First day of class for e3 and what an amazing start! The people here are so hungry for the Word of God and so eager to learn, it makes teaching extremely easy.
I kicked off class tonight telling the students a little bit about me and finding out some about them. Despite the language barrier, this was actually not as difficult as I would have originally thought. Having three very capable interpreters certainly was a major factor in that, but one of the things I am quickly learning is that Brazilians are just not at all uncomfortable with those who are from a different from them. They are extremely hospitable and desire so much to get to know you. Like I said yesterday, they actually go out of their way to help you fit in. It’s really quite humbling.
My message tonight was “The Foundations of a Godly Leader”. This is a topic I am quite familiar with as I have been raised up under some of the finest, most Godly leaders anyone could ever ask for. People like my pastor Russ Austin, other colleagues such as Mike Green and Ron Lewis, even friends who are in great positions of leadership themselves like Eric Terwilliger and Garry Grier- I have learned so much about how to lead as a man of God from all of them and so many others in my life.
I discussed four foundations of a Godly leader in class- four areas that need to be lain to build a Christ centered, strong basis of leadership. But there is one foundation in particular that really has particular relevance for everyone on a daily basis- regardless of who you are, what you do or even what you believe. This is the foundation that states- “I am not a victim”.
I see clients every day who come to me with a host of different problems. Real problems which are very traumatic and have had tremendous impact on their lives. And while there is a great deal of pain associated with these problems and often some work that needs to be done in order to work through the issues associated with the problems, the one starting point with all of my clients is this- No matter what pain you’ve had in your past, no matter what cards you have been dealt, no matter how terrible a history you have…You are not a victim. You can be whomever you want to be tomorrow based on the choices that you make today. Again, that is not to discount that people have very real problems that can result in a variety of very real pain, but we are all empowered to make choices that change how we live our life.
I related the story of a conversation I had many years ago with a visiting pastor who came and spoke at our church. He spoke of a man, Victyr Frankyl, who was a bestselling author who wrote the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” This was a best seller that to date has sold over 10 million copies. Frankel was a Jewish man who was a practicing psychiatrist in Vienna before WWII when he was accosted by the Nazi’s. He and family were taken to Auschwitz concentration camp. Before his very eyes his children were taken away to the gas chambers, his parents were killed, his wife brutally raped and murdered. Now if any man would have had the right to feel like a victim, certainly that man. And he got very bitter and he felt himself dying on the inside, slipping away. That’s when he made a decision- a choice that would change his life forever. This decision would give him the ability endure and to survive and make it through the excruciating trauma he was suffering through. He made this decision in the form of a statement which he made to himself but in the presence of his Nazi torturers. Here is what he said.
“You can take my family from me, you take my wife, you can take everything I have, you can even take my life, but the one thing can’t take is my freedom to choose how I respond to what you do to me. And I choose to forgive you”. That became the basis of his future practice- Logos therapy. So when you came to his office after the war, years and decades afterwards, until his death a decade ago, he would tell you the whole issue is not what had been done to you, or how bad things are. No he said it is instead “what choices did you make”? Because in the end when you let the problem out there be the problem- that very thought becomes the problem. You give the thing out there the power to control you.
We’ve all had trials that have taken their tolls on us, all have had body blows that have brought us to our knees. James 1 tells us that will be the case for us. But in the end, we need to remember that it still is up to us to not use those things as an excuse to get bitter or to let the devil get us out of the game. Continue to make the right decisions to respond to God’s Word. We are not victims.
Back tomorrow from Brazil’s e3