Wrestling with a Name

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Wrestling with a Name

Genesis 29:31–30:24

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “Because the Lord has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”; and she named him Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore he was named Levi. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah; then she ceased bearing.

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob became very angry with Rachel and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees and that I too may have children through her.” So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son”; therefore she named him Dan. Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed”; so she named him Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Then Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. And Leah said, “Good fortune!” so she named him Gad. Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. And Leah said, “Happy am I! For the women will call me happy”; so she named him Asher.

In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, “You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. And God heeded Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Leah said, “God has given me my hire because I gave my maid to my husband”; so she named him Issachar. And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good dowry; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun. Afterwards she bore a daughter, and named her Dinah.

Then God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach”; and she named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”

Matthew 12:38–42

“The Sign of Jonah1

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

Naming was done in such a way as to present hopes or to express sentiments of the parents, especially during the birth of their children. With the importance and danger of childbirth in the ancient world, and the way, even today, childbirth has a powerful way of creating the social construct of family.

Just doing the role call at a family gathering would recount years of family conflict. The twin acts of deception and jealousy, which had characterized Jacob himself, through much of his life, flows through the pages in our hands, trickling down across the generations, through marriages, and raising children like a generational curse. This plot twist became a generational curse that would take God’s chosen people from their life in Canaan, ultimately into slavery in Egypt, due to their own jealous and deceptive acts, taught by their parents, and given to them in their very names. If you want to see all the mess that family can be, you will find a buffet of problems in the first book of the Bible alone.

Names can be blessings as well. For the most part, names themselves are not guarantees for either good or bad. The blessing of a name, and really any blessing for that matter, usually comes with the possibility of a downside if we do not handle it well. This may be why we struggle to be as thankful for these gifts as we perhaps could otherwise.

What about the name Jesus? What does it mean? The Bible tells us that it means “Savior”. I think our understanding of ‘savior’ is often a little shallow though. Jesus as our savior does more than just pull us back from the fire at the last moment. His work in saving us reflects God’s work in creating us from the beginning and the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us today. The name of Jesus, the name of our God (to me at least) is the One who makes something good out of nothing. This was the name that Jonah knew God to be, and the reason he wanted to stay away from Ninevah. He wanted to keep God for the worthy, at least in his own regard, and Ninevah had no one who qualified. Solomon, on the other hand, knew he was nothing when he was made king. He made his first act as king to be seeking out this God who makes something good out of nothing and God did not disappoint Solomon.

What does God’s name mean to you?

What kind of meaning does your name have to those around you?


  1. (Lk 11:29–32)

The Way of Love

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The Way of Love

Deuteronomy 5:22-33

Moses the Mediator of God’s Will1

These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more. He wrote them on two stone tablets, and gave them to me. When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders; and you said, “Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live. So now why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and remained alive? Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and do it.”

The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken. If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! Go say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.” You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn to the right or to the left. You must follow exactly the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.

1 Peter 3:8-12

Suffering for Doing Right

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

“Those who desire life

and desire to see good days,

let them keep their tongues from evil

and their lips from speaking deceit;

let them turn away from evil and do good;

let them seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Love and suffering go hand in hand. We preach it at weddings. We preach it at funerals. For some reason, all the great romance stories involve suffering and usually dying. I finally got around to watching Star Wars: Rogue One last night and that entire movie was focused around the concept of love and suffering together.. Alan Tudyk, one of my favorite actors played the robot “K-2SO”, and even he had a death scene as he gave his life for the “love” of his companions.

The Mosaic covenant began as God showed love for the Hebrew people by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt and setting them on a path to the Promised Land. Instead of gratitude, they were fearful of that love. While that might seem weird, think about it again. When has true, deep, life-changing love ever come “naturally”. Many guys know the sheer terror of asking out a girl they really care about – fearful of rejection. Many girls get butterflies in their stomach when those guys come near them. Putting on the act and going through the motions is so much easier when you don’t really have feelings for the person with whom you are entering the relationship.

By feelings, I don’t just mean physical attraction either. It is the deeper love that calls forth the willingness to sacrifice – often the kind of love parents feel the first time they meet their newborn baby. Sure, it comes and goes with diaper changes and other messes babies make, but there is a part of it that is truly covenantal, in that it lasts until they are parted by death.

God wanted to show this kind of love to the Hebrew people, and they were terrified of what it might cost them. So they chose to hide from God. Instead of chasing after them, God, did something strange. He used Moses as an intermediary, to go between Him and the people. In a sense, Moses was supposed to carry God’s love to the people. In order to do that, Moses had to act and talk a certain way. He could no longer just be himself, because He was always representing God to the people. Moses had to change. Moses had to learn and begin to love the Hebrew people the way God did.

It was like one of those crazy Shakespearean romances where the guy playing matchmaker falls for the girl he is supposed to win over for his friend. In those type of stories conflict ensues and it either ends as a comedy or tragedy – rarely anything in between. With God however, it is a different kind of story. God actually encourages us to fall in love with the people He loves. He commands it. In fact, He helps us do it.

Jesus came as another kind of mediator between us and God, and He explained that all the laws that Moses taught could be summed up in two simple rules: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. All the rules simply help us know how to do those two things well in different situations. But it is more than just following rules. Rules help you stay on the path, but that does not mean you will go anywhere. Real love means walking the walk, and that is where the suffering comes in. Moses suffered for the Hebrew people. Jesus suffered for us all. God continues to choose to suffer as we give our love away to people and things that do not love us back, while we ignore Him Who is Always Faithful. He does it because that is the way of love.

How have you been called to the Way of Love?

Where does fear hold you back?


  1. (Ex 20:18–21)

Prayer for Comfort

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Prayer for Comfort

Genesis 8:13-19

In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

Confession and comfort are two sides of growth in prayer. Together, these two kinds of prayer encompass steps 4-10 of the way to recovery and spiritual maturity.

This kind of prayer involved more than wires whispered at a bedside. It is prayer with hands and feet. We go to Jesus as our mediator between God and ourselves, but we also need to go to Jesus to mediate between ourselves and others. It is confession that follows along the line of the teaching Jesus gave in a general sense I response to paying taxes. If you owe your neighbor an apology, God expects you to give it to her. If you owe your neighbor more than an apology, Jesus expects you to pay that as well. Zaccheus it’s a phenomenal example of this from the gospels and Paul writes to the Romans the same thing. Owe no one anything but love.

This kind of full-bodied confession is costly. Between the jabs of confession we need comfort. We need reassurance that, even if we have not been and are not okay in the present, God is meeting us and making a way. There may be no more beautiful and concise picture of this than what James, the brother of Jesus wrote to the churches: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

It is terrifying seeking reconciliation sometimes. It does not always go well. Sometimes it seems to make things worse because it is often easier to ignore a problem than to address it, especially if there is no convenient solution within our grasp. The healing comes not from our own strength, but from God. The promise we have about comfort is not that we will not suffer, but that we will not suffer alone and that healing and joy will follow.

John 14:27-29

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Critics

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Critics

John 8:48-59

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

There is nothing like a racial slur to get your blood boiling as you attempt to begin public leadership… but Satan really showed his hand when he could not hold back the religious attack about demon possession. That is the biggest problem with working for the devil. There is no patience, no thoughtfulness, only barrage after barrage of lies poured out like napalm in hopes of covering everything with the stick, stench, and burn, so that the truth becomes unrecognizable. It is not because the devil is stupid, at least I don’t think that is the case. It is because there is no other way. One single truth shines like a lightning bolt in the darkness, becoming instantly visible to all around. A field of truth growing makes those lies equally recognizable. The only way Satan can gain and maintain a foothold anywhere is by eliminating all truth, because any truth will eventually point back to God and to the devil’s downfall.

We live in this battlefield every bit as much as Jesus did. If you’ve not come across critics commissioned from evil incarnate you have not yet really started leading yet. Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. Our very existence testifies to the truth of God’s goodness, love, and redemption in the world because we are all frail, broken people who God works through and with from time to time. Everything good that comes from us will point back to God if you look far enough. Satan can lure us with lies that we created ourselves or are the source of our own strength and goodness, but those lies will not stand the test of time and eventually he will just have to eliminate us to keep his lies going. I think, if the devil really had his own way, he would destroy every single thing in creation, leaving himself last, empty, broken, and alone – the only one left to keep up the lie that God was somehow wrong or unjust. The only enemy he would have left would be himself. Sin truly carries the seed of its own destruction. Or so claim the some of the critics anyway1

So the first step in dealing with critics is to consider the source. That does not mean we should turn a deaf ear to anyone who is not a friend or claim allegiance to a friendly camp. Sometimes we can learn much from our enemies. But regardless of who they are or what they say, it is important to remember that everyone comes from somewhere, is shaped and informed by others, and have their own motivations in raising their concerns. Most of our heated conflict comes from trying to hide those origins and motivations.

Our politics, both church and state, about doctrinal issues get far more heated in times of economic crisis than in times of economic plenty. We go to war when we think those who do not share our values will take from our precious wealth. Likewise, we quit our internal squabbling when we have an external enemy to focus upon, to unite us against. Solutions are not found in either situation though. Indeed, scripture gives plenty of examples of these conflicts between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, between the Jewish people as a whole and the Romans, even between the disciples themselves.

In fact, you have to move through the gospels and make it into the book of Acts before you really start to see communal solutions. There, amidst strong divisions along ancient lines, the Holy Spirit poured out upon 3000 people who hailed form different cultures, spoke different languages, had different understandings of God, His law, and his teachings, and who would not normally associate with one another for fear they might “taint” each other with uncleanness. Within the following decade, that same Spirit would travel across the Near East and up into Europe, into places that had never heard of God before – in spite of a multitude of very active critics. Yes, it requires the Holy Spirit – but not everyone received the Holy Spirit, and not all at the same time. It takes several things for the Spirit to move a community forward.

First of all, it takes humility, which looks like confession and repentance. We love baptism, but we often miss the point that baptism had little to do with getting wet, and a lot to do with getting right with God and others. The confessions that were made at baptisms in the gospel were public and specific. There was no salvation without telling the community what we had done wrong and making amends for those wrongs. The story of Zaccheus is an excellent example of this, and that understanding of confession before baptism is what makes the story of Jesus’ own baptism so powerful… and weird. If we cannot divulge our own weaknesses and failures, we implicitly claim superiority in any situation, which means that if a problem exists around us, it is our fault. People are going hungry? Not my fault, I give to the food pantry! Apparently not enough to solve the problem. People struggling with sexual identity? Not me, I know what is right! And is that “knowledge” making any difference? Broken hearts that lead to self-destructive behaviors know no sexual boundaries. It touches every age, race, religion, political persuasion, and trying to pin it all down on one particular demographic or another is a category mistake.

Because we are human we make mistakes, and these mistakes hurt those around us. When we get hurt, we get defensive and lash back out, with intent to harm because it seems normal to us that if we destroy those around us, no one can harm us, and the devil leads that charge. The one thought that does not occur in those moments is that we need each other, and that the miracle of healing, reconciliation, and grace can only occur between opposite sides of a conflict – between enemies.

If we can get to that place of real honest humility ourselves, then we can start moving towards the next step: Examining how the relationships between us create the situations we live in and the thoughts and feelings we hold. Those who claim that children are not born knowing hatred and bigotry, but learn it from those around them are at least partly right. But it is not their parents alone who are their sole teachers. You and I, every moment we are around children are teaching them one example or another, and if we do not teach them another way, but settle on being passive, and not teaching them anything at all – we reinforce any bad teaching they have. A person’s (of any age) opinion will not, and should not accept as a rational truth of “normal” reality, anything that they do not experience significantly more than another opinion. If we want to claim that there is no division between rich and poor, but a person only sees the rich and poor eating together in public 1 out of every 100 times, you would be a fool to believe they are peers. If, on the other hand, they see people of similar racial, socio-economic, religious, and political backgrounds sharing meals together in public 99 out of 100 times, it makes perfect sense to believe we live in a divided society, and that the normal thing to do is to find the group into which you fit best.

Jesus, made Himself our peer. He even made connections (through Abraham) to His critics, and they felt threatened by that connection. Having thrown their worst words at Him, they could not allow Him to exist if He was indeed connected to themselves. So they picked up their rocks. I think, it was mercy that kept Jesus from defending himself, the way He defended the woman caught in adultery, “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.” That truth, set inside a question of who is worthy to dispense justice, stopped that conflict cold. Jesus would defend us, but not Himself, but it made no difference. The first to choose the stone is always the first to admit defeat and inability to lead.

Jesus does not needs stones. Stones are the way of lies. Jesus leads by humbling Himself, stripping Himself down to vulnerability, and washing the lies from feet of his critics as He invites them to join Him in bringing healing, reconciliation, grace… truth to the world.


  1. “You see, evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is ultimately negative, and therefore encompasses its downfall even at its moments of apparent triumph. No matter how grandiose, how well-planned, how apparently foolproof of an evil plan, the inherent sinfulness will by definition rebound upon its instigators. No matter how apparently successful it may seem upon the way, at the end it will wreck itself. It will founder upon the rocks of iniquity and sink headfirst to vanish without trace into the seas of oblivion.”- Neil Gaiman, *Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Leading with Fear: Gathering or Scattering?

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Leading with Fear: Gathering or Scattering?

Jeremiah 23:1-81

Restoration after Exile

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

The Righteous Branch of David

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” Then they shall live in their own land.

Fear is a dangerous thing for leaders to employ. Goats own leadership involves a certain degree of fear, to be sure, but it is questionable whether we, as His human agents in leadership should employ fear.

Fear can be used to both scatter and gather. Usually we attribute it to only the former, but it is a powerful tool in shaping the behavior of those around us. Often, like a storm, a little bit of fear scatters us, each off to their own unique place of safety. However if the storm continues and the flood waters rise, we will leave our individual places of safety to seek out a focused, higher ground, especially if we believe that it is the only place that will remain safe.

What does that mean for leaders? Either you use fear sporadically to chase away your flock from a circumstantial place of danger, or you have to exert the effort to pour it on and keep them continually afraid and continually following you. This is brainwashing 101 and for the personality cults that employ it, some use charismatic attraction, but most use some form of fear to keep their members close. This is not Godly leadership, and the prophets and history of the Bible all attest that if we abuse our leadership by using fear tactics, there is a price to pay. God will take our leadership away and we will be seen for the insecure, over-reaching fools we are.

There is a place for fear and scattering though, as Ecclesiastesreminds us. Jesus used it, not only for occasional warnings to keep people safe, such as His warning about following the Pharisees but also to quell the ambition and pride of His own followers. Note though, that even in these instances, Jesus does not act out of a threat to His own leadership, but instead out of care for the well-being of His followers who have lost touch with the reality of their situation.

Matthew 20:17-28

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection2

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

The Request of the Mother of James and John3

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

I suppose, in the end, the greatest danger of employing fear is that, like working with poison or explosives, it is a weapon which often ones back to harm those who employ it, bringing us under its own control, eliminating our ability to choose wisely and freely, and thus crippling our own ability to lead. See pretty much any movie or read any story ever made… once the villainous fear-monger is overtaken by fear themselves, their end is near.


  1. (Cp Jer 16:14–15)
  2. (Mk 10:32–34; Lk 18:31–34)
  3. (Mk 10:35–45)

Who is your shepherd?

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Who is your shepherd?

Ezekiel 34:23-31

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely. I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be plunder for the nations, nor shall the animals of the land devour them; they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid. I will provide for them a splendid vegetation so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the insults of the nations. They shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord God. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture and I am your God, says the Lord God.

Leadership is not a personality trait. It is a commission. This means that without a mission, there is not leadership. It also means that if the mission is not one with (“co-mission”) others: superiors, peers, and subordinates… it probably is not real leadership. There is a created hierarchy to life, and when we are unable to find our place within that hierarchy, we struggle leading.

Let me use Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example of how this worked in the 1960’s. If we flash back to another time when racial and cultural tensions were high here in the United States, we may read about or recall that there were several different factions within both the black and white American people, each looking for different resolutions to that tension. What would have happened if Dr. King had refused to engage the white leaders of the time? What if, instead of non-violent protesting, he had told the people to simply break free of an unjust system and refuse to take part in it. He started down this road, in part, with the bus boycotts. What if he took it further though and told the African Americans not to speak to or even acknowledge the white people around them… to carry on as if they were not even there? If they asked a question or gave a command, to simply ignore it. If they were ahead in line, to push through. If they were crossing the road while you were driving, to keep on driving.

I’m sure you can see how the extremes of disengagement would have adverse affects and would not lead to any good form of reconciliation. We cannot isolate ourselves away and expect to make positive social change in the world. There is a lot of wisdom in that adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. I’m also sure that Dr. King had people he respected and looked for wisdom and guidance from who were not only African Americans. Jesus Christ was certainly one of those. He had superiors, peers, and subordinates in his work, and he had a mission that was bigger than himself. That made him a leader, and helped ensure that he was a good one.

One of the laws of nature has always been divide and conquer. ”A house divided against itself cannot stand.” So it is with leaders. Once you have been singled out, set apart, and cut off from those superiors, peers, and subordinates, you lose track of your mission, and before long you are lunch for the hungry lion prowling about looking for his dinner. It is not just the weak, the sick, and the old that get eaten first. It is the ones who get cut off from the flock.

So, in approaching your own leadership, the first question you need to ask yourself, for the sake of holistic(spiritual, emotional, mental, social, etc.) maturity and health is: Who is my shepherd? Be careful not to fall into the trap of believing only God can truly lead you, for that is pride speaking. You need others who God works through, to help keep you grounded in reality, instead of hung up on a flight of fancy. Such unanchored leaders, like Icarus all to often fly too close to the sun and end up going down in flames – taking everyone with them. On the contrary, Jesus teaches that we can be no greater leaders ourselves than the shepherds we follow.

1 Peter 5:1-5

Tending the Flock of God

Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

“God opposes the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.”

Stripping the Dead

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Stripping the Dead

1 Peter 4:1-8

Good Stewards of God’s Grace

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

John 19:38-421

The Burial of Jesus

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

There wasn’t much in terms of clothing to strip from the body of Jesus when they took Him down from the cross. Some might say that He had stripped away the last bit of humanity from Himself by then, but I’m not so sure. I’m not sure that “humanity” and “flesh” mean the same thing. Was there even anything left to take from Jesus?

I think that the resurrection may have begun, even if only as a tiny seed, the moment Jesus breathed His last and died on the cross. Many of those crucified with Him were buried in mass graves and lost to time. Yet while He was still on the cross, two influential men, Joseph and Nicodemus, begged for His body and buried it with dignity in a tomb meant for the wealthy. The first thing Jesus got back after His death were His friends who had abandoned Him for fear of losing their own lives. Then He got back a small measure of dignity.

What was stripped from His body then and there was the injustice and humiliation He had received earlier that day. The spittle from the crowd and the blood from His gaping wounds was washed. The inhumanity bestowed upon Him was replaced with the basic human dignity of a child of God. Too little, too late? Not for the Son of God.

The same kindness shown this day, by these men and women, would be replayed again Easter morning, where their next attempts to give Jesus a measure of basic human dignity would be met with frustration at first, and the jubilation. Those who persecuted Christ will run and hide at His return, but those who, even seemingly too late, allowed the power of the resurrection to begin in them as they repented and showed even a small measure of love towards the savior they had deserted, will find their sins covered over and the love of Christ shining anew in their lives. Resurrection starts small, but like that mustard seed of the kingdom, grows into a vast bush that houses all the birds of the air.

What small seed of grace has God planted in you this season?

What inhumanity do you need to strip away in order for that seed to sprout and grow?


  1. (Mt 27:57–61; Mk 15:42–47; Lk 23:50–56)