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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Leadership in Church - Managing the Miracle

A leader in the Lord's work struggles to define his role.

That's why you got a guy who when praised points to the heavens and says, "It's not me, it's about him."  To which we awkwardly reply, "I know, dufus, I was just letting you know you did a good job."

Jesus said, "Didn't you know I was about my Father's business?"  Maybe this is where we get the whole pointing-to-heaven bit.  Nothing against that index finger-jerk reaction, but if you'll permit me, allow me the latitude to speak into that for a moment.

A leader cannot produce a miracle, but a leader must 'manage the miracle'.

Even as Jesus decided to feed the 5000, the Scriptures made it clear that he "directed" the people to a grassy part of the landscape and "divided" them into "groups" of 50 and 100.  Again, a miracle was going to happen, but not without management.

A miracle without management is mayhem.  You can have 23 people being baptized on Sunday night, but if someone doesn't get out the date and time of the event, tell the women not to wear white t-shirts, line them up 15 minutes before the service, fill the baptismal and start the heater 24 hours ahead of time and get the towels reading on the other side of the tank, you've got yourselves a good ole fashioned goat rodeo, folks.  God is moving for sure, but somebody has to think about the logistics.  I call them "Theologistics".

We often associate leadership in ministry to "letting God move" or "have his way".  We just step back and take a "leap of faith" and "watch the Spirit work".  But this is why the average size of the church in America today is somewhere between 50 and 75 people; someone is just not thinking logically about the leadership of the Lord's work.

This story traditionally called "The feeding of the five thousand" is such a beautiful picture of something that is often missed in a lot of Jesus-stories.  We tend to think of Jesus as a scatterbrained gadabout that just sauntered around and ministered to people.  But in this passage, Jesus "directed".  He was a "Director of Ministry".  Anybody fill that role in the church you're in?  It may not be seen as ministry...I call it "Administry".  You can't have effective ministry without a director.  Direction is important even in the middle of a miracle.

The next thing he does is he breaks them into "groups".  He knows that you can't just wing it and fling breadsticks and fishsticks into the crowd, it would be mass hysteria.  Some groups would get too much and some groups would get too little and you would have a riot break out.  Humans pick up on fairness and equality like youngsters in a playground at recess.  The miracle would go south in a hurry.  No, you have to break people into "pockets of people", "cell groups", "life groups", "small groups"...(whatever you want to call them) in order to organize the organic.

You see, something spontaneous is going to happen, something organic, but even the organic has to be organized by a leader thinking logistically.  These groups of 50 and 100 became so important to the dissemination of the divine.  If there isn't order people get ornery.

Another thing that happens when you don't have a good director with good direction is that you have leaders who are participating in a miracle and they are so frustrated with the dysfunctional process that they can't appreciate the magic happen right under their noses.  They are so annoyed and nerved up by the unprepared process, that they are participating in a miracle and they don't even care.  They are ticked at the ticks.  They can even be collecting the 12 baskets of leftovers from the 2 fish and 5 loaves and miss the miracle altogether.  I wonder how often this happens in ministry and it all starts with management.

When you mismanage, you miss the miracle.

Leadership in ministry is managing the miracle.  He will do the miracle.  We must do the management.

Friday, March 30, 2012

There's no such thing as a self-proclaimed leader...

Like it or not, a leader can never be self-proclaimed.  Not real ones anyway.  

Not the ones that have nothing to hold over people to make them follow them like money.  That's a boss.  Not the ones who won't let you play on Friday night if you don't do the three-a-days.  That's a coach.  Not the ones that ground you when you forget to do your chores.  That's a parent.  Not the ones who can make you walk a straight line when you're pulled over.  That's a cop.  Not a person who makes you take a number a wait in line.  That's a government employee at the DMV.  Not a guy who scares you into coming to church, threatening hell if you don't.  That's a religious bozo.  No a leader is of altogether different stock.

All of these people can make you follow them, but they cannot make themselves a leader.  It's like making someone obey you without the power to cause them to love you.  Same deal.  Leadership is entrusted to someone, ordained from those who deem you and your track record worthy of this hallowed role.

I think you're a real leader when people follow you without any hitch or catch.  No perk or incentive.  No payoff or kickback.  A real leader is one that people exalt to that platform with no strings attached, nothing to gain other than good decisions and good direction.  They trust and then entrust.  They look to the person for altruistic advice because they've watched them conduct themselves in ways of wisdom.  They believe in their instincts.  They would stake their life on the persons intuition in a volatile situation.  They trust their horse sense.

A leader is a person who has people following them when they don't have to.

Sorry, Donald Trump.  Without money you're nothing but a lunatic with an eery combover.

We've come to the end - Revelation - pages 449-453

This is my last post as it relates to the New Testament Biblica series our church has been studying.  It's been quite a discipline to keep up on it every day.  I'm sure many are tired of my daily posts, and honestly, I'm tired from the journey of disciplining myself to write them each day...but it's been a good thing for me.  If for nothing else, following through on something you set out to do is powerful for the soul.

Revelation ends with the line "Lord Jesus, Come quickly."

John wrote that almost 2000 years ago.  Jesus responds with the promptness of my children at bedtime.  Delayed at best.

But I echo John's heart.  I want Jesus to come and get me.

I want him to rid the world of evil and reign supreme.
I want him to do away with sin and sadness.

I'm tired of gutting it out.  I'm tired of having to fight the good fight of faith.  I'm tired fatigue and futility.  I'm tired of disobedient kids and disappointing people.  I'm tired of my own failure to comply to his righteous desires and my wayward heart.  I'm tired of living by faith, I want my "faith to be sight" as the hymn says.

I want to see him, to touch him and spend time with him (for real).  No more of this "he's with me spiritually speaking" or "he is listening to me spiritually speaking".  I'm sick of doing and saying and being things "spiritual speaking".  I want to see and be seen.  Know and be known.  Talked and be talked to.  Hug and be hugged.  Like it says in I Cor. 13 "...for now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face, and then we shall know him even as we are known by him."  Yeah, what he said.

So if you're not going to come quickly, please come in a way that feels like you're with me in the meantime.  Lord Jesus, come quickly and let me know, sense, trust and love your presence, so that when you really do come, I will recognize you because I've been "longing for your appearing" and "seeing sightings of you" all along, if only by faith.

Thank you for letting me read your precious writing to me, Your Word.  It has undone and redone so many things that needed deconstruction and reconstruction in my life.

But knowing you as long as I have, I expected nothing less.

You are my first love, please come quickly.  I can't wait to see you today in my life.  I can't wait to see you someday after this life.  The important thing is that you come on either side of that veil in a way that keeps my heart close to you.

It's been an honor to love and be loved by you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Judgement Seat...what will I say? - Revelation - pages 442-449 - pages

Standing before the Judgement Seat of Christ (not the Great White Throne, but the Bema Seat, thank God) I wonder what I will have to say to the likes of the holy God.  Part of me thinks I'll just cower in shame, other parts of me think that I'll just look at Jesus and say, "Talk to him, He said he took care of that stuff."  Other parts of me will hope to be able to explain how I overcame pesky problems that could have taken me out without his Spirit's power.

Here's what I hope I can say on that day:

1. I wanted to quit sometimes, but I didn't.
2. I wanted to give into temptation, but I didn't.
3. I wanted to get bitter at people, but I didn't.
4. I wanted to get mine and blow everyone else off, but I didn't.
5. I wanted to curse God at times, but I didn't.
6. I wanted to leave the ministry on certain days, but I didn't.
7. I wanted to give into lust and forget purity sometimes, but I didn't.
8. I wanted to go passive in my marriage and get stale, but I didn't.
9. I wanted to check out after work and blow off my daughters, but I didn't.
10. I wanted to get comfortable in church avoiding the world, but I didn't.
11. I wanted to make money and take it easy with my life, but I didn't.
12. I wanted to get back at some people that hurt me, but I didn't.
13. I wanted to withhold forgiveness for wrongs done to me, but I didn't.
14. I wanted to just let fear and anxiety cripple my quality of life, but I didn't.
15. I wanted to sleep in and waste my life as a slacker, but I didn't.
16. I wanted to watch television every night for 4 hours, but I didn't.
17. I wanted to just make church a Sunday morning thing, I I didn't.
18. I wanted to live an isolated life to protect my heart from people, but I didn't
19. I wanted to chuck all the Christian virtues and just live hog wild some days, but I didn't.
20. I wanted to live as though God, the judgement seat, and the afterlife weren't real, but I didn't.

"And there's only one reason I didn't, and it's you, Jesus.  You were my compelling obsession.  You were my pride and joy.  You were my life by faith and you were my faith in life.  I didn't waste my life and you're the only reason.  You."

That's what I want to stand before Jesus and say to him on my day of judgement.

Now i have to live in such a way that I can because as it says in John, "this is how we have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we were like him."  I want to be like him.  So badly do I want to be like

Leaders and snapping rubber bands...

Leaders aren't always inherently strong, just stronger for 5 minutes longer than every one else in the room.

I don't know if the rubber bands inside a leader have just enough more elasticity to stretch the extra half an inch that causes others to snap, but whatever it is, it's a case study in itself.  What I know with certainty is that the dry and crusty rubber bands that are our intestines are made out of pretty much the same stuff as humans.  Pits, butterflies, constriction, hot blood, ulcers, tight shoulders, headaches, sensitive finger nails (a "What about Bob" quote...hehe).  These are realities for most leaders, and I'm starting to believe it's unavoidable unless you have figured out how to be independently wealthy or cleverly working it out to be a  leader without being around people....not possible, by the way.

But there are things that a leader does when their rubber bands are about to snap:
1. They grab every bouncing ball in their head and write it out on paper.
2. They put that list into a pecking order of priority and begin to check off the things that have been nebulous at best.
3. They take a breather from the life or death situation and do something recreative instead of procreative.
4. Against everything inside of you telling you that it's a waste of time, get with a generative person.
5. Go watch a movie, preferably an afternoon matinee where you're in the theater by yourself.
6. Start a blog where you can blood-let some of your congested thoughts inside your skull.
7. Pray a centering prayer.  John the Baptist's seems to work for me: "You must increase, I must decrease."
8. Find a weekday television drama to faithfully watch with your wife on the couch.
9. Don't shortcut bedtime with your kids (if you have kids).  This exposure to child's play is cathartic and therapeutic.
10. Do physical labor in the yard, garage, or get in the woods to shoot something or cut a tree down with an good 'ole fashioned ax.
11. Get into UFC wrestling and either knock out or getting knocked out by a another human.
12. Get out a broom and start taking swings at the bats flying around in your head that scare you.
13. Begin to exercise with walking, running, sit ups or push ups.  (anything to make yourself feel better.)
14. Finish something.  A book.  A project.  A to-do lists.  A desire to take your wife on a date.  Anything.
15. Take care of that one nagging unresolved conflict.  Contact them.  Set up a meeting.  And apologize.
16. Read your Bible every morning.  Not legalistically, but for your soul-survability. A Proverb a Day.
17. Stop trying to please everyone.  You won't do it.  You can't do it.  You shouldn't do it.  'Nough said.
18. Get into a weekly relationship with someone from the same sex to talk about life, God and each other's unfolding stories.
19. Read on a regular basis.  Let someone else direct the traffic of your brain to higher thoughts you should be thinking that never would in the middle of the mess you're in.
20. Know that God loves you and is rooting for you in the stands.  He's even wearing your jersey.

I love leaders.  First the first time in my life I know the unspeakable beauties and tragedies associated with this calling.  I want to be a break wall and a lighthouse to help you find that haven, that port to find rest from the storm and then to get out into the high seas again to go fishing for men.  It does no good fishing in calm ports, the big ones are beyond the break wall.  That's where a leader needs to be, but not before he gets the fuel and refreshment from the port.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Authority of my Story against Accusations - Revelation - pages 437-442


I hear them in my head all day long.

"You're spending your time poorly."
"You'll never catch up."
"You're missing something."
"Do you know how many people you're letting down?"
"You're in over your head."
"You're going to lose your girls."
"Maybe you should give up before you fail miserably."
"You can't lead this thing."
"No one really knows you."
"You should be so much further along by now."
"You're doing that just to get attention."
"God is going to use your mistakes against you."
"Things are about to collapse any day now."
"Why do you keep doing that, you know better."
"You're running in circles, man."
"I wonder who you're going to disappoint today?"
"You're on your own, man."

Like a sulfer spring it bubbles up inside and fills your heart with a rotten egg aftertaste.

This verse in Revelation really hit my hard today.  I was crying at Sozo just working through it's application for my life:

Rev. 12:10-11
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, 
   and the authority of his Christ. 
For the accuser of our brothers, 
   who accuses them before our God day and night, 
   has been hurled down. 
11 They overcame him 
   by the blood of the Lamb 
   and by the word of their testimony; 
they did not love their lives so much 
   as to shrink from death. 

The accusations at night are the worst.

I feel like somewhere between waking and sleeping there is a liminal space that can really start believing these worm-tongued whispers of the Enemy.  Deception leads to Confusion that leads to Doubt which leads to Fear.  And like it says in James a man who doubts is like a wave driven of the sea and tossed.  A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.  This instability can stop me dead in my tracks.

But the ability to overcome the accuser is what caused tears to flow today.  The authority that comes through the blood of Christ is always a great reminder, but it was the "power of my testimony" that really pierced through the darkness.  "The Authority of my Story" surprised me today as I wrote out some things in my testimony that overthrow the accusations of the Devil.

I sat down and went through key moments in my story where God came through for me.  The times when he really showed up and was faithful in ways that are beyond a shadow of a doubt.  I listed out my testimony and found the power and authority that comes with telling Satan what your testimony testifies about what is true.  It cuts through the lies in any given circumstance or emotion and gives you a defense against Satan's accusations that seek to get you to forget where you've come from, which is only trumped by a realization of how far you've come.

He has no power when I remind him of where God has brought me and who I know I am in Christ.  He is thrown down.  And I don't shrink back to old patterns of doubt and disorientation.  I am steadfast and immoveable.

So if you're being harassed by Satan, remember the blood of Christ and the story of yourself.  Write it out and speak it out loud to the Enemy and watch him melt into a puddle like the wicked witch of the West.  The flying monkeys will still occasionally freak you out, but that's another blog for another day.

Leaders must possess Tenacity...


There is a way to be a leader without it, but not for long.

You have to have a holy stubbornness that disallows resignation.  It has to offend you to let up on what is right.  You can feel the cramps under your ribs, but you have to bypass your ribs and just start communicating to your legs directly.  Your legs will ask if you've checked in with your ribs, but you will tell your legs to keep moving and to make like your ribs don't exist for now.  Call it "mind over matter" if you want, but whatever you call it, a leader must possess this quality.

I know it sounds like I'm promoting a quasi-denial that can cause you to live outside reality, but this is not my submission.  All I'm saying is that a leader must be able to divide motions and emotions for successful long-distance running.  If you concentrate too much on the one nagging issue, the "issues" stack and form a pile-on that eventually cancels you out completely, neutralizing your vision and passion.  But I'm straying a tad.

Back to tenacity.

This virtue is essential to survival.  In a world of "dripping faucets" and "nagging injuries", you simply have to press through difficulty with "mental tricks".  You have to tell yourself to keep going in terms your heart can comprehend.  Things like: "Don't take that personally." or "You are a good guy despite what you are feeling right now." or "Take that situation with a grain of salt." or "Just keep pressing on until that date night with your wife tonight." or "It could be worse." or "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus" (ok, that's a hymn that just came to my head from my childhood) All this to say, talking yourself through funks is essential to going the distance.

After you face daunting odds and digs of opposition in your efforts or initiatives, you have to roll with the punches, pick yourself off the ground, dust yourself off (this is the self-talk aspect I'm talking about) and get to where you were going in the first place.

Tenacity is certainly more than what I've shared, but this is, to me, a huge element of gritting your teeth, setting your jaw, and moving forward.

And if leadership is anything, it's moving forward.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Worship Bands vs. Bands of Worshippers - Revelation - pages 431-437

As I read Revelation today, especially chapters 3 and 4 and the worship before God's throne with the living creatures, and angels, and elders...I was just humbled by the atmosphere and power of it all.  There was such reverence and raw acknowledgement of God's honor and glory.  The things they chanted over and over again.  The ways they bowed before his greatness.  The rousing songs they lifted to His name and all that it represented.  All these scenes just moved me.

I believe worship is more than music, but I firmly believe music is a primary vehicle of worship.  The Psalter was important for the nation of Israel.  Songs of ascent, repentance, mourning, and praise where commonplace for God's people.  Individual songs and Communal songs.  Dark songs in minor keys and bright songs in major keys.  Music, again, is a very key part of worship...the Bible makes that every so clear.

Because of this, we must take it seriously.

This is an email I sent a couple years ago to the band that plays each weekend here at Impact. Just some things I thought about as it relates to this confusing thing called worship. What is it? Who does it? Where is it happening? Why do we do it? When is it nothing more than hogwash? Things such as this using a comparison/contrast between a worship band and a band of worshippers. These are only my humble opinions of course...take them with a grain of salt and a laxative...

"A Worship Band:
A worship band seems to need music to worship. They don't feel attracted to any other facet of Jesus other than songs about him. They don't find the Bible all that exciting and stuggle to listen when the pastor is sharing God's Word. They want him to shut up so they can get up on stage again and sing. They get into music, but not God. They seem to change their personality when they get up in front and play their instrument. Sometimes they don't play their instruments or sing these songs outside of practices and church services. They get done "leading worship" and then go sit down until it's their time to shine again. They rarely enter into people's lives "in between" practices and worship sets. They don't care about people that much, in fact, it's easier to just get the music over with and get out of the building. They don't like it when they are rotated out and have to worship "with the congregation", sometimes they don't even come to weekend services until they are "needed" again. They often times don't see a problem with living in sin and still leading worship. Sinning and singing go hand in hand to these kinds of people. There is a disconnect between worship and witness. They don't see it as taking God's name in vain to say things to God they don't actually mean or practice. In a nut shell, they just need a gig to hone their skills and get some public attention. God doesn't like this, but they don't know that, because they don't read their Bibles.

A Band of Worshippers:
A band of worshippers bows without a band. They see worship as a lifestyle, not a music style. They don't try to take people to places they haven't been that week. Their deepest desire is to be see through when they are in front of people, not seen. They don't say things to God during worship that they don't say to him throughout the week. They don't go to church to worship, they go worshipping to church. They don't use God for personal gratification and then dump him when the music fades. They hunger for the Word, not just Worship. They know you can't lead people until you love people and so they don't enter into worship without entering into people's lives. They know the Bible says that you can't love God whom you can't see until you love the people all around you that you can. They are humble, thankful, joyful and hopeful. To them, you can't keep singing and keep sinning. They aren't sinless, but they are sinning less. The weekdays mean as much to them as the weekends. They are leading worship in conversations, blogsites, emails, and phone calls. Leading worship doesn't start and stop with's a way of life. They don't care as much about their instrument as they do the whole band. They want to blend, not blare. They want to be seen as a fellowship of friends, not a talented musician.  They want to bless, not recieve blessing. They want to praise, not recieve praise. In a nutshell, they could care less whether they get to play or not, their worship will go on. God likes this, and they know it, because they feel His pleasure.

I will continue to pray that God continues to reform us into a Band of Worshippers. The transformation is always in process, and we will never arrive, but I want to stay in hot pursuit of this vision along with all of you who have been called to this great ministry. I love serving with you all. Thanks for being on this adventure with me."

This is something that applies to more than just the band the leads us each weekend at Impact.  I believe God desires us to be a band of worshippers at Impact.  I long for our body to worship God in spirit and truth.  I want to exalt him to the highest place lifting hands, heads and hearts to him in freedom.

I'm not interested in Catholic worship or Charismatic worship or Celtic worship so much as I'm interested in Christ worship.  If people want to raise their hands, so be it.  If they want to stand silently, so be it.  If they want to close their eyes or kneel, have at it.  If they want to soak it in with the stoic heart of a coal miner, I care little.  But one thing is for sure, our hearts must worship Someone like him.  Our hearts must be moved.  They must respond to his kingship.  They must bow before his majesty and humbly offer up praise.

We are not trying to get people to sing as much as get people to surrender.  This is just what people did in God's presence, and I get the sense that this is what would happen this weekend at church, too, if we knew how to usher people into God's presence and usher God into people's presence.

Someday we will worship, maybe we should start now.

A Leader's Hamburger Heart...

Leaders can pick up on things typically.  One of the reasons they have been placed in leadership is because people trust their ability to see through the haze so to speak.  If the room goes dark, the leader will say things like: "It's gonna be ok, just grab my arm, I think I know where the doorknob is."  Leaders have an uncanny ability to see in the dark.  This is why many use them as a seeing-eye dogs in times when they are blinded by either over-stimulation or under-stimulation.  So they grab the leather handle wrapped around our waste and ask us to guide them through the busy or lonely streets.  Leaders love being seeing-eye dogs.

But this gift is their scourge as well.  It does no good to talk about leaders having an acute sense of self-awareness without talking about the thin line between that and self-consciousness.  Leaders have a powerful ability to read between the lines, pick up on latent cues, and track an overarching storyline that most look right through, like an ozone layer that is essential but undetectable to the naked eye.  Leaders sense things deeply and thus are deeply sensitive....more than they let on.

You can't have the gift of awareness without it creeping into all realities.  You may be able to tell when a person isn't buying into a argument at the "Strat" meeting and adjust your presentation to accommodate their ambivalence, but you can also tell when a person is disappointed in you and underwhelmed with your performance.  Sure, you can assess the lay of the land and make spot-on decisions in the moment to remedy a volatile situation, but you can also feel the pain that fills a coffee shop as people sip their coffee with hollow eyes and lines in their faces from a night of very little sleep.

Leaders are lifted to platforms of influence because they feel and respond to those feelings appropriately.  Instead of over-reacting or under-reacting, they take all factors into consideration and act with wisdom by and large.  But the toll this ability takes on the soul cannot be understated.  When you have this "Spidey Sense" that leads to the "Midas Touch" of leadership, plan on having a hamburger heart on a regular basis.  Ground beef.

So let's do away with this notion that a leader can have the best of both worlds.  I've not met one.  Every effective leader I've ever had a conversation with (off the record that cameras rolling picking up their momentary highlight reels) struggles with feeling too much, carrying too much, caring too much.  Yes, over time they learn dehumanizing tactics to deaden the sensitivity, but they are, by and large, chained to the ability to make tough calls in harrowing circumstances when others are dropping like flies all the while dropping like a fly into bed at night with a hamburger heart shredded by the thousands of non-verbals and verbals that gave them the ability to lead people through the confusion in the first place.

Oh, hamburger heart, how I love and hate you!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The God of the verb - Revelation - pages 425-431

There are letters written by men for Jesus, and then there are these letters written by Jesus for men.  Probably the most popular of the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation is the one written to the church of Laodicia.  It has been the staple diatribe against "lukewarm" Christianity and the silver bullet of many-a-camp speaker desperate to draw the net on Friday night before the "recommitment" camp fire.

Revelation 3:14-22

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

   These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

   19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

   21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

I was struck with the verbs connected with Jesus.  He says...

I know...He knows our deep hearts inside and out.
I wish...He has deep dreams for our lives.
I spit...He can't help but throw up when something isn't sitting right.
I counsel...He guides us toward truth....talking to us instead of telling us off.
I love...He has an affection for us and that drives his passion for change.
I rebuke...He calls us out because He has our best interest at heart.
I discipline...He isn't afraid to punish us in order to help us.
I stand...He is always facing us even if we aren't facing Him.
I knock...He is always initiating a relationship with us.
I come...He will walk through the door if we open it.
I eat...He wants to hang out with us (sup with us as the KJV calls it)
I give...He is the generous God of gifts.
I overcame...He is able to give us victory because he was victorious.
I sat...He is sitting at the right hand of God completely in control of life itself...relax.

Just some random thoughts after reading this text today.  I love that Jesus is a God of verbs.  He is actively doing things.  He isn't passive and unfeeling.  He is moved and is moving toward people creating movement.  

Maybe someone needs to be reminded of this fact today.  I don't know, but he does.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Leaders and Fears…

Leaders understand fear all too well.  If they are worth their salt, they can even anticipate people fears about them as a leader.  Is he or she telling the truth?  Is the truth they are telling coming off as desperate?  Is someone else telling them to say that or do that?  Do they have my best interest at heart, or is there a hidden agenda?  Are they projecting confidence to win confidence or is this certitude a hoax?  Are they making this up or is their instinct anchored in collective wisdom?  And on and on it goes…

And maybe this is why leaders carry a double-portion of fear; they themselves are human and with this humanness carry natural fears, all the while carrying the perceived and predictable fears of those they are called to lead.  When a leader senses a loss of momentum and morale, he or she can literally feel leadership leaking out of their innards.  Leaders, like anyone else, fear the worst on most days and proceed anyhow.  It is not fearlessness that defines a leader, but the ability to know its presence and move forward anyhow. 

The dread that accompanies leadership is palpable.  If things aren’t going well, dread fills your bloodstream and panic can set in.  If things are going well, dread visits you in the night and tells you that it’s all about to crash.  No matter where things are at, dread is whispering foul thoughts into your ears.

There are many fears that a leader is constantly nursing.  Are people really with me?  Is the vision I am casting too weak or too audacious?  Am I taking things too personally or not personally enough?  Am I spending my time or investing my time?  Am I in over my head, completely out of my pay grade?  If I’m successful, can I carry into the future what I helped usher into the present?  Who will die with me in this thing?  Am I the real deal or am I unknowingly putting on something that is blinding me to reality?  Am I doing enough; am I doing too much?  Do people notice that I’m dying of an internal bleed on any given bad night?  Do they care as long as things on the outside continue to go well and the product is unaffected?  Am I still doing this for the right reasons?  Is it still about the good of mankind?

Am I driven by the primal desires that first caused me to choose this path?  Are my interactions with disappointing and disappointed people infecting my spirit?  Can people tell that I’m angry because of the letdowns?  Is my bitterness bleeding over into my interactions with people leading them to believe ill of me?  

I could keep going for pages and pages.  The point is this: Leaders are more afraid that it looks.  I’ve spent a good deal of time with leaders this year and I can’t believe how affected by life they all are.  And it’s not just seismic shifts; it’s subtle shifts that eat them alive inside. 

There is a reason for this.  They want, worse than bad, for the thing they are leading to go well.  They want people to move the ball down the field in their lives.  They want to take care of the people who are counting on them for their livelihood.  They want the mission to be accomplished and the vision to come to fruition.  They would just about give their last drop of blood for it. 

Good leaders want to be successful, but not for their own vainglory.  They want the organism or the organization they are leading to help people find their purpose and to be filled and fulfilled by it.

And they’re scared that any number of millions of factors will prevent this.  They are afraid that if the make a mistake it could cost the “whole”.  As Jesus said, “A little leaven affects the whole lump.”  That freaks me out.  That freaks leaders out!  And though it’s not all on the leader and his narrow shoulders, there is something to be said for the unique weight the leader feels and the chain reaction that is set off when he or she makes a move, whether good or bad. 

Leaders are just afraid to ruin something that could be really good “if only”…

Friday, March 23, 2012

Things I'm learning that leaders don't do.

There are things I’m learning that leaders don’t do.

They don’t count beans.  They don’t pad the books.  They don’t spin failure.  They don’t pass the buck or the blame.  They don’t think they know everything.  They don’t fixate on failure.  They don’t pre-live the future or re-live the past. 

They aren’t afraid to make a mistake, they aren’t afraid to admit a mistake, and most importantly, they apologize for their mistake.  They care about the initial motivation and original destination more than current location or appreciation.  They don’t make excuses for incompetence.  They are clear about their expectations of people.  They don’t get angry about a set back. 

They find a reason to celebrate small wins.  They measure success by souls not bodies.  They aren’t afraid to throw themselves under the bus at times in order to protect the vision.  They talk well of other people in their absence.  They trust their instincts while checking their flesh.  They see people in terms of community, not commodity. 

Leaders are beautiful creatures.

Salvation by Works vs. Working out salvation - I John - pages 409-423

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, ACTION.

You didn’t think we got to where we are
Simply because people prayed or preached, did you?
Not on your life.
The early church didn’t just pray for God to move…
They did.

The book of Acts could have been the book of dreams, ideas or prayers,
But we wouldn’t be here talking about this stuff today, now would we?
Nope, they didn’t stop with last words and best wishes…
They acted so that we could read Acts, not the book of Sermons.

“Dear children,
Let us not only love with words or with tongue,
But with actions and with truth.” - I John 3

Have you noticed that Jesus didn’t go around
Telling people that he would be praying for them?
That’s funny since that appears to be one of the most
common expression among church-goers.
“I’ll be praying for you.”

I wonder if Jesus saw that expression as a crutch
For those who didn’t want to inconvenience themselves with action? 
Believe me when I say that Jesus, of all people,
knew the power of prayer.
So I’m not downplaying intercession.

But it is thought provoking to wonder
why Jesus didn’t utter that phrase as he ministered, isn’t it?
The only time I remember Jesus saying he prayed for someone
Was when he told Peter, “I have prayed for you.”

But never do we see Jesus and his disciples leaving a scene
Waving to the crowd and saying, “You’ll be in our prayers.”
They did something about the need.
They moved toward the mess.
They entered into the ugly.
They acted.

Words leave people wanting.
Tongues, though golden, tarnish with time.
Moving mouths don’t replace moving people.
They never have, they never will.
The call to action has never seen a more desperate hour.

Let our church be active joining the activity of God.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ever felt like a Dung Beetle? - John - 401-408

Peter was quite the character.  So fickle and yet so likable.  So "pillar of the church-like" and yet so fearfully human.  I was drawn to him as I read the final portions of the book of John.  His story is all over the place...particularly of his failure.  His bursts of blurting out over-exagerations.  A Big Shot with a Big Mouth...also a Big Heart!

He reminds me of me on some days...

Let me give you a story of myself that will show you what I mean... I had a salad for lunch today and I can't believe the psychological effect that had on me. I ate like a starved sow over the holidays, indescriminently wolfing down anything in my path and yet, it took one salad to make me feel good about myself again. My body is still in health is still reeling from the abuse, but a simple salad made me feel like I'm whole again. Wow.

I can't help feeling like this is how I do the Christian life some days. I'm really living out an unhealthy existance, but with one implementation of waking early to pray one day and I feel like I'm on top of the world again. It's amazing the psychology of spirituality. Psychologically speaking, I feel acquitted. I feel justified. I feel healthy again. But in all actuality I'm still steeped in horrible habits leading to unbelievable unhealth. I'm no where near whole, though the "salad" made me feel a certain o.k."ness". I can't believe how easy it is to play tricks on my psyche. It balances on such a finicky fulcrum. It relies on such a mush of meaning. It leans on a rickity shanty of shallow truths. It's a house of cards for crying out loud. A measly little salad passifies the desire to feel healthy. (feeling healthy is no different than being healthy in this line of thinking) In reality my construct for healthy habits is an absolute debacle, but that matters not, so long as I have a periodic salad to soothe my spirit.

I feel like I do alot of things to prop myself up. So many of these props are "feeling good" techniques that I have learned over the years. They give a semblence, a quasi/psuedo sense of peace...and that's good enough for me. I don't have time to unpack the restless feelings, so I pop in a placebo to play games with my pyche and change my mood, which changes my perspective, which changes my belief, which changes my behavior, which changes my life. I get the changed life without the real change. Or, at the very least, a shallow and unsustained stint of real change. One salad, I think you would agree, doesn't make me a healthy eater. One salad shouldn't give me a feeling of superiority over all those who don't eat healthy. One salad shouldn't cancel out the "eater's remorse" I feel from the holidays. One salad shouldn't be given that sort of power. But somehow, it does. It makes me feel so much better about myself, life and the people around me. I can't believe the bounce in my step and the shot in my arm and the pep in my perspective...all because I consumed a glass of water (oh, forgot about that little happy piece of health) and an everyday house salad. I think I'm a posterboy for health & fitness and I'm two hours into this supposed diet. I'm a chump...a bonefied chump.

I know this is a jumbled mess of factoids for some who are reading, but I'm just overwhelmed right now with how ridiculous it is that I feel as good as I do after one good meal. I wonder if that's what alot of people feel who go to church for one hour on the weekend? Should that make us feel as good as we do about our otherwise pathetic faith? Honestly, should that fill us with giddy sufficiency and warm feelings of intimacy with God when in reality we are treating a hemorrage with a bandaid? Have we fallen so far that any sign of life makes us feel like we've arrived and that everyone else is fat and overweight and undisciplined and less committed than we are? I can't help but feeling like this false sense of "salad security" is trying to tell me something larger about my psychodic spirituality.

It's days like today that I feel like God has more mercy on me than I generally realize. Honestly, the things he puts up with are some of the most absurd fallacies that I try to pass as truth known to man. Thank you God that you haven't torched my ant-like frame under the magnifying glass of your glory. I'm a dung beatle needing God's grace to cover up my rank odor.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The truth will set you free after it ticks you off! - John - pages 392-400

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8

I just heard a candidate use this Jesus-quote yesterday in an interview.  I heard it woven into a commercial last week.  It seems to be making its rounds, which if funny considering the fact that many of the people aren't all that sure if truth absolutely exists.  It's funny the verses that catch on as little pithy proverbs in our culture.  "Judge not lest ye be judged."  "Love your neighbor as yourself."  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  "Jesus is my homeboy." (ok, that's apparently extra-biblical revelation from the Apocrypha or the Da Vinci Code).   

But I've learned something about the truth.  Before it sets you free, it ticks you off.  Or another way of saying it is, "The truth will set you free but not before it sets you off."  When people use this biblical phrase, "the truth with set you free", what they are typically saying is "my truth will set you free."  Everyone has there own theology of truth.  That is, the truth they are comfortable espousing.  The truth that fits their current construct of convictions.  The truth that doesn't mess with their already busy schedule.  The truth that doesn't ask for any modifications or alterations in behavior.  The truth that makes them feel better about themselves.  The truth that aligns with their values and vision.  But that's not truth, that's trash!

That "truth" doesn't set anyone free.  You will know the truth when you encounter it, because it, generally speaking, ticks you off and sets you off, before it eventually sets you free.  It rattles your chain.  It gets up in your grill.  It steps on your toes.  It gets on your nerves.  It amputates and agitates and aggravates way before it emancipates.   The truth that Jesus is talking about has nothing to do with a candidates particular political truth, or a preachers pet-issue truth, or a philosophers philanthropic truth. No, the truth that sets us free must first put us to death.  

Everyone wants to be free, but few are willing to die to themselves.  It's really painful to be crucified with Christ.  It's lonely being pinned up on that cross all by yourself.  It's torture for your pride to breathe its last and for your flesh to give up the ghost of getting its way.  No one wants that truth.  Because before the truth asks you, "Do you wanna be free?" it asks you "How do you feel about dying to yourself?"  This, I've found, weeds out the ones that are interested only in their version of truth.  They are interest in truth unless it kills them.  And the ones who are left after the weeding are interested in truth precisely because it kills them.  

Let me make a bold declaration, if your idea of truth isn't often killing you, you're more than likely not engaging truth to begin with.  Truth kills, then frees.  It wounds, then mends.  It enrages, then engages.  This is not truth on our terms.  This is truth on Truth's terms.  What is controversially called Absolute truth, that is, laws that exist regardless of who we are, how we're doing, what we're doing, or what we think.  Post-modernity has weened us on adaptive truth.  Cordial truth.  Amiable and Diplomatic Truth.  Hospitable truth.  A truth that seeks first and foremost to comfort and coddle.

Unless there's a new procedure that provide amiable amputation, it will hurt you first, then heal you.  Freedom comes, but not until our feelings are hurt.  God cares about your feelings, but not as much as your freedom.  He has your "best interest" in mind, and often it is in your best interest to die first.  That sounds harsh...but that's what I experience almost on a weekly basis.  It hurts so good.  

Ultimately, the truth sets us free, but not before it sets us off.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jesus loved parties. - John - pages 386-392

Jesus strikes me as the most interesting man alive.

As I've been reading John this week, something I wrote not to long ago came to mind.  It's the story of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding of Cana.

It's so easy to read the Bible and not really read it.

For me I graze on the text and glaze over certain concepts or contexts unaware of their true interpretation and, thus, their true implication. I was reading a book recently that was retelling the amazing first miracle of Jesus, the turning of water into wine.

As I was following the familiar storyline, something the author pointed out just about knocked me over.  He stated that each of the containers of wine contained nearly 30 gallons each and so when Jesus made the "great conversion", he supplied the wedding scene with approximately 908 bottles of wine. This would be several pallets of wine being delivered at the loading dock out back. Shocking and scandalous!

I don't know why this struck me so deeply, but I found myself wondering how many times something is happening in the Scripture and I'm standing afar struggling to really comprehend what is actually happening in the story. I wonder how many little nuggets like this I've driven by over the years that touch something "truer to life" inside of me. It was a great story before, don't get me wrong, but I felt I was missing a couple things that made it striking. Almost like watching a movie without the sound. The idea of 908 bottles of wine being produced by the Son of God at a party just messes with your idea of Jesus.

I need my idea of Jesus messed with on occasion. I think I've read all there is to read and know all there to know. I feel like I've traced him out and have him outlined. I can anticipate his next move, like completing my wife's sentences. I know him like the back of my hand. This is all, of course, bunk. It's just not true. But I get to believing it's so.

It was this little nuance at the wedding of Cana that caused pause inside me and asked me to look again.  To double-take. Maybe I haven't cracked the code, maybe my best days are ahead of me and that God is wanting, now, to unlock little pockets of truth, like a locket with a hidden picture. Maybe my best days of reading the Bible are yet to come. This is exciting.

Who would have thought the number 908 could make such a difference?

I wonder if you think Jesus stingy and stuffy and I wonder if the idea of him backing up an 18-wheeler and dropping off 4 pallets of wine does anything for your heart? I know it messed with my constructs and categories. Beautifully so.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Offensive Discipleship - John - pages 378-386

I read something recently that I have not been able to get out of my mind written by Gandhi called the “Seven Social Sins”…
"The "seven social sins"
Knowledge without character
Science without humanity
Wealth without work
Commerce without morality
Politics without principles
Pleasure without conscience
Worship without self-sacrifice.

- Gandhi

Jesus, more than anyone, knew the danger of watching him but not following him. Of listening to him but not living for him. Of enjoying the Christian experience without ever experiencing it for yourself. In fact, there is a passage the marks a time when Jesus was so passionate about inviting people into the Christ-following culture, that he offended and was deserted by all of his fans only to be left with his followers.

John 6:53-69
53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Desert Jesus
60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit[e] and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

To some the message of Jesus felt like a sorting out…when, in fact, it was a sorting in. It was not a weeding out, it was an inviting in. We see John 6 as a loss of 4000 when it was in fact a genuine grafting of 12. Jesus never got lost in numbers, which is to say that he understood the difference between quality and quantity. 

We have been called to more than onlooking and by-standing. We are invited to sink our teeth into all that Jesus is and is about. We are called to bite into it, to chew it, move in back and forth from one side of our molars to the other grinding it into mushy morsels crushed down ready to be swallowed whole leaving nothing to spit out but the aftertaste. We are then called to digest it into ourselves letting it nourish us and eventually become a part of who we are turning into the very regeneration of our own flesh and blood and breath. It is to be felt stirring and gurgling in our bowels being broken down into a life source that feeds and fuels our every movement and thought. The aftertaste only makes us hungry for more, leaving us whetted for yet another bite of His very essence.

To some this is offensive. I would concur. Jesus was always on the offensive as it relates to the kingdom. He was not taking his cues from man wondering about what was relevant or convenient or expedient. He was not defensively waiting to see how things were received making his next move reactively in order to keep peace with the masses. He was on the offensive which was offensive to many, yet his vision was staid and his desire was passionately precise. There was no riding the fence or playing the field, no neutral ground or holding pattern that became a compound of casual complacency.  He forced people to make a decision about his cause. And he did so unapologetically.

As barbaric as it sounds, as politically incorrect or culturally irrelevant as it may seem, we have been invited, are currently being invited, and will always and only be invited in the future to “eat Jesus alive”…no scraps left on the table…and when we have devoured him like ravenous wolves, we will be left with no greater desire than to lick the plate.

Again, it is not a “kicking out” message, but an unabashed invitation into the culture of the Kingdom that won’t be treated like a dainty appetizer. It will only be realized and actualized when it is consumed like an extravagant feast, for that it what it is.

Jesus, I want to eat you alive.