Category Archives: Bible

Why Greatness?

We are in the midst of the 2012 Olympics from London.  I love watching the Olympics.  The athletes and their feats are amazing and inspiring.  And every time these hallowed games roll around there is always the media discussion of greatness.  The chatter yesterday and today revolves around this question, “Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time?”

What is greatness?  Merriam-Webster defines “greatness” by using other words such as largeness in size, remarkable in magnitude, and remarkable in skill.  There is no doubt that the exploits of athletes like Phelps and others competing in these games do appear larger than life.  Their skills are certainly remarkable in their magnitude.  I actually think there is something in all of us that longs for greatness.  As created beings we carry some of the attributes of our Creator.  Our longing for greatness is a reflection of his very nature.  But our longings are flawed.  They are flawed by our own inherent selfishness in search of significance.    So what is greatness really about?  Why should we ever seek to be great?

I believe the Bible speaks to this in a profound way.  There are many places in Scripture where we could find an answer, but I will highlight one verse that shows up early in the Biblical narrative.  Genesis 12 is about God choosing a man to enact His redemptive plan for the nations.  God had created mankind in Genesis 1 and 2 to be image bearers of His glory and stewards of His perfect creation.  But in Genesis 3 mankind chose a different course.  Sin entered the world and all of creation suffered the consequences.  The rest of the Bible is about God chasing relentlessly after people to draw them back into relationship with Himself.  In Genesis 12 Abram is given a covenant promise by God that he will somehow be used to enact this pursuit.  In the midst of this promise God also states that He will make Abram’s name great!  And that promise has come to pass.  Abraham (his name was changed by God later in Genesis) is revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  Abraham’s name became large.  It became remarkable.  Abraham’s story lasts from Genesis 12-25 and is referenced in many more places within the biblical storyline.  But when God promised to make Abraham’s name great He also stated why He would make it great.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

Do you see the “so that?”  That is a purpose statement.  The purpose of Abraham’s greatness is blessing.  He was to be a blessing to others.  Can I suggest that this is the same purpose for all greatness?  All greatness under God’s economy is for the purpose of blessing others.

When anyone acquires greatness it can only proceed in one of two directions.  Either it will move toward self aggrandizement or it will move toward selfless blessing of others.  Even secular people get this at times.  They recognize that their greatness is a “blessing” in some way and they turn it toward the benefit of others.

Ultimately, the way in which Abraham was to be a blessing was in the heritage of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ we see God’s redemptive plan in fullness.  In Christ we have the ultimate blessing because He is the only sufficient sacrifice to correct our inherent selfishness.  For the Christ follower, greatness poured out in blessing to others should rightly point others to the ultimate blessing-Christ Himself.

Leader-do you aspire to greatness?  Why?  May what ever greatness you achieve be poured out in blessing to all within your sphere of influence.  Lead well!

What’s Necessary to be King

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 outlines for the nation of Israel some necessary qualifiers for a king to reign over them.  This book of the Bible supplied a restatement of the Law for the people of Israel as they prepared to enter the promised land of Canaan.  Deuteronomy exhorts the people of Israel to obey the Law, to give allegiance to God alone, and to remember that repentance can restore them to the land and to relationship with God-if lost.  This particular passage foresees a time when Israel will demand a king to be like the nations around her.

There are two primary concerns for any king of Israel:  that his heart not turn away from serving Yahweh and that his heart might not be lifted up above those whom he leads.  In summary, the concerns are for an unconsecrated heart and a proud heart.  These should be our deep concerns too as we lead.

What is crucial here is to think with a Hebrew understanding of the word “heart.” We relegate this concept to mere emotions.  The Hebrew understanding of the “heart” is more holistic.  It includes the mind, will and emotions.  The heart is our governing center-it is that part of us that chooses all day, every day-either for good or for bad.

v.17 states, And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.  Let’s be honest, these are two things that men are always susceptible to-the love of women and the love of money.  But women leaders can struggle likewise.  A preoccupation with money or material things and men can also turn their hearts away from a single minded focus. These pursuits have great potential to turn any heart away from a pure devotion to God. King Solomon may be the greatest biblical example of this (see 1 Kings 11:1-3).  An unconsecrated heart becomes an independent heart.  Even the exhortation to not seek many horses (v. 16) was meant to sustain a pure national identity and a holy dependence on God alone.  To say it conversely, a consecrated heart is one in full dependence upon the Lord.

v.18-19 exhort the king to keep a copy of God’s Law close by and to read it all the days of his life.  This was to keep him with a right reverence for God and that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.  The writer ties not only a humble spirit to the constant reading of God’s Word, but also leadership longevity.

You see, for the Christ-centered leader, if our hearts become unconsecrated-if our hearts turn away from a determined pursuit of God and His kingdom-then we risk the same fate as Solomon-a broken and divided kingdom.  If our hearts become proud then we become only self interested.  We are no longer in a good position to serve those we are meant to lead.  We will serve ourselves. And our leadership lives will be cut short.

Consecration and humility-these were necessary requirements for he who would be king in Israel.  These are also worthy heart pursuits maintained by the grace of the gospel for any spiritual leader today.

5 for Leadership

After a week of vacation, here is a fresh 5.

12 Bible Verses for Leaders  Ron Edmondson provides twelve verses from Scripture that are foundational for biblical leadership.  These are certainly worthy of consideration.  Also check out Ron’s current five part video series on his blog as he interviews Dr. John Laida, who was Ron’s pastor growing up.

3 Leadership Lessons From Queen Elizabeth II  Scott Eblin writes a nice piece on the “footprint” of a leader and uses the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the UK as an example that how one leads really matters.

The Top 10 Reasons People Have Lost “The Art of Vacation”  This seemed timely.  My family and I just returned from 9 days of vacation and enjoyed every bit of it-yet I did notice it was truly hard to unplug.  This post is from Chris Brady which highlights aspects of his upcoming book, A Month of Italy.  This is a very good list and worth pondering.  As leaders there has to be down time.  Take a look.

How Do I Lead A Team?  This post comes from the Talent Technologies web site and highlights five useful expectations of team members from their leaders.  These principles are foundational to a good team experience.

All Hail The Generalist  This is a great piece out of the Harvard Business Review blog and makes a great case for why the era of the generalist may be returning.  Vikram Mansharanami writes that the need for generalists who can see the interconnectedness of many things may be the leader of the future.

There are the 5 for this second week in June.  Lead well!

A Few Underpinnings for Theological Discussion

I have to admit-I am bothered by some of the theological discussions that are being played out today in books and blogs.  There is a need for truth.  There is a need for charity.  There is also a need for some underpinnings to provide a foundation.

I currently live in a country that has the trappings of religion all around it but little in the way of true, vibrant spiritual life.  Hardly anyone here would deny there is a god, but few honor Christ as king and see Him as beautiful.  My city is renowned for its Renaissance art, most of which depicts biblical scenes-especially Jesus. I have wondered many times what happened.  Where did the spiritual life go? How did the God of the universe become a byword?  What is to prevent another generation from doing the same thing?  I have my opinions and theories. Here are a few personal spiritual affirmations that might help.  In my current cultural setting the church and its people got some of the things below confused. At times I wonder if we, the modern evangelical church, are in danger of doing the same?  I offer these humbly for your consideration.

Be sure that the Word of God always stands over you and your church-not the other way around.

Don’t amplify one of God’s attributes over the others-worship Him in His totality.

We are all prone to let our life experiences altar and effect our view of God-allow God and His character to interpret your life experiences.

Don’t let logic be your ruling guide for understanding everything in the Bible-you are not that smart and He is not that simple.

Don’t let understanding be your only quest in studying the Bible-if you could fully and completely understand God you don’t need Him.

Stand on the shoulders of historical exegesis-you are probably not the first to think of your “new idea” about God.

We can and should allow our current cultural context to influence how we share the gospel-but don’t change it’s message.  You will only mute the gospel.

Stand in awe of the Creator in all of His mystery and beauty-don’t try and put Him on the operating table.

Be respectful of those that are older than you and have walked with God longer than you.  Time and life experience have a way of maturing your “sure” knowledge of God.

Give thanks for every gift and ability you have and for everything you don’t.  This will help to keep you humble and humility may be your greatest theological trait.

The Assurance of the Word of God

Today I learned that a good friend back in Texas has inoperable brain cancer. He is married and has a family. This couple is a stellar example of one who loves God, lives with great integrity and has their eyes set on the Kingdom. I am kind of emotionally numb right now in light of this news. This kind of news always has a double impact on me-sadness and disbelief for the ones going through it-and a renewed sense of reality about my own frailty.

I found out this news by way of email-an email requesting prayer and believing God for healing. The wife quoted a verse in the Bible that God was using to give her hope and comfort-it was Psalm 27:13. This was bedrock for her-it was the absolute knowledge that there is a God and He is able to do whatever He pleases-and He is good. I was reminded in a fresh way that the Word of God is what provides true perspective-it is alive-it truly does instruct, reprove, correct and train-it changes us. No other book can do what it does. It becomes our compass in the fog and points us to Christ!

Seek Me and Live

More from the book of Amos. Yahweh, speaking through the prophet, commands Israel to “Seek me and live.” Israel was guilty of idolatry and social injustice. They had been seeking their own comforts-not apart from religion-but apart from the Lord. They had actually turned religion into mere tradition-religion without heart. Yahweh was calling them to repentance-and he made it clear that he would be actively involved to thwart their efforts to seek their own comfort at the expense of the needs of the less fortunate. In Amos 5:1-15 three times the command is made to “seek.” Twice the people are commanded to seek the Lord and once to seek good. The end result is the Lord himself-life-righteousness and justice.

As I studied this passage this morning the command to “seek” caught my attention. A little word study revealed that this term can mean to search out, to read or study, to inquire, to consult, to ponder, to investigate, or to beat a path to. These are rich notions of what it would mean to seek the Lord. The New Bible Commentary makes note of the fact that the call to seek Yahweh is a call to relationship and intimacy-to closeness to the God of the universe. That is an unimaginable privilege. Yet how easy it was for the Israelites to substitute intimacy with Yahweh for tradition and idolatry. Could it be any less true for us?

There is a regular seeking that must take place in the life of a believer. We are seeking creatures by nature-we will either seek Yahweh and that which is good or we will seek our own comforts and end up with that which is evil and does not lead to life. To seek our own end actually leads to injustice-subverting justice with a bribe or dismissing the seemingly unimportant and less fortunate of the world. But to seek the Lord leads to life, righteousness, justice-and compassion for the less fortunate.

Note too in v.14-15 that the seeking may precede the loving-in other words our will may have to precede our emotion. To seek good will lead to loving good-we cannot afford to wait on the emotion to act-the act will lead to the emotion.

May you and I “beat a path” to the God of the universe today-that we may live and show compassion to all whom He created.