Wednesday, September 7, 2016

OK. I tried. I tried to start writing this with a cute story about my childhood home and all of the fruit trees that were in our yard. I was planning to interject a funny story about the barbs of the chestnut tree and the scariness of the wasps hiding under the apples that had fallen. Yes, I tried. But my heart is not light today and my words want to be as straight as an arrow hitting a bullseye: 

if you are a Christian leader, the people you lead need to see you bear fruit.

When we are saved and we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to bear His fruit. We can't do this on our own. Oh, sure, you will encounter people in your life from time to time who are really nice, generous, caring people who happen to be unsaved. But I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about those of us who claim to be children of the King. Those of us who sense that God has us on a path of leadership- of ministry. You are who I am targeting in this blog because I am seeing a decline in the "fruit industry" lately. I am reading, seeing, and hearing leaders behave in a manner that is not in accordance with Scripture and the fruit they are to be bearing. So we are going to have a little "refresher course." Leadership 101.1, if you will. 

1. Love. 
Love people more than you love yourself. If you get confused, just love like Jesus. That will pretty much take care of it. I cannot possibly say enough about love because it is the very foundation of our faith. Stop right here if you need to and pray for God to show you how to love. 

2. Joy.
Remember what you are saved from. And Who did the saving. I don't know about you, but that pretty much makes my heart about to burst. I don't even like the summer heat anymore; quite sure being saved from the fires of Hell is enough to give me joy. If you're not acting joyful, pray for it. He will help you sort it all out and "count it all joy." (James 1:2-8)

3. Peace.
John 14:27 says it best: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." Know who said that? Jesus. He's Who we receive our peace from. So the way I see it is that, since we get our peace from Jesus, if we are doing something against His will, we may not have that peace. The Holy Spirit will convict us to change our ways so that we may again live in harmony with our God. Do you have that peace today? If not, stop right now and ask Him to show you where you are failing and to lead you back on track. 

4. Patience.
I have found that impatient leaders are almost always most inpatient with themselves. This attitude then transfers on to the people whom they are leading. If you have given everything over to God each day, and sometimes many times each day, then you need to be patient to allow Him to carry out His plan in His timing. 

I know you like to lead, but God is the one Who really does the leading. 

5. Kindness.
Well, well, well. Are you squirming yet? Feeling a little tense? Maybe this one struck a nerve. There is room for assertive, effective leadership and the kindness of Christ all in the same day planner, dear leader. If you are setting out to perform a ministry task that has no room for kindness, then it is a task that you should not be doing. 

1 Corinthians 16:14 Let all that you do be done in love. 

One more thing about this: let what you say and how you behave in a crowd be what you say and how you behave in private. You're never alone. 

We, as Christians, think of God as "good." Therefore we are to be like Him in our character and exhibit His goodness. Are you doing that? Are you being good? You may be able to fool some people, but you can't fool our Savior. 

In other words, be nice. 

7. Faithfulness. 
Here, faithfulness means to be trustworthy, steadfast, true. Are you? Are you really? Jesus is. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus is the same, "yesterday, today, and forever." Are the people you lead able to say that you are a faithful child of God, servant, leader, wife, daughter, friend? How about those of you who are employers? Are  you faithful to your employees? Can they trust you? Because if they can't, you're the problem, not them. 

8. Gentleness
I had the opportunity not long ago to be able to hold a fairly new baby. Of course, I had to be gentle with her and be aware of what I was doing so that her head and neck (and arms and legs as well) would be supported. What struck me though, as I was holding her and watching her sleep, was how, even in her seemingly helpless state, she was commanding such attention. No one in the room was more gentle than she, but dear leader, she was most assuredly in charge of her current situation. 
By the same token, I had been entrusted with this fragile, delicate life and I was all about making sure I handled her with the respect and responsibility she deserved. 
Leaders- God had given us a great responsibility to lead. Let us never take that lightly. 

9. Self-control.
As the Holy Spirit works in and through us and as we draw closer to God by prayer and reading His word, we are to grow in becoming more and more like Him and exhibiting self-control. The verse that comes to mind here is James 1:19. In it, James reminds us that we are to be "quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger." The leader who shoots back the quick response in anger, sarcasm, or hatred needs to take a step back and re-evaluate her role. 
We all say things we are sorry for, but if this becomes a habit, then it is a problem and we need to pray for deliverance from its stronghold on our life. And if it is indeed a leader's nature for a season, then by all means that leader should not be in a position of leadership. 

So I ask you today, "Where is your fruit?" Take a minute or two to evaluate yourself at each of these points. We're not all going to see each of them every day, but we need to see some of them in our lives, and in the lives of the leaders we follow. And if we are following someone who doesn't exhibit these godly qualities- pray for wisdom and direction. 

I pray that your ministry and your walk will be in harmony with our good and gracious God and that, as your spiritual roots sink deeper into fertile soil, you begin to bear fruit that will glorify and honor our Lord. 

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