Monthly Archives: April 2013

Helpful Vision Quote by Ken Blanchard & Phil Hodges

Recently I read this quote from Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges in their classic leadership book: “Lead Like Jesus”

A Vision, or view of the future, is an ongoing, evolving, hopeful look into the future that stirs the hearts and minds of people who know they will never see its end or limit.

As the writer of Proverbs so aptly states, “Where there is no vision the people perish…” Leaders must keep their eyes on the horizon and dream of days to come.

This quote challenges me because it reminds me that leadership is a journey rather than a destination. Leadership boils down to a relationship between the leader and his or her people.

The words that jump off the page to me are evolving, hopeful and stirs. I like the authors’ perspective. From experience I have learned that a long term vision will “evolve” and change overtime. Much like a battle plan must adapt the moment the troops hit the field of battle a good leader follows the “north star” of the vision while maneuevering around the trees and obstacles along the path.

The word “hopeful” captures the essence of a powerful moving vision. In my opinion a vision must generate hope or it will move no one. When a situation is hopeless people tend to give up and give in. A courageous visionary leader must instill hope as a foundation for positive change.

The final word “stirs” reminds me that leaders revolves around movement not ideas. You can have a great idea but if you do not stir the hearts and minds of your followers to action, your idea will make little difference. I believe Jesus’ use of stories and powerful images stirred the hearts of his followers. In addition, Jesus’example of courageous servant leadership set the tone for the future of the Kingdom of God. If your followers can sleep through your vision casting, you need to go back to the drawing board immediately. Stirring the hearts of people means much more than emotional appeals. It means dreaming dreams others can see themselves as a part of their fulfillment.

Leaders, ask yourself a hard question today. Where are you going and do the people who follow you really want to go there with you?

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His Life for Mine

In 1859, Charles Dickens’ opened his classic historic novel A Tale of Two Cities with these classic lines:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….”

I must confess I wish I could write with such powerful imagery and insight. Much like Victor Hugo of Paris, Dickens demonstrated an amazing knack for being about to weave powerful spiritual and moral themes into his literary masterpieces. Unlike much of the popular literature of today which has the consistency and sustenance of “cotton candy”, Dickens’ writing drew his readers into deep contemplation of the moral and ethical themes of life using his realistic yet bigger than life characters.

Two such characters were Sydney Carton and Charles Darney who played key roles in the development of the plot of the Tale of Two Cities which explored the social changes created by the French Revolution in both Paris and London. Darney found himself born into a powerful French family. Under most circumstances being born an aristocrat would have been a blessing except in Paris during revolution where the peasant mobs craved to take out their revenge for decades of neglect on the “blue bloods” of the elite.

Although they were practically lookalikes, Darney and Carton lived two very contrasting lives, except for a deep abiding love that both men had for Lucie. Darney won her heart and married her while Carton could only gaze on with regret.

One of the dramatic twists in the story came in the closing chapters when Darney finds himself captured by the revolutionaries and sentenced to die for the crimes of his family. While he awaited his execution on death row, he welcomed a very unlikely visitor when Carton came to see him. Little did Darney know that his rival came on a mission of incredible mercy.

Carton drugged Darney and exchanged clothes and papers with him. He called for the guards who whisked away the unconscious Carton who in reality was Darney. They loaded his limp body into a carriage that would eventually deliver him into the arms of the love of his life.

Meanwhile Carton prepared himself for sure death by the sharp blade of the guillotine. On his journey through the valley of the shadow death along with fifty-one others, Carton bumped into a seamstress who had worked for Darney. At first she recognized him as Darney but upon a closer examination realized he was an imposer, but why? Why would anyone be an imposer for someone sentenced to death? Within a matter of moments she would witness the ultimate sacrifice of lover.

Dickens’ in vivid dark hues of love painted the picture evoked by the words of Jesus who said: “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…” (John 15:13 NIV)

Jesus fleshed out these words for you and me when He died for us. Why? Jesus loves you. Enough said.

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We Blew Up City Hall! Reflections about Change

Many residents of El Paso will mark down Sunday, April 17, 2013 as a historic day in the life of their fair city. With all the fanfare of a circus coming to town and the contrasting mourning of a grieving family the people of El Paso will witness the implosion of City Hall to make way for a new professional baseball stadium.

It just so happens that just about the time Jim Cleaveland our minister of music strikes up our praise band for praise and worship the ground beneath our feet will tremble and City Hall will crumbles to a pile of rubble. If the city council had only asked Jim could have had our praise team march around City Hall seven times and bring it down with the sounds of electric guitar, drums and the shouts of the praise team just like the walls of Jericho.

If I could time my message perfectly to the blast, can you imagine how powerful an impact my preaching would have if I shouted, “God is trying to get your attention…do you feel it?” Then just as my words settled over the crowd a resounding blast exploded in the distance and the ground beneath our feet rumbled?

Needless to say, Sunday will be an exciting time to be downtown. Hundreds and probably thousands of people will make their way into the heart of our city to see the spectacle. The Interstate will become a parking lot, and vantage points for the historic blast will be prime spots.

For instance the Doubletree Hotel just blocks from City Hall will be offering a getaway weekend package that includes dinner and breakfast with a breathtaking view of the demotion. Their marketing team entitled the weekend festivities “Dreams to Reality” package.

Of course their dreams make up the nightmares of those who fought tooth and nail to save City Hall. Sal Gomez, leader of the Coalition for Responsive Government, told the El Paso Times: “I consider it a funeral. I feel like I have to say some parting words and bid farewell.”

Whether you embrace it or fight it change will be in the air Sunday just as thick as the cloud of dust that will blow over our city.
In many ways, the demotion of City Hall stands out as a vivid parable about life. There are times when remodeling and renovation just will not do. In fact, life often demands paradigm shifts of seismic proportions. The old must give way to the new.

Jesus confronted the traditionalists of his day who could not embrace the fresh winds of the Spirit blowing by saying:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” ( Matthew 9:16-17 NIV)

Old wineskins get hard and brittle with age. New wineskins stay soft and pliable ready to swell and change. Hard brittle hearts shatter while pliable hearts expand. How is your heart? Are you ready to grow and change? I hope God does not have to use dynamite to get us ready to change!

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Are You Contagious? A Fresh Look at the Influence of Contagious Faith

Do you recognize the name William Dawes? For those of us who claim the United States to be our homeland, especially if we can trace our family line back to the days of the Revolutionary War that erupted in 1775 his name and that of one of his closest friends should ring a bell.

May these words will stir your memory from your early studies in American history and lore: “The Red Coats are coming! The Red Coats are coming!”

On dark fateful night of April 18, 1775, William Dawes and his close friend Paul set out on a midnight ride to warn their friends and neighbors of the approaching British Army (i.e…The Red Coats). As the British planned their march on Lexington and Concord to capture John Hancock and Sam Adams, and to secure a stash of arms, these two men rode feverishly into the night going from town to town calling for men to arms to stop the advance of the British.

As you may vaguely remember from your studies, the Colonists responded in great numbers and with great bravery. A band of farmers, shop keepers, teachers, tanners, and silversmiths made their stand for liberty and turned back the British at Concord armed with nothing more than hunting rifles and a wide variety of muskets.

Interestingly, most of the colonists who stood their ground did not come from the villages and towns warned by William Dawes, but from the frantic route of his close friend Paul—Paul Revere. Now, there is a name we all recognize. Who would forget the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” but as Malcolm Gladwell noted his classic book “The Tipping Point” Revere was not the only one who rode that fateful night.

So what was the difference between Paul Revere and William Dawes? They both demonstrated bravery and passion. They both carried the alarming news—“The Red Coats are coming! Gladwell believes that there are a handful of people who have the ability to change the world, who apparently have a “contagious” personality or way about themselves. He calls this in his book “The Principle of the Few.” In his research he discovered that most “epidemics” of change can be traced back to a handful of people—a small cadre of individuals who through their attitudes, actions and even their body language have an uncanny ability to touch and change the attitudes and actions of others.

Assuming this principle to be true, it struck me this week that the Kingdom of God also advances on the backs of a “Few.”
When Jesus decided to change the world and to establish His Kingdom, first he called to his side a rag tag band of men we affectionately call “his disciples.” These men joined his ranks out of fishing boats and tax collector’s booths. What was it about these men that Jesus saw? Why did he choose what appeared to most to be a band of common ordinary people? Could it be Jesus saw something we overlooked? Could it be that these men had the gift of “contagious faith?”

What we do know is the Easter story of the resurrection of Jesus spread across the known world in one generation and these twelve men minus one got the word out.

Word of mouth, person to person communication without doubt changes the world. Do you have contagious faith? Test it! Invite someone today to join you on your adventure of faith. Let your light shine!

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The God Who Sees and Hears

I believe God has always wanted to instill patience into my life. It seems that every time I get in the line at the grocery store the customer ahead of me needs a price check, or needs to speak to a manager about a coupon. When traffic slows down on the freeway please don’t get behind me unless you intend on being late for your appointment because my presence in the lane will assure it will stop or slow down to a crawl. Patience without doubt is a virtue we all need but learning the lessons of patience can be testing at best.

One of the difficult and dark chapters in the life of Abram and Sarai began with impatience and trying to take matters into their own hands. You may remember God had promised Abram as many descendants as the stars in the sky, but one huge problem stood in the way—Sarai was barren. Sarai devised a solution to their dilemma that at best stands out as a  really “bad idea.” She suggested to her husband that he take to his bed Hagar, her servant, and conceive a child for Sarai using a surrogate mother.

To be frank, at first glance this already appears to be a bad idea that will have terribly bad consequences.  Surely Abram knew better, but instead of standing up to his wife and suggesting they continue to trust in the LORD, he gave into her pressure took Hagar home to be his wife. As you might expect the young Egyptian woman conceived a child, and suddenly there was tension in the home. Hagar began to “despise her mistress” and Abram found himself caught in the middle.

In frustration and anger Sarai confronts her husband saying: “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” (Genesis 16:5 NIV)

I can only imagine how Abram must have felt. Clearly Sarai came up with the bad idea, but now Abram had to deal with the bad consequences. Abram once again refused to be the leader of the household and he gave permission to his wife to do as she pleased. Sarai harshly mistreated Hagar and soon this young Egyptian woman ran for her life into the desert.

One of the interesting twists of the story comes next. Hagar stopped to rest by a spring in the desert when an angel of the LORD found her. The angel spoke to her saying, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8 NIV) Clearly the angel knew the answer to these questions. The purpose of the questions was to open her eyes to her plight and her situation.

Hagar come clean and confessed to the angel that she was running away from her mistress. Upon her confession the angel called her to faith and obedience by saying, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” In other words, you are much safer back home, and you are a big part of your own problem. Your attitude has helped to create this mess. Go back and humble yourself at your mistress’ feet and all will be well with you.

In addition, the angel opened her eyes to her future and the future of her offspring. The angel said, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count….You are now with child, and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:10-12 NIV)

What an amazing promise to a scared girl running for her life. You see God had a plan for this child within her womb even though the child was conceived by the impatience of Abram and Sarai—outside of God’s perfect will. Every life has purpose and value in the eyes of God. My wife was conceived by a young couple caught up in the middle of an affair. Even though she was conceived and born out of wedlock, I know without a doubt God had a wonderful plan for her life in spite of the sin of her parents. Only God can take the worst of what we have done to ourselves and others and turn it into God.

The angel instructed Hagar to name her son “Ishmael”—which literally means “God hears.” God heard the cries of Hagar in her desperation. God heard and responded in grace and love.

When Hagar realized she was not alone, she gave the LORD a name saying “You are the God who sees me.” In her desperation, she came to realize God sees our plight. He knows what we go through. He loves, cares, and gets his hands dirty in our messes.  She confessed to the angel, “I have now see the One who sees me.” What a wonderful realization. God opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see that He watches and cares over us.

As you probably know Hagar did return home. She bore a son. Abram named him Ishmael, and the rest is history. The Arab people are direct descendants of Ishmael and Abram. Like the angel predicted this nation of people have struggled with their neighbors and kin folk for centuries. God kept His promises. He truly stands out as the “God who hears” and the “God who sees.” Even when we make bad choices with even worse consequences our God works in the midst of the mess for good.

When you feel like running away, or taking matters into your own hands, let me strongly encourage you to put your faith and trust in your God who hears and sees and most importantly loves you enough to come down and to help.

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