Category: Jesus (Page 1 of 55)

Spiritual Leadership

When a church is selecting its leaders, it needs to look for spiritual leadership, not worldly leadership. The difference between the two is huge. It’s leading by sacrifice and service instead of by authority and power. It’s paramount. If we’re following the example of our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, this is a non-negotiable.

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” ~John 8:28

Jesus says, in other words, “When you see my dying, when you watch me willingly give up my life for others, you’ll know I am the promised Messiah, the Good Shepherd.” Jesus is always completely surrendered to God’s will. He is doing God’s will in God’s ways. The proof of that is in his willingness to humble himself, to make himself the least important person in the room. To die.

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” ~John 4:34

My food, my passion, the thing that sustains me, the thing that motivates me, what keeps me going, my everything – is to do God’s work in God’s ways. My Father sets my agenda and he alone determines how I conduct my ministry: with sacrifice and service and submission. That’s how a shepherd leads. Never by power. Never by authority. It’s spiritual, not worldly.

The mother of James and John tells Jesus to ordain them as rulers next to Jesus in the coming Kingdom. He asks if they can pay the price. She says they can. He knows they can’t. The other disciples are indignant. So Jesus gathers all twelve together and gives them a lesson in the differences between spiritual leadership and worldly leadership.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (nations) lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life.” ~Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus is talking about government leaders and business boards and military commanders. The way they lead is not the way we lead. Good shepherds lead from the back of the line, never the front. They lead by washing feet and dying, never by dictating and demanding. No chain of command, no hierarchy, no flow charts. The biblical model of Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, turns all that upside down. It’s the exact opposite of the way the world leads.

We mess this up in the church sometimes when we select worldly leaders as our spiritual leaders. It doesn’t work. Our culture tells us to choose successful men which means men who make a lot of money and dress nicely and drive expensive cars and live in massive houses, men who are leaders in the community, influencers in politics, and members of the board. Don’t do it. That’s exactly the opposite of spiritual leadership.

Peace,

Allan

 

Yeast and Flour and New Creation

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like…” And those listening to him thought, “Kingdom of God! Yes! Power! Force! Strength! Numbers! Asserting our rights! Finally getting our way!”

Jesus says, “No, the Kingdom of God is like a little old lady who mixes a little bit of yeast into some flour until the yeast has worked all through the dough.”

It’s not about taking something little and making it big. It’s not about mixing the two things equally together. It’s about taking the qualities of the yeast and encrypting them into the flour until the whole thing is changed. The whole thing becomes something brand new. New creation.

A little bit at a time. An act of grace here. An act of mercy there. Forgiveness in this situation. Sacrificial love in that circumstance. Service. Justice. Generosity. Subversive acts that disrupt and reverse the world around us until the world around us has completely changed. Until it’s totally different. That’s the Kingdom of God.

Peace,

Allan

No Solo Missions

Our God is on a mission to save the world. But he has no interest in doing it by himself. God doesn’t do solo missions. He’s not interested in that.

When God decides to tell us how he’s going to restore the world, how he’s going to fix the problem of sin and death, he lets us know clearly that we’re in on it with him. He’s not going to do it alone. He recruits Abraham to join him. “Go to the place I will show you. All the peoples of earth will be blessed through you.”

God calls Moses. “I have come down,” he says, “to rescue my people. But I am sending you to do it.”

God calls Joshua. “I am giving this promised land to the people. But you’re going to lead them and do all the fighting.”

God saves his people Israel out of exile, not for their own sakes, but for the purposes of participating in his global mission:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles (nations), that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ~Isaiah 49:6

Then God decides to show us in person exactly what he’s doing and how he wants it done by coming here in the flesh and blood of Jesus, so we can see it and understand it. Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Well, what do we see in Jesus? He calls the apostles and recruits the disciples to partner with him in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. They pray together, “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And that’s exactly what happens.

Jesus heals the sick because there’s no disease in heaven. He feeds the poor because there’s no hunger in heaven. Jesus raises the dead because there are no cemeteries in heaven. He turns the other cheek because there is no violence in heaven. He eats and drinks with everybody because there are no divisions between people in heaven. That’s the mission. And our God is not doing it solo. On that last night, Christ Jesus sends his disciples out.

“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do the same things I’ve been doing. In fact, you’ll do even greater things because I will live inside you.”¬†

“Remember, you didn’t choose me; I chose you!”

Every one of us is on God’s mission. None of us is exempt. According to Matthew 25, Jesus says on that last day the King is going to judge us according to who was on the mission and who wasn’t. Our God is on a mission to bring the fullness of his eternal Kingdom to this earth. And he refuses to do it by himself.

Peace,

Allan

God’s Love Revealed

“Loving thoughts never revealed are not loving thoughts at all. It is essential to the being of love that it manifests itself. Love unrevealed is love unreal.”¬† ~ Dr. A. B. Bruce.

When we look at this broken world with all its pain and suffering, when we are experiencing that pain and suffering ourselves, it’s tempting to sometimes doubt the love of God. Where is God when I lose my job? Where is the love of God when my child dies? How can God love me when my parents abuse me? It doesn’t feel like God loves me when my own husband is divorcing me. How can God love me when I am so full of sin? I’m dying of cancer and sometimes the love of God just feels like a meaningless song or an empty Bible verse.

That’s why God gave us his Son. Jesus came to this earth and, in essence, said, “I am God.” Look at me. When you see me, you see the Father. The Father and I are one. When you know me, you know the Father. Jesus reveals God. Jesus allows us to see God and experience God. His compassion shows us God’s compassion. His gentleness shows us God’s gentleness. His mercy shows us God’s mercy. Jesus’ forgiveness reveals to us God’s forgiveness. And his sacrificial death on the cross shows us very clearly the depth of our God’s abounding love.

You can stand beside your husband’s casket and doubt the love of God. You can doubt the love of God in the cancer ward or in the unemployment line. But you cannot doubt God’s love when you kneel at the foot of the cross.

God loves you. His abundant love for you motivates everything. There’s nothing our God does that is not compelled by his deep love for you. There’s nothing he allows to happen to you that is not driven by his desire to be in relationship with you today and to live with you for ever.

Peace,

Allan

Made Himself Nothing

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” ~ Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus did not consider his equality with God something to be used for his own benefit. Jesus saw his position and power as a way to serve others. A way to serve all. He became a servant. The Greek word in the text is actually “slave.” Deprived of the most basic human rights. No rights. No freedom. No choice. No voice. He gave up all that for the sake of others. In his own words, Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.

Our Lord never exercised his rights. He never asserted his rights.

This is so important for us to consider. As citizens of the United States of America coming off a three-day weekend celebrating the country’s independence, we should reflect on our priorities as they fall into line behind those of our Lord.

Jesus never fought for or defended his rights. He never lobbied for his rights or complained about his rights. He didn’t worry about losing his rights or step forward to keep his rights.

Christ Jesus, our King, gave up his rights. All his rights. He denied his rights.

And he invites us to do the same. He invites us to imitate him.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34

Jesus left everything. He considered the glory he shared with the Father in heaven nothing. He came here to suffer, to be deserted by his family and friends, to be tortured and executed  like a criminal for people like you and me. For all people.

And he didn’t have to. Jesus had the authority. He had the power. The armies of heaven were at his disposal. He had ten thousand angels on speed dial. Jesus and his followers could have marched to Rome in the morning, overthrown the government that afternoon, hang Caesar from the highest tree and still been home in time for dinner. Jesus could have given each of his apostles his own country and they could have run the government the way it needs to be run. But, instead, he gave up his rights and died. He gave himself up.

And he summons us to do the same.

Peace,

Allan

He Did Everything

Palm Sunday begins with so much glory and promise. At last, God’s anointed has come! There’s shouting and singing and celebration and anticipation. Jesus has come to save us! He’s come to defeat the evil oppressors and to destroy the enemy! We’re in those swelling crowds around Jesus, following Jesus, praising Jesus, putting all our hopes for salvation in Jesus. And Jesus rides that donkey right into Jerusalem, through the Eastern gates, into the holy city, right into the heart of the temple precinct, and he does…

…nothing.

Nothing. Jesus doesn’t do anything.

“Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” ~Mark 11:11

Jesus doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t lead the crowd against the Roman garrison, he doesn’t physically confront the powers and authorities that are oppressing the people, he doesn’t even take the temple steps to make a stirring speech. He looks around for a little bit and then goes back to Bethany for dinner.

What a disappointment. What a letdown. What kind of Messiah is this? What sort of Savior?

I know sometimes it can feel like Jesus is doing nothing. And somebody has to do something! Jesus can’t just look around at everything, he can’t just look at my life and my struggles and my problems and just shrug his shoulders and go back to Bethany. He has to do something!

Jesus did do something. Jesus did something to finally and completely and ultimately destroy the effects of sin and death in your life and throughout the whole world forever. Jesus resolutely set his face toward Golgotha and walked to the cross. He died. On a cross. On purpose.

He allowed himself to be beaten and tortured. He allowed them to nail his hands and feet to the blood-soaked wood of that cross. He died willingly. He sacrificed himself. He could have called ten thousand angels. But he died alone. For you. For me. That’s what Jesus did. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This is how he saves you. This is how he loves you, to the point of absurdity. He loves you all the way to the cross. Purposefully, willfully, stubbornly even, dying on a cross.

Peace,

Allan

 

« Older posts