life

Lane-Locked

So locked in you can’t see beyond

I do a fair amount of driving and there are a few routes I take pretty often in and out of town. While driving I’ve observed a common behavior. At first, it perturbed me but then gave way to some pondering.

I noticed how people would line up in a lane, sometimes miles before necessary, to exit onto another road or offramp. This seems to hold true for right or left-hand turns. This impedes traffic and causes unnecessary congestion along the way.

A similar pet peeve I have about drivers are those who insist on driving in the fast lane—you know, the farthest left lane (in America) intended for traffic that moves faster than those in other lanes.

These drivers hold to their speed and resist moving over regardless of the speed limit or line of cars backed up behind them.

When it’s time for their turnoff they drive across two or three lanes of traffic to get in the right lane—where they should be already!

But this is not a post about traffic habits nor a rant about frustrating drivers. It’s an observation on life — and faith.

An observation

It’s easy to get so locked into where we’re going we don’t see any other possibilities than what’s straight ahead in our view of things.

Continue reading this on Medium—click here– Lane-Locked

8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader—part 2

Photo by  Pawan Sharma  on  Unsplash

In a previous post, we looked at three characteristics of servant leadership as seen in the example of Jesus in the first five verses of John 13. This post is a follow-up that covers five more characteristics of servant leadership. These are drawn from John 13:6-17.

If you want a refresher on the first three characteristics of servant leadership, click on this link— 8 Characteristics of Servant Leadership.

4– Authority with Purpose (verses 6-9)

Authority is one of the most misunderstood and abused elements of leading others, regardless of circumstance—work, home, church, business, even within the military. Webster’s definition speaks of—power to influence or command—but also—freedom granted by one in authority.

When it comes to the role of authority as a servant leader within the Kingdom of God, Jesus is our prime example. He received His authority from His Father. Those of us called to be leaders within God’s kingdom receive our authority from Jesus and Him alone. Not a government, nor a board, nor any ecclesiastical (church) authority.

Authority—as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus—is both a responsibility and a privilege.

It is a privilege extended to us by the Lord for His purposes and it carries a double responsibility. We are directly responsible to the Lord whenever exercising any authority within His kingdom, which includes any and all local churches. We are responsible for those Jesus gives us charge over. Abuse of authority happens when a leader loses sight of this double-sided responsibility.

This is what we see of Jesus through His example in washing the disciples’ feet. Sometimes our authority over others needs to be set aside, just as we see Jesus setting aside His outer clothing to strip down to the level of a servant (verse 4).

At times, the Lord’s authority must be exercised for a purpose beyond the immediate situation. This is seen in Jesus’ dialog with Peter in verses 6-9. Jesus was washing the disciple’s feet as an example but Peter didn’t understand this. So, Jesus exercised His authority as Messiah to make it clear Peter needed to allow Jesus to wash his feet.

Whatever authority the Lord extends to anyone is a gift because it has value and purpose beyond the person who bears it. It’s not ours to wield in whatever way we want. Its purpose is to bless and strengthen others. Authority in the role of a servant leader is not a position held or a role to play but leadership that guides others with a gentle strength.

Authority given by our Lord Jesus is both a responsibility and a privilege

5– Discernment and Restraint (verses 10-11)

When the Holy Spirit reveals things to us about others, we don’t have to reveal it to them. We need to use discretion. Discernment is too often lacking or neglected by many leaders, as well as learning to wait on the Lord. Patience isn’t just a virtue it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as believers (Gal 5:22).

(Click link to read the whole article— 8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader—part 2)

Sheep Need a Shepherd

People need leaders

A good friend told me long ago, "People need leaders." I was a young pastor and he was a captain of firefighters. We were leaders in our respective fields and I was his pastor—and we mentored one another as fellow followers of Jesus.

His statement resonated in my heart as true. It reminded me of my responsibility in God's kingdom. Not just as a pastor, but as a follower of Jesus. Discipleship done the way Jesus did with the twelve apostles will naturally produce leaders.

An important characteristic of the Jesus People Movement was the importance of life example in leadership. I'm concerned this is a neglected emphasis today in all aspects of leadership, but especially in God's kingdom.

Life example is important for leadership in God's kingdom

Grassroots leadership

Look at the leadership of Jesus and what He endeavored to instill in His followers. What was the key? Jesus was intentional about who He discipled and He did this through shared life—it was personal.

People were drawn to Him in a natural way. From the first to the last, people saw Him, heard Him, and could not ignore Him. Even those who opposed Him and later plotted to kill Him couldn't ignore Him.

So what was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? His design for leadership was to build from the ground up—a grassroots leadership. He set the example with His humility.

People saw Jesus and heard Him but could not ignore Him

Humble leadership

Jesus used no fanfare or clever strategy to draw more people. In fact, He often avoided big crowds of people and His teaching and expectations for following Him seemed to push people away from following (John 6:60-66).

This is so backward to what is popular and prevailing mantra of more and bigger is better.

But that's not the way of Jesus. It's also not the way of great leadership, according to Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great.

What set apart the companies that rose to greatness? One essential—humble leadership. In a business model, this means putting the company and your people above your self. This was the example of Jesus for the kingdom of God.

Humility is essential for great leadership and to lead like Jesus

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Leadership in God's kingdom involves following the example of Jesus. This is seen throughout the gospels but illustrated and explained in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Just as people need leaders—sheep need a shepherd—a shepherd they can trust.

Several years ago, I was asked what the basics were to pastoring and planting a church by a young missionary pastor in Thailand whom I mentor.

I came up with three words to summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead—based on John 10:1-18.

3 words can summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead

I'd like to unpack these three words related to the leadership of Jesus and pastoral leadership in additional posts. Hopefully, you'll see how they can apply to leadership at any level for anyone who is a follower of Jesus.

As a pastor and missionary overseas, I've found myself challenged by the unending demand and task of leading people in ministry. In the process of leading, I developed a basic list of ministry priorities and values.

Feel free to download that list here— Ministry Priorities and Values

True Repentant Prayer

Photo by  Angello Lopez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Angello Lopez on Unsplash

What does true repentance look like?

As I've written before, the idea of repentance gets turned around from what God desires. Too often it's seen as a person's responsibility to change the direction of their life 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

Although there's truth to that, it puts the cart before the horse. It's backward to think a person needs to straighten out his or her life before they turn to God.

The first step of true repentance is turning towards God. This is the change of direction that's needed! When a person turns toward God they turn their back on what they need to repent of and turn to the one Person who can bring real change— God.

The first step of true repentance is turning towards God

This is the essence of the first three steps of the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA and similar 12-step programs are geared towards the restoration of a person's life through freedom from addiction.

The goal of biblical repentance is restoration. It should not be an attempt at restitution. It's not about doing good or making good karma. It's about a restored relationship between a person and God.

The goal of biblical repentance is restoration

A story of lust gone wrong

The pursuit of a restored relationship with God is seen in King David's prayer in Psalm 51—a true repentant prayer. The life context of this prayer is found in chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Samuel.

The story of David and Bathsheba is a classic story of lust gone wrong—very wrong. The gist of the story is King David taking advantage of his role as king of Israel, committing adultery, then trying to cover it up.

David and Bathsheba is a classic story of lust gone wrong—very wrong

But God doesn't let David get away with it all, at all. God sends a prophet to David who tells him a parable with a foil—a trap David sets for himself (2 Sam 12:1-7).

The story goes downhill from this point with a tragic turn and later consequences in David's life—but that's, as they say, another story for another time.

A man after God’s heart?

King David was a great leader as a warrior-king but the example of his personal life wasn’t so good. He was an adulterer and murderer. 

He lied and deceived others—even a priest of God. His actions at various points in life brought grave consequences upon the whole nation of Israel—the people who loved him.

And yet, God saw David as a man after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14). What is it about David that God saw as good?

David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51—after his grievous sin with Bathsheba and confrontation by Nathan the prophet—reveals David’s heart and gives insight into true repentance.

What is it about David that God saw as good?

A perfect prayer of repentance

A look at David's prayer of repentance in Psalm 51

  • David's plea for mercy—Psalm 51:1-2
    • see how David appeals to God’s merciful compassion, authority, and power in his life to forgive and “wash” him on the inside—his heart.
  • David's confession of sin—Psalm 51:3-6—
    • David expresses his guilt and acknowledges his sin is ultimately against God—even though it effects many other people.
    • He also acknowledges God’s righteous judgment of his own sinfulness and wrong—that it’s the opposite of what David knew to be right.
  • David begins to request restoration—Psalm 51:7-9—
    • David seeks what is necessary for restoration to take place and acknowledges that only God can forgive and restore him.
  • 6 elements of true repentance and restoration—Psalm 51:10-12—
    • David asks God for a pure heart—a heart free from sin
    • David asks God to renew his spirit—to move from brokenness to wholeness
    • David wants to maintain access into God’s presence
    • David also asks for God’s Spirit to remain with him
    • David asks for a restoration of God’s salvation—God’s assurance of His forgiveness and acceptance in David’s life because of God’s mercy and grace
    • David asks for a willing spirit—he knows God’s restoration requires a willingness on his part to submit his life to God first
  • A glimpse of the benefit of restoration—Psalm 51:13-15—
    • David understands that his own life needs to be in right order before he can tell others of God’s forgiveness and faithfulness.
  • What God doesn't and does desire from us—Psalm 51:16-17—
    • David knows God isn’t interested in what we have to offer Him (sacrifices or offerings) for God desires a brokenness and repentant spirit and heart in us.
  • The resulting benefit of things made right with God—Psalm 51:18-19—
    • David knows that when things are right with God—blessings will follow and a person’s devotion and service to God are acceptable.

Step by step

What true repentance looks like—

David's prayer in Psalm 51 is what true repentance looks like.

First—to turn to God for His forgiveness and restoration—always the first most important step. Then, accept His forgiveness by faith and allow God to work His restoration into your life.

Can you relate to David's struggle and need?

Are you willing to follow his example of repentance?

A Mess or a Mosaic?

Photo by  Alfred Leung  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alfred Leung on Unsplash

As I reflect on my faith journey, I see a beautiful mosaic. The beauty of the Artist's design is evident. Yet, if I zoom in and investigate piece by piece, I tend to notice my mess, my screwups, and my ugly failures.

"I never imagined my life would turn out like this." Depending on your perspective this could be a statement of excitement and joy or pain and loss. Life is unpredictable. Life is full of choices. Life is dynamic.

Life is a dance between two lovers. We don't live according to a static plan but an ever-evolving and creative partnership.

My faith journey is like a beautiful mosaic where the Artist's design is evident

Why life is scary

What guarantee do we actually have? Basically, none. We hope. We trust. We live in the tension of possiblities—the in-between. We face the present and glance at the future. We tend to freak out, stress out, and sometimes even give up.

Truth is, God is creating mosaics. We don't always see this big picture. We just need to trust the Artist. We relinquish control and simply BE His craftsmanship, His poiema.

For we are his workmanship [Grk– poiema], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
We hope. We trust. We live in the tension of possiblities—the in-between

The freedom of a mosaic

I'm encouraged when I study the apostle Paul's life. He didn't speak about freedom, he demonstrated it.

As Paul wraps up his first letter to the Corinthian church, he shares his plan to visit them during his travels through Macedonia (1 Cor 16:5-9). I love how the ESV translates Paul's words. He uses terms such as—I will... I intend... perhaps....

This is freedom. Paul follows the leadership of the Holy Spirit not by physical or logical sight but by faith with spiritual discernment. He feels no pressure to perform for God or for people.

Paul's life is a mosaic of personal freedom under the lordship of Christ!

Embracing the journey

Following God's Spirit is only possible when we embrace the journey of God's creative plan. The beginning of 2nd Corinthians reveals this (2 Cor 1:15-24). Paul's plan wasn't static but dynamic.

Sometimes the leading of the Holy Spirit changes direction—our direction. That is okay. It's normal when walking by faith.

Afraid of wandering

We are afraid of wandering. Why? Because it seems pointless. A sense of wandering makes us feel unsuccessful or not good enough. This kind of thinking stems from our lack of trust in Jesus.

His way isn't pointless even when it appears like we're walking in circles.

For those of us with a western worldview, we expect to see the Holy Spirit lead in a linear way. We desire an outline of our life as if it's all planned out.

If we aren't on the paved, tidy, no-mistake, straight and narrow, we tend to think we are wanderers with no destination.

God's way isn't pointless even when it appears like we're walking in circles

Seek life rather than direction

Many times we seek direction for our life when we should seek Life itself—Jesus (John 14:6). The Artist is busy crafting His mosaic—our life. He knows the final outcome. 

He takes our offering and arranges it. Even when we bring the ugly pieces of our fear, our brokenness, our disobedience. We can trust God to work all things according to our true good in every area of our life.

The Artist is busy crafting His mosaic—our life—He knows the final outcome

The divine dance

If the Spirit wants to pause and sit with us then so be it. Let's enjoy His presence over any destination.

If you can't imagine what your life will be next year that's okay. The present is where you are at and the future is what you get to create in relationship with God.

Life is a divine dance, so dance with the Lover of the universe. Let Him lead.

Step back and admire God's mosaic and submit to the Craftsman's creative work in your life. What is your role? Simply trust and submit to His leading.

Admire God's mosaic and submit to the Craftsman's creative work in your life

This is a guest post by my friend Sergei Kutrovski. You can find more about him here—My Trending Stories/Sergei Kutrovski