Lead and Follow! Who is in the Lead?

Some people find it naturally easier to lead; others prefer to follow. Whether we lead or follow, the question arises “Who is the leader here?” Without followers, a leader isn’t leading; without a leader it is difficult to know who to follow.

Who is in the lead?

Lead and Follow

I introduced a practical exercise to a group of children learning worship dance. First a leader was chosen. Each child faced the leader and mimicked the lead dancer’s movements. After a couple of minutes the leader  became a follower designating the next dancer as the new leader. Around the circle we went. Everyone had opportunity to lead; all attempted to follow.

Afterward I asked what was difficult about leading. These answers and more came in childlike honesty:

  • “I was afraid no one would follow!”
  • “What if others didn’t like what I was doing!”
  • “Everyone was expecting me to come up with the ideas!”

Then I asked what was difficult about following.

  • “I was moving in one direction and the leader went the other way!”
  • “When I thought I had the leader figured out, she changed what she was doing!”
  • “I never knew what the leader would do next!”

If we are honest, we too would acknowledge similar problems when leading and following.

A Leader who is Safe

Whether we articulate it or not, we want leaders who are safe and predictable!

Jacob had connived his brother out of his birthright and his blessing. Then, fearing for his life, he fled to the far side of the known world. God met him in his running.

In a dream, he saw angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven.

” There above it stood the Lord, and he said:
I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.
I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.”
Genesis 28:12-13

 

Leaders who are safe and predictable

Needless to say, Jacob was disturbed by the dream. Frightened, he bargained with God:

If God will be with me and will watch over me
on this journey I am taking
and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear

so that I return safely to my father’s household,
then the Lord will be my God…”
Genesis 28:20-22

If my thoughts and prayers were publicly exposed to scrutiny, they would appear just as self-centered. If God will be a safe God, a me-serving God, ensuring my comfort, provision and care, then I will worship and follow Him.

Jacob wasn’t ready to give up the lead, until God proved He was good!

A Leader who is Present

How do you follow a leader you cannot see? That was Peter’s predicament!

Just a few short years prior, Peter made the choice to “leave all” and follow Christ, even when leaving meant passing up the greatest windfall catch he had ever seen.

“Then Jesus said to Simon,
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
So they pulled their boats up on shore,
left everything and followed him.”
Luke 5:10-11

Peter was a natural leader. For three years, his leadership training took him through unfamiliar territory of following Jesus. Just when he was beginning to get the hang of this following stuff, Jesus left. What does a follower do without a leader?

The most natural leadership Peter knew was from a fishing boat. He immediately diverted to old patterns. Three years of training appeared to fly out the window, or should I say jump overboard?

Follow the leader!

“Quack! Quack!” Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, plus two other disciples joined the line of would-be-deserters and followed Peter’s lead. Like it or not, a leader is always leading – for better or worse!

Just like his last fishing excursion, Peter’s all night fishing accomplished nothing. Then Someone on the shore suggested he try fishing in a new way,

“Throw your nets on the right side of the boat
and you will find some.”
John 21:6

The immense catch of fish revealed Jesus’ identity. Peter immediately jumped overboard and approached Jesus, leaving his would-be-followers alone in the boat.

Jesus challenges Peter’s devotion three times and then finishes with,

Follow me!”
John 21:19

This unpredictable, unseen One is still asking and inviting one-time followers and would-be leaders to follow undeterred His lead. “Follow even when you can’t see Me. Out of heart of love, follow Me, leading others well!”

A Leader who is Predictable

I have always felt drawn by nature into secluded places. As a young girl, I chanced upon a herd of white-tails. The buck sensed something alien hiding in the willow bush and advanced with nostrils flaring and antlers flinging dust in the air. I crouched breathless – unmoving! Though he could not see me clearly, he was wary. With one flick of his tail, the entire herd of thirty-or-so deer turned, springing effortless over fences and out of sight. My heart raced in the midst of unpredictable danger and wonder!

Whitetail deer - encountering a stag in the lead!

Following God often leaves me breathless in heart-racing uncertainty with a combined sense of danger and wonder!

Following God often leaves me breathless in heart-racing uncertainty with a combined sense of danger and wonder! Click To Tweet

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

I want God predictable! But ask Job how predictable God is! Or maybe Joseph!

God, unpredictable? Yes! He seems unpredictable only because His ways and thoughts are brilliant and magnificent in every dimension.

Climbing to mountain heights

While He is leading the way to jagged mountain peaks, I’m content frolicking in the plush meadow. I’m know I’m not alone! Others have been caught slip-footed as He has leading them through flooded rivers, toward “invincible” armies, or into prisons and cave fortresses.

Lead And Follow

Following well has always been difficult for me. I echo the sentiments of my little dancers. It is uncomfortable to follow, when I’m not sure where, how or when God is about to move, change directions, or lead toward unfamiliar terrain.

I often sense God looking over His shoulder wondering if I will follow here… now… ever…

Though His ways are confusing, at the least, and perplexing more oft than not, I know I can (and should) trust His lead. Why? Because I know He is indescribably good. Where He leads is for my inevitable benefit, though perhaps lacking in personal comfort.

“Lead and Follow” is far more that a children’s activation exercise. I, too, am perpetually working on my step-by-step follow to my Father’s perfect lead. You see, to follow well requires complete surrender to another’s will and ways.

The only way I will grow as a leader is to ultimately become a faithful follower. It is wonderful paradox!

 

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More on leadership!

 Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Moses – The Defining Qualities of a Great Leader

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The Heart of a Servant – To Serve is in Your Hands

Heart of a Servant - It's in your Hands

To be a servant literally means “to tie or to bind.” Jesus taught and demonstrated a life of absolute service, to His Father, to His disciples and to the world. No other person in history has given Himself as wholly to serve as Jesus did. The privilege to serve is in our hands and in our hearts.

Serve Upward

There are multiple examples of people serving those of higher status or position. These are only a few:

  • Joseph served Potiphar and then Pharoah
  • Samuel served Eli even as a young child
  • the Shunammite woman served Elisha
  • Nehemiah was servant and cup bearer to the king
  • Ruth left her home caring for her mother-in-law Naomi, and gleaned in the fields
  • David carried cheese to his older brother’s who were stationed at the front lines of battle
  • Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna served Jesus

Someone has to carry the cheese

Carrying the cheese may seem like the most insignificant of tasks, yet it was the first step from shepherd boy to king. Great promotions are often wrapped in small acts of kindness and service.

The easiest One of all to serve is, of course, Jesus. He has given so much for us, loves us beyond comparison, and paved a wide road of selfless servitude.

“Whoever serves me must follow me;
and where I am, my servant also will be.
My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
John 12:26

The words “servant”, “service”, and “serve” are found over 1100 times in the bible. To serve in Hebrew had two key ingredients: the action of working and obedience. In the New Testament, it refers to “a relation of absolute dependence, in which the master and the servant stand on opposite sides, the former having a full claim, the latter having a full commitment.”

Serve Outward

Jesus disciples lived in a culture much like ours with people striving for bragging rights to top-dog positions.  These chosen men quarreled over who was the greatest and best.

“He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him,
and said, “Whoever wants to be first
must take last place
and be the servant of everyone else.”
Mark 9:35

I flip the page in my bible to find the same problem within their ranks. Jesus admonished them,

“You know that the rulers in this world
lord it over their people,
and officials flaunt their authority…”
Mark 10:42
 

Blow our own balloons or lift others up

Flaunting and lording remains common place; however, it has no place in God’s kingdom!

“But among you it will be different.
Whoever wants to be a leader among you
must be your servant,
 and whoever wants to be first among you
must be the slave of everyone else.”
 Mark 10:43-44

Paul later wrote: 

“Don’t push your way to the front;
don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Daily we have opportunity to either puff ourselves up or propel others to reach their full potential. It is no surprise that God blesses and promotes those who serve and honour others above themselves.

Serve Down

Throughout the world, most cultures demonstrate a healthy expectation to serve those in higher position. It is quite easy to serve within our peer groups. It remains beyond our understanding to comprehend Jesus, the King of Glory, willingly serving downward.

Shoes of humility serve others

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power,
and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal,
took off his outer clothing,
and wrapped a towel around his waist.”
John 13:3-4

Remember, the meaning of servant is “to tie or to bind.” The towel wrapped around the center of Jesus’ body was a perfect symbol of servanthood. He bound Himself to serve. It was such a profound illustration that the disciples were shocked by His move.

After that, he poured water into a basin
and began to wash his disciples’ feet,
drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
John 13:5

Peter, one of the dog-eat-dog Twelve, at first refused the gesture. Later he grasped the concept:

 “Each of you should use whatever gift
you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
I Peter 4:10

To follow Christ’s example we must know who we are, Who we belong to, and why we are here. Unless we are secure in our identity in Christ, we will have limited capacity to serve with wholehearted devotion.

Am I prepared to pick up the servant’s towel and wash the feet of all those around me? My honest answer is not entirely! Yet, the challenge is before me!

“I have given you an example:
you should do just as I have done for you.”
John 13:15

Humility to Serve

Through Christ our only right is to humbly serve!

Through Christ our only right is to humbly serve! Click To Tweet

The mark of every Christian is humble service. When Peter began to comprehend what Christ was doing, he declared emphatically,

“not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
John 13:8

We may have good intentions with hearts rightly positioned and yet still get tripped up in the follow-through. It is our feet that need cleaning – these feet that embrace the ground, the dust of humanity, taking the most abuse and getting the dirtiest.

Need only to wash your feet!

As Christians, Christ has already purified our hearts and cleansed our minds. Still, we need foot-washing reminders of our purpose in serving others.

Jesus actions prepared the disciples for servant leadership. Each of them would eventually lay down their lives in service for others.

All, that is, except one! Jesus washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray Him to the cruelest of deaths. What an expression of ultimate servanthood!

Servanthood Demonstrated

Last fall I was privileged to attend a Women on the Frontlines Conference in Winnipeg. On opening night, a group of prominent male leaders, apologized for not being willing servants to women in their churches, communities and homes. They acknowledged the glass-ceilings they had perpetuated over women.

The sounds of gentle weeping crescendoed around me. Many women had never experienced such a gesture of respect and honour, even though the majority were recognized leaders in their churches and communities, sacrificially serving in various capacities.

For the remainder of the weekend, these men served consistently, joyfully and lavishly. Their acts of service washed deep wounds and lifted invisible burdens from many women present.

No towels wrapped the waists of these men, yet they displayed how people of strength open doors of opportunity, minister healing, and restore dignity through humble service.

Servants open doors for others

Participants were impacted by this “upper room” experience. They were inspired to greater acts of service as they returned to cities and towns from Ontario to Alberta. Why? Because a handful of men showed the way!

Let each of us be encouraged to pick up the towel of service where we live and serve well. May we activate the words of Jesus, “do just as I have done for you.”

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Further Reading:

Creating a Culture of Honour – Honour God – Honour All!

Wake Up Deborah! Part 3 – Jael Strike the Enemy!

Deborah Arise - Jael Strike the Enemy

God planned every detail of their victory, not just for Israel, but beyond. Deborah’s voice and Barak’s bravery secured the battlefield, but the courage of Jael would extend the victory to all. It is time to strike the enemy!

You never have to go looking for your enemy! The enemy is looking for you!

Be alert and of sober mind.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Our story began with a woman, “the wife of Lappidoth.” Let me introduce you to Jael, “the wife of Heber.”

Opposites Attract

If ever there were opposites, Deborah and Jael are a perfect illustration. Jael’s husband Heber had

moved away from his tribe…
Heber’s family was on friendly terms with King Jabin.”
Judges 4:11, 17

Heber means “alliance”. As a descendant of Moses’ brother-in-law, Heber believed in God but allied with the enemy.  Heber had led his whole family to do the same. In this no-man’s-land of compromise, Jael’s home was in constant jeopardy.

Heber a lover of God but ally of the enemy

They lived by the Oak of Zaanannim, “removings”.

Before you throw too much judgment at Heber, consider his predicament. He was a foreigner in a foreign land. The incessant and degrading worship of non-gods was invading his home. However by “removing” his family from Israel’s wicked influence, he was also exposing them to a greater threat of destruction by invading troops.

Heber and his family walked a fine line for survival!

On one side, we see Deborah married to a powerful man of fire and faith. She was an anointed, fruitful and honoured woman, a beautiful and rare “palm” within Israel. On the other, we find Jael as common, as ordinary, as the sheltering oaks that surrounded her tent. Yet, she possessed a strength she did not yet know.

Defeated before she began!
Struggling to make ends meet!
The cards stacked against her!
The wrong family!
The wrong place!

The Enemy Knocks

Before Sisera knocked at her door, Jael saw him coming. His presence always signaled trouble for her and her household. Alone and running for his life,

Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael.”
Judges 4:17

A heart as dry as the desert

Though her ears never heard Deborah’s prophecy, God had this courageous, quick thinking woman ready!

“The LORD’s victory over Sisera
will be at the hands of a woman.”
Judges 4:9

How trapped in the cycle did Jael feel?  She knew already Sisera’s army lay defeated. Why else would he be on the run, fearfully glancing over his shoulder. Even without an army, Sisera possessed enough personal strength to annihilate her family.

God had asking her distant relative,

“What is that in your hand?”
Exodus 4:2

What could she, a woman, possibly do now? Courage rose above fear! She steeled her heart and steadied her mind! Her existence depended on it!

Sisera’s wild eyes and hands whitened against his sword disclosed his unpredictable nature.

What is in Your Hand?

It was a woman’s responsibility to tend to every aspect of her tent, from construction to maintenance. She would be the one to set up, repair and dismantle it. Like every mother today, it was her responsibility to protect it!

“Come into my tent, sir. Come in. Don’t be afraid”
Judges 4:18

Jael disarmed Sisera’s fear and used his fatigue as opportunity. She calmed the wild bull of a man with warm milk, settling him in a secluded corner of her own tent. Jael covered him with her blanket assuring him to rest.

“If anybody comes and asks you if there is anyone here,
say no.”
Judges 4:20

No where to run! No where to hide!

So many lies! The deceiver asleep in her tent! How tired was Jael of running, moving and longing for security? There was no where to hide. No more lies! No more making peace with the enemy!

The Courage of Jael

How many times had lies increased trouble for her household? Countless! Each lie strangling, poisoning, numbing to truth.

“No more! No more lies!”

As Jael watched her tears fall to the dusty ground something caught her eye. There they lay where she had fastened the last cord of her tent.

Numbly she reached for the long spike and crept toward Sisera, her heartbeat echoing in her ears.

As Deborah spoke in a voiceless land, Jael would no longer be silent! If Barak moved in audacious faith to engage Sisera in battle, she would not sit still! Because 10,000 men rose to the call without sword of shield, she would not rest!

While Israel’s warriors raised their voices in triumph, one obstacle prevented lasting peace. He was asleep on Jael’s floor.

God, who brought victory for the army of Israel, steadied her hand and her resolve.

“with her left hand she reached for a tent peg,
and with her right hand for the workman’s hammer.”
Judges 5:21

Courage is contagious. It started with Deborah, ignited Barak, and activated an army. Once awakened, courage flowed to the common, the ordinary, the survivors, the crippled, and the wounded. From the same dust that drank the blood of Sisera, courage continued to rise.

A Hammer and A Nail

Jael did not know that she was the fulfillment of Deborah’s prophecy. She was simply a mother watching over her tent.

Jael also didn’t realize she signalled another blow that would crush another head.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
  Genesis 3:15

Every believer since Adam and Eve has lived, like Heber and Jael, in the borderland between faith and alliance with the enemy. Some are caught in this broken place paralyzed by fear, incapacitated by sin, and numbed by lies.

In the North American Church today only 5% of Christians live in vibrant faith:

 bible reading full of exciting revelation
readiness to share the Good News of Christ
stepping into areas of ministry
praying with fervent faith
caring for the poor and under privileged
raising up disciples
enjoying God’s abiding presence.

Borderland is the prison confines of the too many!

Christ has paid the price for freedom! In His death and resurrection, He has crushed the deceiver once and for all!

May Deborah, Barak, 10,000 warriors and an ordinary woman named Jael, ignite an appetite for more. May we not settle for borderland living, but move toward freedom! If Satan has gained access anywhere in our homes, our families, our communities, our nation, or our world… arise!

Through the victory of the cross, STRIKE the enemy! God has already crushed his head and won the battle! Reach for the hammer and the tent peg. We may only get one swing, so let’s make it good!

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If you missed the first two parts of “Arise! Wake up!”, read on!

 

Wake Up Deborah! Part 2 – Arise Warriors Without Weapons

Deborah Arise - Warriors without Weapons

The people began to cry out to the LORD in their oppression. God called forth Deborah as prophet and judge over Israel. She arose inspiring warriors without weapons to fight.  Deborah’s voice became a tremor that shock her nation to stand!

Though most of the judges were acknowledged following a major victory, Deborah was an exception. She was a valiant and powerful leader prior to any military exploit.

A Mother of Israel

The bible and history show how God raises up a woman during revival or crisis. When a woman leads, it is birthing time – time for a new generation, a new move, or a new thing. Women are designed to produce seed, carry it to maturity and then bring it forth. Men contribute to the process, but only women birth!

She senses movement! She perceives time!

“People avoided the main roads,
and travelers stayed on winding pathways.
There were few people left in the villages of Israel –
until Deborah arose as a mother for Israel.
When Israel chose new gods,
war erupted at the city gates.”
Judges 5:6,7

People avoided the main roads.

Israel was desperate! City streets were unsafe, let alone the country roads. Because they had forsaken God, He turned them over to their Canaanite enemies.

It took twenty years, but Israel began to cry out to the LORD. They didn’t repent; nor did they seek mercy. They cried for relief from oppression.

“Bee”

We are born naked but with gifts. God has entrusted each of us with natural and spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill His purposes. Deborah busily exercised her gifts of prophecy and wisdom living up to her name, meaning “bee”.

Breaking through stereotypes, she arose as political and spiritual leader over Israel. Often, it is in difficult times that ones’ true nature is revealed.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
—Joseph Kennedy

Deborah - "bee"

When the queen bee starts moving, warriors become activated responding to her instincts.

Wake up, Deborah, wake up!
Wake up, wake up, and sing a song!
Arise, Barak! Lead your captives away…”
Judges 5:12

Out of apathy and complacency Deborah arose prophetically speaking God’s word over her nation. God’s voice through Deborah pierced the atmosphere, gaining her recognition as a righteous judge.

Woman Under Cover

The bible prioritizes whatever is mentioned first. The first detail spoken of Deborah is that she was

“the wife of Lappidoth.”
Judges 4: 4

Lappidoth means “torches or flames.” A wife first, she honoured her powerhouse husband. They were equals! Deborah was a prophetic torch over her nation; her husband was also a man of fire.

Lappidoth - torches or flames

strong husband releases and opens doors for his wife to serve God wholeheartedly.

Whether male or female, it is imperative that we honour leadership staying under the spiritual cover they provide. Godly leaders will always build, advance, and promote others whether in our homes, churches or workplace.

Prophet and Judge

“The Israelites would go to her for judgment.”
Judges 4:5

Deborah’s position took courage and strength.  Standing against the wickedness of her nation, she challenging Israel to godliness. Displaying faithfulness  and wisdom, she received honour and respect from all.

God fights for Israel

The day came! Something was shifting! She declared the word of victory to Barak, the military leader.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel,
commands you call out 10,000 warriors
from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun …
I will call out Sisera … along with his chariots and warriors,
to the Kishon River.
There I will give you victory over him.”
Judges 4:6.7

Women arise! Wake up and step into God’s purpose! In your rising, inspire and elevate men as leaders and warriors. God is calling our men to stand and fight. Deborah’s daughters will always speak God’s word of victory into men.

Woman of Wisdom

We know little about Barak. Some would call him weak; I think he was wise. Barak means “lightning”! Lightning is different from a “flame” or a “bee” but extremely powerful.

“Yet, not a shield or spear could be seen among
forty thousand warriors in Israel!”
Judges 5:8

Deborah’s word from God was so powerful that 10,000 warriors without weapons gathered to engage a vicious enemy! “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It takes a man of audacious faith and courage to head out into battle without a weapon in hand!

Israel had one weapon! The word of the LORD, through Deborah!

I will go, but only if you go with me.”
Judges 4:8

Deborah neither pinpointed Barak’s response as weakness, nor did she ridicule, nag, command or manipulate. Deborah prophesied that the glory of victory would be shared with woman – accolades Barak was willing to share. Together they became a fearless force drawing from each other’s strengths.

God’s choice of a man to partner with Deborah for military victory was no accident. Barak

  • did not covet personal glory
  • held no prejudice or gender bias
  • desired God’s continued word and presence to guide him
  • determined to stay under spiritual cover

Know Your Position

God’s voice spoke through Deborah,

Get ready! This is the day
the LORD will give you victory over Sisera,
for the LORD is marching ahead of you.”
Judges 4:14

This is the day! It is birthing time! She convinced Barak to fix his eyes on the LORD. Victory would come through God’s intervention alone. Barak needed only to muster his small army of 10,000 foot soldiers and obey.

Sisera and 900 chariots

The Canaanite came like a flood, 900 chariots strong. But God! God had a flood of His own!

LORD, when you set out
and marched across the fields…
the earth trembled, and the cloudy skies poured down rain.
The mountains quaked in the presence of the LORD….
The stars fought from heaven,
The stars in their orbits fought against Sisera.
The Kishon River swept them away –
that ancient torrent, the Kishon.”
Judges 4:4, 5, 20, 21

Flash flood and overflowing river? Chariots immobilized!

Shared the Victory

Deborah partnered with Barak on the battlefield; then they sing the only recorded biblical duet. Deborah was already known for her songs of worship; Barak joined her triumphant chorus.

“On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song.”
Judges 5:1

No other woman in the bible exemplifies honouring God and others like this woman! Deborah willingly acknowledges those strategic in battle:

  • the LORD (5:2-6, 9, 11,20-21)
  • Barak (5:12,15)
  • Israels’ leaders and commanders (5:1, 9)
  • the people who fought, especially from Zebulun and Issachar (5:1,9,13,14,18)
  • Jael (5:24-27)

As a godly leader, she built up her team, commending the brave and inspiring them to further greatness. Deborah’s anointed leadership brought forty years of peace for Israel.

Together, Deborah and Barak present a profound illustration of the synergy available when men and women work together. They demonstrate the essence of honour, bridging genders and uniting spiritual, political and military strength.

Arise! Wake up and step into your anointing! Lock arms in victory! Together we will be undefeated in Christ, and when we do revival may just be around the corner….

Rise up, O LORD, in all your power
with music and singing
we celebrate your mighty acts.”
Psalm 21:13

But there is one more piece! Without it victory will never be complete!

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More Reading:

Wake Up Deborah! Part 1 – Take Your Position

Do it Again Lord! Renew! Restore! Revive!

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Wake Up Deborah! Part 1 – Take Your Position

Wake Up! Take your Position!

Deborah was an Old Testament wife, prophet, and judge. Awake to the call of God upon her life, she fulfilled each position with distinction. Deborah’s unmovable stance earned her the name “Mother of Israel. Hear her call, “Wake up! Take your position!”

We can all learn from Deborah’s position of preparation that would secure national victory.

Deborah’s position was neither a title nor a job description. She chose to seat herself under a date palm. Deborah and the palm became synonymous of each other.

Deborah Sat

She would sit under the Palm of Deborah
between Ramah and Bethel”
Judges 4:5

When her nation was busy in the chaotic worship of idols, she sat. With the strong arm of Canaanite oppression destroying her people, she sat. As people came to her, crying in their pain, she sat.

Deborah was neither complacent nor indifferent. She rested in the security of her calling, anointing and gifts. Deborah knew her place and her God.

The Palm of Deborah positoned between self-promotion and self-protection.

She sat between Ramah, meaning “hill or height” and Bethel meaning “house of God.” It would have been easy for her to push toward Ramah for status, promotion and position. She did not! It would have been just as easy for her to escape from the pressures and ugliness of her imposing culture in Bethel, secluded in God’s presence . She would not!

Chose the place between self-promotion and self-protection! Resist the compulsion to do either. Click To Tweet

Deborah chose the place between self-promotion and self-protection. Moving prematurely upward or continuously inward would not only be sinful, but also incapacitating. She resisted the compulsion to either.

Unlike other judges who sat at the city gate, or held circuit court from city to city, Deborah sat among her people. To this remote location, they came. Day after day, morning until evening, she was accessible to all. The Mother of Israel was always on duty!

Double Fruitfulness

Ramah and Bethel were in the hill country of Ephraim. Ephraim means “double fruitfulness.” As we align ourselves with God’s purpose and direction, there will be double fruitfulness.

The palm is beyond a doubt fruitful. It begins producing at 6 to 8 years and bears abundant clusters of fruit until well over a hundred.

Double is actually the smallest dimension of blessing available to us. Though double is good, a hundredfold is possible!

“…truly hear and understand God’s word
and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty or even a hundred times
as much as had been planted.”
Matthew 13:23

Position in double fruitfulness

Deborah knew who she was and what she was called to. Here she stayed unwavering. May we all see clearly God’s plan and position for our lives and be willing to stay in His chosing:

as a homemaker or a doctor,
a bus driver or a trucker,
a teacher or a lawyer,
a janitor or an executive,
a garbage collector or an engineer…

Don’t move from God’s position! Excel where you are. Remain faithful to the task in front of you. Increase comes by staying the course.

Under the Palm

The date palm was rare in Palestine. In majesty, its height reached 60′- 80′ above the plains, as far from earth and as close to heaven as possible. Here it flourished in perpetual greenness.

“Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.”
Psalm 92:14

Syrians credit 360 different uses to the palm. One for every day of the year and more! Under the Palm of Deborah, there was no shortage of wisdom and justice. Beneath the straight and upright palm, Deborah proved herself true to God and compassionate to the needs of others.

As tokens of peace and victory, Solomon had palm fronds carved ornately in God’s temple. As she sat under the palm, Deborah declared peace and victory over her distraught nation.

Growing from Within

The Palm of Deborah beautifully stood in stark contrast to the barren landscape. Similarly, Deborah arose, unhindered amid spiritual drought, oppression, and cultural discrimination.

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree.”
Psalm 92:12

The rough bark of a palm forms an almost impenetrable barrier. We all face extreme pressures and hindrances in our development to maturity and fullness in faith. Many Christians succumb to cultural demands to conform and comply. Deborah did not!

The rugged hard bark of a palm tree.

As an endogen, the palm grows from within. What a fitting image of a Christ follower! From the inside out, we are empowered and enabled by Holy Spirit to grow beyond imposed barriers.  Hard outer restrictions yield to the invisible, internal movements of God. Ever expanding outward and triumphantly stretching upward, we grow.

Nothing can hinder God or keep us from our calling. Nothing!

Positioned in righteousness, Deborah flourished like the palm! With ears open to God’s voice, she surrendered to His leading – even when His leading was sit.

Position to Lead

Daily Deborah sat under the palm with it’s truck permanently scarred by fallen leaves – each scar a visual reminder of those who had fallen into idolatry.

A palm trunk scarred by fallen leaves.

“I have no greater joy
than to hear that my children
are walking in the truth.”
3 John 1:4

The greatest sorrow is the opposite. Deborah’s tears mingled with those weeping over the stranglehold of idolatry. My shoulders, too, have been stained with the tears of the broken; my pillow drenched with tears for the fallen.

A Roman coin bears the imprint of a woman weeping beneath a palm. If it was Deborah, we do not know. But while she sat, Deborah interceded for her people, seeking their freedom. Our ministry must never exceed our willingness and ability to pray on behalf of others.

Deborah joined the crescendo of the cries of her people as they

cried out to the LORD for help.”
Judges 4:3

The Word of Victory

God gave the word of victory! My tendency would be to jump up and dance; Deborah did not move. She sent for the military leader, Barak.

“One day she sent for Barak…
“This is what the LORD,
the God of Israel, commands you:
Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes
of Naphtali and Zebulun…”
Judges 4:6

Out of Naphtali, “haven, habitation”, and Zebulun, “obtained by wrestling (in prayer)” warriors were called out, “Arise!”

Smaller palms flourish at the base of the parent palm.

At the base of the parent palm tree, young palms began to flourish. Deborah’s unmovable position allowed her to spiritually parent people ready and willing to do business with God.

In her place of habitation and prayer, warriors of habitation and prayer were mothered. Deborah’s position of sitting where God chose created strength and stamina in herself and others that would soon be released.

The Palm of Deborah was a perfect symbol of this woman’s internal strength, divine call, anointed leadership, and powerful intercession. Her greatest time of fruitfulness was about to explode, because she positioned herself in humility and excellence like the palm tree under which she sat.

(To be continued next blog….)

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Resources

Further Reading: The Lord is my Helper! “I Will Help You!”

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The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

3 Keys to Successful Ministry

If you were to ask five people for the keys of effective ministry, you would probably get five different answers. So I didn’t ask! I went straight to the bible looking for examples of effective ministry and asked God. Novel idea, right? Here is what I discovered!

This quest for answers was spurred on by a question from a friend. Honestly, I didn’t have a response! I have witnessed God heal many people through my prayers. I have seen others delivered from personal bondage, hearts mended, and marriages restored. Yet, there is an acute awareness that my ministry is far from successful!

What is successful ministry? Rising high!

I’m not referring to being successful in the eyes of people; I am talking about hearing “well done, good and faithful servant”. I want to know I am doing what God wants me to do, in the way He wants me to do, in the place He has called me.

Key #1 – He Called

One training method say:

  • I do. You watch.
  • I do. You help.
  • You do. I help. We talk.
  • You do. I watch. We talk.
  • You do. Someone else watches.

With Jesus, His method seemed to jump from step one to step five rather quickly!

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together…”
Luke 9:1

This isn’t the first time Jesus called the twelve apostles and sent them out. Luke 6:6 tells about the beginning of such journeys. The apostles already had experience both in watching how Jesus ministered and in activating those principles in practical ministry settings.

When Jesus called, it means, He called them to Himself. He invited them to draw near. He called them not just into ministry, but more importantly into relationship with Him.

The first secret to successful ministry is responding God’s call to intimate relationship.

An eye for successful ministry!

Jesus remained close to the Father. He was close enough to see what the Father was doing and hear what the Father was saying.

Desire an intimacy close enough to hear God's whisper! Click To Tweet

Unless I consistently draw near, I won’t be able to receive His direction. I desire an intimacy close enough to hear God’s whisper.

His call over my life must be unquestionably real! When I know what He is asking me to do, I can go in full confidence! Knowing His will, I am able to walk in His directive! It is the sweet spot of ministry!

My desire isn’t sufficient! My way will lead me off course! Ministry must always be on His terms! I must guard against being lured outside of that call.

Key #2 – He Gave

“He gave them power and authority
to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.”
Luke 9:1

I can be in the right place at the right time, but if I am going in my own strength it will get me no where fast!

Power for successful ministry!

As a matter of fact, the more natural ability I have, the greater the temptation will be to begin doing things in my own strength. I may be able to fool those around me, but I sure won’t be able to fool God or the demons of hell! Trouble is just around the corner!

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’
says the LORD Almighty.”
Zechariah 4:6

More than any other factor for successful ministry, this one cannot be forfeited! Without the power of Holy Spirit, I can do nothing of significance for God’s kingdom.

Jesus later added,

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit,
just as my Father promised.
But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes
and fills you with power from heaven”
Luke 24:49

“Stay here!”

Holy Spirit brings all the power and authority we need to minister successfully. People may want to promote you too soon! Don’t move! Stay! Stay where you are until the Holy Spirit fills you with everything you need!

Everyone in the will of God, doing the purposes of God, is marked for success!

Key #3 – He Sent

When Jesus says, “Go!” It is time to go! Without excuses! Without hesitation!

Aiming for successful ministry!

Wherever God calls, He equips for sending!

If His call is into your home, go! Be the best Spirit-filled husband/wife, father/mother, peacemaker, child-raiser, and homemaker you can be!

If His call is in the workplace, go! Be the best employee or boss, servant and worker, you can!

Don’t waste any time looking over your shoulder at someone else’s call, or try to fill someone else’s shoes. Be the best you can be, wherever God sends!

Perhaps God is sending you into full-time ministry. Go!

Let’s each do our very best to be all God has chosen us to be, wherever He sends us!

Successful Ministry! Proclaim and Heal!

Wherever He plants us, it is with purpose! He has given us what we need to proclaim the Good News of the gospel, Jesus saves! His mandate still stands! Proclaim the good news of the Kingdom and heal. Let’s faithfully take the presence of Jesus everywhere we go.

The prize of successful ministry!

His divine power has given us everything we need! Click To Tweet

To be successful, we don’t need to be the biggest, the best or the strongest. We don’t to be wisest or the most beautiful.

“His divine power has given us everything we need
for a godly life through our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
2 Peter 1:3

Being successful in ministry means far more than seeing lives changed and transformed. Some day, it will be an honour to lay every gift and ability at His feet. Then…

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful in handling this small amount,
so now I will give you many more responsibilities.
Let’s celebrate together!’ ”
Matthew 25:23

The apostles demonstrated successful ministry when they

obeyed His call,
used what He gave them,
and went where He sent them.

That, my friends will be our seal of successful ministry as well!

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Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Biblical View of Leadership
Being a prairie girl, rarely have I spotted an eagle. Usually it has been in spring or late fall as they follow the migratory path of geese. Each sighting is inspiring! These majestic birds are leaders in every way.
It is no wonder the bible references eagles often.
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
… run and not grow weary.
 walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

Leaders Rise Above

Eagles fly at elevations up to 10,000 feet.

“Pigeons scavenge on the ground and grumble and complain all day long. Eagles fly.”
Dr. Myles Munroe

Though cranes, vultures and geese fly higher than eagles, eagles soar effortless on upper level currents. When other birds take cover from a coming storm, eagles seizes thermal opportunities for updraft and lift.

Great leaders are problem solvers! They don’t hang around on the ground complaining. Leaders pick up the challenge and find resolutions. They are high flyers! Leaders thrive on challenges using them as instruments to propel both themselves and others forward.

Fearless Leaders - Eagles

“There are three things too amazing for me;
four things I do not understand;
the way of an eagle in the sky ….”
Psalms 30:18,19 

There were a handful of things the psalmist found difficult to comprehend; the first one, mentioned is how eagles fly.

Leaders Build Relationships of Trust

Eagles are monogamous, generally mating for life. When a male eagle wants to mate, she first tests his commitment. Then and only then, will she allow him to mate with her.

Developing this high level of commitment ensures relationship that will endure through all seasons.

Protective Leaders - Eagles

An eagle’s nest can weigh a ton or more. That’s a lot of nest!  Both eagles and leaders take seriously the responsibility of those they have been entrusted with.  They develop an environment of care and protection.

“Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?
On the cliff he dwells and lodges, upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.
From there he spies out food;
His eyes see it from afar.”
Job 39:27-29 

Leaders are Visionary

Leaders are long-sighted – “eagle-eyed”! They have a capacity to see what others miss!

Visionary Leaders - Eagles

Sight is the eagle’s strongest sense. I read once that an eagle can see a dime in the grass a mile away. True or not, I don’t know. Eagles do have a wider range of vision and see about five times better than humans. They also see a wider spectrum of colour than we do.

Godly leaders continually have divine foresight to see and perceive what is not humanly possible. They are able to see opportunities, detect threats or spot out fresh food to nourish the young.

Leaders Don’t Eat Dead Meat!

Eagles, unlike vultures, always eat and feed their young fresh food. Leaders maintain personal strength by guarding their eyes, ears and hearts carefully.  The media offers up a lot of “dead meat” these days!

Godly leaders intentionally study and read the word, participate in private and corporate worship and enjoy authentic relationship.

Leaders Train the Young

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.”
Deuteronomy 32:11

Leaders of Strength - Eagles

To help strengthen and train their young, a mother eagle throws the eaglet out of the nest.  As they shriek in fear, father eagle flies underneath catching them and bringing them back to safety. Together they continue the process until the eaglet is strong and confident to fly and soar on its own.

Leaders use their strength to strengthen others. They guide those around them to grow, sometimes even pushing them beyond their comfort zone. In so doing godly leaders are willing to do whatever is necessary to train and elevate others, equipping them to soar.

Leaders Self-Examine

“Who satisfies your years with good things,
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”
Psalms 103:5 

The life-span of an eagle is thirty to forty years, much longer than most birds. Perhaps, that is why the psalmist thanks God for “renewing” our years like an eagle.

Self Examining Leaders - Eagles

A strong leader examines his life carefully in view of eternity. He will look back and take stock, ignoring neither the good nor bad experiences and learning from both. He will create checks and balances for personal and professional growth. Proper periods of rest, nourishing food, and adequate exercise are conscious choices he makes in his renewal process. He willingly maintains relationships of genuine accountability.

Inspired by these amazing birds, my focus shifts instinctively from the created to the Creator of all things. I want to learn well, what He is teaching me in these moments.

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Here’s more reading on leadership:

Moses – The Defining Qualities of a Great Leader

 

Moses – The Defining Qualities of a Great Leader

Qualities of a Great Leader

What makes a mediocre leader great? What are the marks a great leader? As you can see I probably have more questions than answers! Join me as we take a very brief look at the life of Moses; see if you  can identify with what I have chosen as the top five defining qualities of a great leader.

Great Leaders Know Their Assignment!

Moses was well along in years, 80 in fact, when God gave him his assignment,

“So now, go, I am sending you
to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Exodus 3:10

That sounds clear enough! So why didn’t Moses resign after he made sure the people were on safe ground on the far side of the Red Sea. He had fulfilled the mandate, right? Check! He went to Pharaoh and he got the people out. Check!

Great leaders don’t quit! They keep going above and beyond the letter of requirements!

Egypt Pyramids

It would take 40 more years to get Egypt out of the hearts and minds of the people. These were excruciating painful years for Moses as a leader as his

authority and character was challenged
those closest betrayed him
the masses grumbled incessantly
other leadership challenged his adequacy to lead.

Still he persevered!

Great Leaders are Humble!

“Now Moses was a very humble man,
more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”
Numbers 12: 3

I can’t help but smile when I read this little line. Why? Because Moses wrote it! You would think that bragging about your humility would disqualify you from wearing the ‘humble’ badge. However, God would not allow this line to maintain its position in the Holy Scriptures if it was not completely true.

Great leaders know who they are, Who they belong to, where they are going and Who is getting them there! They know that in and of themselves they can do nothing! Moses didn’t have John 15:5 to remind him; he lived every day in the strength of God knowing that “without me you can do nothing.”

Great leaders don’t need to prove themselves, even when others rise up and say, “Who do you think you are?”

There is a quiet confidence that truly great leaders display. A confidence cloaked firmly in humility.

Humility

Great Leaders Show Grace!

More than once, God was so fed up with the rebellion and sinfulness of his chosen people. He make it clear that He was fully prepared to make Moses

“….into a nation, stronger and more numerous than they.”
Deuteronomy 9:14

Intercede Pray

Few leaders would resist that kind of temptation to greatness, especially when the One making the promise is perfectly capable of fulfilling it.

However, Moses falls on his face continually interceding for the people, reminding God of His promises. These was not a twinkle in insincerity within him. He loved and cared deeply for these stubborn sheep he was assigned to shepherd. A true shepherd he was proving himself to be!

Great Leaders Never Compromise!

Multiple times Moses was given compromising offers…

sacrifice to God here in the land
have only the men go
your women and children may go, only leave your flocks…

Great leaders know there can never be compromise! The mandate was to worship God with

“our young and our old, our sons and daughters, with flocks and herds…”
Exodus 10:9

Worship Together

The call to worship God is still the same…

for young and the aged
male and female
rich and poor
a worship for everyone
giving everything
to only One worthy!

Though there may be temptations to do things half way, great leaders never settle!

Great Leaders Have Great Faith!

Hebrews speaks of faith five times in connection to Moses. He resisted the easy road of self reliance because he was “looking ahead to his reward”. Moses persevered because “he saw Him who is invisible.”

I cannot fathom the dimension of faith it took on the part of Moses to follow the word of the LORD and then lead an entire nation so faithfully. A man “mighty in word and deed” who “received living words and passed them on.”

Certainly this faith was entwined with a deep fear of the LORD. We don’t talk much about fear today, but there is such a thing as a healthy dose of godly fear; and Moses had it.

“I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’
Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.”
Acts 7:32

Great leaders know how to draw on strength and wisdom beyond themselves – trusting in Him who is faithful.

Now What?

Consider the quote that sparked this whole thought process,

“I would rather die in the desert with the people,
than get to the ‘promise’ alone..”
Andy Mason

Andy Mason is a relatively unknown leader who inspires others to apply biblical principles to everyday business – to the places we live and work.

Independence is deep-rooted in each of us, especially me!  What goals are in our futures that we still hope to reach? What promise of God is waiting to see fulfilled? Everyone of us lives with unfulfilled destiny and calling – things we want to be reality in our lives, but are yet out of reach! Some may have to do with family, career, finances or levels of ministry.

I’m taking this challenge personally as I aim toward my goals reaching in the direction of my calling.

Destination

How sad it would be to reach my ‘promise’ alone, unable to share the journey or the destination!

Moses never entered the promise because of his own insubordination. However, he was faithful to raise up a successor to effectively carry it out. This young leader would have the privilege of entering the promise and fully seeing the fruit of all Moses worked for and longed to see. Joshua would be the one to lead the next generation into the full promise.

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Want more to read on walking in faith? Try these!

Nothing is Impossible – With God Your Problem is God’s Opportunity!

Faith or Fear? Which Will We Choose?

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