Archives For Leadership

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” ~ John 6:29

The number one job of a follower of Christ is to believe in Jesus. This belief is not merely an intellectual assent to the reality of Christ, nor is it a dogmatic checklist of doctrinal truths that set you securely in the “right” religious camp. Believing in Jesus isn’t really even about being right in all our doctrines; it’s about being right in our hearts, and those are very different things.

(If that statement sounds heretical to you, consider: Did any of the original disciples have all their doctrine right about God? Was a doctrinal test the measure by which Jesus admitted the thief on the cross into paradise? Did he give a doctrinal exam to the woman at the well, or the lepers he healed, or Zacchaeus, or to any of the disciples before he called them to himself? Has any generation of the Church since the first one been correct in all of their doctrine? Even a cursory look through history shows us that every generation of the Church has missed or even perverted some key element of the truth of God and of Jesus. If right doctrine really were the criteria for being right with God, then no one in the history of the world would make it into heaven save Christ himself.)

The word “believe” in the original Greek goes beyond how we think of Jesus in the abstract. When it comes to the work of faith, what really matters is how much and to what degree we actively trust in him, and entrust our lives to him. In real belief, Jesus is not merely a consultant for our lives, not merely a helper, not merely a comforter, not merely a guide. He is our life. He becomes the air we depend on to live moment to moment, the ground beneath our feet that holds up our very existence.

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ~ Rick Warren

Not too many days from now, billions of people around the world will gather with their families to celebrate the holidays. Even in the most ordinary of years, these gatherings can be stressful. In most families, not every member sees the world in the same way. Not everyone agrees on what’s to be done about the common challenges we face. Not everyone likes the leaders we’ve had or have now, or the decisions they’ve made, or plan to make.

In a year like the one we’ve just experienced, these tensions of difference are running particularly high for just about all of us. You’ve probably already wondered just how volatile things might get around the holiday table this year. Even in the calmest of families, the likelihood that somebody will say something that sets somebody else off are considerably higher than they may have been in previous years.

If this past election cycle has shown us anything, it’s that we need a better way of talking with each other. Attacking, judging, shaming, yelling, condescending, hating, breaking off relationship…these approaches may feel justified in the moment, but they’re very unlikely to produce any sort of lasting solution that honors us all.

Thankfully, there is an alternative approach. It’s called “Civil Conversation,” and it’s a skilled way of talking and listening that every one of us needs to learn for the sake of the common challenges we share and must find a way to resolve together.

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SuzannMollnerThis week I’m happy to welcome my friend Suzann Moller to the blog. Suzann is the founder of Beirut & Beyond, a faith-based organization focused on bringing relief, reconciliation and relationship to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Suzann has worked with vulnerable populations around the world, including Africa, Europe, Thailand, the Middle East and the US. She has served people living with AIDs, the homeless, refugees, orphans and others marginalized by society. Her passion as a Christian is to be with those the world overlooks and to extend love, peace, mercy and justice to those very people in impossible situations. She’s one of my heroes, and is currently in need of more people like me to join her team. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them.

I was lying in the bed the other night – OK, 3AM to be precise – with my mind racing. I was trying to put together a plan while I waited for bad news or not as bad news. I thought of an incredible blog post (I do my best creative thinking in the middle of the night) only to wake up a few hours later with the realization that what I thought was so brilliant was utter nonsense. My mind was just too cluttered.

The next day at the gym while on the cross-trainer, I found myself coming up with Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C. All in sequence: if this happens, then this new plan needs to happen; if that doesn’t happen, then this needs to happen. Can you sense my inner chaos? All because I was stuck in an “unknown situation.” Not having certainty, not having a plan, being in limbo, is the absolute worst for me.

Earlier that week, I was told I need surgery, probably sooner rather than later. That in itself is bad news. I had plans to go back the Middle East this fall, not only for my work plans, but because that beautiful, chaotic, complicated place is where my soul flourishes. When I am there, I feel like I am living out who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to do with my life. I also was told I needed to get a MRI to rule out cancer. Mother flippin’ cancer. I have been diagnosed with cancer twice, thyroid cancer. Now, thyroid cancer is treatable; it’s not going to kill me but it does disrupt my life. It’s a severe nuisance and it alters my plans. And as you can tell I LOVE my plans! Dang it now!

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guy-baptismprayer

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” ~ Tuli Kupferberg

Here’s something I hear quite often in my coaching sessions: “I’m just waiting on God to reveal His will to me. I’m willing to do whatever He wants; I just need Him to show me. I don’t understand why He’s waiting so long to tell me what He wants me to do. Maybe I’m just not listening hard enough? Or maybe there’s some lesson for me in His silence? Why isn’t God telling me what He wants?”

Now, let me say up front this kind of situation has some nuance to it. It’s certainly commendable that you want to know God’s will. It’s even more commendable that you are willing to surrender yourself to His direction ~ what Ruth Haley Barton calls the “Prayer of Indifference”. So I’m not saying either of those dispositions of the heart are wrong or undesirable. Far from it! They are awesome.

But for many who pray this sort of “just tell me what to do” prayer, there is something false about it. Something escapist. Something that pretends holiness, but in truth just wants to avoid the responsibility of making a decision. It’s like the young man of 25 years who begs his parents to tell him what career he should choose. He’s not a child anymore. Such a decision is no longer his parents’ to make. Yet he wonders in exasperation why they won’t reveal to him their will for his life.

Somehow we’ve lost touch with this basic truth: the life of faith is inherently developmental. We grow and mature over time ~ at least we’re supposed to ~ and as we do, our relationship with God must grow and mature too. This is God’s will for everyone. His nature is developmental. He is always about the business of growing us up.

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faith-politics

“Love is the only aspiration big enough for the immensity of human community and challenge in the 21st Century.” ~ Krista Tippett

When I look at the way we do politics in the U.S., and in particular the way my fellow Christians and I engage with it, I can’t help but wonder what Jesus thinks about it all. I wonder how each of our words and actions in the political arena affect him. If he were given the stage at one of our televised debates, I wonder what he would say to his followers about this current election, about the candidates, and about the way we’re all handling it.

That is, if he’d say anything at all. I mean, Jesus’ life in the flesh happened under the tyranny of Roman rule. Israel was an occupied nation, and it would be ludicrous to think that Jesus didn’t witness blatant acts of injustice against his countrymen on a regular basis. He most certainly experienced oppression himself. It was the Roman overlords, after all, who ultimately killed him.

Despite all this, in the years of his public life, Jesus seemed to go out of his way to avoid talking about his Roman oppressors. His message was stubbornly non-political. In some ways, this must have seemed ridiculous to a lot of people living back then, or at the very least naïve. How could you speak out in favor of the Kingdom of God, and not speak out against the Kingdom of Rome? Yet when people spoke of their disdain for Roman oppression, Jesus spoke of loving your enemies (Matthew 5:38-48). When the religious leaders of the day tried to make Jesus take sides in the political debate, he rebuked them and refused to be pinned down (Matthew 22:15-22).

Maybe he thought getting into politics would only cloud and confuse his primary mission. Or maybe he saw that the message of hope he had come to share was for the Romans too.

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SILVER & LIGHT from Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.

“Life grants us a series of opportunities, and those opportunities come with a price.” ~ Ian Ruhter

So here’s the first thing to finding your purpose: You have to discover what you love. This can take a long time, or can happen in a single day. But you have to put your heart out there and let something take it. You have to experience things. You have to let yourself be vulnerable to life. What will break your heart? What will set it on fire? What will make it soar? To know these things, you have to let life happen to you. As you do, ask yourself, always be asking yourself, “What do I love? What do I want to give my love to? What do I want to give my life for?”

“What do I love? What do I want to give my love to? What do I want to give my life for?”

Once you know the answer to this, the next thing is to give yourself over to it. There is a threshold, a point of no return for every passion. Until you go all in, you are just dabbling. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling. Just be clear with yourself about the fact you’re doing it. Ask yourself: “If this really is something I truly love, what am I willing to sacrifice for it?”

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guy-overlookingglory

“Beauty is not a luxury.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

There’s just so much beauty. It’s everywhere. There’s so much, it hurts. If you look at it for too long, your heart will break. It will break wide open like the husk on a grain of wheat, and you’ll be utterly undone.

Maybe that’s what we’re all here to do. Train our eyes to see the beauty, then let it break our hearts. Maybe that’s the way the whole world gets healed.

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