The Older Brother’s View

As we develop our identity in Christ, the process of sanctification, one of the first and necessary steps in renewing our minds is to consider our preconceptions about who God is. We need to see him rightly because God wants us to see our-self and define our-self as his people, with him being our God. This relationship is one of trust, Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to experience it, the Israelites were to have God as King to experience it and we are to experience it through Christ. But one major mistake we make is hanging onto our impressions of God formed through our relationships – often from our experience with our own father or another close authority figure. Or we let our circumstance dictate who we think God is. Or even let the systems of the world drive our conception of God. So we may see God as angry, driven to make decisions out of anger. Or withholding. Or not present. Or Santa Claus. Or the senile grandfather. We have so many false impressions, and ultimately that affects our experience of who God is. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), this is true of the older brother’s experience. The older brother thought that relationship with the father was found by obeying the rules. Because of that filter which formed the foundation of his false self, the older son’s experience was not one of the father’s grace and mercy. In fact, discovering the father’s grace and mercy incited anger because it seemed unfair. The older brother verbalized this by saying “Look! All these years I’ve been...

Four Leadership Essentials

As a leader, it is important to have a lens to view your leadership through. This way, your decisions and actions can be filtered and evaluated as useful or not, in alignment with your values or not, and appropriate for your context or not. There are a multitude of models out there, some more complex than others. For me, simplicity allows me flexibility and adaptability, things that I value. For your consideration, here are my four E’s of leadership. My leadership should… Encourage Sometimes the people we lead need to me reminded why we value them in the position they occupy. Encouragement can be simple reminders of the skills they bring to the team. It can also take the form of celebrating wins, both small and large. As leaders, we need to remember that our encouragement adds energy to the roles and activities of those under us. It is also important to remember that the lives of those we lead are bigger than the role they play in our organizations. Questions for your leadership – How do you celebrate wins and progress? How often do you do this? How often to you check in on your people’s lives outside the organization? How safe do your people feel to answer your questions honestly? Empower Empowering others to lead or perform their tasks means giving them the space to operate. Recognizing that others will not do things the way that you would. Giving others space to fail (not out of incompetence), evaluate, and refocus. Empowering is felt as trust by those you lead. The nemesis of an empowering leader is an anxious...

Falling Heroes

There are a plethora of fallen heroes of late. A popular Christian pastor, author, and network leader has publicly stepped down. Another athlete has be found to be regularly abusing his spouse. A politician running for president is beset by yet another scandal. Read the news. Daily heroes are falling in the sports world, in the political world, and even in the Christian community. The element of these stories that is most astonishing to me is not the offense of the people who we look to as heroes, but rather our surprise that these people are capable of disappointing us. (for a related post, see Up on a Pedestal) Maybe are surprised because of the amount of money they make. We have the flawed perspective that money perfects behavior. What we forget is that money or power or popularity provides a false sense of self. Having money may cover brokenness in a bought exterior, but the person on the inside will be unaffected. If you were unhappy or angry before having money, you will be unhappy or angry after having it. If you were unhappy or angry before having power, you will be unhappy or angry after having it. If you were unhappy or angry before having popularity, you will be unhappy or angry after having it. Another possible reason for our surprise may come from thinking that surely the affirmation of so many fans would perfect one’s values and beliefs. Yet, as anyone who is followed could tell you, the affirmation of the crowd is more of a noose. Behavior is determined by what will keep the affirmation flowing. The crowd will love...

Up On a Pedestal

Throughout our lives we have seasons in which we get put on some sort of pedestal. Built up in the mind of at least one other into something that we are not. Children put their parents on a pedestal. Spouses put each other on a pedestal. Congregations put their pastors high up on a pedestal. Truth is, this feels good. When we are the center of the kingdom, when the world is revolving around us, it builds up our sense of significance. It is easy to build an identity on what people think of us – having our sense of self and value reflected back to us by those we surround our self with. But when my feeling of being worth loving comes from the validation of others – it is a trap. Then you have to behave a certain way and project a certain image in order to gain the approval. The approval becomes an idol. It must be served. It takes work to stay on the pedestal. Know why pastors fall? Their focus became the pedestal rather than being centered in Jesus. Know why marriages fail? At least one spouse’s focus is on their pedestal. Serving self over serving the other. Know why peer pressure is so effective? It is all about having a pedestal to be put on. Jesus was put on a pedestal. Lauded by the crowds. Followed by thousands. Approval like that would certainly be a temptation. But Jesus was centered in the Father. From that position of submission and oneness, Jesus had his identity and purpose. Despite being on the pedestal, He maintained...

Experience Life

Ours is a culture that drives us to try harder and convinces us that we can do anything to which we put our minds. But, both of these narratives are lies, both in the spiritual world and without. We are conditioned toward self-effort. Romans 8:13 says that the way we put to death the misdeeds of the body – the corrupt fruit of bad behaviors, destructive decisions, and unhealthy ways or relating – is not by a force of our own will. It is by the Spirit. The Spirit is our partner, guide, and counselor in this endeavor of sanctification. It is for us to live by the Spirit, being open to the counsel and direction that we are so graciously given. God marks us as his own with the Spirit, and connection with God is established through this part of him that now lives in us. When we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit does. It is up to us to approach the throne. Through the Spirit, we have the opportunity for 24/7 communion with our Creator and Sustainer of our identity. It is up to us to deny our self and surrender to the Spirit, not living according to the enticing, tempting, comfortable, familiar patterns of the old nature. but instead living in communion, secure in our identity as God’s chosen, redeemed in Christ. Freedom is the result of living by the Spirit. The experience of LIFE. Not encumbered by the standards of the world, not battling shame, not enticed by the enemy. Rather than trying harder for the false self, we live joyful in the...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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