Leaders

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Leaders

Genesis 45:16–28

When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.’ You are further charged to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”

The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Do not quarrel along the way.”

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. And they told him, “Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.” He was stunned; he could not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.”

Matthew 8:1–13

Jesus Cleanses a Leper1

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant2

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour. “

A land is only as good as its leaders.Tweet: A land is only as good as its leaders.

Oddly enough, it does not always matter where they come from. One young lady managed to trace every US president except one back to one common ancestor in England. Who is the one with different roots? It’s not the one you think.

The great rulers of Egypt were no different. Some of their greatest were not Egyptian. Joseph, the Hebrew slave became one that put them head and shoulders above all the nations in the area during the time of great famine. They were fortunate to have got him and from what I gather, they got a great deal on him as well, paying the price of a slave for the benefit of a national savior.

Somewhere along the way, they got over the fact that he was Hebrew and that he had not grown up in a royal household. They respected him for his character and the results he brought, rather than his pedigree. Because they chose to follow him, including Pharaoh himself, they were blessed. Their faith in Jospeh allowed them to flourish as a nation.

Jesus also called for faith. Like Joseph, he asked for faith from those beyond the boundaries of his home nation. Again, it was the outsiders that ended up teaching Israel what real faith looked like. The lepers – cast out from society – turned to Jesus for healing and found it. The Gentiles came to Him for healing and trusted in His power without needing to see it themselves. In Jesus’s own words: “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” What does it mean when the unbelieving heathens trust God more than God’s own chosen people?

It means God moves. There is a hope that we have in watching God work throughout history. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, partly because we are called to be a blessing to the world and a witness of God’s love and grace. But there is a side note as well. God has a way of blessing His people through their enemies eventually, but that blessing only gets through if we can stop fighting long enough to see where God is working. The gold of Egypt furnished the tabernacle, the Philistines gave sanctuary to Israel’s greatest king, and Egypt again would later provide refuge for the savior of the world, when the king of the Jews wanted Him dead.

Good leaders come from being capable followers. Those who cannot follow, struggle to lead.Tweet: Good leaders come from being capable followers. Those who cannot follow, struggle to lead. This cannot be more true for a Christian society, in whose case the leader only has authority insomuch as they are following Jesus, the true leader. We have no king but Jesus, and the best our politicians can aspire to is the level of prince (or perhaps vice-president in US terms). The true leader will always be Jesus, because He has not died and left us to our own devices. He is alive and is coming back to reclaim His kingdom.

What kind of leaders have blessed your life?

What kind of leader are you?

Who are you following?

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  1. (Mk 1:40–45; Lk 5:12–16)
  2. (Lk 7:1–10)

Death

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Death

Acts 7:55-8:1

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

And Saul approved of their killing him.

Stephen would have made a great preacher.

He was willing to serve with his hands and feet, but he was not afraid to stand up and speak his mind when he was given the opportunity. In fact, I think his single greatest characteristic was his courage. He was also a foreigner. I think that gave him a huge advantage over the twelve apostles, who all hailed from Galilee and had much more distinguished Jewish roots. They were battling over 500 years of captivity and the political theology (yes, it is a thing) that plagued their worlds. For them, you could not talk about how God could be good and powerful without questioning why Rome still ruled Jerusalem. For Stephen, who grew up in the Roman culture, perhaps in a Roman family though, he did not see the problem.

So when he confronted the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, trying to speak truth into their lives on their home turf, they would not stand for it. He, a tainted foreigner could never understand what they had been tackling for generations. He, an undereducated, Greek-speaking servant could never teach them. He was as bad as the carpenter that they had crucified just a few weeks earlier. This time, they did not have to deal with the politics of Passover and winning the crowds over. This time, they had the upper hand… and they lifted up and heaved stones at him until he was dead.

Instead of keeping Stephen safe to teach a new generation of disciples (and possibly due to Stephen’s own rash nature) God took him home after that first sermon. Perhaps It was so good, there was no act to follow it. But something happened that day that was more important than a sermon and more important than Stephen himself. Luke tells us that there, in the midst of those angry Jewish scholars and leaders, a certain man named Saul was watching over the proceedings. Saul was also a passionate man who had been taught and groomed from a young age to become the next president of the Jewish Sanhedrin. (That is like the Jewish Pope, so to speak). Paul would have been excellent at it as well. He was well versed in the Jewish scriptures, but he also had a bit of Greek background himself. He probably stood the best chance of anyone at bringing peace to the Middle East in the constant battle between the Jews and Rome because he could stand in both worlds and speak both languages. Luke tries so much to tell us this in the Book. of Acts and sometimes we westerners miss the crucial fact of Saul /Paul’s identity.

This Saul, would have an encounter with Jesus just a few days later that would change the history of the world as we know it, and Luke shows us that this occurred in part because of Stephen. It was not his words, or presentation. In fact, there was nothing about Stephen’s last act that inspired Paul enough to even try to save his life. It was his death, in fact, the way he died, that I think left the biggest impression on Saul. He was a man who understood conflict, and one who would not have been surprised to face execution by the Romans himself if things got out of hand. He saw his job in part was to prevent things from escalating that far. But looking into the eyes of this dying man Stephen, Saul saw none of the fear he faced himself. Instead he heard these words:

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

No anger, no bitterness, not even a cry for relief. Instead, he saw compassion for Stephen’s enemies… for Saul himself.

We all face enemies. We all will face death. Every single one of us. How we do so may be the greatest act of leadership of our entire lives. Long after our words are gone. Long after our friends and family have moved on to new relationships and routines, those who were with us at the end will remember how we faced the moment we lost everything and showed our true colors.

Years later, Saul would follow Stephen, leaving his potential for bringing peace to the Middle East for a crazy mission of bringing Jesus to the rest of the world. He left the one place he fit in the most, to go where he never fit in, where politicians would pass him around like a hot potato, until he would speak before the emperor of the Roman Empire itself about the saving and life transforming grace of Jesus Christ. There, as Paul stood before one whom the early church would deem an anti-Christ figure, I can’t help but believe that he saw those compassionate eyes of Stephen again as the executioner walked toward him.

How do you face adversity in your life?

What, if anything, do you think would take away your fear of death?

What can we do today to prepare ourselves for facing our enemies and facing our own death?

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

Blessing

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Blessing

Genesis 12:1-31

The Call of Abram

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 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. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.””

It is a fundamental law of nature itself that we are blessed to be a blessing.

We see it in forests, where tall trees, who block the sun from reaching smaller sprouts eventually fall pray to sickness, die, and then become fire hazards, whose ashes eventually nourish those small sprouts again. We see it in the fields who fall pray to swarms of locusts, who must then move on to the next field or starve because of their own insatiable hunger. We see it millions of examples of organisms living together and helping one another find food and safety… and it is the very foundation of agriculture, where we, human beings, protect, preserve, and nurture the land and animals around us so that we too might have food. Whatever blessing any creature possesses, it is made to serve in the natural order of life to bless those around it.

Blessing is both giving and receiving and it is made to be as simple as breathing. We give carbon dioxide to plants and they give oxygen to us. Without the relationship of blessing we share, both of us run out of air, but together, we bless that air for one another. Real leaders understand this not only is an important act of reciprocity (I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine) but it is an act of obedience (I will bless you even if you do not bless me).

In fact, Jesus commanded it if His followers:

Luke 6:27-36

Love for Enemies2

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

God Himself often takes our acts of praise and honor to Him to draw others to Him so that they too may receive life and blessing. He takes the idea of prosperity – success and happiness where you are – and turns it over on its head. Once prosperity is finally emptied of itself, you finally have generosity: the true goal of God’s kingdom. This is why God asked Abraham to leave the prosperity of his home kingdom and follow God into the wilderness. It was not only to receive a greater kingdom, it was so Abraham could bless all the nations around, not just his own.

Who blesses you?

Who do you bless?


  1. (Acts 7:2–5)
  2. (Mt 5:43–48)

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)

Boy Scouts

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Boy Scouts

Ezekiel 34:17-23

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.”

One of the basic tenets of the Boy Scouts of America that I remember from my very short time as a Cub Scout was that we are to leave a place better than we find it. It is not the first rule of Boy Scouting, but it may well be the underlying purpose behind it all. In fact, this tenet alone could probably be taken up as a life purpose for us all, not just a purpose for Boy Scouts.

It is a little sad to me that I can recall several major pop artists (Michael Jackson and John Lennon for example) who put this purpose to music, while they may or may not have actually lived it out themselves. But all too often it comes across as a very soft and passive approach to life, sounding like advice to a person who is told, if you cannot do anything else, at least try to be a nice person. This tenet was not meant to be something to do if you cannot think of anything else. It was meant to be a first purpose for existence.

Contrast the idea of leaving the world better than you found it with the idea of “carving out a name for yourself”, perhaps reminiscent of those who carve their names on tree trunks as children and on concrete buildings as they grow older. Carving is a basic predatorial attempt to mark your territory – to take something forcefully as your own. You do not have to have any leadership skills to do that. You just have to be strong and fear-inspiring. While the two ideas are not mutually exclusive (you can do both), taking something over does not guarantee it will be better for your ownership and responsibility for it. Often, as in the example of the bigger sheep mentioned above, all the show of force does is ruin the watering holes for everyone as they are used and abused faster than if there were no leadership at all.

The temptation in leadership is to try to remain objective and take yourself out of the equation. If you are responsible, surely you should not be judged by the same standards as the sheep around you. Yet in order to actually leave the place better, you have to do just the opposite. If you would put yourself in the place of judging others, you must find honest and accurate ways to judge yourself first, because your own footprints matter, and sometimes they are even larger than those around you. You and I, as leaders are very much either part of the solution or part of the problem, and no one gets to sit back apart, above and exempt from influence and responsibility. It is the wise leader, the true leader, who recognizes their place in every system they touch and owns up to the brokenness they find around them by making the active, intentional choice to leave it better than they found it.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Benediction

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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.”