Posts tagged will

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 five)

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You don’t hear much about one’s will in preaching these days.  There’s plenty about God’s love, God’s mercy, and how God thinks each of us is so very wonderful. There’s lots about our allowing God to do this or that— be the center, be in charge, be on the throne, take my life, let it be this or that for Thee.

46 waitingListening to all of this, it’s easy to get the idea that the Christian life is lived passively. The inference is that you just sit and wait, yielded and surrendered until God decides to act upon your life … then suddenly, you do great things for God.

In my observation, people pretty much do what they’ve trained themselves to do. If you’ve trained yourself to live your faith passively, you’re not likely to spring into action when God makes an opening that requires fast obedience and involves risk.

When we sing “Lord take my life and let it be fully pleasing unto thee” I imagine God asking us: “Well, what do you want?

Do you want your life to please God?

Then, tell your boyfriend you’ll sleep with him when he marries you. Not again ‘till then.

Insist that your employer pays you “above the table”.

Gather some friends and help someone who’s needy.  Keep doing it until they ask you why.

Each is an action.

It requires your will to do it.

To drift through the years, living an indistinctive life also takes your will. The will to live like everyone else.

Your friends.

Your comfort.

Your routine.

Your stuff is paramount.

All this, Martin Buber calls our “little will”. He says it’s “ruled by things and drives”. Like our emotions and preferences. The little will never accomplishes anything great.

46 sandAnd, in the US in this hour, so pitifully little seems to be getting done that honors Christ and blesses those outside the Church, that we’d be wise to engage our “great wills” and get after it.

If not, I fear Christianity could be within a few decades of extinction.

Recently I heard an interview with the founder of a Freedom from Religion group. Their purpose is to educate the United States in “nontheism” –ridding society of all worship. 46 GodlessHe relished the amazing progress of their cause in the US and points to Scandinavia where he said fewer than 4% have any religious faith.

A secular utopia.

You can bet this man’s will is fully engaged in its pursuit.

Where’s yours?

Coaching distinctions #46.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

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