Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Powerful Impact of Books by BYRON BORGER

Loved these thoughts from book guru Byron Borger...on the incredible ways books help us as followers of Jesus and members of the human race seeking to bring the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and power. This list helps summarize for me why I feel like I always have to be reading as a leader and follower of Jesus. Check out these 7 benefits of our books:

1.  Books can be our friends. 
--there are times when an author gets what we are going through and gives voice to our own predicaments better than anyone else...
2.  Books can expand our horizons, offering windows into the lives of others. 
--it has been shown in the research: readers tend to be more emphatic than non-readers...traits such as compassion can be nurtured and deepened by reading widely...
3.  Authors can be mentors.
--authors can be trail guides, accompanying us on the journey of life...and we should draw on their riches generously. 
4.  Books can inspire us to live with passion.
--authors can inspire us, books can enlarge our hearts, we can be motivated, challenged and pushed into greater love and service. 
5.  Books can help guide us into a truly Christian worldview and "prophetic imagination."
--books help us reflect on what we mean by a worldview, what distinctive Christian thinking and cultural engagement might be like, how not to be accommodated by the spirits of the age, and how to be "in but not of" the world as Jesus instructs.
6.  Books can help us understand and discern our callings.  
--they help people learn what it means to respond to God's call, to take up work that is a blessing for the common good, as the realize their task to bear God's image opening up the creation's possibilities.  
7.  Books can be teachers to help us think Christianly about our studies. 
--what does in mean, in terms of professional practices, stuff we do day by day, to be God's agents of reconciliation in the careers and callings which we consider holy vocations? 

You can find his recommendations of actual books that help in each of these 7 areas at his blog posting:
http://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/booknotes/7_ways_books_can_help_us/


 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

3 Character Shaping Forces by MICHAEL HYATT

In one of his blog posts, author Michael Hyatt argues that our character is shaped by three forces. And if we want to develop our character, we need to give attention to each of them. I have found these three character forces to indeed be incredibly shaping in my own life and the lives of those I am seeking to influence as a leader:

The Input We Consume...the raw material out of which our character is formed.

The Relationships We Pursue...one author argues that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And we have to dissociate from people who reinforce our worst traits.

The Habits We Acquire...the consistent ways we think, speak, and act in different situations. They are largely unconscious, which is what gives them their power—both positively and negatively.

Hyatt argues that nothing is more important to our effectiveness as leaders and followers of Jesus than the cultivation of our own character. Because ultimately we will replicate who we truly are as displayed in our character—for good or for bad. These three areas require us to make all kinds of choices every single day...choices I know will affect me but still remain challenging to manage and set an example in for my kids and college students and employees!

http://michaelhyatt.com/3-forces-that-shape-character.html

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why Should I Care About Immigration?

This coming WED FEB 12 we are hosting an event called the G92 in partnership with World Relief and Bethany Christian Services all day on our college campus. We will be talking about the incredibly relevant and significant political and cultural and faith issue of immigration reform. It's a topic I am on a steep learning curve with myself...and one I am more convinced everyday is worthy of our attention and response as biblical followers of Jesus...here's a little piece I put together for our CU community on why we are engaging this issue on a deeper theological and programmatic way in this season of very possible major change in immigration policy:


Why Cornerstone University Cares about Immigration Reform and Is Hosting a One-Day Event to Raise Awareness and Invite the Body of Christ to Respond to This Issue

Most of the people who care most passionately about championing the needs of undocumented immigrants are the undocumented themselves, or their relatives or friends. That’s human nature—we have enough problems of our own, without caring about other people, right?

If we want to follow Christ well, though, I think there are a number of reasons that we need to care about the situation of immigration in our country.

First of all, there is a strong biblical mandate to care for the immigrant.  God repeatedly tells the people of Israel that the law he is giving them “applies to the native-born and to the alien among you” (Ex. 12:49).  God sets for his people the standard that immigrants to their land should be treated equally, with the same rights and the same responsibilities.  He commands his people to do so at least in part because they have a history of their own—as foreigners living under Egyptian oppression—and he wants them to do better, loving immigrants as they love themselves (Lev. 19:33-34).

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, we find God calling out immigrants—along with two other vulnerable groups, orphans and widows—for special attention.  God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18).  He did so not just through a sentimental statement of love, but by legislating systems that would ensure that these vulnerable groups’ needs were met, telling the Israelites to go over their grain, grape, and olive harvests just once, leaving the gleanings for the alien, the orphan, and the widow (Deut. 24:19-21).  That linkage extends into the prophets, where Ezekiel condemns the rulers of Israel for having “oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow” (Ezek. 22:7).

The New Testament expands upon the idea of hospitality to strangers: Jesus himself says that those who welcome a stranger are welcoming him (Matt. 25:35), while the author of Hebrews suggests that by extending hospitality to strangers, we may be entertaining angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2).  Many Americans think of hospitality as preparing a nice meal for our friends or having a guest room available for extended family, but—while those are certainly noble activities—the biblical ideal of hospitality goes much further, to those unknown to us.  Anyone can love his friends, Jesus tells us (Luke 6:33), but to love our neighbor—including those, as Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan suggests, may be individuals very different than us who are in need—is a larger task.  We do not get to choose who our neighbor is, nor can we except ourselves from the command to love them because they have broken a law.

While responding to God’s explicit commands ought to be enough, there is another reason we would do well to extend hospitality to immigrants: they present a missional opportunity right at our doorstep.  Jesus’ Great Commission to his followers was to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19); with immigration, the nations show up right at our doorstep.  The presence of immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, is not an accident: Scripture suggests that “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).  God’s hand is in the migration of people precisely because he longs for them to find him.

Missiologists will tell you that immigrants are amongst the most receptive groups of people to the gospel.  What a tragedy, then, that as a whole, we do such a poor job of welcoming them.  According to the Billy Graham Center, less than one in ten immigrants will be welcomed into the home of any American, to say nothing of an American Christian.  If we are willing to take up the challenge, we could see many immigrants enter into a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ.

Finally, we have to care about immigration because it is already an urgent issue within the church.  Research by Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Seminary suggests that immigrant congregations are already accounting for American evangelicalism’s fastest growth, which means that immigration issues are not an issue “out there” but something we have to face within the church.  If we believe that the Church is bigger than an individual congregation, but the entirety of the Body of Christ scattered throughout the globe, we cannot dismiss those parts of the body for which immigration issues are a daily reality.  Further, “If one part suffers, every part suffers” (1 Cor. 12:26)—and if we are unaware of the suffering that exists within immigrant churches as a result of a dysfunctional immigration system, it is probably because we lack meaningful relationships.

Most white evangelicals regret the way that, for the most part, we sat out on the Civil Rights Movement, leaving our African-American brothers and sisters on their own as they struggled for what we now readily affirm was biblically-mandated justice.  This time around, we have the chance to stand with our Latino, Asian, and African brothers and sisters as they struggle for a more just immigration system.

INFORMATION TAKEN FROM: 

For a more thorough answer to this question, we recommend reading Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang (InterVarsity Press, 2009).  Our first year students at CU are reading a chapter from this text in their spring semester curriculum.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

NIGHT OF NETS COMES ALIVE: Malaria BedNet Distribution in Zambia

I just got one of those emails that brings joy to your heart and even greater purpose to your passions and growth to your visions...

After hosting several different events in our NIGHT OF NETS initiative this past fall, we were so excited to raise the funds to provide thousands of bed nets to families that desperately need one in Zambia...

Yet for us we can sometimes wonder if they really get there and what impact they truly have in a place on the other side of the world...and then you get an email and a photo that makes everything real...

My friend and brother Lawrence Temfwe, the founder and director of our partner in Zambia, Jubilee ministries, sent me this photo:

And he wrote these words, which reminded me again why I love working alongside my Zambian friend:

"After giving them the nets I told them that if anyone dies from malaria, I will not come for your funeral and I will not shed a tear for you. I said anyone with a mosquito net and does not sleep in it, he is committing suicide. We had a great laugh. Of course I meant it!"

So far they have distributed over 1000 nets to 500 households from Night of Nets...and we will be joining their church leaders to distribute more in person this May on our trip to Ndola, Zambia...

I am reminded on Super Bowl Sunday how one of my greatest joys in life has not come from athletic victories or achievements despite my sports-crazed brain...but has come in giving and sharing and getting to know my dear friends in Africa...and getting to hand them a simple bed net that will save and change their lives because Jesus has brought us together...

Counting the days till I step on Zambian soil again with some fantastic CU friends...


Thursday, January 30, 2014

GRACE-FILLED LEADERSHIP by Chris Lautsbaugh

I love the idea of being a leader who extends and embodies grace, especially when I see so many other leadership models that seemingly are convinced that grace will diminish rather than improve your leadership effectiveness.  And I am pretty sure being a Christ-like leader means that we have to believe deeply and regularly default to grace when it comes to our relationship with those who we have been given the privilege to lead...grateful for the reminder today from this blog post and author's thoughts...
Here is a list of 8 traits of grace filled leadership:
1. Emphasis on principles rather than rules - Rules modify behavior, principles change hearts. Anyone can adjust their lifestyle for a season or adhere to a structure. Lives are truly changed through transformation rather than conformity. When we focus on principles, it teaches people wisdom which works in a multitude of situations.
2. Valuing people - It is easy to view people as a means to success in our teams. If our people feel cared for and valued for who they are, not merely what they do; we will have their hearts and their loyalty. This involves listening to our people and finding ways to serve them; all motivated by a desire to see them succeed.
3. Push towards excellence, leaving room for failure - As gracious leaders, we know our own shortcomings and failures. This gives us the ability to push people towards success while also allowing them to make mistakes. After all, people allowed us to learn some of our greatest lessons through failure. No one wants to work for a leader who demands perfection.
4. Allows different opinions while promoting commonalities - One of the leading traits of controlling leaders is insecurity. Insecure leaders hurt people. Gracious leaders recognize the need to surround themselves with other strong leaders, valuing differing strengths and ideas.
5. Confronts personally - Gracious leadership is not a free for all with no confrontation. Rather, the confrontation occurs in a manner which values the team member. You want to avoid general announcements or side comments to a group. Value people enough to say the hard things to them face to face.
6. Allows people to experience the consequences of their actions - Another misconception of grace is “sloppy agape”. True grace realizes lessons are often learned through experiencing the result of a bad decision and learning from it. Grace does not remove consequences or attempt to protect people from their bad decisions. Titus 2:12 tells us, “grace trains…”
7. Believes the best - We must trust our people; doing away with judgment, critical spirits, and suspicious attitudes. This value allows us to truly release people to do the job, avoiding the dreaded dirty delegation or micro-management.
8. Willing to be abused - Grace filled leaders often get accused of being taken advantage of. People naturally look for loopholes or ways to work the system. But, this happens in rule-based leadership as well. The potential for abuse does not disqualify the leadership style. A few will work the system, but more will flourish and thrive under this style of leadership.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Marks of a True Influence Leader

Like this description from Jeremie Kubicek...gonna be thinking lots about leadership in the next months as we hire student leaders for the 2014-15 school year and reframe leadership training curriculum and experiences across several platforms at CU...

A True Influence Leader:
  • Leads with vision;
  • Leads from the head and the heart;
  • Practices humility and service to others (let’s go of status and self-preservation);
  • Influences rather than pushes or demands;
  • Invests in the success of others first;
  • Rises above unethical practices, pressure, and petty politics;
  • Attracts a diverse and dedicated team of future leaders;
  • Delivers more than expected;
  • Wields the tools of forgiveness, gratitude, and laughter;
  • Reaches out to make the last first.

  • http://jeremiekubicek.com/the-mark-of-a-true-influence-leader

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back and Ahead: A Quick Review of 2013 and A Few Hopes for 2014

As we head into 2014 in the midst of a very cold and snowy winter season here in west MI, I once again want to take a few minutes to look back and dream ahead...

3 Reflections from 2013:

1. Settling in deeply in Grand Rapids...kids established and doing well in schools; developing our favorite places and traditions; experiencing all west MI has in terms of the beach/lake and culture; small group connections via church; discovering professional fulfillment and service connections and partnerships that fit us as a family and as individuals...

It's interesting to see when you hit that tipping point and you feel like this is fully home...and I think our fifth year has brought us to that place in many ways...

2. Hiring new members of my Student Engagement team at Cornerstone University...I've loved having several new folks as part of the area I lead at our school...they are talented and passionate young leaders, close friends, and like-minded servants of Jesus...couldn't be more excited about getting to watch them impact the lives of college students and investing my time and resources into their growth and development...

3. Watching God continue to broaden and strengthen my heart and head when it comes to global realities and our need to be a voice and change agent for the oppressed and broken and forgotten people and systems in our world...a new exposure to and decision to help others respond to the issue of immigration reform in our country and my community has once again connected me with the heart of God and the values and teachings of Scripture...wouldn't have dreamed even 3 months ago that this issue would be a centerpiece in my job, personal life, and faith journey...


4 Visions for 2014:

1. Better physical care of myself...recently read a book called EAT, MOVE, SLEEP that helped frame for me some targets that I need to pursue to make my stewardship of my body and life more fruitful and honoring the one who made me to function well instead of failing to discipline myself in these areas...

2. Intentionally creating experiences and conversations for our family that cause us to seek to live a bit of a counter-cultural life as followers of Jesus in the schools and churches and neighborhoods and communities of our suburban American world and lifestyle where God has placed us and called us in this season...exciting to talk and think and act together on this challenge before us...

3. Seeking to grow and maybe even double the impact of NIGHT OF NETS in helping to end malaria in sub-Saharan Africa...the key will be me empowering others and inviting other schools and groups to be part of this project...and we will be fueled up once again by the Zambian people and church on another trip in May as we see the need and partner with our friends on the other side of the world in changing family's lives through the distribution and use of a simple $6 bed net...

4. Reading & Writing...I've discovered that these two things deeply affect my capacity to lead well, the level of my personal energy & spirit, and it truly is one of the things I can do to most affect others God brings into my life as His follower...more books, more blogs, and more engagement with ideas and truths and Scripture and stories daily and weekly and in special seasons will bear much fruit in 2014...

What are your reflections looking back and your goals/visions for the new year ahead?