Day 20

24 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 26  But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 27  Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28 just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”  Matthew 20:20-28, CEB

Is leadership all about manipulating people?  

Granted, Jesus doesn’t use the word leadership, but I believe what he’s describing here is, roughly, his vision for leadership.  This vision isn’t about self-promotion and it isn’t about power.  In other words, life in general, and leadership in particular, isn’t about becoming the person with the most influence or the person with the most authority.  It’s not about becoming the stereotype of a “boss” who gets to tell other people what to do, as fun as that can be at times.  

Instead, Jesus promotes the idea that life (and therefore leadership) is about helping other people thrive.  If your end goal in life is to find ways to promote yourself then you may just find that this simply won’t do in the new reality God is in the process of creating.  If your end goal is doing for others so that they may thrive then you’ll find yourself very much at home in this new reality.  

How we go about doing this is complicated, particularly in a recovery context, so it’s important to stay tuned over the next few days (and maybe go back and read the previous days on sacrifice too).  


Day 19

24 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 26  But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 27  Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28 just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”  Matthew 20:20-28, CEB

Continuing on from yesterday, we’re asking:  What is the problem with how we talk about leadership?

There are dozens of books out there on leadership strategy.  Sometimes they teach you how to appear to care about everyone you work with so that they will love you enough to want to work for you.  Sometimes they teach you to remain cold and distant so that you are feared enough that people will be motivated to work so they don’t lose the job and/or anger the boss.  Sometimes they tell you specifically how to understand various groups of people (by age, gender, race, education, or something else) so that you can offer the right kind of carrot to get the horse walking.  

So, I want to ask this:  Is leadership all about manipulating people?  

Share your thoughts below!  

More tomorrow.


Day 18

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus along with her sons. Bowing before him, she asked a favor of him.  21 “What do you want?” he asked.  She responded, “Say that these two sons of mine will sit, one on your right hand and one on your left, in your kingdom.”  22 Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Can you drink from the cup that I’m about to drink from?”  They said to him, “We can.”  23 He said to them, “You will drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom my Father prepared it.”

24 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 26  But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 27  Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28 just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”  Matthew 20:20-28, CEB

Another topic that I think we, in the church, don’t handle incredibly well is leadership.  And I think the way we talk about leadership may have negative consequences for those trying to get and stay clean in a faith-based context.  

What is the problem?  

I have seen many, many presentations on leadership over the last 10 years or so.  I tend to walk away from those conversations feeling a little crazy.  More often than not, I hear people describe leadership as the ability to get others to do your will.  Leaders are bosses, bosses need employees to accomplish the boss’s vision and, if the boss is able to coerce the employees to accomplish that vision, then the boss is a good leader.  

This is a somewhat logical conclusion if leadership truly is about getting others to do your bidding.  But, I can’t help but wonder, isn’t there more to it than that?


Day 17

8 God said, “Truly, they are my people,

   children who won’t do what is wrong.”

   God became their savior.

9 During all their distress, God also was distressed,

   so a messenger who served him saved them.

In love and mercy God redeemed them,

   lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times.  Isaiah 63:8-9, CEB

 

Starting on Day 11, we’re discussing why the way we talk about salvation matters for people in recovery.  

 

The kinds of salvation promises God tends to make to his people are frustratingly vague yet surprisingly sweet and sincere.  God is the ultimate enigma.  

 

God consistently says to his people, “You are my people, and I am your God.”  What can we expect from this?  It implies protection and provision, but we rarely know to what exact extent.  On the one hand, the presence of the church globally suggests that God more than honors this promise.  Yet, many of us are disappointed because we’re not sure this kind of promise funnels down in our personal life.  I’m not sure if we’ll ever fully understand or get to the bottom of this.  
God is also consistently distressed by his people’s distress.  He doesn’t just acknowledge our suffering, he feels our suffering.  And this is important, because his ability to feel the distress of his people motivates him to act.  God can suffer, too, and, when he does, he makes a move to rescue his people from despair.  I doubt we can create a formula for understanding how this works, but I think it’s good to know that this kind of God exists.  


Day 16

8 God said, “Truly, they are my people,

   children who won’t do what is wrong.”

   God became their savior.

9 During all their distress, God also was distressed,

   so a messenger who served him saved them.

In love and mercy God redeemed them,

   lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times.  Isaiah 63:8-9, CEB

 

Starting on Day 11, we’re discussing why the way we talk about salvation matters for people in recovery.  

 

Salvation isn’t just something that happens in the future.  It’s what happens any time we notice that we’ve received some sort of gift from God, whether that gift is support, forgiveness, love, sobriety, hope, healing, etc.  

 

Yet, I know many who will say that they didn’t receive the salvation they asked for.  This is one of many difficulties that comes with a life of faith.  There are certain kinds of salvation we are certain that we need that we don’t receive.  How do we explain this?  

 

I think it’s important that we don’t explain it.  We don’t explain it because that’s part of the discipline of being submitted to God.  We don’t make excuses for him nor do we assume we know the reasons for his choices.  But, at the same time, we also don’t ignore it.  When we’ve been deeply wounded because of a hole in our lives we don’t have to kid ourselves into thinking that we need to be happy about that.  The absence of salvation in an area is something to be grieved, mourned.  And, as we’ve discussed many times, Old Testament writers don’t hesitate to grieve and mourn to God about God.  
If I may be so bold as to make a recommendation, if you are deeply wounded by God’s lack of action, or lack or presence in your life, please don’t give up.  Take those things honestly to him and to the community.  Let people surround you with support and love so that you may at least receive one kind of salvation in the absence of another.  There are no consolation prizes, but the love and support of a community can go a long way towards healing.  


Day 15

8 God said, “Truly, they are my people,

   children who won’t do what is wrong.”

   God became their savior.

9 During all their distress, God also was distressed,

   so a messenger who served him saved them.

In love and mercy God redeemed them,

   lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times.  Isaiah 63:8-9, CEB

 

Starting on Day 11, we’re discussing why the way we talk about salvation matters for people in recovery.  

 

I actually find the Old Testament quite comforting.  I appreciate reading about people who so desperately desire God to make himself obviously known in ways that impact daily life.  I find that comforting because I want that too, for my community, and for myself.  If we were to talk of “God showing up” we’d be talking of salvation.  

 

So, when we find hope amid hopeless, that’s salvation.  When we find support in times of loneliness and isolation, that’s salvation.  When we find friendship or companionship, that’s salvation.  When we receive grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, that’s salvation.  It’s not something that’s just off in the future waiting, it’s here now.  
More tomorrow.  


Day 14

17 Samuel summoned the people to the Lord at Mizpah. 18 Then he told the Israelites: “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the Egyptians’ power and from the power of all the kingdoms that oppressed you. 19 But today you’ve rejected your God who saved you from all your troubles and difficulties by saying, ‘No! Appoint a king over us!’ So now assemble yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”  1 Samuel 10:17-19, CEB

 

Starting on Day 11, we’re discussing why the way we talk about salvation matters for people in recovery.  

 

Basically, it shows us two very common OT themes.  1.  Both God and the people define who God is based on what God has done.  2.  God’s faithful followers consistently struggle to trust in God’s provision and try to find workarounds so that they can feel like they have a safe and secure place in the world (this is, essentially, why they wanted a king).  

 

As for number 2, despite how God’s people describe him (as a God of action), people have always struggled to believe that God would really provide.  As weird as the Old Testament is, and as incomparable as our problems seem by way of comparison, isn’t the root of the struggle the same?  Don’t we struggle to believe that God is going to provide for us and deliver us?  How often do we live with total confidence that God is going to save us?  How often do we, too, try to find workarounds so that life makes sense to us?  

 

This is the essential struggle between God and humankind in the Bible.  We believe in a God who acts on our behalf…but we’re really not sure if he’s going to keep doing it.  In that way, it seems crazy to me to think that certain versions of Christianity stress so hard the importance of knowing, with certainty, that God is going to save us.  The Bible doesn’t seem to have that kind of confidence!  Isn’t it a comfort to us, people in recovery, people who struggle deeply, to know that we’re not alone when life leaves us utterly shaken in our faith?  It isn’t some strange thing that indicates a faith problem…it’s the same problem faithful people have had since the beginning of time!  
We’re all in this thing together…and it’s always been that way!