Becoming a Mighty Warrior

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” [Judges 6:11-16]

Last week, toward the end of the Global Leadership Summit I sat absolutely transfixed, with tears in my eyes while one of the last speakers of the two day event read aloud this ancient Bible story about Gideon. Maybe it was just the mental exhaustion of two full days of leadership training and Bible teaching I had just sat through.   But as author Danielle Strickland, a senior officer of The Salvation Army, explained the story of how God appeared to Gideon while he was hiding from the Midianites and the transformation that occurred in his life as a result I started to see myself in Gideon and God’s words to him somehow became His words to me. As the tears started to run down my cheeks God put a bookend on the GLS and commissioned me to go out and do ministry.

winepressGideon was the youngest in his family. So am I. He had been told all his life that he was weak, that he could never do anything of significance for God or his fellow Israelites. When God found him he was hiding out in a winepress, most likely an underground wine cellar like the one shown, where an oppressive government couldn’t find him, trying to scrape out enough flour to survive. While my upbringing wasn’t exactly poor, and the messages I received from my family and community weren’t all negative I’ve never had my biggest dreams affirmed in a way that would give me enough confidence to go out and take on the world. Like Gideon, I have always had the tape running in the back of my head that says; “Who do you think you are? Just accept your lot in life and don’t rock the boat.”

When God appeared to Gideon and opened by call him a “mighty warrior”, Gideon understandably thought he had the wrong guy. I’ve questioned God’s wisdom in calling me to ministry too. I echo Gideon when I say to Him; “Pardon me Lord, but if you really want me to lead a ministry of financial reconciliation why have you allowed me to go bankrupt and struggle with my own finances for so long?”

God’s response to Gideon’s reservations is his response to mine as well. “Use the strength I have given you, it’s enough. I am sending you.”

Last week I wrote about my first impressions from the GLS and Bill Hybels opening remarks. Leadership is about moving from here to there, and as long as there exists, staying here is just not an option. This week it’s about strength and humility.

After she opened her talk with the story of Gideon, Strickland had us image a horizontal line and called it the continuum of true humility. The degree to which you are either insecure or arrogant is the degree to which you agree with God about who you truly are. Too far to either extreme and God may need to step in and bring you back to centre. I tend to swing wildly between extremes but at the end of the day I will usually settle somewhere on the side of insecurity.

She then had us image a vertical line and called it the continuum of true dependency. Strickland went on to explain that the degree to which we strive for self-sufficiency or co-dependency is the degree to which we agree with God about who He is. Our western society has sold us the lie that we must strive for more self-sufficiency and that depending on God, or anyone for that matter for help is a sign of weakness. But the truth is that we must carve out pockets of dependency in our lives in order for God to have the space He needs to show up and move in us.

benI can’t tell you the number of times that people have quoted what they thought was a Bible verse as a way to show me, and others that it’s up to us to fix our own problems. “God helps those who help themselves,” is a popular mantra of self-sufficiency but it’s not in the Bible. The phrase is actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin. There are a few comments made by King Solomon in Proverbs that promote the idea that God rewards initiative and some of the parables of Jesus, like the parable of the talents for example, show that God definitely wants us to work at things but the notion of God waiting for us to do something before he will bestow a blessing is just flat wrong. It’s those moments when we cannot help ourselves that God is able to step and move mountains.

Gideon’s encounter with God ends with him leading an army of just 300 men who defeat the Midianites without ever firing a single arrow or drawing a single sword. Gideon the “mighty warrior” is a case study in how God fights wars but that’s a discussion for another time…

God lives at the intersection of true humility and true dependency. The effectiveness of your mission depends on the degree to which you agree with God about who you are and who He is. When you step forward, in true humility and true dependency you step into God’s will, His peace and His righteousness and the Kingdom comes…


From Here to There

Leadership, in its simplest form, is the act of moving an organization from where you are here to a place called there. It is the job of the leader first and foremost to communicate the idea that it is unacceptable, unavoidable and completely unconscionable to remain here as long as there exists as a better and necessary place to be. [Bill HybelsThe Global Leadership Summit 2016]

glsI just spent the last two days at a local satellite site for the annual Global Leadership Summit put on each year by The Willow Creek Association. Through the magic of modern satellite technology the summit reaches nearly 300,000 people in 125 countries all simultaneously watching world class speakers in Chicago teach on leadership.

The site I attended here in Ottawa held about 300 people and many of the other sites across North America would have had similar numbers. Some sites in developing countries were quite small, some as few as a handful of leaders in one room somewhere in the desert or jungle of Africa.

The GLS was founded over 20 years ago when a handful of church and business leaders gathered in one room in suburban Chicago to discuss ways to bring mainstream business processes and leadership techniques to the local church. At the time, Willow Creek’s founder Bill Hybels felt he had received a vision from God that the “local church is the hope of the world” and he wanted to partner with business to equip local church leaders.

I’m still processing what I learned and the insight from some of the leaders will no doubt form content for this blog and shape my business practices for many months to come. But today I just wanted to key in on one point from Hybels’ opening talk.

I’ve been a faithful listener to the weekly podcast from Willow Creek Community Church for about 3 years now. I’ve heard Hybels and many others speak on the topic of leadership in a decidedly religious context on a number of occasions. I knew what to expect from him in terms of his polished speaking style and clear communication but taken out of the context of a Sunday service what he taught resonated with me on a whole other level. Don’t get me wrong, the message was exactly the same as he preaches on Sundays. Maybe it was the fact that I was sitting in an audience on a weekday, wearing my business suit, and not listening through ear-buds at the gym, but the message he delivered on this day felt different, more profound, and way more powerful.

Here it is in a nutshell –

When you receive a vision for the future, no matter how big, how difficult and how far removed from your current reality, it is unconscionable (i.e. SIN) not to work towards it.

Talk about a kick to the gut!

To be honest, I’ve heard Hybels say this in the weekly podcast before but this time the punch landed – hard.

For me, 2016 has been a very difficult year. For a lot of reasons that I don’t have time to go into now, I have let my eye off the ball. I have not been doing the things I know I need to do to reach my goals in both my personal and business life. I truly believe God has given me a vision for what my financial practice could be but heading into the fourth quarter my top line projections are off by over 40% year over year and my marriage has suffered from a lack of attention and communication. I have lost my passion for what could be and in a lot of ways settled for here.

And let me tell you in no uncertain terms – Here Sucks!

On the morning on the first day of the Summit I got up early to pray. I’ve been doing that a lot lately and on this morning I prayed that God would use my time at the Summit to help me find a spark of passion again. Boy did He come through.

I had barely been in my seat for half an hour when Bill Hybels delivered the line that for me at least would shape the rest of my two days at the summit.

Here sucks for good reason. God doesn’t want me here he wants me over there, time to get moving.

I’ve got a notebook of ideas that I will be implementing in the coming days, weeks and months.  But the bottom line is I’ve got my passion back.  Thanks Bill!  To the Glory of God!