pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Shepherd Kings

Reading: 2 Samuel 5: 1-5 and 9-10

Verse Two: “The Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler'”.

In many ways David is an early example of how a faithful believer should live their life. No, David is not perfect, but he does provide a very good example. The best example will always be Jesus, but in today’s passage we find a man who was closely attuned to God. From David we can learn much as individuals and as leaders.

Long before he was king, Samuel came and anointed David to one day be king. David was just a shepherd then. From that moment of anointing, we remember, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13). As we read through the rest of 1st Samuel and into 2nd Samuel, we see over and over how God was with David as David trusted and leaned into God, remaining ever faithful to God. The leaders of Israel saw this too. They gathered at Hebron to make David king over all of Israel. The people said, “The Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler'”. They want David to shepherd the nation. He will do so for forty years.

Often we relate the job of shepherd to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. While there is some truth to this, we cannot miss the parallels between a shepherd and a leader as God intends one to lead. In Ezekiel 34 we get this job description for a shepherd: feed the sheep, heal the sheep, protect the sheep, strengthen the sheep, recover the lost sheep, guide the sheep, keep the flock together. This list sounds a lot like Jesus. This is also how David was a shepherd king for Israel. One of the main reasons that David is considered Israel’s greatest king ever is because under his leadership Israel prospered and lived in security and peace. Life was good for the sheep under David’s care.

How awesome would it be if all leaders led this way? What would life be like if peace and safety and security extended to all people? Today may we pray for our current leaders and for our future leaders – local, state, national, and world – to model their leadership after the shepherd king. Pray for our leaders. Amen.


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Lead

Reading: Matthew 23: 1-12

Verse 11: The greatest among you will be your servant.

Leadership today is usually about having good people skills, making wise decisions, knowing the intricacies of the trade, carefully using ones power, and gaining experience in one’s field.  Society may even overlook some behaviors or actions if the bottom line is healthy enough.  In our world we also see some trying to lead, but they lack some of the necessary qualities and skills to lead well.  Others are following their own agendas and are leading a very small band or a group of one.

Jesus addresses leadership in Luke 23.  He is talking once again about the religious leaders and the Pharisees.  He begins by acknowledging that they sit in the seat of authority.  Therefore, He says they deserve obedience.  But from here, Jesus addresses their woes.  First, they do not practice what they preach.  Second, they use the Law to place heavy burdens on the people but they themselves do nothing to help the people live out the Law.  Third, they love recognition.  They desire to be noticed and recognized for their apparent holiness and esteemed positions.  It is all about them and little about helping others to know God and to live devout and righteous lives.

Jesus then shifts the focus to who we should really be following.  He insists that there is really only one true Father and only one true Teacher.  God alone is to be worshipped and we should follow Jesus alone.  As John the Baptist said, we must become less so that Jesus can become more.  Jesus also speaks of this today, saying, “The greatest among you will be your servant”.  The greatest here on earth will be the servant.  Faith is about loving God and, in turn, loving others.

The humble servant loves and serves and then points to Jesus Christ and His love as the reason why.  This is the task of all Christians: through our lives we are to point others to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  To a degree, we are all called to lead.  By our prayers, our presence, our witness, our service, and our gifts, may we always lead others to Christ.  As we live out our lives and as we love others as humble servants of the Lord our God, may we ever shine the light on Jesus, the author of our faith.


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Caught Up in Conflict

Reading: Exodus 17: 5-7

Verses 5 and 6: Walk on ahead of the people… I will stand there before you.

At times we have all experienced flaps and disagreements in our churches.  Generally speaking these conflicts are not over large theological issues.  These issues, for the most part, have been hashed out and settled as the different denominations have formed and defined themselves.  Today the conflicts tend to center around personal preferences and choices.  But some of the conflicts center around important and path-altering issues or decisions.  Such is the conflict Moses faces today, at least on the surface.

The central issue is the lack of water for the people and the livestock.  Water is an essential of life so it is a need, not a want or a personal preference.  But the issue is brought forth with much grumbling and a bit of complaining.  It is not an open and honest conversation.  Couched within the need is a questioning of both Moses’ leadership and God’s care for the people.  Conflict often has multiple layers to it.

Moses has some options on how he could handle the situation.  At first one can read some frustration into his words with God.  Moses could go to the grumblers and react back out of his emotional hurt.  But this does no good so he instead seeks out the one who can give him a little guidance and some empathy.  Moses turns to God and God gives him guidance, directions, and reassurance.  God instructs Moses to “walk on ahead of the people”.  He is instructed to take some elders along – wise and trusted leaders, not the grumblers.  ‘Gather some support around you’ is what God is saying here.  God then says, “I will stand there before you”.  God will be there with Moses.  Then strike the rock and water will pour out.  God will meet the need and He will be present for Moses, bringing him reassurance as God reinforces Moses’ leadership role.

Moses’ example gives us good steps to follow when we feel caught up in conflict.  Don’t take it personal, seek God as trusted friend and guide, proceed forward in God’s presence.  Doing so, we know that God is in our thoughts and decisions and that God is in control.


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How Far?

Servant leadership is difficult.  It is pretty easy to serve, to go out and do for others.  There are lots of needs that can be met and many people who would appreciate a group of volunteers showing up to help them out.  If one is gifted with certain characteristics, then leadership can also be pretty easy.  As people rise into higher positions, we usually recognize these characteristics in the person.  Almost all leadership positions come with some level of power and authority.  Jesus warns against using this to lord one’s position over others.

Great leaders do not dominate but include others.  Great leaders do not dictate but they participate.  Great leaders have vision and drive and purpose and they spread this to those on their team.  Great leaders build up their team and keep it moving towards its goals and purposes.  If one is able to lead in this manner, power and authority tend to find them.  To be a servant as well can be difficult.

As servants we must sometimes do things we do not want to do.  As servant leaders we may have to lead others in doing these things.  Great servant leaders have a gift for bringing others along on these difficult journeys.  Jesus gave us many great examples of the leader serving and He calls us to do the same.  How far are we willing to go?  On the cross the Most High suffered and died for the lowly and sinful, for the sake of saving us.  How far will we go to save the least and the lost, the sinful and the broken?  Leaders go as far as needed.  May we go where He sends us.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 42-45


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True Leadership

How often do we long for power and authority?  Not to be under it, but to have it.  How often do we think, “If only I were in charge…”?  How often do we think, “Man, I am glad I am not in charge of that …”?  At one time or another we all have these kinds of thoughts.  And the truth is that we sometimes crave power and at other times we are as happy as we can be when we have no responsibilities al all.

James and John ask Jesus if they could sit at His left and right in glory.  But alas, Jesus tells them that these spots are already spoken for.  The other ten, when they hear about this request, are naturally angry that James and John could even ask such a thing.  But in reality most of them probably fluctuated between thinking ‘how could they ask for such a thing’ and ‘why didn’t I think of that’.  Jesus gently redirects all of their focus (and ours): whoever wants to be great must become a servant, like a slave to all.  What a 180 degree swing!

True leadership in the Jesus model is exhibited by being in humble service to those in our lives.  It is making the choice to think of others before considering yourself.  It is at times denying self in order to be able to help another.  It is being willing to make a sacrifice in the name of the One who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Jesu asked James and John if they could drink the cup He was going to drink.  They said yes and they did, both giving their all and dying for Jesus, their King.  He asks us the same question.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 35-45


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In Charge by One

When Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint Israel’s next king, he was looking for what we often look for in a leader –  strong, powerful, mighty, charismatic…  Some of these are surface characteristics but others are ‘hidden’ or are things we can sense about someone.  But this is some of the typical list that we look for in our leaders.  They are also characteristics that many of us would like applied to ourselves as well!

But God told Samuel ‘No, no no!’  God told him that it is what is in the heart that matters.  In essence, God told him, ‘To rule my people Israel, faithfulness to me is what matters.’  A heart for God is what counts.  To rule or leas from the perspective of God is what is needed.

It is still what matters today.  It does not matter if you own your own business or if you are in charge or a large number of people.  To live with a heart turned to God matters just as much as if you are only leading yourself.  Most of us fall somewhere in between owning our own business and leading just ourselves.  It does not matter.  Leading a God-filled, spirit-led life is ALL that matters.  And we each are fully in charge of whether or not we live that way.  Seek God.  Love God.  Share God.