Posts tagged Christian maturity

Squared off to Bunt (part six)

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The Christian life, your Christian life, is to be lived “all in”.

54 Babe RuthAll of you all the way IN the life God set up for you.

What if the challenges, perplexities, opportunities and disappointments your life presents have been orchestrated for you to take Christ into? [Romans 8:28-31]

When you know God is with you, you can always be “all in”.

This morning I read Acts 15. It opens with a dispute erupting in the fledgling church about whether Gentile Christians must keep the Mosaic Law to be saved. Paul and Barnabas throw themselves into the center of the dispute, arguing unsuccessfully, on the side of freedom; freedom procured by Christ.

Unwilling to collapse on their convictions and unable to win the war of words in Antioch, they travel three hundred miles – more than ten days on foot – to Jerusalem.  There, they convene a council of the most notable Christian leaders, and dig into the details of the dispute until they all get clear. Peter speaks. Paul and Barnabas contribute much, and James makes a ruling. The conclusion is put to writing that Paul and Barnabas carry back to Antioch. On their arrival they convene a meeting of the believers, deliver the Jerusalem council’s determination, and remain there ministering to the saints.

Barnabas and Paul live all-in.

54 debateTroubled by the posture of the legalists, they weigh in—passionately. When they fail to persuade the pharisaical believers, they don’t go ‘passive aggressive’ like most church people. They don’t just shrug their shoulders and hope things work themselves out. And they don’t wait for someone else to act.

They sacrifice their comfort, time, and reputation. In Jerusalem, ‘though they’re not in charge, they give themselves until the issue gets resolved. Then—rather than take several personal days to recover from the strain of the ordeal— they step up to deliver the response to the Syrian believers.

They are all-in.

Later in this chapter, Paul and Barnabas have it out over whether John Mark should accompany them ministering to the churches in Turkey and Syria. Instead of ‘giving in to get along’ or ‘playing nice’, they have a full-blown argument in front of everyone.

There’s no back room deal to “spin” the story, to clean it up, to whitewash the mess.

They’re all-in in their breakdown, as in their ministry collaboration.

They hit big or miss big.

You?

Coaching distinctions #54.doc

Squared off to Bunt (part two)

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This is the 50th blog entry on distinctions I often make in coaching. For close to a decade, it’s been my privilege to coach pastors, primarily. Invariably, our conversations center on leadership. And, because of the inseparable link between the two: on character.

Pastors who lead well do so because of who they are.

Who you are—especially in the midst of crisis and difficulty—is a product of the way you’ve trained yourself all your life long. In times of calm and storm, you are training yourself for the challenges you can’t yet see. Those that await in the future.

Christian Leaders who’ve been given great responsibility have developed the capacity to rely on God in their own crises, and to stand with others in theirs. The more faithful they are, the greater the tests.

50 WorkoutHave you noticed?

A pastor marveled at the intense off-season regimen of an NFL player who trains at his gym. “Do you need all that muscle development to play your position in football?” he asked in disbelief. “No. I need it to survive the physical beating I take every Sunday.” Every day, he strengthens muscle fibers in anticipation of the opposition his body will encounter.

In Squared Off to Bunt, I invite you—as I do my coaching clients—to consider the posture of your life.

50 CabreraWhether the challenges you now face are intense or mild, are you training yourself to take big, commanding cuts at the ball?

Or, are you crouched to bunt?

  • How clear are you about where God has you leading your congregation?
  • How compelling is the vision you’re calling your people to?
  • How great is the sacrifice you challenge your members to, as apprentices of Jesus?
  • How bold is your trust in Christ for the miraculous in your ministry?
  • How desperately do you cry out for the power of God’s Kingdom to break in on your city?
  • How diligently are you training yourself to recognize the voice of God, then unflinchingly obey?

Should the political and cultural opposition to Biblical Christianity continue to strengthen, we may find ourselves ministering in a far more challenging climate.

In Lystra, as Paul is preaching Christ a mob stones him, drags his body outside the city, and leaves him for dead. Believers gather around, he rises up, and goes right back into Lystra.

Why?

Paul is “…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” [Acts 14:22]

Who lives like that?

Someone who’s not postured to bunt.

 

Coaching distinctions #50.doc

Which Will? (part four)

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In I and Thou Martin Buber writes of the freedom each of us has to pursue our destiny.

If you’re paying attention, the longer you live the better you understand the unique contribution you are. I say, “if you’re paying attention” because God is communicating. Those endeavors where you’ve had success, failure, frustration, satisfaction, the aspirations that ignite your passion, the injustices that make your blood boil, the people you’re drawn to, and those you find repellant. All these point to the unique ways you get to contribute to advance God’s agenda.

God’s agenda?

Jesus did it pretty well.  “He did good and healed all who were oppressed…”.

So, do good.

Just start there. Do good, lots and lots of good. If you’re not sure what constitutes “good”, avoid the fringes and lock-in to what almost every moral person will agree is good.

45 homerIn the war between your great will and little will, how do you determine which wins?

The one you feed.

So, feed your great will.  Give yourself permission to dream. Big, huge, God-honoring dreams.

Imagine that your life’s been set up. That God’s been preparing you to impact people in clearly beneficial ways. Consider this: you live where you do, have the occupation you’re in, and are connected to the people you are because God set it up this way. It’s all been set up for you to bring good to. Your unique brand of good.

45 mandelaEphesians 2:10 calls them “good works”.  You are God’s masterpiece, God’s “poema”, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared in advance for you. For this to be true, it’s not just the “works” that’ve been prepared.

You have, too.

All your life, God’s been shaping, crafting, honing, and refining the masterpiece God calls ‘you’. And, God’s placed you in a setting that needs the good you bring.

Watch some people and you might think God’s done all this just so they can be enslaved by their puny, obnoxious, comfort-obsessed, self-serving ‘little will’.

Uh, NO!

So, let’s experiment. For the next month, live as if you’ve been prepared to bring good to those within reach. Try “doing good and healing all who are oppressed…”

Drop the lawsuit.

Do good.

Quit stonewalling your mom.

Do good.

Forgive the jerk who betrayed you.

Do good.

Spend a couple hours with that lonely person you barely know.

45 goodDo good.

Help somebody.

Do good.

Offer to pray for the next sick person you see… and five more after that.

Do good.

Get a freakin’ job and quit filching off your family members.

Do good.

Stop feeding your ‘little will’ and its insatiable entitlements.

Then, in a month, decide if you want to ‘re-up’.

I bet you will.

Coaching distinctions #45.doc

Which Will? (part three)

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We’re examining destiny. You have one. Waiting for you. As Buber says, you must pursue it with your whole being, not knowing where it waits. You have a ‘great will’ that wants to live a noble, heroic, God-honoring, and history-impacting life.

44 looking goodAnd, you have a ‘little will’ that above all desires to:

Look good. 

Feel good. 

Be right. 

Be in control.

These motivations I callThe Formidable Four”.

They show up everywhere.

They undermine a pastors’ resolve to lead clearly, consistently, and courageously. They invite congregations to focus inwardly, even while the community—where they’ve been placed as God’s provision—drifts further from Christ. They motivate elders to gesture at change rather than do the hard work of maturing disciples who bear fruit as a way of life.

In my life, the “little will” dissuades me from initiating conversations about financial support for the ministry to which I’m called. It presses me to downplay the urgency to enroll pastors in new reFocusing Networks, when my momentum begins to wane. It cautions me to play safe in coaching, rather than offend a client by illuminating a character flaw that is undercutting her leadership.  And after an unusually intense week (like last week), it tempts me to blow off writing this blog! 

Buber’s ‘great will’ and ‘little will’ wrestle within us.

Save or spend.

Walk or take the car.

Stand up for what you know is right or compromise to keep peace.

Pander to the preferences of your congregation or lead them to serve others selflessly.

Develop the character of around you or settle for being liked.

We see the conflict between great and little will played out in US politics.

44 rhetoricWhile campaigning, candidates’ towering rhetoric calls to our ‘great will’.

It extols the virtue of selflessness, challenging us to forfeit our petty comforts in the short run to establish or protect or defend something noble and honorable and necessary and good for the generations that follow. It speaks of great accomplishments and great sacrifice and uniting for the benefit of the nation.

Then, post-election, the ‘little will’ takes over.

Its priority is whatever will please the most people now. Minimize pain, discomfort, and anxiety immediately—no matter how it infantilizes the population, rips apart our social fabric, and devastates those who’ll inherit the mess.

This blog is not about politics.

It’s about you.

Which will wins?

Coaching distinctions #44.doc

The Meaning we Make Up (part six)

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In Philippians chapter three, Paul’s listing his credentials from “circumcised the eighth day” to his meticulous adherence to Jewish Law. He then says: the things that “were gain to me, I now consider loss for Christ… I consider them garbage…” Paul illustrates the meaning we make up.

Just like ours, Paul’s culture attached meaning to his accomplishments.  Yet, transformed by his encounter with Christ, his fellowship with the saints, and the Spirit’s work on his heart, Paul gave it a counter-cultural meaning.

“Garbage.”

When Jesus Christ takes over a life, he often wrecks it. 

He works to wreck our petty fetishes which  Hebrews 12:1 calls “sins that so easily beset”.

Jesus works to wreck our insolent immaturity.

The veneers we’ve labored to erect.

Our commitments to self-sufficiency.

Self-centeredness.

And selfishness.

So, if you’re life’s being thrashed from sources unknown, look to see if it is the Lord’s loving work: working to undo your independence from him… independence God knows will destroy you in the end.

In the spiritual mushiness of today’s Christian culture, such opposition is held to suggest that God has failed you.  Just the opposite is true.

God chastens those he loves. [Heb 12:6]  Political correctness would have us view such texts with derision. As archaic. Practically prehistoric.  Anchored in a middle-eastern culture too far from the sophisticated sensibilities of our day.

There is a place to assign meaning to life experiences, when, like Paul, we anchor that meaning in scripture, fully informed by Jesus’ life and teaching.  As you and I grow in Christ-likeness, we’ll interpret more and more of life the way he did. Counter-culturally.

That’s how Paul was able to reinterpret his history. Paul was God’s provision for a deeply religious culture that was so proud of itself.  His life, up to Damascus Road [Acts 9] was everything they admired. And, Paul’s life thereafter was just what they’d need to counter the meanings of their cultural predilections.

Consider the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a litany of counter-cultural meanings that Jesus assigns, beginning with poverty of spirit [Mt 5:3] and ending with what an authentic disciple is. [Mt 7:23]

Take a month and only read the red type in your Bible. Let Jesus’ own words soak into you. Allow them to challenge the meanings you’ve been assigning all over your life.

Would you?

Coaching Distinctions #27

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