GO WITH YOUR GUT?

It happens all the time in leadership. You have to make a critical decision in the next hour or the next day. Either way, there’s pressure to decide quickly. So how do you do that?

It’s tempting to go with your gut—to do what feels right in the core of your being. We’ve all done it. But is the core of our being always lined up with God’s wisdom?

Recently, a late-breaking opportunity/assignment came across my desk. I was asked to present material for a training video that would be used nationally. Opportunity-wise, I could help the national group. Assignment-wise, it would take time I didn’t have. Gut-wise, it was out of my comfort zone and I didn’t relish the added pressure.

I spoke with a colleague about it. Her first words were, “Seems like a distraction to me.” She knew my busy schedule and the importance of my current tasks.

I said, “Let’s pray about it,” and we did. As we prayed, my gut became more aligned with God’s heart. I began to see things from the national group’s perspective, and could see why they’d want leaders from the field to participate. More and more, it seemed like something I should say yes to. After we prayed, my colleague said, “The word ‘availability’ came to mind during our prayer.”

Ugh. That was the confirmation I needed. I essentially dropped everything, pressed through the weirdness of doing a sample videotaping—knowing it was what God wanted me to do—and sent it off to the videographer.

Had I gone with my gut, I would’ve bowed out gracefully. But had I gone with my gut, I would’ve missed God’s intention for me.

How to Go with the Spirit

  1. Acknowledge your gut. God already knows your instinctive feelings about the situation, but it’s helpful to express them to Him. Doing so will help you discern any influence from your flesh, and God will begin to align you with His Spirit.
  2. Find a trusted associate. You won’t always have time to include someone else in the discernment, but when you’re able to—it will be invaluable. You’ll gain their objectivity and their participation in prayer.
  3. Ask God for perspective. Be as open-minded as possible, and sincerely ask God for His wisdom. He wants to lead you, He wants you to hear His voice, and He will speak as you listen.
  4. Allow yourself to adjust. If what you’ve heard from God is different from your initial inclination, He’ll help you shift your emotions and make the necessary changes.
  5. Confidently obey. When you’ve made your decision according to God’s Word and Spirit, you are good to go. Press forward and be assured that God is with you as you carry it out.

In the fast-paced world of leadership, it’s tempting to make gut decisions on the fly, hoping for the best. But leaders who take time to press into God and go with the Spirit’s leading—and not just their gut—have a far better track record of making sound decisions.

 

Think of a time your gut said one thing and God said another. Feel free to share your scenario in the Comment Section below.

“SHEPHERD CARE” FOR SHEPHERDS

Good leaders are good shepherds. They genuinely and actively care for the people they lead. They shepherd well because they’re Shepherded well.

If you’ve read my blogs recently, you know God led me out of my “God chair” and into the great outdoors. He’s used the open surroundings to open my spirit to His in a fresh way.

Last week, God added another element to my time outside. On that particular morning, my brain fog was pretty dense. I sensed God saying, “You could exercise out here, Lisa.” (Let me back up and say that in the months leading up to my dad’s death last year, exercise got squeezed out of my schedule. It’s never found its way back in. But I’ve wanted it to, and I’ve asked God for help.)

“You could exercise out here, Lisa.” Hmmm… could anyone see me? I glanced to the left—nothing but our warehouse roof. I glanced to the right—no windows on that side of our neighbor’s house. And our back deck faces a soybean field.

I was good to go and did my usual 20-minute routine. Afterwards, I felt more awake, more alert, and had a great time engaging with God and His Word. Every morning since then, I’ve followed my Shepherd’s prompting to exercise, and I’m a third of the way into the 21 days it takes to form a healthy habit. Best of all, I’m acutely aware of God’s TLC in my life.

How to Let God Shepherd You

  1. Own your sheephood. Proud, independent leaders aren’t prone to run to their Shepherd. Accept your human frailty and embrace your need for regular time with God.
  2. Ask for His care. Express your needs to God. Tell Him when you’re feeling thirsty, tired, or frustrated. He wants to hear your heart.
  3. Listen for His voice. God is always speaking. As we read last week in Psalm 19:2, creation “pours forth speech” about God, and so does His Word and His Spirit. We just need to quiet ourselves before Him to hear.
  4. Obey His promptings. As your Shepherd, God knows the nuances of what you need and when you need it. You’re a unique sheep, and He has specific ways of caring for you. When you sense Him leading you into something new, step into it.
  5. Stay close. God’s mercies are new every morning, and so is His care for us. When we’re eye to eye with God, we’re well within His reach as He ministers fresh love, truth, and direction.

Look how intentionally and gently God nurtures us in Isaiah 40:11:

He will feed His fold like a shepherd;
He will gather together His lambs—the weak and the wobbly ones—into His arms.
He will carry them close to His bosom,
and tenderly lead like a shepherd the mother of her lambs.

If this doesn’t characterize your relationship with God, review the steps above and ask God to scoop you up into His arms. It’s what you need, and it’s what your followers need to be true of you. Good leaders shepherd well because they’re Shepherded well.

 

How is God uniquely caring for you in this season? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

HEAR GOD’S UNSPOKEN SPEECH

As leaders, we listen to important words day in and day out. If we’re not careful, though, we can be deaf to the most significant words of all. Let’s learn to tune in.

Creation is constantly pouring forth knowledge about God (Ps. 19:1-2). There’s no lack of words on God’s part; just a lack of hearing on ours.

The other morning, I planned to go outside to be with God. No go. It was pouring rain. I stood in our sunroom looking through the drenched, dreary windows. What a bummer.

I settled into my God chair and turned to Psalm 119—the chapter I’d been reading on vacation. Verses about God’s love drew my attention:

  • “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord” (Ps. 119:41).
  • “The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love” (Ps. 119:64).
  • “In your steadfast love, give me life” (Ps. 119:88).

God’s theme for the morning became obvious—His love for me. I got up to check on the rain. This time, I was drawn to a stained-glass piece of artwork, its beauty undiminished by the darkness.

“Like My love for you, Lisa. It’s never dampened by circumstances. It’s always vibrant. You just need eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive.”

Even through artwork, God was revealing Himself. He spoke volumes that morning about the “shining sun” of His truth lighting my path, the “ocean” of His love buoying me up, and the “sailboat” of my life, crimson in color, like the blood of Jesus, my Savior and Lord.

Simple, sustaining truths. My sails were filled afresh with His Spirit; positioned to follow His lead for the day.

How to Hear God’s Unspoken Speech

  1. Desire to. If your heart isn’t inclined toward God, ask Him to help you want to hear from Him. He will.
  2. Listen. We’re good at tuning out background noise. But the knowledge of God—spoken forth by creation—can become prominent whenever we quiet ourselves to hear it.
  3. Look around. See your surroundings with God’s eyes. Is He drawing your attention to something specific that conveys a spiritual truth?
  4. Look in the Word. All of God’s communication is rooted in Scripture. As you interact with God, you’ll find confirmation and further inspiration in the Word.
  5. Receive. Whether it’s a single word, a verse, or a heart-filling expression of His love, take in what God has for you.

I had to laugh when I looked up the Hebrew word for “pour” in Psalm 19:2a—“Day after day they pour forth speech.” It means to belch forth, to eagerly utter, to bubble up. The last part of the verse says, “… night after night they reveal knowledge.” “Reveal” in Hebrew means to show or declare.

There’s nothing passive about these words. I picture God bursting through nature to provide the most enlightening show-and-tell we could ever experience. As leaders surrounded by voices all day long, let’s tune into the glorious surround-sound of God’s creation revelation.

 

How do you focus on God’s voice in the midst of many? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

HOW TO HAVE EYES THAT SEE

God gifts leaders with vision, administrative ability, and people skills. But one of His greatest gifts is the ability to see with spiritual eyes. Let’s learn how to strengthen this ability.

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My husband, Ron, and I stood on a pier overlooking a shallow body of water. To my surprise, a whole group of carp swam right up to us. “Oh my word,” I said to Ron. “Can you believe that?!” He said, “What? What do you mean? What are you looking at?” I pointed to the water and said, “Can’t you see them, they’re right there!” He said, “See what? All I see is the water!” Suddenly, I realized I could see into the water because of my sunglasses. I gave them to Ron and his mouth dropped open when he saw the school of carp.

Years ago at the ministry, we needed a speaker to do sexual integrity presentations in public schools. I’d done them for years, but the ministry had grown and I no longer had time. Over a period of weeks, we prayed God would provide a gifted communicator who could take the message to the next level. We spread the word to youth leaders, but no one came forward. We continued praying, and one day over lunch we were discussing our need for a speaker. As I described the type of person we needed, our events assistant threw her arms in the air and said, “That’s me! That’s totally me! I did theater all through college, and I’m passionate about purity. I’d love to do that!” Suddenly our eyes were opened, and we realized she would be perfect for the position. And she was. She’d been there all along, but only through prayer and discussion did God make it clear.

5 Ways to Sharpen Your Spiritual Vision

  1. Close your eyes and pray. You don’t have to close your eyes, but there’s something about shutting out the earthly realm and tuning into God’s realm that helps us see what He’s seeing. Talk with God about your situation.
  2. Ask God for wisdom. God’s wisdom is multifaceted, and His thoughts and ways are greater than ours. Ask with a willingness to lay aside your opinions and perspectives, and reach for His.
  3. Look for signposts in the Word. God desires to light the pathway for us, and He’ll often do that with specific Scripture passages and verses.
  4. Keep your spiritual antennae up. Nothing spooky here; just pay attention to how the Spirit may be leading through conversations and circumstances during your season of discernment.
  5. Discuss what you’re sensing. It’s best to have two or three others joining you in a time of discernment, and to gather periodically for prayer and discussion. God often gives each person a piece of the puzzle and then fits it all together.

God has 20/20 vision, and He wants to share it with us. In Jeremiah 33:3, He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” As a leader, if you want to sharpen your spiritual vision, call out to Him in prayer, spend time in the Word, and invite others to join you.

 

How has God sharpened your spiritual vision? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

STAYING GROUNDED WHEN THINGS ARE UP IN THE AIR

Ambiguity and uncertainty are givens for leaders. The vision is still percolating. The project is still being massaged. The employee situation is still unresolved. Not to mention the strained relationship in our personal lives. How can we remain resolute when so much around us is in flux?

Recently, an unresolved relationship in my personal life bled into ministry life. When my attempts to reconcile a previously close friendship were brushed aside, my heart ached. I took my hurting heart to work the next day, and soon noticed a lack of freedom in interacting with others. That made my heart hurt even more! I knew I needed some extra God-time.

The next morning, I talked it through with the Lord. He didn’t give me the key to restoring the relationship. But He gave me Himself. And His love. And His Word. And that was enough. As His love refilled my deflated heart, I felt whole again. Secure. Confident in Him.

5 Steps to Becoming Grounded

Psalm 116:7-9 says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

1) Return. As soon as you feel angst related to an unresolved situation—whether personal or work-related—go to the Lord. Open your heart and open His Word. He’ll meet with you and give you perspective.

2) Rest. The deepest, truest soul rest is found when we’re with the Lord.

3) Remember. As you’re talking with God, reflect on His character. Remember His goodness and faithfulness to you.

4) Entrust. As you’re trusting God in the midst of the unsettled issue, actually entrust it to Him. Hand it over to Him. He’ll deal with it in His time and His way.

5) Walk. With a heart full of love and peace from the Lord, walk on and engage with the people and responsibilities God has entrusted to you.

As leaders—who are human beings—it’s normal to experience dissonance when things are unresolved. It’s how we handle the dissonance that makes the difference. We can take our personal problems to work, and we can take our work problems home. But the best place to take them is to the Lord. That’s where we’ll find rest, peace, and strength to forge ahead.

 

How has God helped you stand firm in the midst of unresolved situations in your life and ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

HOW TO CULTIVATE SEEDS

Some of the most ordinary things in life are actually extraordinary when we take time to ponder them. So let’s think about seeds—both physical and spiritual. And then let’s do something with them.

Last week I planted marigold and sunflower seeds in a container of peat pellets. I was pretty amazed when just a few days later they broke through the soil and even had tiny leaves. Their skinny stems were white from being sequestered under a clear plastic dome. When I took off the dome and placed the container on a window sill, they seemed to turn green right before my eyes. Every few hours, I could see noticeable growth.

Fun Facts About Seeds

Smallest seed. A tropical rainforest orchid seed is 1/300th of an inch long.

Largest seed. A palm tree seed is 12” long and can weigh up to 40 pounds.

Fastest vegetable seed. Broccoli, cauliflower and kale seeds germinate in one day.

Slowest vegetable seed. Asparagus seeds germinate in 21-30 days.

Oldest mature seed to germinate. A 2,000-year-old Judean date palm seed, discovered in Herod the Great’s palace in Israel, was planted and germinated in 2005.

As fascinating as physical seeds are, spiritual seeds are even more phenomenal. They’re actually supernatural, because they are literally the Word of God (Lk. 8:17). As such, they’re timeless—far older than the Judean date palm seed. But they’re very much alive and active (Heb. 4:12). Through the Spirit, seeds of God’s truth can transform people’s lives from eternal death to eternal life. We are born again by the imperishable seed of the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23).

4 Keys to Cultivating Spiritual Seeds

  1. Receive them. As leaders, we need a steady diet of the seeds of God’s Word. If the Bible seems dry to you these days, remember that seeds look that way until they’re planted in moist soil. Ask God to soften your heart, then read the Word and He’ll germinate truth in your life.
  2. Gather them. As seeds of truth come to fruition in your own life, keep track of them. Meditate on them. Have them “at the ready” to share with others. An awesome thing about seeds of the Word is that when we give them away, we still have them. And there’s a never-ending supply in the Bible.
  3. Plant them. Scripture tells us to sow seeds freely and generously. Look for God-given opportunities to share seeds of the gospel and truth with people—believers and non-believers alike.
  4. Water them. Without water, seeds will die. They’ll also die from overwatering. Be sensitive to God’s Spirit as you speak the Word in season and out of season, exhorting people gently and respectfully.

By God’s design, physical seeds grow when planted and cared for. By God’s design, spiritual seeds grow and spring forth into eternal life. As we know from the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:4-15), when growth doesn’t happen, the issue isn’t the seed, it’s the soil.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “My job was to plant the seed, and Apollos was called to water it. Any growth comes from God.” As leaders and believers, our job—and our incredible privilege—is to plant seeds of the gospel and truth in people’s hearts. Let’s be generous seed sowers.

 

What’s God saying to you about planting seeds of truth? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

GOD’S ONE-TWO PUNCH

Leaders are doers, movers, and shakers. But if that’s all they are, their efforts can amount to shadowboxing. Thankfully, God has a one-two punch that’s powerfully effective and worth learning.

It was our monthly retreat to plan state-wide initiatives. Given the scope of our outreach, we could’ve felt the pressure and packed our agenda. But since God was carrying the load and designed us for relationship, that’s where we started. We took our time honoring Him through worship, Scripture, and prayer. And then we honored one another. We listened and prayed, as each person shared their latest challenge. With hearts alive in God and soft toward one another, we delved into discernment and decision-making.

By the end of the day, our relationships were deeper and our mission was advanced. One woman observed, “This feels like a support group.” Someone else added, “Yes, the best kind—a support group with purpose.” Combine authentic relationships with kingdom purpose, and you have a powerful one-two punch.

Remember C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, that gives voice to the enemy’s devious plans? If Satan was scheming against ministry leaders—and he is—it would sound something like this:

Satan’s Diabolical Schemes Against Leaders

  1. “Let’s make them think they’re at their best when they’re uber busy.”
  1. “Yes, and let’s use that load of busyness to short circuit their devotion to God.”
  1. “Perfect! Let’s take it a step further and keep them self-protective and reluctant to open up to their brothers and sisters in Christ.”
  1. “Hahaha! That’s brilliant. We’ll keep them from the two sources of greatest help—their Lord and the so-called body of Christ.”
  1. “Right! So busyness is their king, and they’re operating solo—apart from their real King and their brothers and sisters.”
  1. “Sounds like they’ll be doing a lot of shadowboxing!”
  1. “You gotta love it!”

As Christian leaders, we have the Spirit of Truth to combat the enemy’s lies:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…

and, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Share each other’s burdens…

Galatians 6:2 (NLT)

Two are better than one,

because they have a good reward for their toil.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 (ESV)

…standing firm in one spirit,

with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

For we are God’s fellow workers.

1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)

 

There is never a shortage of work in leadership. Because of that, it’s tempting to keep our noses to the grindstone. But leaders who do that lose their vitality and productivity. Let’s take God’s Word to heart. Let’s actively love Him and our co-laborers, and advance God’s kingdom together. In the process, the enemy will be on the receiving end of God’s one-two punch.

 

How do you reconcile incessant busyness with God’s invitation for relationship? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE UNSETTLED

As leaders, we like to be resolute. Firm. Forward-moving. So when we feel uncertain about an agreed-upon direction, it can be tempting to ignore it. But unpacking the unsettledness will pave the way for an even better future.

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Years ago I became unsettled about a significant ministry decision we’d made months prior. I had two choices: 1) Remind myself why we made the decision in the first place and carry on, or 2) Delve into my doubts and see if God was laying out a new understanding. With God’s grace, I chose the latter. I wrestled down thoughts about waffling as a leader, prayed through my concerns about the decision, envisioned a new scenario, and talked to close associates. We agreed God was indeed giving us a new understanding.

How to Navigate Unsettledness

  1. Acknowledge it. As I’ve said, it’s tempting to squelch your doubts about a decision that’s already been made. Besides feeling like you’re wavering as a leader, you’re asking your team to invest time into rethinking it. But owning your uncertainty is the first step toward determining if it has merit.
  2.  Pray about it. Your unsettledness is coming from one of three sources – the Lord, the enemy, or your own self-doubt. As you talk with God about it, He’ll either quiet your concerns or confirm them.
  3. Unpack it. Pull out pen and paper if needed, and begin to sort through your doubts. List them. Categorize them. Do whatever it takes to identify the sticking points. Doing this will pinpoint the main problems with your current direction.
  4. Envision the new. Prayerfully contemplate a revised version of your current direction or perhaps a complete change of direction. The same God who stirred the issue in your spirit knows the pathway forward.
  5. Seek counsel. Run your thoughts past trusted associates – a small, confidential focus group or a spiritual advisor for your ministry. Outside perspective will shed additional light on the new direction you’re discerning.
  6. Garner your team’s input. As key shareholders, your leadership team and board will have the deepest understanding of both the current decision and the prospective new decision. Lay out your thoughts and listen closely to their responses. Through prayer and discussion, shape the new direction together.

If you’re the senior leader at your ministry, God will often entrust a burden of unsettledness to you. It’s His way of saying, “Hey, this thing is off a bit. Spend more time with Me and your team to find My way forward.”

At our ministry, we’ve learned to tune into each other’s unsettledness. Even though it can be frustrating when one of us raises a concern, we’ve learned to hit the pause button. More often than not, when we talk and pray about it God provides a course correction. We’ve learned when we’re feeling unsettled, it’s God’s way of prompting us to press in for His best.

How do you handle it when you’re feeling unsettled about a ministry decision you’re responsible for? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

5 SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL DEHYDRATION

It happens to all of us. We’ve had a particularly full week or month or season, and we don’t realize how dry our interior terrain has become. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to assess and God has plenty of living water.

desert

The other morning I decided to spend time with God in our sunroom. I settled into a sofa with my Bible and journal, a glass of cold water, and one of my favorite Pandora worship stations. I looked across the room and noticed that the leaves of our Gold Dust plant had completely drooped. It was a week since I’d been in the room, and I hadn’t seen the plant’s plight. I filled a pitcher and gave it a drink. Within a half hour, it was nearly revived.

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While we don’t have leaves that sag when we’re out of touch with God, there are equally obvious indicators.

5 Signs of Spiritual Dehydration

  1. Lack of inspiration. When you search your soul for fresh insights from God, you realize there are none. Sure, you’re anchored to foundational truth, but there’s no recent biblical insight or interaction with God that’s propelling you forward in Him.
  1. Absence of joy. You aren’t depressed, maybe you aren’t even sad – but the joy of the Lord isn’t welling up in your spirit either. You feel pretty flat.
  1. Presence of weariness. Without the joy of the Lord, which is our strength, we become tired. You realize you’ve been plodding through your days, and they seem longer than usual.
  1. Routine prayers. You notice your conversations with God have fallen into familiar patterns and phrases. There’s a distinct absence of life and currency in your words.
  1. Snippiness with family. When your schedule is full and your spiritual tank isn’t, you lack grace for others’ humanness, especially family members.

Most house plants do well with weekly watering. God designed us much differently. Scripture exhorts us to be rooted in His love, attached to the Vine, planted by streams of water. These phrases are descriptive of trees and plants that are positioned to receive constant hydration. They bear regular fruit, their leaves don’t droop, and their work prospers (Psalm 1:3).

If you’re spiritually dehydrated, make a determination to take your next available slot today to be with God. Take a good long drink of His Word, revel in His love, feel His strength revive you. Then, ask God to show you how to plant yourself by streams of water like the tree in Psalm 1.

Spiritual hydration has a lot to do with our proximity to God. If you want to stay spiritually hydrated, stay close to the Source of Living Water.

How do you detect spiritual dehydration in your own life? What signs do you notice? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EMBRACE THE WEAK SIDE OF YOUR STRENGTH

It’s natural for leaders to let their strengths shine. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting God-given gifts to flourish for the sake of the Lord and His kingdom. It’s also natural to want to hide weaknesses. But God urges us to embrace them so His power can be seen.

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During a recent community-building time, our leadership team talked about our God-given strengths.