Monday, October 31, 2011

Two words that have literally floored me


My heart pounds right now, as I consider the words the Holy Spirit has implanted in my mind. They won't pass from me. The words seem to be ingrained there for this particular moment. These two words fly in the face of my future plans. They challenge my intended motives for conflict resolution. While I was ready to catch up with someone with all guns blazing, these two words have gripped me. They have floored me, really. It's a dint to my ego, let's be honest, but they're words God has planted into my mind. No other humanistic reasoning will I accept - these two words would not have popped into my mind other than a powerful deity at work... Well the two words...
Extravagant Love.

That's all, extravagant love. I had intended on throwing the law at someone. I had intended to give them a piece of my mind. I had intended to swat the fly with a sledge hammer. But those two words came into my mind, and I thank God.

See, God showed extravagant love when he sent his son, Jesus Christ to die for the sins of humanity. I had forgotten that. Here I am being woken up by God, and I hear the voice saying, 'Hey, extravagant love, not overpowering law, or humanistic condemnation... get it right. You're following me, remember?'
What a challenge I face right now. Will I bow before God, and humbly accept this word for my life and ministry? Or will I say, no way, and try to do things in my own strength, with my only plans and futile endeveours?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How did the First Disciples of Jesus Die?


Ever wondered how the disciples died? Ever wondered what were the disciple's fate? Well, the next time you are feeling down, persecuted, and depressed, just remember what cost the disciples and other first century followers of Jesus Christ have paid for following him over the years. Let's have a look:
  • James the apostle, the brother of John, was beheaded (a.d. 44).
  • Philip the apostle was stoned and crucified (a.d. 54).
  • Matthew the apostle was beheaded in Ethiopia (a.d. 70).
  • James the apostle, the son of Alphaeus, stoned to death in Syria (a.d. 60).
  • Matthias, the apostle who replaced Judas as one of the 12 disciples, was stoned in Jerusalem (a.d. 70).
  • Andrew the apostle was crucified in Patras (a.d. 70).
  • Mark, the author of the gospel bearing his name, died by being dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt (a.d. 64).
  • Peter the apostle was killed by crucifixion in Rome (a.d. 69).
  • Paul the apostle was most probably beheaded in Rome, the same day Peter was crucified (a.d. 69).
  • Judas, also known as Thaddeus the apostle, was killed by arrows/javelins in Armenia (a.d. 70).
  • Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, the apostle, was skinned alive and crucified in Armenia (a.d. 70).
  • Thomas died by being, baked in an oven, and pierced with spears in India (a.d. 70).
  • Luke (author of the Gospel of Luke), was hanged to death in Greece (a.d. 93).
  • Simon the Zealot was sawed in half in the Middle East (a.d. 74).
  • James half-brother of Jesus, was thrown from a building, stoned, and beaten in Jerusalem (a.d. 62).
  • Timothy (Paul's mentoree) was stoned and beaten to death in Ephesus (a.d. 80).
(Cited in Dave Anderson's How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK)

Amazing, that a majority of the first followers of Jesus were killed, yet the message of Christ still spread rapidly across the countryside. They were sold out to the fact, that Jesus had died for sins, and had risen from the grave, and that this message of hope would transform lives. Ironically, a message of love, hope and peace, is confronted with death, violence and absolute cruelty.

Remember, following Jesus can come at a cost, (emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc), but we can take heart, that others have faithfully loved Jesus right to the end, and their message was still spread to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ezekiel's Heart of Stone to a Heart of Flesh

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I stood at the front of the altar call. A little nervous and feeling a little vulnerable. The year was 2001, and I was at a Young Adults Retreat with The Salvation Army. A man in his 30s came up to me, and began to pray for me. Most of the words I can't remember, but his said this sentence, which is still etched on my heart all these years later. He said, 'God wants to turn your heart of stone, into a heart of flesh...' I went away knowing God had spoken to me this day and had done something within me.

Some ten years later I find myself reflecting on these words, that find themselves buried in the book of Ezekiel. Maybe you have heard this expression, or maybe you have even prayed those words from Ezekiel. Let's have a look at a few verses of the biblical text:

Ezekiel 36:25-27:
Eze 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
Eze 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Eze 36:27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

When you think of the stone mentioned in Ezekiel 36:26 you might think of a person that is characterised by hard heartedness and stubbornness or someone who lacks emotion, or is 'hard' to get along with, or lacks compassion and so the list goes on. The contrasting picture in Eze 36:26 is of flesh, which conjures up images of compassion, respectful, loving, vulnerable, emotional (but stable), and of vitality and humanness.

You might be thinking now of all your all coworkers, distant relatives and friends who have what you perceive to be a heart of stone. Go on, I know that's what you're thinking!

The prayer that was can derive from these words of Ezekiel 36:26 is the following and we can pray this for others, but we must pray it for ourselves:

"Lord, help me to have a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone. Through your Spirit do a work in me, that replaces the cold, hard heartedness in me, and replace it with a heart that honours you. In Jesus' name".

Sunday, October 16, 2011

John C. Maxwell Quotes on Leadership


John C. Maxwell Quotes on Leadership:

  • 'People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Change is inevitable, growth is optional' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Life is 10% what happens to me, 90% of how I react to it' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less' - John C Maxwell
Join Pete Brookshaw's Facebook Page & keep the discussion going.
Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.
  • 'If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone' - John C Maxwell
  • 'We cannot become what we need, by remaining what we are' - John C Maxwell
  • 'When the real leader speaks, people listen' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Trust is the foundation of leadership' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leadership develops daily, not in a day' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Momentum is a leader's best friend' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment' - John C Maxwell
  • 'To add growth, lead followers - to multiply, lead leaders' - John C Maxwell
  • 'A leader's lasting value, is measured by succession' - John C Maxwell
  • 'The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence need to be' - John C Maxwell
Join Pete Brookshaw's Facebook Page & keep the discussion going.

More John C. Maxwell quotes on leadership:
  • 'Personal organizational effectiveness is proportionate to the strength of leadership' - John C Maxwell
  • 'You can find smart, talented, successful people who are able to go only so far because of the limitations of their leadership' - John C Maxwell
  • 'The only thing a title can buy is a little time--either to increase your level of influence with others or to erase it' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Becoming a leader is a lot like investing successfully in the stock market. If your hope is to make a fortune in a day, you're not going to be successful' - John C Maxwell
  • 'As long as a person doesn't know what he doesn't know, he doesn't grow' - John C Maxwell
  • 'No matter how much you learn from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know for the present' - John C Maxwell
  • 'If the leader can't navigate the people through rough waters, he is liable to sink the ship' - John C Maxwell
  • 'It's difficult balancing optimism and realism, intuition and planning, faith and fact. But that's what it takes to be effective as a navigating leader' - John C Maxwell
  • 'Major barriers to successful planning are fear of change, ignorance, uncertainty about the future, and lack of imagination' - John C Maxwell
  • 'It's not the size of the project that determines its acceptance, support, and success. It's the size of the leader' - John C Maxwell
John C Maxwell quotes on leadership are attributed to the writings of John C Maxwell, predominantly from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998).

Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.

To continue the learning, check out this post: Stephen Covey's 4 Human Intelligences from July 2011. Click here.

Also: The differences/similarities between Leadership and Management

Join Pete Brookshaw's Facebook Page & keep the discussion going.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

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In 1995, Daniel Goleman released a hard-hitting, inspiring snapshot of what he labels, 'Emotional Intelligence'. Improving your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), he said was just as important as improving your Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

We could all sit here and think of a person with an extraordinarily high IQ who has a very limited ability to emotionally connect with those around him. That's because, this person has a high IQ, but a low EQ. Goleman relays a story of a student named Jason (of Colorado Springs, Florida), who was an A+, highly intellectual student, who desired to enter Harvard University. When Pologruto (his Physics Teacher) gave him a 'B' on a quiz, Jason took a butcher knife to school, and stabbed Pologruto in the collar bone. Why would someone of such a high IQ, be able to do something so dumb? (p. 33 - Emotional Intelligence). The answer - he lacked emotional intellignce.

Our emotional intelligence is our ability to deal with our emotions, for example, how we respond to someone cutting us off in traffic, or our reaction to a close friend betraying us, or how we deal with our anger when our spouse grates against us. Other situations include, our emotional reaction to almost touching a hot stove, or the fear we have when we stand on the balcony 30 stories high. What about the emotions you feel, when you are driving along and a car brakes hard, and all of sudden your previous bad experience of that car accident from 1997 comes fresh to mind? This intelligence is powerful and someone being able to control their emotional responses will no doubt stand in good stead for empowering leadership and interpersonal relationships in the future.

Prior to Goleman's revolutionary teaching on emotional intelligence, IQ was believed to be the most important type of intelligence that existed. Interestingly Stephen Covey goes further in his book The 8th Habit, saying there are four intelligences that we need to focus on (Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Intelligence, Physical Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence or IQ, EQ, PQ, SQ). Daniel Goleman speaks of a contemporary, Howard Gardner, who in his 1983 book Frames of Mind, wrote that there was not just one 'monolithic kind of intelligence that was crucial for life success' (p. 38), but he listed at least 7 varieties (e.g. verbal and mathematical-logical intelligence, spatial capacity, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, etc.).

Consider the picture of the brain above. You will see an almond shaped part of the brain called the amygdala, and this part of the brain is related to our responses to emotional situations. When we are confronted with a situation that makes us tense, angry, nervous, or fearful, it is our amygdala that is creating those emotional urges/feelings we have. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to deal with their response to emotionally laden circumstances better than people or leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Interestingly, the rational part of our brain, and where we make rational decisions, e.g. "I will eat breakfast because it helps kick start my metabolism", is made with the prefrontal cortex (pictured as the prefrontal lobe). Now, when we are thrown into an emotional situation, our brain will generally go to the amgdala 'before' the prefrontal cortex. Now let me explain what happens then... We find out, for example that an employee has stolen from you - the manager. Since the situation makes you quite emotional, the amgydala kicks in almost immediately, before the brain has had the chance to make a rational response to the situation. So as the manager, you might find yourself getting angry and blowing off some steam, and then realizing a moment later that you flew off the handle unexpectedly. The challenge for leaders, is to be emotionally intelligent, and take a deep breath before responding to emotional circumstances. This actually gives time for the brain to consider an appropriate response from the prefrontal cortex, (where the rational decisions are made). So, when someone says, 'Take a deep breath...' it is not just to shut you up, or a cliche, it is actually a physiological fact, that a deep breath, helps your brain to have that split second extra time to make the right and rational response.

Emotionally intelligent leaders take the deep breath. That don't let their initial feelings, hurt and pain be expressed in an unprofessional manner. They allow that extra moment to make a wise, rational response.
This is emotional intelligence and this is why Daniel Goleman rates it so highly amongst the intelligences, because it affects our ability to engage with others, and our ability to lead.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Abraham Lincoln - Failing Forward as a Leader

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Have a read of this quote. What an inspiring picture of a leader who had perseverance and tenacity:

" At the age of seven, a young boy and his family were forced out of their home. The boy had to work to support his family. At the age of nine, his mother passed away. When he grew up, the young man was keen to go to law school, but had no education.
At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. At 23, he ran for state legislature and lost. The same year, he went into business. It failed, leaving him with a debt that took him 17 years to repay. At 27, he had a nervous breakdown.
Two years later, he tried for the post of speaker in his state legislature. He lost. At 31, he was defeated in his attempt to become an elector. By 35, he had been defeated twice while running for Congress. Finally, he did manage to secure a brief term in Congress, but at 39 he lost his re-election bid.
At 41, his four year old son died. At 42, he was rejected as a prospective land officer. At 45, he ran for the Sentate and lost. Two years later, he lost the vice presidential nomination. At 49, he ran for the Senate and lost again.
At 51, he was elected the President of the United States of America.
The man in question: Abraham Lincoln."   ~ Author Unknown.

What a picture of perseverance. What a picture of patience. I would find myself frustrated and broken, but for Abraham the ability to stand back up and make a difference, is admirable. Political agendas aside, you understand someone who had plenty of leadership knocks (what John C. Maxwell would call 'Failing Forward') but was able to persevere as a leader.

Let us aspire to have that heart for 'continuing on' when times are tough, and when all seems hopeless and useless. Maybe, we are simply developing into the leaders that God intends for us, and these setbacks are actually lifting us to another level.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Competencies of U.S. Military Leaders

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Following on from the previous blog on the U.S. Military's Leadership Philosophy, lets look at some of the competencies that are needed for effective U.S. Military soldiers.

Firstly, following on from the BE-KNOW-DO leadership mantra, there's this quote from General Edward C. Meyer (Chief of Staff, Army 1979-1983):
"Just as the diamond requires three properties for its formation - carbon, heat, and pressure - successful leaders require the interaction of three properties - character, knowledge, and application. Like carbon to the diamond, character is the basic quality of the leader... But as carbon alone does not create a diamond, neither can character alone create a leader. The diamond needs heat. Man needs knowledge, study and preparation... The third property, pressure - acting in conjuction with carbon and heat - forms the diamond. Similarly, one's character attended by knowledge, blooms through application to produce a leader."

Below is what is required of leaders within the U.S. Military.

Attributes of Leadership:
  • A leader of character
    • Army values
    • Empathy
    • Warrior Ethos
  • A leader with presence
    • Military bearing
    • Physically fit
    • Composed, confident
    • Resilient
  • A leader with intellectual capacity
    • Mental agility
    • Sound judgment
    • Innovation
    • Interpersonal tact
    • Domain knowledge
Competencies of Leadership:
  • Leadership
    • Leads others
    • Extends leadership beyond the chain of command
    • Leads by example
    • Communicates effectively
  • Develops others
    • Creates a positive environment
    • Prepares and develops self
    • Develops and invests in others
  • Achieves
    • Gets results!
Leaders from all organisations and walks of life can learn from these core competencies on leadership from the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Army's Leadership Philosophy

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The U.S. Military Philosophy on Leadership is:


Firstly, the values and attributes of a leader will affect positively or negatively on their capacity to lead. Who we are internally and the definining qualities we possess are the foundational aspects of leadership. The 'BE' part of the leadership philosophy relates to our own morality, and a soldier's integrity; it is the internal make-up of a leader.

Secondly, to 'KNOW' is to have the knowledge required to make wise leadership decisions in the heat of moment. It is about understanding organizational expectations, technical systems, the management of resources, HR issues, conflict resolution, strategic problem-solving and so on. To be a good leader in the U.S. Army, as this document suggests, is to firstly have deep moral integrity (to 'BE') and then to have the intellectual prowess to be a good leader.

Thirdly, to round out the leadership philosophy, a soldier must 'DO'. Naturally, simply 'being' and 'knowing' is never enough to achieve the mission at hand; you must 'DO'.

In Christian terms, I have been thinking about what I call DNA. A good leader has Depth, Nurture and Action expressed in their life. Let me explain briefly. A Christian leader has depth with their relationship with God, and they have depth in their relationships with one another. A Christian leader experiences the Nurture that comes from other Christians/believers, who encourage, challenge and inspire. They also receive nurture from God the Holy Spirit, who comes to empower them and 'counsel' them. A Christian leader finally, not only has depth with God, and nurture from other believers, but they go to action. They live out their faith convictions, in order that their realms of influence would be transformed for Jesus' sake. So, DEPTH, NURTURE, ACTION.

Thanks to the U.S. Military for their leadership philosophy that says, BE, KNOW, DO.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Leadership Tips on Creating Change and Innovation

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A good leader inspires people to achieve God given visions. Elmer Towns comments on visionary leadership and says, "Problems arise for leaders, however, because they are imperfect, and exercise imperfect communication to followers who have imperfect powers of observation; thus arriving at imperfect interpretation and imperfect understanding of the task at hand. When an imperfect relationship exists between leaders and followers, the less than perfect situation creates a barrier to change or innovation." (the Role of Innovation in Leadership - Elmer Towns).

At times leaders are misinterpreted, whether that be something that is communicated verbally, or just a misinterpretation of a leader's body language. These can create barriers to effective visionary leadership. Elmer Towns offers some basic presuppositions leaders should grasp when attempting change or innovation.

1. Change or innovation usually begins with the leader. A leader must first be willing to change. I think broadly of leaders being not only willing to change their organizational output, but be willing to change and grow personally (morality, integrity, etc.)

2. Followers must be prepared to change. I have heard of some that say a leader needs to be able to create urgency for change. Some even go so far as to say we should change things around all the time, just to stay in a state of changing. My philosophy is not to change for change sake, but to help people be aware that when change comes along it will be worthwhile!

3. A leader must know what to change. This requires wisdom and discernment and understanding of the group you are leading, what you are aiming to achieve and a decent grasp of the organization of which you are part. They say, "Methods are many, principles are few. Methods can change, but principles never do." It's really that discussion about orthodox belief and methodology. Within the Christian church for example, beliefs stay the same, but methods that are used to help people engage with those beliefs change.

4. A leader must communicate the value of the change/innovation. If the perceived value of the change is less than the perceived value of the way things are, then you have a change issue. All the best trying to inspire followers to change when they believe they are better off the way things are. A leader must communicate, communicate, communicate the great value of the changes. Promote the vision. Inspire the listeners. Let people know things will be better off after the new changes than right now.

5. Celebrate the wins along the way. Discuss the progress. Keep people informed. Through the upheaval of change and innovation there needs to be time to celebrate how far you've come. Celebrate the progress. Continue to show people as you reflect on your progress, that these changes are worth their salt!

God bless you as you strive to lead well, and to manage the change process and the inevitable transitions involved. I hope these leadership tips on the change process have been helpful!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Colossians 3:1-3 - Setting our Minds to Things Above

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Colossians 3:1-3 "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden in Christ in God."

How easy is it to set our minds on "other things"? You know, the stress and pressures of everyday life, trying to do the best you can in life. I have some idea of the things that take our focus in life. I know what it's like to worry about how you can possibly pay that next power bill. I know what it's like to have more on your plate than what time allows. It is so easy to set our minds on our situations, and ponder things from a human, natural perspective.

The words of Colossians are a great reminder. Set your mind on things that are above - you know, think about God, get a heavenly perspective. Actually we are challenged here to not only have our mind focussed on God, but to seek things that are above! Live our lives for God. Focussed on God and living for God.

While the pressures of everyday life probably won't dissipate anytime soon, let's take on the words of Colossians 3:1-3 and set our lives to reflect God's purposes and will.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

First World Problem

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I was complaing the other day to my wife Jo, when I said, 'Ahh, I burnt my feet, running to buy my icecream from the delivery truck' Her answer was, in a straight and deep voice, 'First world problem.' I have been thinking about that lately.
* The Cafe isn't open yet - First world problem
* My car won't start - First world problem
* They don't have the clothes in my size - First world problem
* I had to wait ten minutes in line at the supermarket - First world problem
* They didn't have lite milk - First world problem

You get the picture. So many of our 'problems' are simply first world issues. Lets have a quick look at it from another angle
* I have no clean drinking water, at all - Third world problem
* I can't feed the family enough food - Third world problem
* I don't earn enough money to get out of this cycle of poverty - Third world (& First world relative poverty).

Thanks Jo - You help me put things in perspective!

How to WIN a FREE Leadership Book!

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It's simple. No catches. Just comment on any post up until and including November 30th, 2011 and you will have the chance to be randomly selected to WIN John C. Maxwell's The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.

Actually. I'm feeling generous. If there's lots of comments, I will give away TWO of these books!

The more you comment, the more chance you will have of winning - It's that easy. Plus, it's a good leadership read...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Emotionally Strong People - Dealing with Conflict

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I'm beginning to think of the importance of our ability to deal with conflict and the growth of the local church. We focus on growing ministers who have sound doctrine, who understand their theology, and this is great. We spend time learning the ins and outs of the movement we are a part, and that is admirable. I wonder though, whether we are in need of growing leaders who are able to work through conflict. Too many ministers I see, shrug their shoulders, or sweep it under the carpet, or just dismiss the issues like, "That's just Jane..."

Emotionally intelligent people are able to be assertive, and have that difficult conversation. I am not saying I am good at this. No way. My whole educational career has been focusing on developing my IQ. Probably your educational past as well. You know, get better at Mathematics, improve your English, learn your History and so it goes on. The problem is, throughout our lives we have never intently developed our ability to manage our emotions and deal with conflict. What a challenge we have before us; to become not just 'Intelligent' people, but emotionally secure and strong people.

Help us God! 

How Great Thou Art - Carrie Underwood

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Powerful, Powerful, Powerful. Worth the watch!

Law Firms and Trusting God

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I was reading in a Law Magazine from the states, about a group that tried to sue the builders of part of the World Trade Centre for negligence. The judge dismissed the case. Negligence? I'm pretty sure Osama's men may have been the reason for the collapse of the building and not the negligence of a building firm. Talk about being 'sue' happy. Always trying to get money off others...

Talking about the pursuit of money, I think it's absolutely imperative that followers of Jesus seek first the growing of the Kingdom of God. Money is always secondary to that aim. Short of finances? Church not making ends meet? Bills taking over? If we seek first God's Kingdom and aim to please him first, then I believe God will provide for all our needs in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Genesis 11:1-9 - The Tower of Babel and the Quest for Human Achievement

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Genesis 11:1-9 - The Tower of Babel and the Quest for Human Achievement - Pete's Bible Commentary

Gen 11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
Gen 11:2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
Gen 11:3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
Gen 11:4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
Gen 11:5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
Gen 11:6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
Gen 11:7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
Gen 11:8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
Gen 11:9 That is why it was called Babel--because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Have a think of some of the human achievements over the centuries. We could think right back to the philosophical writings of Plato and Socrates, or maybe consider the impact of Constantine and the beginnings of the established church. Our mind might flicker to Newton discovering gravity, or the development of the printing press in the 1500s that revolutionised how we receive and share information. In more recent days, the quest for human achievement can be witnessed in the discovery of electricity, the Internet, ipads, and iphones and i-everything. We think of names like Edison, Bell, the Wright brothers, Einstein and others. Human achievement is around us every day. Most of it great, and beneficial to our life, other achievements are oppressive and detrimental to society at large.

Genesis 11:1-9 is a story about human achievement. Or atleast, the quest, for human achievement. The tower of Babel was the people of their time, attempting to build a city, and a tower that was great, eye-catching, the talk of the town, the envy of all visitors. Genesis 11:4 picks up their motives, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves..." Have a look at the motive; the intention. Lets build a tower so that WE may make a NAME for OURSELVES. The motive for the establishment of the tower, later called the tower of Babel, was not primarily for community development, or to create a better way of life for its residents, or even to honour God. The building of the tower of Babel, was to make a name for themselves. What self-righteousness! Talk about the quest for self-aggrandizement!

Interestingly though, when you consider 21st Century living, and reflect on the tower of Babel story, you cannot help but think of the similarities. The tallest tower in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which rests in the sky at 828 metres tall (2717ft.), 227metres taller than its competitor, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers in Mecca. At quick glance, you get the strong feeling, that these kind of feats of human ingenuity are for the pats on the back and the free publicity and the congratulations that one would receive when building such a building. The quest for human achievement and the desire for making a name for oneself, has not left the human psyche, even after thousands of years. The inner desire to prove oneself, to make oneself known and to be popular amongst the masses is rife today more than ever. It is a classic case of a contemporary version of the tower of Babel.

When we look at Genesis 11:1-9, what was God's response to the builders of the tower? Did God say, 'Well done guys, lets call this tower, the tower of success, and lets all drink and have a party to celebrate'? No, God seemed to be frustrated and even angry, that the people would not seek after his plans and purposes, and would seek to make a name for themselves. God scattered the people. God confused their language. The name for the tower, became the tower of Babel; with the word Babel sounding like the Hebrew word for confusion. It was not called the tower of blessing, or the tower of success, or anything remotely worthy of popularity. It was rightly labelled the tower of confusion; the tower of Babel.

We should be challenged today by this story today (Gen 11:1-9). While the people of those days sought to make a name for themselves, God looked on them with disgust. Contrast this with the story of Nehemiah, where he reestablished the walls around Jerusalem, with the help of the Israelite people. God firstly laid on Nehemiah's heart the need for rebuilding the walls. This building project came out of a vision from God. The tower of Babel was birthed from the quest for human achievement and popularity. Nehemiah was empowered by God in the process. At times God strengthened the work of his hands (Neh 6:9). Following the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem, the Bible says, 'they realized that his work had been done with the help of our God.' (Neh 6:16). Contrast this with the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9), and God is not present until he comes and disturbs the quest for human popularity and self-aggrandizement (Gen 11:7). God also seemed to bring unity amongst the Israelite people under the leadership of Nehemiah (see Neh 8:1-10). The Lord brought the opposite in the tower of Babel escapade. The Lord confused their language (Gen 11:7). The Lord scattered them across the ends of the earth (Gen 11:8).

Today, lets strive to be a Nehemiah, in the sense that if we seek to achieve something, let it be driven by a vision from God, blessed by God and resourced by God. Let our quest for human achievement only be seeking to make God's name great, and seeking to establish the works that he has purposed for us to establish.

This is part of Pete's Bible Commentary. Genesis 11:1-9 and the quest for human achievement.

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