Chosen

Standard

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,

and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed

until he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

I am the Lord, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to idols.

See, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth,

I tell you of them.

A Hymn of Praise

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise from the end of the earth!

Let the sea roar and all that fills it,

the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice,

the villages that Kedar inhabits;

let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy,

let them shout from the tops of the mountains.

Let them give glory to the Lord,

and declare his praise in the coastlands.” Isaiah 42.1-12 (NRSV)

Jesus redefined gentleness. Yes, he got angry, sometimes even violent and yet even in his moments of harshness, words were not wasted, misfired, or sent out to claim unintended casualties. His reprimands were surgical in precision – meant to cleanse and cure, not to maim or kill.

I will never forget trying to teach this gentle leadership of Jesus to a group of children about a dozen years ago. I had a mixed group of children from about age 5-15 in a small church and I decided to try to help them reenact the story of the woman caught in adultery. (Please note: this was before I met my wife who is a professional children’s minister and who would have known better than to attempt this!) We glossed over the definition of adultery rather quickly… I think I just explained it as cheating on you husband or wife. I decided to let the youngest, the 5-year old boy, play Jesus, and the oldest (another teenage boy) play the woman caught in adultery. To my surprise the young Jesus jumped up into the air, pumping his fist and exclaiming “YES! I’m going to blast you all with lightning bolts!!!” Clearly I had my work cut out for me in teaching this lesson on grace and forgiveness.

This is not to say that I’ve never thought about blasting anyone with lightnin bolts myself, or that perhaps there were times when Jesus looked up at the crowds and the clouds and maybe wondered if it would just be easier dealing with some of them that way. I don’t know everything He thought or felt. What I know is what His disciples said He did. He kept His peace, gave grace and forgiveness, and helped everyone do better the second time.

Isaiah says that as great as He was, He would not break a bruised reed or quench a dimly lit wick. The God of the universe notices those who are already weak, falling, and failing, and will not be the one to “put them out of their misery” as we sometimes say. He doesn’t “accidently” step on anyone. He doesn’t “accidently” do anything.

This makes me wonder how and why I choose my leaders. Even in places in my life where I do not get a vote (who my boss is for instance), I still have the ability to really seek out and follow anyone I choose. I could quit my job and follow someone else, or to a lesser extent, read their books, watch them on television or listen to them on podcasts or the radio. How do I choose the people I choose though? Gentleness is not a top priority. Success generally is. I have never followed the leadership of a homeless person, save one: Jesus Christ. I have never followed anyone who did not at least have a bank account, save one: Jesus Christ. I have never followed someone who did not speak English at all, save one: Jesus Christ. In retrospect, the majority of leaders in my life really have very little in common with Jesus… some of them just happen to know Him and try to follow Him. Maybe I need to rethink who I am allowing to lead in my life.

I cannot be too critical about other leaders without turning the question on myself though. Do I lead with the gentleness of Jesus? Do the bruised reeds and dimly lit wicks around me rejoice in my presence because they know they are protected under my watch? Do I offer them any strength in their struggles? Not enough… not enough.

This holiday season we remember that the gentle leadership of God brought the world to him in a dark manger outside the small town of Bethlehem. Shepherds from the fields, Magi from the Eastern Kingdoms, and Angels from Heaven all came at His beckon, which He did from the weakness of a newborn infant body. If the infant Jesus could gather such a crowd to lead, I cannot even imagine what the Spirit of God, spread across His people in this world might accomplish, if we would accept Him as our Lord and Savior and follow Him as His chosen people.

  • How do you choose your leaders?
  • What is most important to you in your own leadership?
  • Where do you most experience the gentleness of God?

Gentle Savior lead me on

Let Your Spirit light the way

Sunday December 18, 2016

Leadership

Standard

For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. Tell the innocent how fortunate they are, for they shall eat the fruit of their labors. Woe to the guilty! How unfortunate they are, for what their hands have done shall be done to them. My people—children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you, and confuse the course of your paths. The Lord rises to argue his case; he stands to judge the peoples. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts. Isaiah 3:8-15 (NRSV)

Those who seek authority find themselves contending with God. There is good reason that we preach that our hope is found in God and not in people. That statement holds both a promise and a warning.

The promise is that God will always be there for us, no matter who we are our where we’ve been. In some ways, it may actually be argued that the lower we find ourselves, the more God watches over us. Those who avoid taking up authority gain no special blessing, as authority and responsibility usually go hand in hand. Dodging responsibility does not put you in God’s good graces. But those who remember that we all will stand in judgment before God one day, regardless of our status today.

That is the warning as well. We will all answer for the leadership we give as lords and ladies, preachers and teachers, mothers and fathers… Every honor we receive brings us closer to the throne of God which brings its own honor and joy, but God expects us to share his own heart for the least, the last, and the lost, the more of them he brings under our care. Christian maturity certainly brings with it honor and wisdom, but the cold-hearted cannot be mistaken for elders of the faith in God’s Kingdom. For God so loved the world… and woe be upon the man or woman who thinks they know better than the love of God, which did not hold back His only begotten Son. No fire burns hotter than the love of God for his people, and that fire will burn right through us to warm if we stand in the way of it bringing warmth to God’s lost children.

  • Whom has God put into your care?
  • How well do you reflect God in your leadership over them?
  • What do you need change today to allow God to lead through you more?

I wanna set the world on fire

Until it’s burning bright for you

It’s everything that I desire

Can I be the one you use?

I wanna feed the hungry children.

And reach across the farthest land

And tell the broken there is healing

And mercy in the Father’s hands.

Friday December 2, 2016