Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creating A Healthy Culture in an Organization - A Culture of Integrity

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One of most important leadership tip anyone could ever give in relation to creating healthy organizational culture, has to be the need for integrity. Now, this might seem simple enough, and we may well agree with the statement. It is when the rubber hits the road, that I wonder whether people really understand the importance of integrity.

Stories upon stories are heard of corrupt CEO's, abusive authoritarian leaders, a lack or morale because what the leader communicates does not match their actions, and the list goes on.

Most leadership books comment on the importance of depth of character, integrity and a sense of morality/conscience and the effect this has on those you are leading. John C. Maxwell devotes a chapter to integrity in Developing the Leader Within You (1993). He says:
  • Integrity builds trust
  • Integrity has high influence value
  • Integrity facilitates high standards
  • Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just image
  • Integrity means living it myself before leading others
  • Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever
  • Integrity is a hard-won achievement (p. 35-48).
Why does integrity amongst leaders help create a healthy organizational culture? Firstly, as already noted, trust is built. When the leader says something, you know they will be trustworthy, based on previous experiences. It is demoralizing to not be able to trust a leader, as this becomes an infectious disease within the organization! Secondly, integrity is paramount to this healthy organizational culture, because a leader exemplifies the 'do as I do, not just as I say' kind of rhetoric.

You may not be able to cause someone else to have integrity, but you can cause yourself to have it!

That's the end of this Leadership Training Module Two on Creating Healthy Organizations. Feel free to comment below, and I hope you enjoyed and were challeged by the content.

Creating A Healthy Culture in an Organization - Free Online Leadership Training Module Two

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Welcome to our free online leadership training module. This is module number two, and is about creating a healthy culture in an organization.

STOP! You find yourself here because organizational culture can at times be depressing and draining and you're looking for a solution. Well I will outline some leadership tips for you which, I believe, will be helpful and will equip you in improving the culture of your organization (or atleast assist you in understanding what parts of your organizational culture needs work). I write this, not as some hopeful blogger, that wishes to splat more useless information over the already overloaded internet. I write this as someone who serves God as an Officer in The Salvation Army (in the northern parts of Australia), and has managed employees, and empowered volunteers to reach for their best. I completed a Bachelor of Business, and have read a myraid of books related to empowering people and organizational culture, creating excellence and change management. That is not mentioned, to puff up, but rather to offer some context for the following blog and hopefully some credentials to allow you as the reader to read on, and embrace the few elements in this list.

Creating a healthy culture in an organization is vital, if an organization is going to be effective in the long term. We know stories of businesses that have crumbled because of a lack of integrity by the CEO, or a church that has closed because the senior pastor didn't know how to inspire a great culture within their church. How many morning tea times are full of gossip and frustrated employees who wish their business had a better culture? How many emails are sent daily complaining about the ins and outs of the workplace, all because leaders have not developed a great culture in their workplace? How many secret facebook messages do business people send to their friends, during work times, that relate to issues of culture?

Be encourages as you read through this free online leadership training module on "Creating a Healthy Culture in an Organization".

Click here for the first leadership tip for creating that healthy culture.


Creating A Healthy Culture in an Organization - A Culture of Big Vision

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Here's another leadership tip for creating a healthy culture in an organization. This one is a culture of BIG Vision.

Culture of a Big Vision - Without vision the people wander aimlessly says an old proverb. Without vision it is very easy to cruise through life, and to step back a year later and say, 'Have I actually gone anywhere?' 'Have I actually achieved anything that is purposeful?' While vision in itself is not enough to arrive at a place of effectiveness; vision helps inspire you, your team, your family, your co-workers, to reach for new heights.

If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. Vision is important to me, because if I aim at nothing, I'll reach it! Though, if I aim at cloud number seven, and only reach cloud number 3, I've still gone further than if I have aimed at nothing! So vision, personally, provides an injection of passion and direction, that when aligned with strategy can produce great results.

A big vision in an organization helps produce a healthy culture, primarily because employees, from the cleaners to HR professionals to managers stop talking about what brand of coffee they are drinking, and start talking about the possibilities of the organization in which they work. It lifts their eyes from the mediocrity of mundane day-to-day work, to consider adapting their work choices, in order that vision can be accomplished. For more on vision, read through the free online leadership training module on vision - click here.

  • Does your organization have a culture of big vision?
  • What do people talk about when they are grabbing their coffee? Is it about the organization's future and possibilities and potential? Is it a healthy discussion?
There are two more posts related to creating healthy organizational culture. And are probably the two most important! Click here for the next one.


Creating A Healthy Culture in an Organization - A Culture of Execution

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Another Leadership Tip for Creating A Healthy Culture in an Organization - A culture of execution
Culture of Execution - This is the mantra that says, 'If you say you're going to do it, then do it'. This builds trust amongst the people of an organization. It's about following through with agenda items, and implementing the ideas into concrete realities. Within a business, a culture of execution might look like the announcement of a new product range - an idea that could transform the business! A healthy culture of execution gets the job done! The idea doesn't just sit on the desk, or in the heart of the leader, it is communicated, thought through, researched and if appropriate, is actioned. A culture of execution inspires people to move from ideas and abstract concepts to implemented tangible practices.

Within a church, for example, a culture of execution is needed, because so many visions and dreams sit on the leader's desk, or even in the minds of the people. There needs to be encouragement to follow through and make it happen, with God's help, so the dream is not just some pie-in-the-sky concept.

Following through on tasks and commitments are important. Employees within organizations are disempowered if leader's don't attend the meetings they say they will, or if the leadership committee put forward another grandiose idea that everyone know will never happen. A culture of execution, lets people know, that people will do what they say. They will complete the assignments set for them, they will make the appropriate changes, because they believe in a culture of execution. This is a helpful leadership tip for creating a healthy culture in an organization! 
  • Do you follow through with the ideas, strategies, visions you communicate? 
  • Why do you think people are disempowered when there is a lack of a culture of execution? 
There's still more on creating healthy organizational culture. Click here for another leadership tip.


Creating A Healthy Culture in an Organization - A Culture of Planning

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Here are some leadership tips for creating a healthy culture in an organization.

Firstly, an organization needs to have a culture of planning. Ever heard, without a plan you plan to fail? Too many businesses go about everyday business without planning. Two questions need to be asked. Firstly where is our intended destination and secondly, how are we going to get there? The first question is a vision question, the second is a planning question.

You can't climb Mount Everest without a plan, nor should we cruise through our workdays without planning how we will achieve what we are hoping to achieve. While the implications of bad planning (or no planning) for the Everest Climber is death, for an organization bad or no planning might mean a loss of income, loss of personnel, etc. A culture of planning, is a culture of strategic thinking. It is about looking at the mission, vision and values of the organization, and saying, 'How are we going to achieve this?' 'What is our strategy?' 'What is our plan?' High performing organizations execute plans well, and adapt them as circumstances change. They create a culture within their organization of strategic thinking and planning.

The reason a lack of planning creates dysfunctional organizational culture, is because spontaneity reigns, and while this can at times be managed, quite often it simply means there is organizational choas and lack of direction. A culture of planning is needed.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" - Proverbs 16:3

Continue on with more on creating a healthy culture in an organization. Click here.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - A Summary Stephen R. Covey


Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a well know leadership book, that unpacks the theory behind personal leadership development. This will be a brief overview of the 1989 classic.

Habit 1 - Be proactive - Henry David Thoreau says, 'I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor'. While the quote is on the verge of putting self-improvement on too high a pedestal, the idea is grounded. If someone has had a traumatic life like the story of Victor Frankl, who was forced into the Nazi Germany death camps, they still can be proactive in choosing their response to the situation. This is what makes Victor Frankl so well known, because he understood the only thing he had control over in his life, was his mind, and so he chose how he would respond to the Nazis. 'He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him' (p. 69). Being proactive or what has been labelled 'proactivity' is about understanding that we have the freedom to choose to have self-awareness, imagination, a conscience and an independent will. Our behavior becomes a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We learn that to be highly effective people, we need to be proactive about our mental, emotional and moral lives.
Eleanor Roosevelt (p. 72) said, 'No one can hurt you without your consent'. Tough quote for those who have lived through years of abuse and pain, but the essence of being proactive, and being the controller of your repsonses is admirable, and a challenge for each of us (like when someone cuts you off while driving!).
Lastly, in relation to Habit 1, 'Be Proactive', we can choose whether we become acted upon, or whether we are the ones who act. You witness this within a company that is struggling with the current financial market. They either wait to be acted upon by the financial situation, or they choose to be proactive and act.

Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind - Covey encourages people to think about the sacred moment of their funeral. What would people say in the eulogy? What would be the legacy that you would have left? Would people be saying the things that you hoped they would? When we float through life with no end in mind, we may find ourselves 10 years from now contemplating whether we have done all that we could have. By beginning with the end in mind, we may end up changing our decisions/priorities for today and we might run a different course tomorrow. In fact, next month, we might schedule that all important meeting we have been putting off, so that we can reach the end we have in mind. To quote Covey in the 7 Habits, 'By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole' (p. 98).

The way Stephen Covey believes you can bring greater purpose and direction in life is to write a personal mission statement. When writing this you may consider your impact upon family, friends, work, church, etc.
Join our discussion at Disciples in Training on Facebook.

Habit 3 - Put First Things First - So Habit 1 is about your ability to develop imagination, conscience, independent will and self-awareness. Habit 2 is about envisioning the potential we have, and considering what impact we want to have in life. Habit 3, is really the outworking of Habits 1 and 2. It is about putting into tangible existence our desires, and our personal mission. When we fully embrace being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and then putting first things first, we begin to make adjustments to our daily schedule.

While administration may be important, for example, in your organisation, it is most likely a means to an end, and there is probably a greater cause you wish to fight for. Put first things first, and delegate or minimise your time in administration and do what brings a greater return and a greater personal fulfilment. Stephen Covey highlights the four quadrants of time management, which allow us to put what is most important and most urgent at the forefront. This is quadrant one. Lets have a brief look at the four quadrants of time management by Stephen Covey:
  •    Quadrant I: The Urgent and the Important Tasks.
  •    Quadrant II: The Not Urgent but Important Tasks.
  •    Quadrant III: The Urgent Tasks but Not Important Tasks.
  •    Quadrant IV: The Not Urgent and Not Important Tasks.
Interestingly, quite often we get bogged down in the urgent and important tasks, even if they are not life-changing tasks, and the challenge is the Quadrant II activities. The important tasks, e.g. the architecture of a new building, are tasks that are not urgent and thus they somehow find themselves on the bottom of the to-do list. It's the tyranny of the urgent. You must purposefully put time aside time for the Quadrant II activities, highlighter in this Time Management Matrix from Covey. Put aside an hour a day, and tackle some important tasks, that are not urgent, but are future oriented, that will make a great difference when completed in the future. As Habit 3 says, 'Put First things First.'

Habit 4 - Think Win/Win - This is the not the advice I received in my University class on business negotiation. A win-win situation was merely an option among the other options of win-lose, lose-lose and lose-win. Covey really drives this point home, that we can work hard in our public work to discover win-win situations. It takes time, and collaboration and lots of communication. Covey unpacks this more in The 8th Habit. He says the old paradigm is the win-lose scenario. But if organisations, families, churches, etc, can find a deeper level of communication and understanding of the other side's perspective, they can solve interpersonal conflict and negotiation with a win-win. Covey goes on to say, that a higher level of the win-win scenario is either Win/Win or No Deal. Covey writes, 'No Deal basically means that if we can't find a solution that would benefit us both, we agree to disagree agreeably - No Deal' (p. 213).

Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood - It's a powerful concept. Reading Covey's story on page 30 brought this concept home for me. The story was about when Covey boarded a subway train in New York one Sunday morning. Initially he was sitting there peacefully until suddenly a father with his children entered the carriage. The children were very ratty and mischevious, and you could imagine the frustration of being interupted for a nice peaceful Sunday morning trip. I bet he couldn't help but think, 'Why is this Dad not looking after his kids?! My goodness, I could do a better job than that!' Finally Covey had had enough of the noisy, rowdy, disobedient children, and he said to the father, 'Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?' What came next was a shock. The Dad began telling Covey that his wife had just died very recently in hospital, and that they were just trying to deal with their sudden loss. What a reality check for Covey! (p. 30-31). Quick to make a judgment call, and quick to voice out the problem; clearly without first seeking to understand what was happening. The assumptions we make in situations is rife, and we need to seek first to understand.

What a dynamic, challenging personal quest, to seek first to understand, then to be understood. You know the challenge, to stop and listen. I am challenged personally of the amount of times I am listening to someone, then I begin forming my reply sentences in my mind, while the other person is still talking, and I find myself tuning out to what the person is 'really' saying, and being far too quick to offer the remedy and the solution! Active listening is the communication tool that comes to mind. Not just, kind of listening, or half listening, but active listening. Active listening is attentive and focused and seeks to deeply understand the other person first. Covey highlights this as empathic listening.
More on Stephen Covey. A review of the 8th Habit. Click here.
Habit 6 - Synergize - In our fast-paced do it yourself kind of western world, the synergy idea is sometimes thrown out the window. 'I mean, I can do it better myself!' Synergy is powerful though, because it is really that the 'whole is greater than the sum of its parts' (p. 263). If 10 people are putting together websites to voice their opinions on the entertainment industry, for instance, they might achieve say a readership of 10,000 people each. Great. Each is happy with that. Imagine the 10 entertainment commentators got together and created a new brand and commentry site, that created synergy. Synergy would mean they would end up with far more than 100,000 total readers, but say 200,000.

Synergy is needed in organisations like churches for instance, so that resources are shared, finances are not unnecessarily wasted, etc. Organisations need synergy, so that departments aren't doubling up, with say, two payrolls systems, and each department enjoying their own IT section; instead they should be streamlining their processes and creating synergy. Synergy would happen in the Universities, for example, as professors and doctors share their intellect, and work together to create better course notes, and better faculties and ultimately better Universities. Synergy is about working together to achieve more as a whole than the sum of all the parts.

Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw - Sharpening the saw is really all about what Stephen Covey's 8th Habit covers. We have four dimensions in life, our physical nature, our social/emotional nature, our mental nature and our spiritual nature. We are challenged to sharpen these four aspects of our lives. In the physical realm, we may sharpen this by having a daily walk or watching what we eat. We all know, that if we don't watch the physical side of our life, we will be unable to make any difference elsewhere. Socially/emotionally we may endeveour to lift our emotional intelligence (hat tip Daniel Goleman), that is, our ability to interact well with others, to work through conflict, etc. Thirdly, our mental nature might be enhanced by reading leadership literature or books in general, or by visualizing, thinking, planning, writing, etc. Lastly, our spiritual nature might be developed through an engagement in prayer and asking God to clarify our greater purpose in life. We sharpen the saw, so that we can be highly effective people. We sharpen the saw, so that we grow in life, and reach our full potential.

I hope you have enjoyed this summary of what is a great book - Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989).

The next article is Stephen Covey's 4 Human Intelligences, found in his book The 8th Habit. Click here.

New Leadership Training Module - VISION

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Hi Blog Readers.

I have just written a Leadership Training Module on VISION. It's short, and punchy. Maybe you would like to click through it and have a read, and make a comment.

To begin the Leadership Training Module One - Vision - Click here.


God bless!

Final Post on Leadership Module One - VISION

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Thanks for reading through this short Leadership Module on Vision. Remember, vision inspires and dreams motivate.

I would love the comment box below be a GUESTBOOK for those who have read this short Leadership Module on Vision.

Please comment below, with some thoughts, and your name. Maybe also, share your vision and your dreams for the future!

Thanks for reading through Leadership Module One - VISION.

Below is a really quick survey for you.

Welcome - Leadership Training Module One - VISION

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Welcome to Leadership Training Module One - VISION. The next few blogs will take you through some of the aspects of vision, and the need to keep vision at the forefront of our work. Vision inspires. Dreams can motivate. People catch on to potential, and they follow. Click through the VISION Training Module, and comment below any of the posts as you feel led.

Click here to begin Leadership Training Module One - VISION.

Poem on Vision - A Visionary's Heartache

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The Visionary's Heartache.

It’s the pain of an unrealised dream.
It’s reality, when reality isn’t what you envisaged it to be.
It’s the crying at night, when the vision is burning in your heart.
It’s the potential you sense, but the potential that is yet to be seen.
It’s the faith you have for the salvation of many, with the voice that says, ‘it may not happen’


What if the pain subsides and the dream begins to unfold?
What if reality begins to express itself in all that you envisioned it?
What if the crying at night is followed by an inexpressible joy?
What if the potential you sense, becomes more than potential?
What if the faith you have for the salvation of many is no longer a naive dream?

You finally step back and take your hands off the wheel and let God drive the success. A revelation hits you that it is not your dream anyway; it is the Lord’s. Any realisation of a Kingdom dream is then dependent, not upon you insomuch as upon the presence of the Holy Spirit and the grace of the Lord Jesus.

A visionary’s heartache may never subside, but what an exciting adventure to release the control of the wheel and lean upon God for the eventual fulfilment of that vision...

For the final post on Leadership Module One - Vision - Click here.

Vision that Stagnates

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'Decline is never the only answer' is an article from Leadership It mentions that nothing defeats the human spirit like stagnation. You know, that place you find yourself in, where nothing is moving, nothing is changing, nothing seems to be working, so you stop; you stagnate. (Find the article here).

What needs to change first, is growth of the spirit inside the leader doing the work. That's so true. If the leader has lost the vision, don't expect others to keep the vision very long. When the leader grows in their ability to persevere and be strong, and be passionate, then they will battle against stagnation and decline.

Leaders who have fallen into a pit of despair need to pick themselves up and keep moving.

Don't fall into the trap of denial - trying to justify to everyone that nothing is really wrong, that nothing really needs to change. Try not to fall into a place where you lack motivation. See the dream, and live it out. Let the vision and working towards its fulfilment be an absolute roller coaster, exciting journey! Don't be dismayed when fewer people are signing up.

Consider whether there is something in your leadership style or behaviour that needs to change. Consider whether there is a different approach to the fulfilment of the vision. Maybe you need to head south-west, instead of south-east, so to speak. Consider whether you have let circumstances dictate your feeling about your vision - maybe its time to reengergize people with the value of what the vision/dream will mean, what it will affect, how things will be different when it is fulfilled.

Don't let vision stagnate.
  • Is your vision at the forefront of your communication and thinking?
Continue on with Leadership Training Module One on VISION. The next blog is an Inspiring Poem on Vision

Obstacles to Fulfilling Vision

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Commissioner Joe Noland of The Salvation Army, said:

"Do not let your vision be hindered by your resources

Do not let your vision be hindered by your experience
Do not let your vision be hindered by your self-esteem"

When we attempt to fulfil the vision laid on our heart, we inevitable hit roadblocks at times. The question is not whether we will have obstacles in our quest to fulfil vision, but how we will overcome them. Some of the obstacles we might have to reaching our dreams/visions are:
  • Lack of personnel - lack of trained staff, committed volunteers, etc.
  • Lack of resources - finances, buildings, tools/equipment, personnel, etc.
  • Lack of insight - the lack of wisdom and understanding of how to strategically plan to fulfil the vision - i.e. the vision is out of your current capacity!
  • Lack of confidence - young leaders especially question themselves at times, to their current capacity to actually work towards the vision they have.
  • Lack of support/buy-in to the vision - If the vision doesn't touch the heart of the people, and doesn't inspire them, then you may have a tough time reaching the vision on your heart.
We can overcome most obstacles. We need time to sit in our lazy chair and consider the options. We need to plan and learn and discover. I am reminded of Thomas Edison who didn't discover the Light Bulb on his first go; not even on his 20th attempt. It took him hundreds of adaptations to finally fulfil his dream of inventing the light bulb! So, do not give up on your vision, especially if it is a God-honouring, kind of vision.
  • What are the obstacles you currently face to fulfilling the vision on your heart?
Continue on with Leadership Training Module One on VISION. The next blog is Vision that Stagnates.

Without Vision the People Wander Aimlessly

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The old proverb says that without vision the people perish; or as some say, without vision the people wander aimlessly.

I spent some time with our leadership team recently speaking about the vision of our church for next year, and the years to come. Why? Well, without a clear vision, it is so easy to wander aimlessly. It is so easy to merely work and work, and become busy 'doing' lots of things, and the question is whether you are achieving what you should be achieving. A vision keeps you on track. A mission statement highlights what your main purpose is, but a vision gives you an idea of the preferable future for your organisation.

A vision also motivates the troops. Without a dynamic vision, people will wander aimlessly not really understanding their purpose within your organisation. A vision helps people be on the same page, and to be striving for the same goals. A good vision will ignite passion in you to see change and transformation. A good vision will see people signing up to be a part of it.
  • What are you doing to inspire vision in the organisation that you are a part of?
  • Do you find there is a greater clarity and direction when you have a clear and purposeful vision?
Continue on with Leadership Module One on VISION. Click here for the next post on VISION - Vision Obstacles

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tithing - An Intriguing Aspect of Giving - Genesis 14:1-24 - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Could I think of a more controversial topic to discuss? Tithing. Firstly, the question is, why is tithing so controversial for so many people? For some, I sense that to tithe (or to give the first 10% of your income to God) comes to the heart of the Christian life; that is, will we put God first in our lives? When the rubber hits the road, we can talk about reading the Bible, lifting up prayers and helping those in need, and these are great expressions of the Christian life, though giving of our financial resources challenges what we do with what we have been given. What will I do with that $1000 for the fortnight? Will I let go of $100 of it, and tithe it to the local church?

Now, we are going to explore some biblical texts related to tithing. This post does not seek to be a complete intellectual expose of everything tithing, but rather I would like to offer an intriguing aspect of giving.

Before I look at this intriguing aspect of giving, lets consider Moses and his trip up Mount Sinai. On this mountaintop God (YHWH) released a blue print to him that would become the codes for living for the Israelite people. What was offered to Moses, for the Israelite community was the 'Law'. The word law conjures up primarily negative images in our contemporary minds, but back then, many of the laws offered were related to health and wellbeing, and were offered to the people of Israel thousands of years before they had the luxuries of 'surfing the Internet' to find a solution to their leprosy!

Within these laws, God taught his people to tithe. He asked for people to tithe, and he desired people to tithe to him. A tithe was the giving of the first ten per cent of their produce that they received off the land. Actually at times, God required people to ‘tithe’ or sacrifice a tenth of their livestock, not just their grain. That’s a lot of steak sandwiches right there!

What does the Old Testament texts say about tithing?

Leviticus 27:30 - 30 "'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 - 5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and donations, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.

So giving of a tithe and above that, offerings, was a celebration of the fact that God had blessed you. What a concept! Giving a tithe to the priesthood, was not a legalistic thing (atleast that was not what God was wanting), but rather so that people would firstly, put God number one, and secondly use this giving as an opportunity to be thankful for all the blessings God has given.

BUT this is NOT what has been intriguing me. I mean, I know about tithing, and giving ten percent. I know that it is a way to celebrate and put God first in our lives. I know that. I also believe that tithing is a concept/law that passes on to the New Testament believer. Though I am not going to enter into that debate. I think it is somewhat irrelevant, because generous giving in the New Testament seems to be above and beyond 10% anyway! The picture of the NT Scriptures is that tithing was seemingly the bare minimum for a mature follower in Christ. I mean, I have never sold a house and laid the money at anyone's feet before! (Acts 4:34-35).  

BUT this is NOT what has been intriguing me about tithing.

Stop and have a read of the following story in Genesis 14:11-20:
Genesis 14:11-20 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. 13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. 17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Did you read the passage? Let me unpack it for you. Abram (soon to be named Abraham), finds out his nephew Lot had been captured, along with his possessions. Abram rallied a few hundred of his trained men to attack the kings who had captured Lot, and obtained back Lot's rightful possessions. What happens next intrigues me. Melchizedek, who was a priest of 'God Most High' blesses Abram, and mentions that God was the one who blessed him in battle that day. It was the Creator of heaven and earth who delivered the enemies into Abram's hands. What was Abram's response? "Thanks Melchizedek, we should do coffee some time..." No, his response was that he gave the priest a tenth of everything. Imagine how much livestock this would have been? There would have been enough sheep to make New Zealand proud. What an amazing response by Abram. Melchizedek, the priest, makes Abram aware of the fact that God had blessed him in battle, and Abram's response was to give back to God.

What intrigues me the most about this tithe is this... Abram tithed before it became law. We know that Moses had not gone up the Mountain yet. Moses had not passed on the law to the people of Israel. In fact, Moses wasn't even born yet! Abram did not have the law in front of him that read, 'You shall give a tenth of your livestock to God'. This is the point - When Abram became aware that God was blessing him, he gave back to him to show his appreciation. This was Abram's automatic response; one of generosity. God blessed me, therefore I will bless God.

This is the point of tithing. It is not a law, per se. It is not a religious duty. It is an act of thankfulness. It is an act of giving that expresses gratitude to God, for being created, for the blessing in life, for having anything of value in the first place! Let us learn from the intriguing story of Abram, when he realised God had blessed him, so he gave God a tenth of his possessions.

I can learn something about generosity from this story in Genesis 14:1-24.
This glance at Genesis 14:1-24, Leviticus 27:30 and Deuteronomy 12:5-7 on tithing/giving, is part of a growing collection from Pete's Bible Commentary.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Law No. 10 - The Law of Connection - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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The Law of Connection says, 'Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand'.

John Maxwell is on to something here! I listened to a Christian evangelist preaching up a storm recently, and he knew something of the law of connection. He was preaching to a group of teenagers, most of who had never heard him preach, other than maybe looking at YouTube prior to the event. Did he just simply dive into his message? Did he just walk up to the stage, offload his theological persuasions, hoping someone might respond? He did quite the opposite. He began by playing his saxophone, to some background music, and got the crowd involved in singing some well known radio tunes. Why? Was it because he lacked enough content for a full sermon? No. He was building a connection with the listening audience. Then when he came to the crux of his message, he had people willing to respond. His name is Reggie Dabbs - YouTube him if you dare.

You may not be in the Christian ministry context, but the principle is the same. That's why Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People), highlights the point that if you walk into an unknown person's office, and you are seeking something from them, e.g. to sign over their money, you need to build a connection with them. He says that to make this connection you should quickly scan the room, and find something that you can talk about that connects with the person. I remember for instance walking into the office of a School Principal's office. I had never built a connection with this Principal before. As I entered the office, I scanned the room and saw a Certificate for being trained in Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People literature. I immediately leveraged off this to build a connection. I asked, 'How long have you been training people on the 7 Habits? It's a good book hey?' Very quickly I had built a connection. He began talking with excitement about The 7 Habits, and how he uses it to empower people to be better leaders.

While developing the connection with people is again, not rocket science, but John Maxwell is on the right track, and so many people miss it. They enter an important meeting with an executive and they talk more about themselves than anything else, and no connection is built. Or what about when you have two people on two different occassions speak on pretty much the same topic, and one of the communicators has connected with you so much more effectively? There are many factors involved in this connection, and some of them are:
  • Your respect for the communicator. The higher the respect, the greater the connection.
  • Their ability to emotionally connect with you, the listener. The greater the emotional connection, the greater the connection, e.g. they may share a story about being a foster child when they grew up, and if you were a foster child, you probably will feel an emotional connection.
  • The personality of the communicator and listener. Sometimes different personalities can either inspire us, or grate against us. An example being, that an organised, methodological kind of personality, may communicate about time management, and struggle to build a connection with a spontaneous, laissez- faire personality type. A communicator/leader who can build a connection with others across differing personality types is a seasoned professional!! 
  • Similiar likes and hobbies is an easy way that connections are built with others. You can hone in on the similarities and an emotional connection is established. We see this around the BBQ, when guys are talking about football, or cars, and a connection is built. 
Establishing a connection with another person is vital in leadership. A CEO who fails to emotionally connect or inspire his management team is on a road to failure. A Pastor who struggles to connect with their congregation, will constantly struggle to have support and 'buy-in' for their God-given dreams. A leadership trainer, who gather 15 people together for a session on 'Management styles in the 21st Century' for example, needs to build a connection with the listeners. The 15 will learn more if they emotionally connect with the trainer! That's a fact, and we all know it!!

So, how well do you connect with the different audiences/groups/meetings you take part in throughout your day? There are different techniques that can be used to connect with different size groups as well, and those of us who are leaders in these differing groups, must employ each of them to connect well in each context. Briefly, communicating to a large group, you might share a personal story that many can relate to. In a mid-size group, you might spend a moment thanking the people in the room that have helped to make the business/organisation what it is today. In a one-on-one meeting, you might, as mentioned, focus on the hobbies and passion of the one you are speaking with.

The Law of Connection from John Maxwell, puts some framework around what is intuitive to great leaders. You must connect with others before you can expect them to follow.
Acknowledgement goes to John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, from which he writes Law No. 10 - The Law of Connection.
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Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Luke 15:11-32 - The Parable of the Lost Son - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Luke 15:11-32 (The Parable of the Lost Son) - 11 Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. 13 "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20 So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ' 22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. 25 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' 28 "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 31 "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

The Parable of the Lost Son is such a well known parable spoken of by Jesus. That being said, is there something we can glean from this story that will inspire us?

Larry Osbourne writes the following notes on Luke 15:11-32, taken from his book Sticky Church. He says:
  • Setting the Context for the Parable of the Lost Son: Religious leaders were upset that Jesus welcomed rather than excluded people of questionable character.
  • God would rather restore than punish.
  • How do you love and respond to a rebel?
  • When they insist on leaving, Let Them LEAVE!
  • When things get tough, let them hit rock bottom.
  • 'If we soften the blows, we'll lengthen the rebellion.'
  • When the prodigals comes back run to greet them!
  • After they're back, don't punish the obedient.
(Sticky Church, Larry Osbourne, page 169).

The Geneva Bible Translation Notes says about the Parable of the Lost Son, 'Men by their voluntary falling from God, having robbed themselves of the benefits which they received from him, cast themselves headlong into infinite calamities: but God of his singular goodness, offering himself freely to those whom he called to repentance, through the greatness of their misery with which they were humbled, not only gently receives them, but also enriches them with far greater gifts and blesses them with the greatest bliss.'

The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Both Christianity and Buddhism

There is a parable similar to that of the Lost Son, recorded amongst Buddhism, though it contains some interesting differences. You can find an interesting article here. Ernest Valea writes, 'The Buddhist parable has a different message [to that of Luke's Parable of the Lost Son]. One cannot simply reach Buddhahood at once. The process is very long and demands a progressive accumulation of wisdom. Escaping from ignorance and suffering, attaining nirvana and becoming a bodhisattva is attained gradually by a day-by-day effort in training the mind and overcoming karma. Grace, in Buddhism, cannot be shown directly, but only as the disciple deserves it, which in fact is no grace at all.'The son who returns says something interesting in verse 19. He says, 'I am no longer worthy to be called your son'. The word 'worthy' is the Greek word ἄξιος (axios) and denotes one who is deserving of a due reward. Think of this for a minute from the perspective of the father. You have a child that you cherish, and love with all your heart. Since when does a loving father ever call a child to be worthy, as somehow having to earn our relationship with him? Most fathers I can think of, love their children to bits. They long for their children to do what is right, but the children are not called to earn their relationship with them!

Much of Western culture unknowingly follows this Buddhist mantra. When you consider the rebellion of a family member, who say, have stolen considerable amounts of money from the family, have rebelled against the 'rules' of the household, we quite often call them to gradually earn back their respect in the family. The grace we show is limited. We say things like, 'He's going to have to make up for that!' or jokingly, 'She'll be doing the dishes the rest of his life!' We quite often make the person work to earn back our trust, and our love for them seems to be rooted in whether or not they behave themselves in the future.

Now for a moment, let's contrast this with the Parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded by Luke (15:11-32). The Father runs towards his son, wraps his arms around him and kisses him! What an example of unconditional love and irresistible grace! This is the Father's love for his children. God is quick to forgive. As Osbourne says, 'God would rather restore than punish'. While God looks favourably upon a repentant heart, and he requires a repentant heart, he does not then call the son to 'earn' back his relationship with the Father. What God requires of the prodigal son is to turn away from the sin and follow him. This kind of change of life, is not about earning back the respect or love of God, but rather about the son's love for God being naturally expressed in a life that pleases God.

Lord - Bring back the prodigals!

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32), is part of Pete's Bible Commentary.

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