Listening Leadership #likeJesus

If God were to speak audibly to me, what might He say?

In the Gospels, we see angels sent as messengers, speaking on behalf of God.  But how often do we actually see the Father speaking audibly?

At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke.  “This is my Son, whom I love.  With Him I am well pleased!”  We know that at least John the Baptist and Jesus heard this.

The only other time I can think of the Father speaking audibly to the disciples is at the Transfiguration.  On this occasion, He spoke to Peter, James and John.

“This is my Son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to Him!”

Three simple words.

Listen. To. Him.

The Father could have said anything.  He said “listen!”   Listening is a forgotten skill.  Listening to Jesus… that might be a skill we’ve yet to learn.

Be still.  Be quiet.  Meditate.  Shut the world out, and lock in to His voice.

Jesus said He is the Good Shepherd, that He knows His sheep, and His sheep recognize His voice.

The only way you learn to recognize someone’s voice is to spend a lot of time with them, to spend a lot of time listening to them.

Do I spend enough time with Jesus that I recognize His voice?

And when He speaks, am I listening to Him?

Or do I listen to Jesus like I listen to so many other people?  Half listening, half thinking about what I want to say.  Jumping to conclusions about what I think they’ll say and tuning them out.  Only hearing what I want to hear and filtering everything else out.

I can be a bad listener.  I’ve never heard it this way, but I know it’s true, otherwise the Father wouldn’t have said it to Peter, James and John.

Leaders are listeners.

A leader who can’t listen forfeits their right to lead.  This is never more true than is spiritual leadership.

Leaders listen first to Jesus, their Leader.  Then they listen to those they lead, because we can’t love if we don’t listen.

“This is my Son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to Him!”

Yes, Father, yes!  That is the cry of my heart!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Neighboring #likeJesus

“And how do I know who my neighbors are?”

This question can be a daunting, even haunting one…  when you’re reading it in Haiti!

“You must love God with your whole heart, with all your being and all your strength.  And you must love your neighbor as yourself.”

And just how do I know who my neighbors are?  It’s easy for me to read Jesus’ story and look with disdain on the priest and the Levite for passing by…  when I’m sitting in the comforts of my home…  and the needs are mostly theoretical.

But when I’m in Haiti, the question from this teacher of the Law becomes much more real for me.

I’m surrounded by poverty, hunger, sickness, oppression, need.  Everywhere I look, it stares back at me.  And most people look to me as an answer to their need.

Open Door Haiti educates and feeds over 500 children here in the village.  We treat over 1000 patients a month at our medical center.  We care for 50 orphans at our children’s home.  All that and more.

But I still ask, “And who is my neighbor?”

I ask it when someone asked me this week to help them fix the tire on their bike.

I ask it when someone asked me this week to help them pay their school fees.

I ask it when someone asked me this week to help them with the cost of their wedding.

I don’t imagine that I’ll ever stop asking.  It’s a complex issue.  What are my cultural biases?  How do I view poverty?  How do I view needs?

But it can also be simple.  Walk in the Spirit.  Listen to His promptings.  Do what He asks?  When the Spirit open your eyes to see a need, it’s time to act.  It’s this simple.

See a need.  Meet a need. 

That’s what the Good Samaritan did.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Righteous #likeJesus

“Unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law, there is no way you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Jesus’ words must have stunned His listeners.  In His teaching in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raised the bar.  In fact, He set what must have seemed like an impossible standard to live up to.

Was anyone more righteous than the law abiding, rule loving Pharisees?  Yet it seems that Jesus is saying even their attempts toward righteousness fall short of His standard.  If the Pharisees fall short, is there hope for anyone?

And then Jesus walks through command after command,  “You have heard that it was said…”  And with each command, He raises the bar even higher, “But I tell you…”

Righteousness earned by keeping the Law is a mirage, a pipe dream!  Like a Hollywood set, the facade looks impressive, but there’s nothing behind it.

Jesus pulled in Scripture from Exodus 20 & 21, Leviticus 19, Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 5, 15 & 19 and Proverbs 25 to bolster His argument.  He knew the Law.  That much was clear.

So where was the hope?  It’s not found in the Law.  It’s found in Jesus Himself!

“Do not think I am here to abolish the Law or the words of the prophets.  I came to fulfill their purpose.”

Jesus obeyed the Law perfectly.  He’s the only one who met the impossible standard set by the Law.  He is righteous.  Jesus didn’t earn righteousness by obeying the law…  He is righteous in His very nature, and He did not forfeit or taint that righteousness by disobeying the Law.

So where is the hope?  Our righteousness is found in Jesus.  Through Him, we gain a right standing before the Father.  The righteousness of Christ has been “imputed” (deposited) to us.

Jesus paid our sin debt, and then He deposited His righteousness to our account.  We’re rich beyond compare!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Going Viral #likeJesus

When I think of the crowds that flocked to see Jesus, my mind immediately goes to events like the Feeding of the 5000, the Feeding of the 4000, or the Festivals at the Temple in Jerusalem like the Passover.  But before these events, crowds were beginning to form.

We read that right after Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James and John to be fishers of men, “He continued to travel all over Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and delivering people from evil spirits.”  Mark 1:39

The result of Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry is recorded in Luke 5:11.

“Great multitudes from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan followed Him wherever He went.”

Jesus had performed miracles while He was in Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2-3).  This, no doubt, brought the crowds up from Jerusalem and Judea.  He was traveling throughout Galilee ministering, so obviously the people there were aware of Him.  Beyond the Jordan?  That’s where John the Baptist ministered.  Jesus did little there to this point.  John was preparing the way for the Messiah, pointing the way to Jesus.  The people were listening.  And the Decapolis?  This was a Gentile region on the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  Maybe the Decapolis was included when Jesus “traveled all over Galilee,” but I doubt it.  Galilee was a specific region, and a Jewish region at that.  The Decapolis was a specific region, a Gentile territory.  Maybe John the Baptist had reached the Decapolis.  Maybe Jews who were living and working in the Decapolis were hearing rumors of this supposed Messiah and were  coming to check it out.

Soon after this, Jesus healed a leper.  Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-16 tell us what happened next.

“As the report of Jesus’ power rapidly spread, large crowds gathered to hear His teaching and ask for healing of their diseases.  No longer could Jesus openly enter a town without being surrounded by large crowds.  Even in the country, people from everywhere kept coming to Him.  He often retreated to a secluded place where He could be alone and pray.”

When does a mere crowd become a multitude?  I don’t know.  Multitude is just merely classified as a “large number.”  My guess.  A crowd might be a number in the dozens all the way up to several hundred, but when the crowd grows in to several hundreds and even thousands, it becomes a multitude.

In Matthew 12:15-21 and Mark 3:7-12, we read of Jesus returning to the Galilean lakeshore.  A large crow pressed in, so He stepped into a boat to teach.

“A large crowd from Galilee and Judea followed them- from Jerusalem, Idumea and places east of the Jordan River.  They also came from Tyre and Sidon- a multitude who had heard reports of the great things Jesus was doing.”

Wow!  Idumea, This was a region almost 50 miles south of Jerusalem, west of the Dead Sea, about 120 miles from Capernaum.  The word of Jesus had spread all the way to Idumea.

Wow!  Tyre and Sidon.  These were coastal cities on the Mediterranean, northwest of Galilee.  Tyre is about 35 miles from Capernaum, while Sidon is another 25 miles north of Tyre.  The word of Jesus had spread all the way to Tyre and Sidon.

The Gospel was going viral!  “The report of Jesus’ power rapidly spread!”  As far North as Sidon and as far South as Idumea, almost 180 miles apart.  No internet.  No telephones.  No social media.  No planes, trains or automobiles.  And yet the Gospel was going viral, rapidly spreading!

What would it look like for the Gospel to rapidly spread today?  What would have to happen in my life to see the Gospel rapidly spread?

Father, that’s a movement I desperately want to be a part of!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Harvesting #likeJesus

Before Jesus sent out the Seventy, He told them, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”

And before Jesus sent out the Twelve, He told them, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”

But something I’ve just noticed today is this…

Before Jesus called the Four to be Fishers of Men on the shores of Galilee, He challenged them with the harvest in Samaria.

Jesus has just had a conversation with a sinful woman.  He revealed Himself to her as the Messiah, offering her living water that would quench her soul’s deepest longings.  She believed.  She ran back to her village to tell everyone she had found the Messiah.  They must come and see.

As the people were coming to see Jesus, He turned to his disciples and said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete His work.  You should not say, ‘It is another four months until harvest.’  I say, open your eyes and look at the fields, already ripe and ready to harvest.”

Jesus continued, “The reapers receive their reward by gathering a harvest for eternal life, so the sower and reaper may rejoice together.  The saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.  I am sending you where others have planted, and now you get to gather the harvest.”

Jesus would soon challenge the disciples to drop their nets and commit to fishing for men.  First, He allowed them to see the great need.  A throng of Samaritans crowded around Him, eager to hear the truth.

Even though Jesus presented the disciples with the opportunity to share in the harvest in Samaria, to “reap where they have not sown,” we have no indication that they actually participated in the harvest at that point.  They were likely still shocked, maybe even indignant that Jesus was offering equal participation in the kingdom of God to hated half-breed Samaritans.  The Messiah, after all, was for the Jews, right?

Actually, no!   The Messiah would be for the Jew first, but then for the Gentile also.

Jesus “insisted on taking the road through Samaria.”  Samaritans were the product of Jews and Gentiles intermarrying.  Going to half-breeds was going half-way.  Jesus was easing His disciples into the idea that the Gospel was not just for the Jews, but for all people.  “For God so loved the world!”

They stayed in Sychar of Samaria for two more days before heading back to Galilee and many more  Samaritans put their faith in Christ.

The harvest  in Samaria was ripe.  We’re the disciples ready?  If I would but “open my eyes and look at the fields,” where might I see a ripe harvest?   Are my eyes ready to see it?  Is my heart ready to respond to it?  The Savior is already sowing, the Spirit is cultivating the fields.  If I open my eyes, every day there is opportunity to “reap where I did not sow.”

The harvest is great, but the workers are few.  Time to get to work!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

In The Light #likeJesus

John 3 has some of the most memorable verses in all the Gospels.

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  John 3:3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Because the camera lens of our mind is usually zoomed in and focused on these verses, we often fail to see John 3:19-21.  At least I’ve failed to really give it much consideration.

Reading this passage today in Eyewitness, my camera lens diverted from where it normally gravitates to and zoomed in on these verses.

“This is why God condemns people.  Light has come into the world, but people love the darkness, not the light, because their deeds are evil.  People who do evil hate the light and will not come near it for fear that the light will expose their sins.  But those who love truth and desire to do right will come to the light so others can see they are doing what God wants.”

When John writes that Light has come into the world, he is speaking of Jesus, the Light of the World.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it….  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”  John 1:4,5,9

The primary reason people hate Jesus, the Light, is because He exposes the ugliness of their sin.  When it comes to sin, we want to cover up, rationalize, justify.  Our consciences won’t afford us that luxury though.  The Spirit of God convicts us of our guilt before a holy God.  Deep in our hearts, we know something is amiss.  We still have a choice.  We can run from the Light deeper into the darkness to hide in the caverns of our own deception, or we can run to the Light and discover the freedom of forgiveness.

John writes, “those who love truth and desire to do right.”  Does that describe me?  That’s not a condition of salvation as much as it is a description of the one saved.  To love Jesus is to love the Light.  To love the Light is to love truth and desire to do right.

Do I desire to “walk in the light,” as John writes in 1 John 1:7?  To walk in the light is not just a matter of righteous living, of “walking as Jesus walked.”  No, to walk in the light is not just walking AS Jesus but actually walking WITH Jesus.  Walking in the light means drawing close to the Savior’s side, being in close relationship with Him, being a friend and intimate of Jesus.

I want to walk as Jesus.  Oh, but more than that, I want to walk with Him!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Firm Ground #likeJesus

The Life and Ministry of Jesus is placed in a very specific historical context.  Luke, with the meticulous eye of a physician and careful recording of a historian, writes:

“The word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness.  This was during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor, when Pontius Pilate was governor overJudea.  Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee, and his brother Philip ruled over Iturea and Traconitis.  Lysanias ruled over Abilene.”

Annas, Caiaphas, Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias.  That’s seven distinct historical figures- political and religious leaders- that Luke mentions were in power when John the Baptist began his ministry and shortly thereafter, Jesus began His as well.  We’re told that Jesus was around thirty at that time.

If this were a scene from Law and Order, Cold Case, CSI or NCIS, the defense would be presenting a very strong case for the reliability of the Story of Jesus.  Eyewitness testimony.  Meticulous detail.  Historical record.

Our confidence should be strengthened that the story we have been given, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is reliable and true.  Our faith has a firm footing, an unshakeable foundation.

Concerning John the Baptist, Isaiah wrote:

“Listen!  Someone is shouting.  “Clear a path in the wilderness, for the Lord your God is coming.  Fill the valleys and flatten the mountains.  Straighten the curves and smooth the rough places.  The glory of the Lord will appear for all to see.  God has spoken.  It will surely come to pass.”

And Malachi wrote:

“See, I will send My messenger to prepare the way before Me.  Then the Lord you seek will come to His temple.  The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is surely coming, says the Lord of Hosts.”

I love the picture Isaiah paints of the role of John the Baptist.  “Clear a path, fill the valleys, flatten the mountains, straighten the curves, smooth the rough places.”  Do all that you can to remove any obstacles that stand in the way of people seeing Jesus for who He is and being able to place their faith in Him.  I’ve always known that John was sent to “prepare the way,” but reading Isaiah’s words in the full context gives such a strong picture of what preparing the way actually looks like.  John was sent to clear the path, removing any obstacles he could.

Luke’s writing as a first-rate historian helps to remove obstacles.  By giving “an orderly account” Luke strengthens the argument that the Gospel is historical fact.

Many Christians, by the way they live or the words they speak, create obstacles for the Gospel rather than removing them.  Am I creating obstacles or removing them?

In what ways is God asking me to “clear a path, fill the valleys, flatten the mountains, straighten the curves and smooth the rough places” to prepare the way for the Gospel in people’s lives?  Through my life, my testimony and my words, how can I prepare the way for the Gospel?

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM