February 25, 2009

Lessons From The First "300"-Leaders & Doubt

Following Gideon's dramatic move in his own village of destroying the pagan altars, Gideon sends messengers out across the countryside to recruit as many people as possible to join him in the looming battle versus the Midianites.

Meanwhile back at home, doubt begins to creep into the heart & mind of Gideon. However, there's an important distinction that must be made here. Gideon's doubt is rooted in himself, not in God. There is still a part of Gideon that cannot fathom that God would use him for this mission. While his understanding of his God-given identity is deepening, he still is struggling with the idea that he is the "valiant warrior" that God says he is.

So we get into the famous story of Gideon & the fleece. Basically Gideon goes through this dance with God about the fleece, the dew, & the ground around the fleece. If you want the whole thing in detail, go read the end of Judges 6.

God is gracious enough to give Gideon the signs that he asks for, & something really dramatic happens at this point. The story immediately jumps into Gideon's moment of truth versus the Midianites. Through these signs God reassures Gideon that not only has he truly been called to this mission, but that God will also equip him for the mission. Once all this clicks with Gideon, he is transformed. Gone is the timid farmer hiding in the winepress. What emerges is a man that is a bold, courageous leader who pursues God's vision for Israel in a passionate & powerful way.

Gideon definitely experienced doubt, as will we. However, neither Gideon nor we have to doubt the one who called us. When doubt comes we must lean hard into the one who called us & be reminded of who He is leading us to be. We too can have this transformative moment just as Gideon did. When we take our doubts to God & navigate them with Him rather than hiding them, God can transform those doubts into a deeper faith in Him, regardless of whether or not He actually gives us the answer to the doubt. In fact, it is our doubt that is often the very thing that God uses to trigger dramatic growth in our faith. However, we must walk with God through our doubts just as Gideon did.

February 24, 2009

Lessons From The First "300": Godly Leadership Begins In Our Closest Relationships

After Gideon receives this amazing call from God & after Gideon begins to embrace this new identity of the "valiant warrior" that God has shown him, God asks Gideon to actually act. One of the huge problems in leadership, but especially in Christian leadership, is a lack of action. In Christian circles it's so easy to cloak our inactivity in spiritual sounding cliches. Rather than act on the call that God places on our lives, we pray for God to reveal His will. We know that God wants us to change A, B, or C, & we want to, but "want to" doesn't make any difference if there is no action.

So God stirs Gideon to action. Gideon is asked to step out & be the godly leader that the nation of Israel so desperately needs. However, Gideon isn't told to muster an army & prepare for battle against the Midianites. No, God has a mission that's much closer to home. In fact, God leads Gideon to deal with the real issue before he ever steps onto a battlefield. The real issue was the false worship & spiritual adultery that the people of Israel had fallen into. Gideon's mission is to destroy the altars of Baal & Asherah & to replace it with an altar to the one true God of Israel. Here's the point: notice who these altars belonged to. These altars belonged to Gideon's father.

We all know it's more difficult to lead at home than just about anywhere else. Those people know us, every little ugly detail, & that's scary. Yet that is the very place where God wants to cultivate us as His leaders. After all, if we can't lead there with integrity, we will never be able to take on the greater battles that God may have on our horizon.

As the story ends, the people are ready to kill Gideon, but his father comes to his defense. I so wish that there were more details here. I might be reading between the lines here, but it seems like Gideon's courageous move may have actually served as a wake up call to his father. Leading in our homes & in our closest friendships is not easy. In fact it will be messy & very uncomfortable, but that's the proving ground of our leadership. God will not bless our leadership in the larger arenas of life if we are not faithful to his call to leadership in the arenas of our families & closests friendships.

February 23, 2009

Lessons From The First "300"-God Uses The Unlikely To Lead

As the story of Gideon opens we find that Israel is under the oppression of the nation of Midian. Midian sweeps into the land & steals crops & basically terrorizes the countryside. The Bible says that some people had even taken to living in caves to hide from the Midianites.

Then we find that the people finally cry out to God. After all, their disobedience & unfaithfulness is what got them in this situation to begin with. God of course hears their cries & calls out one to be the "judge", the one who will rescue the nation of Israel from the oppression of Midian. God calls out the most qualified leader & bravest man in all the land right? Wrong!

God calls a farmer. In fact, God calls a cowardly farmer. When Gideon is introduced, he is in a winepress threshing wheat. A winepress just might be the worst place to thresh wheat that a person could think of. However, he was in there because of his fear of the Midianites. He didn't want to be seen. He was trying to keep his crop hidden. The greeting that God's angel uses for Gideon gives us some insight. The angel refers to Gideon as a "valiant warrior". As far as I can tell there's not much about Gideon that you could describe as valiant. So why did God choose that terminology?

I think it's because God see us as we can be, not just as we are. God has a deeper understanding of our identity than we do. We don't really have the whole picture most of the time. We focus simply on what is happening now. However, God sees what could be if we would simply surrender ourselves & follow Him in faith.

Gideon was a nobody in our terms. He came from an unimportant family from an unimportant tribe of Israel. On top of that, he was the baby of the family, & in that day & age, that pretty much meant you were the least important of the family. Gideon didn't seem to have any reason to be selected for this calling. Yet God uses the unlikely to lead. He calls out the ones that no one else bothers to pay much attention to. He knows that when these people follow Him & are a part of His work, He will receive glory for it. If God called out a military genius to lead Israel, there's a good chance the people would take all the credit for the victory, but with a farmer leading the way....now that's definitely a God thing.

If you feel like God is calling you to something bigger than you, that's OK. In fact, that's kind of the point. If you don't feel qualified to be where God has placed you, that's OK. It's not about your qualifications; it's about His sufficiency. It's about knowing your real identity. It's about knowing who God is making you to be simply by your following Him faithfully day by day.

February 20, 2009

Leadership Lessons From The First "300"

Over President's Day weekend I had the great honor of taking some of our student leaders to the mountains of north Georgia for an intense weekend of leadership development. God really spoke to them over the course of the retreat, & it seems that they have a fresh perspective & a renewed sense of purpose in their faith & leadership.

We looked at the life & leadership of Gideon in Judges 6-8 for our Bible study. Over the next several days I want to unpack some of the stuff that I pulled out of this passage both for me & for my student leaders. I want to keep it brief & let you go to the story of Gideon & allow God to unpack the rest for yourself.

Here are the core things I picked up on as I dug into this story with fresh eyes:

1) God Uses The Unlikely To Lead
2) Godly Leadership Begins In Our Closest Relationships
3) Even Leaders Doubt, But They Don't Have To Doubt The One Who Called Them.
4) God Uses The Fearlessly Focused Faithful Few In The Battle
5) Facing Opposition Requires Both Wisdom & Strength
6) Leaders Must Beware Of The Subtle Traps That Are Set For Them

Next week, I'll go into these ideas in more detail, but I encourage you to go read the story of Gideon. Approach it as if you've never heard one word of it. See it with fresh eyes; hear it with fresh ears, & God will reveal some amazing truths to you.

February 12, 2009

Student Leadership Retreat Weekend

This weekend is pretty crammed for me. Friday, my family is heading to Knoxville, TN for a wedding. The best part of that will definitely be watching my little girl, Julia, walk down the aisle as a flower girl. She's done it before, but she has a better idea of what she's supposed to be doing this time around. That will be a highlight.

Then on Sunday afternoon immediately following the morning worship service, I'll be loading up with a small group of my student leaders & heading to the mountains of north GA for a really quick leadership retreat. This will be an intense, focused time for us to learn from God's word how we can continually grow & be sharpened as leaders. Along with some wide open discussion time, we'll be focusing in on the life & leadership of Gideon. Most of us who have grown up in church world know the basics of Gideon's story, but when you really begin to peel away the "Sunday School" version & start digging into the meat of what God did in this guy's life, you will find some jewels in the arena of spiritual leadership. Next week, I'll be posting some of the lessons that we will look at over the course of our retreat, but since I don't want to steal my own thunder in the event that some of my students may look at this, I'll hold off for now.

If you're looking for some other good stuff in the area of spiritual leadership, check out http://www.stevenfurtick.com/ . He has really had some good stuff going on lately. I love watching from afar as God does some awesome stuff in Charlotte through Elevation Church.