Obedience.

Any mentioning of the word in Christian circles will conjure up diverse emotion. In many corners of Christianity, it has become a word of obscenity. Whether the context is obeying Jesus or learning to obey spiritual authority—no matter the context, this word has become problematic on many levels. A linguistic parriah. 

Don’t get me wrong; I get it. I really do. It seems that reports of sexual abuse and corruption from those in places of leadership in the Church are coming out by the week as more brave women and men step forward. The result is a large distrust of the church as we have known it as well as leaders within the church. Obedience and human spiritual authority is an entirely separate topic. Again, I understand. I have lamented for many hours in prayer over it.

Combine this with the origin story of my homeland, the USA, and we can understand on another level why this word is hard for us. The USA has a deep and innate obsession with individualism, autonomy, and freedom. It has come at a great price. There are positives to this part of our national identity. For the Christian though, if we are not careful, those positives can become problematic to our allegiance to Christ if not kept in check. If not kept in check, obedience in any form, drops into our ears like a threat to everything we hold dear.  

Though for the Christian, obedience is very much a foundational principle to live by, regardless of where we call home. Following and obeying Jesus in Scripture was never based on our emotional disposition or ease of comfort. There was never a standard to be met before we could obey. Following Jesus has forever hinged on pure obedience. Not the kind of obedience that comes across legalistic. Costly, yes. Difficult, yes. Painful even, yes. But never legalistic or shameful. The way Jesus speaks of it, is tied to a deeper submission of the heart to that which we are following. 

The Promises of Obedience to Jesus

This can be seen when Jesus, in John 14:15-15:16 includes or alludes to twelve promises which accrue to those who love and… obey God. 

  • 14:15-17: If you keep my commandments, I will send you the Helper, who will abide with you forever.
  • 14:18: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
  • 14:21: He who loves me will keep my commandments.
  • 14:23: We will come to him who obeys and make Our home with him.
  • 14:26: The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and remind you of my words.
  • 14:27: Do not be afraid, I give you my peace.
  • 15:7: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
  • 15:8: My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit.
  • 15:9-10: If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.
  • 15:14: You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
  • 15:15: I no longer call you servants, but friends.
  • 15:16: You did not choose me; I chose you–that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.

Do you see how the above Scriptures highlight the role of obedience and it being for our ultimate good as Christians? This is what the unbelieving and secular society needs to see: indiviudals who walk out their faith at all costs. 

Unbelievers find faith in Jesus not because of a mental ascent to certain beliefs. They find faith in Jesus because they stepped out of their current existence and into a new one by faith; doing and following what they see within the Gospel of Jesus. Of course belief has a part to play.

But remember, Jesus first called out, “Follow me” to the disciples. Not, “Believe me.” 

Apart from unbelievers, followers of Jesus are renewed and find fresh faith themselves, not because they devoured books or went a week without a certain sin. They find renewal by obeying what they know to be true but have ignored for some time. That which we have read again and again but have been slow to put into action.

Following Jesus is not built on our terms. Following Jesus is built on his. He calls us to obey; submitting our whole hearts to him.

I pray that today you find yourself desiring to live out your faith in fresh and new ways. Seeking to crucify your own flesh and ego and with childlike faith, trusting the planted seed of the Gospel which has been planted within you. 

Lest you fear obeying Jesus like he desires is attainable, remember you have been given his Holy Spirit to lead you to a rediscovery of the deep things of God. In doing so, you will discover that obeying Jesus is not an adventure into drudgery. Obeying Jesus becomes a doorway into a hope and future that finds meaning in the present. It brings our faith to life!

To the point where, like the Apostle Paul, we are are able to say, “For I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Those things God has been calling / commanding / inviting / requesting you to do; those dreams which require you to put action to your lips, its time to move. Nothing will ever come by theorizing, talking, and dreaming. The things God destines for our lives come through our obedience to his Gospel truth. You can do this; the Holy Spirit is with you. The greatest transformations I have ever experienced have been the direct result of time of prayer when I know, read, and hear what God is inviting me to–and with fear and stumbling I step out and obey. I wish I was better at it. But I am learning. Learning to obey his voice above all others. Joy is found in no other place than obedience to Christ.

“So, you just got saved. From what? For what?” Part 1

Many who follow Jesus are able to pinpoint with clarity the moment they realized they were “saved” and the simultaneous relief and joy that surrounded that moment. However, understanding what they were saved from or for—that is less clear. I began following Jesus in April of 2002. Upon realizing my salvation, I began to evangelize those closest to me. With fervor and passion, I would explain the Scriptures to the best of my imperfect ability as well as what I believed God was communicating to me from them. I felt that I was well on my way to a healthy understanding of this new faith until a friend asked a rather simple question. Following my explanation of the Gospel to her and my reception of it she bluntly asked, “But what are you saved from?” Being unsure how to answer I gave a curt reply. “Hell, of course!” At the speed of light, another question followed. “But what are you saved for?” This one stumped me. It was then I realized although I could tell someone when I was saved, I was unable to give clear meaning to what this meant on a practical level for how I lived my life or functioned in the church I had recently joined.

In the many years since becoming a Christian I have learned that salvation is often spoken of in the church and yet rarely understood or even appreciated. I have noticed it becoming the favorite catchphrase between the spiritual “haves” and the “have nots.” Often people will cast judgement on others saying, “That person is definitely not saved.” or “This one over here is saved!” We haphazardly use this word so often that it has lost much of its root system from where it stems. As a result, the theology behind one’s understanding of salvation is often convoluted and rarely straight forward—just as it was for myself all those years ago. This should not come as a surprise since “salvation” (like all theological concepts) is developed from within contexts which possess their own contours. Whether or not those contours shift drastically, or subtlety will be the focus of what is ahead. 

For instance, protestant understandings of salvation are mostly born out of the struggle within the Reformation focusing on the tension of justification by faith which has brought about various stereotypes within Christianity. John J. Collins writes

Perhaps the most abiding stereotype of ancient Judaism is that it was a religion of the Law. Christian perceptions on this subject have been shaped to a great degree by the portrayal of the Pharisees in the Gospels as rigid observers of the letter of the Law. It is now recognized that this portrayal is polemical in nature and cannot be taken as an objective description.[1]

Add to this the subsequent influences of the enlightenment, scholasticism, revivalism, pietism, and many other “-isms,” the theological understanding of salvation moves well beyond faith and includes other imports that cloud a basic meaning of salvation which is tethered to its Judistic roots. Though not mentioned above but possibly the greatest influencer of such (negative?) diversity has been the fundamentalist/ modernist controversy where firm lines have been drawn to the point where biblical interpretation and how one does it can be a deciding factor if one is even “saved” or not.[2] All of these influences (not to mention the radical individualism and consumerism of Western society) has led many to “conceive of salvation in particular ways, shaped by the controversies of the past and the cultures of the present.”[3] We are left asking the question, “Will the real understanding of salvation please stand up?” 

New Testament[4] scholar Brenda B. Colijn asks similar questions of salvation while employing a unique method. In her book Images of Salvation in the New Testament she seeks to deepen the reader’s comprehension of salvation and what it encompasses. The goal of her study is not to land on one definition per se but rather appreciate the many ways it is described throughout the Scriptures. She explains

The New Testament does not develop a systematic doctrine of salvation. Instead, it presents us with a variety of pictures taken from different perspectives…. This reliance on images is typical of the Bible: ‘the Bible is much more a book of images and motifs than of abstractions and propositions…. The Bible is a book that images the truth as well as stating it.’[5]

If we want to go deeper in understanding what we are saved from and for or who the agent of salvation even is, the question we should then wrestle with is, “where do these concepts or symbols come from which are used to explain salvation?”

Being able to answer this question among others surrounding it positions followers of Jesus to better understand the story of salvation they are part of. Failure to do so will result in believers and a church unable to articulate why this message is called “Good News;” a truth about salvation that is not neatly defined; only described. 

To aid in our pursuit of understanding salvation it is imperative we remember that the core biblical description on this theme is embedded within a larger story that far expands outside of our individual selves. Joel B. Green states

The ongoing story of God’s relationship to the whole cosmos, and thus to all humanity, and especially to Israel, as this is narrated in the Old and New Testaments…. is grounded in the scriptures of Israel, and comes to expression above all in Jesus Christ, [and] continues into the present, and moves forward to the consummation of God’s purpose and self-revelation in the end.[6]

It is to this end—understanding salvation through the lens of the biblical narrative—that we must strive for. Anything short of a thorough study in what Green communicates above results in a stunted salvific understanding of God that is quickly reduced to the individualism which pervades much of modern Christendom. An individualism which communicates that salvation is simply the absence of judgment and condemnation resulting in heaven being our ticket. Thankfully there is much more to salvation than this tired and worn understanding of salvation.

As N.T. Wright famously writes regarding the importance of the New Heavens and New Earth in contrast to a simple understanding of going to heaven when we die, “There is life after life after death.”[7]

Much of the church’s thinking and language about salvation (and at times eschatology) is inadequate to reach those following Jesus as well as those who are yet to make the decision to. The only way forward is by going backwards to better understand what salvation meant to Israel, the Gentiles, Jesus, and early church. Will there be large differences? Will there be a linear understanding over time with minor shifting? It is hoped that through this journey of study that we will arrive at a wholistic understanding that better positions the Christian and church alike to give society something it has been longing for: “wholeness and hope.” A pleasant byproduct will also be the ability to answer what we are saved from and what we are saved for with the depth and beauty such a question, not to mention the Gospel of Jesus, deserves. 


[1] Abingdon Press, ed., The New Interpreter’s Bible: General Articles & Introduction, Commentary, & Reflections for Each Book of the Bible, Including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 285.

[2] Brenda B. Colijn, Images of Salvation in the New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2010), 21.

[3] Colijn, 21.

[4] “NT” will be used to denote “New Testament” moving forward except when quoted. 

[5] Colijn, Images of Salvation in the New Testament, 13–14.

[6] Joel B. Green, Salvation, 1st ed, Understanding Biblical Themes (St. Louis, Mo: Chalice Press, 2003), 3.

[7] This understanding of life after death is built upon N.T. Wright throughout his work on early Christian hope. See  N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, 1st ed (New York: HarperOne, 2008).

Becoming Excellent in How We Serve God

How would you define ministry excellence? This was the question I posed to my team last week. What came back were diverse definitions illustrating varying degrees of how this can be defined. This phrase though, “Excellence in Ministry” is relative. Anyone’s idea of what excellence is can suffice to that person. For instance, is excellence in ministry just doing out best? Some would say yes. Is excellence in ministry having everything professionally put together minimizing all glitches and issues? Some would say yes. To be clear, I am being rather narrow in my focus, looking at how churches are led as well as what takes place within the community of faith. But it does involve what happens outside the four walls as well in each of our own ministries where God has placed us.

I always come back to the Apostle Paul when trying to nail down a good definition of being excellent for the Lord. I have always been fearful of perfectionism as well as sloppiness in what I do for the Lord. But Paul has helped me find that healthy middle ground. He wrote in Colossians 3:17,

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I know, I know. This too could be vague. Though it still might be; this nonetheless provides the impetus and definition of excellence in ministry. We seek to be excellent in what we do because its for Christ and the magnification of His Kingdom. The standard and definition for our excellence is the model of Jesus. While everyone must wrestle with how they define it; what matters most is that we are seeking after it. Those we lead and those on the outside are looking for communities of faith that line up with the excellence and ideals of Jesus in Scripture. So whether its in preaching, organizing, cleaning, or any other task in the Church–how are you being excellent? What areas need refined in how you are serving the Lord?

Here are the definitions from our Compassion Church team. Take your time in reading them. Notice the differences among them.

  1. Having a clear vision that points others to Christ; showing compassion by identifying and meeting needs by stewarding resources well. 
  2. Using the gifts God has given us to do our best acknowledging he has given us all perfect gifts. 
  3. To take initiative in being authentic to our vision and bringing relationship and structure together. 
  4. Doing ministry with integrity to empower and bring compassion and unity to the church community. 
  5. Using our gifts in unity to serve others in obedience to Christ in creating a Tov (goodness) culture. 
  6. Bringing people closer to Jesus in a well organized and truth way to achieve a clear vision centered on His will. 

How would you define it?

Jesus and His Kingdom – Part 1

What exactly is this “Kingdom” Jesus speaks of?

On May 2nd, 2011, the news broke. Osama Bin Laden had been killed for his role in the September 11th, 2001, attacks on U.S. soil. The reception of this news for many was marked with euphoria, joy, and deep seated—decade long—emotions of revenge. The masses gathered in front of the White House in celebration with liturgy of song and chant. The singing of “God Bless the U.S.A” as well as the repetitious and synchronized yelling of “Rot in Hell.” Many interviewed in the streets were speechless in their attempts to communicate their relief. In watching these interviews, it was easy to see a disturbing and shocking trend woven throughout their thinking: God’s approval. 

In the following months details began to come forward from the “situation room” where the president and other cabinet members watched the operation play out. We were told that if the mission were successful and Bin Laden was captured dead or alive a code word would be given, “Geronimo.” What was said through satellite communications to the President that night was, “For God and Country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” There it was again. 

Following that night over ten years ago now I had many conversations with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about the subtle tension I and others were feeling. It was a disturbing tension I could not remove myself from: rejoicing over the death of another while simultaneously invoking the name of God and His approval. It just didn’t feel right though I did understand it’s origin. I battled in my own flesh the emotions of satisfaction that this man received what my flesh felt he deserved. However, deep-seated within me is an ethic of love and non-violence formed by the teachings of Jesus which challenged those emotions. 

Nonetheless, I struggled to see how invoking God’s blessing over this action differentiated us from those who also perpetrated these attacks in the name of their own god. But it was one comment from an individual that stands above everything I had seen on T.V. After graciously putting up with my long discourse regarding what I felt to be so un-Christlike and un-befitting for Jesus followers in celebrating the death of Bin Laden, a friend said to me, “I felt like what happened was just. It was a win for the Kingdom of God.” 

Really? A win for the Kingdom?[1] I could not believe that someone I had trusted and admired as a mature student of the Scriptures would say something like this. I was determined to seek out a fresh understanding of the Kingdom of God in response to his statement. Since that moment to the present, I have come to realize this may be the most important area to grapple with for the modern church. Judging from that one conversation to many others I have had as a leader in the Church I have also realized it might be one of the most diluted and misunderstood aspects of Jesus’ message. If the Church has any hope at all in displaying the awe-inspiring wonder, beauty, and creativity of the Gospel—we must go backwards before we can go forwards. We must do the hard work of recovering the width and depth of what the Kingdom of God meant to Jesus as well as those who came before him.  

When looking at the New Testament it is beyond clear that the central fulcrum on which his entire message swings is this very topic. The Kingdom is, as Bruce Chilton says, “…the center of Jesus’ message both as a fact and as a mystery.”[2] If this is true, which I believe it is, then how this message is understood and conveyed is of the utmost importance in our desire to bring profound hope and truth to an unbelieving world. These noble aspirations unfortunately will never come to fruition if this Kingdom message is not embraced in its right context. Failure to do so can and is already resulting in a crisis of identity for the Church and her mission. 

Thankfully there is hope. A fresh re-understanding of the Kingdom opens the doors for both disciples and churches to reemerge as beacons of light and substantial hope in a weary and worn culture. Again, Chilton states, “But if it is true in general terms that we can know Jesus, then it must be possible to understand what he stood for…the Kingdom of God, is conveyed to us powerfully within the gospels. They invite us to share the power of that vision.”[3] If our pursuit is to know Jesus and his central message thereby becoming faithful disciples and Churches, then our journey, as already stated, must go backward before it can go forward. 

What didKingdom” Mean Before Jesus? Was it Original to Jesus?

Often where there is a lack of clarity in any topic the result is almost always due to vague and incomplete explanations. This same truth could be applied to our endeavor in seeking to understand what Jesus, in Mark 1:15 as well as John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1, are seeking to convey when they both respectively declared this coming Kingdom.[4] We are wise to assume that this understanding of a kingdom was widespread at the time within early Judaism thus contributing to a lack of need to spell it out in detail.[5] However, this does not mean we are left in the dark. We are still able to comb through the Old Testament as well as literature within Second Temple Judaism to ascertain a firm understanding of what this phrase meant as well as the emotion it evoked when declared. 

Beginning first from the Old Testament we see a complete absence of the phrase “Kingdom of God” however there is present a certain “kingly” rule that is often mentioned. The language is used to describe earthly kingdoms throughout Judah and Israel to “denote a territory or politically organized unit under monarchial rule (e.g., Gen. 10:10; Num. 32:33).”[6] Related but still an offshoot of this would be found in 1 Chron. 28:5 and 2 Chron. 13:8 where the phrase “Kingdom of Yahweh” occurs. However, to be fair we need to differentiate between the relationship of the two above. The implied “Kingdom of Yahweh” was not synonymous to the “kingdom of Israel.” Dennis C. Duling rightly communicates that even though Israel adapted near eastern ideas of divine kingship for the earthly king, God and the king were not identical; the god/king of the world was also the god/king over the people of Israel, and therefore superior to any earthly ‘divine king.’ Correspondingly, there was also tension between these two kingdoms.[7]

This tension continued through Israel’s history through the time of the prophets and well into the era of Second Temple Judaism. This becomes especially clear when we leaf through the late prophetic book of Daniel. Though it is found within the canonical Old Testament it deserves to be treated in the next portion looking into the literature of the Second Temple period due to its dating of ca. 165 B.C.E. 

The book of Daniel has long been used when talking about Jesus’ conception of the Kingdom and his own eschatology because of Daniel 7 and its corresponding usage by Jesus in Matthew 24:30 and 26:64 as well as Mark 14:62. It could be said that Daniel 7 and the “Son of Man” phrasing is a favorite saying of Jesus.[8] But what exactly do these connections mean? Up to this time in history there was a clear separation between the secular kingdoms of humans and the Kingdom of Yahweh even if the former was led by a client king. But in Daniel 7:13 where it is prophesied that “One like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven… to the Ancient One and was presented before him.” we see a major shift. Obviously, this is a serious departure from a human client king. 

What is represented in Daniel 7 can be described as a continuation of development regarding the eschatology from within Judaism. In his masterful study of the Kingdom of God, G.R. Beasley-Murray rightly summarizes that this vision of Daniel “accords a prime place to the coming of Yahweh to subdue evil and to deliver his people.”[9] This coming and arrival of “one like a human being” should be kept in its proper category as a theophany. This is God showing up on the scene in both a redemptive and punitive sense. To the faithful within Judaism the one who is coming on the “clouds of heaven” is meant to symbolize consolation to the people of God.[10] This is the ushering in of a heavenly Kingdom led by a “human-like” individual. Murray states that this individual is representative of God and his sovereignty over the world.[11] The desire of Daniel is to place in juxtaposition both earthly and heavenly kingdoms. In doing so he makes it clear that the origin of this Kingdom is from above.[12] Martin J. Selman synthesizes this prophecy of Daniel and its implication for how this era of Judaism viewed the coming Kingdom as something God will give his everlasting Kingdom to Men [and Women]. Although human kingdoms arising from the earth are doomed to failure, God does not in consequence keep his Kingdom for himself and his untainted angels…. The Kingdom of God will be given to ‘the holy ones, the people of the Most High’ (Dan. 7:18, 27), and to ‘one like a son of man.’[13]

This development within Daniel 7 represents an emerging eschatology consonant with other examples in surrounding literature. Paying attention to a small sampling out of many will help our goal of understanding the development of the Kingdom of God theme from the Old Testament through to the time of Jesus in the first century C.E. 

1 Enoch and the Book of Watchers (1 En. 1-36) contain clear statements which reflect a belief that the elect people of God, including those who are resurrected will live in a final state with God whose throne is situated upon a mountain. He will be known as a King of Kings, Eternal King, and King of the Universe.[14] The core writings from Enoch which represent this are found in 9:4; 25:7; 12:3; 25:3-5, and 27:3. Outside of the Book of Watchers other elements of similar beliefs regarding the Kingdom can be found in the “Book of Dreams,” “Animal Apocalypse,” “Apocalypse of Weeks,” and the “Book of Similitudes.”[15] As Duling makes clear, in 1 Enoch God is called King and the Son of Man is a king/messiah.[16] The book of Enoch along with the prophecy of Daniel represent a unique turn from the Old Testament and it’s understanding of the Kingdom.

Another example can be found in the Testament of Moses which is dated around the Maccabean period down through to the time of Jesus. In 10:1,3-4 it reads as the following

And then His Kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation, and then Satan shall be no more, and sorrow shall depart with him…. For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne, and he will go forth from His holy habitation with indignation and wrath on account of His sons. And the earth shall tremble; to its confines shall it be shaken; and the high mountains shall be made low and the hills shall be shaken and fall.[17]

This text holds three elements that give us a window into the apocalyptic nature of the Kingdom and how this points to Jesus’ own understanding. First, we see the appearance or revelation of a divine Kingdom impacting all the earth. Is this not the connotation we read from Jesus’ first declaration of ministry in Mark 1:15? The usage of ἤγγικεν regarding ἡ βασιλεία τοῦθεοῦ in Mark 1:15 gives the impression that this Kingdom has either arrived or is on the precipice of arrival. Could it be that Jesus is flowing in this same stream of thought regarding the arrival of God’s Kingdom? More on this verse shortly. Second, this apocalyptic Kingdom is one that will be in direct opposition with Satan. In Luke 11:18 Jesus gives a line of demarcation between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. Joel Green communicates that “Jesus thus positions the work of exorcism within the larger matrix of the struggle between the dominion of Satan and the dominion of God.”[18] Lastly, the phrase “high mountains shall be made low” is significant to our knowledge of what the Kingdom was expected to usher in. The immersion of Isaiah 40 in the messaging of John the Baptist in Luke 3 along with this verse from the Testament of Moses makes clear that there are kingly expectations of equity and justice being dispersed with the coming reign of the One from  Daniel 7.

By only looking at three examples from this era of Second Temple Judaism we can be confident of a few things. There was an already implanted understanding of a coming King who would be other worldly as seen in Daniel 7. In addition to this was a deep hope that one day the righteous will experience a new Kingdom marked by justice and equity led by a transcendent Lord of lords and God of gods, and King of kings. Enoch seeks to capture all of this when speaking of Kingly rule or the Kingdom of God as a whole. The Testament of Moses showcases what can be found in many other writings of this time. Namely, a line between the righteous and the evil as well as Satan and God. All of these common expectations, hopes, and tensions were part of the economy of religion in this era where a definitive concept of “good vs. evil” is apparent.

Another collection of writings from this era which give us a glimpse into the cultural thinking of the Kingdom of God were discovered in the caves at Qumran commonly called the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” The importance of these diverse writings cannot be overstated enough in terms of their importance for understanding Jesus in his own context. Scot McKnight explains that Jesus’ life and thinking took place within a diverse Judaism where there “options were many and orthodoxies were few.”[19] He further argues that Jesus and his thinking must be observed while keeping in mind the many complex societal communities of his day, especially the “sectarian Essenism of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”[20] Another noted scholar who would agree is James H. Charlesworth. On the similarities between Jesus and the Essenes he writes that they possessed the following:

the same territory and race; they were devout, religious, conservative, and anti-Gentile. They struggled against common enemies…were close to some Pharisees, were animated by the belief that God was about to bring to fruition his promises and were apocalyptically and eschatologically oriented.”[21]  

Within the large collection of writings found at Qumran the language and context of the Kingdom of God is well attested. For the present study we will focus on two primary areas: The War Scroll (1QM) and the Rule of Blessings (1QSb) due to their apocalyptic and eschatological orientation. Both scrolls highlight the thinking of the Essene community as it pertains to the reign of God in their time and space as well as the ethical implications of this coming Kingdom.

In 1QM 12:8 we see God being called “King of Honor” and “King of Kings” in 14:6. Around the portion where King of Kings can be found there is also an eschatological focus on a future kingdom being within Israel which will be established by the priestly prince of the congregation.[22] It is a kingdom where justice, peace, and a refined or renewed gathering of worshippers in a new Temple will manifest. 1QM 13:10 could easily have been the ideological atmosphere where many would be messiahs found their footing: “From of old you appointed the prince of light to assist us, and in […] and all the spirits of truth are under his dominion.”[23] The scroll reads like an anticipatory piece of literature marking out clearly who is righteous and who is not. The focus is on the eschatological reign of God that will soon be breaking in with the fighting of the “Sons of light vs. darkness.” (1Qm 1:11) The similarities thus far ought to be evident. The lines of demarcation as well as polemical language found here can also be found in the tone of Jesus and John the Baptist. 

The Rule of Blessings, though different from the War Scroll, gives a similar perspective on the eschatological Kingdom that is yet to break in. Our focus from this scroll is the “Prince of the Congregation.” In 1QSb 5:20-22 the prince will receive a special blessing from the Master which will confer upon the prince certain eschatological actions. 

The prince of the congregation… and shall renew for him the covenant of the community for him to establish the Kingdom of his people forever, [to judge the poor with justice] to reproach the humble of the earth with uprightness, to walk in perfection before him on all his paths.[24]

In this text we again see a focus on the ethical dimensions of the coming one. Both the War and Blessing Scroll illustrate something obvious: the time and era was ripe for an individual to come and dip their toes into the apocalyptic and eschatological pressure cooker which was continuing to grow by the day while Palestine was under Rome’s rule. 

Part 1 in Summary

In summary we can confidently see that: (1) the Old Testament had an understanding of the Kingdom of God that was connected to earthly kingdoms and client kings. There was tension brewing within the desires of the Kingdom of Yahweh in comparison with the kingdom of man, however, these references are scarce. So where did this development arise of a Kingdom that was to break in apocalyptically or eschatologically? (2) While Daniel (especially Daniel 7) is found within the Old Testament, for our purposes we included it in the framework of Second Temple Judaism due to its late dating. Within Daniel we see an expectation of a savior who is coming to establish a Kingdom in the here and now. As stated by Murray above, the vision accords a prime place in the vision and expectation of Yahweh who will subdue evil and redeem his people. The juxtaposition Daniel creates between two kingdoms in the Old Testament continues until “One like the Son of Man” comes from above. (3) In examining the Pseudepigrapha we can observe similar imagery and language in that of Daniel.

There is a coming one, an establishment of kingly rule, and his name will be Lord of Lords, God of Gods, and/or King of Kings. (4) All of this is continued not as a progression per se but more like the deepening of a well when we come to the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In both the War Scroll and Blessing Scroll there is all the above with the addition of ethical components regarding this coming Kingdom. To be fair, a full exploration of the Old Testament, Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, and Dead Sea Scrolls would yield a multitude of ethical expectations for the coming redemption of God’s Kingdom. However, for our brief study we have chosen only a few. Now let us turn to see how these influences had an impact on Jesus’ own understanding of the coming Kingdom. But what did Jesus, as a Jewish first century rabbi think about the Kingdom? To this we will turn next.

(The above is an excerpt from a doctoral paper I wrote in late 2021)


[1] Moving forward in this paper, any reference to the divine Kingdom of God (except when quoted from scholarship) will be capitalized while other occasions involving earthly kingdoms and kings will not be. The same will done with “Church” when in reference to the corporate body of Christ which is to carry out the Kingdom mission of God. Both are inherent in the title of this paper which focuses on a robust and healthy theology of the Kingdom understood in its context (going backward) which is the remedy the church needs for today (to move forward).

[2]  Bruce Chilton, Pure Kingdom: Jesus’ Vision of God, Studying the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich. : London: Eerdmans ; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), ix.

[3] Ibid, Chilton, x.

[4] Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 417.

[5] A common parallel to this would be if someone were to comment on how well they did at something in saying, “Wow! You hit it out of the park!” Most in North America would readily understand this to refer to hitting a homerun in baseball which is a tremendous positive. Thus, there would not be a need to explain in detail how one hits a home run in the game of baseball. 

[6] John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow, eds., The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans, 2010), 860.

[7] Duling, Dennis C. “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven: OT, Early Judaism, and Hellenistic Usage.” Ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York London Toronto [etc.]: Doubleday, 1992), 50.

[8] As confirmed by Scot McKnight in my first Doctorate seminar at Northern Seminary on the eschatology of Jesus. 

[9] George Raymond Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, reprinted (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1987), 35.

[10] Ibid. 

[11] Ibid. 

[12] Barrick, William D. 2012. “The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 23 (2): 171. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=reh&AN=ATLA0001924487&site=ehost-live.

[13] Ibid. 

[14] Duling, Kingdom of God, 51. 

[15] Murray draws an interesting conclusion when analyzing the Book of Similitudes from Enoch. He states, “We are brought to the startling realization that the evidence points to the Similitudes as having been written at the same time as or during the generation after the ministry of Jesus. Does this suggest that the idea of the Son of Man as messianic representative was in the air, as it were, at that time?” He goes on to say that perhaps “we have the precipitate of two parallel movements of thought leading back to one source—namely, the vision of Daniel.” This statement by Murray furthers the mosaic of belief that was developing during and before the time of Jesus. (Murray, Kingdom of God, 68.)

[16] Duling, Kingdom of God, 51

[17] James H Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume One Volume One, 2016, 931–32.

[18] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1997), 455.

[19] Scot McKnight, A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999), 2.

[20] Ibid. 

[21] James Hamilton Charlesworth, Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1992, 9–10.

[22] Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992, 4:52.

[23] Florentino García Martínez, ed., The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English, 2nd ed (Leiden ; New York : Grand Rapids: E.J. Brill ; W.B. Eerdmans, 1996), 107.

[24] García Martínez, 433.

Am I Called? Burdened? Anointed?

Am I called to lead or am I leading from a place of burden? Am I anointed for the role I am stepping into? What will happen if I am serving from a place of burden and need?

It is vital for us to understand that the call for a ministry and the anointing for a ministry occur at different times and are two separate matters. The Apostle Paul from Acts 9 to Acts 13 is a prime example of this. We must distinguish between the call coming to a person and the anointing coming upon a person.

It is also necessary to distinguish between a call and a burden. A burden comes forth out of a vision of a need whereas a call comes forth out of God’s Will.

A call has a burden but a burden need not necessarily have a call. All dogs are animals but not all animals are dogs. All calls have burdens but not all burdens have calls attached to them.

It is unwise for a person to enter the ministry of Jesus out of a burden or need. It is better for a person to help or assist out of a burden or need. To enter into the ministry one needs more than a burden or a need; one needs a call from God – an appointment (1 Cor. 12:28) or a gifting (Eph. 4:11). Are there exceptions? Of course. God’s grace always abounds.

Many people enter the ministry from a place of burden or need but do not have an anointing upon them in the ministry office they are stepping into. Can God still bless it? Sure. There are always exceptions.

But in general, It is dangerous to move out of the Will of God. and to seek to function without the anointing of God’s Spirit upon the office you are serving in. It becomes mere human might, machinery, and power. When we operate from this place burn out is around the corner. When we operate form a place of calling, confirmation (from wise council), and the Holy Spirit, we can trust that the position we are functioning will have God’s anointing present—regardless of the challenges.

That One Thing We Seek

In our lives, what is it exactly we are desiring? In other words, what we we wanting to see happen? How we answer this question matters greatly. If we are desiring security that we are often filling our time with the pursuit of tangible items which can give us a false sense of security. If we are desiring value or worth then we are often filling our schedules with things that will give us our sense of belonging into this world. An identity that usually comprises of a wonderful and inauthentic veneer. Whatever we desire will usually order our steps and priorities.

But one thing is very clear. Our answer as Christians ought to differ from the world’s answer. To be fair, I desire many things in this life that are not even connected to my faith directly. However, those things do not replace the primary desire which the world would not understand. You see, we as followers of Jesus are to be the ones whose lives are so purified and distilled where what can be seen, heard, and observed is none other than Jesus. Of course this is not always the case (I myself am quick to admit my failures in this), but the pursuit of such a life is nevertheless the goal by default.

“Therefore, since we have these promises (see 2 Cor. 6:3-18), dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

We are to be those who live unalloyed and uncontaminated. Not only by what the world sees on the exterior but also what drives us on the interior. How we answer the question of what we seek says a lot about our understanding of whether we are living the “called out” life Jesus is seeking.

We are living at a time when Christians in Western Society at many corners are having an identity crisis. We are mixing our allegiances with nations (nationalism), idols, and allowing the sins of the world choke out the goodness of God at rapid rates. We are substituting many things for an identity that is causing us to enter vicious cycles of heartbreak and unsatisfied longings. All of this is causing our pursuits and desires to be all over the place.

So what needs to happen? We need a seminal moment. We need to hit refresh and reset. We need to come back to the purity of what we were created to desire from the very beginning: the presence of God. This is something David in the Old Testament understood fully.

“One thing I ask from the Lord,

    this only do I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

    all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord

    and to seek him in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

He desired one thing very clearly: to encounter God in his fullness. So much so that he wanted to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek Him in his temple all the days of his life. Do we find it a coincidence that God also called David a “man after His own heart” in Acts 13:22? David was elevated in the eyes of God because of his insatiable desires and passion for the LORD. Does this not motivate and challenge us for today? David lived at a time when the Holy Spirit was upon a few. We are living in an era where the Holy Spirit is within all who yield to Him. How much more so ought our experience with God’s presence transform everything around us?

The Church is not starving for methods, ideas, solutions or steps. The Church of Jesus Christ is starving for an encounter with the very presence of God.

But instead, we are often consumed with books, devotionals, apps, videos, and more but are at many turns still missing what is needed: a fresh and pure stripped down encounter with Jesus. This is where our desire must be. Our marriage depends upon it. Our children depend upon it. The life of the Church depends upon it. Society depends upon it. Everything does. What are you giving to others if you yourself are not encountering the love of God within His presence and glory? Prioritizing the glory of God in our daily living is paramount for every follower of Jesus.

The Presence and Glory of God

The glory and presence of God is found throughout the Scriptures. The word ‘glory’ in Hebrew comes from the word ‘kabob‘ translated glory one hundred and fifty-five times. The word ‘kabed‘ from the same root word has been translated ‘heavy‘ seven times. The root meaning of ‘kabob‘ means weight or heaviness. In the New Testament the word ‘glory‘ is translated from the word ‘doxa‘ which has various meanings like ‘appearance, manifestation, magnificence, splendid array, radiance, or dazzling lustre. It is within this glory and presence of the living God that we find our true hearts desire. We discover our identity. When we have a true encounter with the Holy Spirit, our faith comes alive. We begin to see and feel the very glory and presence of God and we do not desire anything else! His anointing becomes tangible. His authority flows through us as it did with those in Scripture. This is the hope of God for your life and for mine. To desire Him and be close with Him. There is no substitute.

When this one thing–the very presence of God– becomes our insatiable desire, we then find the anointing of God for life and what we have been called to. Put simply, the anointing of God is a manifestation of the power of God while the glory of God is a manifestation of His attributes. With this understanding, the power or anointing of God is inseparable because God does not demonstrate His power without His presence.

For instance, Jesus says in Acts 1:8 says, “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you (His presence), you shall receive power (His anointing of power).” They go hand in hand. Mark 16:17 reads, “And these signs (His power) shall follow those who believe in My Name (His presence).

So what are we to desire? We can answer with many options. Many are valid. Many would not be. But for me, I would like to answer in the way David answered. I desire an encounter with the glory and presence of God through the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus gave to us. The One Who provides comfort, encouragement, truth, challenge, and more (John 14-16). Strip everything from me but do not take away God’s Holy Spirit. From where else would I or we find our place in His presence?

Please remember, no one is given the anointing of God based on books, titles, knowledge, degrees, or years of experience. These are subservient to God’s presence and are meant to support; not replace. They mean something–but not everything.

The anointing of God to break down the strongholds of the enemy is given to those whose lives are desperately seeking to be consumed with the Holy Spirit to degrees few will understand and many will ridicule.

Though His love is always unconditional; His authority is not. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Prioritize His presence and glory. Walk boldly in the power and anointing of God that comes from dwelling in His presence daily.

I pray that we, like David, would begin to possess a singular focus upon the presence of the God in every aspect of our lives so that we may find life where there used to be death. I pray the staleness of our time in prayer and the Word would be replaced with fresh revelation and child like faith, because, like children at Christmas, we have discovered the indescribable joy of being in and seeking the presence of God in our daily lives.

For those who have fallen away at times. Those who have but a flicker burning. The Lord is never too distant. He can handle the anger, frustration, and even hatred. You are loved and invited into His presence where joy, purpose, healing, and mercy is found. All we are asked is to seek Him while He may still be found. Seeking Him with everything we have.

That’s One Thing that would transform everything.

Growing in the Anointing of God

What is the “anointing” of God?

The anointing of God is the enablement or impartation of God’s ability through His Holy Spirit upon and within an available and surrendered person to fulfill and carry out His will and His work. The enablement and impartation will help those who have received it to do supernatural things though they remain natural beings.

This ability for God to move through us is always for His glory and the expansion of His Kingdom. The anointing is never about us or for us. Of course we may learn and deepen our encounters of God in the process of being used–but it is all for His glory. The anointing does not exist to give us an emotional experience but rather penetrate the work of the Enemy in this world. It does not require a perfect person. Only a person yielded to God. A person who is desperate, passionate, and albeit radical in their pursuit of God. A person who has sought after the baptism of God’s Spirit as John the Baptist spoke of and Jesus gave to His church (you and I) beginning in Acts 2.

The anointing of God–His ability at work through us in what we seek to do in accordance with His will and Spirit’s guidance–can increase over time. In the Bible we will see at times Scriptures that speak of going from “faith to faith.” This is in reference to growth and maturity in our understanding and development. When we are first born again we are given a measure of faith and anointing (1 John 2:27) to experience the salvation of God and overcome the enemy. But this measure was meant to grow from faith to faith. What child would we ever expect to remain at a toddler stage? And yet many of us allow ourselves to live this in regard to the anointing of God upon our lives.

So what do we do? We grow! We grow in faith and trust in the Scriptures and of Jesus. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing; hearing by the Word of God.” Thus, more time spent in the Word of God–even if we are struggling to wrap our minds around what we are reading–will result in new and fresh faith. Our ability to trust God and take Him at His word will expand exponentially. As Paul says to those whom he is writing to in 2 Corinthians 10:15, “Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow…” The expectation was growth in faith (not for personal gain as in modern day false teachings, but rather growth of faith for the expansion of God’s Kingdom through us).

What does this have to do with our anointing to do the work of God we have been called to? The anointing we operate in is proportion to our trust and faith in God as well as what He has graced us with (Romans 12:6). There is not a single verse in the Bible to say that the believer’s anointing over time is to remain the same. The opposite in fact.

I encourage you. Spend less time or delete the distractions: social media, TV, idols, and other distractions–and instead give all of that accumulated time to the Word of God and prayer with the Holy Spirit. Oh my goodness the joy you will feel! The passion and clarity of God’s voice will be so loud and present you will be unsure how to function! This is what you were destined for: intimacy with God. He will not satisfy the lazy and apathetic; only the determined and hungry. No degrees will do the job. No amount of books read or written will do it. No amount of anything other than time spent on our knees and faces and in the Scriptures will bring the life we dream of with our Creator. We have to stay hungry for the anointing of God upon our lives. Then, and only then, will our faith, grace, and anointing begin to grow within us to accomplish the mighty work of God. You know you were created for more. You can feel it. The path there is before us in the Word. All that is needed is a commitment to growth: faith by faith.

In Christ,

Noah

Praying in the Fog

It was probably 6 or 7:00am. It was cold. I could see my breath. To the east the sun was beginning to piercing through at every open seam of the clouds. It provided enough light to see dimly but unfortunately not enough heat to burn the dense fog which enveloped me. I found my usual beginning point at the state park and began walking. It was off the beaten path and distant from any people. A path that was unmarked and made by people like myself who like to go against the grain. 

I encountered the presence of God that day in a way that I will never forget. Nothing spectacular. No visions, signs, or wonders. Nothing like that. I had my bible, a cup of McDonalds coffee, and a journal. That was it. But that was more than enough. I found a place along the trail in the fog and began to read and pray on a makeshift seat made of an old log. I wrote out many things I received from God’s Spirit in prayer. To this day I cannot tell you what I wrote or what year this walk was. The only thing I remember from that hike was that it was astonishing how I could encounter the beauty of God and feel so close while in the midst of dense fog, deep woods, and eerie silence. 

I had a conversation with my dad not too long ago. I asked him, “Do you ever feel like you are a runner standing at the starting line tying your shoes thousands of times waiting for the start?” He shared his heart and gave an abundance of wisdom. Wisdom that helped keep me focused on the present and not to worry about the future. 

There will be times in our journey of following Jesus where the fog will be so dense that we assume there can be no presence of God found within it. We will think there can be no breakthrough or light to see. And at times, there isn’t. But somehow, within it—we sense a deep presence of the Divine if (that’s a big IF) we can quiet ourselves to sit and pray. 

There will also be times in our journey where we feel like we are stuck at the starting line. I have been there many times. I have complained to God saying things like, “But you promised… But you said… You showed me… Where are you… Why aren’t you… When will you…” We all do this. All of us are overflowing with divine expectations more times than not made by assumptions that did not come from above but rather ourselves. And so, we do what we do by habit. We keep tying our shoes. Waiting and waiting and waiting. 

Just Be Faithful

Whether you are in the fog where you can see God or you are stuck at the starting line wondering when God will bring certain things to pass—one truth remains. We are not invited to part the clouds for the sun or run prematurely before the precise time. We are expected only to be faithful at all times.

This may be the hardest among disciplines for people of faith. Our trust is in a God we cannot see physically. We hear truth from Him in ways that are at times undiscernible. We are invited to take risks that do not make logical sense. We are told to be like children in our trust and yet we are asked to be patient in ways only an adult could understand. But even still, faithfulness and obedience is all he asks. 

I pray that today you can rest in the realization that if you will just be faithful in the midst of the fog or at the starting line you will encounter the presence of God in your life. If sitting with God in the fog and at the starting line is all we have in this life, it is more than enough to carry us forward. Because in the end, being faithful to rest in the presence of God in the present will always outweigh the anxiety of the future. He knows our next steps and will lead us always. So find a spot, kneel, and begin to pray. You will be surprised Who you encounter.

Missio Dei: Latin for “Mission of God”

I have always been enamored with the Apostle Paul in the Bible. He was relentless in seeking to fulfill his purpose and the mission God gave him. Whether we realize it or not the same is to be said about ourselves. This too is to be our legacy. As followers of Jesus (or even humans created by God in general) we were created to be consumed with the Missio Dei for all people. But what exactly is the mission? Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Missio Dei focuses on making disciples. The process of growth in following Jesus is called discipleship. It involves, as Dallas Willard so wonderfully put, “the journey of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you.”

Plain and simple. This was Paul’s passion, the 12 disciple’s obsession, and church’s mission. Making disciples involves sharing our faith with others and helping them to pursue the same life-giving path if they choose to follow. It entails loving people and showing them in word and deed the goodness of God within us. It involves gathering as groups and encouraging one another; pressing into God together in groups called “church.” This is how those early Christians as well as the Apostle Paul impacted entire populations with the love and message of God under severe persecution and impoverishment. Through house churches filled with disciples radiating the joy and message of Jesus.  

If you are a follower of Jesus (a Christian); this is your work and calling. We would be in error to think that our calling is our job. It isn’t. That is your vocation. Your calling as a Christian is to glorify your Creator and to allow your life to emulate His within you. The best way we can do that is by radiating the love and message of the Gospel to others around us. But where do we begin? Thankfully Jesus helps us answer this with an analogy from Mark 4 in the Bible:

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Where do we begin living out the Missio Dei? According to Jesus the answer is found is the “empty fields.” All of us have “empty fields” around us. We are surrounded by people and situations desperate for the redeeming message of Jesus Christ. Will you be the one God uses today to reach them? Will you be the one who steps out in faith into the empty field around you fulfilling the Missio Dei? Transformation of entire regions for the Kingdom of God begins with just one person. 

So I encourage you to keep your eyes open for those empty fields around you. Find that “one” around you. As you step out to fulfill the mission God in making disciples and obeying Jesus, trust that God will not leave you high and dry. Believe deeply what Jesus taught His disciples for your own life. He said,  

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Be wise, be bold, and above all, be relentless. For the Missio Dei is the greatest purpose one could ever live for. May it be said about us that we too were obsessed with finding those empty fields and planting the seeds of the Kingdom. 

Blessings+

Leadership Matters

If recent years have taught us anything for those living in the United States of America it is that leadership matters. Our country has been steeped in self-serving and destructive leadership for quite some time. This truth is revealed when taking an easy glance at our country’s societal landscape. From vaccines to race to education to politics to the economy–at every turn there is disunity. Even outside of politics and into the corporate world. Organizations and Fortune 500 companies have been wrecked with scandal and corruption. While we would hope that the Church of Jesus Christ nationally and around the world would be immune–we too have been filled with our fair share of corruption and scandals. What does all of this tell us? Leadership matters.

Serving as a pastor has been a rewarding experience. I have learned leadership lessons through success and failure. I have hurt and have been hurt. I have experienced jubilation and betrayal. With everything good and bad; I have found a deep appreciation. All of the experiences have made me who I am and have forged a different kind of leader within me.

In the effort to grow and become a better servant of others God has led me in focusing on the importance of becoming a “high capacity” kind of leader. This has nothing to do with ego or status. This has everything to do with a servanthood kind of leadership and growing my capacity to serve and love people more effectively. Over the past year or so I have learned it’s important we strive in:

  1. Enlarging our theology of God’s role in how we lead: How deep does our faith go? Do we trust God will lead us? Do we trust God will give us the clarity and wisdom needed?
  2. Enlarging our circle of people different than ourselves: How diverse is the group around us? From whom do we draw influence, wisdom, and advice? Diversity of voices can nurture stronger leadership.
  3. Enlarging our willingness to cope and adapt with change: No one leads in a silo. True leadership arises from the varying circumstances which cause us to stay true to our convictions and direction.
  4. Enlarging our “tool box” of disciplines: Are we doing what is necessary to hear the voice of God? Are we disciplining ourselves? Are we positioning ourselves to be effective in how we serve others and show them the love of Jesus?

At first glance I can imagine many would think this list reflects important principles for leaders in a church. It doesn’t. You may also think these are all common sense. I assure you, they are not. This short list is for anybody and everybody and requires intentionality. At the very least all of us are the leaders of our own path. We are the ones who make the decisions. We are the ones who steer our steps. God guides, leads, and provides. But we make the first step every time.

In taking those steps, I encourage you: Stay focused! Your leadership matters. In a society starving for true leaders who reflect the best in what humanity can offer, choose to lead well! Show a better way. Beware of the following traps which take away your focus and drive:

  1. Choosing to be involved in things God did not call us to.
  2. Fighting the wrong battles which distract and drain everything in you.
  3. Chase every trend and fad thinking the answer to everything is within them.
  4. Striving to be someone else or in someone else’s situation. Own your lot!

At the very least, from one leader to another, I pray you will take tomorrow and recognize that when your feet hit the floor, its game on. How you lead tomorrow matters. Lead yourself and others well.

Choose to serve; not to domineer. Choose Jesus; not the flesh. Choose people; not advancement. Choose love; not selfishness.