The Culture of Jesus – Safe to Work

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

With Jesus it was safe:

  • Safe to work.
  • Safe to be different.

Mary wasn’t stealing a car or robbing a bank. She didn’t go out and kill 20 people. Nor was she trying to sell crack to school kids. She wasn’t attempting to lead people down some false doctrinal path. All she did was take some extremely valuable fragrant oil and dedicate it to Jesus for His burial. And how did the apostles and others respond? Negativity, criticism and judgment.

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” That was the advice Jesus gave His disciples. They had criticized Mary sharply, scolding her for wasting the fragrant oil by pouring it out on Jesus. The disciples had better ideas on how she could have used that oil to minister to the poor. But Jesus didn’t see it that way. He also added that wherever the gospel was preached, this woman’s act of sacrifice, honor and love would shared with the whole world (Mark 14; Matthew 26; John 12).

Think of the environment and culture the disciples had created by their judgmentalism. Without Jesus there to help, would it have been safe for Mary to step out and do what she did for Jesus? Not at all. They were “troubling her” instead of encouraging her. Jesus was helping the others learn, grow and change to see that this way of pouncing on people with criticism is not His way. This culture of criticism is alive and well in today’s churches, communities, families and businesses, and Jesus wants to transform us, too.

Was it safe for Mary to work and be different? Not at this point with the disciples. They were going to have to be transformed by Jesus. But with Jesus she was safe. With Jesus it was safe to step out and work for Him, even if it was different than how others would have served. This is not to say it is okay with Jesus to teach different doctrines – we’re talking about living within the realm of God’s word. Mary was clearly living within God’s word; she just did something in a way that others thought was a waste.

How about us? Are we like the disciples? Do we insult people, belittle others and make them feel dumb for having different ideas? Then we need a culture change, and that starts in the heart. Come to Jesus and ask Him to help you change how you approach others around you so that they feel safe to step out and work for Jesus.

The Culture of Jesus – Safe in Storms

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
(Mat 14:32-33)

The disciples of Jesus learned some hard but valuable lessons. Jesus allowed them to be in some incredibly nasty storms, and they knew they were in grave danger. Through those storms, they eventually learned that they were safe in Jesus. When Jesus is in the boat, you are safe and eventually He will calm the storm.

Today’s focus is on the safety we have with Jesus in storms. With Jesus, it is safe:

  • Safe to heal
  • Safe in storms
  • Safe to step out

For you the storm may be relationships. It may be sickness or the death of loved ones. For others it is job loss and money issues. Some face incredible tragedy. All of us have at one point been in the storms of our sinfulness. When we are in the storms, we are helpless, hopeless and scared. We look for refuge, for safety and stability. That is what the disciples found in Jesus. Even in the midst of storms that would literally have cost their lives, Jesus was with them in the boat and through Jesus the storm was stilled.

Consider the sinful woman who was forgiven by Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). Her storm was the crashing waves of her sinful choices. How about the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria (John 4)? She had drunk from the relationship well over and over, and was continually left thirsty. In Jesus, she had living water. Levi (Matthew) the tax collector was an outcast who recognized his sinfulness and brokenness. He saw the need for the Great Physician (Luke 5:31). All were broken, all were outcasts, and all were unsafe around the current Jewish leadership. Jesus was different. Jesus was a safe place to heal.

One final thought is this: In Jesus it was safe to step out. Peter, in the midst of a storm, was willing to step out of the boat and walk to Jesus. Read Matthew 14:22-33, and you will see that the disciples, several of them experienced fishermen and boaters, were in a nasty storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked by their boat, and at first they thought He was a ghost. But look at what Peter said once he realized it was Jesus.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:27-28)

What? Peter was going step out of the boat? I’ve often thought about what this says about Peter. But what does this say about Jesus? What had Jesus shown to this point to create a culture where Peter could attempt such a thing? Peter said, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter had some level of courage and trust to know that even in the storm, even stepping out of the boat, he would be safe. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, but please understand that even then he was safe. Jesus was there, and was within arm’s reach.

With Jesus you are safe to heal, safe in storms, and safe to step out and walk to Jesus, even in the storm.

The Culture of Jesus – Safe to Learn

If we want to learn and grow, what kind of environment would be best suited for that learning? In our businesses, do we want to encourage participation and collaboration? At home, are the people in your family safe to ask questions? Are they safe to make a mistake? What about at church? Is the culture present that invites people to question, offer alternative views, and even disagree? Have you ever asked a question or made a mistake and then had someone jump down your throat for it? Have we done that to others?

Let’s turn to the gospel accounts and look at the life of Jesus. What culture was present around Jesus, especially when it came to learning and growth?

With Jesus, it was safe:

  • Safe to learn
  • Safe to question
  • Safe to be wrong

You can see that the disciples (followers of Jesus) flocked to Jesus to be taught, and that’s what He did…He taught them (Matthew 5:1-2; Mark 2:1-2). But was this a one-way exchange? Meaning, was the culture of learning around Jesus such that only Jesus spoke and nobody else said anything?

Jesus established an environment around Himself where people were free to ask questions. His disciples did it all the time. They wanted to understand a parable, so they asked Him to explain it (Matthew 13:36). He spoke in parables and they didn’t understand why, so they asked Him about it (Matthew 13:10). When they wanted to grow in their prayer lives, they requested to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:1).

Even when they were hurt and did not understand why He did things a certain way, they challenged him. Martha and Mary did this when their brother Lazarus died. They had requested His presence days before, and He didn’t come. Now Lazarus was dead, and they didn’t understand. “If you would have been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21,32).

What about when they were wrong? How did Jesus treat them? Please understand that Jesus often corrected His disciples, and even at times asked them why they still didn’t get certain concepts. But please understand that they were safe. When Jesus was trying to tell His disciples that He was going to be crucified, they were arguing over who was the greatest. They were trying to get the best seats in His kingdom! How did Jesus respond?

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them…” (Mark 10:42).

He called them to Himself. He gathered them around Himself to teach them more. With Jesus, it was even safe to be wrong. He saw that they were still willing to grow and learn, so He kept working with them.

Let’s meditate today on the environment and culture around us in our homes, families and businesses. Are people safe to learn, to ask questions, and even to be wrong?

Extreme Ownership

I want to send out a book recommendation today. This is an awesome book on leadership written by two Navy Seals who led successful Seal operations in the battle of Ramadi in Iraq. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin developed some incredible insights on leadership of successful teams during some of the most bloody and intense combat situations in Iraq.

As I listened to this book on Audible, I saw so many parallels to Biblical concepts of leadership. It’s a must read in my opinion.

I’m on my second time through this book, and I highly recommend it.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals LEAD and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

 

Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me

Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 11 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

Two thoughts about “goodness and mercy” following us all the days of our life.

From one perspective, we can think of how God’s goodness and mercy as our Good Shepherd will always be with us. His vision, tender care and protection will always be with us. He is our “rear guard” (Isaiah 52:21; 58:8). He goes before us and follows us from behind. We are completely encircled by God’s goodness and mercy as His sheep.

Another perspective is that the trail God’s sheep leave behind is goodness and mercy. Under the management of a bad shepherd, a flock of sheep will completely destroy a pasture and leave it bare, full of parasites, and erosion will wash ruts left by sheep into a gulley. But under the disciplined and loving care of a good shepherd, the pasture is left in good shape, maybe even better than before.

Let’s take a moment today to thank God for being such a wonderful Shepherd, and for the fact that His goodness and mercy always follow us!

You Anoint My Head with Oil

Psalm 23:5 – …you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 10 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

In this chapter, the experienced shepherd, Phillip Keller, talks about how he anointed his sheep and more importantly why. He spoke of all kinds of nasty bugs and critters that will absolutely drive a sheep crazy, or make them sick. Keller also spoke of “scab” that afflicts the sheep.

The cure for treating his sheep from certain parasites and flies was anointing their heads, faces, noses and ears with a combination of oils and other remedies. The shepherd was anointed the sheep’s head with oil to bring comfort and healing and peace. A ewe would bash its head against fences and walls because flies were driving her bonkers. But after her “anointing,” she was contented and at peace because the shepherd anointed her.

You can look throughout scripture to see God or His leaders “anointing” His people for various reasons. The anointing was sometimes for healing (John 9:11; James 5:14; Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34) . Other times it was a calling to a specific work like a priest or king (Psalm 2:2; 89:20-21). Those anointed by God were also under his protection (Psalm 28:8; 105:15). Sometimes it was to honor and show gratitude to someone, which happened to Jesus more than once (Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8). We also see that God’s anointing involved teaching and guiding His people (Psalm 132:17; 1 John 2:20-21,27). But above all that, God anoints His people to say, “You are mine!” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Also remember that God’s anointing is an oil of gladness – it was true for Jesus and it is also true for us (Psalm 45:7; Isaiah 63:3)!

God is our shepherd. He anoints us to care for us, to teach us, to protect us, to heal us, and to reassure us. We are His sheep, and He loves us. And when He anoints us, our cup truly overflows.

So the king did not listen to the people

The picture attached to this post is one that is very encouraging, and there are many examples of this going around in the country. Police officers are kneeling, praying and marching with protestors to show that they hear and understand the cries of racial injustice. That’s what we need.

Here is a contrast in Scripture to that positive example. The following is what NOT to do when you are in positions of authority.

In the Scripture below, we see that there was a time in Israel when people came to the leadership and cried out about oppression. The people came to King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, and presented their case.

Their “yoke” was heavy. Solomon apparently had really taxed the people to the point of oppression, and the people wanted relief. They peacefully came to the King to ask for change.

The King, Rehoboam, had two sets of advisors. One group counseled the king to be a servant to the people and be kind to them. Hear their requests and serve them, and they will serve you forever. The other group of counselors advised the King to be even tougher than Solomon. Bring the hammer down on the people, they said.

So, the king listened to the second group, threatened the people, punished them for speaking up and pushed them away. This led to the nation literally dividing (as God had prophesied would happen).

“So the king did not listen to the people…”

What does God want from his leaders? People who listen. Those who hear the cries of the hurting. It’s one thing for those in authority to say they aren’t racist, it is entirely another when a police officer lays down his baton, takes off his helmet and hugs those in the crowd who are hurting and afraid.

Rehoboam had the opportunity to sit down and listen to the request of his people. He had been offered an olive branch to peacefully bring a resolution to what was hurting the nation. However, in his arrogance and in his thirst to assert his authority and dominance, he drove most of the nation away from him.

That is our choice as leaders. As parents. As spouses. As church leaders. As leaders in business. As leaders in the community. When those under our leadership cry out from broken hearts because of how they are being treated, how will we respond?

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away. Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’” So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
(1 Kings 12:1-15)

The Apostles Listened and Didn’t Dismiss

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
(Acts 6:1)

The horrible killing of George Floyd is just another reminder that hatred and racism is real in this country.

There was racial / ethic tension in the early church. It was real. Here is just one example.

Some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. The Hebrew widows were doing just fine. They never missed a meal, and the Hebrews made sure their widows were well cared for. It was the Greek (Hellenist) Jews, whose widows were being overlooked.

The neglect, the favoritism, and the divide came to a head. The Hellenists cried out against the Hebrews because of the unfair treatment. “This isn’t right,” they said.

What did the apostles do? Did they dismiss the problem? Nope. Did they accuse the Hellenists of bad motives, of not being thankful, of creating a problem that doesn’t exist? Nope. Did they come back with “All Widows Matter.” Nope. Did they threaten and intimidate the Hellenists for speaking up? Nope.

What the apostles did first of all was listen. The leadership listened. They heard the cries of those who were being neglected and mistreated.

Secondly, they accepted that the problem was real and needed a godly solution. It was time to act.

Third they empowered the church, including those who were being mistreated to be part of the solution (Acts 6:3-6). Those who are in leadership and are reading this article, please, please, please see that it was the church, not the leadership, who selected the 7 men who would oversee the care of the widows. The apostles demonstrated confidence in the church to select who would take care of this issue. Notice that all 7 men had Greek names, not Hebrew ones (Acts 6:5). The group chose Greek (Hellenist) men to address the problem. Can you imagine us choosing an all-white panel to address racism in America?

These three basic things must be done today by our leaders, in churches, in business, and in America. Leaders have to listen, especially right now. Leaders cannot dismiss a problem that many people are consistently bringing up. Leaders have to empower people to be part of the solution.

Don’t get caught up in the reactions of some who are doing wrong and miss the hurt and pain of so many who are living what many of us have dismissed and don’t have to deal with on a daily basis.

Listen.

Don’t dismiss. Be part of the solution.

Empower others to be part of the solution.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post articles and videos from our sisters in Christ who are African American. Listen to them. Hear their pain and what they experience.

Saul was a King, David was a Leader

1 Chronicles 11:1-3 Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.'” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel.

Look at what Israel said to David!

Even when Saul was king, it was you (David) who led out and brought in Israel.

Who was the king? Saul. Who was the real leader in Israel? David.

To whom did the people go to for leadership? David. Who was the person who understood the real enemy of Israel? David. Who was the one who had the courage to face the giant with God’s help? David. Who was the one who encouraged the hearts of Israel to trust God and take on the enemy? David. Who was the one who walked among the people and knew the people? David.

What was Saul doing? Hiding. Doubting. Cowering. His focus was his power, his image and keeping his throne. He was incredibly fearful and jealous of David and anyone who supported him. He devoted the rest of his life to chasing David all over Israel to eliminate him because he was a threat to Saul’s power. In fact, you can see that Saul lost focus of the real enemy, the Philistines, until they had completely surrounded him and it was too late.

You see, the people of Israel were smart enough to know who the real leader was. That is still true today. It is evident in churches, homes, businesses, sports teams, politics, etc. The people in charge are not necessarily the ones who are really leading. Sometimes it is a husband who likes to assert his authority all the time, while the wife and mother is the one really leading the kids. It might be in a sports team where the “captain” of the team is just bossy but another player is the one who inspires the team. We see it in businesses, where the CEO is a controlling, micro-managing type, and there are a few others who really make that business what it is.

So, what about you? Are you a boss, or a leader? Are you an elder, or a leader? Are you the “head of the home” or a leader? Leaders inspire, set examples, communicate and build relationships. There is an atmosphere of welcoming and safety around a leader. Leaders don’t have to go around asserting their authority all the time to do so. Look around, are people following you because they respect you or because you are in charge? Also take a look, are people continually going to someone else instead of you? It might be that you have asserted your authority way too much and they don’t feel safe coming to you. How do you respond when others get the praise and recognition, yet you are in charge? Do you encourage and welcome that or are you intimidated by that?

God’s encouragement for you today is to be a leader like David, not a king like Saul.

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

Below is a video of a shepherd calling his sheep. It is powerful and illustrates what Jesus said in John 10. When the shepherd calls, the sheep come because they know his voice.

I heard once that the true test of leadership is to look around and see if anyone is following you.  That’s a pretty good test. Think about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He says in John 10 that the shepherd knows the sheep, and that the sheep know the shepherd. When He calls, they come running. They know his voice.  To the sheep, the Shepherd’s voice means that they are running to safety and a rewarding environment. It is safe to run to the Shepherd.

John 10:3,8,14,16,27
To him (the shepherd of the sheep) the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Think about why so many flocked to Jesus during his ministry? Look at Luke 15 and meditate on it. There were many religious leaders in Jesus’ day, but the people weren’t flocking to them. Why? Those leaders were bullies, arrogant, know-it-alls who placed heavy burdens on the people. They were hypocritical, self-indulgent and constantly sat in condescending judgment upon the people. The people knew it wasn’t safe to run to them. But they saw safety, compassion and acceptance in the heart of Jesus. When He called, they came.

Consider your own leadership as a man. Are people running to you or from you? Are you a bully or a loving shepherd? It’s worth your consideration – Do the sheep know your voice? Do they come running when you call?

 

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep