Category Archives: Life Messages

Heart Transformation

Around 1979, while a seminary student in Dallas, I met Bill Lawrence.  He would become a long time friend and influencer.  In particular, he impacted my life on the topic of formation—leader formation.  This recent blog of his so encapsulates a message much needed today that I wanted to share it with you.

Leadership is broken because leaders are unbroken.

Transforming the Heart

Nearly three hundred years ago, Jonathan Edwards wrote one of the greatest Christian classics of all time entitled, Religious Affections. By “Affections” Edwards meant the deepest desires and drives of the heart. For Edwards, this is what our faith is about, and, while he doesn’t need me to confirm him, I believe he is absolutely right. I also believe his perspective is missing in today’s thinking.

Edwards said, “. . . no one is ever changed, either by doctrine. . . or by preaching or teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. . . . there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things.” (p. 22).

Sometimes I think this concept is missing from today’s seminary training. I fear many graduate with the impression that their task is to inform the mind in what may be an unintended conclusion because the students are too young and immature to grasp the real point of what they’re being taught. It’s rather easy to inform the mind: it’s simply a matter of learning techniques that make our teaching accurate (exegesis), clear (transitions), interesting (introductions, word choice, illustrations), and relevant (application). Do that well, and you will inform the mind. But transforming the heart is a radically different reality.

Only a transformed heart can transform the hearts of others. There is no way around this reality, no matter how hard we strive to avoid it. Simply put, transforming the heart is a personal matter, a matter of radical internal change in me, not a standing outside of my listeners as I tell them what the text says but an entering into what the text means from the deepest part of my being. This demands that I allow both the text and my listeners into my heart, the text first with its burning power of conviction and transformation from the Spirit, then my listeners as I take them into the struggle of my transformation so they can see what this means for them. It’s as if my struggle and pain become contagious, a communicable experience of growth that results in significant growth in them.

That’s what Paul did in passages like Galatians 2:20 or Philippians 3:1-14 or Romans 7:1-25. Through his autobiographical vulnerability he showed how his heart had been transformed and even now, 2,000 years later, he motivates us to move toward transformed hearts. You see, we must keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing, as Jesus showed us, is transforming the heart. No method will do this, only a man with a transformed heart. But can’t women do this? Of course. Women do this without needing any exhortation. It’s men with invulnerable and closed hearts that must be exhorted, who must be called from the fear of being known to the freedom of a transformed heart.

From “Transforming the Heart” on www.leaderformation.org/blog 

The Broken Leadership Blog is about changing the leadership conversation from what we are doing with our hands to what God is doing through our hearts.

 

 

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Paul Review

Having looked at how Paul was a competent scholar, modeled lifelong learning, led by teaching and was one of the few leaders recorded in the Bible who finished well, I ask the question: “What was the impact of the life of Paul of Tarsus? “

Not only was he largely responsible for turning the world of his time upside down (Acts 17:6) and establishing many churches (2 Corinthians 11:28), his writings have been a primary source for multitudes to experience spiritual freedom.  Saint Augustine and Martin Luther were but two men who attributed their radical change of mind and life to Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone.  In Second Corinthians 3:17 Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Freedom in Christ by means of the Spirit is still the greatest message anyone can hear and believe!

Many a person has set his or her heart to study the life of Paul.  Of the many scholars we can read, none do a better job that F. F. Bruce.  In his introduction to Paul: Apostle of the heart set free, (p. 15) he provides this perspective:

For half a century and more I have been a student and teacher of ancient literature, and to no other writer of antiquity have I devoted so much time and attention as to Paul.  Nor can I think of a writer, ancient or modern, whose study is so richly rewarding as his.  This is due to several aspects of his many-faceted character: the attractive warmth of his personality, his intellectual stature, the exhilarating release effected by his gospel of redeeming grace, the dynamism with which he propagated that gospel throughout the world, devoting himself single mindedly to fulfilling the commission entrusted to him on the Damascus road (“this one thing I do”) and laboring more abundantly than all his fellow-apostles – “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”.

In his final sentences (p. 474) Bruce states:

Campaigner for spiritual liberty that he was, he gave one thing precedence even over liberty, and that one thing was love.  But spiritual liberty is not really diminished by love; both together are imparted by the Spirit, and to serve in love is perfect freedom.  In this, as in so many other respects, Paul has remained unsurpassed in his insight into the mind of Christ.

After Paul’s heart was set free, he set the world ablaze.  He sought to increasingly know Christ and to make Him known.  Although few, if any, of us followers of Jesus will have the impact of Paul, we all have the same transforming and empowering Spirit within us.  What will we do with this precious gift?  How will we steward the message entrusted to us?  Who or what will stop us?  When and how will we finish our race?  And, whose face will we be looking for as we run and when we cross our finish line?

We all have the opportunity to make an impact on our generation.  We do so as parents with children (and grandchildren), as neighbors, as work associates and as friends.  Living a life set free by the Spirit will enable us to model and share this transforming message to others.

Grace and peace to us all through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Paul Led by Teaching

As was suggested in the last blog, leaders are learners.  It is equally true that leaders are teachers.  Although not every leader has well-developed gifts and abilities to teach, teaching is the means for communicating all that is important.  Just as there are multiple learning styles, there are multiple teaching styles.  However one teaches, it is indispensable for leading well.

Paul is portrayed as an itinerant teacher in Acts.  Probably his most extensive and intensive teaching took place when at the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10) in Ephesus over two and a half years.  We know through his Epistles he was committed to teaching.  Then, in Colossians 1:28 he seems to portray himself and other leaders as teaching every chance they get.

Great leaders must take time to organize their thoughts in ways so that they can communicate them clearly.  Leadership author and executive Noel Tichy in The Leadership Engine says, “Simply put, if you aren’t teaching, you aren’t leading.” (p. 57) He goes on to clarify that “Winning leaders consciously think about their experiences.  They roll them over in their minds, analyze them and draw lessons from them.  They constantly update and refine their views as they acquire new knowledge and experience.  And they store them in the form of stories that they use not only to guide their own decisions and actions, but also to teach and lead others.  When you hear leaders talk about their lives, you learn their teachable points of view.” (p. 59)

When it comes to teaching biblical truth we must understand why we do so.  Walt Hendrickson, in his excellent (but now out-of-print) book, Understand, clarifies succinctly why we teach: “The primary purpose of the Bible is to change our lives, not increase our knowledge.” (p. 34) Far too much teaching is for the sake of the teacher—to share how much he or she has learned.  These teachers are often self- and content-centered.  Great teachers facilitate learning.  Such teachers are others- and learning-centered.  As adult learning specialist Jane Vella says, “The professor must die!”  By this she means that teachers must ensure that their goal revolves around the learner, not one’s skill or reputation.

Think for a moment.  Write down the name of someone who taught you something significant about life or leadership.  Next, what leadership lesson(s) did you learn?  Then, how have you personally applied that teaching and what have you purposefully done to teach these lessons to others?  If you cannot answer these questions, either the lesson or the teacher may not have been that significant.

By the time a person reaches mid-life, say in one’s 50s, there should be a set of core learning that rises above all others.  These “life lessons or messages” are such that you can speak about them naturally, at a moments notice.  You have key biblical passages that correlate.  You have experiences that illustrate.  In short, you can teach with credibility and authority.

  • Have you ever taken the time to reflect upon your most significant life lessons and written them down?
  • Have you invested worthy time to connect these lessons with biblical passages that clearly relate?
  • Have you reflected on how these lessons impacted your life and put them in concise and transferable concepts?
  • Have you connected illustrations to these lessons so to make them understandable and memorable?

For an enlightening study, consider the three to five core teachings of Jesus and Paul.  What most oozed out of them when they taught?  May we follow their leadership.

Next Blog: Paul Finished Well

 

 

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