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One of the oddest ideas that Pentecostal churches have taken up is the idea of vision as used in leadership theory.  You see what is happening at this point is a confluence of two ideas.  First there is the Biblical idea of vision as in “dreams and vision”.  Secondly there is leadership theory.

I know a bunch of church leaders  get a vision from God, through prayer, fasting, prophetic words or otherwise.  They then use this God given direction to inspire people and see great things happen.  Other realise this is what should happen figure out what it is a good idea inspire people with it and see it collapse in a heap.  And the rest are somewhere in between.

I spoke yesterday in my church History class about Origen and feel like I short changed some of my students, (I’ll rectify this next week) , as I did not quote “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”  The thinking that Biblical revelation and philosophy were not to be connected as the philosophy was only a school master to get the reader to the gospel.  Now 1800 years late, or so, we happily accept both.

Origen’s argument was that we should be dependent on God and his Spirit for the things we need to do.  We need to live to the vision that God has given each of us.  We will live foolishly if we do not live to that God given vision.  This means at times we need to ask God for his vision for our lives.  Other times we need to have our glasses cleaned and keep the vision fresh in front of us when we have become visionless.  Other times we need to push forward to keep pursuing the vision and other times to keep on being part of its fulfillment.

So what vision do you have and where is it taking you?

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One of the hardest things for me to learn has been good boundaries.  As I have intimated elsewhere my parent’s were not real concerned with what I did as long as it did not hurt anyone.  This is not an unusual response for those who are not believers.  However as a believer I am called to set my heart on what is above and to love others even when it might be uncomfortable.  The psychologist types talk about this as boundaries, I think of it sometimes as tact, and remember my reputation in my younger days for being tactless.

You see I have gained some wisdom by realising I need to respect boundaries and not step over them.  The problem is I have had little training in this and every so often if I am not listening to God well or not sleeping enough or any other myriad of excuses I could give, I blow it. I have seen this in different areas of life over years where I have walked into a situation with hob nailed boots and accidentally hurt people.  My super son and some of his little friends have the same habit of steam rolling or accidentally hitting their mother.  It is never intended and often is in a moment where they are trying to do something nice for someone.

Now don’t worry – I don’t knowingly do this everyday.  Yet I will admit I am still growing in realising not so much my boundaries but other peoples so I don’t encroach.

So how do you respond to boundaries?

I have found a new devotional “tool” that I find really great. It is the Bible online in a different order to what I am used. It breaks the Bible down by genre and you read a section each day from a different genre. The version I am using is http://www.bible-reading.com/daily-reading-niv-quiet.htm but others are available.  When I was reading Romans 15 last week I was somehow reminded that all of God’s wisdom is Jesus Christ.

This has me reflecting on all sorts of issues.  How does this blog glorify Jesus? Does it do so all the time?  Is it too easy for me to sit in judgement in a way that Jesus does not?  I don’t have easy answers to these questions but the obvious of “I hope so”, “No”, “Yes”.  The question for me is how to make these better answers.  For if Jesus is the centre of my life all areas of my life must focus more on him.

In other words I am gaining wisdom on focusing on Jesus.

So where is your focus?

I wanted to follow up yesterdays post with the more positive side of gaining wisdom through counsel. Yesterdays post was how to get through struggles wisely by getting help. Today’s post is how to make sure you are making wise decisions by getting independent counsel.

When we purchased a house a couple of years ago one of the pieces advise on the contract or paperwork was to get an independent valuation of the house. Thankfully the bank did that for us. When we have to make hard decisions it is sometimes wise to also receive independent advice, that is receive counsel. I was reading in Job this morning how his opinion of his counsellors and there own opinion seemed to differ. Wisdom is needed in choosing good counsellors but also to decide to go to one.

When my wonderful wife and I were thinking of getting married all our friends and family were delighted. No one could see anything wrong. Our respective pastors were supportive. So we wanted advice that said whether this was a good idea. Everybody just thought it was wonderful we had “found” each other and no one seemed to care what happened next as long as wedding bells were part of it. Well maybe not quite that far.

We decided we needed to know from God and others that getting married was a good thing for us. We ended up getting counsel many ways. First we asked people we trusted for ideas on how to see if this was a good decision. This involved us talking to people. I was told to practice the Ignatian process of discernment. My wife was told to reflect on a series of questions, the one I know of most is the idea “Does he trespass over any of your boundaries because if he does now he will also in marriage?” Thankfully I did not do this. In the end, what felt like the longest month plus of my life, we decided it would be OK to get married.
Second we went for pre-marital counselling to people recommended by my then-girlfriend’s church, as the church’s in the area had covenantd to ensure marriages had the best start possible. This helped us see our similarities (lots) and differences (few but they feel huge). We also went on Engaged Encounter and then had someone mentor us in one or two areas of difference that needed simple but profound wisdom.

In the end all the counsel we got helped us know that we were making the right decision but they also helped prepare us for any rough patches and gave us the tools to deal with them.

So where has counsel helped you know something you were doing was from God?

For those interested here are two articles about love and romance at different parts of the spectrum.

Simple questions are key to wedded bliss

Will you be my PC Valentine?

It is hard for any of us to admit we are broken.  Yet if we live long enough (the secret is have lots of birthdays) then we realise at least that some of the people around us are broken.  If we get really wise we realise that we are somebody else’s broken person around them.

Now in my thinking being broken does not mean trying to deliberately hurt people or being physical injured.  It means not living to our own ideals and who Jesus calls us to be.  We don’t do quite what we say we will do or live quite the way we want to.  Biblically this is called sin but the issue for me here is not that we are sinners, many of us say that, but coming to the realisation that we don’t have these sins under control.  You see some of my spiritual friends might say “just pray about it”, others friends may practice disciplines to keep sin at bay, other friends again may just walk into the sin and say they are under grace.  The fact is when you realise you are stuck you need help.

Here is where wisdom is needed.  Where do you get help from?  You see I do not come from a large family and asking some of my immediate family members for advice would have been like asking an anteater whether cockroaches are tasty.  The ideas I would have raised did not even come into their thinking.  Thus growing up all sorts of behaviour that would later haunt me were either not discussed, considered not too bad or even considered acceptable in some way because boys were like that.

As you can guess in the end I was a bit messed up eventually realising I was not living the way that a follower of Jesus should be living.   At one point I ended up in counselling and while it helped with some issues ultimately it did not seem to take.  I would say the counsellor at that time did not have enough experience or insight.  At a later point in life I realised that there were issues of depression that had to be recognised.  This was the issue I was trying to bury by acting in a way that did not glorify God.  It was at this point that God started dealing with me.  After God dealt with me, I met my wonderful wife and things have remained great since then.  The reasons for the depression were dealt with and the outworked behaviours stopped.

Where did I get help from?  A wise Christian clinical psychologist who knew what drives many people into ministry. A spiritual director to help check my spiritual motivation when I wanted to marry this wonderful woman who is now my wife.  People who were illing to say Christians suffer from depression.  I’d love to say that pastors helped me but they see the world in a different way to psychologists and could not join all the dots to mend me.  Ultimately it was God through wise people that got things back on track.  You see if we avoid the hard issues we don’t get well we stay broken.
Funnily enough the psychologist who helped me later became a mentor for our marriage.  Due to these experiences I am happy to recommend to others to talk through the issues that hold us back from going on.  It is not about what I think is best but what I have found really helped me.  So what are the areas of your life you are unwilling to look at because if you got counsel it would change you?

We are having electronic communication upgrades at work and problems at home.  Which seems to be a good lead in to my thinking on communication in marriage.

When we had decided to get married my wonderful (soon to be) wife and I undertook a weekend called “Engaged Encounter”.  We were both living in the US at the time and while I had heard good things about the weekend neither of us knew how impacting it would be for us.

The nature of the weekend is to lead you through a series of exercises to help you communicate with one another on all sorts of important issues.   One of my oddest memories of the weekend is seeing other couples who should be discussing matters of importance not talking to one another, or even were arguing.  My wonderful wife and I just lapped it up as it helped us talk and focus on the one another.

I am not sure if it was here or somewhere else I first heard a statement along the lines of “you can not expect your spouse to be a mind reader”. Now I always thought I was a caring and considerate communicative person before this.  When at some points since I have received the dreaded comment from my wonderful wife “I am not a mind reader” I am reminded that I have not got there yet.

You see we often think people should know what we are thinking.  After all it is obvious isn’t it!!  I mean you know exactly what I am thinking now don’t you?  Or maybe not.

Imagine I sent you an email proposing an idea and I never had a reply.  What do I presume about you and the email?

1) You hated  the idea and did not want to offend me by saying so
2) You were so busy you never read it and your PA deleted it
3) You meant to speak to me about it at a good time when you have a chance but after 6 months still no chance has come up
4) You are still wading through your backlog of email.
5) I am on your blocked email list and you never received it
6) There was a technical difficulty and you never received it

What this shows is silence is not a form of communication – it is a form of miscommunication. I fill in the blanks.  Usually the wrong way.

I have slowly gained wisdom that it is better to communicate than not to.  To tell someone how you feel and to keep short accounts. So what do you communicate about most?  What do you avoid communicating about?