“If I ever do a perfect act of love, I’ll probably be proud of it, and then it won’t be a perfect act anymore. Maybe if I die in the midst of performing this act, I could do it.” – man on radio (wish I knew who he was)
When I heard it, this idea struck me. Even my best efforts are littered with selfishness and pride. My “wants” show up in the most unlikely of places – even when I “serve,” I want to be recognized – or I want someone else to take notice and look at me with more admiration, etc. My service serves myself. I’m sinful. Very sinful.
Scripture addresses this too.
Isaiah 64:6 – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.“
Romans 7:21-25 – “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
So here’s the question: How can I get rid of this? How can I serve selflessly? Of course the only REAL answer is Jesus. He alone has done a “perfect act of love” – the cross. He alone is perfect, and so all of His acts were perfect. Ours are NOT. Nor will they ever be. Our acts of service and sacrifice are always going to be tainted with at least a little bit of selfishness. We are sinners, but because of His “perfect act of love” (the cross), we can receive forgiveness and will be made holy. Our selfishness is forgiven and covered by His blood.
A perfect act of love? This is not a goal for us to attain, but a grace that Jesus has offered to us.
My pastor said this in a sermon a while back. He was referring to coming to Christ for the first time, but I heard it differently. It stuck. It’s been rolling around in my head for months now. If I could “believe now,” then I could make a Godly choice in every moment. You see, my failures and bad decisions are usually based upon some sort of unbelief.
I don’t believe He will provide for us, so I choose to worry about our financial situation.
I don’t believe that my body is a “temple for the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 6:19-20) or that God really cares about my health. I tell myself, “It’s not that big of a deal”, so I eat more than I should.
I don’t really believe sin kills, so I speak rudely to my family and my wife.
I could go on and on. . . . but you get the point. If I could “Believe Now!” I’d probably make better choices. I’d probably represent Jesus better and become more like Him. If I could “believe now,” I’d probably say “Yes” to different things and I’d be involved in new things. I’d probably say “No” to some other things as well.
Prayer:LORD, help me to “Believe now.” Keep this phrase in my mind. Train me to remember it in the moments that I struggle. Guide my heart to believe constantly, moment by moment. LORD I believe, but I want to believe more often, more consistently. “LORD I believe. Help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24 AMEN.
Miranda and I have been working on teaching our children about repentance quite a bit lately. We never really use that word, but we’re trying to lay a foundation which will make it easy to understand as they grow older. Our practice is to teach them a few things to say when they have hurt someone:
1) I’m sorry. (Stop behavior)
2) I won’t do it again. (Turn around behaviorally)
3) Will you forgive me? (Restore relationship)
After listening to a sermon from Rob Morris (Love146) I’m considering adding another element. He reminded me of the Biblical accounts where the repentant sinner’s first action was to “right” the wrong he was involved in and to even go beyond “right” to make it better.
Remember Zacchaeus, the tax collector who gave back four times everything he had taken? (Lk 19:1-10)
Or when the rich young ruler went away greived because he could not bring himself to help the poor. (Mk 10:17-22)
In Luke 3:10-14, John the Baptist is preaching a baptism of repentance and when asked “What shall we do?” He tells them to give to the poor and to treat others fairly.
Evidently, our repentance should impact the poor and oppressed.
All this is to say, I need to find some ways to help my kids see that repentance is more than my three step lesson. It should have legs on it and actions tied to it. Repentance should impact everyone around us.
Maybe we should add the question: “How can I make it better?” (Restore/Improve situation)
Lord, guide us to model repentance for our children. Lead us to the strategies that will help us to encounter You – to be confronted by sin, and to recognize that our behaviors hinder our relationship with You. Forgive us. Restore us unto You. Change us. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to choose new behaviors and walk different roads and lead us to improve the situations that we have caused in our sin. AMEN.
Over the years, the valley had grown wider. All the storms (big and small) compounded and made it tough to traverse so . . . we built a bridge.
I had a great Spring Break! Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, and I spent the week in Livingston with our good friends (we consider them family) the Godbolds. We also got to spend time with the Bowles, Leitschuhs, and Dale Googer’s. It was incredible! We spent the week as bridge builders.
We built a bridge over a little creek on the property, but there were also other bridges built. Since the time we moved away from Tomball, we have felt separated from our friends, but bridges were built. I watched my children meet new friends and learn new things – bridges were built.
Bridges were built with discussions around the fire. They were built as we reminisced. They were built as we shared stories and laughed. More bridges were built as we sang old songs and even as we reflected in the silence.
Livingston – this place – the people it represents – the memories – all of it reminds me of who I am and challenges me to remember who I want to become. This is a bridge. Livingston is a bridge between my past and my future. I’m grateful for this bridge – for this place – for my friends – for my God.
“Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.
Christmas is the celebration of the “Withness” of God!! Jesus stepped out of heaven and off His throne to come to earth to be with us. (Philippians 2:5-8)
My friend Kris Lyle, who studies biblical languages, posted something recently about the word, with. He was researching with and discovered some interesting stuff about the way it was used in the Ancient Near East (ANE). Here’s what he wrote:
I’m quoting from the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, volume I, page 451; the author has just said that with doesn’t really occur in conjunction with people and God in the ANE. In other words, besides Israel, we don’t have much evidence that the surrounding nations thought of, spoke of or experienced their gods and goddesses in a way that they could say “God is with me,” as Israel does throughout their history. So here’s the quote:
“Even if additional examples are discovered, it is still remarkable that the formula of the presence of a deity with man is very rare in the ancient Near East, while it appears frequently in the OT, where it expresses a basic element in the Yahweh faith. Is it possible that the content of this formula expresses something typical (if not also equally “genuine”!) for the faith of Israel?”
I love it!!! The same God who we know as “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us,” had already revealed Himself to the ancient Israelites in a similar way. It was normal for them (Israel) to talk about God as with them, but all the other nations spoke of their gods differently – distant, impersonal. This scholar has accidentally hit upon the very thing that sets our faith apart. Our God is with us. He was withthe ancient Israelites, but He also sent His son, Jesus to be with us in human form and then sent the Holy Spirit to remain with us until His return. He has always been with us and will remain with us until the end of time. Christmas is a celebration of this withness. Emmanuel = “God with us”
“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
Hey guys – here’s a really good article I read on Ed Stetzer’s blog talking about the kind of faith people are really longing for. Check out the video clip from ER first.
Terry Mattingly writes:
Non-attendees (to church) want to ignore a generic God, but when/if they follow a faith, they want one that has robust beliefs and is worth following… Since growing churches tend to have more defined belief systems, when people start a journey to faith, they want something they see as worth believing and giving their life to. A generic god is hardly one worth committing to… As best I can tell, those who are not a regular part of a faith community still want to be “spiritual” people, but without a clear faith… Many fashion a tame God in their own image– a generic god for a generic spirituality, not a God who actually intervened in the world through the death of Christ and calls us to follow and live differently… For many, they want to get all the benefits of spirituality without any of the truth claims of a rigorous faith… I think the Oprah-ization of American spirituality has glorified “searching” for spiritual meaning but de-emphasized “finding.” In other words, it is good to be looking for spirituality, but it is intolerant to actually believe you have found a right faith and want to invite others to such. In “I’m O.K., You’re O.K. Spirituality,” the only sin is intolerance… and intolerance is defined to mean actually believing your faith is the correct one.
Behold: even NBC knows that a generic faith in a generic God does little good
when it really matters.
My Questions: What is the Godly way to express this appropriate intolerance for a false gospel? Why aren’t we (leaders in the church) telling those who are espousing this kind of “faith” to “Get out?” What kinds of precautions can we take to make sure the true “Gospel” is what we’re all about? What are the “answers” that people are looking/longing for?
This book should be read by any and every leader. It deals with a part of leadership which is very rarely discussed and in some cases ignored altogether. Although they never use the metaphor, the “dark side” which they discuss is an ever-present reality which influences every decision we make and everyone around us – similar to the dark side we’ve come to know from the Star Wars films. They describe it like the dark side of the moon, it is a part of our very essence and helps to make us who we are. This dark side is defined by our
natural tendencies to fill the voids left by our weaknesses and deep hurts from past experiences. The dark side is how we’ve learned to cope with life. Unfortunately, these habits (healthy or not) continue to be lived out after we become Christians and begin leading others. Throughout history many leaders have been overtaken and many great ministries/organizations have been ruined from the influence of this dark side. Gone unchecked, we risk much in our lives by ignoring its’ existence and influence. This book provides the reader with the tools necessary to understand, recognize, and redeem his/her own dark side. The church would benefit greatly if church leaders were aware of this reality and guided others in cautiously heeding its’ warnings.
Understanding Our Dark Side
The first section of the book is mostly an extended definition of what this dark side truly is. The authors are very meticulous about sharing both their own personal interactions with this presence in their lives and those of other famous leaders throughout history. They describe those who have dealt properly with the dark side like Bill Hybels and the Apostle Paul and those who have been overtaken by it like Jim Bakker and King Saul. All of these stories combine to paint a picture of the many varied forms this dark side can take on in one’s life. They describe how pressures can build within a leader and eventually our dark side emerges with an explosion of emotion or frustration. “At times the dark side seems to leap on us unexpectedly. In reality it has slowly crept up on us. The development of our dark side has been a lifetime in the making.” (pg. 22) They also attempt to break down the dark side into its building blocks so the reader can more readily recognize it while it’s being built. The building blocks they mention are pride, selfishness, self-deception and wrong motives. (pg 40-45) In addition they describe many of the signs of the shadow side as: (1) an inexplicable drive to make a significant mark with our lives (2) a profound need to be approved (3) an irrational fear that our work is inadequate (4) a need to feel in absolute control (5) perfectionism (6) many other behaviors such as overeating, compulsive spending, alcoholism, compulsive exercising, etc. (pg 50-51) In describing the development of our dark side, the authors refer to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or as it is sometimes called the “needs pyramid.” This pyramid builds from physiological needs, to safety needs, then love needs, esteem needs, and finally self-actualization. Maslow’s theory is that people must have their needs met at one level before they can get their “higher” needs met. The authors of this book suggest that sometimes we get those needs met in unhealthy ways, and this becomes the seed for a growing dark side which has learned to satisfy itself in ways that God never intended. As one grows older these behaviors become habits and will eventually explode into a full-blown dark side.
Discovering Our Dark Side
The second section of the book describes five different types of dark side leaders. It details their characteristics and then offers a self-test to the reader to determine his/her potential for falling into this category.
The compulsive leader is symbolized by Moses who felt the need to control every aspect of the Israelites movement out of Egypt – even to the point of being a judge over every matter between the people (numbering millions). These leaders tend to think they are the only ones who can do the job correctly and therefore have a hard time delegating. They also develop highly structured systems which must be followed in the minutia. Many times, this makes them workaholics. In an effort to maintain control, they will repress anger and emotions which can erupt in sudden violent outbursts and then be quickly controlled again. They also have a tendency to be very critical and enjoy the freedom the church gives them in seeking “excellence” in ministry.
The narcissistic leader is more like Solomon. Scripture is clear that he thought the world revolved around him – he did many things “for myself.” They use other people to advance their own agenda and find it difficult to recognize the efforts of others – often times taking the credit themselves. Deep feelings of inadequacy and inferiority motivate them to work/minister for the approval and admiration of others rather than for God.
Saul is a great example of the paranoid leader. He was hypersensitive to the actions and reactions of the people, always fearful of potential rebellion. These leaders are intensely jealous of other gifted people because they are so insecure in themselves. They overreact to criticism and tend to believe there are ulterior motives into the most innocent of actions. They love to keep their hands on every area of the organization and therefore require lots of meetings and reports. They also keep a “safe distance” when it comes to relationships because close relationships require a transparency which they fear will potentially undermine their leadership.
The codependent leader is represented by Samson. He continually involved himself in self-destructive behaviors. These leaders are masters of denial – even to the point of believing the denial to be truth. They have a serious need to please others and don’t want to disappoint anyone. They repress their emotions and feel stressed as a result. They also don’t initiate action to confront misbehaviors because they have learned to live with them, but instead will sometimes even take personal responsibility/blame for others actions. Codependent leaders often appear to be extremely loving peacemakers, but this can go too far and enable unhealthy or unbiblical behaviors.
Jonah is a passive-aggressive leader. They don’t confront, but instead act out their disapproval by procrastinating, forgetting, or just not putting their whole heart into a project. They are complainers who would rather do nothing than attempt something with the possibility of failure – or worse yet, maybe they’ll succeed and then be held to a higher standard. These leaders are not very enthusiastic and can be irritable or impatient and often can explode when their status quo is threatened.
Redeeming Our Dark Side
This third section of the book points the reader to a few specific exercises to help him in living with his dark side and even allowing it to be a positive force in his life. These steps are (1) Acknowledging our dark side (2) Examining the past (3) Resist the poison of expectations (4) Practice progressive self-knowledge and (5) Understand your identity in Christ.
Step one (acknowledging our dark side) consists of nothing more than realizing and agreeing that you are no different from the rest of the people in the world. You have a dark side too.
Step two (Examining the past) is described as a “simple process of remembering.” (pg 163) It entails remembering everything from major issues like a death in the family to minor inferiority issues arising from a nickname you were given as a child. The authors paint the picture of our intentional journey into the past saying “We must become the hammer that begins to shape our errant emotions and dark side rather than the anvil on which our dark side pounds us into a distorted image.” (pg 164)
Step 3 (Resist the poison of expectations) requires our attention to the expectations placed upon us. We should choose which ones we will own and which ones are not a reflection of our calling. If we live our lives under everyone else’s expectations, we will soon be living someone else’s life.
Step 4 (Practice progressive self-knowledge) is about spiritual disciplines involving Bible reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, journaling, and other tools for self-awareness like personality tests, counseling, accountability groups, and performance evaluations. It’s about being open to hear from others (including God) regarding your weaknesses and
Step 5 (Understand your identity in Christ) requires an understanding that our position in Christ is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or power. Our condition on earth is a polar opposite to our position in Christ, and our worth is based upon Him alone.
Unlike any other leadership book I’ve read, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership takes an honest and comprehensive look at the part of leadership that no one really likes to discuss. Most books give some insightful ideas about leading and talk about how to influence others, but ignore the reality of all the fallen leaders we’ve seen throughout history. Overcoming confronts this issue head on and allows the reader to be proactive in recognizing his own dark side so as to keep him from falling into these pitfalls. The historical and biblical stories included give the book an authentic feel so as to illustrate the concepts accurately. As I grow in my leadership roles, I intend to make this book an integral part of my life and also for training others for leadership positions. These ideas will help me to remain honest about my own spiritual dark side and hopefully, I’ll respond by being intentional in redeeming it by using some of the steps and concepts this book teaches.
Although the existence of God has been debated throughout the years, there are some very good arguments which have developed. The following are the most popular.
Cosmological Argument – Since the world exists and something cannot come from nothing, God must exist. Teleological Argument – Since the world is ordered and logically arranged, there must be an intelligent organizer. There must be a master architect since the world evidences intelligence, purpose, and harmony. Ps 8:3-4; 19:1-4 testify that creation itself speaks of God. The idea that this kind of organization could happen by accident (as Evolution proclaims) is like a tornado ripping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747.
Anthropological Argument – There are things within man (intellect, sensibility, will, conscience, and inherent belief in a creator) which could never have found their origin in some “blind force,” therefore God must exist. Man is not simply a physical being, but he is emotional and spiritual – this speaks of God.
Moral Argument – If man is only biological, why does he have a sense of right and wrong? It must be from God. Man is different from all the rest of creation in this way. Recognition of moral standards are found in every culture, yet could never be attributed to any sort of evolutionary process.
Ontological Argument – This one isn’t as strong as the others, but it basically suggests that since every culture (all men) have had an awareness of God, then God must have placed that idea in humanity. Therefore, He exists. Anselm (1033-1109) was the first proponent of this view.
How does this affect me? As a youth minister, I get these kinds of questions/challenges all the time. I’d say it’s actually one of the favorite topics, among our students. I enjoy these conversations because these arguments are pretty strong and they can lead into some great evangelism-type situations.
(Info from “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns, pg 183-185)
The doctrine of inspiration has to do with the Bible. The question is about how much of the Scriptures can be attributed to God. The best view seems to be given to us by Jesus Himself. What did He think of the Scriptures? How much can they be trusted? Let’s consider His view:
Whole – Jesus quoted and used the OT consistently throughout His earthly ministry. He validated all of the OT simply by His use of it. In Mt 5:17-18 he said that even the smallest letters and strokes of it would be fulfilled. He also calls it the “law and the prophets” which was a typical way to refer to the whole of the OT. In Lk 24:44 he refers to the law, prophets, and Psalms, making sure that they knew he meant every part of it. In Jn 10:35, Jesus reminded some Jews of Ps 82:6 saying that “Scripture cannot be broken.”
Parts – Jesus’ arguments were supported and strengthened by different parts of the OT. Check Mt 4:4-10; Mt 21:42; 12:18-21
Words – In Mt 22:32 Jesus quotes from Ex 3:6 and His whole argument hinges on the present tense of the word “am.” If the words of the Scriptures were not inspired, His argument would be worthless. In Mt 22:44 a similar things happens – Jesus’ argument is upheld by the phrase “my Lord” from Ps 110:1. It’s clear that Jesus believed that the words of the Scriptures are inspired.
Letters – Mt 5:18 – Jesus declared, “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.” “Smallest letter” = an apostrophe and Stroke refers to something like the leg on the letter Q. Jesus believed that every letter was inspired.
New Testament – In John 14:26, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead the apostles as they wrote out the NT Scriptures, guaranteeing their accuracy. Also check John 16:12-15. Jesus affirmed not only the OT, but the NT too.
In addition to Jesus, Paul and Peter affirmed the inspiration of the Scriptures.
How does this impact my life? Oh it’s huge! I can trust the Bible! I can rely on it for guidance, encouragement, and simply interacting with God. If every little stroke is inspired then I can pick it apart and study every detail to the smallest degree and discover more and more of God’s message to humanity. It also gives me a standard by which to measure everything. If it were not inspired. . . .gosh, the world would be even more messed up than it already is.
(Info from “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns, pg 162-166)