Author Archives: lrbartel

Don’t Blow Your Own Horn!

Here’s some wise advice… Don’t blow your own horn!

Here it is from my Bible reading today: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord! For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends!” (From 2 Corinthians 10:17-18 ESV)

Good Intentions… not enough!

I’ve been around long enough that I’m a bit wary of my “good intentions.”   I can recall times that I’ve been to an exciting and inspiring church service where I’ve been challenged to “make a commitment” and I’ve done it!! – made all kinds of “promises to God” in the emotional surge of the moment – only to discover delivering on those promises is more difficult than making them.  Shamefully, I admit to having some of the same spiritual challenges that Simon Peter did in the Bible! 

After the moving experience of the Lord ’s Supper, Jesus predicted “You will all fall away!”  This really bothered Peter and he strongly declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not!”  Jesus responded (knowing Peter), “Truly, I tell you, today – yes tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”  The Bible says at that point Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will NEVER disown you!” 

But in Gethsemane, when Jesus needed prayer support the most, Peter failed…  Jesus admitted, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow – to the point of death!  Stay here and keep watch” (in other words “stay awake and alert – support me in prayer!”)  But Peter slept.  The Bible says, “Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,” He said to Peter, ‘are you asleep?  Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation!  THE SPIRIT IS WILLING, BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK!’”

Peter failed!  Peter did precisely what Jesus had predicted!

Tragically, the pathway of discipleship is all too often littered with the stuff of “good intentions!” … mine included!!  I need several things, it seems to me, as I reflect on Peter and my own failures this morning…

1) I need to be more careful and thoughtful before I “pop off with my mouth” saying I’ll do something. 

2) I need the inner strengthening and support that prayer brings – I need to pray more. 

3)  I need the Lord’s forgiveness for all the times I’ve made promises and haven’t kept them! And finally,

4) I need the continual empowering of the Holy Spirit (Peter certainly did… Thank God for Pentecost!!)

(Quotations from Mark 14 NIV)   

Strong Leadership? “Steel Under Velvet”

A periodic Bartel leadership tip from my time of “coffee with the Lord”…

I think we’ve all seen individuals that let a little authority and power go to their head.  They “throw around their weight,” they’re demanding, dictatorial , abusive and threatened by anyone who has another opinion.  Tragically there are some of these kinds of leaders in Christian service!  There is nothing “Christ-like” about the way they lead others!  As spiritual shepherds go, they drive sheep – they don’t lead them.

But there’s also the opposite extreme… The leader who avoids confrontation at all costs – the person who finds a place to hide when there is an issue to be dealt with – the “shepherd” who really wishes someone in the “flock” would take over.  I know a few of these… If you ever looked up the term “laissez faire” as a leadership term in the dictionary, there picture would probably be there.  They are directionless, convictionless, valueless, and spineless.  Those who seek to follow them have no idea where they are headed, what the vision is, or what values they stand for – it’s frustrating!  They abuse by neglect.

I read a passage in the Bible today, penned by apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit that speaks clearly to this leadership issue (in fact, it’s found twice in 2 Corinthians – an epistle where Paul’s authority was being seriously challenged).  I think these verses provide an understanding of leadership and the use of authority that served as a core guiding principle for apostle Paul (and I want it to guide me)…

“If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do!  So even if I boast somewhat freely about THE AUTHORITY THE LORD GAVE US FOR BUILDING YOU UP RATHER THAN TEARING YOU DOWN, I will not be ashamed of it.” (2 Corinthians 10:7-8 NIV)

“This is why I write these things when I am absent, so that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – THE AUTHORITY THE LORD GAVE ME FOR BUILDING YOU UP, NOT FOR TEARING YOU DOWN.” (2 Corinthians 13.10 NIV)

So how can a leader avoid the two extremes I’ve presented?  How can I keep the “authority automobile” on the road and not in either ditch…  I’ve come up with a little phrase that personally helps me in that regard; here it is… AS A LEADER I NEED TO BE “STEEL UNDER VELVET” – using authority to build others up, not tearing them down.  Think I need to go out and find more “velvet” … and sometimes more “steel”!

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