biblical leadership: that you my king should die for me

Category : Jesus, bible, choice, faith, living a life of faith, revolutionary, taking action

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Leadership.  Each of us has an opinion about what makes a leader.  Some people will argue that leadership is all about your genetics – it’s what you’re born with.  Others will argue that leadership is something you can learn.  Or maybe that it’s about the situation you are in.  While we can’t always articulate what leadership really is, we tend to give the old cliche “I know it when I see it.”

But what does the Bible have to say about leadership?  Is there such a thing as Biblical leadership?  The short answer is “yes.”  The Bible makes a strong case for what leadership should look like.  And it looks a lot like sacrifice.

Does that surprise you?

It should.

Because it goes against almost everything we’re told about leadership today.  Most leaders have people who are willing to die for them.  That’s the whole idea behind the Secret Service or a body guard.  The idea is that the leader is so important that he (or she) can not die.  Therefore someone else must be willing to sacrifice their own life to protect the leader.  In other words we die for the King.

In the Bible, however, leadership looks a whole lot like the King dying for us.

The Newsboys capture this in the song You Are My King.  The song says, “Amazing love how can it be?  That you, my King, should die for me

The world tells us that we need to lay down our lives for our King.  That our lives are less important than the King’s.  Yet the Bible is the reverse.  The King should lay down his life for us, the servants.  Jesus had everything he needed.  He didn’t need to die for us.  He chose to die for us.  The one person who should not have to suffer chose to suffer.  To save people who don’t want to be saved.  That, my friends, really is Amazing Love.  That is revolution.

Don’t be fooled though.  Biblical leadership isn’t something reserved for an “elite few.”  It’s supposed to be lived out by everyone who has a relationship with Jesus.  It happens when you live out a life of faith.  When you chose to sacrifice to protect someone weaker than yourself.  When you chose to give something up so that someone else can have something more.  When you lay your own life down, and pick up the cross that God hands you.  That’s living out a life of faith.  That’s Biblical leadership.

That’s a revolution.

Where are you supposed to take leadership in your life?  Who are you to lay your life down for?  Who are you to sacrifice for?  Your wife?  Your boyfriend?  Your kids?  A stranger?

Where will you display Biblical leadership?

greed, money, and my way

Category : choice, sin

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It appears that the NBA is headed to a lockout.  The referees and the NBA can’t come to an agreement.  It may not be the only sport that suffers a lockout.  The NFL, the world’s most successful league, is on the verge of a labor dispute which may result in a lockout.  All of this follows on the heels of the NFL’s labor dispute from a few years ago.  And just recently was the 15 year anniversary of the MLB labor dispute.

Four major sports, 4 lockouts all within recent memory.

Why?

Part of it is greed.  Greed of owners, greed of players, greed of fans, greed of our hearts.  But part of it is just the nature of the world we live in.  We have bought into the idea that money is the answer to all our problems.  Yet the more money we get, the more we fight over it.

In the case of the NFL, neither the players nor the owners have ever had it better.  Yet both want bigger pieces of the pie.  It’s hard for most of us to relate to these arguments because many of us would gladly do their jobs for free, let alone millions of dollars!

Yet for most of us, we can understand being consumed by money and things.  We get angry that we don’t get a raise.  We become jealous when our friends get cooler things than we have.  The hardest thing for me, about being unemployed, is seeing things I want, and not being able to get them.

If we aren’t careful, greed and money pave the way for us to think that we should always get it “my way.”  That somehow just because it’s “my way” makes it right.  The irony is, “my way” is often a path towards failure and defeat.

If the NBA and the NFL have labor issues, maybe they will recover.  But maybe not .  In either case, they will display, for all of us, just what happens when you allow greed to become synonymous with “my way.”

using loopholes to avoid trouble

Category : Jesus, Matthew, choice, different, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

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Have you ever noticed how everything in the world is geared towards justifying our choices, our actions, and our decisions?  We live in a world obsessed with finding excuses, reasons, and explanations for why our behavior should be the exception.

“Well officer, I didn’t mean to speed, I just had to go to the bathroom.”
“I’d love to play with you tonight son, but I had a hard day at work.”
“Everyone else is doing it…”

We are always looking for loopholes.  Always looking for an out.

I find it interesting that God is just the opposite.

God closed the loopholes.  No, scratch that.  He doesn’t “close” loopholes, he slams them shut, nails the door, and moves a giant bolder in front of it.  God does not accept “well I just wasn’t paying attention.”  God does not accept excuses and justifications.

Is there anything more revolution, more counter-cultural than that?

We often have this impression of Jesus as a “nice guy” who was in complete contrast to the “big, mean” God of the Old Testament.  But that’s not the case.  Both treated sin in a very-counter cultural way.  And yes, it was counter-cultural 2,000 years ago.   Much to the shock of the Jews of the day, Jesus ramps up the intensity of the 10 commandments:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 17-20)

If that’s not enough.  Consider what Jesus said about murder.  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Wow.

I don’t know about you, but that’s terrifying.  Hating someone is the same as murdering them?  God doesn’t see shades of gray?  You can be condemned to Hell for that?!  Talk about closing the loopholes!

Why was Jesus like this?

I believe it’s because God knows how we operate.  He knows that we’re always looking for loopholes.  He knows that if there was any wiggle room we’d be asking, “how close to the line can I get?”

If God has closed the loopholes should we still be seeking to justify all of our actions?

That’s what Israel did.  In fact that was their entire history.  They were constantly trying to get as close to the line as they could without crossing.  And you know where that led?  To hardened hearts.  To spiritual death.  And to a life lived not in faith, but a life lived in mindless obedience to minute laws.  A place where there was no room left for God.

There is good news though.  While you and I can never live up to Jesus’ standards.  That doesn’t matter.  Jesus took the punishment that we deserved.  He suffered where we should be suffering.  He paid the price that was ours to bear.  That’s what’s so amazing about God.  At the very moment he was closing all loopholes, he was opening up the front door.  No more sneaking around, we could boldly and confidently walk in the front door.  As Michael W. Smith says in Come To The Cross, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, everyone can come to the cross.”

If God has closed the loopholes should we still be seeking to justify all of our actions?  Should we still be trying to avoid trouble by wiggling our way free?  Or should we boldly move forward and simply ask God to forgive us?  Jesus may have closed the loopholes, but by doing so he made it easier to enter Heaven, not harder.

I ask you this week – where are the loopholes in your life?  And what are you going to do to close them?

A life of faith is guided by God, not controlled by loopholes.

an R3 update

Category : R3, choice, different, living a life of faith

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This is shaping up to be a very busy week for me.  Which means posting will be light.  I admit, I am tempted to find a way to get the usual 3 posts up this week.  But I’m also reminded of what I wrote a few weeks ago.  Everyone needs time off.  Including a write-a-holic like myself!

As much as I love writing, if I want to produce my best work, I need to be conscious of how I am spending my time.  And not surprisingly it takes a lot of time, creativity, and effort to come up with three interesting, and hopefully insightful, posts per week for R3.  I am convinced this is why God created a Sabbath.  Sabbath’s aren’t designed as punishment or ways to prevent us from going  shopping or eating at Chick-fil-a .  It was so we could actually rest and recover.  We all need that.

But before I go, I do have some updates for you guys.

  1. There are changes coming to R3.  I’ve been hinting at this for a few months now.  But I am in the finishing stages of updating R3’s theme.  I think the changes will bring a lot of new functionality to R3 and hopefully encourage us all to better live out lives of faith.
  2. I have a couple of job interviews in the very near future.  Being unemployed has been unbelievably trying, but I have grown more in the last 9 months than at perhaps any other point in my life.  I finally understand what it means when the Bible says, “God provides.”  That said, I’d appreciate any prayers.  I’m less concerned about “interviewing well” than I am about making the right choices that honor God and advance his kingdom.
  3. This last point is perhaps my most important one of the day.  If you’ve ever wanted to know what stormtroopers do on their day off – know you know.  See?  Even stormtroopers have a Sabbath!

in over my head

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Category : God, choice, failure, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

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I am a bit frustrated this morning as I write this.  I think I am in a bit over my head.  Oh I’m not in trouble.  Well, at least the legal kind.  I have just allowed myself to get so busy (with virtually all good to awesome things) that I have let my daily reading, writing, and study go by the way side.  I don’t think that it’s a coincidence it’s harder to muster up the enthusiasm for prayer and reading the Bible this week.

When you live in a self-driven whirlwind of activity, you start to believe that things will only get done if you do them.

As I’ve said before, a relationship with God takes work.  And when we slack off, is it any wonder the relationship takes a  hit?  If you ignored your wife or girlfriend (or husband / boyfriend) how do you think things would feel?  It’s not much different with God.

I find though, that more than my prayer life suffers.  The rest of me suffers as well.

The enthusiasm and excitement just aren’t there to tackle hard projects (of which I have agreed to do several!)  It’s also more challenging to trust that God will deliver on his end.  When you live in a self-driven whirlwind of activity, you start to believe that things will only get done if you do them.

How far from the truth that is!

On the positive side I have been lucky enough to be involved in some very cool life-changing, city-changing activities.  When I finish up these projects (for a church and a non-profit), God’s Kingdom will have solidly advanced.  And what’s not to like about that?!

In the meantime, I must consciously choose to slow my life down, because I am running at a pace that does not honor God.  Living out a life of faith doesn’t mean you always do the right thing, or choose the best path.  It’s about getting back up (repentance) and trying again.   It reminds me of something Erwin McManus has said in the past (and I paraphrase), “the toughest decisions aren’t between good and bad choices, but between equally good choices.”

Amen to that!

the illusions of the world

Category : bible, choice, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

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We live in a society heavily influenced by the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution.  Because of that we think that every decision we make needs to have a root in scientific evidence.  But what if the decisions we are making aren’t really based on science?  What if the world is lying to us?  What if the world wants us to believe something is true even when it’s not?  How then, can we be sure our decisions are still science-based?  Are we just being manipulated?

The world is desperate to present us with a picture of safety and security.  It wants us to believe everything is “fine” and we don’t need to examine our lives – unless it’s to buy more stuff.  The goal is to not rock the boat.  To fit in.  To accept the status quo.

The truth is, despite all the science and knowledge we’ve accumulated, we are still pretty gullible.  We still fall for some pretty silly examples of photoshop distorting pictures.  What’s interesting though, is that while we stare at obviously fake images we reassure ourselves that we’re making decisions based purely on reason.  That our logic, and trust in science makes us smarter.

And so we discard religion.  As a society we’ve somehow decided that if it can’t be seen it must not be real.

I find this to be tragic.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize we can’t always rely on our eyes.  Photoshop has proven that.  Instead we need to learn to also trust God, and the things he’s promised.  That’s really the definition of faith.  Expecting pure scientific evidence for God’s existence will always leave us wanting.  At some point we just need to trust in his promises and move forward.  At some point we have to realize that “just the facts ma’am” isn’t giving us an accurate picture of what’s going on.

Sometimes the temptation for a Christian is to turn their back on the world.  We can over react to the scientific revolution.  We can say “we can’t trust science because it’s from the world.”  However that’s not what God wants either.  God has never said don’t use science or trust your reasoning skills.  But he has warned us that there is a “Thief” who is intentionally trying to manipulate us.

It’s our job to go out into this place and try to bring a new message.  And we can’t do that if we pretend the world doesn’t exist.  We do, however, need to be aware of how much we take in.  We need to know how much we surround ourselves with other world views.  Because it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  It’s easy to fall prey to the lies.  To fall victim to the status quo.

To paraphrase the movie Mr. Deeds, the world is very, very sneaky.

Faith and science aren’t enemies.  They both give us access to important knowledge.  Science helps us to understand the physical world.  It helps us to build hospitals, cure disease, build computers and the internet.  But it can’t answer the question of “why.”  It can’t explain our purpose or our reason for existence.  It can’t define our morality or bring forgiveness to an enemy.

If you want to truly be part of the revolution, you need both faith and science in your life.

what evidence do you need to believe

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Category : Bible reliability, choice, faith

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When I first started to believe that God was real I struggled with the idea of evidence.  I wanted something rock solid.  Some kind of proof that would show he was there.  I didn’t want to bet my lifestyle on something I couldn’t prove.  I sure wasn’t going to change how I lived for some idea that wasn’t true.

But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t figure out what would be “real” enough.  I knew for sure dreams wouldn’t be enough.  That could just be random neurons firing.  I also realized that if I heard God “speak” that would best be treated by psychiatric medicine.

What if I met God, like Paul?  For a while I thought that might work.  But then it occurred to me – I could convince myself that even something real wasn’t true.  (Isn’t that the essence of post-modern thinking anyway?)

Eventually I realized there wasn’t a single shred of evidence I couldn’t find a way to excuse.  No matter how dramatic the event, eventually I would chock it up to my imagination.  Everything could be explained away.

I think this is what happened to Israel.  No matter how dramatic the evidence – parting seas, bread from heaven, a column of fire, victory over enemies – it would never be enough.  This is why we’re told, “In spite of all this [evidence], they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.” (Psalm 78:32)

We are a culture influenced by the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.  Things I think are awesome.  I think clear reasoning, and evidential based thinking are great tools.  But some things can never be proven scientifically, they can only be proven experientially.  (How do you measure the smell of a chocolate chip cookie or the feel of the sea breeze on your face?)

The Bible is filled with people who risked everything based on a dream.  Joseph married Mary because of a dream.  David risked his life for a voice.  Moses became a leader because of a bush.  How easy would it have been to walk away from those things?  How easy to chalk up the experience to a poor night’s sleep?

But they didn’t.  They saw the evidence for what it was.  They recognized God.  They knew something more was happening.  We don’t need standard deviation and statistical calculations to tell us God is real.  We just have to be open to the ways he already operates and not try to explain them away.

should christians be angry at a defaced bible?

Category : bible, choice, different

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It seems to be that every week an “angry Christian” story hits the news.  This week it’s focused on a church in England.  This particular church decided to have people write in a Bible.  Not just people from the church, but anyone who wanted to do it.  The idea was part art and part an attempt to draw people into looking at the Bible in a new way.  It was hoped that personalizing the Bible would make it more real for people.  However what happened is that many people wrote “controversial” statements.  This, according to the story, upset a lot of Christians.

Some of the comments were:

  • “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.”
  • “The biggest lie in human history.”
  • “Mick Jagger and David Bowie belong in here.”
  • “I am Bi, Female and Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

Okay, so I have no idea what the Mick Jagger / David Bowie comment means.  Maybe it’s a British thing?  But beside that, when I read those comments I don’t feel anger, I feel sadness.  I don’t see a defaced Bible, I see breaking hearts.  There is such bitterness and pain in those sentences that it betrays the authors.

I can’t imagine my life without God.  I can’t imagine the loneliness, the hostility, the emptiness I would feel without that relationship.  I understand saying that may seem “insensitive” or “ridiculous.”  And a few years ago I would have agreed.  But after having been on this revolutionary journey with God I have a new perspective.  A perspective I couldn’t have grasped before I met God.

It’s that perspective that makes me see the pain in those sentences.

And it’s that same pain I wish Christians would pay attention to.  Instead of reacting in anger about a “defaced” Bible, Christians should reach out in love.  Yet so often we as Christ followers get wrapped up in our own views that we forget where we once were.  That we once shared (and some still do) the pain and pride of the commentators.

It’s no wonder the world views us as so unChristian.

Believe it or not, humans don’t always want to deal with reality.  Especially if reality conflicts with our lifestyle.  Even when we know something is harmful to us (smoking) we still do it.  Psychologists refer to the uncomfortable feelings two conflicting ideas create as as cognitive dissonance.  One way we deal with this cognitive dissonance is by lashing out.  We know, at some deep level, that the life we’re living isn’t how we were designed to live.  But making a change seems overwhelming, too scary, or too hard.  So we attack the message.

The Christian response should be one of love and compassion.  Our truth should be matched by our grace.  I say we should let more people “deface” the Bible like this.  Their words can’t diminish the truth that’s contained in it’s pages.  And it represents an opportunity to show them God’s grace.  To me that sounds like a win-win situation.  Not a time to get angry and defensive.

living a life of freedom

Category : 2 Corinthians, God, Jesus, choice, different, revolutionary

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Have you ever stopped and thought about your freedom?  Not your freedom in the political sense.  But your freedom in the spiritual sense.  The more I think about these issues, the more I realize just how quickly we give up our freedom.  We give up our freedom for the promise of security, for power, for control, and even for what we think is love.

But it seems that the last thing we should do is to want to give up our freedom.  As Paul told the church in Corinth:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3: 12-18)

Think about that for a minute.  Wherever Jesus is, there is freedom.  Do we live our lives like that?  Do we act as if we have freedom?  Or do we continually give up that freedom to fit in?  To be safe?  Or to not make waves?

Paul is saying that we should be bold because we have Jesus in our lives.  But are we?

I don’t want to live my life in bondage.  I don’t want to give up the freedoms God gives me.  I am not interested in ritual if it doesn’t draw me closer to God.  I am not interested in answers that sound nice, but have no substance.  I want the radical, revolutionary, different nature that is God – not the watered down things that make me feel better.

I want the God that brings freedom – not bondage.

overcoming unexpected problems

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Category : God, choice, hope, living a life of faith, taking action

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.” (Nehemiah 4: 16-18)

When you live a life of faith things aren’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes living a life of faith means you run smack into the unexpected problems.  That’s where Nehemiah found himself.  He was living a pretty comfortable life.  He had the King’s confidence.  He lived in a palace (his job was to eat food – which is great as long as it’s not poisoned).  I bet he even had cable TV.  But God called Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Not an easy task.

Nehemiah gave up all of the perks of royal life to go back to Jerusalem and work in ditches to rebuild walls.  He gave up comfort for bickering nobles.  He gave up food so he could stand watch with the other Jews.  He gave up wealth and power so that he could worry about invasions and attacks.

Sometimes a life of faith gives you more problems than if you just did your own thing.

Being faithful is rarely easy.  There is often a price.  Almost everyone God called to do amazing things in the Bible had a harder time than if they had ignored him.  To most of us that feels wrong.  Before I became a Christian I had just always assumed that if you believe in God your life should be easy.  But that’s just not reality.

There’s no question God blesses people with amazing things.  David had tremendous wealth.  Yet before he could become king he had to fight a giant.  Esther lived in comfort and security, but she had to risk everything in order to save her fellow Jews.

Those were big risks.  Big obstacles.  But not all sacrifices are huge.

As I sit here typing this post, my computer speakers are on the verge of dying.  My keyboard doesn’t always record the letters I type, and I suspect I need to completely reformat my hard drive.  Even my mouse is rebelling and not scrolling properly.

There was a time when none of this would have been an issue.  I could have easily bought replacement speakers.  Heading to Best Buy wouldn’t be a problem.  But now, because I am unemployed, all of that is beyond my reach.  Of all the challenges I expected to face in unemployment a slowly dying computer was not one of them!

I’m not saying this is catastrophic.  The lives of a nation aren’t at risk if I can’t use the scroll wheel on my mouse.  It’s not like I have to carry a sword because I’m afraid my neighbor is going to try and kill me while I type on my computer.  But it is annoying.  It’s one more time I have to trust God.

Doing the right thing.  Trusting God.  All of these are hard choices.  Especially in the face of unexpected challenges.  As I said, being faithful almost always come with risks and challenges.  As John the Baptist found out, sometimes when we’re living out a life of faith we end up beheaded by a king.

But we don’t trust God because we expect an immediate reward.  We trust God, we act, because we are living for something more.  We are citizens of a different kingdom.  We live with an eye towards our final home – one that lasts forever.  We know that even though we face unexpected problems, there is a point to what we do.  God doesn’t ask us to do something simply because he can.

Every unexpected problem presents us with a choice – do we trust God and continue to live a life of faith?  Or do we trust ourselves, and move away from God?  When life presents you with a problem, what are you going to choose?