Personal Faith

A Mystifying and Unexpected Event

lightstock-washing_feet.jpg

Servant leadership. It’s talked about a lot in books, conferences, and social media by church leaders and business leaders too. But it’s not so common. Talking about it and living it out are two entirely different things, as we all know. Sadly, the chasm between talk and action can be pretty wide.

Chapter 13 in the gospel of John opens with Jesus knowing His hour had come. It was the time of the Passover, a national festival and memorial. It would be the last Passover Jesus would eat with His disciples but one He would fulfill prophetically to provide redemption for all humanity (Luke 22:15-16).

John’s narrative makes clear what is meant by His hour had come (John 13:1-3), which prefaces an unexpected and still misunderstood event—Jesus washing the disciples' feet. The first five verses paint a paradoxical picture—the Son of God—sent from heaven—stoops down to wash the feet of His closest followers.

Have you ever pictured how this took place?

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Refreshing Souls in a Cynical World

 Photo by  Ethan Sykes  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Becoming consistent, credible, and faithful people with a message of life

Most of us like consistency but not monotony. We want to be able to count on something but don’t want it to be repetitious. So, how do you get the one without the other?

We’ve all experienced the fickleness of people saying one thing but doing another. It can make us wonder if there’s anyone who can be faithful and consistent in what they say and do.

For example, take politics. It’s easy to become cynical when a politician makes promises they don’t keep after their election to office. For that matter, we’ve seen this in other aspects of life, including the church.

So, how can this change? How can we find consistency, credibility, and faithfulness in our life?

The trite old expression comes to mind — become the solution. But how?

How can we find consistency, credibility, and faithfulness?

The coolness of snow

Like the coolness of snow on a harvest day, ⌊so⌋ is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him: He refreshes his masters. (Proverbs 25:13 GW)

At first glance, the idea of the coolness of snow and harvest time might not make sense. Wouldn’t the snow be bad for the harvest? It probably would be, but this is a figurative picture to stimulate the mind’s senses.

You probably have some idea of what a harvest is like when workers bring in a new crop. It’s hot and dusty work, and the dust gets caked onto the worker’s sweaty bodies.

If you were one of the workers in the field, what would you want at that point? How about an ice-cold drink of water from a snow-fed stream? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

This is the idea of a faithful messenger or servant who refreshes the soul of his master. This needs to be true of us as followers of Jesus.

Our master isn’t a boss or a parent or any other authority figure—it’s Jesus, the humble servant-leader who laid His life down for all people everywhere (Mark 10:45).

We need to be a refreshment to those with whom we share the life-giving message of the gospel and to whom we are accountable—at work, at home, in relationships in our daily life. This extends God’s kingdom on earth.

The world needs living refreshment

People in the world around us also need refreshment. When we are a refreshing bright spot in the lives of others, this reflects upon our Lord Jesus — our Master.

I imagine it also refreshes Him.

Jesus sends us believers out with His message written in our hearts. It’s a message of hope, love, and restoration that refreshes the hearts of a thirsty world. A world thirsty for compassion, faithfulness, and hope.

When we are faithful in all we do in this life, we become a refreshment to others. We are also faithful messengers of our gracious Master — Jesus.

Have you found yourself getting cynical about people, and your purpose in life?

It’s hard not to get cynical and bitter but we are called to something better as followers of Jesus.

How we can begin changing the world around us

Look around at the people in your life. How do you see them?
Do you see people through cynical eyes or through the eyes of Jesus?

Think of the ways other people have refreshed you. This gives you insight into how you can be a refreshment to others. Start with simple things and do it without expectations of anything in return.

Look for ways you can be a refreshment in the lives of people around you. Here are 3 ways to get you started—

  1. Say an encouraging word to those who serve you in some way—a server at a restaurant, someone at work, anyone who does something for you. Look them in the eye and let them know you see them and appreciate them.
  2. Greet people along the way of life each day. Again, look them in the eye, show them respect, say something encouraging about the day, them, and the Lord.
  3. Give someone a call—perhaps someone you’ve lost touch with for a while or someone you’ve recently met who needs encouragement. Invite someone for a cup of coffee or whatever. Offer to pray for someone while you’re with them.

Even if the world doesn’t seem to change as much as you’d like, when you refresh others you’ll be refreshed and blessed, and I’m pretty sure it will bless the Lord and others you’re unaware of in the process.


This post was originally published on Faith Hacking in Medium

Here's another post of mine on Faith Hacking in Medium— The Problem with Stinginess

How Can Someone Pray Without Ceasing?

 Photo by  Joshua Earle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Have you ever read something in the Bible and wondered how it would be possible? Perhaps there’s a lot of things you’ve wondered about in the Bible but I’m thinking of admonitions that seem impossible to do.

When someone asks if I take the Bible literally, I try to clarify what they mean by literal. The Bible is full of figurative language—language that has a meaning beyond its literal meaning or dictionary-based definition.

Even some things Jesus said to do weren’t intended to be taken literally—like gouging out an eye when looking at a woman (or man) lustfully or cutting off your right hand if it causes you to sin (Matthew 5:29–30). If we took this literally, then we’d know the truly honest believers because they’d only have one eye and one hand!

Pray without ceasing

When I first read the phrase “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) and thought about what it meant, I realized this wasn’t to be taken literally. Or is it to be taken literally?

This phase is one of several admonitions at the end of the first epistle to the Thessalonian church—

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess 5:16–22)

How does someone pray without ceasing? I mean, if it were taken ultra-literally it would mean never eating or sleeping or doing anything else. Ok—it should be obvious that the apostle Paul didn’t intend that. But what is meant by this phrase?

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way. This means we are to pray throughout the course of daily life regardless of circumstance and in all situations.

When you think about it—it’s very liberating.

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way

Prayer free from form

Our prayer doesn’t need to follow some form or take place with a certain posture. It can be a few words spoken silently or a continuing conversation with God while driving. Come to think of it—there’d probably be a lot less road rage if believers prayed more while driving in traffic and speeding along on a crowded freeway.

I believe there’s a place for more formalized prayer and I prefer to kneel or bow when praying on my own. But I’ve said prayers while talking with people in various situations—asking for wisdom, discernment, clarity, or for peace in a heated discussion or tense situation.

I pray while reading the Bible and have often thrown up a quick prayer while teaching and preaching or while counseling someone.

Sometimes I pray without words—I know God knows my heart but I can’t formulate my thoughts into a specific prayer or don’t know how or what to pray regarding some decision or how to respond to a situation I’m facing.

Learning to pray

I remember an instance early on in my search for the Lord that helped me understand the nature of prayer. I was driving a station wagon full of people along a highway on the northern coast of California. It was the height of the hippie era and I was spiritually lost but searching.

My girlfriend at the time was sitting next to me when a rear tire blew apart. I called out loud to God as I struggled to gain control of the car as it swerved across lanes and I tried to pull off the highway. Once stopped, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “He heard you and answered your prayer!”

It was a simple testimony of God’s grace and protection for both of us. I called out and He heard me. He answered. It wasn’t a formal prayer and I wasn’t a committed follower of Jesus. But God made it clear that He was near and attentive.

I’ve learned to pray without ceasing in various ways. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I continue to follow Jesus and become more intimate in my relationship with Him. I know He’s ever-present and attentive but am I trusting Him in all things through each day?

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer. Unceasing and continuing prayer is how we stay connected to the Lord along the way.

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer

What about you?

Have you learned to “pray without ceasing?”


This post was originally posted on Faith Hacking through Medium

Here are 3 more of my posts on Faith Hacking and Medium—

A Reliable Source

Rhetoric, Relationships, and Racism

The Practicality of Being Spirit-Filled

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

Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog

 Photo by  Biegun Wschodni  on  Unsplash

If Jesus—the Good Shepherd—is our prime example as a pastor or leader and the Bible is our primary guide, why is it so difficult to pastor God's people well? Be wary of those who say it's easy—it's not!

When pastors or leaders of God's people speak highly of their own pastoral prowess it makes me wonder…Are they following the example of Jesus or some ideal of their own? Do they reflect the nature and commitment of the Good Shepherd or some image they are convinced is best?

When the expectations of pastors are driven by business leadership guidelines and principles and a result-oriented culture, it won't line up with what we see in Jesus as the Good Shepherd nor what the Bible says.

Are you a shepherd or a sheepdog?

Let's start with why I’m making a distinction between a shepherd and a sheepdog. Both are invested in tending sheep but in different ways because they have different roles. I’ve seen myself function in both roles while pastoring and seen it in other pastors too.

Whether you’ve had formal education and training to be a pastor or more experienced-based training—a learning as you go approach—you’ve probably fulfilled the role of a sheepdog at times. I think we all tend to do so, especially when planting a church and trying to raise up new leaders. Read more...


 

This post was originally published on the Poimen Ministries site blog under the same title– Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog
Although it's primarily written for pastors and church leaders, it can apply to believers who are leaders in other settings. It's focused on how we lead others. If it's helpful to you, please share it with others. Thanks for reading!