The Value of a Champion

One year ago tomorrow, I jogged down a hospital hallway to catch up with two attendants pushing a gurney with my father on it on the way back to heart surgery. They stopped as I called out and when I reached them, my dad had already closed his eyes as was beginning to go to sleep. He opened his eyes and I said, “I love you, dad; I’ll see you in a few hours,” while placing my right hand on his upper left chest.

He reached his right hand across his body and put it on top of my hand, saying, “I love you, son,” with a slight grin. That was the last time we talked and, as far as I know, those were the last words he ever spoke. The surgery went poorly, he never woke up and my dad entered heaven three days later.

Anniversaries cause you to reflect and as I reflect at the one year anniversary of my father’s passing, I realize the greatest loss I have suffered as a result of his death. I lost a champion.

My dad wasn’t one to give tons of advice and hardly ever pushed his opinion into my circumstances. He was supportive and available and was unconditional in his love. He let me figure things out and responded if called upon. In figuring it out, there was nobody in this world that celebrated the wins for me and with me more than my dad has.

Over the past year, what I have missed the most is the ability to share the victories with him. Phone calls or visits to talk of how something was working out well were always met with equal joy and satisfaction from him. The times I miss him can be diverse in their origin but some of the most palpable times of grief are when I want to share a win.

My friend, Omar, reminded me not too long ago that while we often talk about the Bible’s call to “mourn with those who mourn,” the rest of that verse is to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15) It’s just as important to have relationships that celebrate with us as it is to have those that will allow for the healthy processing of our grief.

I’m so thankful to have a loving bride that celebrates with me and kids as well as other family. I just miss my first champion.

You Can’t Be Accountable to Yourself and Maximize Your Potential at the Same Time

The Packer’s head coach got fired with the rumor being that he and his quarterback didn’t get along. There then arose some questions about who would lead or hold the quarterback accountable if the coach were going to get fired for contradicting the wishes of the quarterback.

The quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is quoted as saying, “There’s nobody that holds me more accountable than myself . . . I mean, I’m always checking myself on my preparation habits and my practice habits and my mindset, but there’s always been a great deal of accountability under Mike’s program for the last 13 years.”

I have no idea about the relationship between the two or who needs what accountability. What I am convinced of is that none of us are as adept at holding ourselves accountable as we would like to believe. The presence of an accountable authority is a benefit, not a detriment. The reason being is that for as long as we are accountable to ourselves, we are bound by our own limitations.

Where there is healthy authority, there is a multiplying factor. We are better when accountable to others because our strengths have the context of the group. That means that our shortcomings or weaknesses can be compensated by the strengths of others in the group. Thus, we are elevated despite our limitations as are the others in the group because of our strengths.

Accountability for results is a necessary component to collaboration and collaboration is necessary for greater capacity. Accountability to ourselves, or self-discipline, is a great starting point but it is limited by an incomplete perspective. The view of us that is the least comfortable for us is often the most beneficial for us.

Accountability is more than just correction; it is context and encouragement as well as adjustments and critique. In it’s best form, it is based on a set of finite and defined standards that remove personal preferences and bias to leave cultural norms important to the purpose of the group. Those standards aren’t susceptible to excuse or personality but are deemed necessary for the goals of the group.

You can’t, or at least you shouldn’t, be accountable only to yourself. I assume Aaron Rodgers believes that because he is an accomplished professional in his field. At the same time, the perspective of “me” is not only erroneous, but it is growing in our culture and it presents a limiting factor on our individual and collective potential.

What Fills Your Tank Could Mess You Up

It’s good right up until the point that it isn’t. Things you do for the right reasons can be something that gets done within you when the reasons get twisted. When what was intended as service becomes sustenance, it’s time to put it down.

Once people meet Jesus, they naturally and appropriately want to agree with Him in His purposes. They have a story to tell personally and they want to tell His story passionately. That is so good and so right. The issue comes when that natural and organic desire to share and serve becomes more. When the outpouring produces a return and the return becomes an addiction, it’s a problem.

Two things that can happen in ministry is the assumption of an identity based on the service of ministry and the need for affirmation to fill/refresh the space that has been emptied in service.When your whole world revolves around your ministry, then your ministry has become worldly.

Ministry is the operation of gifts and it’s the Lord’s sovereignty in His choosing of how and when He distributes those gifts. He gives them to His children because they are HIs children; not because they are special. The “anointing” is in everyone that carries the Holy Spirit within if/when they will die to themselves to put Him on display. Dying to self is the key and ongoing ingredient to ministering in Him and not in our own ability.

Wanting or needing people to depend on or affirm you based on your position or gifting subtly shifts the focus and purpose from Jesus to you. He is the One from whom affirmation flows; from the Head down, not the bottom up. It’s out-of-order when the affirmation comes from the receiving perspective. It’s like a father waiting on his kids to affirm him or a boss needing employees to be their source of encouragement. Backwards.

When you need it, it’s time to stop. When you have to do a thing, even a good thing, a reasonable question arises regarding where grace and identity are in the equation. Has it become your source in place of the intended Source? Has religion hijacked your passions and become a formula for what relationship is intended to satisfy?

The Kingdom of God will advance in it’s purposes without any one of us. The things that God wants to do are going to get done without our involvement, yet He chooses to include us. As such, we can/should enjoy the ride and appreciate the invitation. Along the way, the commission we enjoy should never be worn as our identity or source for fulfillment as it’s always His authority and His deal; never ours.

Going Out There with a Clear Picture of It’s Limits

The reason for the gathering is to be encouraged and equipped for the purpose. The purpose is carried out day-to-day in markets and communities that aren’t coming to the gathering. That means that vocations and locations occupied by people who come to the gathering are going to be the ones that carry out the purpose. Out there.

The ministers are electricians, dentists, room moms and IT professionals. They go places that pastors and priests aren’t invited or expected. It’s in those places that ministry extends the reach of God beyond the four walls of a gathering place. To be qualified, you simply have to be reconciled. Once you are reconciled to Jesus, you are a minister of reconciliation.

“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Once reconciled, you are given the authority of an ambassador to bring the message of reconciliation to others. You are a minister of reconciliation. Congratulations.

John 1:1 says that Jesus is the Word. Reconciliation is to the Word; written and personal. When people are hurting they need to know but they need more than information. The written Word is imperative in our understanding of truth. The Word Himself is just as vital as we realize grace and love. Without the personal connection, it’s a matter of logic and reason with no relationship. The invitation is into relationship.

Too often, we are “out there” among people who don’t know Jesus and we want to try to convict or convince them of their faults with supporting evidence from the written Word. The net result is accusation and condemnation. Typically not very fruitful.

If we’ll allow for Jesus to be personified in our grace and compassion without the need to change behaviors from the outside, He is good at the inside business. In fact, when we consider it, He is still in the process of changing us from the inside but is doing so with love and grace. Not guilt, shame or condemnation.

Ambassadors are only legitimate for as long as they represent the governing authority that sends them. Jesus didn’t send you to tell everyone how wrong they are; He sends you to tell them that He isn’t holding it against them.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

 

Connection Defeats the Need for Compliments

Someone encouraged me recently and I didn’t need it. I liked it and I appreciated it and I was thankful for the words they spoke into me, but they weren’t filling a void. I could receive the encouragement for what it was and not grab hold of it for what I needed it to be.

A few weeks earlier if the same person had said the same thing to me, it would have been different. I was empty and frustrated and feeling isolated and invisible. I didn’t feel appreciated or recognized for service, sacrifice, ability or accomplishment. “What’s the point?” was my question then and the compliment would have helped to get me back to neutral.

The difference between then and now, was my connection to the Source. I pursued the Lord and knew that I knew (again). The affirmation of God’s Spirit in my spirit satisfied the questions of my soul. The agreement by way of man’s kind words was good and encouraging, but the need of identity was not connected to the affirmation of man. That question was settled in my soul by the One that created me uniquely.

More than anything, our “why” needs to be connected to eternal purpose. Our eternal purpose is born out of eternal identity. How we are made and who we are reveals what we are about in the context of God’s eternal Kingdom. He satisfies the questions of value and worth we all struggle with and when we depend on Him for satisfaction of those questions, we are free.

Freedom releases us from the need for approval of man. Approval of man is no longer a need so encouragement can be received in context. The best part of that is that in the absence of people’s encouragement, we are not nearly as prone to discouragement. Good days and bad days don’t hinge on someone recognizing us, affirming us or endorsing us. Our mood swings are mitigated by our security, which is born out of His affirmation.

Connection is relational so the opportunity is to continue to lean into God’s place as Dad. Remembering and remaining in position as His son defeats the insecurities that threaten to rob my joy with whispers of needs that are actually wants. Security is a prime posture for purpose and purpose is a reflection of identity. The momentum from the dynamic that unfolds from His lap is one of destiny.

Where There is Faith, There is Hope

Things in court had not gone like I had hoping one morning and I was engaged in beating myself up a little bit when I got jerked into the present by a crying mother and a little girl. The mom had some problems with her driving record and had been driving without a license. If convicted of driving without a license, which was the third time the had been caught, it meant a mandatory ten days in jail.

When I met with her, she had her four or five-year old daughter with her and we talked about the possibilities. The mother was done. She was completely worn out by her effort and failures. Her tears flowed generously and her sweet, angelic little daughter reached up assuredly with comfort and compassion. I cried, too.

Somehow we connected through some reference to or evidence in faith. The lady had hope in her faith even through the challenge and discouragement of being a single mom. Based on that common ground, we prayed.

Then, we re-grouped, said a prayer together and went into court. We were going in to see the toughest judge in the city and the charge isn’t exactly difficult to prove. The officer has to testify about why he pulled you over and show that you don’t have a license. Court records would establish that it was the third time. Ten days in jail seemed certain and there were no apparent legal maneuvers nor any tangible hope.

Truthfully, the judge acted out of character. This judge was incredibly tough and I couldn’t have imagined anything but jail time. Against all reason or experience, the most serious of her charges was reduced and she walked out of the courtroom with some fines but no jail time.

This was a victory against hopelessness. A victory against the scars that might have come in the heart and soul of that little girl if there had been the difficult conversation of where mommy will be for the next ten days. A victory against doubt of the very existence of or interest from a God she had been crying out to but the circumstances never quite gave way.

There are people every day who have situations you can’t fix, but you can agree with hope found in some common faith. Even if just a mustard seed where the judge is harsh and the law is clear, grace can break through.