Sunday, April 25, 2010

Listening to My Gut

Jesus was very direct with the Jews who doubted him that day in the temple areas as he walked in Solomon's Colonnade. When they gathered around him saying they wanted him to tell them plainly if he was the Christ, Jesus reminded them that he HAD told them, but they didn't believe. He also went on to say that his sheep listen to his voice, he knew them, and they knew and followed him. That 'no one would snatch them out of his hand.'

How does anyone hear Jesus' voice? It is bound to be unique for everyone. The point is to be open to hear it, to listen for it. It is so important to understand that the Creator of all things might choose to communicate in extraordinary, unexpected ways. God speaks to us every day and we are often deaf to that voice. This calls for an intentional working on our listening capacity. It calls for a heightened sensitivity to what is happening in our world. When was the last time that you discerned God's voice? What was the circumstance?

I have learned to 'listen' with my gut. I quite literally get a visceral reaction to certain situations. I have come to trust that feeling, to know that God is requiring something of me that I can't ignore and know that if I don't act, I am failing to be faithful. This doesn't happen to me everyday, but it happens more and more as I get older and my spiritual relationship with God has quickened. I reflect back on some key turning points in my life and persons close to me where my response to listening to God through my gut and the resulting action that I took has literally changed the course of life. An example was a time when this overwhelming gut feeling told me to arrange a surprise trip for my sister to go to Europe. That sort of thing is not my style, but I listened to my gut and, to make a long story very short, this gift resulted in her marriage and move to Australia where she has been for 25 years and has had a remarkable life. Looking back I can recognize many situations where God seemed to be speaking to me through my gut. I now welcome that feeling because of its clarity.

As a leader and person who works, mentors and teaches leaders, I keenly understand the importance of having faith, taking risks, believing that God purposes us and is there to guide us if we will only listen. How does God speak to you? What will you do to become more sensitive to hearing the voice of Jesus? Think about it. Your sensitivity may result in personal transformation and be a blessing to others. As for me, I will continue to keep listening with my gut.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

But I Don't Want To Do It Lord!

God showed Saul on the road to Damascus who was boss. To make the point he blinded him for three days and told him to go into the city and wait, that he would be told what to do. Ananias was that faithful disciple who saw the Lord in a vision and heard him say to go find Saul, lay hands on him so that he could have his sight restored. Ananias wasn't happy about this mission. He had heard about the evil that Saul had done, the persecution of disciples, Saul's reputation. I can imagine that Ananias said,'But I don't want to do it Lord!' Never the less, he got over the discomfort, went to Saul, laid hands on him and Saul became Paul and the rest is history.

So often leaders have to do things they otherwise would not choose to do. Tough things that impact lives, churches, families, companies. The metal of a leader is tested in those moments. The smart ones do not lean on their own understanding, their rationale, their logic. The smart ones humbly surrender to God those tough decisions, necessary actions. Then they listen, really listen with an open mind and heart as to how God would have them proceed. For it is in faithful actions, choices and tough calls that God can create new beginnings. These leadership actions always impact people. What if Ananias had not responded to God's request that he go see Saul? How often have we as leaders succumbed to fear and anxiety and not acted when action was necessary? How often does our weakness result in situations getting worse, never being resolved, not changing for the better because we didn't want to do the very thing that God wanted us to do? What might have been if only we had surrendered, listened and acted out of humility and faithfulness? Leaders have a responsibility to face the tough stuff. The good news is that we have a God who will guide us, empower us, pick us up when we fall, and affirm us in our faithfulness. The next time you are tempted to not take action when your leadership calls for it, remember Ananias. His fearless, faithful actions ultimately impacted the Church forever. Will you let fear and anxiety stop you from doing something that might also have eternal significance?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Get Out of That Upper Room

It must have felt safe to be with the other disciples in that upper room. Surely officials were after these followers of Jesus. At least the disciples could be together, secluded from a world that now seemed so empty without the one who had changed their lives and turned their worlds upside down. Who could predict what would happen outside the walls of that house? Now Jesus'followers were left to their own devices. But were they? Little did they know that Jesus would become manifest among them, would eat with them, would instruct them, and leave as quickly as he appeared. Now it all began to make sense. He was the resurrected Lord, just as prophesied, just as Jesus had said would happen. The disciples could no longer contain their faith. They now knew that everything must be different. They had a treasure of knowledge that must be shared with those who had not known Him. Ascension and Pentecost would soon follow. There were no more excuses. It was time to get out and share the Good News that changes hearts, minds and lives forever.

Today is no different. We stay walled up in our churches. We want to believe that our congregations are safe places to share our doubts, our lives, our experiences with God. Some of us work hard to make it so. That's important, but if that is all we do, we have lost the point. The church is homeplate. But homeplate is worthless unless the player moves away from it, ultimately returning to do it all over again. How are we running the bases? What people outside the church have we touched, cared for, engaged in meaningful conversation about a loving God? The opportunities are all around us. Why are we afraid to venture out with our faith? We say we are reluctant out of 'respect' for others' beliefs. We know so many persons yet we won't probe the depths of human need and spirit which is the core of life itself. We can use these reasons to keep the walls up, but we need to understand that lives may go without knowing the transforming power of God because we chose to be respectful. As we watch the church in America shrink in attendance while surrounded by explosive population growth, what is our excuse?
How do we invite the seeker in? How do we welcome the stranger when we often just want to be friendly with our friends at church, blinded to the newcomer right in front of us?

Easter is here. It is a time to renew our commitment to God and to each other, with a faith that is not afraid to be shared. Get out of that upper room. You just might be surprised at the joy you find in sharing the Good News that you know to be true. If you are a leader, lead the way. No more excuses.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Doesn't Make Sense

According to Luke's Gospel, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and others with them told the apostles of the encounter with two men "in clothes that gleamed like lightning" at the empty tomb. They shared the message that "Jesus has risen!" But the Eleven did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

The modern celebration of the most holy of days for Christians must seem like nonsense to an unbelieving world. Someone obviously dead for days coming back to life? That is the stuff of science fiction. It just doesn't make sense. Faith in a triune God that acts mysteriously in the world and in our personal lives doesn't make sense either. That is just the point. Easter reminds us that our faith will never make sense. Until such time that our personal encounter with the living Christ changes us, breaks through our need for reason and logic, and opens our eyes to see in new ways the reality of God working in us, through us and the totality of creation.

The Church struggles with its mission, mostly because its people want it to be sensible. Letting go of control and trusting in an all powerful God is hard work and often doesn't make sense. Sometimes we catch the blinding glimmer of God's love; healing, reconciliation, birth, forgiveness, miraculous happenings, generosity, acts of kindness, and countless other ways. God's greatest act of love for us was embodied in Jesus. Let us not lose sight of the incredible sacrifice he made for us and the opportunity we have for new life because of his life. This is indeed Good News. It is our mission as leaders to share it with joy and anticipation of its power to change lives. This is what missionary leadership is all about. Forget the baggage around the word 'missionary'. Let this Easter remind us of why we do what we do, even if it doesn't make any sense. The world aches for this Good News. Why should we act as if we are embarrassed to share it?