Sacrificial Leadership Makes a Way for Trust

Several years ago, when facing a major decision regarding a move, my wife and I sought counsel. The counsel we got regarding the move changed the way we looked at marriage forever.

“Scott, what if this move was entirely for her benefit, would you be OK with that?” he asked.

“Julie, do you trust Scott?” was the question she got.

I had never thought about such a question prior to that. I was the one that worked to make a living for the family and pursued a career and she was staying home with the kids. How and why would it be entirely for her benefit? I needed to make money. I needed to move forward in my career. Yet, the truth of the question had a weight to it.

While I wasn’t initially willing to make this move “entirely for her benefit,” I was willing to try to change. As I thought and prayed, my prayers changed. We were going through a lot and the pressure of the challenges was shaping me internally. I remember walking through the park and blurting out a prayer, “God, this is hard, but I don’t want the difficultly to be in vain. Take my angst and allow them (Julie and the kids) to benefit from it so they will have it easier.” That was it.

It wasn’t whether or not I did everything perfectly, it was the intention behind it. Something switched inside of me and I went from a strategist trying to figure out what was best to asking God to take my offering and multiply it. It wasn’t about my plans, but their benefit.

Trust is foundational to relationship. It is imperative for submission. Submission seeks a sacrifice and it is a place of benefit. We all desire the protection and sacrifice of a legitimate lead. The first and primary place that is fostered can/should be with our father. If he modeled the role well, we are likely inclined towards a healthy trust. If not, we may be more self-protective and self-promoting to attempt to make a way for ourselves since that pivotal relationship didn’t make a way for us.

Do you want to be a trustworthy leader? Be sacrificial. It doesn’t mean that those that are in a position to benefit from your sacrifice get everything they want. It does mean that everything you want is driven with their interests being primary.

Her answer regarding trusting me was “yes,” by the way. Even before my intentions were entirely for her benefit. While God was working stuff out in me, He was on display in her.

Shades of Comparison Leave Us in the Dark

My path to vocational ministry is non-traditional.  Leading up to this transition in my occupation, I worked previously as an Army officer, business manager and owner as well as an attorney at law.  When I first practiced law, my primary focus was in the sphere of criminal defense.  The bulk of that criminal defense practice was representing court-appointed clients.  These were folks charged with a crime who couldn’t afford an attorney.

In those days when I talked about work or now when I tell stories about that time, some people have a noticeable reaction.  They make a face, however subtle, that indicates they can’t pay attention to the details because they are distracted by the arrangement.  “How could you represent those people? They aren’t Christians, and you are, so how could you represent them?”  Many times, it’s just the look, but sometimes it’s explicitly asked.  Church polite, of course, but asked just the same.

By contrast, one day walking out of the courthouse I called my wife and told her, “I can’t believe more Christians don’t choose the practice of law as their place of calling.”  After all, I reasoned, where else are you in a position where broken, desperate people come to you asking for your counsel and assistance?  Where else is light so necessary than in the darkest places of society?

Working closely with those whose lives were in peril of being consumed by darkness gave me a greater appreciation for light.  We all need some realization of darkness to remind us of the Light within.  We also need some realization of darkness to remind us of the darkness within.  The degree of separation between “them” and “us” is less than you might imagine.  A twist here and a turn there in life’s circumstances can lead people into situations both unplanned for and undesired.

The overlap in working with “church folks” and court-appointed folks is more similar than you might think, as well.  Sure, most of the church folks in the relatively privileged suburbs present themselves better than the accused of the court-appointed criminal justice system.  The underlying human condition, however, is just as dark.  People are people.

Here, however, is the biggest difference: Those accused and convicted of crimes realize the urgency and near hopelessness of their condition.  They know they need help.  They know they’re messed up and more often than not are desperate for any glimmer of hope.  The socially acceptable, comfortable Christians often think they have things figured out.  They rationalize that Jesus loves them regardless, and nobody (they hope) knows about their “indiscretions.”  And after all, their flaws aren’t as “bad” as the indigent criminal; likely not even perceived to be as bad as the rumors they’ve heard – and helped spread – about the guy across the pew.

Dark is dark and pretending it’s light by shades of comparison cheapens the grace of Jesus Christ.  He didn’t die for us to be judgmental by comparison or dismissive of the heart in need of redemption.  He wants to transform us from glory to glory, but we can’t go to the next glory believing the glory we’ve already experienced somehow jumped us ahead to a place of superiority.

– From “Transforming the Prodigal Soul” available here

The Freedom in Raising Your Hand

I am, among other things, a minister.  I am called to walk with others toward freedom from bondage and toward recognition of their identity in Christ.  I’ve spent countless hours studying, considering, praying for and ministering in freedom. I am thankful God has called me to this purpose and embrace the opportunity as an honor.

A few years ago, in the middle of this calling, I got into an argument with my wife.  It was an ugly argument, and I said ugly things.  What came out of me wasn’t free at all.  It was depraved and destructive.

Following this argument, I went into a kind of dark hole.  I was embarrassed, but more than that, I was doubtful.  I was full of doubt regarding the contradiction between what I believed and knew and ministered in compared to this blatant display of depravity.  The fact that I had this kind of anger and venom in me caused me to question everything.

  • I questioned whether or not I was a phony.  If this was going to be a way I might act, is there any integrity in my ministry?
  • I questioned whether or not I was disqualified.  If I do these kinds of things or even if I am capable of them, am I qualified to help others?
  • I questioned the very idea of freedom.  If a so-called freedom minister is so full of darkness that it comes spilling out, is there even such a thing as freedom in the first place?

Those are the questions I was asking as I prayed and considered the events of the argument. The next day, I received a group text to five or six of us from a pastor friend also called to walk alongside those engaged in the quest for freedom.  He explained in his text that he needed prayer as he’d lost his temper in his home the night before. The aftermath of his anger was evident in damaged relationships and broken trust.

Almost instinctively, I typed a text in response.  My response to him was, “You win.  By raising your hand, inviting us in and sending this text, you win.”  That was it.  That was the answer to my questions.

Freedom isn’t the absence of sin but the willingness to expose darkness to light. Freedom isn’t living a perfect life, but living life’s imperfections with others to disarm the accusations of guilt and shame arising from our faults.  Freedom is simply the ability to raise your hand.  Raising your hand is the first step on the return journey to an inheritance that abounds beyond our limitations.

– From “Transforming the Prodigal Soul” available here

The Fullness of Freedom

I met a new friend the other day who is a lawyer. He used to be a prosecuting attorney and now he has a private practice that is focused on civil disputes. As we talked, the reality of the difference between those practices came up. Once you have stood in a courtroom and been involved in the decision that impacts someone’s freedom, arguments regarding money damages just don’t seem as important.

Criminal cases often mean someone is either walking out of the courtroom in handcuffs to jail, or not. They are either reaching across the bar to hand their spouse their wallet before the deputies take them through the back exit, or they are buying that same spouse lunch after they walk out together. A dollar amount, in most cases, fails to have the same emotion or weight attached to it.

Freedom is more valuable than we typically consider as we enjoy it without reservation. Freedom isn’t free, however, as the freedoms that this nation has enjoyed are bought and paid for with lives. Lives were dedicated and lost as they stood in the gap and bought the liberty we might otherwise take for granted.

We are afforded the incredible privilege of freedom as citizens of a nation that holds freedom as a core value to the extent that we practically take it for granted. For those that are followers of Jesus Christ, a more eternal expression of freedom is available within. The freedom from within was bought and paid for by Jesus, to release us from the bondage of being slaves to depravity or the law. Depravity is our default condition without Him and the law is a reminder of it.

The freedom that is available is the freedom to be. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” means that we don’t have to hide, strive or pretend. We get to be us; the good, the bad and the ugly. Jesus releases us to be honest about our imperfections as He was willing to stand in the gap with His life dedicated and lost for the holiness and righteousness we needed to be restored to the Father’s love.

The only way to go on to new glory and realization of greater maturity is to embrace the flaws and limitations of our present condition. There is freedom in confession that we are who we are, but that He is doing a work from within us that will present eternal fruit even here and now.

The Most Critical Components Towards Realization of Our Purpose

Practicing law provided insight into things applicable well beyond the criminal justice system. Circumstances that had resulted in criminal ramifications exposed things that otherwise would go unnoticed. The insulation of the suburbs or compromise of excuses eroded under the scrutiny of the law. In other words, there were things that were true for people charged with a crime that are just as true for those of us living “normal” lives but we can’t see them based on our relative comfort or distraction.

When I was introduced to someone who was in the middle of a lifestyle of problems, resulting in repetitive criminal charges and other issues, there were consistently two things that were present. The #1 most consistent thing that was inconsistent in the lives of troubled people was fatherlessness. Almost every time I asked an habitual offender where their father was, it was a tragic story.

As things shifted, I became increasingly engaged with “good” people from the suburbs, typically from a church in the suburbs. When they had persistent struggles, the #1 thing that I have found to be an underlying agitate is their father relationship. The father relationship is incredibly pivotal to how we view God and how we view ourselves. Our realization of God’s true identity and our realization of our own identity according to Him is foundation to our freedom. If we have unresolved issues with our dad, we are often going to struggle realizing the Fatherhood of our Dad.

The second most consistent inconsistency is purposelessness. Where people lack purpose, whether impoverished criminal defendants or suburban professionals, they tend to struggle. We are wired for “why.” We need to get up every day knowing that the world has a need and we have a contribution to the solution. Realization of our place is the next question after realization of our identity.

We don’t realize our identity or our purpose “one time at band camp.” There are gates of realization along the pathway of a journey. They are markers and clues on our quest into eternity. Those gates and markers tend to come in difficult times when we have to answer questions within us that we don’t have the answer to. We need the Designer to show us how He wired us and what He intends for that unique wiring. Questions can bring revelation and revelation unlocks the application of our identity and design. You don’t have to wait for the hard times to ask the deep questions any more than you have to be charged with a crime to need to figure things out.

 

Get Your Gifts Back

When we see areas of our lives that are clearly not what they are intended to be, sometimes the picture of what is intended is the exact opposite. In fact, the thing that tends to torment us or challenge us the most might be a gift within us which has been perfectly hijacked. In such cases, the best course of action is to step towards the gift even more than trying to stop doing the things that are off course.

When I was younger, I was particularly good at the banter. The sharp, sarcastic jousting that cuts at any weakness was an area of strength for me. When in a room where there was that kind of cutting and slashing, I was a force to be dealt with.

The effort to stay ahead of others to defend myself and attack them verbally is mentally tiring because it’s not God’s intention for the verbal ability He put within me. He gave me language and ability to speak life and encouragement, but instead I was speaking criticism and destruction. The gift that He wanted to use to call out greatness in others was doing the exact opposite. There was no rest in it because there was no eternity in it. The rest that accompanies our gifts is in our agreement with God’s purposes in our gifts and abilities.

Since then, I have seen time and time again where sarcastic and cynical wit is actually a prophetic gift. Prophecy, by definition of 1 Corinthians 14:3, is speaking encouragement, edification and comfort. The hijacking of the gift is discouragement, tearing down and discomfort. Look into the shadow of the gift to find the true intention of design.

The Kingdom is an invitation, not a prohibition. Jesus calls us to follow and be included, unleashing everything He has put in us for eternal purposes. The law tells us to stop doing bad things; Jesus calls us to do powerful things. When we see that there has been a hijacking of our giftedness, the invitation is to step into the power of our design. The hijacking will be corrected when we agree with the purpose of our destiny.

If you’ve allowed your tongue to be hijacked to speak discouragement and dishonor, change your mind. Turn into the purposes of honor and encouragement that God has put within you. If there are other areas that have been off track, what is the track they are intended? Once those areas are released in agreement with their design, the attempt to kill, steal and destroy will be defeated by the life, abundance and creation that sons and daughters are called into.