Thursday, January 21, 2010

Alternative Beatitudes

So I'm reading the Beatitudes this morning, from Matthew 5. Here they are:

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
     for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
     for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
     for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
     for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
     for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This got me to thinking about what some of the alternative beatitudes may have been in Jesus time. In other words, maybe he was rewriting some common refrains, or reordering some elements of the underlying worldview of his time. Maybe the "originals" went something like this:

Blessed are the wealthy,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who rejoice,
     for no suffering can touch their hearts.
Blessed are the bold,
     for they will inherit the kingdom.
Blessed are those who never hunger or thirst,
     for they are always filled.
Blessed are the just,
     for they will judge rightly.
Blessed are those who keep Torah,
     for they will see God.
Blessed are the zealots,
     for they will restore the kingdom.
Blessed are those who die for God's glory,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus turned it all upside down. I pray that he turns you, and me, upside down today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to be a Life-Giving Leader: Lesson Four

Reentry after the holidays has been difficult for me this year. That is probably mostly due to the birth of our third baby--he's doing great but still not sleeping through the night. I'm one of those people who needs uninterrupted sleep to feel normal, and we haven't been getting that for the past six weeks or so. Not that I'm complaining. Ezekiel is amazing and I'd gladly trade all my sleep to have him as my son.

Back to the task at hand. I've been writing about life-giving leaders, and what it takes to lead in such a way that others' hearts come alive. So far we've talked about trust, empowerment, and encouragement. These are all things that life-giving leaders do. But there's something that a leader must be, and that is secure in who he is. In other words, a life-giving leader gets his identity (and senses of well-being, significance, etc.) from God.

Consider the behaviors that come with deep-rooted insecurity. Manipulation. Discouraging words. Control. Anger. Self-aggrandizement. Lashing out at others. Think about how you behave in your moments of insecurity. It's fascinating how insecurity breeds self-centeredness. It's only when we're secure in who we are that we're free to forget ourselves and see the best in others.

Having a strong sense of identity in Christ, and finding security there, is what enables you to be a life-giving leader. When you're racked by insecurity, you are, by definition, focused on yourself and your own needs; and when you're focused on yourself, your attention is given to breathing life into your own soul. And when someone (or something, or some circumstances) threaten the breathing of life into your soul, you become a death-dealing leader. You lash out in self-protection.

But leaders who are secure in themselves (because they know who they are in Christ) receive their life from Christ himself, a conduit which no man can threaten. Being relieved of the heavy task and fools' errand of attempting to breathe life into their own souls, they are then free to breathe life into the hearts and souls of others. Through their security, they serve as a conduit of life from Jesus to others.

The key is to pursue a strong sense of your identity in Christ. Let him define you. Let him name you. There is no surer rock than the words of Jesus, so you need to put yourself into a position to hear from him. Let him rebuild your strength and confidence. Rest in the knowledge that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ." Be secure in Jesus, and you will find the freedom of soul to be a life-giving leader.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Your Best Life Now: Tip #226

In my never-ending quest to help you, my reader(s), maximize your potential, achieve your dreams, and fulfill the snyergistic equilibriance of your life (sp?), I offer you this: A tip to obtain your BEST LIFE NOW!

Do not go see a post-apocalyptic film when your wife and kids are out of town for the weekend, especially not a film about a father trying to keep his family alive in the post-apocalypse.

BONUS TIP: Should you be so foolish as to go see a post-apocalyptic film when your wife and kids are out of town for the weekend, do not listen to folk music while you clean your house the next morning.

Let him who has ears to hear, hear this message for the obtainment YOUR BEST LIFE NOW!