Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hebrews 5

The third point about Jesus is that he is “the radiance of God’s glory.” If you are looking at a light bulb, you see the light itself. If your back is to the bulb, you can still see from the “radiance” of the light. The radiance is the light you can see when you can’t see the source directly. Jesus is the means for us to see the light of the Father. “Jesus said If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” My grandfather would have said, “he’s the spittin’ image of his father.”

This point is expanded in the fourth truth about Jesus, “the representation of God’s essence.” A few lines from the Nicene Creed make the point very clearly:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;

Jesus is made of the same essence as God. My grandfather would have said “he’s a chip of the old block.”

Jesus, God’s new method of delivering His message, is the radiance of God’s glory and the representation of God’s very essence.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hebrews 4

The second of the seven things about Christ is “through whom he created the world.”

It’s clear from other scripture that Christ was involved in creation (John 1:3,10 & Col. 1:16) and that may be what’s meant here. But word translated “world” could also be translated “ages.”

In Hebrews 13:8 we read “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, forever.” The word translated “forever” in this verse is the same word translated “world” in verse 2.

I think the latter or perhaps even both is what the author had in mind. Later in this chapter he wrote…

"You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you continue. And they will all grow old like a garment, and like a robe you will fold them up: and like a garment they will be changed, but you are the same and your years will never run out." Hebrews 1:10-12 emphasis added

The emphasis seems to be on the eternal nature of Christ. All previous messengers of the truth were temporary and eventually replaced by a better messenger (Jesus Christ). He is the perfect messenger and it’s inconceivable that he will ever be replaced by a better messenger. He not only created the world, he created forever. This messenger will never be replaced by a new and improved version.

DISCUSSION: If this messenger can never be replaced, what does that mean about His message? What impact was the writer of Hebrews hoping this phrase would have on his readers? What does this mean for those who preach “another gospel?”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hebrews 3

The first of the seven things listed about the son is that he is "heir of God." (Chapter 1, verse 2) Inherit has at least two meanings that apply here. One meaning is the “stuff” one inherits in the future. In one sense this does not apply because this Father will never die. But in another sense, Christ at one point stepped (or will step) into the throne over all of creation. Verse 13 cites an Old Testament proof text for this. Only the Son, the heir will sit at the right hand of God until his enemies are made into a foot stool. (See also Daniel 7:13-14 and Revelation 5:5-14)

The other meaning of inherit is an intrinsic part of the heir. I inherited dark hair, dark eyes, and a love for learning. I also inherited a sin nature and an inclination toward selfishness. These are genetic and spiritual inheritance.

What did Jesus inherit “genetically” or spiritually from his Father? If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father (John 14:9).

DISCUSSION: Galatians 4:6-7 teaches that since we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we become heirs with Jesus. What do we inherit “genetically” or spiritually from our Heavenly Father?
(See Matthew 5:43-45 for one answer.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hebrews 2

This book was clearly written to an audience familiar with Jewish practices. Given that, the first thought is pretty astonishing. It could be paraphrased….

“In times past, God spoke to our forefathers in prophets, dreams, visions, even donkeys, and that’s pretty amazing. God’s truth communicated directly to them by all kinds of ways, but now, something far better has occurred. God has spoken truth to us, directly from His Son.”

The author then lists seven reasons why using this messenger surpasses anything else God could have done to communicate to us.

We’ll look at those seven things, and they should amaze us and change us. But I don’t want to skip the beginning.

God Spoke. That in itself is a miraculous blessing. It shatters Deism.

God Spoke to “our” forefathers. The Jews reading this should be reminded of their holy, special, privileged place. They were God’s chosen.

The pride the Jewish people felt at being God’s chosen was/is significant

DISCUSSION: Should Christians feel a similar pride at being God’s chosen?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


For some reason, I woke up humming the happy little toon - "give me that old time religion." Until I remembered two verses.

"It was good for Paul and Silas." Let's see... it got them both imprisoned and at least one executed.

I'm not sure a happy little toon works. But the bigger problem is another verse.

"It was good for the Hebrew children." If the book of Hebrews has one message, it's this... "the old time religion (of the Hebrews) is not nearly as good as the new religion of Jesus Christ."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Discerning his will

On Sunday we focused on determining the specific way to express our desire to provide practical service in His name to someone in need. It started me thinking about some important issues about discerning His direction.

  • He IS speaking and leading. John 14:26
  • We are, too often, and too easily, not listening. Hebrews 3:6-19
  • He does not answer all our questions,
    • In some instances he wants us to use the intellect he gave us.
    • In other instances he does not answer all our questions, but he answers the right questions. Matthew 10:19,20
  • The first question is never “What will work to accomplish our goals?” The first question is always, “What are his goals?”
  • The second question is never “How can we help his goals?” The second question is always “What obedience does he desire from us to accomplish his goals?”

So, the key is to ask the right questions, and listen with faith that he is speaking.

I have known for some time that his goals for us include that we touch the lives of a few in very deep and personal, but also practical and specific ways. His goal is to use us to mentor someone in life skills, relationships, caring, giving, and friendship. That means the current, urgent question is, “What obedience does He desire from us to accomplish that (his) goal?”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old time religion

The following was written in a letter by John Newton (1725 – 1807 -- a former slave ship captain, who became an outspoken opponent of slavery, an Anglican Minister, and author of a hymn he named ”Faith's Review and Expectation” We know it by the first line of the first verse…. “Amazing Grace.”

“The true Christian is sensible and mindful of indwelling sin. He confesses that in everything he comes exceedingly short, and that his best services are not only defective--but defiled. He accounts himself as an unprofitable servant--and is abased in his own eyes. He knows that all that distinguishes him from the vilest of men--is the free grace of God!”

Do Christian still think like that?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Looking at the most obvious expert at playing the “victim” role in the Scripture… Ahab, I noticed something. When Jezebel had Naboth killed, and Ahab claimed the vineyard, Elijah prophesied Ahab’s death, and the destruction of the nation. The announcement was blunt and direct. But it also struck me that God clearly and unequivocally linked the two events together.

In the spot where dogs licked up Naboth's blood they will also lick up your blood”

- I Kings 21:19

It’s clear that if you decide that one of these folks should face some negative consequences, blunt and direct is better than tentative and vague. It may also be reasonable to conclude that whenever a negative consequence is applied to these folks, it should be clearly and unequivocally connected to their behavior.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Does the scripture teach anything directly about how to deal with people who are especially adept at playing the role of being inept, incapable, pitiful, mistreated, victims of misfortune or evil others?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tax Math

O.K., I know it's dangerous to get political. I hardly ever do. But I just have an observation. Barak Obama says that in his tax plan 95% of Americans will see a tax decrease. It's also a fact that 30% of Americans don't pay federal taxes. I'm not real good at math. But you don't have to be good at math to know this doesn't add up.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I haven't posted in a while. We've been on a strange detour talking about a novel. The novel is called "The Shack." We didn't select it because it's perfect. It's not. The author makes a brave (if not foolish) attempt to illustrate truths about the unknowable mystery of Trinity.

We have used his novel to cause us to discuss the Godhead and how we view the Godhead. We are looking to the novel to springboard a discussion, but we are looking to the Scripture to teach us the truth.

It's been fun, difficult, and interesting. Perhaps the most interesting and consistent realization is that it's impossible for finite minds to approach God's infinite tenderness and compassion or his infinite justice and holiness without doing damage to the other.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dying to Self - Part 2

I don’t like implying that something as important, complex, or life-rearranging as dying to self can be reduced to a simple process of a few steps. Nothing could be further than truth. But it may be helpful to conceptualize several forms that “dying to self” can and should take. The first one I’ll mention may also be first in priority.

We must die to self-righteousness and live in His righteousness.

I cannot have died to self and live out an attempt to earn God’s favor. Dying to self-righteousness means that I can only depend on the righteousness of Christ.

Pharisees had the whole “being righteous enough to deserve God’s approval” thing down better than any of us. Early in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Paul once wrote “forgetting those things that lie behind, I press on toward the high calling….” (Philippians 3) I have often heard that phrase used to encourage people to let go of offenses and pains in the past. I’ve heard some say that counseling should never discuss childhood issues because we should be “forgetting those things that lie behind.” It’s a complete distortion of what Paul meant.

Paul claimed “if anyone has the right to feel self-righteous, it’s me.” Then he listed his qualifications.

“I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.”

Then he writes that he considers all that self-righteousness to be a liability (loss). His real righteousness comes from Christ, not from himself. When he talks about forgetting what lies behind, he’s talking about self-righteousness. He’s talking about any worthless claim he might make to righteousness rooted in his own effort.

Die to self-righteousness, live in Christ’s righteousness.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dying to Self – one time and many times

This is why the Father loves me — because I lay down my life, so that
I may take it back again. – Jesus (John 10:17 )

In one sense a decision made once, but in another sense it’s a decision that must be made moment-by-moment.

Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: (Col 3:2-5) Emphasis added

There is no sense in saying “you have died” and “put to death” unless it is made once, and then over and over again.

If I decided at youth camp to die to self, in an eternal sense it’s done. My life is "hidden with Christ in God. " I will inherit with Christ all the glories of heaven. But in another sense, it’s just the first of many. In terms of practical Christian living, we must decide to die to self on a moment by moment basis.

The choice must be made every moment. Like this one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Jesus first calls us to come. Then he commands us to “stay” in Him. (To abide means to remain, or to stay.)

We have seen that this is more powerful than prayer because it is the key to answered prayer. John 15:7

We have seen that this is more gracious than salvation, because it results in more than just life, but life “more abundant” when we pasture with the good shepherd. John 10:10

We have learned that abiding with Christ is more miraculous than healing and more glorious than the image of God, because as we abide in Christ we are actually changed from “glory to glory” ever closer to His perfect image. 2 Cor. 5:17 ff

We have at least one more week on this topic. But as we have made purposeful efforts to “stay with Him and remember that He is in us” some remarkable things have happened… so remarkable that I am having trouble believing them. I write this for one simple purpose. It’s clear that abiding with Him is not something we accomplish by effort, giftedness, or even faith. If those were required, I would not be seeing anything.

But my lack of faith and vision notwithstanding, people in our group are seeing physical needs, emotional needs, and relational needs being met in astounding clarity.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More Gracious than the Gift of Life

John 15: 9 -11 "Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love. If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”

Abiding in Christ places His full and complete joy within the one blessed to abide…i.e. “life more abundant.”

Acts 2:28 Peter, at Pentecost, quotes David from Psalm 16 “you will make me full of joy with your presence.” (emphasis added)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Powerful than Prayer

What’s more powerful than prayer? Abiding in Christ. It is only as we abide in Him that we know how to pray.

John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you can ask for what you want and it shall be given to you.”

Of course, if we make it our goal to abide in Christ so that we can get whatever we want, we will never succeed at either goal. If we abide in Christ, our wants will be forever altered.

Romans 6 is clear that we died with Christ, and because of that, we live with Him, too.

“For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death (which is symbolized in the immersion of baptism), we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.”

Rom 12 adds that we should live these resurrected lives as living sacrifices. Not sacrifices that die on the altar, but sacrifices that live. Sacrifices that died with Christ and now abide in Him. We are sacrifices that live Holy lives, lives that are pleasing to God.

In this way our wants are altered to become His wants. John 15:7 is a promise, but it might be better to see it as a barometer. If I am given whatever I prayerfully want, I can be assured that I am abiding in Him, and His words are abiding in me.

But if I am not given what I prayerfully want, it demonstrates that I am not capable of understanding His heart in the matter. But our gracious Lord knows our weakness. He understands our hurt. He even understands our heart when it is out of sync with His. And He still loves. He still welcomes us. He still calls us to trust Him more. He still offers the promise. If you will abide in me….you shall have what your heart most deeply wants.

Challenge: Spend 5 minutes each morning, consciously placing yourself in His presence.

Next Topic: “What’s more gracious than salvation?”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Our next topic is…

More powerful than prayer
More gracious than salvation
More miraculous than healing
More glorious than the image of God
More comforting than scripture
More certain than breath

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


On Sunday, we ended on Romans 15:14 where Paul says he is convinced that believers are able to “instruct” one another. We noted three conditions for his confidence.
1) We are in a community
2) We are full of goodness
3) We are filled with knowledge

As we discussed these, I neglected to mention one important thought about goodness. Goodness and “being nice” are not the same thing. Goodness is a noun that references the actions one takes when proper and right in relationship. “Goodness” is the works that come from love. That means that when Jesus looked Peter in the eye and said “Get thee behind me Satan” that was “goodness.” (Otherwise Jesus was being less than loving.) When Jesus said “woe to you, you bunch of snakes” that was “goodness.” When he wove a whip out of straw and went wild on the money changers, that was “goodness.”

The actions that come from doing right in a relationship are not always “nice” nor are they always “harsh.” That’s why being full of knowledge becomes so important.

Please remember to pray at let me know your thoughts about
- What’s after Romans?
- Do we give to the Rawanda Mission, and how much?
- Do we give to “Jack’s travel fund,” and how much?
- Should we spend $150.00 for a small coffee roaster?
- Details for this coming Sunday’s schedule (Steve has to be at the School of Medicine Graduation, Jack is graduating from the Bell Center)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Romans 14

“It’s OK for believers to hold, believe, and live by, different personal standards.”

I know that can seem contrary to what you have heard. Many of us have been taught that there is an objective standard of right and wrong to which all people will be held. But that’s only true about a relatively small number of issues.

“It’s OK for believers to hold, believe, and live by, different personal standards.”

That’s a position that’s uncomfortable. We are more comfortable with small boxes in which all “right-minded” people agree. But it’s not what the Bible teaches.

It’s possible that it is right for me to drink wine and wrong for you. It’s possible that it’s right for you to see an R-rated movie, but wrong for me. It’s possible that it’s right for the spouse of one adulterous spouse to stay committed and wrong for antoher.

“It’s OK for believers to hold, believe, and live by, different personal standards.”

The standards about which God convicts me, are standards for ME. I will answer to His standards for me. I will not answer your standards for me. I will not answer for how others live to His standards for me.

“It’s OK for believers to hold, believe, and live by, different personal standards.”

Don’t take my word for it. Read Romans 14

Friday, May 02, 2008

Where we are

This week we will meet from 3-5. We'll start at Romans 14:1. I look forward to seeing you all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Yesterday seemed like a good day to be thinking about taxes. The old saying that “the only certainties are death and taxes,” came to my mind. I think there are another two certainties.

The first thing true of every person, is that we are built with an inescapable need to be in reciprocal and perfect love.

The second is that we are completely incapable of establishing or maintaining reciprocal and perfect love.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What Shall I Do Next?

Last Sunday we discussed the long section in Romans where Paul addresses only the Jews in Rome, and then the short section where Paul talks to the Gentiles about the Jews and how the gentiles should view and treat the Jews.

Several mentioned that they would really like to ask some questions of a practicing Jew. Modern Judaism seems to contradict the Judaism in Biblical times.

I said that I had done that with a Jewish friend several years ago, and maybe I could find another Jewish friend who would be willing to answer questions from the group.

I asked a medical student if she would sit down with us and answer our questions. Explained some of the questions I expected we would ask and assured her that we would be kind, respectful, and that she would leave thinking it was a very pleasant time.

She responded that while she is “a religious person” she feels unqualified to answer our questions. She gave me the name and contact info for the rabbi at a local conservative temple, and for the rabbi at a local “reform” temple.

So, send your vote by taking the poll on this page.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leadership 3

Another key point is most of the modern books on Christian leadership is “assemble the right team.” One of these well-known books, by a well-known author suggests that potential team members should have “character, competency, and chemistry.”

The thought is that the person should know Christ and walk in honesty and integrity (character), a track record of accomplishment (competency), and “fit in” with the rest of the team (chemistry). While it’s obvious that it would be foolish to do ministry with someone who doesn’t know Christ, is dishonest, is unable to accomplish a task, and annoys everyone else, I wonder how God’s selection method fits these criteria.

Moses was a murderer that succeeded in the great career move of losing his place in a palace to live in a tent and chase sheep around in a desert. I don’t recall Jesus giving the 12 any special screening. He took a pretty variable lot that included some pretty undesirable qualities. And all of them ran away and hid when things got really tough. “Not many wise” of this world are chosen. (I Cor. 1:26)

Why is it dangerous to find someone with character, competency, and chemistry? Because character is impossible to accurately read (man looks at the outward appearance but looks on the heart. I Sam. 17:7). Competency leads to pride (God has chosen the base and despised people so that He would get the glory rather than the person. I Cor. 1:26-29) Chemistry leads to comfort and complacency or a clique that the church people cannot penetrate. (When they were well fed and comfortable, they forgot God. Hos. 13:6)

What do I propose instead? I propose that the church should not seek leaders. A focus on “assembling the right team” is a focus on the wrong thing. The “right team” can accomplish great things, but it cannot, ever, under any circumstances accomplish the right things.

We don’t need to identify great candidates. We need to be broken and lost fellow-laborers with other broken and the lost people until they become fellow-laborers indeed. This is not just a cliché. This is not an excuse to never have paid staff. (although I think most churches rely too heavily on paid staff) This is a fundamental shift in values and focus. It does not matter if our team fits any criteria on any list, has had success in any way, or enjoy the same things in each other’s company. What matters is that we and they be humble in admitting that we are struggling sinners that cannot live for God the way we wish, but despite that, we focus our energies on pleasing Him and serving others in His name, despite our ineptitude which ensures we will routinely fail.

An old song by a very creative Christian artist (Steve Taylor) was called “Jesus is for losers.” (I edited out a few verses here for space)

If I was driven
Driven ahead by some noble ideal
Who took the wheel?

If I was given
Given a glimpse of some glorious road
When was it sold?

So caught up in the chase
I keep forgetting my place

Just as I am
I am stiff-necked and proud
Jesus is for losers
Why do I still play to the crowd?

Just as I am
Pass the compass, please
Jesus is for losers
I'm off about a hundred degrees

If I was groping
Groping around for some ladder to fame
I am ashamed

If I was hoping
Hoping respect would make a sturdy footstool
I am a fool

Bone-weary every climb
Blindsided every time

Just as I am
I am needy and dry
Jesus is for losers
The self-made need not apply

Just as I am
In a desert crawl
Lord, I'm so thirsty
Take me to the waterfall

Just as you are
Just a wretch like me
Jesus is for losers
Grace from the blood of a tree

Just as we are
At a total loss
Jesus is for losers
Broken at the foot of the cross

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Love that is hotter than Hell

I like to say that I love people. I just read a passage that made me realize that I really don’t. If Paul were not inspired of the Holy Spirit and if the Scriptures were not the word of God almighty, I would be convinced that Paul was self-deceived.

Under what circumstances would you willingly accept Hell? Eternal damnation and eternal isolation are partial and incomplete descriptions of the horrors it holds. When I contemplate hell I am motivated to an evangelistic zeal for grief over the idea that anyone will face that permanent tragedy.

Paul says he would willingly accept Hell for himself, if it would mean that his Jewish brethren would be spared. (Romans 9:1-3) I am out of words.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leadership 2

There is a second point, consistently made in the current books on leadership geared toward Christian leaders. It can be worded in several ways, but essentially it is this. “Be single-minded in the sense of that you do not allow anyone to distract or divert attention into any direction other than the vision you have.”

Last night I was reviewing one of those books (a best seller). In it, the respected Christian leader told every member of his staff “If you cannot work your ministry with the same vision the church has adopted, you need to find a new job.” What was the vision that some staff members were not following? It was an emphasis on moving people into small groups for discipleship. Every ministry, from the meals for the homeless program to the nursery, had to organize itself around a process that promoted small groups.

My chief objection to this single minded focus is that it makes the “vision” a greater priority than the people. The point is often made that the word “church” does not mean a building, or a worship experience. We need to remember that it’s not a vision statement, either. The people that are the core of what “church” means are vastly more important than the building, the style of worship, or the vision statement.

I wouldn’t be making this point if the vision statement were an undeniable Biblical truth…. “Proclaim Christ!” (for example). The vision of promoting small groups is (in my opinion) a good one. But the vision is NOT more important than the people it is supposed to serve.

I’m afraid that I want to take my disagreement farther. To me, it seems arrogant to assume that the vision I believe is from God is more certain, more fixed, and more reliable than the people He brings to the church. I do not believe that the pastor and the elders have a more reliable access to God’s direction than others involved in the ministry. I believe God can and will speak to me and to the elders THROUGH the voices of the people in our ministry. The lady who brews coffee for the men’s breakfast may the one member of the body who has an important key insight to refine the vision. To believe anything less denies what Paul teaches about the body and its many members.

It’s a terrible misunderstanding of “church” if we have a greater steadfast commitment to the vision statement than to the people. The scriptures place a much greater emphasis on loving the people in the church than an unwavering commitment to the style of worship or an emphasis on seekers as opposed to an emphasis on discipleship, or nearly anything placed in many vision statements.

It may be helpful to call this error “the tyranny of the vision” just to contrast it with the opposite error, “the tyranny of individualism” (anarchy). It is foolish to fantasize that a leader can let every person have their own vision, agenda, and ideals. A team must always work in harmony or it will splinter into factions and become completely dysfunctional. In my leadership, I avoided the danger of “the tyranny of the vision,” but fell into the “opposite” error. Predictably, our group splintered into factions and fell apart. But this danger does not justify reducing the people to a level lower than the vision.

It’s much easier to commit one error or the other than to find the balance between them. I cannot claim to have walked the balanced line often, but I think I can describe something close to the right path.

Every person, regardless of the role they play in the body, must always have the freedom to dream and to express their dream as a possible refining of the vision we are pursuing. When there are contradictory visions at play the answer is not to “throw out the [immoral or disagreeing] brother.” The answer is to leave your [sacrifice or vision statement] at the altar and go immediately to your brother and reconcile. Talk, discuss, quarrel, and humbly esteem the brother until the contradiction is resolved. Do not make any dramatic changes in the practices of the church until the contradictory visions are reconciled or all parties agree to pursue one approach together.

Neither the tyranny of the vision nor the tyranny of individualism, are acceptable. The only way the middle ground can be found and walked is when the unity of the Spirit is valued and pursued, as an inviolate portion of the vision for the church.

“I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Eph. 4:1-3

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Being a Leader

In our beginning, we fell apart. I read every leadership book I could find. I applied all the principles to the best of my ability, and I think that’s what went wrong.

The problem with leadership books is that they are written by people that have seen great results from their leadership efforts. All these authors are clearly excited about the vision that has and continues to motivate them. Their enthusiasm for the vision seeps from every word they write. They feel driven to bring about the vision they cast. Somehow the arrogance of that position never quite seemed to be the point I understood.

Christian leadership books often point to the story of Moses resisting God’s call to make the accurate point that a leader needs to be humble. Somehow in the text, however, the humility they propose is drowned out by the passionate, invariable, dedicated pursuit of the success evident in bringing about the vision.

But Moses was not merely humble; he was completely averse to taking a leadership position. He refused to obey God unless Aaron would take the role of official spokesperson. Jeremiah refused to lead. Jonah refused to lead. Gideon refused to lead. Barak refused to lead. Jesus refused to allow the crowd to coronate Him. None of the twelve asked to given the title of “apostle.” When they did seek a position of honor, Jesus rebuked them.

Allow me to go so far as to say that any person that seeks a leadership position will not be a good leader. A person that seeks a leadership position is invariably pursuing an agenda. When I started this church, I did so reluctantly. I stated plainly that I did not believe I had the right skill set to be a pastor. But when 40 or more people immediately followed me, it went to my head. I drew the false conclusion that using the skills I had, and learning from other leaders, I could be a leader in a great work. That became my goal. That’s when it all blew up. It blew up because so many strong personalities followed my lead and set up their own agenda.

In fact, every faction in our little group was led by one strong leader whose agenda was essentially the same as mine. “This church will be a place where I can prove my competence and value.” A painful implosion by conflict was the inevitable outcome. As we rebuild this church, my reluctance to lead needs to stay further entrenched. I am convinced that I do not have the skills necessary to build a church, with God’s help, I’ll never believe otherwise.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Follow up on previous entry

An interesting observation from our discussion in Church Sunday evening. (We discussed the previous entry in the blog – in the context of Romans 1 – 4.) We were intrigued with the hypothetical situation of the letter from the court. The consensus was that we would respond with questions, objections and challenges if we had no idea that we had broken any law. We would respond with gratitude and celebration if we knew we were accused of something serious.

How true that is in Paul’s letter, too. The law was given at least in part, to remove any doubt that nobody can live to the standards of God’s perfect holiness (Romans 3:19,20). The clear evidence is that the Jews, as a whole, didn’t get that message. They were trying their best to keep the standards of the Law and feeling spiritually successful, superior and righteous because of it.

It seems that as a race, we are each skillfully adept at failing to notice that “I am a sinner.” And we reject the mercy of God because of it.