Friday, January 30, 2015

Leadership lessons from...The Princess Bride!

I’ll be honest, some of the ideas that I put up here are half-baked thoughts, driven by a moment of insanity. It’s not always the best writing you can imagine. This may even be similar to something else out there—but I’m not copying it, because I haven’t seen it. It’s a blog, after all, and worth every penny I pay for it. (Which is approximately 1000 pennies a year for the domain name.)

Today’s leadership post features…

Leadership Lessons from The Princess Bride

(yes, the movie)
(with apologies to the writers, actors, directors, and sensible people who find this silly)

I. Identity leads to clarity: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The secondary story in The Princess Bride is the pursuit of justice by Inigo, seeking retribution for his father’s murder. Inigo is relentless, often to the point of danger. Yet there is a time in the film when he has lost his way. When that happens, what brings him back? Being reminded of his quest.

From this, we take the lesson that identity leads to clarity. Inigo knows who he is, and this brings clarity on his mission. Further, no one meets him without finding out the backstory of his life and the mission Inigo lives for. While other issues arise, they are either for the sake of paying the bills or as an aid to accomplish his purpose.

What, then, should we do? Know who you are. You need not go off pursuing enlightenment about your identity—recognize what life has made you. And then establish your identity and quest from that point. Keep it clear, and minimize the distractions. Filter the rest of your life through that identity and clarity.

For example, I am a Christian devoted to communicating the truth of God’s Word to all those I encounter. To that end, I have taken on some jobs and avoided others. I have pursued some study and avoided other study. But it’s not my purpose to be a pastor. Pastoring is how I accomplish my purpose.

II. Do what you can today: “Good night Westley, good work. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

The Dread Pirate Roberts typically left no survivors, but he made an exception for Westley to work as his valet for a day. For years, this was the last thing Westley was told at night. Not a positive way to live.

Yet over time, Westley wins the Pirate’s trust. From that point, he learns the secret of the Dread Pirate Roberts and comes to fortune as his successor. Why?

Because he did what he could do, what was right in front of him.

How can you focus on the task at hand? It may not lead to piracy, but it may bring you to true love.

III. Show integrity: “We are men of action, lies do not become us.”

After being captured by the bad guys, Buttercup makes a deal with the prince. She will go with him, and Westley should be released to his ship. The prince makes this deal, intending to have Westley killed instead.

The henchmen, Count Rugen, attempts to sell the lie to Westley, who then speaks the line above. The result? Rugen knocks Westley out, throws him in the pit of despair, and tortures him.

Our hero does not truly reap the reward of his integrity until later in the film. We don’t like that idea, but it remains important. He stands for all that we should be and is the only person throughout that is both honorable and stable.


Is that not what we should be? We ought to be people of action—those who act on their intentions—and people of integrity. Lies do not become us. Not at all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In Misery: Luke 17

In Summary:

As Jesus is headed to Jerusalem in Luke 17, he continues teaching the disciples. (It’s worth noting that Luke, like Mark, uses the “on the way to Jerusalem” for heading to the Cross. Neither have a casual trip to Jerusalem for Jesus.) First, he issues a warning against those who cause others to stumble. This is coupled with commanding the disciples to be forgiving toward one another—and this isn’t just between the Twelve, but for all the followers of Christ. Is it possible that our unforgiving attitude causes others to stumble? We need to consider this.

Further, Jesus speaks of the need for faith. I find it telling that Jesus responds to the request to “increase” the disciples’ faith with a statement of “if you had faith.” The implication is not that they have too little faith. It’s that they have none at all. They lack trusting obedience in Jesus, based on the following statements about what their lives should look like in response to God’s commands.

The ending section of Luke 17 is why I choose not to get worked up about anyone’s prediction of timing of the return of Jesus and the end of the world. He assures his disciples that he is coming back. He assures that this will bring the final judgment. And he describes it as quite unexpected by many. We should take this in this manner: there are signs, just as there are signs that allow prediction of weather. But our ability to predict is imperfect, so we must live as if it will be any time. Stressing about blood moons or any other nonsense is just that: nonsense. Do what needs doing.

In Focus:

We’ll put the middle story, Luke 17:11-19, in focus today. Jesus encounters ten lepers. They call out for mercy, and Jesus commands that they go show themselves to the priests. As they go to meet that ceremonial need, they are healed. Nine of them continue on, but one returns to give thanks to Jesus and glory to God. That one? A Samaritan, typically an outcast in that society.

Three key ideas in this passage:

First, misery knows no ethnicity. The average first century Israelite would not have stuck around a Samaritan. When the misery of being a social outcast, a leper, hit them, the other lepers welcomed the Samaritan. Or perhaps he welcomed them? The backstory is unknown, yet from the current events we can tell that what had divided people pales in comparison to misery forcing them together.

Second, mercy restores. Lepers had to show themselves to the priests, who would pronounce them as clean and restore them to society. Given that differing skin diseases all fell under “leprosy,” it’s possible that these lepers were not afflicted with the rapidly fatal form. Instead, their misery was social rejection and the slow approach of death. The mercy of Jesus restores them to the community.

Third, there’s always time for gratitude. This event raises a question: why is the tenth leper praised, and the other nine criticized by implication, when the nine were being obedient? The issue is this: there would always be time to handle the details of going to the priests, but Jesus was on his way somewhere…the nine will not find him there when they come back. They should have taken the time to express gratitude and then continued in obedience. (One could also argue that Jesus knew they’d never try, but that idea does not seem like the point here.)


In Practice:

First, misery knows no ethnicity. Neither does need, nor salvation. Why, then, do we spend so much of our time only with people like us? The Samaritan shifts from misery with Jews as a leper to praising God, with Jews (the disciples!), after healing. If we have been delivered, our focus should be more on the One who delivered us than on who looks like us.

Second, mercy restores. Mercy does not say to others “you’re forgiven, but get out.” With all proper consideration of protecting people from their attackers, the community of faith should be a place of restoration. The Samaritan never forgot he had been a leper. You don’t have to keep reminding people of their past. Let mercy restore them among the community. And yes, our sanctified segregation of pigeonholing people into ‘ministries’ to folks whose sin is similar to their old life is often our way of maintaining their guilt. Maybe that thrice-divorced person actually has a passion for something other than divorce recovery? Or that single mom wants to work with the elderly? Let us consider that.

Third, there’s always time for gratitude. Always. Take time to say thank you. How long did it take the Samaritan? Not very. We’re not talking about derailing obedience to spend hours upon hours. We’re talking about putting gratitude first on the list, and then working out from there. Do it. Allow your obedience to reverberate with the gratitude of a healed heart, rather than a cold list-check.

In Nerdiness: 

I want to look back and raise a question from Luke 17:10. We are in heaven because our Master has allowed it, for we are his servants (or slaves, as you read it). Is our service deserving of ‘reward’? Or is it just what we should have done?


Why, then, do we talk so much about how we expect to be rewarded in heaven for what we do?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sermon Recap for January 25

Good Morning! Here are the sermons from yesterday:

Morning Sermon: Stop Waiting! Mark 1:14-20 (audio)

"Stop Waiting"

Fixed mark: Stop waiting and obey the call of God

On Background:

Mark rapidly shifts from John the Baptist to Jesus—rather than dwelling on the conditions of John’s imprisonment, the ministry of Jesus is picked up immediately.

Notice what happens:

First, Jesus is preaching the Gospel. Nothing positive happens spiritually that God does not initiate!

1. Jesus began ______ the gospel of God (preaching)

God takes the initiative in our salvation—He is the God who seeks and saves.

What is the Gospel?

We all need to be able to make this definition: What is the Gospel? That Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, lived a sinless life, fulfilled the Law of God, died for sinners, rose up from the dead under His own power, and ascended to Heaven. Because of His substitution, our debt from sin is paid for and God judges us not by our works but by Jesus’ works. This is what is necessary for our salvation.

How should we respond to the Gospel?

2. The response was to repent and believe. Repentance means to ________ and _________ (acknowledge wrong and change behavior)

Repentance involves acknowledging our sin and changing our behavior—and belief is connected to that concept.

We do not believe what we do not act on.

From that point, our belief drives us to follow Jesus. It is not the business of the world, of those who have not believed, to try and follow Jesus. That’s like convincing someone who needs heart surgery to put on a clean shirt for the party.

3. Those who repented and believed were called to _____________Him (follow)

After repentance and belief, though, it is another matter. We are no longer in need of a heart transplant, a brain implant, and resuscitation to life! We are alive.

So we must follow Him—and doing so involves dressing ourselves appropriately (Isaiah 61:10) in the righteousness of life and action, like Christ.

Following as a disciple follows belief and repentance.

Following also should be done without delay:

4. Peter, ________, _________, and John followed ___________ (Andrew, James, immediately)

See what occurs: no delays, no pondering. Action.

5. We must ___________________ and __________ the call of God (stop waiting, obey)

What does that look like?

1. Salvation

2. Baptism

3. Reconciliation with one another

4. Evangelism

5. Commitment of all we have.

Evening Sermon: John 3:16 (audio)

1. God’s love—not our seeking

2. Uniqueness of Jesus

3. Life everlasting

Concluding Notes:

1. I do have the rough audio of Sunday Night’s Q&A session, but I’m not sure yet that it’s useful for posting.

2. I am not sure how to improve video quality with the current equipment.

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E. Some videos are up on Vimeo, but budget constraints have ended my posting to Vimeo for the time being.

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