Spiritual

What Makes Great leaders Great

What is it that makes a person a good Christian leader? What is it that separates those who follow Christ and those who have not found the love of God in their lives yet? These have been two burning questions in my mind since we left camp 9 months ago, and since then I have struggled to answer the question. What is it that I should be doing to demonstrate good leadership as a Christian man in my everyday life?

 I became focused on the surface attributes that everyone does. First, I must be better at whatever it is I am doing than everyone else because that immediately makes me the leader, correct? Two issues immediately became apparent when I attempted to install this idea in my life. The first was that I was never going to be as good at some things as others, and if all I based leadership on was being the best, I would fall short in many areas. When I think back to some of the most brilliant leaders I have ever met, none of them established themselves as perfect or the best. They were just trying to do the best they could and help as many others as they could to find the love from God that they had. That was my second issue.  Even the greatest leaders I have met or heard speak were not the best in their field at times. It had to be something else.

 So the next area I thought to try was control. To be a great leader you must control everything and instill in others your dominance. Immediately, I found this difficult to replicate because as I began my attempt to control others and establish a leadership, the opposite would occur. They would not look to me as a leader, but instead as a pushy, obnoxious man who attempted to control them in order to feel better about himself. Where was I going wrong? If a leader is not always the best at what he is doing and a leader is not just the person asserting control or fear, what is a leader and what makes that leader a good one?

 Then it finally dawned on me. Some of the strongest and most influential Christian leaders I have ever met were not perfect or in control, but instead they loved unconditionally. I realized that the men who had helped shape my spiritual life through Highland and other Christian environments I have been a part of did so through unconditional supportive love. They lead by example in one area at all times, loving others. John 13:34 “"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” This commandment was so special it was given apart and separate from all the others. It focused on one thing and one thing only, love.

 Now you maybe asking yourself, “Well of course I love everyone but I don’t feel like I am a great leader?” Well I felt that way too. Then I found this quote in a book I have been reading by A.G. Riddle, “Great leaders as forged from the fire of hard decisions.” How does this apply to love and Christian leadership? The great leaders I have known have loved through difficult and trying times. These leaders love everyone regardless of their stories or their background. They love through their character flaws and difficulties. That love and caring displays and it creates what their leadership is founded on.  This love is difficult and hard, but it is through these fires that their leadership is built.

 I want to grow in that area. I may never be the best speaker or the greatest writer, but I want to be a leader in my communities for Christ. I want my life to be an example for Christ and I feel that if more Christians focused on this tenant of our faith, Love, we would become great leaders for our world that at times feels so lost and distant from the love of Christ. May God bless you all.

--- Written by Ian Johnston

The Pharisees among us

Every Easter, we hear the retelling of the different parts of the life of Jesus Christ, most specifically, the ending of His life.  For some reason, lately I have been drawn to the passages focused around the Pharisees, and it got me thinking about how, in some ways, our world isn't that much different than it was 2,000 years ago.

The word Pharisee actually means pure, or separate.  These were men who aspired to be the best of the Jews, and were considered to be the most righteous of all of the Jewish people during the days of Jesus Christ.  They definitely knew their stuff, and had worked very hard to be righteous in the eyes of God.  The Bible, however, certainly does not show them in quite the same light.  In the Bible, these men are depicted as uptight, arrogant men who wielded the word of God as a weapon to turn against Jesus and his followers.  They could not see past their bigotry, greed, or need to control others, even when the miracles performed by Jesus were shown right in front of their eyes.  They saw Jesus as a threat to everything they had and stood for, and took every opportunity to discredit or disempower him in front of the crowds.  They even went so far as to manipulate an angry crowd, already outraged that Jesus was not the warrior they expected who would liberate them from the control of Rome, into demanding that He was crucified.  All in the name of God.

The Pharisees were an elite group of self-righteous leaders 2,000 years ago, but they are still alive and strong today.  We live in a world where people use the Bible to strike each other down in the name of God and even Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  (John 13:34).  I often wonder, if Jesus came back to our world, would he be met with the Love that he had for all of us and commanded us to have for each other, or the treachery of the Pharisees?  Would he find a world where people love and accept each other, or where they judge and condemn each other in His name?  Would he, too, be condemned?

God loved the world so much that he allowed his Son to go through one of the most agonizing deaths known to our world. He did this so that everyone who was ever born could be forgiven of their sins, no matter what they are, and be given eternal life by believing in Him.  All sins, all people, through His Love, whether the Pharisees approve or not.  It's a complete game changer.  This was the memo that the Pharisees missed way back in Jerusalem, and the Pharisees of today haven't really completely figured out yet either.  As you go into this beautiful Easter weekend, I challenge you to embrace the Good News all over again, and be joyful for the amazing sacrifice that God made for all of us.

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."  -John 3:16-17

 

It's easy to keep "Christ" in "Christmas"

If you frequent any social media, it's not easy to miss the heated debate over keeping "Christ" in "Christmas" while partaking in holiday traditions.  It's also not easy resisting the urge to weigh in on your perspective of this controversial subject.  It is, however, easier than you might think to find Christ wherever you may look.

Santa Claus is Real

For centuries, the tradition of portly, jolly, white-bearded man wearing the red suit has been celebrated by many different cultures around the globe, and is often recognized as "St. Nicholas." The name used commonly in the U. S.  is actually derived from the name "Sinterklaas," which is how the Dutch spell "Sint-Nicolass."  St. Nicholas was the only son of wealthy parents in Myra (which is now in Turkey) who died from a disease when he was a young child.  He was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara.  Nicholas followed in his footsteps and was ordained into priesthood.  He had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting money in the shoes of those who left them out, and helping to pay the dowry of young women by throwing money in the window.  His reputation evolved among other Christians, which was common for early Christian Saints. He is believed to be one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.  He may not actually have lived at the North Pole (Turkey, rather) or employ a contingent of elves to build toys, but he was a man who acted out the love of God, and his acts of love later transcended him into the legends of him that many hold dear today.

O Saturnalia Tree...

The "Christmas Tree," among many other Christmas traditions actually originated from before Christianity was Christianity.  Evergreens were often seen as symbols of eternal life by cultures as early as the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese, and were later used by the early Romans to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  As one of the only natural occurrences of color in the winter time, the Romans used evergreen trees as decorations in Saturnalia, their celebration of the Winter Solstice, which was their most important holiday because it symbolized the approach of the spring, and the return of their crops.  As the Roman Empire spread all over the Western Hemisphere, so did many of their customs, including the use of evergreens to celebrate Winter Holidays.  Once Christianity emerged, early Christians would celebrate Christmas while the pagan Romans celebrated Saturnalia.  Naturally, the evergreens, along with many other traditions, such as gift-giving and feasting were assimilated into the celebration of Christmas Day as we know it today. 

It Doesn't Matter how you do it

All of these traditions, whether they originated from the birth of Christ or not, are rooted in the most powerful force on this earth, God's love.  Sometimes it's hard to see just how much His love has permeated everything around us, whether it's the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, to the celebration of St. Nicholas, one of the most generous wielders of God's love in Christian history.  What's important, is how you celebrate His love to everyone you come in contact with.  The traditions that we've come to know Christmas by are only kept because of the love that they inpire in one another, and the gratitude that we have for God's incredible gift to the human race, which was inspired by His love for us. 

"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  - John 13:35

Not by our facebook, not by how we celebrate holidays, or even what holidays we celebrate, but by the way we treat each other and demonstrate God's incredible love.  Look for God's love in everything around you, and let it fill you with joy, not judgement.  Instead of jealousy, take joy in seeing God's love fill the hearts that have not yet discovered Him, and pray that He begins His work in them.  Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!

Routine

Routine

Often times when we are crunched for time or running late the first thing that gets forgotten or ignored is the time we set aside for God.  I know I'm guilty of this all the time, whether it is first thing in the morning if I'm late, or if it is late at night and I am really tired, I often sacrifice my spiritual well-being, for the demands of this world...