The Glorious Paradox of Life and Death

I do the stuff for a living and, as a result, the life can get sucked right out of me. When you are expected to know things, say things, write things related to God, the expectation is that you are at least a pretty good guy. After all, the God stuff you are presenting is good stuff and you are an avenue for that eternal good, so you should be temporally good. It’s a trap.

I’m not a good guy and when I think that I am, the disconnect begins. When I think that I’m basically moral, religious and that I do good stuff, my self-righteousness is being fed. I am forced to consider my good stuff to justify the good guy label. That is a road with no end that gets tiresome and it leaves open a flank susceptible to attack. The flip side of my goodness is my humanness and if I’m caught in the trap of being good, then I’m insecure related to my imperfections.

Taken a step further, when I’m tending to my self-righteousness, I’m completely disconnected from the righteousness of Christ. When I’m reinforcing my own goodness, I don’t need His grace. I’ve got it covered, after all, as I should since I’m a professional at His stuff. Ugh.

It’s only when I can embrace my depravity that I value His grace. When I value His grace, I can connect with Him. When I connect with Him, I receive His identity. When I receive His identity, I receive His righteousness. When I receive His righteousness, I am secure. My security, then, is rooted in recognition of my depravity; it’s a glorious paradox.

My soul is sick. Always has been and always will be. Jeremiah 17:9 says my heart (soul) is desperately wicked. It literally says by definition that it is incurable. There is no hope for it; it is terminal. It has to die.

It is only when I can recognize my incurable sickness that I can decide to go ahead and die. It’s only when I quit gasping for breath related to my goodness and give up that there is hope for me. The hope is not from me, but from Christ Jesus. He is my only hope. Yesterday, today and tomorrow; only Him through the dead me provides life through me, whether I do this for a living or not.

Legitimate Leadership is Born Within Everyone that Chooses to Be Made

There is a timeless question regarding the production of leadership that asks, “are leaders born or made?” The answer has to be “yes,” leaders are born and then made. Further examination of the question would reveal that leadership potential is more universal than it is exclusive because the essence of true leadership is deeper than the qualities we may initially identify. We are all born with leadership potential and our impact is dependent largely on our development but our development is unto different qualities than we often associate with leadership.

Regardless of your faith or belief, few could argue that Jesus has to be considered one of the greatest leaders of all time. He initiated a movement that has spanned centuries and changed cultures. His leadership has reached far beyond his tangible touch or span of years on earth. Within the context of the faith He invited, we are told “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). In other words, He was born for His destiny.

As difficult as it is to fully grasp, He also developed into it. Specifically, we know, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). While His destiny preceded creation, His capacity was developed by experience. In other words, He grew into His destiny.

While a study of His life would reveal great knowledge, discipline, influence and an extraordinary ability to communicate, the impact of His leadership if dependent on His character much more than it is attributable to the effect of His skills. Ultimately, the unleashing of centuries worth of global impact hinged on His humility which is grounded in the security of His identity. Humility and security are not necessarily natural in any of us no matter what we believe we may be born for. Humility and security have to be developed.

People follow leaders that sacrifice for their benefit. In fact, the very definition of legitimate authority depends on sacrifice for the benefit of others. “Leadership” that falls short of that isn’t leadership at all, and often it is manipulation or even abuse. The ability to lead which is born within each of us is unleashed by the development of our character and inherent understanding of that identity more than it is our skill at doing things or getting people to do things.

The production of a legitimate leader is the reduction of an aspiring leader. Those that will become less will be positioned for more. Willingness to embrace demotion will increase capacity for promotion. We are all born with the ability to sacrifice and decrease, but the making of our character dictates the extent to which we will influence others along the way and after we are gone.

Leaders Launch While Managers Maintain

Security is the whole shooting match. Remembering the truth of identity is the constant to realization of freedom. Where we decide that things aren’t good enough, safe enough, abundant enough or noticeable enough, we scramble against our peace and into control, anxiety, fear and manipulation.

Leadership is influence; management is control. The ability to make it appealing and inviting to agree comes at the cost of the desire to control all the variables. Leadership is a multiplying effect that comes with release and empowerment. Management is insulation to maintain desired status quo and it sets a ceiling on the potential of people and places.

The influence of leadership is much more challenging, messy and dependent than the controls of management. The release which comes through leadership is scary and it will be impossible to endure the fear where there is no internal security. Personal insecurities hijack organizational empowerment.

Management is easier to reward, promote and codify but it will never go viral. There will be no impact beyond the immediate touch and the legacy of a leader is not determined except for in their absence. Until and unless they can do it without you, the jury is out regarding the methods and motives of the relationship. Myles Munroe said, “The greatest act of leadership is what happens in your absence. If everything you’ve done died with you, you are a failure. True leadership is measured by what happens after you die.”

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 4:15

There are plenty of guides; those that will serve as task masters and rule enforcers. It’s those that will lead like a father leads that are scarce. Those that will sacrifice and step aside even when the beneficiaries are immature and/or inept, leaders will believe in them and encourage them and afford them the next opportunities. The security that affords fathers the freedom to release others is only available through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Without identity rooted in the gospel of Jesus, the potential leader will susceptible to the threat of embarrassment via the failures that come as those they are raising up figure things out. Security is fed not from results of the leader or the follower, but the truth of who Jesus says they are. Security is before, during and after the growing pains of succession and is the fuel that results in legacy.

Defeating Insecurity

When my dad died in December, I had no doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. His affirmation and my knowledge of his unconditional love and acceptance was and is an incredible gift. It is healthy and necessary for my security and confidence. It was a platform for my potential. Yet, I mess it up.

Despite the benefit of affirmation and the resulting security that comes from unconditional love, there are times when my insecurities win out. I can be victimized by doubts and fears like anyone else when I forget who I am or when I work from my voids. Insecurity is a universal challenge and there is no earthly cure.

There is perhaps more insecurity in the ministry world than there is in secular settings. In a secular setting, the lines are clear; we are out for ourselves for the most part. Courtesy, morality and values should influence our interactions as there are lines that are drawn in keeping with social responsibility. For the most part, behaviors are oriented by expectations with consequences and ramifications that require strategy to maneuver around.

In faith based settings, I’ve noticed less certainty and more apparent insecurity. We acknowledge and embrace that we are spiritual beings, therefore we tend to work from the inside-out. The truth is the guide and foundation for our beliefs, but our choices are influenced by our developing ability to allow those beliefs to overcome our will. Our will is born in a fallen state, and even after we are new from the inside, that salvation is being worked out.

In the working out, we often allow emotions, expectations and desires that are based in “good” and even eternal appetites to guide our interactions. “That’s not my heart” becomes a valid excuse to behaviors that are offensive or not thoughtful. The squishy possibilities within can muddy the absolutes of cause and effect.

No matter where we are spiritually, the insecurities we battle as members of the human race cause us to self-protect, self-provide and self-promote. We do so in defensive and/or offense postures with other human beings. Where the contrast is in the context of the Father’s house and the Body of Christ, the insecurities seem to become glaring. The insecurities are counter-cultural to the security of sonship.

Until we know that we know that control is an illusion and our Source is greater than our limitations or abilities, we are going to entertain the charade of mastery. Freedom comes in the wake of giving up and admitting our limitations. Security comes where we know that we can’t do it and are loved anyway. Security comes in the love of a Father that not only affirms us, but He receives us despite us.

Safety Nets, Security and Source

There are only two choices; fear or love. One or the other is going to be the driver. Neither will be particularly overt most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in control. We are either operating from the security of love or the insecurity of fear.

As I’ve been writing previously the love that we know from our father can help us to know the love of the Father. In the absence of knowing His love, we’re left vulnerable where otherwise He willingly provides, protects and promotes us. When we know His unconditional love as our Source of love, then our supply is abundant. We can work from knowing that Source and tapping in when fears and insecurities creep up to attempt to hijack His purposes in our design.

The security of love is the fuel of greatness. Greatness is accompanied by selflessness and selflessness won’t breathe without security. True greatness is within what we do for others; it has an impact beyond us. Only those that experience that impact can declare greatness; it can’t be declared by the one that seeks the tag. It can be declared by another and the other is only like to declare it where they have benefited. That benefit comes from selflessness and that selflessness comes from love.

It’s not love that is conjured up, however. Love isn’t produced within us; it’s received to be distributed. We can’t work from an empty tank and we can’t give away what we don’t have.

Where we are not connected to the Father, we are left exposed. Exposed without a fall back. No safety net leaves us fearful, even if just a little bit. Even if just a hint. Even if just the absence of love.

Our dads could and should model the opportunity that the Father presents. They should provide, protect and promote us. They should, to some degree, be our safety net. No matter how good or bad they are, they are limited and are only a bridge or a barrier to the Father. He is the only legitimate Source.

Even a great dad, even my dad who was great, can’t be our Source. That’s OK, though, because truly great dads didn’t want to be our source in the first place because they were selfless. Because they loved. Because they were loved.

Our Dads Are a Bridge or a Barrier

In the weeks leading up to my father’s death, I was reminded of a previous surgery he had been through. Eighteen months prior to this most recent surgery, he had been through a similar procedure. Someone had encouraged me to “leave nothing unsaid” as we entered into that previous procedure.

As I had stood by his bed prior to surgery the first time, I considered what it was I should say and I couldn’t come up with anything. My father and I had discussions in the flow of life leading up to that point from which I knew that he knew how I felt about him. More importantly, perhaps, I knew how he felt about me.

My father had told me that he loved me and that he was proud of me with his words and actions. I had heard it from him and I had heard it through others that he had told. I also saw it in is support, presence and contribution to things I did. He proved it by being there.

  • He was my Boy Scout leader
  • He commissioned me as an Army officer
  • He wanted to see my office at various jobs I had
  • He came to court just to watch one day
  • He came to “Bold” men’s meetings I was leading
  • He came on a Quest I was facilitating
  • He was at my book signing when I rolled out my first book
  • He wanted me to come and speak to the men at his church and set up a men’s event

Really, the list goes on and on; those are just what jump out initially. I don’t have any doubts about who my father said I am. He said it and he showed it. His investment positioned me to receive the Truth.

God’s relationship with us is as Father. He wants to be “Abba” to us; not a distant or angry Judge. The realization of His identity as well as ours comes from Him but it is easier to realize when/if our dads agree.

From the affirmation that my father gave me, it was easier to know of the love that the Father has for me. From my dad being there, it’s easier to know that my Dad is always there.

Your father is either a bridge or a barrier to the Father, but the target for all of us is the same no matter if we had a good dad, bad dad or absent dad. The target is to hear from Spirit to spirit that “you’re a son.” Once you hear that, the good, bad or ugly of your earthly father has its proper context and you have your eternal perspective.