Hey ladies! … ssssshhhhh!

One of the challenges in Christendom is that often people, churches, organizations and sometimes denominations build belief systems and even entire doctrines from a single verse or a handful of verses. Often these verses or passages are isolated and/or removed from their greater context, or understood through the lens of a pre-determined paradigm.

It is true that there are verses and passages that are sometimes difficult to understand and subsequently apply, especially some 2000 years later and in a culture far removed from the original writings. Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain what the original intent of the writer was. Just one hurdle is the fact that the scriptures were written in Hebrew or Greek, with a few verses/passages in Aramaic. Even if we spoke those languages today, all languages evolve over time. The end result is that even well respected scholars and commentators often have differing opinions about words, translations, interpretations, meanings, and applications.

One such passage that has literally divided entire groups of people of faith is:

“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

I am certainly no scholar, but, I think that if we look closely at this passage, especially within the context of the entire letter, we will see some important things. Let me share a couple observations I have:

(1) Paul spoke of women praying AND prophesying in chapter 11; verse 5 in particular. Let me state the obvious: praying and prophesying are both the opposite of “keep silent” and “not speak.” I think it’s important to note that the acknowledgement that women are allowed to prophesy is not by another author in the Bible. Nor is it by the same author but in a different letter, which might indicate he may have changed his mind or had a more enlightened view at a different point of time. No, both statements are by Paul, and both are within the context of the exact same letter that he had written to the church at Corinth. This is important because we tend to isolate verses when trying to ascertain meaning, but – we cannot do that here. Unless we determine that Paul is a schizophrenic, we must conclude that Paul had some other meaning in mind rather when he wrote “women are to be silent” than a strict prohibition on women ever having a voice when the ekklesia gathered.

(2) To accommodate this seeming disparity many scholars determined that Paul was okay with women praying, or singing, and sometimes even prophesying, but never teaching as that would somehow indicate “having authority over a man.” However, in this instance, that is pure speculation, or rather – a fabrication, and not consistent with the passage in question as praying, singing, and prophesying are all forms of “speaking” and not at all congruent with “keeping silent.” So, to parse these verses in this manner is a huge stretch, to say the least.

(3) Paul dedicates a significant amount of content within the letter for his readers to understand the purpose and functioning of spiritual gifts within the ekklesia. In chapter 12 he writes, “now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.”

Though we probably shouldn’t build a doctrine on what the scriptures do NOT say, I think it’s important to note that Paul made no gender distinctions when listing out these gifts. Notice that he did not say, “God has appointed in the church first Apostles (that are men), second prophets (that are men or women – see 11:5), third teachers (that are definitely only men), then all the other gifts (that can be both men and women).” No, Paul made no distinction whatsoever. I think I am safe in saying that most churches have no problem with women having an administrative gift or a gift of helps, or even as a prophetess, but the hair stands up on the back of their necks if one were to suggest that a woman could be an apostle or a teacher. But, you will not find that distinction here, not by Paul. Now, it is possible that Paul’s intention was to make the distinctive gender roles within the community of faith clear in other passages. But again I must say – that is a stretch and requires a predetermined interpretative paradigm to insist on that understanding here.

(4) To further elaborate on the previous observation: within the immediate context (i.e. the verses surrounding the one in question) Paul utilizes the word “all” when referring to people speaking in tongues and people prophesying (vs 23-24). He says that “each one” has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation when the assembly gathers (34). And further that if “anyone” speaks in a tongue, there should be an interpreter. In all of these verses he utilizes all-inclusive language. One has to ask, is it to men only that he is writing? That would be a difficult conclusion to come to. If he is not writing to men only, then we must acknowledge that Paul makes no effort to differentiate between men and women speaking, sharing, or operating their spiritual gifts in the gathering up to this point in the letter. All of the speaking gifts can be viewed as carrying some authority over others within the gathering.

(5) In this passage Paul also gave instructions and instances in which someone who speaks in tongues “must keep silent” (14:28 NASB), and even times when a prophet “must keep silent” (14:29). The word translated “keep silent” is exactly the same in all 3 instances within these few verses. All 3 instances are in the imperative mood, which means they are commands. But, we do not take these first two instances to mean the one who speaks in tongues and the one who prophesies should be forbidden to speak … ever. We understand that they must “keep silent” in specific situation and specific circumstances. Paul’s seeming directive about women “keeping silent” is within this immediate context. Though Paul has more to say about the role of women and speaking than he does the other two, and he does not qualify it like he does the other two, in light of 11:5 about women prophesying and the expression of the gifts of chapter 12 previously discussed, it seems consistent to understand this injunction in at least a similar fashion as the first two.

(6) If all that is correct, (and I think it is) then rather than a simple, over-arching statement that “women cannot speak in church,” we must consider an alternate understanding of what Paul meant in this passage. Before we tackle a possible alternate understanding (another day), we should note that Paul’s primary concern in this passage, and in fact this entire letter, is with order and unity in the community of faith – not gender roles. So, rather than build a doctrine about authority structure and gender roles within the church based on 2 verses, we should consider the larger message and point. The fact that divisions verses unity is an over-arching theme throughout the letter should impact how we interpret and understand these two verses. But until then – be blessed.

Eyes on the Prize

From my view, a great short-coming with a large portion of the teaching/preaching in the much of the western church is – an over-emphasis on the temporal.

What I mean is that many believers are so focused on perceived rewards and/or benefits of following God is this life that they have unintentionally misplaced their hope. Many have placed their hope and their faith in the “Cosmic-vending Machine” version of God. They say their prayers, they ask with intensity, and they try to stir up faith over temporary issues. And then they get disappointed or disillusioned with God and the church if things don’t pan out the way they had hoped. Many have even walked away from their faith and their relationship with God because when they put their quarter (their prayers) in the vending machine (God) they did not receive the item they had selected. And as a result they conclude that God doesn’t care about them or that maybe He doesn’t even exist.

Whereas what motivated the New Testament writers, what kept the early church on mission regardless of their circumstances or consequences, was a focus on eternity rather than a focus on things that are temporary. As the Hebrew writer said concerning the saints, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises … But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb 11:13,16).

Read the Book of Acts and you will find that what kept Paul motivated throughout beatings, stonings, prison, shipwrecks, snake bites, persecutions, rejections, and false accusations was not a misplaced belief in rescue from his temporary circumstances. Rather, his hope, his faith, and his ministry; the times he was miraculously delivered – and the times that he was not, were all a result of the hope of an eternal reward.

That is not to saythat what is happening right now, right in front of us is not important to God. Nor is that to say that God never intervenes or that He has an agenda to leave us hanging without any hope for things in this life. Indeed He has intervened when we ask, and He continues to do so.

It is merely to say that our judgement of the goodness of God should not be based on these things.

Shifting our eyes and our focus to the eternal changes our priorities. It realigns our purpose. It gives us peace.

Listen: God loved you and I so much that He gave His only son, to stand in our place, to take upon Himself the punishment that was due us, to repair the breach so that we could be reconciled with God Himself – for eternity. There is nothing more He could do that tops this tremendous gift. Nothing. Everything else pales in comparison.

Think about this: Imagine that I built a mansion constructed completely with you in mind and then I simply gave you, free and clear. But, sometime later you asked me for a framed photo to use as decor. If, for some reason, I did not give that photo to you when you asked for it, would you deem me as unkind, unloving, or not giving? Would you conclude that I must not care about you? And yet – this is what many so often do with God.

What more does God have to do to be deserving of our faith, our love, our devotion and our allegiance? God has a completely different view, a different perspective, than we do. He sees things, He knows things, that we simply do not. He is infinite, we are finite. Our brains and our cognitive ability is limited. His is not. And, He is not obligated to explain Himself all the time.

This is not because He is uncaring. Actually, quite the opposite. My feeling is that God trying to explain to us why He did or did not do certain things would be much like a parent trying to explain to a 2 year old why they can’t have every piece of candy in the check-out line. Even if they understand it – they aren’t gonna accept it. And the tantrum and fit are soon to follow.

Look, I don’t know why God didn’t give you the photo that you asked for. I am not sure why you weren’t allowed the extra toy or the piece of candy. I wish I did. I really do. I wish I understood it and I wish that I could explain it to you. But honestly, I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it. In fact, I will keep asking along with you because I know how much my Father loves to give to His children.

This is where trust comes in. It’s not that because He has already given me the mansion that He now refuses to give me anything else. Rather, the mansion is PROOF that He loves me and therefore, I can trust He will give what He deems best and He will withhold what He deems best.

What He has given, and what He has withheld, are all because He is madly in love with you; because He cares so much for you that He is willing to allow you to be a little angry with Him when you do not understand. He is always looking out for your best interests, and mine; and He is good, at all times, and in all circumstances.

(Postscript: I promise I am not minimizing. I am only illustrating. I know some of you have real and desperate needs. I know you are in a lot of pain. And … I am standing with you. Peace.)

What is God up to?

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11 is one of the most fascinating and exciting stories in all of the gospels.

But, buried within it are some of the most difficult glimpses of truth and Jesus’ purpose and interaction with His chosen that I think many people, especially in certain camps, tend to overlook.

We all know the story, right? Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary & Martha sent messengers to Jesus telling him that Lazarus is sick. Immediately after Jesus proclaims a purpose statement that we should probably pause and ponder. he says, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (vs.4 NKJV).

Well, first of all, we know it WAS unto death. At least temporarily. But, the end result would not be death. This entire story reveals that the people wanted things to go a certain way. They even sent messengers to Jesus, which can be equated with prayer. But Jesus had completely different plans.

Listen folks – sometimes things have to DIE. Sometimes, things we LOVE have to die. Not because it is fun, or pleasant, or even for our (natural) benefit. Rather, so that the Glory of God can be revealed.

Here is a tough verse that relates to a post I made last week: “So when He [Jesus] heard he [Lazarus] was sick – He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (vs 6).

Wait – WHAT??!! – Let me make sure I understand: Jesus heard their “prayers” and …. waited? Yep – He waited. I’m convinced that sometimes He hears our cries and He … waits. Why would He do that? Well, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. He is up to something BIGGER.

Here’s another one: “I am glad for your sakes that I was NOT there” Why Jesus! Why would you be glad you WEREN’T there!? He goes on to say, “so that you may believe.”

Okay, here we go again. They already believed. That’s why they sent for Him in the first place. They knew he could heal. They were His close friends. They had seen it and probably even participated in it. So, what could He possibly have meant by, “so that you may believe?’

Here’s what I think. I think we need to move from believing God merely for the miraculous to TRUSTING Him as sovereign when we don’t see the miraculous. We have to learn to embrace the idea that He is God and He has a plan we may or may not be aware of. That plan may include our miracle, it may not. His plan is ALWAYS bigger than us and it will always work for our good. We CANNOT allow the reality of circumstances in the present to dictate our trust and faith for the future.

So, after a season of virtually tormenting His friends, of intentionally NOT showing up in the scene when they wanted Him to, Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of the grave. Then He says, “did I not say to you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

None of them, not one of them, could have dreamed of the bigger, the better plan. The only thing they had at this moment was disappointment. Often when we believe for the miraculous our viewpoint, our perspective is still focused on …. us. But, Jesus had a different perspective. His perspective was a heavenly one and it involved something completely beyond their comprehension.

Here’s the deal: Jesus did NOT do one miracle because He had a better one in mind. He did NOT show up when they wanted Him to, or even when they felt like He needed to, because He had a plan that far surpassed anything … an-y-thing … they could conceive of.

God’s plan always and continually points to Jesus as God, as sovereign over circumstances, over your life, over eternity. His proof is … RESURRECTION. His is the ultimate victory. Everything else is …. temporary.

I’m going to pause right here and say – I believe God wants to resurrect some things in your life. But, YOU have to let them die first. Death ALWAYS precedes resurrection. Death is always painful. Death brings …sorrow. But not sorrow as if we have no hope. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). Sometimes you have to get to the place where there seems to be no hope so that God can do what ONLY HE can do. Resurrection is always by God’s hand alone. When He resurrects something then only He can receive the glory. Until you embrace this concept and settle it in your mind you will continually struggle in your faith and with trust, you will frequently find yourself questioning the goodness of God.

For all my friends living in the valley of disappointment, in the land of doubt and fear: I believe bigger things are headed your way, better things, things you could not have conceived of. Hang on to hope, my friends.

His ultimate goal in your life and mine is that the glory of God would be revealed. And, He will use whatever means to accomplish that.


Why do people feel stuck?

Could it be due to false or unrealistic expectations?

Could it be because things did not turn out the way we thought they would?

Could it be because we didn’t anticipate all the speed bumps, detours, and wrong turns?

For the believer, could it be because we “thought” we knew what the Lord was going to do but it didn’t work out quite that way?

Is it because we get an intuition, an inkling, a prophetic word, an insight, about what the Lord wants to do in our lives but then we fill in the blanks for ourselves about how it will come to pass or play out? Is it because we think we know what it will look like at different stages, various milestones, or at the end of the journey?

Consider this- Is it possible that our ideas were based on our singular piece of the jigsaw puzzle? Maybe our perceptions are based solely on our view from our side of the room, our one view of the proverbial elephant?

Is it possible that even though our perceptions contain truth, they are extremely limited and are actually nothing like what God intended or plans?

Reality Check: We can have a revelation but not have understanding.

“Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!” (I Cor 13:9).

Here’s the truth: even though you may be struggling with disappointment because things didn’t play out the way you had hoped – God’s plans are far more involved than your limited perspectives, and they are always for good!

The truth is that God is doing things behind the scenes for your good that you are not aware of.

Let me explain.

Bad decisions, mistakes, failures haunt many. And often folks feel like they have not attained the place they thought they would because of them. And then they look back on their lives with regret. And as a result people feel …. stuck.

However, let me suggest something: Maybe we’ve misunderstood what God’s intention was for us to begin with. Maybe that glimpse we got, maybe that inclination, was only a small piece of a much bigger picture.

I would go so far as to say, many times we feel stuck or disappointed with where life has brought us because we have misunderstood the true purpose of why we’re there.

Some of you thought your mistakes disqualified you when really God’s plan is to rescue you. You thought your mistakes positioned you for punishment, when really they might have positioned you to more fully experience and understand the compassion, mercy, and grace of God.

It might be that instead of your foolishness positioning you for failure, it has positioned you to experience more of His fullness.

God’s ultimate design is for you to recognize His goodness. It is for you to realize that you still need a savior. It is for you to receive His comfort. How can you do that unless you fall down a few times?

So here is what I think: I think when we are young, even if we don’t have a “5 year, 10 year, 25 year plan” we formulate an idea of how things are going to play out. We think we have an idea of where we will end up. And, I think I can say with confidence – it NEVER works out that way.

So here’s what I say. Maybe you’re not actually “stuck.” Maybe, if you took a few moments to look around and see all the ways in which you are growing, changing, learning, and maturing you would realize, you are right where God wanted and needed you to be. Maybe if you would think about the people you have the opportunity to impact that you never would have had things gone according to “plan” you would understand that God was leading all along.

Maybe, maybe … you are simply at a place on the journey you did not anticipate.

Being stuck and being somewhere you did not anticipate are two different things. So I say, embrace the moment. Look for the good. Trust in the faithfulness of God to lead in and through every single step. If you can realign your perspective you may just find you are not stuck at all. You may just find passion and purpose instead of pain.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Cor 13:12

Grandpa’s Gift

We were on one of our many treks up and down the I-75 corridor. Living in Cleveland, Tenn. but hailing from central Michigan was the impetus that lead to many miles of familiar highway being traversed once again. We had one great advantage – my wife’s grandparents lived in Muncie, Ind., which was just slightly more than the halfway point of our 12-hour journey to the homeland, if we made a slight detour.

Her grandparents were incredibly loving, generous and kind people. Even if we could not stay long we always tried to map out our trip in such a way that warranted a visit. This halfway stop provided a much needed reprieve from the road as well as a fun break for our kids. No matter how short the visit, we still managed to squeeze in a game of croquet or a couple hands of euchre. Grandpa could always make the kids giggle by allowing them to yank on his earlobe so that his hearing aid would emit an extended beep. And I think Grandma always planned for our visits by stocking up on fresh grapes before our arrival knowing our kids would devour every one of them.

There was always something special about their home. Each visit was full of laughter, playful picking on each other, and a lot of love. One visit in particular I saw something that was a little shocking to me. Her grandparents were in their late 70’s at the time. I remember Grandma went into the living room where Grandpa was relaxing in his favorite chair. She promptly sat on Grandpa’s lap and threw her arms around his neck. Now, this type of behavior may be normal for others. But for me, it was a poignant moment. It’s not simply that my wife’s grandparents were still affectionate after nearly 60 years of marriage. Somehow, through all those years, with all of the inherent difficulties normally associated with marriage, these two lived out a deep and abiding love for one another for all to see.

With this image still fresh in my mind, the next morning I asked Grandma and Grandpa a simple question,

“What would you say is the secret to your long-lasting, loving marriage?”

Grandma immediately responded with some sage advice, “You have to remember, marriage is a 50/50 relationship. There has to be give and take and compromise.” I remember thinking to myself, “that makes a lot of sense.”

With his continual half grin, Grandpa interrupted her discourse by saying in his mildly raspy voice, “no, no it’s not.”

Everyone in the room was a little surprised, including Grandma. It seems Grandpa had a philosophy even Grandma didn’t know about. He continued,

“It’s 100/0. Give 100% and demand nothing in return, and you will have a happy marriage.”

I have to tell you – this may be some of the most profound wisdom I have ever received. At first glance this principle doesn’t seem to make sense. Surely, a marriage involves give and take, right? Isn’t a marriage about mutual fulfillment and meeting each other’s needs? Of course it is. It’s not that Grandma was wrong. It’s simply that Grandpa had tapped into a deeper principle.

It is true that Jesus made the well-known statement, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NASV). But, three short verses prior he made a difficult statement that brings some clarity to this verse. Jesus declared,

“But … do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35 NASV).

At their core, our attitudes, actions and responses toward our spouses are an issue between us and God. If our motivation moves from pleasing God to expecting something from our mate, we will probably end up disappointed. At some point our spouse will not respond in the way we had hoped, leaving us hurt or frustrated in the process. In that moment we place in our spouse’s hands the power to determine how we feel about what we are doing. What Jesus is saying is, “interact with others in a way that pleases me regardless of what they say or do. Do good, expecting nothing in return. When you do, you reveal who you belong to.” The great invitation of scripture is to –

Give All of yourself and make no demands in return

When my head hits the pillow at night I want to know that regardless of how others acted or reacted, I lived my day in a way that pleased Him. I want to live in a Christ-like manner regardless of the behavior of others. I’m not always successful but, this is my goal. Realizing my reward comes from God and not man takes the pressure off of my relationship with my wife. It is liberating, for both of us. It frees my wife up to love me back in her own way.

When both partners are giving and serving and expecting nothing in return is when God pours out His blessing and gives back to us “a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together.”

Thank you, Grandpa, for incredible godly insight that has forever changed my marriage and my family.

In Loving memory of Charles & Cleota Reece

Love is in the Air.

Love Is In The Air!

Jesus was hanging out in the temple one day sharing stories as he was prone to do. Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests and elders were systematically grilling him with difficult questions in an attempt to trip him up and catch him saying or teaching something wrong. Jesus handily deflected the verbal arsenal as each inquiry was launched at him. Finally, one particular Pharisee, who happened to be a lawyer, scrutinized him with yet one more question.

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?” he asked.

Jesus gave the standard answer that was often repeated by the religious leaders. Quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, He replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This was the answer the hearers would have accepted and expected. But, did anyone really expect Jesus to just give a simple answer? As was typical with Jesus, He didn’t stop with just answering the question. He added a statement that struck at the heart. He followed up his first response by adding,

“And the second is like it:You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:36-40).

This was a difficult thing for the religious crowd of His day. They prided themselves on the outward appearance of their great loyalty to God and adherence to His commands. In a single sentence Jesus challenged their devotion by adding this second component.

It has always struck me as odd that Jesus was asked one question but gave two answers. Why did He do that? I suspect that the reason He gave two answers was because in His mind, in the mind of God, you cannot really separate the two concepts. The result of loving God is loving people. Also, you cannot really love people unless you first love God. You cannot separate the two. If that is the case then His two answers are really just two parts of a single answer.

What that means is that church attendance, Bible reading, or even singing along with your favorite worship songs are not the truest measure of showing your love for God. In fact, you might say that the best way to show God you love Him is … to love people. A better translation would have been “the second commandment is JUST LIKE the first one.” In this passage it’s almost as if God was saying,

“If you really love God, you will love people.”

Gary Smalley one time said “Life is relationships; the rest is just details.” Many times we mistakenly lead our lives thinking life is about our jobs, our finances, our position, our achievements or our notoriety. We strive and contend. We chase and pursue. We are busy. And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with much of that. But, at the end of the day, everything we do revolves around the people we do it with and the relationships we build along the way. In fact, many times when we build relationships first, the success we desire will follow naturally.

What does it mean to “love” people? Jesus actually gave some fairly clear instructions within the context of His response. He said we are to love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves. In another context He said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Mt. 7:12 ESV). When I jump to conclusions, make mistakes, have an angry response and say things I regret, I want others to give me grace, forgiveness, and understanding. Sometimes I want them to overlook my shortcomings and give me the benefit of the doubt. Mostly, I want people to treat me with value and respect. If I’m going to treat others the way I want to be treated, if I’m going to love my neighbor as myself, then I should give them the same. Maybe that means is lending a listening ear the next time my teenager does something wrong instead of yelling. Maybe that means giving grace when the cashier makes a mistake or the customer service employee treats me rudely. Maybe it means not getting an attitude or shaking my fist when I’m cut off in traffic. Maybe it means seeking understanding when my boss is acting like a jerk.

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th and the National Marriage Week leading up to it, people are focused on their love relationships in the month of February, and rightly so. Couples are intentional in February. They make a “date” to spend time together, they give each other gifts, they treat each other kindly, and they see the best in each other.

But, everywhere around us are people who need many of the same aspects that we bring to our closest relationships: time spent together, a listening ear, understanding, compassion and care. Any relationship can be strengthened, enhanced, or healed when we are intentional and put into practice many of the same things that lead to a strong marriage. Our kids need it, our parents need it, our neighbors need it, our employees need it, and our pastors need it. The cashier needs it, the waitress needs it, and the homeless guy on the corner needs it. And all of them are made in the image of God. If we love God, we will love people.

It’s February so love truly is in the air. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35).

Grace as an Organizational Paradigm

Every once in awhile you will have someone on your team that is just … amazing. They come to the table with all sorts of talents, strengths, skill sets and experience, and a good attitude. The problem is, even with great team members, great team dynamics, cohesion and engagement, sometimes there is miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misperceptions. Sometimes there’s just a miss.

The reason is that even the best people are broken. Even the greatest asset on your team is … incomplete. The reality is, working with people is often messy, fraught with difficulty, and even painful.

All of the difficulties stem from the fact that each of us has a limited perspective. We have limited perspectives because we are incomplete. We are not all-sufficient. We are not all-knowing. We are not all-powerful. We do not have inexhaustible brain capacity. We are …finite. Therefore, our ideas, our opinions, our perspective, our judgments, are partial and incomplete at best.

This is also why we need each other. We need the perspectives, the opinions of others in order to be informed and to have the fullest view. Leaders who assume they already have all the answers and do not need the input of others are short-sighted. But make no mistake, filtering through their personalities, their own limited views, and their one-sided opinions can be really difficult in order to get you there can be really difficult.

The only way to have a pain free, difficulty free, organization is to have one that does not include … people.

The scriptures make it clear from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the book that we are designed to need each other. For example, God created Adam by forming him out of the dust and breathing life into him. But, he created Eve by taking something out of the man. The moment God performed this supernatural surgery Adam became …incomplete. And what he was missing was only to be found in another … human. This is why when they came together the bible says, “for this reason a man shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one” (Genesis 2). They went from being separate to being a unit. They were incomplete, now complete. They went from two parts to one whole.

Each of us is designed to be incomplete without the strengths, the gifts, the abilities, and even the weaknesses, of others. And maybe this is why God, in His vastly superior wisdom, instituted the concepts and principles of forgiveness, of mercy, of Grace – because He knew we would need it to garner relationships.

The reality is I cannot fully appreciate or tap into the gifts of my fellow man if I do not simultaneously operate in grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Because, the strengths of my team members are encased in their own brokenness, their own respective incomplete nature, and their sin.

So, even superior teams can be difficult at times. Even the most loving families can be hard to love. Even the closest relationships often require grace. But, without them we are deficient, impaired, and limited.

“Put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don’t be proud. Be gentle and patient. Put up with one another. Forgive one another if you are holding something against someone. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you. And over all these good things put on love. Love holds them all together perfectly as if they were one” (Col. 3:12-14)


The Secret Marriage Healing Agent


Recently I was re-wiring an outlet in our house. I realize that for many this may seem like a simple assignment. However, I am certainly no professional electrician. So, this little job was more of an adventure than it was a routine task. First step – remove the outlet cover. Simple enough. Next I removed the screws that held the outlet inside the electric box. Done. At this point I was feeling pretty confident. The next step was to pull the outlet out from the wall far enough to loosen the screws that held the electrical wires to the outlet. So, I did the obvious – I used my index finger and my thumb to grab each side of the outlet. Not thinking, I placed them squarely on the wires on either side of the outlet.

Zap! –a JOLT blasted through my hand!

I immediately JERKED my hand back and without thinking I jammed my fingers into my mouth to sooth the instantaneous tingling-burning sensation.

Surprise! – I forgot to flip the breaker that supplied power to the outlet. Whoops! Lesson learned.

But, here’s the real lesson: It is a natural response to sooth and heal wounds within our own body. Wounds almost never heal without some intentional attention and care, especially deep wounds. The deeper or more severe the wound, the more care it needs.

In the midst of his exposé concerning the relationship between husbands and wives Paul made an amazing statement that may be often overlooked. He explains “Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies. The man who loves his wife loves himself. No one ever hates his own body, but provides for and takes care of it” (Eph 5:28-29).

The reality is all of us are broken. All of us are wounded in some way. The way I read this passage is that it is our job to care for, attend to, and minister to, our spouse’s woundedness. It is our responsibility to attempt to sooth and bring healing to our mate. It might even be possible that the reason the Lord put us in their lives is to attend to their healing.

Unfortunately, many times we respond to our spouses out of our own woundedness. We tend to react out of self-preservation rather than service. As a result, instead of healing we often cause further damage and deepen the wound. We know he needs affirmation but instead we criticize, further damaging his ego. We know she needs understanding but instead we snap, further damaging her self-esteem. But, I believe part of God’s call on my life is to recognize my wife’s woundedness and respond and react to her in a way that brings healing, not further damage.

Imagine how different our households would be if we actually did what Jesus said we should be doing, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:35). Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted.” If we are truly to love one another as Christ, then attending to one another’s healing might be a top priority.

Things to think about.

Leadership Voices

Recently I sat in two different team meetings with two different leaders. Though the content of the meetings was similar, the meetings themselves left me with distinctly different feelings about the goals and direction, the organization, and the leaders themselves.

I have wrestled over the last few days as to why these two meetings resulted in such a different set of emotions from me, and I suspect different emotions from the other team members as well. What was unique about each meeting that garnered such different results?

After pondering this for some time I think I have boiled it down to this:

Leadership Voices.

Let me state the obvious: how each respective leader conducted the meeting made all of the difference as to how the content of the meeting was received. By “conducted” I do not mean the mechanics of the meeting. In other words, it wasn’t that one leader had a well-planned agenda and the other didn’t. It wasn’t that one leader kept the team on task and the other didn’t. It wasn’t starting on time, ending on time, the time of day, or whether snacks were provided. It wasn’t that one used a white board and the other a power point presentation. And by “leadership voices” I certainly don’t mean that one leader was a baritone while the other was a soprano.

No, it was something entirely different. Something about the voice of the Leader set the tone for the meeting.

If I could narrow it down even more, the tone, the pace, and results of the meeting really boiled down to one simple phrase that the leader repeated throughout each respective meeting. One simple phrase changed everything else.

One leader said, “You need to …” or “We need to …”

The other leader asked “What do you think …?”

One was directive. One was collaborative.

One shut others down. One opened others up.

One phrase resulted in a quick and neatly packaged meeting. One was a little sloppy, involving discussion, debate, and even disagreement.

One communicated value in team members. One de-valued the contributions of team members.

One phrase expressed confidence in the team. One phrase expressed lack of confidence.

One phrase built trust. One phrase undermined trust.

One phrase garnered engagement. One garnered dis-engagement.

One left people feeling encouraged. The other left them feeling discouraged.

One made the team feel important and appreciated. The other left them feeling … merely employed.

One effected ownership of the decision by the team. One effected mere obedience.

One garnered cooperation and cohesion. The other, though on the surface appeared unified, actually brought disunity. Even the attendees that didn’t agree quickly got behind one voice. While, attendees of the other meeting didn’t express their opinions until they were behind closed doors and outside of the hearing of the leader, and only with members they knew would agree with them.

One voice communicated, “I think I’m the smartest guy in the room.” The other voice communicated, “We are in this together.”

The reality is that

One voice communicated humility.

The other voice communicated arrogance.


I know some leaders reading this are probably thinking, “this isn’t a democracy. We don’t need to take a vote. I’m the leader, they should just do what I say.”

It’s interesting that in neither meeting was the position or authority of the leader in question. But, the posture they took, their voice, had a definite impact on the well-being of the entire team.

I have to ask, is mere obedience the only thing you want from your team? Is that the end game? Don’t you want their creativity? Don’t you want their innovation? Don’t you want their engagement. Don’t you want them to want to come to work?

Don’t you want their hearts?

The leader’s voice is really about posture. The leader’s voice is about their view of themselves and their view of their team.

One simple phrase can make all of the difference.

Leaders, have you listened to your own voice lately? Have you ever played back the tapes in your head of conversations you’ve had with your team? Have you ever really …listened …to yourself? Have you considered what unintentional messages you are communicating to your team? Have you ever thought through how to really value, engage, and encourage your team? Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to get the best from your team?

Getting their best might not be a result of awards, raises, or even promotions.

Your influence might primarily be … in your voice.

“Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.”

Proverbs 18:2


Content but not Satisfied

“It’s just a number,” they said. Yeah, but, it’s a BIG number.

“You’re only as old as you feel,” they said. EXACTLY! Maybe I feel even older!

50. I’m not gonna lie. I’m having a bit of a hard time swallowing the fact that I am now half of a century old. Why is this such an issue? Lots of people have passed this way before me. And truthfully, I’m the last in my family to do so. Yet, somehow, they all survived. And some of all those people who have passed this way before me actually seem happy. So, what’s my issue?

It’s not the number so much. It’s the dark realization that, well, my life is nowhere near where I thought it would be. Part of the problem is, I’m not quite sure where I thought it would be at this point. I just didn’t think I’d be … here. 50. Really?

My wife asked me last Saturday if I wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday – 3 days early. I said, unequivocally, “No. No I do not. I am not ready.”

The way I saw it, I still had 3 days left of clinging to the idea that “I’m still in my 40’s.”

I told her I had 3 days to …. Lose 30 pounds.

3 days to … get in better shape.

3 days to …. choose a career path I actually want.

3 days to … become financially stable.

3 days to … start a ministry that will impact people and have significance.

The truth is, I’m not … unhappy. In fact, most days I am quite happy.

I enjoy my life. I have a beautiful, amazing, wife of over 30 years who is full of life and joy and most days we still like each other. I have a great family that I am very proud of. I enjoy my friends. I have a good job and work with some really good people. I have a decent home. I’m not hungry, naked, or lacking shelter. In many respects, we have it really, really good. And, just for icing on the cake, every now and then I get to be involved in some directed ministry opportunities.

But, I’m not where I want to be either. And it has nothing to do with my age. It has everything to do with my choices. I just hate feeling … behind, like I’m constantly playing catch-up.

And I think that’s where the disappointment comes in. I’m a little disappointed with where life has brought me to. In truth, I’m disappointed with … myself.

But here’s the thing: Yes, I’d like to be 30 pounds lighter. But that’s not really it. Yes, I’d like to be in much better shape. But that’s not really it. Sure I’d like to have a better paying job that doesn’t make me feel …stuck. But, that’s not really it either. Yes I’d like to have more money in the bank. But that’s not really the challenge. Yes I think my kids have grown up way too fast, but that’s not the issue either.

I’ve found myself pondering the end of life a lot lately. I want my life to have meaning. I want my life to have had an impact. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I don’t want people wondering what to say at my funeral. Especially my family.

There is an innate desire for … something more. For … significance.

There, I said it.

Some days I feel like my life has had significance. Some days I feel like my life and my influence has had an impact for good. But some days, not so much.

I used to have a great desire for a large pulpit ministry. But as life has thrown so many curve balls my way I’ve had to adjust my definition of “success” or “ministry.” I think my definition is much healthier now. But, sometimes it just feels like an excuse or a justification for where I’ve landed.

Some days I’m really good at focusing my heart and my attention on those He has put in front of me. Loving them. Caring for them. And I know deep within my heart that this is what He has called me to. But …

Some days I long for something bigger. Something more.

I don’t think this is the end game. I don’t think this is all there is.

And as I ponder and pray, I think this is exactly what God has called us to. I think this is the great tension in scripture. Let me explain.

Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be … content. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:11-12).

The challenge many people have is that they are always striving for an elusive, idealistic picture. Constantly chasing after an illusion. Pushing, pressing, stretching for something that cannot be obtained. Why? Because it is human nature that every time we reach a milestone or a goal, rather than being satisfied with our achievement, we almost instantly move the goal posts. We got that raise and are making “X” amount of money. Great! But now we need the NEXT promotion. We reached that sales goal. Great! Well, since we can do that then we should be able to do even more. Lost “x” amount of weight. Excellent! But now we need to win the competition. In one sense there is nothing wrong with this. But, for many this is precisely why no matter how much they have or achieve, they are never truly happy. Sometimes people are surrounded by so many blessings but don’t recognize them because they are constantly focused on wanting more. They have so much but don’t see it because all they can see is what they don’t have.

And it’s even worse for many believers. Many believers wrongly assume that as soon as they decided to live their lives for Christ that everything was going to suddenly be sunshine and roses. But it’s just not true.

The problem is, when you seek after riches you end up living in the fear of lack. When you seek after beauty you end up living in the fear of being ugly. When you seek after power, you end up living in fear of being weak. When you seek performance, you end up living in fear of being insufficient. When you seek security, you end up living your life in insecurity.

But, when you live your life pursuing GOD, you end up feeling loved and accepted.

Paul said, I have learned to be content – no matter what state I find myself in. My internal compass is not determined by external challenges. My internal joy is not determined by external circumstances. My internal peace is not determined by external issues. I have learned to be content.

But, just a few verses earlier he said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14).

It is clear that Paul knew there was something more: things that still needed to be done, work that needed to be accomplished. He could have focused on all the things he had done wrong, or all the things he didn’t do that he should have. He could have let bad choices or circumstances derail him from purpose. But he didn’t. Paul intentionally chose to let go of the past. He wasn’t going to let mistakes, failures, life’s troubles, or anything else stop him from giving his life in pursuit of what God had in store for him. Paul didn’t pull up the rocking chair of life and settle in.

Yes, he had learned to be content … but, he was not satisfied.

Paul found himself somewhere between the “already” and the “not yet.”

Here’s the truth: Life is good. I am content. I choose to not focus on regret. I choose to appreciate, to love, to enjoy what is right before me.

But, I’m not satisfied either. I know there is something more. And even though I’m half a century old, I am not done.

I am somewhere between. I choose contentment with the “already.” But, I am striving toward the “not yet.”