The Exponential Power of a Life Well Lived

My father passed away on Friday rather unexpectedly. There was a complication with an operation he had on Tuesday and he was gone quickly. On its face, all that is left is grief and questions; underneath the top layer, there is inspiration.

My father’s life was not his own; he gave it away. He had given his life to Jesus and the purposes of the Kingdom of God. He served in his church and community as his full-time job in his retirement years. He was looking for ways to bless and serve others right up to the end of his life. He made much of Jesus in the life that he lived.

He also gave his life to his family. My sister and I, along with our families, children and grandchildren, received the incredible inheritance of a living picture. A living picture of a life lived with integrity, humility, reliability and selflessness, among other things. We got to see what it looks like to finish well. We got a good look at the target of a life well lived. You’ve got to see the target to be able to hit it.

For 50 years, I enjoyed the steady and consistent teaching of shoulder to shoulder experience with a man who did it. There were no unanswered questions as his affirmation, love and support were both spoken and unspoken. That is an incredible gift and I am more thankful than I can describe. The heritage he crafted is a legacy to steward and multiply. It calls me into the purpose of generational impact. The context of generational impact is eternity.

Without context, there cannot be understanding. Understanding facilitates purpose. Purpose is collaborative in the sense that we all have opportunities to agree with others in our purpose to multiply our impact as well as theirs. Purpose brings us full circle back to context.

He was not afraid of what happens next. The reason he wasn’t afraid is because he was increasingly acclimated. He knew of heaven for heaven’s sake because his life was increasingly agreeing with heaven on earth. The lines between here and there got blurry as he sought a supernatural impact even in the restraint of his natural surroundings.

God blesses generations and generations carry momentum. The Kingdom advances with increasing momentum and we’ll realize it as we agree. When we have eyes to see beyond the visible, there is more than death; there is life from death.

We are grieving and that is good and right. The sadness is real; the pain is tangible. Context, purpose and understanding use grief as fuel for glory. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor 4:17)

 

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.

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.

 

The Impact of Fathers

I used to volunteer in youth prisons and over time developed a routine which I tended to default to when I met a young man (ages 14-17) for the first time in the facility. I would introduce myself and ask the boy his name and where he was from. He was reluctant to interact at all and would usually be looking at the floor with no interest in opening up even a little bit about himself.

I would then ask him where his father is and that would get his attention; he would usually look at me with interest for the first time. His eyes would communicate, “How did you know?” I would often have to repeat the question as he was caught off guard, “where is your father?”

The stories were always terrible; they were dead, in prison, never been around, drunk, on drugs, etc. The only reasonable response at that point in our conversation was, “I’m sorry; I’m really sorry that you have had to deal with that.” I can’t fix it, I can only hope to meet the kid where he is and show some comfort that his story and hurt is legitimate.

That was often a start to talk more about the hurts in his life that he had been challenged with and the choices that flowed from those circumstances. Connecting the heart and the head to begin to understand that he wasn’t weird for being angry and that the anger came from the hurt. Understand the hurt, hopefully choose to forgive and maybe begin to walk out of the cycle.

When I would offer comfort, however, it wouldn’t initially be received. “It’s alright,” or “It doesn’t matter” was always the response. Always. They were in prison; it mattered.

The need for affirmation and acceptance with unconditional love is foundational; we all need it. The connection to our experience with our father produces a lens within us for how we see God, how we see ourselves and how we see the world. The best dad in the world, however, isn’t the target; the Father is.

Our dad relationship is either a bridge or a barrier to realizing the love of the Father. Ideally, we have a father relationship that fosters an easier realization of trust and acceptance than abusive, neglectful earthly experiences would. Either way, though, we seek to hear from the Father, “You’re a son . . . and I’m pleased with you.”

Acknowledging the condition of our hearts related to our experience with our biological father positions us to hear from the Father. When we have let go in the natural, we can receive in the supernatural. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can hear this testimony of the Holy Spirit. From that, we will call out, “Abba (Daddy), Father!”

 

 

Leaders That Aren’t Releasing Aren’t Leading

leaderHonor does not require position, but relies on the appeal of deference to influence the outcome. That doesn’t mean that the outcome doesn’t matter for the sake of honor. Honor accommodates the outcome with greater certainty than demands.

A friend of mine in the military used to say, “when you have to tell people you are in charge, you are not in charge any more.” What he was saying was when your authority depended on your position, you had no true influence. Your rank will only take you so far; then you need the legitimacy of relational honor.

The Kingdom operates in the framework of authority and submission with a heart of honor. The Kingdom model for leadership is one of fatherhood not dependent on compulsion, but connection. While a father may chasten, the chastening is in love for the benefit of the disciplined. The heart behind discipline is honor where there is a benefit sought above compliance.

This model is for the raising of children into maturity and applies to every discipleship and leadership context. The focus isn’t for the control and restraint of those that are led, but for the equipping of their gifts. The equipping of gifts prepares for release and multiplication. That exponential impact won’t occur where there is control.

It’s sloppier and riskier than models where there are tight restraints and restrictions on autonomy. The opportunities for error or misunderstanding increase where there is true release. The father model of leadership allows for the error and remains in proximity for correction, comfort and encouragement. The father’s release isn’t a disappearance, it’s a displacement. The displacement is from a safe, protected environment to allow for the risk and reward of multiplication.

Churches all too often are subjected to leadership that controls more than it empowers. The control comes in various forms of programs, requirements, restrictions and methods to ensure centralization. The fear of loss of control ensures any release is conditioned to the point of mitigated success except from the professionals.

Church people all too often are demanding of leadership that controls more than it releases them to actually fulfill their purpose. The safety of control is that there is always someone else to blame and ease that comes where responsibility is never actually appropriated. All that’s left of the church goer in this place of dependence is the evaluation of a consumer to determine if the professionals fulfilled the desires of the masses.

In the coming days, faith-based leaders will be pressed to release control and empower exponential multiplication from the church. The current attraction of centralized programming has reached its capacity and the church will have to operate as salt and light out there, not in here. The hearts of the fathers will turn to the children and hearts of the children will turn to the hearts of the fathers.

Discipleship Is Impartation, Not a Transfer of Information

IMG_2228I just got back from another Quest event and continue to see the value and benefit of relational discipleship. Where discipleship has all too often been interpreted as curriculum, information or programs, the heart of “come with me” is lost. Jesus invited 12 guys to walk with Him for three years, not enroll in a course.

Over the years, I’ve been invited and now invite others to come with me. The times where I serve on a Quest, speak at an event or just hang out for lunch or a cup of coffee I try to have men with me that are in a pursuit which is similar to mine. There is a mutual benefit in these types of relationship as discipleship and friendship overlap.

This is what was offered to me and I am attempting to offer it to others. When I was invited, however, the burden shifted. The invitation put the ball in my court and it was up to me to make time and prioritize the opportunity. If other things prevented involvement, there’s no guilt, shame or condemnation and, at the same time, there’s no real discipleship. The burden of discipleship rests in the priorities of the disciple.

One of the reasons Quest has been a valuable component to my experience as a disciple as well as a disciple maker is the raw and real unfolding of things that otherwise might take years. The intense focus of a 6 day journey together creates unique experiences that can be learned from and impartation can occur. Impartation is the goal of discipleship, whereas information is the cheap substitute.

In those life on life moments that can only occur where there is proximity and relationship, things can be called out, set in motion and affirmed. In those common experiences, there is a gradual but real process that works from within us. It takes time and premature promotion comes at the cost of character development.

When I was invited, it was modeled and I got to watch. Then, in time, my voice was increasingly trusted and I got to step out. From that real-time experience which was shoulder to shoulder, I received correction, affirmation and encouragement. With increased experience, there was decreased feedback and increased release. Then, after a season of experience, input, trust and release, I was on my own and I was ready for it. The “stuff” had gotten in me, more than I had simply grasped the information.

Quest is a great laboratory as staff comes back to serve and develop. The process is propelled beyond other “average” six-day periods. Quest, however, isn’t about a trip to a ranch and neither is discipleship. It’s day-to-day, week to week and year to year. It takes time and intentionality that permeates our life so one life can be invested in another.