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I began reading a book called, Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert Greenleaf. It’s an excellent book. It reads like the Proverbs as it is mostly a collection of essays and talks given over the course of Greenleaf’s career. Greenleaf served most of his career as a management and leadership consultant for churches, universities, and businesses. For only four years of his career he held a position that was already created, all the other positions and roles he held were created for him or by him. 

Greenleaf defines a servant leader as someone who first understands themselves and their role as servant first, and leader next. The one who leads first does so to “assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. For such it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established.” The servant first has a different set of questions that that propose for each leadership endeavor and therefore a different outcome. And I am finding more and more is the truth that the questions we begin with almost fully define the outcomes we end with in our pursuits. So, ask wisely, before moving forward in the leadership endeavor.

Greenleaf puts it this way, “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the difficult to administer, is: Do those being served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged of society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?” 

What end might our institutions (businesses, churches, government, hospitals, schools, universities) achieve if the beginning questions were these? These questions are much different than typical bottom line antics. They are much fuller questions and place value properly even within the question itself. 

If you are a leader (and you are leading something – at work, your church, your family, your children, your siblings, your friends, your own life) I challenge you to consider asking new questions about the outcomes you would like to achieve within the circles you lead. Do you want your employees to thrive and be nourished inside and outside the office? Do you want your family to flourish under your leadership? Do you want your friends and family to achieve more and become more as a result of the encouragement and life you give them? 

One Year, No War

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“If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” Deuteronomy 24:5

This verse has been a guiding light in my first year of marriage. Brandee and I have been married 7.5 months now and I have been seeking to make this verse reality in our lives. I would encourage any married man after me to have this kind of singular focus during his forst year of marriage and if he has never had this sort of year to focus, I would encourage him to take a year to remove himself from the duties of “war” that might absorb his focus. 

For me, I have applied this verse toward ministry primarily. Brandee and I have had many ideas about ways we could volunteer and use our time to serve God and others, but this first year we’ve mostly said no to anything that might take our energy away from home life. And it has been a blessing for us. We’ve benefited from the lack of stress and strain on our schedules so that we could enjoy one another and build a healthy, robust foundation for our marriage. (And we know that we will likely never get a time like this again, especially if we are blessed with children).

 

I also know that whenever I have obeyed the Lord’s commands or applied God’s truth in my life, I have not and will not be disappointed. That’s been true for this verse in Deuteronomy also. 

 

Prayer

ImageOne of the most difficult spiritual disciplines is to pray. Prayer is our response to God and his working out something in us. Prayer is difficult because it seems rather pointless. After all, it doesn’t produce anything tangible and after we’re done there is really nothing to show for our effort. Sometimes the response we hoped for, the feeling we wanted removed or established, or the clarity to our concerns just doesn’t happen. At least, not immediately. And, unfortunately, everything in our culture trains us to expect everything we want to receive to happen immediately. 

Prayer is not like that, it requires a language and understanding that only comes through constant practice. The language part is actually pretty simple. We have a rich language waiting for us in the Psalms. We have 150 Psalms that express a language that helps us respond to God with every emotion and experience that we might possibly undergo. The trouble is that we don’t know the Psalms well enough to pray them. In order to know the Psalms, we have to know the rest of the biblical narrative. For example, to understand many of David’s prayers in the Psalms we have to be well acquainted with David’s life in the Bible and know his very high, highs, along with his sulking lows.

But once we walk through the biblical narrative and begin to “speak the language” of Psalms we can begin to feel as they felt, pray as they prayed, and pretty soon we become interpreters who pray with just as much might, awe, and emotional intensity as the Psalmists did during their time. 

And finally, with long practice and many early mornings/late nights, we begin to understand. In prayer, we are changed. We understand that God does not change, but may be moved to action through our requests. We understand that in prayer we are co-writing history, not just passively accepting it. We begin to believe that God’s will really is better than our own and that we truly would rather be doing life God’s way than our own. Our view of life and opportunity expands, it doesn’t shrink. And, ultimately, through our prayer we reveal what is in God’s heart, which often we don’t know until we ask, until we search. And in God’s heart we find treasures and resources that can’t be found in any other way. Suddenly, we discover riches, not in money, fame, or power, but the riches of a warm heart, abiding joy, tender friendship. 

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Many of us know we have a divine call on our lives. We feel it reverberating in our souls and know that God has created us for some good work or good life’s work that we want to get started on. But often that divine call doesn’t just fall in our laps. And during some phases of our lives I believe we have to wait during certain periods (sometimes very long periods) of time in order to be pruned, shaped, sharpened, molded into the kind of person who can live out what God is calling us to do. 

Immediately, Moses comes to mind. Moses, the great herald of justice for the Israelites set out to do justice in a way that was not just in the eyes of the Lord. If you remember the story, Moses killed an Egyptian who was abusing one of the Israelite people and then was forced to flee.

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?'” Exodus 2

Moses would one day go about justice in a godly way, but not until he spent many years wondering in the land of Midian. It was long enough for Moses to enter into a new family, get married, have children, and a new Egyptian ruler take the thrown.

“Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, ‘I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.’ During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.” Exodus 2

Moses would one day return to be a new kind of herald for the justice of God’s people in Egypt, but not before he spent time being shaped and molded and delivered himself. The Bible doesn’t say, but Moses did have to reckon with killing a man. He also had to reckon with a new identity as one who identified with slaves and not royalty. All of these transformations took a “long period.” 

I believe the Lord does the same with us today. He works in us ever so slowly and molds our character until we have become shaped into His likeness going about God’s ends (justice, mercy, and peace), but doing so with godly methods (gentleness, prayer, humility). 

While we wait, we must pray. The call is coming. 

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This is one of my favorite quotes ever and it also happens to be a helpful tool for reflecting on our lives as we move hurriedly forward. I picked it up here.

“This is the story of a dying 85 year old man imagining- How he would’ve lived his life differently if given the chance. It is found in the book Living, Loving & Learning by Leo Buscaglia, who discovered it in a journal of humanistic psychology.

He says,

‘If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I wouldn’t try to be so perfect. I would relax more. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been on this trip. In fact, I know very few things that I would take so seriously, I’d be crazier. I’d be less hygienic. I’d take more chances, I’d take more trips, I’d climb more mountains, I’d swim more rivers, I’d watch more sunsets, I’d go more places I’ve never been to. I’d eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I’d have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.

You see I was one of those people who lived prophylactically and sensibly and sanely hour after hour and day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had it to do all over again, I’d have more of those moments. In fact, I’d try to have nothing but beautiful moments- moment by moment by moment.

I’ve been one of those people who never went anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it all over again, I’d travel lighter next time. If I had to do it all over again, I’d start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I’d ride more merry-go-rounds, I’d watch more sunrises, and I’d play with more children, if I had my life to live over again. But you see, I don’t.'”

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“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

This passage is a much needed antidote for our culture today. Fame and fortune have become an end in themselves and beckon many forth on an endless search for significance. But significance can’t be gained through the paths laid out for us in this world. Narrow is the road we must take and it often doesn’t include fame or fortune. I believe many of the greatest and most profound workers and performers I have never met and never will. 

Significance is found in the quiet life. Many live a quiet life, but here the Bible says that it should be an ambition, a goal or priority. God grant us the contented diligence to live a quiet life and walk in it. 

Royalty in Christ

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In Los Angeles, during spring time, we have new growth in our vegetation, despite what some may think! Our new growth doesn’t come in the form of pollen like most parts of the United States, but it does come in a very noticeable, pervasive tree called the Jacaranda Tree. The Jacaranda Tree is native to Brazil and Central America and has beautiful trumpet like pedals that fall to the ground each day of the new spring. Many streets in LA look like the picture above.

The significance here is that those who believe in Christ as Lord are considered family members to a new, kingly kind of family. We don’t fully understand what it means to be sons and daughters of royalty apart from the movies we watch and the daydreams we entertain. Except for Great Britain, there aren’t too many true monarchies still in place. However, this is the reality for us who have chosen to accept the right of sonship or daughter-ship of a king – namely King Jesus.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spiritthat we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:14-17

As we celebrate this Father’s Day coming up we can celebrate our earthly Father’s, if they have been good to us, and we can ultimately celebrate our heavenly Father who is complete good for us. And if we doubt our royalty in this new kingdom of another world, we can remind ourselves, as I have done recently, that we are royalty by enjoying the purple Jacaranda Tree pedals that cover our sidewalks in Los Angeles and make for a different kind of “red carpet” experience. Purple, throughout history, is the color for royalty, worn to distinguish those who belong to the most powerful, resourceful family. In Christ, we enjoy being a part of this sort of family.