Eternity Focused Leadership Development

Moving towards the transition of the organization, an assessment was in order to consider the condition of top leaders and rising stars. A consultant was engaged for the benefit of a third party perspective and time was short before Jesus would turn over the reigns. Following an exhaustive process, the consultant met with Jesus to report his findings.

“Jesus,” the consultant said somewhat reluctantly, “this organization has some problems and the result is alarming as you prepare to transition.”

“What do you mean?” Jesus asked, as if He didn’t know and clearly not alarmed with the negative tone of the consultant.

“Well, your personnel largely aren’t ready,” the consultant continued. “After three years of intensive leadership development and vision casting, most of them just don’t get it.”

Going along with it, Jesus asked, “do you have any examples?”

“Sure,” the consultant replied while pulling out his report to apparently refresh his memory on the details. “First, there are James and John. What I found was that they are in no position to lead. They are simply interested in themselves and their own advancement. I just don’t see where they are ready to be the kind of servant leader you require to continue the culture and DNA of the organization. Remember, they even got their mom to try to influence you for their benefit. (Matthew 20:20-28)

Then, there’s Peter. This guy is going to get you sued. He is very undisciplined and emotionally immature. Talented and bold, for sure, but sloppy.  I recommend a personal coach and some risk management training. (John 18:10)

Thomas is negative; he isn’t fully on board with the direction you have set. He has questions and he voices those doubts, which is detrimental to the morale of the organization. (John 20:25)

The one guy that you have who it diligent and can be trusted to look over organizational resources is Judas. He gets it; he is the most mature, responsible and prepared guy you have to take this thing forward.” (John 13:29)

“Thank you for your time, consideration and report,” Jesus replied as He appeared slightly amused at the conclusions.

“I really appreciate your help, but I’m going with my guys. All that you pointed out about James, John, Peter and Thomas was factually accurate. This is different, though.

For the last three years, I wasn’t trying to perfect their maturity; that will come with suffering and persecution. I was always looking at their heart. You see, My purpose has been and always will be about their heart. I’ve seen their hearts and I know that they will finish what I’ve started.

They will persevere through the difficulty to hand this movement off to the next generation and their passion is worthy of my trust for the purpose of My Kingdom. They have given their hearts to Me and My purposes; that makes them ready to represent me going forward. I trust them; we can work out their other stuff as we go.”

The Grace of Pain

When and if you stop to consider your arguments and rationale for why you should get things that you want, those reasons are often based in our perceived value, contribution, entitlements, etc. For those of us of faith, we’ll then put those expectations on God and often find a Scripture or two to “support” our justification. Sometimes we’ll even mistaken the challenges we face as an “attack” when, in fact, God Himself has both orchestrated and allowed our discomfort and He has done so for our benefit and His glory. Consider the following passage:

“You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:8-11)

The Father addresses the rebellion of Israel, which is typically no different than the rebellion of you and I. He explains that instead of appropriate wrath for the depravity of rebellion against a Holy God, He chooses to refine. Instead of a swift and just judgment to the demise of the prodigal, He allows for affliction to grow up the immaturity and grow out the obstinance. I’m thankful for that because without it, I would have been destroyed long ago.

He chooses to look past our depravity which is offensive to His nature and, by His grace, work it out of us. Here’s the bigger point; He does it for His glory and fame. We aren’t really that big of a deal, despite our participation trophies. He is and always will be the point. He knows our selfishness and shallowness would prefer it were about us, yet He allows the affliction of difficultly to refine us and work out those iniquities.

Justice would demand our punishment for punishment’s sake. We would be destroyed but we are pressed to work it out of us, instead. It’s gracious to give us the time to grow and it’s gracious to allow us the process of refinement to redeem what otherwise is simply unacceptable.

In this world, you will have trouble. It’s not always an attack, but no matter if it is or not, the Lord is likely willing in every challenge to work out some expectation of justice or entitlement from within you. He’s willing to redeem your pain for His glory through the resulting maturity that comes with trust, if you’ll submit to Him through the circumstances and allow His glory to be the point over your comfort, preferences or expectations.

The Tremendous Cost of Relying on Ability

The cost of refusing the invitation isn’t just an opportunity missed. The ramifications of our choices bring consequences that can be directly opposite to the intentions we had when we made the choice to ignore the chance. The thing that we set out to do can be defeated in our efforts.

A couple of days ago, I wrote of the invitation that Jesus gives us in Mark 6:31 to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” In that post, the resting point is that without a conscious choice to put things down, we won’t be able to accept His invitation. 

Turning down that invitation may not mean much on it’s face. It may not seem important to rest “in this season” for whatever reason. Maybe that reason is just this one project or the crisis of the present circumstances. Maybe it’s the sense of calling to change things for the better, therefore, “Jesus wants me to do this for Him right now” or some similar language.

If you are a professing believer/follower of Jesus, here is what He says about the stuff that we do: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

The word for “nothing” there at the end of the last sentence comes from a word that means “nothing” in the original language. Nothing means nothing. That is, without connection to, reliance on and abiding in Jesus as the Source, then whatever we do amounts to nothing. Even if we are able to raise money, build buildings, etc.

The opportunity cost for choosing not to rest with Him isn’t just refreshment; it’s everything. Without a “yes,” the rest doesn’t matter. It may feel good in the moment. I may draw some attention, adoration or accolades from others. Even so, it won’t matter. It’s nothing.

You see, I know, because I do. I like to do and I’m good at doing some things. Those things that I’m good at doing can even bring me some attention, reward and satisfaction. They are nothing, however, compared to when and what He does. Jesus is better at everything than I am. He’s a better lawyer, business owner, minister, leader, writer, speaker, you name it. Failure to truly trust Him to be better has, at times, cost me my “yes.”

No more. I say “yes.”

“Come Away With Me”

Last week, I started to wake up a couple of hours early, but resisted. It wasn’t time to get up and I wanted to get more sleep. In this moment, it seemed to me that my heart was stirred by these words, “Come away with me.” About an hour later, the same thing happened. Same stirring and same reaction. In both cases, I went back to sleep.

Then, two hours after the initial stirring, it was time to get up and I awoke to that same perceived call. I believe God was stirring my heart in that way so I woke up praying and considering, “is that You? If so, what does that mean?”

I opened the Bible and found this passage: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

This meant some things to me personally which I continue to process. It also meant some things to me professionally. The ministry I work for (thequestlife.com) was started, in effect, from that phrase. The founder, Richard Henderson, tells the story of God stirring those exact same words within him over 18 years ago. That invitation, met with his “yes,” took him to Riodoso, New Mexico. From that invitation and acceptance, Quest was born on the side of a mountain. Thousands of people from different parts of the world with different stories have encountered Jesus during their Quest experience.

The invitation was given by Jesus to the guys with Him and it’s given to us. Our willingness to simply say, “yes” to his call to put down our business and go away to a quiet place for rest with Him remains. Maybe that’s the true “secret sauce” to Quest or any related “freedom” ministries . . . “yes” to the rest. Yes to the communion. Yes to the meal with Him.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I think it is, but it isn’t. In the “yes,” there is an implied “no.” That “no” is where the problem is. Most of us are simply unwilling to say “no” to the busyness. We are either too over-extended, self-important or addicted to the adrenaline that we won’t stop. Our excuses will vary, but they all result in a refusal to take Jesus up on that very simple invitation. Until they don’t, and then our quest can begin.

The Intersection of Faith, Fear, Theory and Belief

My beliefs have changed drastically over the past 20 years, although the foundation for what I now believe was put in place as a kid. In between being a kid and 20 years ago, I would have claimed some of the same beliefs that I was raised on, although there was no evidence in my life that I actually believed them. I was living like hell even when I said that I believed there was a heaven.

A belief is not a belief until it is displayed in a choice. Up until the supposed belief is manifest in a decision, it is little more than a theory. It could just be culture. When decisions are made in accordance with a previously untested belief, the theory becomes fact as our trust in the belief is proven.

Whether we claim to believe in God or not, we all face problems. No matter what our stated beliefs are related to God’s love, power, goodness, sovereignty, etc., those statements will be tested in our circumstances. Then, and only then, are our theories of belief put in the fire for refining. They will either be strengthened or prove themselves to be false.

‘But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?’ (Psalm 56:3-4)

David sings of “when” he is afraid, because sometimes he is. This “man after God’s own heart” experienced fear and, at that point, his belief in God was tested. While his soul cries out all through the Psalms, the place he lands is “I trust in God . . . What can mere mortals do to me?” He lands in a submission to God’s sovereignty and eternal context.

His comfort is in the distinction between man and God; temporary and eternal. His fear is the intersection for trust and decides that God’s sovereignty and the outcomes of the eternal picture are better than anything that might happen as man, among man, in the temporary state of man.

The “promises of God” we have are eternal glory . . . AND trouble in this world. We are invited to share in the sufferings of Christ here and now, trusting that our place with Him is forever. We either trust that His wisdom and intentions are better than our preferences or not. You’ll know the answer for you in the choices that you make about Him.

God Bless Texas

It’s easier to be in charge than it is to trust and release. We trust our limitations more than we trust the limitless possibilities of what might happen beyond our capacity. Our very nature, in it’s fallen state, is to be sovereign over ourselves and other stuff.

The sovereignty of God is a more complex idea than we might appreciate at a glance. If we really believe that there is a God who is actually God, then that means we can’t be. That realization contradicts our fallen state and requires our submission. No submission = no belief.

Concepts are not belief; choices are. For everything that I control the outcome and withhold my trust, then I remain “g”od where “G”od is ready, willing and able. For everything that I attempt to show Him how much I’ve done for Him, He is a spectator of my futile and temporal jukes towards religion as He waits willing to offer eternity.

The net result is often a life that lives out the Lord’s prayer as follows:

“Our Father, Who is in heaven . . . 1) give us this day our daily bread, 2) forgive us of our flaws and 3) protect us from evil. But just in case, for today until You show that You will actually come through in the way I prefer, I’ll strive to provide for myself by working myself sick and robbing relationships from valuable time. Also, I’ll continue to be expected to be judged by my intentions as others consider me but I’ll evaluate them based on their performance. Finally, I’ll buy lots of guns and stockpile money and build plenty of “wise” safeguards around my suburban existence to ensure that we can still make it to church on Sunday. But I trust You . . . really. Just keep blessing me, because, You know, I’m an American and a Republican and, oh, yeah . . . a Texan. Amen.”

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20-21)