Are You Fasting or Feasting on Your Gifts and Service?

I was leaving for a Quest last week and my wife, Julie, told me “it’s OK for us not to talk until you get home; you don’t need to call me.” She went on to say, “you don’t need to call me . . . as long as you are pursuing God. If you aren’t pursuing God, then call me.”

I do Quest events frequently and Julie encourages me to receive as well as give. She encourages me that if it’s just a job and there is no refreshing for refilling, then I’ll have to find another way to fill my tank. Her wisdom and support are incredible.

As I took her advice and began to pray and seek the Lord at the beginning of the week, I was quickened to consider a fast. As I asked God if I was being invited to fast, I was reminded of Isaiah 58, which asks, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I took that as a call to minister; that is, to simply offer up to God my service through ministry. From that, He was going to set men free. So that’s what I did, and would have likely done anyway. I continued to seek Him along the way and spent time without distraction when afforded the opportunity through the week.

We went through the week and God set men free. He saved them, He freed them, He redeemed them and He unleashed them. He moved in power, compassion, revelation and Truth. I agreed with Him and He was, as always, faithful.

At the end of the week, He and I had some time while the guys were eating breakfast. We had time where I was reminded of His love for me in a way that was refreshing and life-giving. My tank was filled.

We all have gifts and we are all invited into His purposes. He’ll get His stuff done and we’re invited to participate. Along the way, He will fill us, heal us and restore us, too. The way in, however, is to fast your gifts, not to feast on them.

We can’t serve to be seen or to be satisfied in the accomplishment. We fast our gifts by giving them over; not needing anything in return. It’s a fine line and it’s all heart. It can look the same two different times and one time it’s for Him and the other it’s to scratch an itch you have. Only you and Him can tell, more than likely. Here is the promise He gives for our offering of the agreement with Him and sacrificing the “us” in “our” ministry:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

When Grace and Life Flow Through They Get In Us

There was a time when I was representing a young man who had gotten himself into some legal trouble. I saw him at the courthouse with a local pastor who had taken the young man into his family home and was mentoring him through a transition. I commended the pastor on his willingness to take another person who needed assistance into his home and life to the degree that he has. The pastor said to me that it was mutually beneficial because while he is helping the young man walk from one season of life into another, there are benefits to the experience that he and his wife are enjoying through knowing the man in need.

Similarly, when I was leading a group of volunteers at a youth prison, we would welcome a prospective new volunteer mentor from time to time. Invariably, he would be blown away by how much he was effected by the time spent with the incarcerated youth. He would go on and on about how he got more out of the mentoring time than the kids did and how they wanted to come back. There is something about serving others that serves us at least as much.

When we reach out of our comfort zone to step into someone else’s trouble it will often be a little risky and uncomfortable. The interaction at a raw and real level which evades us so often in our suburban environments is refreshing in it’s authenticity. For the time that we are serving, we are allowing our inherent desire for true significance room to manifest. The resulting satisfaction is often surprising and practically always encouraging.

The lie that most of us fall for is that we don’t have much to offer. That’s just not true; nor is it true that we can fix all the problems of those that we serve. We are simply funnels to allow grace to flow through us. The payback isn’t that we are recognized or that there is a fix to every problem the person(s) we seek to help has, but that we shared life and therefore lived that day a little more than if we had chosen not to choose.

When grace or anything else flows through us, then it is in us and part of us as least to the extent that we are the avenue of travel. Think of a garden hose; water flows through the hose, so the inside of the hose gets wet, too.

 

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.

Transformative Leadership is Humble and Meek

Next level leadership is unlocked not needing the rank, control or attention that presents itself in the charismatic, dynamic personalities that we sometime envision when thinking about great leaders. I believe, as I wrote yesterday, that the invitation I face as I hit the 50 year mark is one into a greater humility to maximize leadership possibilities.

If you would have asked me as a young armor officer what the picture of a great leader was, I would have told you George Patton. He was brash and audacious. His ability and tactics moved armies across continents as he seemingly willed soldiers to exceed their perceived abilities. He was a force of a leader.

While I still recognize him as a great military leader, the opportunity to transcend that level of leadership lies in less, not more. The willpower of George Patton is needed to push through the challenges, but the humility that Jim Collins found in “Level 5” leaders is the multiplier. Patton’s armies were only going to perform for as long as his willpower was applied to their apparent limitations. The humility of a leader is what will multiply the impact of their influence.

Jesus didn’t unleash the greatest movement in the history of man with the assertion of His will. He multiplied His Kingdom through the laying down of His life. His Kingdom is available by invitation; not compulsion.

Invitation is the mechanism that multiplies. Choice is evidence of love and love awakens passion. Passion transcends.

In our search for significance, we are invited into the continuation of His story. His story, however, is executed in His methods. We can’t mandate, legislate or insist on the acceptance of the values and beliefs of Jesus; we can invite others by our service, humility and sacrifice.

I can’t will myself into Level 5 leadership. I can only pray and die. In the death of my need to be noticed, celebrated, credited or any other form of elevation, I can pray that I am transformed internally. I can trust Jesus to take what I offer and transform it into His purpose and increasingly into His image.

This is different from I thought it was going to look like and I don’t have it figured out yet. I am on a journey of purpose and the destiny that is available in the Kingdom of God comes through the same tactics employed by the King Himself. Unlike Patton’s audacious persona, the Greatest Leader harnesses His strength with a meekness that empowers others. Then they are invited to do the same.

Easter Is Freedom and Life

It’s Easter weekend and churches everywhere are scurrying around to make things just right for the big crowds. Pastors prepare sermons meant to captivate the casual attendee with the hopes of an eternal impact. People show up this one weekend in an effort to check the box to be right with God somehow. The formula of Easter, however, can’t match or meet the fullness of Jesus.

Jesus started talking about Easter early on in His ministry and for the first time in John 3, when He said, “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

He referenced a story from Numbers 21 where Moses was instructed by God to build a model of a snake on a pole because people were dying from their rebellion. God gave them life if and when they were able to lift their eyes off of their circumstances and look at the snake on the pole. Jesus would bring eternal life in a similar way; He would hang on a pole (a Cross) and if people would look to Him, they would have eternal life.

The snake on the pole, is what Moses brings and that is the law. Jesus, however fulfills the law for us with grace and truth. (John 1:17)

Many of us continue to operate out of the law even if we say we believe in Jesus. We think if we do the right things, we’ll get the right results and find the right favor. Our good intentions leave us staring at a snake on a pole instead of receiving the resurrection of Jesus to fulfill the law within us.

Easter is about the risen Christ who went to the Cross to pay the price of our rebellion. If we’ll receive the sacrifice of His offering, we won’t have to perform compared to the rules anymore. We get to receive His abundant life within us to be put on display through us. It will cost us everything, but it’s better than staring at a snake on a stick.

All Politics are Local

politicsPersonally, I don’t know anybody who is excited about any particular candidate for president. Support has been justified by stronger dislike for the alternatives than it has as an endorsement for a leader with a vision. “Yeah, but they are better than” is about the weakest support you can offer and it’s the catch phrase of this election.

Where that discussion takes place, it’s not uncommon to hear something like, “I can’t believe this is the best that we can do,” or “how did we get these candidates?” Unfortunately, we got them because they reflect us. All politics are local and local attitudes have bubbled up to the national level, leaving us with a reflection of our culture.

We have become an inflammatory, contrary culture of opposition. The idea of vision and principle based leadership is not even talked about. The reason for that is it reflects a culture that doesn’t value vision and principle based living. We aren’t nearly as interested in the perseverance of vision or the sacrifice of principles as we are the selfishness of comfort.

The new normal is outrageous polarization. The preferred alternative for discussion and even entertainment has become name calling, lying and grandstanding. Unless you agree, you are targeted for attacks as disqualified based on actual or perceived flaws in your character.

Unfortunately, the church is right in the center of this shift. Since at least the 1980’s, we have increasingly embraced the divide of “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad” as the basis for presentation of our beliefs. We yell just as loud, lobby just as passionately and dig in just as deep where we believe you have to agree with us to be right. The only difference is we typically try to invoke God as a validation for our imposition of ideas.

Attempting to impose beliefs on others is not Christianity. There is no grace in it. Jesus didn’t impose anything on us; He invited us by His sacrifice.

None of the national discord is going to change from the top down. When we allow Jesus to change our hearts, it will reflect towards the person next door or in the office across the hall. We won’t need them to vote like us because we’ll be more interested in them than we are ourselves by eliminating the requirement that they become like us to be validated. We’ll allow for disagreement from the peace of knowing His grace, not the knowledge that puffs up in attempts to codify what was intended to be relational.