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.

Pray for Mean Old Men and Watch Things Change

A friend from college came into town last night and we met for the first time in about 15 years. In the middle of talking, a man somewhat dramatically came through the door, doubled over and groaning. I asked him, “are you OK?” He told me that he had hurt his back. He continued on and that appeared to be the end of it, although he was pretty hunched over as he walked away.

As my friend and I continued to talk, I couldn’t get past the guy that had just gone past us. A minute or two after the initial encounter, I told my friend, “Hold on, I’ll be right back; I’ve got to go do something.”

I went and asked the man if I could pray for his back. I don’t always do that, but I sure was pulled to this time and I didn’t initially want to. That’s why it took a minute or two.

My friend and I were friends from a time in my life when I didn’t know Jesus. I would have never prayed for that man. Might have made fun of him, but would not have prayed. My hesitation was the reconciliation of the collision between a past life and a new life which was occurring for me. Would Jason think I was weird? Is this too much; do I seem like a religious nut? That was the source of my pause.

When I finally did ask the man to pray for him, he looked at me with a depth of need. He needed connection. He needed care. He needed prayer, and he said as much when I offered. With my left hand on his left shoulder and my right hand on his back, I said a simple prayer to invite healing and went back to my seat.

Not too much later, he came by and said, “it worked.” I replied, “I figured it would.” I figured that because I felt God in it from the minute the guy came through the door.

Not too much later, after the guy had left, the bartender asked me if I had prayed for him and I told her that I had. She said that he comes in all the time and is very mean. He cusses them out to the point that it brings them to tears. In fact, when he came in this time the manager told her that she was going to the back until he left.

Not tonight, though. He was kind tonight. It was totally different. Whatever happened, he was different, she said.

Don’t miss it. Don’t miss it like I almost did. The dynamic of the Kingdom of Heaven hitting earth changes people. It changes college buddies in the new normal of a re-framed reality. It changes mean old men. It changes bartenders. Let It change you.

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 Road Goes on Forever

Our freedom is entirely dependent on our willingness to sacrifice our preferences to the objective truth. We can’t generate our own sense of liberty from our desires. Those desires are often legitimate indicators of our design, but the context they are created for is submission to the Father as sons and daughters. Any application outside of the family of God is an application of a prodigal headed towards disastrous consequences.

We don’t maintain freedom from an occurance; we nurture freedom as an alignment. Without the alignment of submission to truth, we will steer back into the dominion of sin and/or the burden of the law from our fallen state. The alignment is a realization and reminder that Jesus is Who He says He is and we are who He says we are. Not because we are doing good, feeling good, wanting good or any other subjective measure. It is true because He is Truth.

Recently, I had the honor of accepting the position of Executive Director at Fellowship of the Sword. At Fellowship of the Sword, we facilitate events that serve as a catalyst to set hearts in healthy rhythm. Hearts are not set in healthy rhythm from our teaching or program; they are set in healthy rhythm by encountering the Truth of Jesus. It’s between Him and those that seek Him. He is the One that changes things.

That encounter, the freedom born of it and the transformation is all temporary unless nurtured and maintained. The nurturing and maintenance takes place in the local church. The community of believers that you plug into is intended to sharpen, encourage and comfort when you have been tempted toward subjective distractions from the objective truth. Without community to call out our blind spots and without willingness to live with others in a way that is vulnerable to inspection, any freedom we have tasted will be a fleeting experience.

I believe in the catalyst. The jump-start is powerful. The transformation is real.

I also know that I know that the catalyst requires the context of the church in order for the benefit to be sustainable.

I am so honored and thankful to get to do the stuff that I do. God is good and He is faithful and the journey from “there” to “here” has not been easy, nor is this the end of the road. In the words of Robert Earl Keen, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.” While my application of his lyrics differ from his, we apparently can agree on the truth of the eternal journey. Enjoy the ride, and don’t travel alone.

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.

Just When You Think You Have It Figured Out, It’s Time to Take Another Look

Traditions are a cheap substitute for the possibilities of Truth. When we add our preferences one on top of the other and then pass them along to others, we do so at the expense of divine connection. Thankfully, when we think we have it figured out, the puzzle will get scrambled.

We are in what’s called a “post denominational” expression of the Christian church. It means that people who go to church do so because they are interested in Jesus, not the practices of a particular institution. They seek the Kingdom of God, not the organization of man who is at least one step removed from that Kingdom. It aligns perfectly with the announcement of Jesus in Luke 4:43 when He said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

Foretelling of this time of the Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah wrote  “These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (v. 13-14)

When we think we have God figured out, we will try to master our perceived understanding by the creation of a rule, process, ceremony or program. That’s what religion does. We take what is living and active and attempt to harness it for the purpose of mastery, which simplifies the mysterious. We sacrifice the breath of God for a previous whisper which was turned into a doctrine of man.

The wisdom of the wise is only wise by comparison to the unwise. It’s foolishness to the infinity of God. The intelligence of the intelligent is only deemed so compared to others who make the same attempt at what is ultimately folly. Childlike faith overtakes cerebral mastery.

Look again at what Isaiah wrote. When we worship God based on our own creations of rules or traditions, He will astound us with His wonder. A fraction of understanding is overcome by a glimpse of His wonder. The glory of God is revealed in pursuit of the relationship. For the sake of His glory, put aside the things you think you know today and sit down beside Him. He’ll give you a fresh glimpse at the wonder of the One Who Is. Invite Him to astound you.