Monday, January 31, 2011

What’s Your Missing Piece? by Kathie Nelson

The past is behind us.  We are ready for a fresh start and a clean slate.  Woo-Hoo!  We are focused and ready to roll….Right?  Well, maybe not.
What is stopping you?  What is YOUR missing piece?

My latest blog post is not your typical “new year’s” message.   I find there are people like me who, after all their planning, visioning, and goal setting still find they are seeking something more….that missing piece!  If you’ve had that nagging feeling I am talking about, read on and discover the 3 Common Traps of the Visionary Leader.

Do you need affirmation? I find many entrepreneurial types sabotage success by seeking to continually re-affirm their efforts, focus, and endeavor.  This is not the same as asking for customer feedback but rather seeking to have our doubts relieved.  The challenge we create for ourselves by seeking external validation, many times in the wrong places, we confirm our own fears which keeps us on an emotional roller coaster.

Here are some common questions I’ve found we want answered:
  • Am I doing the right thing?
  • Do I really have something valuable to offer?
  • Will anyone buy my service?
  • Will people really like me?
  • What if someone finds out I am faking it till I make it?
  • Fill in the blank….what is the question on your heart that needs affirmation?
Are you paralyzed because you need to know what’s next, what’s first, and want a complete road map from A-Z? There is a time for planning…and a time for action.  Planning becomes less effective when it drags on and on without sufficient action.  Some of the principle driven quotes that keep me moving forward are:
  • “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • “Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.”  -Norman Vincent Peale
  • “Be strong. Take courage….God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.” -Deut. 31:8 The Message
Is your arrogance keeping you from growth? O0uucch! That hurts!  Hey, I am  looking in the mirror as I am writing this post.  You are not alone!  You may be saying to yourself, “That’s not me!  Arrogance is boastful and proud.”  Really?  Could it be showing up in other ways?

For those of us self-starters, do-it-yourself’ers, bootstrapping types the action is where it’s at!  We cut our teeth on our tenacity, boldness, and our strong will.  We wrestled our vision into reality by working hard, trying hard, and generally producing a flurry of activity.  This serves us well in many situations but there is a time when it ABSOLUTELY keeps us stuck.  The truth is that our past success through hard work and activity can and does produce arrogance. It’s that attitude that says, “I know how to get things done. After all, look how far I’ve come!”   We continue to struggle  even when the current evidence of our activities with limited results proves us wrong.

How will you know if your arrogance is holding you back? When was the last time you hired a coach…and let them hold you accountable? When was the last time you stopped working so hard and took a break?  When was the last time you asked for honest feedback from more than just your friends who are going to tell you what you want to hear?  When was the last time you gave yourself permission to say “I don’t even know what I don’t know” and be willing to ask for help?
This is your year to find your missing piece!

You see, here is what I know for sure about you!
  • You have a big idea that drives you.  That big idea or vision was birthed out of your life experience, gift mix, and personal history.  It won’t let you go until you succeed or fail.  The only way you’ll fail is if you stop.
  • You were wired to pursue your big idea and make a difference in the world.  You have strengths that will accelerate your achievement…or deter you if over extended.  Those same strengths and life experiences that birthed your big idea will differentiate you from your competitor and in fact, make your competition mostly irrelevant.
  • You are a work in progress.  You know more today than you did, two weeks ago, two months ago, two years ago.  The same applies to the future!  You will know more in two weeks, two months, and two years than you do right now.  Never stop learning or growing.
  • You can absolutely, without question, make more money and have more fun working in your strengths and pursuing your big idea.  It’s outrageous, I know, but it is possible to build an economic engine that is fueled by your talents packaged as service that in turn impacts and influences you, your family, your community and possibly the world!
  • The catch!  You can’t do it alone.  None of us can.
I challenge you to
  • step out in faith and confidence,
  • look inside for what you know is true,
  • take action with a focus on what fuels you, moves you forward and learn from your results,
  • calmly say, “I don’t know what I don’t know yet, but I am going to find out”!
Kathie Nelson

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Looking Forward to a Bad Stretch of Road by James Ryle

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Act 20:24)
There are some things that require little effort, and yield small results. Many people content themselves to spend their days in just such trivial pursuit. Will you settle for being one of them?

F. W. Boreham wrote, “There is no intellectual stimulant so intoxicating as the formation of a noble purpose, the conception of a sudden resolve, the making of a great decision.” The truly heroic moments in life demand something far more than a casual commitment.

Such a purpose had gripped Paul’s heart and set him on an unswerving mission that would be met head on with much opposition. His dearest friends, the Ephesians implored him to reconsider his decision to go ahead – but their appeals could not mount a credible case in the face of his great faith.

“None of these things move me,” he answered.

Neither tender appeals from loving friends, nor looming threats from vicious foes would back this man down from testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. Os Guinness wrote, “The secret of man’s being is not only to live – but to live for something definite; to find the idea for which one can live…and die.”

Paul knew this firsthand, and standing on the shores of the Aegean Sea ready to sail for Jerusalem, he looked forward in faith to a bad stretch of road – knowing God’s grace was sufficient for it all.

    If you’ve been at it for any appreciable length of time then you know by now that this journey with Jesus is no cake walk.

It is not a stroll through the park on a blissful Sunday afternoon. No. The path has many turns – up turns and down turns, ditches on both sides, potholes aplenty, and mounds of debris inconveniently strewn all about. There are setbacks that stall you, and obstacles that intimidate you.

There are bystanders that deride you, backsliders that dismay you, and backstabbers that dishearten you. There are days when you walk with a company of passionate pilgrims who buoy your spirit with renewed aspiration; and then there are the days when you walk the lonesome valley all by yourself. Alone. Sitting in the dark. Eating dog food.

But God’s grace is sufficient.

Paul illustrates for us today the four distinguishing traits of a triumphant faith.

    * First, there is conviction of spirit – “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem.”
    * Second, there is composure of mind – “none of these things move me.”
    * Third, there is commitment of heart – “neither count I my life dear unto myself.”
    * And, fourth, there is constancy of purpose – “so that I might finish my course with joy.”

Paul was an immovable man; unflinching and full of courage. It was he who said, “be not weary in well doing: in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” It was Paul who constantly cheered others on their journey – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Co.15:58).

And it is Paul who by his own example inspires us today to “testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

Let’s go.

Robert's Quotes for the Week (#33) by Robert Ricciardelli

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Trust That You Belong to God by Robert Ricciardelli

When we fully trust that we belong to God and find in Him all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, we find true freedom, and can bring freedom to others. Our revelation of God's loving acceptance of us gives us victory over self-doubt and self-rejection that occasionally rise up to distract or defeat us. God reminds us of this through His Word, through each other, and through the many ways He speaks to us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Change Begins in Us by Robert Ricciardelli

We spend a lot of time noticing the changes that others must make to make our world better, but we often do not take the time to reflect the changes that are necessary within ourselves. The changes we would like to see, must begin in us. We become change agents for good by allowing God to change us first. Change is inevitable and constant, and the smallest God ordained changes can be the birthing place for miracles.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You Become What You Worship by Robert Ricciardelli

You become that in which you worship the most. If you worship money, you become greedy and manipulative. When you worship self, you become absorbed in whatever brings you pleasure. Envy fills your heart in the worship of things you do not have and that will can never satisfy your soul. When you worship God, you take on the nature and image for which you have been born, and stay the course for your destiny.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Task of Reconciliation by Robert Ricciardelli

Our task in this world as children of God is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people; in families, communities, cities, and nations. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is hardly visible. Our task through Christ is to reveal this truth in the context and reality of everyday life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Predictable God in an Unpredictable World by Robert Ricciardelli

Life is unpredictable. We can be happy, healthy or rich one day, and sad, sick, or poor the next. So who can we to hold on to, feel secure with, and trust at all times? God through Christ in us never leaves us nor forsakes us. We can absolutely know that nothing, today or tomorrow, in life or death, can get between us and God's love. God is with us, is for us, and in Him, our destiny is assured.

Monday, January 24, 2011

We Do Not Fear Darkness by Robert Ricciardelli

We walk in a "ravine as dark as death" and yet we have nothing to fear because God is at our side; This is not just a comforting thought but reality, and an experience of the heart that we can trust. We shine brightly as the light of the world by His Spirit when we live in this reality of peace in the midst of suffering, disillusions, and grief. Shine your light in people's sight, and watch God renew your strength each day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unique Experiences in God by Robert Ricciardelli

No matter how ordinary we think we are, we all can have unique experiences in God's presence, and unique missions announcing His presence to the world. All of creation can receive the grace of seeing God in the fullness of time. This experience is not for an exceptional few, but a gift that God wills for all to receive. But we must desire Him, embrace His love, and then we will know Him in a most personal way.
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Legitimate Vision by Malcolm Webber

A useful definition of leadership revolves around “vision,” and has three parts:

   1. The leader establishes the vision.
   2. He aligns the people in that direction.
   3. He motivates and inspires them to move and keep moving in that direction until they fulfill the vision.

Viewed from this angle, leadership involves movement toward a vision. This is a helpful way to understand leadership – but only if the vision and its implementation are legitimate.

Legitimate Vision

A “legitimate” vision means two things. First, the vision must genuinely be the will of God – consistent with the spiritual nature of healthy leadership. Apart from union with Christ, we can accomplish nothing of any value:

Abide in me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

A legitimate vision comes from God. Then it becomes the leader’s own vision – something he can share passionately with others, calling them to sacrifice and endurance in its pursuit. Without the divine initiation, man’s vision is mere human ambition.

Second, a legitimate vision will genuinely reflect what is good for the people, and not only what is good for the leader – consistent with the servant nature of healthy leadership.

…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… (Phil. 2:4-7)

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Pet. 5:1-4)

Healthy leadership is not just a matter of having strong convictions (a “vision”) and then unilaterally imposing them on a group of people. The leader’s course of action should not be simply to “sell” the people on his vision and then use his personal powers of persuasion (or coercion) to get them to follow it. Rather, the leader should first prayerfully determine, often with input from the people, what the right direction – the legitimate vision – actually is. Then, he should help the people to face reality, to deal with the true need or opportunity, and to think and act appropriately.

Legitimate Implementation

Not only must the vision be valid, the implementation of the vision must also be legitimate. Even when the vision itself is right, the exercise of the leadership to fulfill that vision can be terribly wrong and result in damage to the people. History is filled with examples of leaders who had high and ethical intentions, but whose stubborn pursuit of a single, unchanging strategy deeply hurt the very people they were sincerely trying to serve.

The exercise of healthy leadership is not a simple adherence to a predetermined series of actions, but it is a continuously-changing engagement with emerging needs and opportunities. This process of reflection, learning and adjustment must happen in the midst of the action within the community of the people who are being served and led.

Thus, the healthy leader does not make the people move as they pursue the vision – he helps them to move. He helps them to learn, to grow, to respond, to think well and to act well.

We short-change the idea of “visionary leadership” if we think it refers to big-talking, charismatic personalities who manipulate the people to accomplish their own predetermined and self-serving purposes. At its heart, visionary Christian leadership means union with Christ to know His purposes and then serving the people in the unfolding fulfillment of that legitimate vision.

The Church Jesus is Building by Wayne Jacobsen

"What do you think the church is going to look like ten years from now?" I get asked that question almost everywhere I go. People assume that my travels and correspondence give me a wider view of God's work in the world. And while it may be a bit broader than some, in the grand scheme of things, I interact with a very small slice of Jesus' followers and even that is a very specific subset drawn by the content of my books and websites.

Nonetheless I find it a fascinating question mostly for what it says about us. Our religious training has put our focus in the wrong place, asking the wrong questions, and leaving people feeling adrift when they have no need to be. No one can answer it with any degree of certainty and the question itself assumes a standardized answer that ignores Jesus' immense creativity in the world across differing cultures and local realities.

The question does admit, however, that we are in a time of transition, where the old congregational forms based on centuries of worn-out methodologies and compromised hierarchies no longer work. People are leaving their congregations in droves. Certainly many of those have abandoned God either believing he isn't real, or not worth knowing if he's the demanding busybody religion often presents him to be. But a significant number are leaving because their congregations were having a negative influence on their desire to know God and find real community. The reasons are numerous--empty rituals, irrelevant programs, messages provoking guilt or demanding performance, misplaced priorities, authoritarian leadership, superficial relationships, or simply the inability to honest friendships sharing a journey of spiritual growth.

It's easy to point fingers at those leaving. But even if you love the traditional congregation, you might want to look beyond it and ask why do we spend so much energy propping up a system that alienates so many wonderful people, instead of concluding that the people must not be wonderful because it no longer works for them.

For those who have given up on the congregation they were a part of, what do you do now? If you found your identity in a task you did for God or group you used to belong to, finding yourself outside of it can be incredibly disorienting. Even if your mind knows better, your emotions are still tied to the approval you received by being visible and active in a local fellowship. The same people who used to love and applaud you, now look down on you for "forsaking the assembly" and question your relationship with God.

Many feel like scattered sheep battling the guilt of their inactivity rather than using the time to deepen their own relationship with the Shepherd. Some seek another group of like-minded believers or try to start one of their own. If they do, they find themselves relapsing into that same feeling of superiority that comes from being in a group that is more committed to Biblical principals than the one you left, or at least thinks they are. But soon you realize that even a house church or an organic group can be as empty, or as abusive, as the congregation you left.

All the while, the question that nags you is, "What should the church look like?" The underlying premise is that if you just knew what it is supposed to look like you would know where to look or how to form one. That's why so many end up in the unending struggle to find the right church model to copy. In doing so they never realize that their own pursuit is keeping them from the very reality they desire.

If your connection to Jesus is growing, you are not scattered at all. You are simply finding that the voices of religious performance no longer hold the same weight and you are no longer getting the same validation you became accustomed to. Your passion to live inside his affection is drawing you to a greater gathering of believers tha you cannot yet see. Don't be afraid. You are not alone. Jesus is building a people in the earth who can live as his body in these days. You won't miss out. You are simply transitioning from religious obligation to a relational reality, and no one I've met on this journey has ever regretted the cost to do so.

So while I am not able to answer the question directly, I want us to look at how we can embrace the church Jesus is building in the world. I won't pretend my observations are complete or authoritative. They are simply the way I see it at this vantage point of my journey. Admittedly these thoughts have also been shaped by insights I've gained over the past fifteen years by tasting real community at home and in distant countries, and sitting at the tables of brothers and sisters around the world who have wrestled with these same questions, many of whom have lived outside the distractions of religious performance longer than me.

He Is Shaping A Bride
Jesus is building his church with the same passion that he has demonstrated through the ages. It may be hard for some to see, because they have used the term "church" to describe buildings and institutions, and thus have failed to recognize the church as she really is. Even if you attend a so-called church meeting, the church is not the meeting you attend or the organization that sponsors it; it is the network of Jesus-centered friendships that you enjoy in those institutions and beyond them.

He builds that church by first shaping people who can walk with him. I am thrilled with the stories I hear of people who are breaking out of religious molds and learning to live in the reality of the Father's affection. This draws them out of religious performance and obligation, which relies on human effort and ingenuity. They are learning to follow him instead of finding security in a specific group, doctrine, tradition, or ritual.

The words of Isaiah may even be more timely for the religious contrivances we have designed today:

"Who talked you into the pursuit of this nonsense, forgetting you ever knew me? Because I don't yell and make a scene do you think I don't exist? I'll go over, detail by detail, all your 'righteous' attempts at religion, and expose the absurdity of it all.... They're smoke, nothing but smoke." - Isaiah 57:11-13, The Message.

There's no doubt Jesus is exposing the absurdity of our religious self-effort. None of our activities matter if they are not drawing us into a meaningful relationship with him, where each one learns to hear his voice and follow him. As well intentioned as it may be, our work for him may be the greatest obstacle to actually knowing him. The New Testament is clear: the only thing more dangerous than unrighteousness is self-righteousness.

And let's not blame the institutions. Religion is not something we get from them; it is what those institutions provide to satisfy our fleshy inclinations. I know many who have left religious systems but are still living in religious ways of thinking. And I also know those who attend a local congregation, but they are not caught in the performance trap. Instead they are learning to love God and the people around them. They may have to ignore the guilt-inducing messages, or the manipulative tactics of those who seek to lead, but because they are free on the inside they can still be there to love beyond it all.

The church Jesus is shaping is one not driven to performance by fear, shame, or guilt. She doesn't respond to obligation or ritual or the absence of them. She is learning to live at the pleasure of the Head and that makes her radiant with his glory wherever she appears on the planet.

Living at Home
Our old religious inclinations tell us that what we need for a vibrant spiritual life is "out there" somewhere. Find the right group, movement, author, plan, or revival or you're going to miss out on what God is doing in the last days. That simply isn't true. Jesus told us not to buy into the notion that the kingdom of God was somewhere else. "The kingdom is within you!"

We all know how to live in our fears or anxieties. We know how to conform to the world's demands or religion's dictates. What Jesus wants us to teach us is to live at home in his Father, the same way Jesus lived in him. This is not a theology to subscribe to, but a way to live all day, every day. Living in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with where you are on Sunday morning at 10:00 and everything to do with following him through each day. Jesus did not come to create sacred space for us in religious services, or even in our daily quiet times. He made all of life sacred by coming to live in us and becoming a part of every thing we do.

This is not as complicated as many fear. The reason people have trouble discovering this reality is because they don't believe it is as simple as it really is. Living in communion with him is what he shapes in a wiling heart as we learn to relax in his love. Right where you are he can show you how to live at home in the Father, confident in his love, and at peace even in times of trouble

The loneliness some feel when they find themselves outside religious systems is really not a cry for more people; it is a drawing to God that we have tried to fill with other people. If you are not at rest in God's love for you, no amount of human contact will fill that void; it can only mask it. Let your loneliness draw you into a greater depth of relationship with him and then a new way of relating to others emerges.

Resist the Urge

It's often been said that the greatest enemy of the best is the good. It often is. The greatest distraction to being a part of what God is doing in the world is to be focused on human efforts, especially what we try to do for him. Nothing disrupts God's work around us more than when the arm of flesh asserts itself to try to do for God what we think God cannot do for himself.

When we feel unattached, unproductive, or insignificant this growing urge will prod us to "at least do something," as if misguided activity is preferable to a quiet, listening heart. If that doesn't spring from our own flesh, then it will from someone's near us. Many of our fellowship groups, Bible studies, and outreach efforts have begun with the perceived guilt that we are not doing enough for God. More time-consuming and irrelevant religious activities have been generated from that distorted impulse than any other. Authors manipulate it to sell books, and would-be leaders exploit it to get us to embrace their programs and contribute to their income.

The fruitfulness of God rises out of rest not anxiety, out of the gentle nudge of his Spirit not the vision of a charismatic leader. In truth, God is not asking us to do anything for him. He's already doing the best stuff in the world and as we learn to live inside of him he will invite us to be part of what he's already doing. One of the things I notice about the life of Jesus is that he rarely created the environment, or planned meetings for other people. He simply joined them in the environments in which he found them.

When we get so involved with our own planning we easily miss the moments Jesus puts right in front of us. They are always far simpler and yet more magnificent than what we conjure up. At the beginning they never look as flashy as our plans or appear to be as far reaching. Usually he's just inviting us to love someone. We have no idea how simple acts of obedience can snowball into consequences we never considered.

As long as you have any confidence in your flesh's ability to work for God, you will confuse the urge to be productive with the nudging of the Spirit. And the more capable you are in your own efforts and intellect the greater danger you're in of substituting the arm of the flesh for the breath of the Spirit.

Being part of his church happens by simply loving the people God puts before you each day.

A Different Kind of Gathering
God's voice isn't in the passion to create new church movements, nor is it in the cry for revolution. Those appeal to our own self-need for significance by belonging to the most cutting-edge group. God's invitation comes from within--that deep drawing into the Shepherd's care, and learning to love as he loves, to think as he thinks.

What the church will become in ten years isn't going to be unveiled in the next ecumenical conclave in Geneva or Hong Kong, nor in the latest how-to book on church life. What the church becomes in the next ten years will be the fruit of millions of simple decisions made each day by people like you who are learning to live loved by the Father. There is no model to copy, no method to implement.

The early church focused on Jesus and its life was merely the visible expression of how people who are alive in Jesus treat each other. It was not perfect, but it was full of life because their life was in him, not each other. The church was the joyful network of relationships that living in him spawned and its visibility in the world came simply from doing together those things he put on their hearts.

The church of Jesus gathers like a family, not with orchestrated meetings, but a celebration of relationship and sharing with each other. With the Father's love as the source of church life, not it's objective, a new range of possibilities as to how the church might gather will become clear. I already see God connecting in unique ways brothers and sisters across this world who live unencumbered by religious performance and seek simply to love as they have been loved. They are less concerned with getting church right than they are seeing Jesus reveal himself. Connections happen easily among such people as a friend of one quickly becomes a friend of others, and the body grows!

What will happen as that continues to spread? I don't know and don't need to know. I do expect, however, that this church will take more more visible expression over the next ten years than we can conceive. The forms that takes will uniquely fit the locale and the season of God's working, but in the end may not be all that different from ones we have already known. I'm sure it will involve meals together with lots of laughter and at times tears, insightful sharing, caring about each other, and listening to God together.

In the end, what forms that takes is far less significant than having authentic, caring friendships that put Jesus first. What we can do is learn to live in him and open our hearts to the connections he wants to make with us.

Live Connected

Being part of his church happens by simply loving the people God puts before you each day. Be intentional about cultivating friendships, especially with new people. Some will be temporary; others will connect at a far deeper level. In our human nature we mostly gravitate to people we already know who make us happy. Those relationships, however, are still focused on our needs whether it is to combat our loneliness or find an audience for our gifts, and won't lead us to the authentic friendships that radiate Jesus.

When you know you are loved by God, you own't have to use others to get what you want. Then watch what happens out of those relationships. You won't have to look far and wide for people of like mind. You won't need to find a group that believes what you do. Just take an interest in the people around you and let the results of that caring bear fruit over time. Some relationships may not go far at all. Others may be only a fruitful moment while others will become deep and enduring friendships.

Simply loving those around us will open whatever other doors Jesus needs to build his church. I am convinced that everything God wants done in the world can happen as the simple extension of growing friendships. That will provide fellowship enough, outreach enough, and work enough to let God's life flow to the world. He said so himself. If we will simply love others like he loves us the whole world will come to know him. (John 13:34-35) Because we don't believe that the world can be touched through simple, loving relationship we keep creating machines that we hope can do it for us.

I am often accused of being anti-structure. I'm not. I'm against structure as a substitute for relationship. I'm all for structure that facilitates whatever God asks us to do together. There is a huge difference. Over the past few years I've been part of some international efforts that have had widespread impact just because some friends cooperated together and God has continued to open some amazing doors.

Out of friendship we've been able to send over $100,000.00 overseas to help with relief in Kenya without overhead costs or administrative fees. I'm grateful for that, but I am also well aware that the best way the gospel spreads in the earth is by each one of us just loving the next person God puts in front of us.

If you don't know how to do that, ask for help from others who do. But be careful of those who try to herd you into their program or draw you into their vision. I'll probably share more about this in the next issue, but real elders in the family don't gather people to their vision, but help equip and free others to the vision God has for them.

And above all, relax. Building the church is Jesus' assignment, ours is to learn to live loved by the Father and then to love others in the same way. When we focus on our task, it is far easier for him to do his!

Leadership Snares by Morris Ruddick

"I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him." Romans 12:3 Amplified

Narcissism is an excessive conceit, an extreme level of self-admiration and vain self-centeredness. Accompanied by a disdain for perspectives considered less than its own, it results from an intoxication with one's self and point of view. Paradoxically, at its root is an unconscious inadequacy of wholesome self-esteem. Its behavior too often is drawn from the belief that the end justifies the means.

Simultaneously, true leadership walks a fine line that can bear a close resemblance to the pathway into this deceptive disorder. Leadership demands a confidence beyond the ordinary. It wields an influence that navigates past the trivial with results that make a difference. It is decisive. Genuine leadership operates beyond the boundaries of those enticed by power, prestige; those who yield to vain imaginations (Romans 1:21) and the subtle enticements of becoming "full of themselves."

Narcissism is a deception that manifests most plainly at high levels. It involves fine-line subtleties that ensnare those genuinely called when their long-awaited promotions thrust them into seats of power.

In a time when leadership within the Body is reaching parallels to the days of Joseph the Patriarch and the prophet Daniel, the distinctions between those who serve the Lord and those who do not are becoming much more obvious. So it will be in a leader's core modus operandi that the difference is determined between the many who are called and the few who are chosen.

From an era in which leaders in the Body have been personality-driven voices evoking followings; we are emerging into a time when history defines the leaders, known by His Name, by the impact of their influence, by the change they produce. They will bear the brand mark of the influence they wield on people of influence; through which there will be shifts in the roles of communities, segments of society, corporations and nations from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light.

Era of Dominion
Before us is an era to be navigated by an elect, behind the scenes leadership toward the mega-shift of dominion described in Isaiah 60. Much like in the days of Joseph and Daniel, these leaders will arise in the midst of turbulent times to excel within seats of power by means of stewarding God-centered gifts that serve.

The characteristics of the leaders who become the "few who are chosen" from the ranks of God's elect will be ones who truly operate in God, beyond themselves. They will be forerunners, aligned with God's heart, who consistently bypass leadership snares designed to divert them from the high-calling they have.

The thoughts, the very souls of the "few who are chosen" will be so immersed in God; that it will be said of them that the devil found nothing in them.
"The ruler of this world is coming and he has found nothing in me." John 14:30

Wielding God's power is a sacred thing. It carries the requisite of operating in oneness with Him; a place transcending the natural, described in Hebrews as within the veil. 

"This hope is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 6:19-29

It is the oneness with God's heart from which the authority will be released to bring a shift of "dominion." Nothing less will accomplish the mission for those destined as the chosen.
"I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me." John 5:30

Leadership Snares
Among the snares that pervert otherwise strong leadership qualities of modern-day Josephs and Daniels are the fine-line enticements of being overly opinionated; self-righteous, critical, performance-oriented, manipulative and selfishly ambitious.

Opinionated. There is nothing wrong with strong opinions if generated by wisdom. Where being opinionated becomes a snare is when tolerance and respect are lost. Wisdom seeks common ground and persuades. Both Joseph and Daniel retained their identities in God in the midst of occult surroundings. By their wise patience and faithful stewardship, they exerted an influence in some most unlikely circumstances that strategically served the long-term purposes for God's people.

Self-Righteous. The operative word in this snare is self. It is an assumed righteousness based on a misguided perception of one's own accomplishments, rather than the result of depending on God. Self-righteousness is not only a perversion of intended good, but a blindness. Taken to extreme, it manifests a perception of perfectionism.

Critical. People gifted with strong, analytical minds need to consciously be evaluating the impact of their tendencies to rectify and make things right. The fine line becoming a snare is when the need to correct has a purpose other than to bring healing or help. A critical spirit can often be an analytical gift that's lost its bearings. Even when being advised of his death sentence, Daniel did not point the finger or find fault, which certainly would have been a most natural response, but rather he sought God for the solution that spilled over to benefit all facing this dilemma.

Performance-Orientated. The fine line snare is when attempting to do the right thing is done for the wrong reason: the approval of men. When operating, it misguides by misplacing reality and God's wisdom with the perception of those it seeks to impress. King Saul lost sight of his calling and with that his kingdom, when his need to heed the word of his people overshadowed that of God's (1 Sam 15:24).

Manipulative. True leadership equips, enables and mobilizes others rather than lording it over them. Jesus outlined this kingdom dynamic when He said that Gentile rulers lord over their subjects and wield their authority for their own benefit. His example was a leadership driven by love, humility and service. (Luke 22:25)

Selfishly Ambitious. The one not concerned with who gets the credit holds the potential to be great. It's the basis of servant leadership. Giving focus to setting one's own nest on high (Habakkuk 2:9) is a snare that will undermine even the best of intentions. Promotion comes from neither the east nor the west, but from the Lord.

In short, fine-line leadership snares induce narrow-mindedness, that brings myopic, short-sighted results that undermine the long-term purposes of God. Those most susceptible are ones who, as described by the opening scripture have "assumed an exaggerated opinion of their own importance;" whose attitudes are described by the folk wisdom of getting too big for their britches.

Antidotes to Snares
For the elect on the path to be the chosen, the narrow path offers a firm foundation for those who understand their boundaries; whose hearts reject the pride of life, the love of the world and the lusts of the flesh; whose ongoing interactions with the Lord recognizes the ongoing need for repentance; and who continually immerse themselves in His Word.

Defining the Boundaries. Each of us has been equipped and gifted within a specific "sphere" for the purposes for which we individually are called. Accurately defining these boundaries and avoiding presumption is imperative to maintaining the course. Within the parameters of these boundaries is great authority and potential. Outside these boundaries, not only is the potential for multiplied presumption and misfires, but regardless of the good intentions it represents an area beyond the safety net tied to being in God's will.

"We will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us." 2 Corinthians 10:13

Humility. While one level of humility is the absence of arrogance or pride; in God it is the recognition of our complete reliance on Him for not only what we do, but for who we are. Humility is that level of unwavering faith that recognizes that others can do little to override God's purposes in our calling; only we can. In this regard, safety is found in humility. It is the pathway to holiness, leading into the fullness of His calling on our lives; of not being subject to the snares of the soul. The translation of the opening scripture from The Message punctuates the foundation for humility.
"It's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him." Romans 12:3 The Message

Repentance. Full repentance clears the decks of spiritual trivia, bondages, snares, judgment and curses. It is the means to bring every thought and attitude captive to the obedience of Christ; to realign our spirits with God's heart. Serious repentance, together with communion, activates the spiritual default button and opens the way when the passage has become bogged down. It is the poise of the soul of the mature.

Word Immersion. God's word is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 NASU). Deuteronomy 17 outlines the requirement for kings to daily immerse themselves in God's word in order to prevent them from becoming proud, assuring that they treat their subjects with dignity and fairness and to avert them from turning away from God's word in the smallest way. Below is the link for a 9 chapter a day Word immersion program from my latest book, "Something More." It is for the mature. When put into practice it will begin to address each of the above purposes that Deuteronomy 17 outlines for kings.

The Threshold
Embracing the heart that unlocks Kingdom dominion must first ensure it avoids the type of positional deceptions, elitism and heart that perverts the authority it wields: "Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up:  a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when glutted with food; an unloved (hateful) woman when she gets a husband and a maid when she succeeds her mistress." Proverbs 30: 21-23

The king with a heart of a slave misuses authority. The leader with a heart of a fool is ruled by desires. The one in charge without love will never trust and the ruler with an oppressed heart will pervert authority. It is the outworking of these elements within leaders that congeal to produce what scripture refers to as "the bondage of corruption" or what we commonly refer to as the abuse of power.

Within today's marketplace movement is an unspoken assumption that those bearing high-calling mantles to shift dominion will come from the ranks of the achievers; with their spiritual support from a band of intercessors and spiritual advisors dedicated to their cause. Regardless of the numbers, the spiritual support of the elect will never exceed that which flows from the heart of the one called. A similar notion masking the narrow path comes from reckless prophetic support for icons, who otherwise don't reflect the spiritual maturity of the calling they espouse.

The road toward narcissism is wide, alluring and seductive. Maintaining the course of the Kingdom pathway will involve recognizing and bypassing the fine-line snares to where evil has no root. It is the prime distinction of God's chosen from that of being like everyone else.
"Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many are those who go in by it." Matthew 7: 13

The alignment with God's presence and heart doesn't happen overnight. It's a process that carries a cost. It follows the pathway Jesus described as narrow and difficult. Each level of this path is filled with snares of both soul and spirit. Yet, in the face of systematic adversity, it is the very passage into a level of maturity that pierces and then enters within the veil.
"When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk they have secretly set a snare for me." Psalm 142:3

Jesus was the forerunner of piercing this veil between soul and spirit. Reaching beyond the veil is not an option, but rather the very dimension required that separates the many called, from the few who are chosen.
"If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? If in the land of peace in which you trusted, they wearied you then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?" Jeremiah 12:5

Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the call of God in the marketplace. He is author of "The Joseph-Daniel Calling;" "Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;" "The Heart of a King;" and "Something More," which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders called to impact their communities with God's blessings. They are available from, and other popular outlets.

Mr. Ruddick is also the founder of the Global Equippers Entrepreneurial Program, which imparts hope and equips economic community builders where God's light is dim in both the Western and non-Western world. To schedule a speaking engagement, sponsor a workshop, make a donation or to get more information on how you can help, contact Global Initiatives at 303.741.9000.

2011 Copyright Morris Ruddick -

Reproduction is prohibited unless permission is given by a SIGN advisor.  Since 1996, the Strategic Intercession Global Network (SIGN) has mobilized prophetic intercessors committed to targeting strategic-level issues impacting the Body on a global basis.  For previous posts or more information on SIGN, check:

Who is the Blessed Man? by Dudley Hall

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalms 1:1-3
     Who is that man? How stringent does one have to be to fit in these descriptions? Does only one misstep disqualify? Is the blessed man one who has never once heeded the counsel of a misguided friend or a mischievous huckster? Does his resumé have to be clear of ever standing for even a moment in the way of sinners? What if periodically he slips into scoffing about something that has confused him?

     And how much must he delight in the law of God? It mentions day and night. Does that mean all day and all night?  How much would be acceptable? And how deeply does he need to meditate? Can he just think it over or does he need to steep in hours of meditating over each word and thought?

     The holy prosperity that is promised to this blessed man -- is it withheld from anyone who does not perfectly fit the description?

     Sadly, we find ourselves longing for the condition described in the last verse. We would love to be like a tree planted by water, fruitful and well. But we still are not confident we can expect that because we aren't sure how well we have fulfilled the requirement.

     There is one man who has done it! He is not just an isolated man who happened to score perfectly. He is the representative man. He did it for a whole race of people who couldn't do it for themselves. He is the Son of Man as well as the Son of God. He actually lived up to these qualifications while on earth, facing the common temptations that haunt all of us. In fact, he is the only truly "blessed man" in all of history. Others may have experienced some good fortune, but only this man has the ultimate blessing of the Father spoken over him.

     Our hope is that we can be identified with him. We can, by faith, be transferred from the kingdom of disqualified mankind into the kingdom of God's dear Son. We are then blessed because of our relationship to him, not because of our success or failure to qualify.

     We are then able to taste the goodness of God and embark on a journey to know more of that goodness. We can choose to follow those descriptions of the blessed man. We find ourselves avoiding bad counsel and distracting friends because we are intent on experiencing more of the love we have tasted in being found in him. The delight of our heart then turns to the words and explanations of God to uncover more of the mysteries of the ultimate treasure. One day we look up to discover that we are acting like blessed people.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hearing From God For Yourself by John Paul Jackson

With the prophetic sometimes being tossed around in human ignorance and ego, this is a timely message from JP. God lives in you and more than anything wants YOU to hear his voice and not DEPEND on words from others. As you hear His voice, others may confirm what you are hearing. Many go to others as if they might go to a psychic looking for affirmation. They will often get the same diluted and misguided results they would get from the psychic hotline. It is time to step up as sons and daughters and receive from the Lord and not man. Then, the Lord can use His servants to come alongside us and affirm the Word we received from the HIM. Seek the Lord, His Kingdom, and His righteous voice, and everything you need will be delivered in the fullness of time. Robert...
A well-placed, well-detailed prophetic word is a powerful thing. Not only that, but it can make the person who gives it look really, really good! However, the more information we receive from the Lord ourselves, the easier it will be for us to complete what He has set before us to do.

For example, I could receive a clear word from God for someone and tell him, “The Lord says you are going to marry a woman named Brenda.”

What is the natural response when we hear words like that? From here on out, that man is going to be looking for women with that name. Eventually, he will find one, and, as he remembers the word I gave him, it would be very simple for him to jump to conclusions. Well, I like her. I don’t know if I really love her — but John Paul said I’m going to marry a woman named Brenda, so this has got to be her!

Five years later, that man is really angry with me. I never would have married this woman if it weren’t for John Paul. Look what he got me into!

Conversely, wouldn’t it have been better if I had given him the opportunity to make his own decisions? For instance, I could have communicated the same message by saying this instead: “The Lord wants you to know that your loneliness is not going to last forever. Get ready.”

This allows the man to come to his own conclusions. Wow! I wonder if this is the one for me? He has the option of the woman being “the one,” and he has the option of her not being “the one.” And he gets to work through it.

Then, five years down the road when the two of them are facing a difficult time, he won’t blame me! Instead, he’ll go to God and say, “God, You told me this was it. You’re the One who told me to do this! I need Your help!” Do you see how this works?

We need to get direction from God for ourselves no matter the decision we are facing, whether it is a move from one house to another house, a job change or even a car purchase. The more direction we can get from God, the better the situation will be for us. Why? Because anytime we hear from God, we are going to run into difficulty completing what He told us to do. The enemy is not going to sit back and say, “Oh, man! Bob just got direction from God! There is nothing we can do.”

Instead, in most cases the enemy will try everything he can to make the exact opposite take place, saying, “Bob got direction from God. Let’s try to convince Bob he didn’t get direction from God. Let’s do everything we can to convince him he heard the opposite!”

This is what happened with Joseph in Genesis 37. He was given a dream from God, and you can almost hear the enemy’s response to it: “He got a dream from God. His brothers are going to bow down to him. He is going to become a ruler over his people. Let’s sell him into slavery! You go move upon his brothers. You start instigating that type of thought process. I’ll prepare the slave drivers to come along this path. The brothers will cast him into a pit, and when the slave drivers come along, they’ll sell him into slavery. Joseph will be so discouraged that he won’t have any faith to believe what God said, and it won’t happen! This is the way we will destroy God’s plan!”

The enemy will attempt to destroy our faith when we have heard God’s voice. But if we cling to God and purpose in our hearts to see what He sees and to receive direction from Him, we will not be rocked when hard times come. We will understand what the enemy is up to, and it will actually encourage us to keep going. After all, if the enemy cares enough to try to discourage us, it will really discourage him if we press through to achieve that which God designed and called us to do.

The more we receive from the Lord ourselves, the easier it is going to be for us to see His purposes accomplished in our lives.