Reflective Leadership Part 2

In looking at leadership I will cover a few areas. Again they are focused first on leading our own lives. Some areas I am going to cover are to some extent my adaptation of topics addressed in a leadership course I attended. They are however greatly informed and influenced by my own life experience and reflections on leadership.

Vision is often introduced as a foundational part of leadership, which it is. In Christian circles we often quote Proverbs 29:18 from the King James Version, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” However that is not the most accurate translation, and often the application being touted is the need for vision. This can easily miss the point of the verse. It isn’t about having vision, it is about having Yahweh’s vision.

18  Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV)

The centre column note in my bible says the word ‘revelation’ here refers to prophetic vision. I believe that is accurate. The best way to understand the scriptures is to let scripture interpret scripture. Let me illustrate. The phrase ‘cast off restraint’ or ‘perish’ in the KJV is a single Hebrew word. It is used twice in the verse below and is translated as ‘unrestrained’ and ‘not restrained.’

25  Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), Exodus 32:25 (NKJV)

This verse comes from the golden calf incident. What is important is that the people in this incident were not unrestrained from a lack of vision. In fact they weren’t even unrestrained in the sense of a lack of focus. They were very focused, just on the wrong thing. They had a clear vision, they wanted to continue their journey and wanted a visible ‘god’ to lead them. They even held a feast to Yahweh to celebrate their golden calf. Their problem was they had a wrong vision around the how. Their vision was to have gods like they knew in Egypt and as a result 3,000 of them died. The scriptures are not clear on what happened in terms of their behaviour in ‘worship’ but the inferences are not good.

What is the conclusion we can draw? I coached basketball for a decade and during that period the concept of ‘practice makes perfect’ shifted to ‘practice makes permanent.’ I presented this in my own way and used to tell the boys that they could get really good at doing the wrong thing. We don’t just need a vision. If we are going to follow Jesus we need His vision! What vision are we presenting with our lives? What vision do we have for our lives?

Reflective Leadership Part 1

Are you a leader? Is that a question we generally think about? If it isn’t perhaps we should. Many people, myself included, view leadership as influence. This concept relates to the leadership of others. I will address this in some detail in this series. The other aspect of leadership that I think is even more important is self-leadership. How are we leading our own lives? What is drawing us?

I of course want to address all of this from the perspective of the scriptures. I believe that good and godly leadership requires Character, Awareness and Wisdom. A key part of character is that difficult word discipline. I believe the fruit of leadership rises and falls on character. We can have great leadership skills but lead in the wrong direction. Years ago when emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) was becoming well known and being trumpeted as just as important as the traditional IQ I wrote a paper for my Master’s degree and raised the need for not just IQ and EI but also for MI, what I referred to as moral intelligence.

There have been many strong leaders in history who have led in the wrong direction, which is why I have highlighted self-leadership and character. This is the starting point. This doesn’t mean we need to have perfect character to lead our own lives or others. It does mean that it needs to be a focus in our life. Which is why I have titled this series Reflective Leadership. I believe if we are wise we will pay attention to our motivations and outcomes.

Strong leaders are known for their vison, focus and purpose. Let us apply this to ourselves as individuals. What is our vision, focus and purpose? Moses, one of the great leaders in biblical history, wrote one of the Psalms. One verse of that Psalm particularly stands out for me and I have provided it below in two different translations.

12  So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

12  So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NASB)

Moses was praying that Yahweh would help us to pay attention to the brief time we have on earth so that we would exercise wisdom in how we live our lives. When we step from time into eternity how we have lived our life will be assessed by Jesus.

There are variations of the following message but this is how I heard it many years ago.

Sow a thought, reap an act.

Sow an act, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.

I believe our primary leadership goal in our own lives and in the lives of those we influence was expressed very well by Paul.

19  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV emphasis mine)

It is about Christ being formed in us and thus revealed through us. May we exercise wisdom now in the leadership of our lives!

Hearing His Voice Part 4

What does worship have to do with hearing His voice? If we believe the scriptures, and the experience of multitudes of believers down through the centuries, worship has a great deal to do with hearing His voice. Music, in particular worship, does something inside of us that enables us to more easily discern His voice. Part of what helps us to hear is that true worship pushes back the darkness. The clearest example of darkness being pushed back is in 1 Samuel.

23  And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. 1 Samuel 16:23 (NKJV)

A verse that has frequently been on my heart over the years that further supports this is below (see also Ps. 140 and 150 and reflect on the spiritual application).

7  You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah Psalm 32:7 (NKJV)

I have had the privilege of helping lead a small group for a number of years with a gifted worship leader who regularly pushes back the darkness with her worship leading. This type of worship creates an atmosphere that welcomes His presence and opens our spirits to hear His voice.

We like David need to understand that worship and warfare are intertwined. David understood this and because of that most of the Psalms flowed from the continual worship he established before the Ark of the Covenant when he set it up in Jerusalem for the last 33 years of his reign. Interestingly something else in scripture lasted for 33 years, Jesus time walking on earth.

Another example of hearing His voice is the prophetic release that Elisha knew would come through worship.

14  And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. 15  But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. 2 Kings 3:14-15 (NKJV)

When worship took place Elisha heard from the Lord. Lest we think this is only an Old Testament practice see the verses below.

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV) 19  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19 (NKJV) 16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)

In the verses above numerous things are connected to worship. I believe the context of 1 Corinthians 14 is that of each person having ‘a psalm’ on their hearts because of the revelatory gifting this church body functioned in even in spite of their failings and errors. Of note, if we look at the New Testament and the abuse of spiritual gifts in Corinth how would we respond? Would we suggest limiting or banning the exercise of these charismatic gifts until other issues were addressed in the congregation? How did Paul respond in his role of apostolic oversight? He exhorted them.

1  Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

Paul exhorted this body of believers to pursue an attitude of love while asking the Holy Spirit for a greater release of charismatic gifts. Why this approach? True prophetic words would bring correction and focus. Given that these gifts are enhanced through worship I think Paul envisioned a great deal of worship taking place in Corinth.

When we move forward from the New Testament we can see in church history that the release of new worship has always accompanied revival/renewal movements. It is still the same today.

In my own journey to hearing His voice two scriptures have been important to me.

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) 15  For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV)

I personally find that I need worship that stirs without overwhelming. When worship enables me to become internally quiet I hear His voice and receive direction. When I can physically dial down in an atmosphere that promotes an internal stillness and rest through intimate worship He comes near to my heart.

May we worship Him in spirit and truth and clearly hear His heart.

Hearing His Voice Part 3

I have addressed the need to hear His voice and the fact of His speaking along with some of the ways He speaks. Now I want to address the need to discern whether He is the one speaking.

While the Holy Spirt communicates to us do we always hear accurately? Have you ever heard someone reporting what you said in a situation and thought, ‘I never said that.’? How does the Holy Spirit respond to all of the things, some of them conflicting, that we attribute to Him? Consider the passage below.

1  Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2  And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3  “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? 4  Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5  that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’ Ezekiel 14:1-5 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

What is the message here? If we come to hear from the Holy Spirit while hanging onto our own agendas what we hear will be filtered through and distorted by our idols. To hear clearly we need a clean heart. That means when we come to Him we need to invite Him to examine our hearts and then lay down anything He puts His finger on so we can hear. Repentance and conviction are words not often heard in the modern church but are much needed.

In seeking to hear His voice we need to prepare our hearts and plan. As our hearts come to rest in Him so too does His wisdom rest in us.

 1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV) 9  A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) 33  Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

Having right motives is important and then we need to weigh what we hear by the Word.

20  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20 (NKJV)

What we hear needs to line up with the truth of scripture. However, there isn’t a verse that tells us who to marry, what house or vehicle to buy, which job to take and numerous other things. We need to hear His voice in these matters. However, say I am a young man ‘in love’ with a young woman. I want to marry her but she is not a believer nor really interested in the things of the Lord. I pray and believe the Holy Spirit is telling me to marry her. If I asked a wise believer they would tell me I was not hearing from the Lord because the scriptures tell us to not be ‘unequally yoked’ and say ‘what fellowship has light with darkness?’ In this scenario my emotional desires would be interfering with my ability to hear from the Holy Spirit.

We need to discern together (1 Cor. 14:29) and it is unwise to make major decisions without the counsel of scripture and the counsel of other mature believers (2 Cor. 13:1). Another key factor is that if we feel great emotional pressure to rush and make a decision we need to stop. Jesus lives outside of time and is never in a hurry. As Isaiah said,

16  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. Isaiah 28:16 (NKJV emphasis mine)

In conclusion, this is not an exhaustive teaching on discerning, more of a primer and I encourage you to dig deeper.

NOTE – I will close this series with my next post by laying out the connection between worship and hearing His voice.