Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 11 July 2019

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  Titus 1:6-7 (NIV).

Paul tells us what our leaders (especially our church leaders) should be.   Then he tells us about habits they should not have.  It’s a lesson we should enthusiastically, but carefully, heed.

We’ve been here before.   Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Jim Bakker, Mel Gibson, John F. Kennedy, Jay-Z; name your celebrity or politician.   I dare say most couldn’t pass Paul’s smell test to be an elder.  Most people don’t vote for politicians because they’re saints.   Most people don’t listen to popular artists or movie stars because those people are paragons of virtue.   We listen to those people, watch them, vote for them because we like them and what they say or do, or we agree with some of what they say and do.

Got skin?   Got sin.   Donald and Bill and Jim and the rest are me.   They’re you.  Sinners and fallen.

Those who are our earthly leaders, celebrities, and such are fulfilling roles that God appointed for them as well.   That doesn’t mean we should excuse repugnant or bad behavior.   It does, however, mean thinking about it in context of why – and who and where – they are.

In Titus 1, Paul is talking specifically about leaders in the church.  You’d think that a faithful humanity would want our church leaders and civic leaders to have the same virtues.   In reality, we do.   Yet, in the church, we should hold our leaders to a Godly standard that isn’t always germane for civil service.   Especially in a time when so many are uber-sensitive to the (not in the Constitution) separation of church and state.

We shouldn’t be jerks (but so many are).   We shouldn’t be wallowing substance abusers (but many are).   We shouldn’t be violent (but way too many are).   We shouldn’t pursue dishonest gain (but way too many use the church as their own springboard).   There’s a lot we, as leaders of the church of God, shouldn’t do.   But there’s lots more we should do.  Our leaders are, as front-line soldiers, representing the family of Jesus.   We should be morally upright, publicly virtuous, and a good example for others to aspire to follow.

In other words, we should model Jesus.   That’s what Paul is telling us to do.   It isn’t any more complicated than that.  Trump couldn’t do it.   Neither could Clinton or Obama or any of the others.   Neither could you or me.   But, then again, maybe all of us could.   With the help of God, anything is possible.  Maybe we could – and should – lead in His name.

For further reading:  Matthew 19:26, 1 Corinthians 4:1, 1 Timothy 3:1, Titus 1:8

Lord and leader Jesus, help me to lead in Your way today.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 3 December 2018

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).

I regret not being a responsible and moral leader when I was younger.   I was an awful shift supervisor to my first watch crew.  I didn’t understand that commanding and teaching my crew were responsibilities to do so humbly, in my own way according to the rules, and wisely.   I didn’t do a very good job.  Later, as a young father, I was short-fused, hot-tempered, and hypocritical.   My words didn’t always match my conduct, and I didn’t usually demonstrate a good example for my kids or others around me.  Others felt the consequences of my sins.

Know what?   That doesn’t matter.   Death comes to all of us; we’re sinners and because of that we die.   Yet on our winding roads through life we’re given the opportunity to meet other people and share with them.   We share life; we share stories; we share fellowship; we share Jesus.  That last one is our primary mission.  It isn’t to lead, or parent, or be a friend, or to acquire the most stuff.   It’s to share Jesus.   In doing that, we lead.

A few years ago, a fellow believer shared online that his grandson was terminally ill.   That boy died yesterday, went home to heaven to be with Jesus.  I never met him; his name was Andrew.   But I cheered for him as he bravely lived in dignity and hope while leukemia ravaged him.   It never defeated him.   When death came for Andrew, hero that he was, he faced it and walked through into the open arms of the Savior, who, I’m thinking, gave Andrew a huge bear hug.   “Welcome home, Andrew.   I love you SO MUCH!”   Satan thought he’d won again but he’s too foolish to realize he never wins.   Jesus already won.

I learned a lot from following Andrew’s journey.   I learned that such a fine young man was a leader in all he did.   An inspiration in a dirty world full of our regrets.   Those regrets never matter in the long run.   What matters is how we live our lives in pursuing Jesus, in growing closer to Him.   When death arrives, the regrets and possessions and sins won’t matter.   Living forever in peace with Him:   THAT is what will matter most.

I’m going to be away from here for awhile.   Tomorrow I’m having surgery that’ll keep me away from these words for a few weeks.  If it goes well, I’ll see you later.   And if it goes south, I’ll see you later in heaven.   No matter, live today in peace and dignity and hope, and live it fully.   Love and lead and share Jesus.   We’ll meet again.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 4:13.

Lord, watch over my friends and help us each to lead through You.   And bless Andrew there in Heaven and those he left behind.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 15 September 2015

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. Mark 10, verse 32.

I like books about warriors, and one of my favorite war authors is Richard Marcinko.   Years ago, he wrote a book called “Rogue Warrior;” it’s an autobiographical book about his work in the Navy SEALs.   One of the maxims about which he wrote was “lead from the front.”   It’s good military advice; it’s good advice overall. You don’t lead a group by giving orders and standing in the back of the pack:   you go to the front of the pack and demonstrate. You don’t shy away from challenges or combat:   you fight from the center, where the fighting is thickest.   In doing so, you inspire, you motivate and you lead.

Now, Jesus is no Special Forces warrior but He could have taught Marcinko a thing or two about leading from the front because it’s what He did every day of His ministry. In verse 32, Jesus is in front of the group, leading.   Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Jesus and the Apostles:   it was a larger group, a Galilean gaggle of followers who had come to find out that there really was something about this rabbi who offered new teaching. They had seen Jesus and the rich man; they had heard His words of power and authority.

And they were afraid.   They weren’t a rioting group of rabble but they were afraid.   They were afraid of being caught.   They were afraid of what could happen if they had to come up against the very entrenched Jews at the Temple.   Truth being told, they were also probably afraid of the things Jesus taught.   Yes, the crowds who flocked to Jesus’ sermons were awe-struck by the love in His words and the power those words conveyed.   I’m betting they were afraid of both that power and of actually having to live up to the things Jesus was talking about.

Through it, Jesus led from the front.   He didn’t hide when things got hairy:   He jumped in and led. Jesus calmed their fears and led them where they needed to go. He’s still doing it today.   Richard Marcinko might just agree.

We can do the same. Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see “War Room,” the new movie about prayer warriors.   It’s a Jesus-Richard Marcinko kind of thing in a unique way.   In the movie, a struggling wife and mom is trying to hold her family together in an all-too-typical situation where they are being pulled apart.   She is taught to lead from the front by fighting the enemy – the devil – through prayer.   The story teaches that prayer is an active battle plan, that it is our way to involve God in our daily battles and our real struggles by getting right in the middle of the fighting and praying for God’s intercession with whatever we’re praying over.   Very lead from the front.

And it’s very much the way Jesus designed things.   In our daily lives, He constantly counsels us to count on Him through prayer and through actively confronting our problems.   He leads us from the front, facing our problems and strengthening us to face them down and defeat the devil who is the real cause of them.

Lord Jesus, teach me to lead from the front as You do.

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.