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Leadership Weekly

Is Your Life Balanced?

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. — Luke 2:52

A balanced life is characterized by order, peace, and wholeness. The various parts of life are as they should be and where they should be. Each part of the balanced life gets the right amount of time and effort at the right time. It's not giving each part of life the same amount of time that makes life balanced; it's giving each part the necessary allotment of time.

The life of Jesus is an excellent model concerning balance. Throughout his life, Jesus was under constant pressure. Friend and enemy alike pursued him. Yet, when examining his life as recorded in Scripture, one sees that he never hurried, that he never had to play catch up, and that he was never taken by surprise. He managed time well, bringing it under control, because he knew the importance of balance. Jesus' life was well rounded. He grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Does your life reflect a balance? Do you make time for intellectual growth? If you are too busy to read a book or engage in study that stimulates the mind, you are too busy. Do you make time for physical health? Many people burn out because of improper personal maintenance. Don't be another fatality on the emotional highway. Take care of your physical self. Do you make time for your relationship with God? Do you feel too busy for prayer, Bible study, meditation, or devotions? Psalms 46:10 can be translated, "Take time and know that I am God." A popular hymn gives this advice: "Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord . . . Take time to be holy, the world rushes on," but do we do it? Do you make time for primary relationships? Is adequate time provided for your spouse, family, and friends?

Only you can answer those questions honestly. And, only you can take the necessary steps to bring order, harmony, and balance back in your life. Start today.

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How's Your Vision?

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. — Proverbs 29:18

Robert Fritz wrote, "It is not what a vision is; it's what a vision does." What does a vision do? Vision is the ability to see. Helen Keller was asked, "Is there anything worse than being blind?" "Yes," she replied, "having eyesight but no vision!"

Leaders imagine a preferred future. Vision is the stuff of the future. Vision is the vivid image of the compelling future God wants to create through you. Leaders can stand up and say this is where we are going.

Mike Vance tells of being at Walt Disney World soon after its completion when someone said, "It's too bad Walt Disney didn't live to see this." Vance replied, "He DID see it--that's why it's here."

What kind of vision do you have?

Myopic vision. Leaders with myopic vision are so terribly nearsighted that they live only for today. Their vision of the future is fuzzy. They can barely see beyond their noses.

Peripheral vision. Leaders with peripheral vision are blindsided by side issues. These visionaries are hampered in moving forward because they catch the threatening images of lurking problems in the corners of their eyes. They are fearful of shadowy difficulties and people lurking on the sidelines who will defeat their efforts. These folks are easily distracted.

Tunnel vision. Leaders with tunnel vision see only what's dead ahead of them and assume that their slender view of reality reflects the whole world. They don't see other persons or other issues.

Panoramic vision. Leaders with panoramic vision see the big picture. They see beyond today. They see what is ahead of them. They see what is to their sides. They have a basic understanding of the key ingredients of a healthy organization and know the steps that it will take to get them there.

Vision is perhaps the greatest need of leadership today. As someone said regarding the church but it pertains to any organization, "Our preachers aren't dreaming. That's why the church is such a nightmare."

How's your vision? Without it your organization will be like an unbridled horse. With it the organization will be focused, moving toward the fulfillment of the dream.

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Intimacy Revealed

Jesus replied, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?" — John 14:9

Knowing God personally is the greatest satisfaction a human can have while living on earth. What a privilege to be able to talk and spend time with the one who created us! And yet there are times in our lives when we don't strive to be truly satisfied in the Lord. Leaders always have to be on guard against callousness when it comes to their personal faith in Jesus. Head knowledge, education, and work experience do not equal intimacy. Instead, intimacy involves a meaningful friendship with Jesus where deep secrets, struggles, and successes are shared. What results is an extension of his life in their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

But what if our hearts are calloused and hardened, wrapped in protection much like an artichoke? We first must realize that we cannot, in our own power, fix the problem. Secondly, we have to be willing to discard our pride and re-surrender our lives to the Lord. Only he can peel away our layers of protection so we can be changed for his glory. He knows our hearts even when it's hiding behind the artichoke leaves.

The twelve disciples had life experiences unlike any of us will ever have. They were able to spend time daily with Jesus, walking, talking, and watching him perform countless miracles. Even with their proximity to the Lord, they still didn't understand who he was. Jesus' question to Philip in John 14:9 is one that he asks his followers today. Just replace Philip's name with yours. At the same time, Jesus says to us, "Come and know me. Really know who I am." It's a call of hope, of rest, of excitement that cannot be easily forgotten.

Not now. Not ever. Can you hear that call to intimacy with Jesus today?

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Broken Trust

I gave you your master's house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. — 2 Samuel 12:8-9

The life of King David was filled with numerous triumphs, conquests, and successes. He single-handedly took down Goliath with a sling and a stone. He wrote many of the psalms from which we find comfort in our times of difficulty. He presided over the nation of Israel and was considered by many to be its greatest leader.

David also learned a harsh lesson about the importance of trust. While sitting on his rooftop one day (when he should have been at war), he saw Bathsheba bathing and sent for her. This act led to adultery, the murder of Uriah the Hittite, and a cover-up of the whole situation. Only when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his actions did the king ask God for forgiveness. However, the Lord did not let David off easy. The child he fathered with Bathsheba died, there was a constant threat of murder in his family, and his son Absalom caused David problems until he was killed in battle.

When someone is trusted with a leadership role, they are given the opportunity to use their talents, time, and influence for causes bigger than themselves. As they make good decisions while showing integrity and concern for others, they earn trust. John Maxwell likens this to putting change in their pocket. However, when they betray that trust, it becomes difficult to regain. In addition, the leader has to pay some of their change back to the people. When one runs out of change, trust is gone. And when trust is gone, the leader ceases to be a leader.

King David's story should serve as a reminder of the importance of trust and how quickly it can disappear. Allow God to mold and refine your character so that your decisions will inspire others to trust your abilities.

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Back to Basics

"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. — 1 Timothy 4:8-9

Each year, people from around the globe compete for the title of world's strongest man. Held in exotic locales, these competitions feature events involving the placing of heavy stone spheres atop pillars, lifting large numbers of children on one's back, and pulling double-decker buses down a street. The strength and determination of the contestants are second to none. But for them to get to the world championships, they have to be disciplined in the way they train, the foods they eat, and the way they recover from injuries. If any one of these three aspects is neglected, the results could be disastrous.

Christians are not typically known for carrying 300-pound weights long distances, but their feats of strength are equally remarkable. People are healed of sickness and disease, families are reunited, and individuals surrender their lives to the Lord God for eternity. For the leader, there has to be a constant regimen of spiritual training. The apostle Paul understood this and made sure Timothy got the message.

The routine is pretty straightforward: Talk to God, the Lord of heaven and earth, daily. Tell him your needs and the needs of others, thank him for his answers, and let him know how wonderful he is. Get to know him and his son Jesus better by reading about them in the Bible. Learn what your spiritual talents are and begin to use them. Spend time with other followers, encouraging and challenging them to become more like Christ. As opportunities arise, tell those who don't know Jesus as Forgiver and Leader about him and his love for them. Repeat daily.

If properly followed, this regimen will provide a lifetime's worth of challenge and excitement. It's time to get serious about the faith. It's time to become truly strong.

It's time to get disciplined.

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Recharge

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. — Psalm 51:12

The IRONMAN TRIATHLON© is one of the most grueling endurance events in the world. In order to complete the race, an athlete must swim 2.4 miles, ride a bicycle 112 more miles, then run a 26.2-mile marathon. The best athletes in the world can complete this monumental challenge in under nine hours. But for Australian Chris Legh, his Ironman experience in 1997 was memorable for the wrong reasons. Known as one of the top competitors in the sport, he was unable to keep any fluids or food down during the course of the race. As a result, he became dehydrated, leading to a number of his organs shutting down. Fifty yards from the finish line, his body completely gave out. Legh never finished the race and would've died without immediate medical attention. Thankfully, he recovered and has won two Ironman events since. But first, he had to be restored.

While experiences like Legh's show us humans have physical limits to their endurance, the same can also be said about their spiritual lives. Thankfully, there are warning signs that exist before it becomes too late. When people don't want to read their Bible or pray, if they decide to shut people out of their lives, or if church becomes just a ritual, something deeper may be going on. They may be suffering from spiritual dehydration.

Just as a "Low Fuel" light tells us to fill up the car with gas, it's time to ask God for a renewed spirit when we see these warning signs. Consider that Jesus had crowds following him everywhere, but he knew his spiritual limits so well that he consistently took time to recharge, even when death was near (see Luke 22:39-43).

When your life's "Low Fuel" light comes on, don't ignore it. God wants to recharge and renew your life. Allow him to do just that. Make sure you accept his help to cross the finish line.

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Anonymous Encouragement

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. — Philippians 2:1-2

As author John Maxwell has noted, there is a difference between being a leader and being a manager. He often points out that management focuses on maintaining systems and processes, while leadership is about "influencing people to follow." One way to cultivate such influence is breathtaking in its simplicity: Influence involves caring sincerely about others.

While going through my senior year of college, there were days when it seemed as if the weight of the world had been placed on my shoulders. Classes were scheduled at odd times, so I had to plan meetings, work, and other errands as opportunity allowed. One day, I was feeling particularly frustrated when I stopped by my mailbox. Most of the time, there was nothing inside. But on this day, I found a card containing a few encouraging lines penned in blue ink.

What struck me was that it didn't have a name on it. It didn't have to. The card had done the job it was intended to do--to show me that I was cared for and appreciated.

Of course, showing someone that you care can be accomplished in ways other than sending a card to someone. A kind word can do the same thing. If somebody is struggling with an issue (or life in general), simply sitting and listening can be worth more than any words that may come to mind. And don't forget prayer, for "the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" (James 5:16).

However, encouragement isn't just reserved for those who know Christ Jesus. All people need to hear positive words, especially the words that tell of One who died for us so that we can have eternal life. Let's strive to be an encouragement to all we come in contact with daily.

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Self-Control

A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. — Proverbs 25:28

In ancient times, cities were often surrounded by walls for their protection. If those walls were breached in any way, the city became vulnerable to attack from a wide variety of enemies. The maintenance of city walls, therefore, was of constant concern.

Proverbs 25:28 likens self-control to a city wall. When we maintain self-control, we keep ourselves safe from forces that would wear us down, attack our weaknesses, and prey on our failures. Scripture warns us that losing our self-control can lead to disastrous results. We may have tendencies to lose our tempers easily, gossip about neighbors or coworkers, or criticize those in authority. We may have an unhealthy desire to own many possessions, an addiction toward food, or an obsession with television. A careless word, a broken promise, or a disrespectful action is an outward sign that our inner wall of self-control has collapsed. Weak self-control makes us vulnerable to living a life of hypocrisy, and then we lose all credibility as a witness to the freedom and joy of the Christian life.

But developing self-control is not just a matter of willing right behavior. We all have experienced the "just do it" break-down. We decide that we will finally regain control of a certain personal weakness only to find a few days later that we have succumbed once again to temptation. Self-control is not as simple as just "doing it" or "not doing it."

Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit desires to guide our lives. Only he can overcome our sinful cravings and build self-control with staying power. As we turn our moments over to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we are more often able to resist those things that used to prey on our weaknesses. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit alone that our walls of self-control can be securely maintained.

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