Worth the Fight #2: Myth of the Self-Made Man

Self-Made-ManOne of the most celebrated American holidays is Independence Day.  One of America’s most revered documents is the Declaration of Independence.  Independence in these examples was set in the context of a corporate nation yet as a culture we have morphed the idea more towards personal independence rather than corporate.  Unfortunately the church has often followed in culture’s wake rather than God’s design.

Independence can be a problem when people begin to follow Jesus.   The very nature of Jesus and the Godhead is that they live and move together as One.  They are Three perfectly in sync with each other.  They are part of each other’s lives.  Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5, 8, 15:15).  At the same time Father and Holy Spirit were moving to glorify Jesus (John 8:54, 16:14, 17:5).  

In Jesus’ last prayer on earth He prayed 3 times that His people would have the same type of relational oneness with each other that He has with the Godhead (Jn 17:11, 21, 22).  We also know that when people take up the call to follow Jesus He immediately puts them in connection with others who follow Him.   It isn’t based on their personal preference but His.

1 Corinthians 12:13-18  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit….18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

Rom 12:1-11…4  MSG In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. (Amp mutually dependent on one another).

Ephesians 4:25  And so, putting away false words, let everyone say what is true to his neighbour: for we are parts one of another.

 His call is not based on our personal preference but His design and destiny.

Jesus didn’t allow His first disciples to make the choice on who they would follow Him with.   He placed them as Paul said, “in the body, just as He desired.”  He placed the 12 with others that they would not have liked very well outside of following Him. He put tax-gatherers and zealots, rich and poor, and physicians and fishermen together.  Tax-gatherers and zealots were people from two groups in Palestine who would have hated each other and wished them dead.

As we follow Jesus with those He joins us to they become part of our life and destiny. Click To Tweet

Myth of the “Self-Made Man

Read any biography of a successful entrepreneur, CEO, or media personality and self-made manit will have the familiar ring of the “self-made man.” It usually goes something like this; from humble beginnings, or a disadvantaged situation, _______ refused to give in to the odds stacked against him or her. They didn’t give up but they got up and made something great of themselves.

This isn’t completely true in anyone’s life! Consider someone’s relational biography. Do your own. A relational biography describes people God has used to get others where they are today. If it is done in an objective manner we will be amazed how the influence of other people over the years has been essential to us getting where we are.

Think of your life. You owe your life to a lot to people. People are the main source of supply God used in your life (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19). Think about your natural family or others who helped raise you. Someone had to provide things for you that you couldn’t on your own. Someone provided food for you and changed your diapers when you couldn’t do it yourself. While those same people may have hurt you or let you down in various ways they did provided something for you that you couldn’t do yourself.

You didn’t educate yourself.  You had teachers and schools. There were people in your life who warned you to stay away from harmful things which probably spared you a lot of mistakes and grief. Others protected you at times when you didn’t even know it. Even in the choosing of your career someone probably influenced you with an example of a field of work that was appealing. Someone probably told you about the job your currently have or at least was involved in getting your application to someone who hired you.

If you are a Christian, someone, or several someone’s, helped you get to the place you are in God. They brought the message of Christ to you, helped you develop a walk with Christ, and provided instruction and example of how to live for Him. It reminds me of a quote from the angel Clarence to George Bailey from my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

Destiny Carriers

My walk with Jesus continues to be shaped, influenced, and aided by the people God has joined me to. There has been so much revelation, example, and even correction from His people in my life. They have also opened doors for me to move in His destiny. This highlights an important Biblical concept that we all have ‘Destiny Carriers’ that help us come into the place He has for us.

All through the Scripture we see examples of people coming into their destiny through relationships. There are potentials in each person and the relationships He joins them to that hold a key to help unlock them.

Joshua had Moses, Ruth had Naomi, David had Jonathan, Elisha had Elijah, Jesus had Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist, Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, as well as others, and they had Paul.  The list goes on and on.

Most good things of God flow through relationships (His body). That is how He designed it. We were made in His image and as it says in the Genesis account of creation it was the image of the Trinity “let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26). The Trinity are mutually dependent on each other for their continued place of existence.

This is why the people who prosper in God tend to be planted among relationships. This is why it is so sad when Christians fail to commit over the long haul to walk with people God joins them to.  

Psa 92:12-14 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,…(13) Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. (14) They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,

The proper response of any true disciple of Jesus is a similar posture the prodigal son had when returning to his father, “make me” (Lk 15:19).  He is the Potter and we are the clay (Jer 18 etc.). God uses people that we walk together with as tools that shape/make us as we follow Him. 

I am not the same man I was before I was joined with my wife.  In the context of walking together we both have become something different, better, and more than what we would have been on our own.  The same is true as we walk together with those He joins us to in the church.  There are no “self-made men/women” in the Kingdom of God.   We should thank God for those He uses to shape our life in Him through both the good times and the bad and the easy as well as the challenging.  

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Worth the Fight

worth the fightWe live in a culture that is committed to relational convenience.  The remote control and the friend/unfriend button are metaphors for our current view of relationships. Friendships can be made or abandoned with the simple click of a button. Many growing up today have felt the sting of this disposable approach to relationships. The security of committed family relationships was either never formed  or quickly abandoned in pursuit of happiness by those who should have been there for them.

In the wake of this, people still desire authentic relationships that have permanence and security.  Everyone was made in the image of God and family is the essence of who He is.  The very thing that has held the relational life of the Godhead together for eternity, “faithfulness and covenant,” is what everyone hungers for deep down inside.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep his commandments…

Faithfulness and covenant do not come easy.   They are always tested.  That is why most marriage vows contain certain phrases, “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  There are challenging times and for the sake of happiness it sometimes seems easier to walk away.  Unfortunately this is true, even among God’s people.  I read an article from a pastor’s son who spoke of this happening over and over as he grew up in the church.

As a pastor’s son, I know how frustrating that can be when it seems like people are constantly looking for something that makes them happy.  At the same time, my Dad cared about true spiritual life being given in the body of Christ.”  He echoed the hurt when God’s people walked away.

Worth the Fight

Caleb kept fighting for it till the end Josh 11

Caleb kept fighting for it till the end Josh 14

If somebody is 85 years old the last thing they are probably thinking about is mustering up enough strength and determination to engage in a fight with enemies who are bigger and stronger than they are.  Yet we find Caleb doing exactly that in Joshua 14:11-15.

He was requesting with great anticipation and zeal for Joshua to let him have “Hebron” as a possession.   He wanted to take on several enemy giants who lived there.  Why would a guy in the latter years of his life want another fight?  He had just spent several years helping others fight for their inheritance.  Most people at 85 are thinking of kicking back, getting an RV, and going around the country to look at things.  What was it about Hebron that caused such a response?

In the Old Testament names meant something.  Places and people were often named because of something God did, was going to do, or in honor of success or failure.   You can say it like this, there is a nature in the name.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines “Hebron” as  “A community, alliance, or league.”  It is a relational definition that contains the idea of covenant and faithfulness which are part of God’s nature.  The relational idea of Hebron played out through the history of God’s people.   It was the place Abram dwelt and built an altar to God after separating from Lot in Gen 13:18.   Isn’t it interesting that after Abram endured relational infighting between his servants and Lots (his relative), as well as a separation because of it, he “moved his tent” to the place of community/relationships and built an altar to God there.   Most people who had just experienced relational turmoil would have moved away from anything  having to do with relationships, but Abram moved toward them.

Hebron was the place where Abram was prophetically anointed by God with a name change to Abraham which means the “father of a multitude of nations” (a relational family term) Gen 17:5.

Hebron was the place where David and his men fled when Saul turned against him.  Again it was someone going to the place of community/relationships in response to relational breakdowns.

Later when an enemy attacked and took all of David’s possessions (and his men’s), his own men spoke of killing him.   He got his stuff back then went back to Hebron the place of community/relationships  1Sa 30:31 He didn’t let any work of the enemy causing relational breakdowns keep him from that important place.

Hebron is also the place where David was anointed King by Judah 2 Sam 2:1-11, and later the tribes of Israel  2 Sam 5:1-10.   Leadership, like it is in the Godhead, is to be set among community/family life.  It is where God’s blessings flow.  Psa 133:1-3 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!  (2)  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard (leadership), Coming down upon the edge of his robes.  (3)  It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing–life forever.

In His last prayer on earth (John 17) Jesus prayed three times that the family/relational life that the Godhead experiences would be among His people.  

God lives and works among relational family life because it most reflects His nature.

 

Why Caleb Wanted to Fight For It

Why was Caleb so intent on going after the enemy at Hebron?  It has something to do with his personal experience.  Caleb was one of the twelve spies who were sent into the land of  promise to see how they were to take it.  The giants that discouraged the ten spies, and later the people, lived in Hebron.  Num 13:17-30…Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan…(22)  When they had gone up into the Negev, they came to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak were (the giants). …(25)  When they returned from spying out the land…they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land.  (27)  Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  (28)  “Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak (giants) there... (30)  Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”

I think there is a spiritual parallel today.  It seems that the biggest enemies live in the place of community/relationships.  They cause failure and discouragement that keeps God’s people from pursuing their inheritance.   I have heard it said, and it has been my personal experience in over 38 years of church life, that over 90% of church problems are not theological but relational.  Even the theological issues or other problems have underlying relational components to them.   What usually happens is that people have a hard time getting over relational hurts or challenges.  Later when theological or directional issues come up,  people’s unresolved relational issues get mixed in with them causing a much bigger problem that destroys or separates.

This is why so much attention is given in Scripture about how to walk together relationally. About 44% of the instruction in the NT letters is about how God wants us to treat one another and resolve relational conflict.  Even in the important Last Supper dialogue (John 13-17),  75% of the instruction is about walking in friendship/association with God and one another.

I have seen many people over the years see the relational aspects of the church and Kingdom and agree that it is God’s way.  Some even get excited about it and attempt to build that way only to face the biggest giants of opposition.  People end up faltering, disappointment sets in, and they abandon Hebron.

Others don’t even attempt it because they feel it will only cause pain and heartache.  But then there are those like Caleb, who won’t give up on Hebron because it is God’s possession for His people.  Like David, even after relational challenges, they keep moving their tents (their dwelling place) there.   Like Caleb, even in their old age, they are still going  after the giants that attempt to keep God’s people from community/relational life.  They know it is where God’s people should live.

One leader summed it up well, “God’s family can be a huge painful annoying mess.  Yet I will love His family, commit to His family, serve His family, and do everything I can to see it become all He intends it to be.”

 

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Authentic Leaders Living Credible Lives Among God’s People

false teachersUnfortunately, both in the history of the Bible as well as our contemporary scene, there are examples of both good and bad leadership in the House of God.  In this past season I have personally come across the amazing contrast of both.  It has caused me to freshly realize some important aspects of God’s design for leadership that we must not lose sight of.  

On the good side I was recently at a service in which a man from the congregation brought up the eldership team and had the congregation pray over them as they were heading on a retreat.  It was very touching as he cited the passage in Hebrews 13 about local church leadership.  Hebrews 13:7-17  Remember those leading you, who have spoken to you the Word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conduct… (17)  Yield to those leading you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you.

With tears in his voice he said, “We know these men, we know their lives, they have laid down their lives for this church, and we want to live in a way that the Bible says ‘that they could serve us with joy and not grief.’  Let us honor and pray for them as they go to this retreat.”  This was both touching and a fresh revelation of what Paul said was an important part of leadership, “Know (to perceive with the eye) those who labor among you and have charge over you in the Lord, and give you instruction that you esteem them very highly” (1 Thes 5:12-13).

With the rise of the online avenues and social media there has never been a time in which teachings and ideas from both God ordained, as well as self-proclaimed leaders, reaches far beyond people personally “knowing” their lives.  With over 550 million Christian based web and blog sites along with an unknown greater number of Christian social media sites, good and bad spiritual ideas are being perpetuated by both good and bad leaders.  We have an internet smorgasbord of just about any theology you like coming from people that you don’t really know.   

When it comes to leadership and teaching in the house of God the fruit of leaders’ lives is to be connected to what they teach. 

Jesus tells us when He speaks about false leaders that the fruit of their lives is the most accurate indicator of their authenticity.  Matthew 7:15-16  “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  (16)  “You will know them by their fruits….  Paul says similar things when he is contrasting false apostles in Corinth who were trying to discredit him (2 Cor 10-11).  He appealed to what they knew about his own life when He lived among  them.

Paul makes an appeal to the Thessalonians mentioned earlier, that knowing leaders’ lives who are over them in the Lord is essential (1 Thes 5:12-13).   The idea of knowing is to know their lives not just what they teach.  He tells Timothy “show yourself an example” with his life as he “prescribes and teaches things” (1 Tim 4:11-12).   John commended the Ephesians who measured leaders and found some to be false, obviously not only because of their teaching but also because of their lives (Rev 2:1-3).

This is one of the challenges of the online world when it comes to leaders, teachers, and receiving from them.  The fruit of their lives should confirm the ideas they speak.  We must remember that what we really believe should affect our behavior.  Our theology determines our practice.  Just because one can preach or write well doesn’t mean they are living well!  When you look at Biblical maturity and authenticity it is seen in the closest relationships the leader has.  It is in the real fruit of their real lives that should be observable (usually in their closest relationships) that is the platform for any messages they want to proclaim.  I like to sum up the Biblical fruit as “if it doesn’t work in your own house, don’t try to preach it in the Lord’s house!”   

Leaders’ real lives are the authentic platforms from which they speak

One reason I was touched with the previously mentioned example was the contrast it revealed to some recent leadership scandals I have been following with leaders of worldwide, online influence.   Recently one popular megachurch leader who was a consistent preacher of certain applications of grace to the exclusion of other truths fell severely.  He inherited a popular internationally known church and began to lead it forward.  He published several books on grace and even formed an network designed to focus and facilitate the wonderful message of  “God’s inexhaustible grace.”  I read some of his books and other writings.  While he has some very good things to say about grace, seldom did he mention walking or growing in grace.  Rarely did He mention any challenging aspects of God’s nature.

It seems that his perspective on grace caused him to live carelessly and he ended up with unfortunate falls to immorality.  Marital problems and carelessness resulted in he and his wife having affairs that were uncovered and in June of 2015 he stepped down from that church.  

Only three months later in September 2015, he was picked up by another church (to the surprise of many) and continued to impart his ideas about grace to the online world.  He continued to promote a perspective on grace that “God doesn’t even see our sin.” His previous sin almost seemed to cause him to highlight his understanding of grace even more.   He continued to write and tweet things like the following which have truth in them but when ignoring other aspects of God’s truth they can be taken to promote careless living, deception, or a cover for practicing sin.  

  • “God’s ability to clean things up is infinitely greater than our ability to mess things up.” 
  • “God’s capacity to forgive is greater than our capacity to sin; while our sin reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther.”
  • “God is a good Father, and because we’re with Jesus, God’s affection for us is unchanging and His approval of us is forever.” 
  • “So grateful God is a bottom feeder.”

Five months later it was revealed that he had hidden previous affairs in addition to the one that was uncovered.  He was removed from his position at the new megachurch.  Now other attitudes are beginning to come to light.  The network he helped start to promote their perspective on God’s grace finally had to shut down as most of the board members resigned seeing the problem with proclaiming God’s grace in a way that facilitated and covered immorality.   What leaders teach should be connected to how they live.

I did come upon his last social media post that gave cause for hope that he is repenting.  The words he was saying seemed to be in contrast to and helped to correct some of his previous extreme teachings. 

“I hope and pray that the events in my own life over the past couple years serve as a warning to all who, like I did, believe they are standing firm.  Sin is deep.  It is real. It destroys. It deceives. May this be an opportunity for all of us to examine our own hearts and beg God for the mercy and forgiveness we all need.”

Credible leaders are known by credible lives that are lived out among God's people. Click To Tweet Another example was the leader of Europe’s third largest church and popular grace/prosperity preacher.  After posting a video on his blog, “Sexual Sin is Not Enough to Take You to Hell” (should have been a warning), many female parishioners began to come forward and speak of affairs and sexual abuse with this international leader.  

My pastor, who serves in many different nations, has given warnings about this man for a while.  Here is one of the biggest problems with this preacher.  While secretly stepping down for a “Sabbatical” he continues to run online sites as well as a Facebook and blog site that some of my Facebook friends subscribe to.

While we continue to have wonderful online social media tools to proclaim God’s truth beyond our borders we must keep the Bible’s perspective that credible leaders are known by credible lives lived out among God’s people

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