Tag Archives: leadership

Your Greatest Act Of Revenge

by Michael J. Klassen

The occasion began in relative silence. Men gathered at one end of the room while the women gathered at the other. Then we proceeded to separate areas. Although I was the pastor of the congregation, I was a newby to our experience…

The night Jesus was betrayed, he modeled the heart of his message to his closest followers. With only a few hours remaining before their worlds were turned upside-down, Jesus’ words carried greater significance and every measured action would engrave itself on the hearts and minds of his disciples.

So Jesus broke bread with his friends and promised that whenever they followed his example, he would be present. Little did they realize that this promise foreshadowed his impending departure.

Amidst the veiled talk about departures and farewells, a dispute broke out among his disciples. Someday soon, Jesus would judge heaven and earth and install a new world order. Someone would be needed to run his kingdom. And just in case judgment day was about to take effect, the disciples argued about who would be Jesus’ right hand man.

In the midst of the evening, Jesus did the unthinkable. He shed his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, and sat at his disciples’ feet. The video above offers a moving reenactment of the event. If you have time, I highly recommend you watch it.

Reading the John 13 account from afar can be so sterile, so romantic, so easy…until you’re in the position to actually do it yourself.

Despite the use of shoes, socks, and hose, feet can be so…unsanitary. True confession: people who touch their feet really disgust me. Under ideal conditions, feet can be sexy. But in their everyday life, I want nothing to do with other people’s feet. And during the summer when people wear leather sandals, they can downright stink.

Imagine people’s feet under ancient, Near Eastern conditions. Leather sandals. Dusty roads. Refuse (both animal and human) that had run freely through the streets which assuredly splattered onto them. Disgusting. Repulsive. Nevertheless, without hesitation, Jesus touched…he TOUCHED the grimy feet of his followers and washed them.

John prefaces his account by saying this about Jesus: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Loving his own to the end meant not only dying for them—there’s a sense of romanticism to that—but also serving them by doing what only the lowliest servant would do.

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Once in our room, we began organizing ourselves into pairs. Suddenly, I felt awkward. No, that’s not the right word. I felt extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable. If I hadn’t been the pastor, I would have looked for a reason to escape.

I scanned the room for a safe person, but before I knew it, someone had chosen me. Of all people, a man who was unhappy with my leadership asked if we could be together. Our congregation was experiencing a bit of conflict, and a group of congregation members didn’t like some of the changes I was enacting. Nevertheless, a man who opposed me chose to wash my feet. The experience was completely disarming.

He invited me to sit in a chair while he grabbed a basin. When he returned, he dropped to his knees to wash my feet. Given the choice, I would have chosen anyone BUT him. God had a sense of humor and a lesson to teach me through the most unlikely person.

The most amazing aspect about Jesus’ experience with his followers is that he chose to wash Judas’ Iscariot’s feet. He served the man who betrayed him.

Just before our congregation’s footwashing service, someone mentioned to me in passing that everyone washes their feet before they arrive. No one likes to sully their hands with other people’s feet. Unfortunately, I wasn’t privy to this information, so my partner unwittingly washed my dirty feet. I arrived at our meeting with the grimiest feet of all.

During the event, people said very little. Washing someone’s feet—and having someone wash yours—is extremely intimate. Hence the silence.

When we finished, the other man and I stood and faced each other. Then he stretched out his arms and hugged me.

While Jesus calls all of us to wash the feet of others, I wonder if he set up this event with the purpose of washing Judas Iscariot’s feet. All of us prefer to serve the people we like, the people we consider safe. But washing the feet of our betrayers, well, that’s a different story. It requires the character of Jesus. You could say it’s our greatest act of revenge toward our enemies.

So Jesus hands you a basin of water. Who is your Judas Iscariot and how can you wash his feet?

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Measure Of A Leader

In the 1993 movie Dave, Bill Mitchell is the philandering and disengaged President of the United States. Dave Kovic is a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the President. When Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him.

Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke during a tryst with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely. The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, plans to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House—but unfortunately, he doesn’t count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady.

In the end, Dave hands the reigns of the presidency to the un-flashy, un-charismatic, and somewhat strange vice president, played by Ben Kingsley.

What makes a good leader–at least in God’s eyes? You may be surprised by the answer.

Please join me in today’s Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

2 Kings 13:1-14:29
Acts 18:23-19:12
Psalm 146:1-10
Proverbs 18:2-3

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Kings 13:1-14:29. Although the king isn’t the designated spiritual leader of Israel—that’s the role of the high priest or  prophet—he definitely sets the tone. We read that King Jehoahaz followed in the sins of Jeroboam, but then pleaded for God to rescue them, while still continuing in the evil king’s sins.

King Jehoahaz and the rest of Israel follow a familiar pattern, which actually began in the book of Judges:

  1. The people worship idols.
  2. God becomes angry and allows the surrounding countries to invade them. T
  3. he people beg for God to save them. God sends a deliverer.
  4. The people begin worshipping idols again.

“The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before” (verse 5). Who was the deliverer? Probably Elisha the prophet, although at various times God used kings, or even pagan leaders of foreign countries who defeated any invading countries.

King Jehoahaz also exhibited little vision for Israel. When Elisha encouraged the king to strike the symbolic arrows of victory into the ground, he showed very little resolve. Has weak leadership resulted in a very weak army (see 2 Kings 13:7).

Nevertheless, despite Israel’s sin, we see a window into God’s compassionate heart:

Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence (2 Kings 13:22-23).

Next, we read about King Amaziah of Judah, whose arrogance caused the invasion by Israel and a pillaging of the temple. His unpopular decisions prompted his assassination.

Just a thought: what is the people’s recourse when they are led by an unfit king? Without an election every few years, their only alternative is assassination.

Acts 18:23-19:12. At the beginning of our reading, we learn of Apollos. Although he was preaching an incomplete version of the gospel, he had obviously become quite an effective communicator. His background is explained because he became a prominent leader in the New Testament church. In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for taking sides with various leaders. Apollos was one of those leaders (see 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-22).

Psalm 146:1-10. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save” (verse 3). Every election, politicians assure us that we can trust them because they can save us. This verse reminds us that while we should respect politicians, they will never be completely trustworthy and they will never be able to save us.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Historians and archeologists tell us that King Jeroboam II was one of Israel’s most important kings. In fact, we read that he restored Israel’s boundaries which had been lost through various battles. Oddly enough, the writer of 2 Kings only gives him seven verses (2 Kings 14:23-29).

This echoes the memory of King Omri, who was another highly successful king but given little coverage in 1 Kings (read 1 Kings 16).

Today, when the economy is struggling, people become very concerned about electing officials who can turn everything around. Not long ago, the rallying cry during one election tried to convince us, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

But witnessing the short shrift Kings Omri and Jeroboam II receive in Scripture prompts me to ask what is most important.

What is most important in God’s eyes—expertise or character? Obviously, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but it seems like character triumphs over expertise.

Take King David, for example. What made him Israel’s greatest king? He was a strong military leader and he transformed Jerusalem from a foreign stronghold into the spiritual and political capital of Israel. We also know he was a poor father, a murderer, and an adulterer. Yet despite his flaws, we also know that he had a heart for God. When caught in a web of deception surrounding the murder of Uriah and the “sudden” pregnancy of his new wife Bathsheba, David acknowledged his sin and repented.

His character distinguished him as a great man.

Perhaps our definition of a great leader differs from God’s.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What qualities do you look for in a leader?
  3. Why is a leader’s character important to God?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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QUESTION AUTHORITY

I once considered pasting the bumper sticker on my car that reads, “Question Authority,” except I questioned where they got off telling me who to question. I must admit I’m not the greatest follower. In that I am not alone.

Though rare, we can often name great leaders. Not so, great followers. Today’s readings testify to that. Even Jesus’ disciples are famous for how often they failed to follow. And how tired poor Samuel sounds after leading stiff necked Israel from his “youth until this day.”

“Here I stand,” he challenges. “Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed.”

There seem to be a slew of poor followers. What makes for a good follower?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Samuel 12:1-13:22

John 7:1-29

Psalm 108:1-13

Proverbs 15:4

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Samuel 12:1-13:22: Samuel says farewell using the familiar formula of other leaders from Israel’s past. He retells of God’s faithfulness and the people’s unfaithfulness. Only the names and times seem to change. Israel now moves into living under its fourth system of government: from slaves of Pharaoh to nomads under Moses and a loose system of priests and tribal leaders to freedom under tribal leaders and judges to a flawed kingship.

John 7:1-29: Jesus didn’t seem to want people to follow him, even his brothers, for what he could do for them, miracles for example. Rather he seems to be seeking followers interested in an authentic relationship with him. He wants us to “know him,” verse 28. This is more than knowledge about, but rather an intimacy of heart and mind.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

One of the highest values of our modern world is to be an independent thinker, to question authority. Poet Robert Frost intones, “take the road less travelled by.” To be sure there is value in avoiding group think and mindlessly believing every crazy email that pops up in your inbox. But believing you alone have found the road not taken and dutifully trooping off into Robert Frost’s woods is equally mindless.

In “The Way of the Wild Heart” John Eldredge tells of a swampy, dangerous section of wilderness in Alaska that has a scanty trail wending through it. To go off the trail is to drown in a muddy morass. It’s “an ancient and fearful path through a wild and untamed place” that was blazed by generations of grizzly bears that live in the area. Eldredge says the young bears find their way through by placing their young feet in the prints of those who have gone before. They are good followers.

This, of course is a metaphor for how we humans too can find our way through “wild and untamed” places by becoming good followers. Good followers think for themselves but they also listen to those God has placed in relational authority around them. Jesus calls us to know him and then follow him. Above all they listen to and obey God. They look up and around to other followers of God in times of need. Unlike Israel in Samuel’s time and Jesus’ brothers’ in Jesus time and too many of us modern-minded Western types today, good followers do not believe they are self-made or independent islands. Good followers are comfortable stepping in the footprints God has left in the form of other God-followers. They connect with a faith community, not mindlessly, but engaged heart, mind and soul. Good followers are God-followers. And good followers are then the best leaders.

I still like breaking my own trail. If you don’t believe me, just look at my bruises and scars. But even in the wilderness I keep finding the marks and footprints of the One with the deepest scars, the One who went before, the One I can follow: Jesus.

  1. Has there been a time you followed someone to a place God was leading?
  2. Have you ever refused to follow and gotten lost in the woods?
  3. Who is the best leader you can think of?
  4. Is that person a good follower too?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Is It Really That Good To Be King?

In the Mel Brooks movie History of the World Part 1, King Louis XVI enjoys his reign as king of France just prior to the French Revolution. “It’s good to be the king,” he comments to the camera (I’d show you the film clip, but it doesn’t meet the standards of propriety for this blog). In the video above, King Louis XVI hones his shooting skills at the price of a few lowly peasants.

In today’s reading, we’re going to explore our tendency to place people in positions of authority.

Please join me.

TODAY’S READING

1 Samuel 8:1-9:27
John 6:22-42
Psalm 106:32-48
Proverbs 14:34-35

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Samuel 8:1-9:27. Following the example of his mentor and predecessor Eli, Samuel failed to raise up sons who respected their appointed positions. Instead, we read his sons “did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”

While Samuel couldn’t control the actions of his sons, he did choose to appoint them as judges and we read nothing about him opposing their evil ways.

So the people complained, asking Samuel for a king. However, the people’s request comes with a bit of irony. The New Bible Commentary explains:

With both Eli and now Samuel, it was obvious to everybody that great and good men can have evil, worthless sons; and yet the elders responded by demanding a king. By definition, a king is a ruler whose son automatically becomes king after him!

Not until verse 20 do we find the real reason behind their request: “Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (italics added).

The people wanted to be like the other nations.

John 6:22-42. Jesus’ words in this passage sealed his fate. By saying, “I am the bread of life,” he was saying, “I’m all you need.” This was the first of many “I am” sayings of Jesus that appear throughout the book of John. The bread of life was a reference to the manna God gave to Israel while they wandered in the desert.

Literally he was saying, “I’m God’s provision for you.”

Psalm 106:32-48. Looks like we have a running theme here. In this psalm, we read that rather than destroy the surrounding nations, Israel chose to adopt their customs. Much to God’s dismay, they wanted to be like the other nations. So God gave them what they wanted—they were invaded and occupied by treacherous peoples.

Then, when they begged for deliverance, God answered their prayer. Over and over again. Finally (and this isn’t in the psalm), God delivered his people once-and-for-all by sending Jesus, the bread of life.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Today’s reading from 1 Samuel offers us a window into our souls.

For hundreds of years, God resisted the Israelites’ request for a king. God wasn’t opposed to governing his people through gifted leaders. He demonstrated his desire to work through people like Moses, Joshua, and Gideon.

Admittedly, Israel hadn’t fared well under the leadership of those men, nor any of their judges. The problem didn’t reside with the leader, but with the followers.

Yet God opposed the idea of Israel being ruled by a king. Why?

At election time, we tend to vote for the candidate who we believe will finally solve our national woes. When the person fails to live up to our expectations, we move on and seek out someone else.

In church, we’re drawn to the dramatic, charismatic personalities. For many of us, we don’t want to pray, read the Bible for ourselves, and wrestle with God. We want someone to do it for us and tell us what to believe.

We want somebody to tell us what to do rather than go to God ourselves. It’s too much responsibility…too much work! we convince ourselves.

Our tendency as human beings is to place our trust in something or someone we can see. Placing our trust in a God we can’t see is difficult. Nevertheless, what God wants from us is to trust him. To place our faith in him. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The essence of faith is trusting in God, whom we cannot see. Later, in Hebrews 11:6, we read that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

It seems as if God relented to the people’s request by saying, “If you want a king, I’ll give you what you want.” So, God appointed the prototype. Saul is described as “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others.”

Very quickly, however, it became apparent that Saul wasn’t the answer to their problems.

What does God want? Us. He wants us to look to him for guidance, for comfort, for spiritual sustenance, for communion.

As Jesus explained, he’s the bread of life. Our food.

And he invites us to partake of him, to feast on him alone.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you experienced Jesus as the bread of life?
  3. Do you agree with the statement that “We want somebody to tell us what to do rather than go to God ourselves”? Why or why not?
  4. To what extent do you place your faith in God rather than a person, country, church, or political ideology?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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