“LEARNING AND LEADING”

We’re watching the season begin to change here in Tennessee. The leaves are starting to turn and the evenings are getting darker sooner. It’s changing, and some like it, while others are not too fond of it. Seasons not only change where we live, but also where we lead, and when it happens, not everyone is happy with it.

As a leader, I want to be the best that I possibly can, but I’ve learned that I can’t lead anyone in a season that I haven’t been through myself. Sometimes we have to live through a season so we will know how to lead through it. It’s easier to guide people when you’re in a season where you know what to expect. The element of surprise should happen when you’re through a season, not leading people through it.

You might just be in that place. God could be allowing you to go through this season to prepare you for who you will be leading the next time it comes around. I would encourage you not to let frustration keep you from learning the things you need to know to help you remember how to get through it. This time is for learning, the next time is for leading, and you can’t lead where you’ve never been.

LEADERSHIP CHECKLIST

I have spent this week writing about leadership. It’s a subject that I love reading and talking about. To finish up this week, I would like to ask every leader a few questions.

1. Are you willing to admit when you’re wrong?

2. How do you respond to criticism?

3. Is it ok if someone has a better idea than you on your team?

4. How would your followers rate your communication to them?

5. What do you do after you cast vision?

6. Do your actions reflect what you say?

7. Do your followers feel valued by you?

8. Did you grow as a leader last year?

9. What things do you need to work on this year to be a better leader?

10. How have you allowed disappointments to affect your leadership?

11. What are you currently reading?

12. What is your greatest frustration?

13. Do you have people that you allow to speak into your life?

14. Are you reactive or proactive?

15. Do you get proper rest?

THE DISCIPLINED LEADER

We are all emotional and as leaders, we have all faced situations that challenge our own emotions. We are not exempt from feeling anger or even extreme sadness. The problem comes when we start allowing ourselves to lead by those emotions. In those difficult times, we must be committed to the principles of true, Godly leadership. Reacting too soon could create an even bigger problem than the one at hand. Emotional leaders tend to cause their followers to not want to approach them for fear of how they might respond. As leaders, we should promote and practice an atmosphere of accessibility, transparency, and calm. I know this is not easy, especially when dealing with someone who tries your patience. As difficult as it may be, God could be allowing this to test your leadership. You can’t grow in your leadership until you learn to rise above your adversity. Commit to leading by discipline instead of emotions.

THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING

Leaders must never forget that it is a privilege to be asked to lead. It is not an entitlement, it is a blessing and one of the greatest blessings is to have people who are willing to follow. No matter how big your dreams and goals are, you’ll never get there without people who believe in you and are willing to go where you’re taking them. Whether you are a worship leader, teacher, student pastor or lead pastor, you should strive to inspire those that are with you. Remember…they don’t have to follow you. Manipulation and guilt tripping are the signs of a dictator, not a true leader. Whatever area people are talented in, they want to use that talent to make a difference and they want to be led by a leader who encourages them and challenges them to be better. This is a great responsibility for every leader. Embrace the privilege of leadership. You should love what you’re leading, but love who you are leading even more.

“POSITION OR POSSESSION”

If you hold a position in your church, ask yourself this question.

WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO?

I find many times that people become more possessive of what they do rather than being passionate about why they’re doing it. Having a title doesn’t mean it’s your domain and you should treat it as a blessing, not your kingdom. When your agenda is larger than your burden, you’re in it for the wrong reason. It is a privilege to lead and you should treat those who have chosen to follow you with great respect and love. You’re not doing the church any favors by hanging on to a position because you need the glory of a title, in fact, you could be hurting it. The church can only grow when we have leaders who understand the blessing in leading and the responsibility of unity within the body. Whatever you do for God must be bigger than you and not about you.

IN TUNE

Day 6

“IN TUNE”

Written by: Denny Livingston

As our 21-day journey continues, I couldn’t help but remember something I saw my dad do for many years. My dad was an amazing minister and musician, but he was also a piano technician and restorer. He could take an old beat up piano and make it look brand new in just a few weeks. Not only could he make it look new, but he could make it sound new. When dad would bring a broken piano into his shop and set it up, you would stand and wonder how this instrument could ever look and sound new again. You might even try and play it, but there would be no way you could make out what you were playing because it would be so out of tune.

You see, when an instrument is out of tune, the melody of a song cannot be established. Also, you’re not able to build harmony parts because harmony is based on melody. In fact, if just one note is either sharp or flat, it throws everything off, even if the other notes are on pitch. Some people might hear how bad it sounds and give up, but not my dad. An out of tune piano is where my dad’s greatest work would begin.

Dad would use a device called a strobe-tuner. He would set it on top of the piano, plug it into the wall and start the tuning process. The standard musical pitch is set at a frequency of 440 hertz. A strobe-tuner is set at that pitch and can detect when a note is not at the correct level. Dad would go string by string on a piano and find out if it was too low or too high. He would then start adjusting the string with an instrument called a tuning hammer. Dad would say, “Now you can’t move the string up too fast or the string might break. Just move it a little at a time and after a while, it will get there.” He was right, because, in a matter of 45 minutes or so, the out of tune piano would sound great and new again.

After thinking about the tuning process, it reminded me of why we are on this 21-day journey. Just like a piano, we are an instrument that over time can get out of tune. It’s nothing we planned on doing, it just happens. We can so easily find ourselves out of tune with God and off pitch from His Will. Just a slight move can cause us to be flat or sharp. God’s Will for our lives is set at 440 hertz and at times we need tuning to get back to that level.

Prayer, fasting and God’s Word are the tuning devices God uses to help us get back to where we should be. When we start to communicate with Him in prayer, He reveals how far we’ve drifted from the level where we once were. Fasting causes us to focus on God and not ourselves. As we overcome physical hunger, our appetite for spiritual things begins to increase, helping us return to a place of perfect harmony with God. The Word of God is like a two-edged sword, cutting out the things in our lives that have caused us to become out of tune.

Be encouraged on day 6, for little by little, we are getting back in tune with God’s Will and His voice. It won’t happen all at once, but over the next 21 days, we are being renewed in the Spirit of the Lord. You will start to feel a difference when you stand in the presence of God. You’re moving closer to Him, which means you’re moving further away from the things that have caused you to slip off pitch. Soon our melody will return and the sounds of sweet harmony will come forth. Dear Lord, help me to be sensitive to your Spirit by being in tune with your voice.

Psalm 51:12 (NKJV)
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

21 DAYS OF RHYTHM, RESTORATION AND RELEASE (Day 2)

DAY 2

“RHYTHM”

As you get ready to kneel before the Lord this morning, I want you to focus on one word. Rhythm.

Here is the definition of rhythm:

A strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.

Day 2 is about understanding rhythm. It’s about getting into a repeated pattern of prayer. You see, once something becomes a rhythm, it just automatically happens. The problem occurs when our prayer life is out of rhythm and we have no set pattern whatsoever. Before you know it, you’ve gone an entire day and haven’t communicated with God. In my opinion, whatever the priority is in your life, should become a pattern in your life.

This is why Daniel was such an amazing prophet of God and example to everyone. Daniel not only prayed, but he had a pattern of prayer. Three times a day he would kneel before the Lord and communicate with Him. This is how Daniel was able to rise about so many adversities in his life.

– He endured the pressures of living under a pagan government through the rhythm of prayer.
– When his co-workers conspired against him, he overcame with the rhythm of prayer.
– After being thrown into a den of lions, he makes it out alive through the rhythm of prayer.
– He was able to prophesy God’s Word because he heard God’s voice through the rhythm of prayer.

Make up your mind today, that you’re not just going to pray, but you are going to reach a new level in God through the rhythm of prayer.

Daniel 6:10

When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.

“AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS”

I started the year off having my church read “The Circle Maker”. After that, we watched the movie “War Room” and then started the “War Room” Bible study series in our men’s and women’s groups. I guess some people think a pastor just randomly chooses certain subjects to teach and preach on. As always, not everybody read the book and not every family came to watch the movie. Not all men or women have come to the Bible study once a month in our groups. However, I knew in my spirit that our church would go to battle this year and that’s exactly what has happened. I am completely heartbroken at some of the things that the enemy has been able to do in the lives of some. Sin and the sowing of discord has tried to get a foot hold in our church and even though some have fallen prey to it, the ones that understood the battle plan are standing with us and remaining strong.

I know we’re not the only church under attack, in fact, I am completely aware that we are living in the last days and we are seeing the scriptures revealed in the lives of many people. It’s happening to people and they don’t even realize it. We have a wonderful church and a strong team of workers, but we know we’re in a battle. I’m asking you to pray for us as we continue to fight. Also, if your church is going through a battle, please let me know who you are, so we can pray specifically for you too. We are the body of Christ and when one suffers, we should all feel the pain.

I’m reminded of when Jesus taught His disciples about the wheat and the tares.

Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV)
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’
29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

So many things stand out to me in this parable, but notice how the servants came to the owner questioning him about what was growing in the field. In their confusion and lack of understanding, they asked if it was his fault that this was happening. I love the reply of the owner…”AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS”. Sometimes, as a pastor, that’s all you are able to say. You know in your heart, you had nothing to do with what is coming up and you are confident of the seed you have sown, so for anyone who asks, you have to let them know, “AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS”. You never know who is going to blame you or the enemy, but don’t ever let them convince you, that it’s your fault.

Then, many of the servants wanted to defend the owner and protect the field by pulling up the tares. However, the owner used wisdom and told them to let the wheat and tares grow together for a season, but when the season is over, only what goes to the barn will be used. The preacher in me is going crazy right now, but I’m just going to let you take it from here. You know how this applies to you, so we must stay encouraged and remain faithful, because the season is going to change. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy is coming in the morning!!!

We are God’s church, built on the rock and the gates of hell, SHALL NOT, CANNOT AND WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT!!!

STORING OR STOPPING

I would like to personally thank everyone that takes the time to read each blog that I write. As stated on my website, my desire is to encourage, inspire and challenge as many as possible through the ministry that God has called me to. That is preaching/teaching, writing songs and more recent, blogging. Because of my family’s music ministry, I’ve not been able to blog as much as I’ve wanted to. All of our efforts, for the last two months have been in the completion of our newest album, that was released on May 31st. Since that time, I’ve been able to refocus on my blogging, which is a deep passion of mine.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about this, but as I was preparing for today’s blog, I thought that my juggling act, for the last few months, might help someone. You see, my life consists of being a husband, father, lead pastor, singer, song-writer, musician and blogger. Yes…my plate is pretty full and if everything isn’t timed exactly right, it can be overwhelming. When things begin to snowball, you have to make some important decisions. Sometimes, when you can’t do everything, you have to determine what is most important at that particular time.

You have to know the difference in storing and stopping. Don’t stop what you’ve been gifted to do, just store it for a while until you can put more time and effort in it. Even though my focus has been on getting our new album completed, I still reminded myself of the things I had stored. I love blogging, but I had to put my blogging in storage for a while. That didn’t mean I had stopped and I refused to get discouraged because I wasn’t able to blog at the time. I even planned the week I would start back with consistent blogging. I may not be able to blog everyday, but I’m back in the routine.

Now, for my disclaimer. I’m not the most structured person in the world. I’m not writing this blog to try and convince you that I am. However, in my busy life, I’ve learned a rhythm and if your frustrated and having a hard time getting everything accomplished, maybe this will encourage you. For me, I had to figure out what my options were for what could be stored, what should be stopped and what had to keep going. You have to start with what has to keep going. For me, I knew the things that were not optional. Those are things that only you can do and you have to make sure they get done. I’m a husband and a father first and for me, those things are non-negotiable. That’s a personal conviction of mine and even though I’m a pastor, I’m a husband and father before that.

For you, it may be something totally different, but if you have a family, you have to keep that going. I have found that when there is peace at home, there will be peace in other places too. Don’t ever choose to store or stop the progression of your family. Whatever it is, that only you can do, make sure it follows your involvement with your family. Continue doing the things that can’t be stopped, then look at the things that can be stored. Follow your passion with disciplined priorities.

Maybe you’re completing something right now and you’ve had to take time away from something else that you’re passionate about. Perhaps you’re even discouraged and you’ve been thinking of giving that up. Take my advice and move that from the stopped category and place it in storage. Let your unfinished book be in storage, not stopped. Let that project you’ve always wanted to do, be stored away and not stopped indefinitely. You can still plan while something is sitting in storage. Sure, your main objective is to complete what is most important for right now, but if you get a creative idea, write it down and store it.

Not to mention, when you take a break from something, as soon as you start back, you sometimes have an excited, renewed feeling, much like you did when you first started. Doing too many things at one time can cause you to be completely overwhelmed and even make decisions that you will later regret. Give your undivided attention on what is most important now and keep your other passion stored on a shelf, so you can be reminded that it’s still there and not thrown away. Don’t allow your current project to suffer because your spending so much of your time worrying about what isn’t getting done. Know what your gifts are, but more importantly, know when is the right time to be working on each of them.

Continue to do what has to be done, prioritize what is most important right now and store what can be started at a later time. Remember, you haven’t stopped anything…you’ve only stored it for a season.

THE PURSUIT

We’ve all heard the statement, “FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS” and I believe that with all of my heart. Chase what you wish for and pursue your passion. Whatever your gifts or talents are, they will be at their best when you are doing something that you love with all your heart. Imagine what life will be like when you are doing what you’ve always dreamed of. As you begin your pursuit, let me encourage you on your journey.

Obviously you have to chart your course. Nobody gets anywhere unless they know where they’re going and then map out a plan. That’s what you have to figure out. You must have a plan to get from point A to point B. Your dream will only begin to become a reality when you start charting your course. You can’t just want to be there, you have to know how to get there. It may take you some time, but every minute of planning you do is another step on your journey.

One last thing. Don’t let the pursuit of your dream become greater than your pursuit of God. If you reach your goal, but lose your relationship with God in the process, what have you really gained? Some people feel like they can put God on a shelf while they chase their dreams and once they arrive, then they will take Him back. I’m afraid too many people forget where their gift came from. They walk away from the one who gave the ability to do what they are doing.

You may be successful without God, but you will never be blessed. His blessings affect things that you can never do. When His blessings are on your life, He will not only bless you, but He will also bless the ones that bless you and curse the ones that curse you. You can’t get that on your own. You can build your own latter to climb or you can trust in God and watch Him elevate you to places you’ve never imagined. If you put God in front of your dream, then He’s guiding every step you take. However, if you put your dream in front of God, then what you want is guiding your steps and you are much more vulnerable to losing your relationship with God.

My advise to you is in the words that Jesus said in Matthew 6:33.

But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.