So in this season of a fresh start and a clean page, with no mistakes (yet), we have a choice. Will we remain stuck in the past or will we look to the future with great faith as we embrace “the God of the Fresh Starts?”

 

Lord, I come to you at the beginning of a New Year. Thank you that you are the God of the Fresh Starts. Open my eyes to see you at work in my life. I want to see it. With faith I look for the pathway through the wilderness. I look for the rivers that will appear in the dry wasteland. You have created me for purpose and promise and I walk forward today in faith towards you and your purposes.

Amen.

4 Comments