August 19, 2011

Your Biggest Battle

I know your biggest battle.

I know the battlefield where you have the most at stake.

Your biggest battle isn't with that guy at the office who always steals the glory. It's not the struggle, as great as it may be, to get your financial life in order. Your biggest battlefield is the same as mine.

Our Biggest Battles Are In Our Hearts & Our Homes.

The battles raging in your heart will determine everything else in your life, & the battles waged for your home & your family will have a greater impact on your legacy than anything else you do in life. Who cares if you can retire as a multi-millionaire by 50 if your family hates your guts or maybe even worse, doesn't even really know who you are?

We can see this at work in 2 Samuel 11-19. David has built an amazing life. It seems like everything is perfect. Then like so many powerful leaders, he inexplicably throws it all away to fulfill a momentary desire. He lost the battle in his heart. The result is that his life, his family, & his kingdom are thrown into chaos. He has sex with Bathsheba, murders her husband, & marries her all in an attempt to cover up his defeat. Part of the consequences of David's defeat is that is family began to fall apart around him. One of his sons lost the battle with lust & committed an unspeakable act. When David did nothing about it, his other son lost the battle with anger & rage & committed murder. All the while David sits by like he's helpless to do anything about it. When all is said & done, his family has been utterly devastated, & it all traces back to his defeat in 2 Samuel 11.

Years later, David's son, Solomon, wrote these words, "Above all else, guard your heart." Solomon knew the devastation that came from losing the battles in the heart & home. He knew his family's story, & his own story has some baggage too. Knowing all of this, the wisest man who ever lived basically says, "Before you do anything else, you must guard your heart. Your life flows from what you let in your heart."

What's in your heart? What are you letting in? Whatever you let in, whatever you allow to go unchecked could threaten to take you down. And when you go down, you won't go down alone. Chances are you'll take down those you care about most too. So again, I ask, "What desires are you battling in your heart?"

August 15, 2011


Today marked the beginning of an era in our home. Today was Julia's first day of Kindergarten. In the last couple of days her anxiety level had gone up a few notches. Saturday night she had a full on emotional breakdown because she didn't want to go to school, but this morning she got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, grabbed her backpack & was ready to go. As we walked her into the school & down the main hallway, it was kind of hard to tell what she was thinking. She was being very quiet & taking everything in. When we got to her classroom she found her chair & cubbie-hole, & after putting her backpack & lunchbox away, she sat down & started working on a coloring sheet. I talked to her for a few more minutes before telling her that we were going to leave. She smiled, gave us a hug & kiss, said "Bye", & went back to her coloring sheet.

It was really sort of anti-climactic. We were anticipating at least some sort of emotional outburst, if not from Julia then surely from her mother, but no, none of that. Julia was as cool as could be, & the only thing that had Valerie upset was that she had left the camera in the car. Of course, as I'm writing this Julia may be throwing the mother of all fits because she has finally decided that Kindergarten isn't for her. This afternoon I'll get the play by play of her day, but so far so good. We'll see how tomorrow goes when Mom has to drop her off at the door & can't walk Julia to her classroom.

August 12, 2011

Courage Exposes

Wrapping up our look at the indispensable nature of courage to our faith & our leadership, we turn our attention again to the aftermath of David's victory over Goliath. We've already seen that faithful courage inspires courage & triggers jealousy & insecurity, but when we look at another aspect of I Samuel 18-20 we see this:

Faithful Courage Exposes Your Real Friends.

Even though Saul's insecurity & jealousy jump off the page during these chapters, Jonathan's devotion to David is just as apparent. These two young men were such close friends because they were so alike. If you look at Jonathan prior to his friendship with David, you'll discover that he too was a faithful & courageous warrior. At the beginning of chapter 18, David & Jonathan make a covenant together. They sealed their friendship. As a symbol of Jonathan's devotion, he gave David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, & his belt. There is huge significance in this act. First, Jonathan is demonstrating that he is willing to serve his friend, even though he is royalty. Secondly, the very items he gives to David are symbols of Jonathan's royal status. It's almost as if there is a transference of authority & status going on. David is putting on the royal garb. Deep down I think Jonathan knew his friendship with David would cost him, & he was OK with it because he, like David, wanted to see God's plan become reality.

This level of devotion is huge because Jonathan became David's inside man. Jonathan warned David of Saul's intentions so that David could escape. Jonathan was David's only advocate before Saul. No one else stood up for David. Where are all the people who were just a few verses earlier singing songs about David? They were gone; only Jonathan remained.

When we stand in faithful courage, we'll gain both fans & enemies, but what matters are the true friends that we can really count on. Who are those people in your life? They are absolutely vital for both your faith & your leadership.

August 10, 2011

Courage Pulls The Trigger

As I continue to look at the centrality of courage in our faith & in our leadership. I noticed something else in the aftermath of David's encounter with Goliath. The first thing we mentioned was that faithful courage inspires courage. However, there's something else that will likely result from your act of faithful courage.

Faithful Courage Triggers Jealousy & Insecurity.

Go read I Samuel 18-20 & look at what is going on with King Saul. Saul loves David until David "shows him up." Saul couldn't stand the fact that David was getting some attention. Saul knew that David's faithful courage exposed his faithless cowardice, & he couldn't handle it. He went from loving David to making his top priority the capture & execution of David.

Don't be surprised if the same thing happens to you. When you decide that you are going to stand for the things of God, there will be a backlash, & that backlash will probably come from someone you didn't expect. It's all rooted in jealousy & insecurity. They feel as if your faithful courage exposes their lack of faithful courage, & they may stop at nothing to squash that feeling. They'll take shots at you. They'll undermine you. They'll say things like, "Yeah, but..."

How do you deal with them? First, know that they are there & when you stand for Christ, they will not like it. Knowing that they're in the background is half the battle. Secondly, do what David did. David didn't rebel against Saul; he tried to reconcile & help Saul understand. However, reconciliation requires two people's involvement. When it's clear that those people don't get it & don't want to get it, follow David's example. Take off. Get away from them. You don't have to literally hide out in the desert, but you don't need to be around that kind of person. They'll suck the life out of you.

Just because acting & living out of faithful courage triggers jealousy & insecurity in others, don't let it stop you from standing in faith & stepping forward in faithful courage toward the life & plan that God has for your life & your leadership. Just be ready for the backlash.

August 8, 2011

Courage Inspires

One of the indispensable qualities of both leadership & discipleship is courage. It is non-negotiable. The primary difference in the courage of a follower of Jesus is that their strength & courage is rooted in who they follow not just in what they can do. Our courage must find its roots in our faith in Christ.

There's a lot of talk about courage in leadership & courage when it comes to following Jesus day by day. However, I think we need to take a little time to see what happens when we step out in faithful courage. Sometimes when we listen to stories of faithful courage we tend to romanticize it a bit. This week I'm gonna look at three things that we see in David's life that are the direct result of a singular act of courage.

In I Samuel 17 you may have read a little story about a young shepherd who kills a giant soldier. The story of David's encounter with Goliath is by far the most well known episode of his life, but the aftermath of it tells us a lot about what happens as the result of one act of
faithful courage.

Faithful Courage Inspires Courage.

Prior to David's showdown with Goliath, the entire Israelite army was hiding in tents. However, when a young boy walked onto the battlefield & conquered the giant, the army rose up, found their courage & absolutely took the fight to their enemy. Why? Because courage always inspires more courage. Whether it's jumping off the high dive as a kid or being the only student to take a stand for their faith in their school, when one steps up, others find it within themselves to do the same.

You may be in a position where you feel you have to stand alone, but take heart in the fact that you may not have to stand alone for very long. Your act of faithful courage may be the very thing that inspires others to stand with you. However, it is the one who is willing to stand alone who rises to the top & is viewed as the leader. Don't be afraid to stand alone because, like David, even if you stand alone face to face with a giant, you are not really standing alone.

August 5, 2011

What Is Your Default Mode?

The default mode is the way something or someone responds to a situation. It's built in; it's the programming. Default settings are great on a computer because if we screw something up, we can click the default button & it restores all the original settings to whatever we're working on. Then we can make adjustments as needed.
The question we need to ask is "What is our default mode?" Spiritually speaking, what is your default response to God's prompting or leading in a situation. The reason I ask this is because I've seen far too many people who operate with the default setting of "No!" Sure, they've always got a good reason. It might be money, time, risk, or a whole host of other reasons, but the real problem is that their default setting is "No". They don't slow down enough to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, God might want them to move forward in spite of all the really good reasons not to. They don't stop & remember that God is bigger than even their best reasons to stay where they are.

Can I get a little personal here? Parents, we're the worst about this. Too often we allow the parental instinct to protect override our trust in God. In the process, we protect & shield our children from the blessings of following God radically. See, we know that radical faith, trust, & obedience leads us to do things that are crazy, expensive, time consuming, & even dangerous in our pursuit of God. So we retreat to our default mode of "NO!", & we have great reasons to say "No", but don't we serve a God who is more than capable of dealing with our reasons "why not"?

I'm not saying that we need to completely switch our default mode to "Yes"; I mean we do have to use wisdom. But if we're going to have a knee jerk response to God's promptings, shouldn't it be closer to "Yes" than "No"? Shouldn't we at least be open to the possibility that God might want to do something amazing in our lives or the lives of our children in spite of the long list of reasons why we think it might not "work"?

August 3, 2011

Is It Really Safe?

"The safest place in the world is in the center of God's will."

This is a statement that I've heard thousands of times in the church culture. However, I'm afraid it's terribly misleading. In the big theological picture, it's true. God does take responsibility for the life that's fully surrendered to Him. On the other hand, radically pursuing God's will guarantees nothing remotely regarded as safety. Sadly though many of us guage where we are in our faith journey by how safe & secure our lives are in the moment. The thought that the center of God's will might actually be risky or outright dangerous is totally foreign to many American believers.

But what if pursuing God's plan might actually lead us into a danger zone? I mean look at some of the situations early followers of Jesus found themselves in. Paul found himself in jail or shipwrecked. Peter was so close to execution that when God busted him out of jail everybody thought it was his ghost. Even going all the way back to the Old Testament we find guys like David. In 1st Samuel 21 & 22, we find David trying to follow the life God has called him to & all he has coming his way is trouble & danger. He's on the run from the king that he has served faithfully. By the way, the king is his best friend's father & David's own father-in-law. Not only that, but he finds himself armed with only one thing: the sword of Goliath. Not a bad weapon, until David finds himself in Gath, Goliath's hometown. So David, the man after God's own heart, finds himself a hunted man who is now standing in the hometown of his most famous enemy & victory, & he's practically wearing a trophy of that victory by parading around with Goliath's sword.

What if following God & being in "the center of His will" actually leads us to places that are not only uncomfortable but might even be dangerous? What if we shouldn't be gauging our faithfulness by how safe & secure our lives might be & instead should be measuring by the depths of risk that our faith might require of us? I'm just thinking out loud a little bit, but I know that Jesus told us to expect trouble because of all of the trouble He encountered, yet so often we think following Him should lead to safety, security, & material blessing. What if we are dead wrong?

August 1, 2011

Everybody has made a bad deal or a bad trade in their lives. Somewhere along the way I'm sure you gave up something hoping for a payoff or at the very least hoping that there would be no negative effects. But sure enough, down the road you were burned by your trade.

In Genesis 25 we find perhaps the worst trade in history. A guy named Esau traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup...lentil soup, not exactly the most scrumptious thing ever served up. For a bowl of this amazing culinary delight, Esau didn't just trade away wealthy & authority, he forfeited the spiritual implications of his birthright. Esau's family wasn't just any family; it was the family God chose to use in order to make Himself known to the world. For some soup, Esau forfeited the part he could play in God's plan.

This sounds ridiculous, but we do it all the time. We trade God's plan for a momentary desire & the temporary feeling of fulfillment that comes from feeding the desire, but guess what? That desire will be back, & we will again be faced with the temptation to sell out in order to feed the desire. We have to learn from Esau that the thing we are throwing away might be the very thing we need most.

What is your bowl of stew? What desires in your life threaten the plan God has for you? Are there places where you are already compromising God's design for your life & leadership just to satisfy a temporary desire? Here's one question you can ask about four areas in your life in order to reframe that desire:

What story do I want to tell...
     -About my faith & journey/relationship with God?
     -About my marriage?
     -About my relationship with your kids?
     -About my legacy & influence in this world?

When the tension arises, & you are tempted to trade God's eternal , unchanging plan for your temporary, ever changing plan, ask this question. Once you know what story you want to tell, you can backtrack & map out how you can get to the ending you would like for your story. Live in a way that is consistent with the story you want to tell, & you will set yourself up to live the life that God desperately wants for you.