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From Suffering to Praise: A sermon on 1 Peter 5:6-11


Book Review: TrueFaced by Thrall, McNicol & Lynch

TrueFaced, by Thrall, McNicol and Lynch is one of the most compelling and convicting books I have read in a long time. I plow through books. I devour words. Few books make me want to slow down and carefully reflect the way that TrueFaced did.

God, in his incredible majesty, created us in his image. Unfortunately, instead of reflecting his grace, we hide ourselves. We put on a mask. We try to be someone else, or, at the least, invisible. And we are not even just hiding from others. We are hiding ourselves from ourselves. Sounds silly when we write it on paper. But, for many of us, it captures our everyday.

In TrueFaced, the authors invite us all to the room of grace where we can find love, repentance and forgiveness. No more hiding. No more masks. Instead, there, in that room, we find a gracious God who knows the depth of our sin, and loves us still.

If you are tired of performing, tired of faking it and tired of pretending you are something that you are not, read TrueFaced. It will show you the path of trusting God and lead you to the door where you can enter the room of grace.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Collision: The Line is Drawn Sermon Video

When God’s world collided with Simon’s world, he went from a fisherman to evangelist.
When God’s world collided with Levi’s world, he went from a tax collector to a gospel-writer.

In this message, we explore Luke 5 and the call of Simon (vs 1-11) and Levi (vs 27-32) and what happens when God’s world collides with theirs. And the point: To ask what happens when God’s world collides with yours…

Beware the power trip

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

I read this verse this past Monday morning – the day where I was starting my second week as an XP. I have worked hard both personally and professionally for me to arrive at this point as an XP, a position that I believe fits my passions, gifts and call quite well.

But there are two temptations that God used this passage to reveal to me. First, there is the temptation to think that I’ve earned this or that I deserve it. Yes, I have worked (and will continue to work) hard to excel in my pastoral ministry. That does not, however, mean that I deserve this new position. God has seen, for the glory of his own name, to move me into this position. This is about him, not me. And second, with a staff now entrusted to me, I must be aware of the temptation of power. This position carries with it positional power to make decisions. I must walk in humility, trusting those around me and as their servant, helping them to succeed.

Yet, for both of those temptations, the antidote is to remember the overwhelming grace that has been extended to me in Christ and to consider others better than myself. “God, please, make me a student of those around me and give me the humility to lead as a servant. And through my ministry, I pray that you will be pleased to grow your kingdom and make your fame known to the ends of the earth. Amen.”

Interact: What area of life are you tempted to wield power instead of humbly considering others better than yourself?

Our Adoption as Sons

This past Sunday was “Orphan Sunday.” My small group tuned in for the webcast live from Nashville. It was great. In fact, I would encourage anyone reading this to watch the archive from the broadcast at www.gospelmusicchannel.com. Over this blog post and the next, I want to look at a theology of adoption and then the resulting call upon all believers to care for the fatherless, as orphans are often called in the Scriptures.

When I was in seminary, as part of my ministry to college students, I led a trip with students from the University of Central Florida to a conference in North Carolina. While driving the van back from the conference, one of the college girls and I were talking about her adoption. She and her sister had both been adopted as young girls.  She shared what I thought a powerful statement that her parents told her all growing up: “Other parents get stuck with their kids. We chose you to be our daughter.” Now, obviously, other parents don’t get “stuck” with their kids. But the picture is powerful: Her parents picked her, chose her, to be their child.

That is precisely the picture of God’s sovereign election f those whom he would save. He picked us to be his children. In the study of salvation, we often speak of the ordo salutis, that is, the order of salvation. In the evangelical church in America today, we have missed out on crucial part of that process: adoption. Consider the following passages…

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit testifies with our spirit that 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… Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:15-17, 23).

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely give us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).

The Scriptures tell us that those who are outside of Christ are children of Satan. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44). We were born to an evil father – one who wanted only our destruction and for us to share in his judgment and death. Yet, in Christ, we have been adopted as his children so that we can pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). Instead of being children of the one who wanted our judgment, destruction and death, we have been “made children” of the God who is the author of life and hope and joy.

In summary, we have been adopted into the family of God. The Greek word “adoption” (huiothesia) is actually the putting together of two words: “to make/appoint” and “son/child.” We have been appointed to be children of God. And given all the rights as a full member of the family. To God be the glory.

Now, the challenge is what does this mean for us as we consider the world’s 143 million orphans? That is will be the topic for the next post.

When failure is the path of successful leadership

One of us met recently with the new CEO of a large company who was profiling his team of direct reports. As the CEO talked with us, he focused on the skills and background of each direct report. Impressed with the diversity of the group, we asked “Is there anything that everyone on your team has in common?”

He nodded. “At one point or another, each one of us has been fired.”

The CEO said this proudly. To him, being fired was a badge of merit (Dotlich, Noel & Walker – Learning for Leadership: Failure as a Second Chance in Business Leadership – p. 478).

I read this essay by Dotlich, Noel and Walker some time back as part of my doctoral studies in leadership. I have never been able to forget this quote. Did you notice that last sentence? To this CEO, he bragged about the fact that he and all of his senior execs had been fired somewhere along the line?

When I was fired from a job years in college, I wanted to stick my head in the sand and pretend it never happened. I tried to forget that experience, not make it a talking point.

Instead of denying it happened, lying about it or pointing fingers at others (cause, obviously it was someone else’s fault!), the successful leader finds a way to grow through it. What flaws of mine did this reveal? What could I have done differently? What part did I play in getting myself to this point?

As a leader, you are going to fail sometimes. You may even be terminated. Are you going to play the blame game, or are you going to look inward with a goal of growing personally and professionally? To this CEO, “being fired was a badge of merit” because each member of his executive team had grown through that experience. Their leadership since had been shaped and reshaped by experiencing failure. How will you respond when it happens to you?

Interact: How have you grown as a leader through a past failure?

Leaders with Authority, Leaders under Authority

God, in His sovereignty, has given His church two different accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Each of these accounts teaches us about humanity and our relation both to God and to the world into which we were placed.

Genesis 1 emphasizes man as one created with authority. Consider Gen. 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” God created humanity with authority and commissioned them to rule of his creation. Man and Woman were to serve as the vice-regents of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Compare that with the picture of Genesis 2, which emphasizes man as one under authority. In verses 16-17 we read, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” Man, for all the authority given to him to rule over creation in Genesis 1, is not the ultimate authority. Man is subject to God.

There is an important leadership principle in there. Leaders are given authority, sometimes positional authority and sometimes authority that falls outside of any formal organizational structures. Yet, for all their authority and influence, they are never the “final answer.” They always remain under God’s authority.

Too many leaders, especially Christian leaders, have fallen into sin. And it is usually precisely because they begin to believe their own hype and begin to see themselves as the ultimate. But they aren’t. They are accountable to God himself and their should always be other humans to whom they report (be it an elder board or a pastoral team). When a Christian leader falls, it is almost without fail the case that they have no accountability.

Leaders are given incredible authority to rule in the particular area into which God has called them. Yet leaders with authority are always to be leaders under God’s authority.

Interact: What are the dangers of  a leader failing to recognize that although they have authority, they are also under authority?