One Nation, Underwood

S (Scripture): Proverbs 29

25 The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.
26 Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.
27 The unjust are an abomination to the righteous, but the upright are an abomination to the wicked.

O (Observation): Peace and security comes from the Lord, not from any earthly ruler or authority.   Trusting in God brings one justice and hope.  

And who is an abomination?   Depends on the viewpoint.   The unjust acquire wealth and status in ways that make the righteous jealous – though it shouldn’t.  The upright are an abomination to the wicked, because the upright are genuine and receive eternal favor without working lies or deceit.  

A (Application): The freakiest line from the latest House of Cards series is the title of this blog post.  President Francis Underwood pontificates on the future…and he says, “One nation.  Underwood.”  How creepy.  

How often does the “bad guy” win?   How do we allow this?   We do allow it, by the way, either because we stick our heads in the sand or because we are complicit with the system.  

…until we lift our heads…until we are no longer complicit…

We reach a true freedom when we begin to believe in and trust the Lord.   We can walk upright (repenting as we go) fearing no ruler.  We will do no battle.   Instead, our upright nature will drive the wicked ones crazy.   

Our trust will be in the Lord, and as we trust the Lord, we will see that our spirit is not captured.   Our will is set free in order that we live upright lives in the midst of an unjust world.  

Francis Underwood rules through wicked means.   Will you?  Or will you let genuine love for your neighbor guide your ways and your will?

P (Prayer):  Lord, lift up our heads to you!  Amen.  

“Humility plus Will” makes a Strong Leader

S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 8:4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and approached Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons don’t follow your ways. So now appoint over us a king to lead us, just like all the other nations have.”

6 But this request displeased Samuel, for they said, “Give us a king to lead us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king. 8 Just as they have done from the day that I brought them up from Egypt until this very day, they have rejected me and have served other gods. This is what they are also doing to you. 9 So now do as they say. But seriously warn them and make them aware of the policies of the king who will rule over them.”

19 But the people refused to heed Samuel’s warning. Instead they said, “No! There will be a king over us! 20 We will be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”

O (Observation):  God appointed Samuel as a judge over Israel.  God called Samuel to lead God’s people. And for a time, the people of Israel followed this custom.  But they felt like they wanted more control over the process, so they want to select a king.  

Essentially, the people begin to think that they can choose better than God can choose.   

In those days, the judge was seen as both a political and spiritual leader.   In the days following, once kings were selected, the political power went to the king, whereas the spiritual power was shown through the prophets.  The judge used to serve the role of king and prophet, but the people demanded a king…”like all the other nations.”

A (Application):  Who knows best?  Sometimes that’s hard to answer.  Do we rely on scholars?  Pastors?  The elderly? The young folks with new ideas?  The “experts”?

Perhaps the key to all of this is the misguided notion that the person most confident in the solution (or vision) is the one who should make the decision.   Unfortunately, that was not the wise decision for the people of Israel who wanted a king!

Just because someone is confident doesn’t always make them right.  In fact, a dose of humility can go a long way.  

In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins points out that the most effective leaders are not just of one personality type or of one leadership style.  Instead, Collins’ research team found this:  great companies are led by people with “Humility + a Strong Will.”  How eye-opening!

A leader that remains humble, but with a clear vision, is the one who tends to see positive results.   Samuel never sought out leadership, he was called.  And he remained humble before the Lord.   We will (after Samuel) see king after king succeed or fail based on their willingness to remain humble before the Lord or not.   

And in today’s world, I remain confident that how we lead our congregations should be modeled in this way: humility plus will; remaining humble before God and the people, along with a strong discernment process for the future.  

How do you lead?   What do you take into account when leading?  Where have you seen leaders of the church do well?  Where have you seen church leaders fail?   

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us humble, yet hungry. Amen.  

Thy Kingdom Come…

  S (Scripture): Psalm 105:23 Israel moved to Egypt; Jacob lived for a time in the land of Ham.

24 The Lord made his people very fruitful, and made them more numerous than their enemies.

25 He caused them to hate his people, and to mistreat his servants.

26 He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron, whom he had chosen.

27 They executed his miraculous signs among them, and his amazing deeds in the land of Ham.

O (Observation): This psalm obviously makes reference to Moses being sent to Egypt to set God’s people free.    Submitting to God is the key element here for Moses.   God’s will is done on earth, through these plagues.  While this seems difficult and destructive, God’s will is done, regardless.  

A (Application):  When we pray: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” we tend to think of nice things to come.  However, God’s authority and power, given to Moses, is used for destructive purposes. God gets the attention of the Egyptians, and God’s will is done.

In these days, though, I see God’s Kingdom (as best I can) through the eyes of Jesus.  In Jesus, we see a different side of God: peace-filled, steady, servant-like.   

Perhaps this way of Jesus is what we are called to.   Gone are the days of bringing calamity on other peoples.  Instead, we are about the work of restoring relationships and bringing awareness of God’s presence here and now.  

P (Prayer): Lord, call us to live out your will here and now.  No sense in waiting, right?  We need your guidance. Bring us your will, so we can live it out here. Amen. 

Humility, plus Will

 S (Scripture): Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the Lord provides wise instruction,
and before honor comes humility.

O (Observation): The author notes that honor and humility are linked to one another.   First, comes humility; then, honor.  Where does this sense of humility come from?  From learning to fear the Lord.  

On “learning to fear the Lord,” my commentary shares the following:

The idea of the first line, “The fear of the Lord provides wise instruction,” is similar to Prov 1:7 and 9:10. Here it may mean that the fear of the Lord results from the discipline of wisdom, just as easily as it may mean that the fear of the Lord leads to the discipline of wisdom. The second reading harmonizes with the theme in the book that the fear of the Lord is the starting point.

To be wise is to declare that we cannot fully know the ways of The Lord, but then, should it be our duty to know all that The Lord knows?  I don’t think so.  

A (Application): Jim Collins, author of the renowned book Good to Great, he points out that great leaders are not made from certain personality styles or certain styles of leadership.  Rather, the common element exhibited amongst those leaders who have seen their organizations go from good to great are: Humility, plus Will. 

The humble leader accepts positive and constructive feedback and never presumes to be the smartest or most important person in the room (humility), yet also shows a strong desire towards a goal or vision (will).  

I sense that Jesus was this way. He always knew his vision was to bring God’s Kingdom to earth and to equip the 12 for mission and ministry.  Yet the manner in which Jesus pursued the will of God was a way of humility. Again, he did not compromise his beliefs, but pursued them with a humble gait, even to the cross. 

What convictions do you hold dear?  In what manner are you pursuing them?

P (Prayer): Lord, in what direction are you calling me?   In what manner would you have me pursue your will?  I wonder… Amen. 

Christian Submission

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S (Scripture): John 20:19 On the evening of that day (when Jesus was resurrected), the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 20:22 And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 20:23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

O (Observation): Images of Genesis 2 arise as breath / life is breathed into the disciples. New creation, new life.

Jesus is giving the disciples a mission: as the Father has sent me, so I send you. Immediately following is Jesus’ command to forgive sins. Perhaps this is the key to understanding what they are sent to do: they are meant to go and forgive sins.

A (Application): Have you ever faced someone who really ticked you off? Just yesterday, my wife went to the gym and coming out of the nursery she mentioned that the sink in the nursery was not working. She came out and told the lady at the front desk and said that she would like to tell one of the managers, because the sink has been broken many times before. She was told that the manager wasn’t there. Then Kelly looked slightly around the counter and she could see the shadow of the manager and his finger being raised to his lips as if to say “don’t tell her I’m here.”

How frustrating! And how silly!

We’re struggling with allowing peace and forgiveness to reign here. And yet, somehow a vision of grace seems the best way forward.

Submitting ourselves to God’s will and not our own is probably the toughest struggle any of us will have as Christians in the world. Especially in this country, which pride’s itself on strength and might, rather than humility.

The only way for God’s power to flow through us is if we submit to God.

So what does submission look like in my case? What does submission look like in your life right now? Where is God’s power being resisted and where is God flowing in and through you?

P (Prayer): Lord, show us that even when we are frustrated, this could be you putting to death our human intentions, so that your will can be done. Give us vision, time, and grace to do your will. Amen.