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Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 144

144. “If God were your Father, you would love Me” (John 8:42).

Now this is a challenging statement. In fairness to the Jews, reason makes the journey to faith more complicated. To imagine that a peasant carpenter’s son from a small, insignificant town is somehow the Son of God would be beyond most of us. Reason says this man is delusional. But reason is rarely a major marker on the path to faith. Instead of a rational review of who He is and where He might have come from, those who believe saw something in what He did, how He spoke, whom He loved. They looked beyond the moments and saw the presence of God, and that’s how faith is born. You won’t argue people into faith.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 145

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

The first step to learning from a mistake is admitting that you made one.

I’ve learned a lot from my dad–a process that remains ongoing. Among my middle school memories is what I would call a “no excuse” policy. When I would do something wrong, my dad would accept no excuses. I had my ideas of justifications–things I called “reasons”–but they would never change the outcome of whatever punishment was forthcoming. He was after a deeper truth, one that would leave a deeper impression on my mind than on my backside.

“You can’t learn from your mistakes until you admit you made them.” I sure wish he would have taught everyone that.

Today, we don’t seem to be required to acknowledge our part in our own choices. We can more easily be the victim of something–the situation, the dysfunction, or even a birth. Someone else, or the elusive something, are to blame. So my bad choices are the result of an unfair policy, or a genetic tendency, or the actions of another, or the events of my childhood, or…, or…,

So we don’t learn from our mistakes. And when we don’t, we destine ourselves to repeat them. Again and again, we make the same choices until now there seems sufficient evidence to claim our “uncontrollable” tendency is a disease or a birth defect. We must be made this way because we can’t seem to stop doing what we’re doing. So a mistake becomes a life path becomes a condition, and ultimately we can only blame God because He must have made us this way.

Maybe that’s the depraved mind Romans 1 describes at the end of the journey away from God. Not just debauchery or sinful patterns, but the belief that we had no other available road. It’s interesting that even secular solutions to addictions start with admission of a problem, but we’re not understanding if we call sin by its three-letter name.

So we keep on down the “road that seems right” and refuse to accept that our current mess is the promised destruction. Why? Because we wouldn’t admit our initial mistakes, and no one said we had to.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 143

143. “If you were Abraham’s children…” (John 8:39).

Who do you claim to be? Sometimes the identity we want and the identity we’re truly living don’t connect. We want to be viewed as one with integrity, but we struggle not to cut corners. We want to be viewed as a good husband, father, or boss, but our selfish tendencies keep us from such an epitaph. Jesus shows these Jews that claiming to be Abraham’s children means little if they don’t live like they are connected to Him. In the same way, our claims ring hollow if they are not backed up by the choices we make each day.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Subject to Change – Part 3

“Pastor doesn’t care about us…he’s only interested in new people…”

“Those people have no concern for others…they just want everything to be the way they like it….”

“Pastor’s just trying to make a name for himself so some bigger church will call him and pay him more money…”

“No wonder the last pastor left. These people have no vision at all…”

Here’s where that whole “peeking behind the curtain” episode I mentioned a few blogs ago proved so important. These statements, no matter how they might be buttressed by anecdotal stories and the kind of undeniable evidence that makes your friends think you have an open-and-shut case, are simply not true.

Pastors do care, though they may feel overwhelmed by what seems to be an endless set of congregational expectations. Ministering to people like you is the core motivation that led them to choose this life path. I’ve met hundreds of pastors, maybe even thousands, and have yet to encounter one that I’d feel comfortable insisting that he’s little more than an empire builder.

And here’s something pastors need to know. Your people do love others and want to see them come to faith. They do want their church to excel at affecting your community and they long for their efforts under your banner to fuel their own reason-for-being. They’ve processed dozens of sermons and been challenged with the mission—the same mission that brought you to their little town—so often that they feel defeated by the gap between where they are and what they’re convinced that God wants them to be. Don’t write them off or toss them onto a pile that’s carelessly labeled.

They want what you want.

When I became pastor of Maranatha Worship Center in Wichita, Kansas, in the late summer of 2000, twelve 8 x 10 photos greeted me as I walked through the church hallway. These were my ancestors in the role of congregational shepherd. Their pictures, and the nameplates that reminded of their tenure, served as the remaining evidence of their sweat and toil encased in a $5 frame. I made a mental note to have my picture taken.

I was pastor number thirteen, an apparent tribute to my good fortune as I assumed the leadership chair in this church’s 78th year. The current label was the church’s third name, the building it’s third location, and the somewhat stern faces of my dozen predecessors reminded me that this was their journey before it was mine.

But it wasn’t their faces that motivated me. Within a month, I had removed the 8 x 10s, combining these historical head shots into a single collage with a $40 frame. Now they all stared at me together, and some of their eyes seem to follow you… but they and their dreams didn’t generate my marching orders.

Honestly, it wasn’t the large and somewhat awkward picture of Jesus hanging in a nearby classroom that drove me either. Yes, it’s His Church and His Commission and His Kingdom. In fact, everything of consequence in that place was and still is actually His. It’s just that I discovered that Jesus and me weren’t playing on some exclusive team on that Wichita corner. He’d recruited a lot of other teammates for our effort.

They were my motivation. In my first months on the ecclesiastical job, I met the lambs I was assigned to feed. Some had been in the flock a long time, those who still had First Assembly of God bumper stickers on their cars—a reminder of what the sign at the previous location had said. A few could remember the days of Pentecostal Tabernacle, a decade or more before the Great Depression disrupted their teen years. This was the congregation I came to pastor, even though no one had hung their pictures in the hallway.

Twelve pastors, twelve visions, twelve new days and new dreams had each taken their turn in the pulpit over the decades, but it was the people that remained. And while their collective sense of direction seemed to need a new compass and their hymn preferences seemed to prefer a language no longer sung or spoken, they still possessed a distinct and clear heartbeat. Those graying and balding heads nodded with firm affirmation that a passion for Christ’s work still beat in their hearts—a passion nurtured by God relationships with many anniversaries.

And that’s the second thing people wish their pastor knew about leading them in change—they really want the same thing you do, even if they want it for different reasons.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 142

142. “You are ready to kill me because you have no room for my word” (John 8:37).

Is that what we are doing when we reject Jesus’ teaching or disobey His commands? Are we ready to kill Him? In fact, it is our sin that necessitated His death so, in some manner, our continued sin seems to be a choice for His death. No, that is not our intent, but when you understand life through a Christ-centered worldview, you see the seriousness of sin. And such knowledge would likely make us want to be more focused on a righteous path. After all, that’s the path He died to open for us. How could we choose another?

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 144

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Money doesn’t buy intelligence. It can’t pay the full price for maturity either. Recent weeks have seen the societal fall of another success story—a basketball owner who trusted his sad and outdated thinking to a friendship he had foolishly built. I don’t need to spend even a paragraph explaining why his words and actions have been beyond foolish. A child can see that.

But among the greater truths his story tells is that money doesn’t make you smarter. So when God brought Solomon the opportunity to have whatever he would desire, the wise king chose wisdom—evidence that he had some of that even before God filled him up with it.

Get wisdom.

That’s the core message of the book of Proverbs, and it’s the thing beating on my brain today as well. Rather than mock the foolishness that swims past you on life’s river every day, grab a paddle and head for wisdom. Make good choices, better choices, even the best choices because you think through the life you want and you intentionally want to get there. Don’t just float with the current.

Wisdom is better than rubies. I think Solomon said something like that. It’s interesting to note that Solomon ended up with a lot of both. Perhaps that’s evidence that wisdom can bring wealth, but there is no evidence that it works the other way. Money won’t make you wiser.

 

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 141

141. “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).

Choices have destinations. Usually in the midst of the choice, we don’t sense a path, but every step is moving us somewhere. When we sin, we take a step away from God and down one of the six or seven paths Satan has designed. But when we choose righteousness, we not only move toward God–we also move away from Satan, walking a path he has never traversed. The point is that every choice accumulates into a destination and until God has shown you His path, you have no options except those that lead to bondage and destruction.