Helping the Poor

Just returned from church, Applegate Christian Fellowship, http://www.applegatefellowship.org/ , where I heard a most profound teaching from Matthew 25. The most intriguing part of Pastor Jon Courson’s, http://joncourson.com/ , teaching came when he reached the section of scripture that addresses the sheep and the goats. Jesus said,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Matthew 25:31-45

Many interpret this passage to mean that we should give to the indigent. However, pastor Jon believes that the idea here is that we should give to each other. Not that we should ignore giving to the indigent. In Mike Yankoski’s excellent book, Under the Overpass, http://www.undertheoverpass.com/uop/home.php , Mike and a friend spend five months on the street, homeless, in six U.S. cities. By the end of his adventure Yankoski is filled with compassion for the people on the street, however, even he says that we should use great discretion in our giving, avoiding cash, and offering food. And where is the emphasis in Jesus’ teachings? Did He not say, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34 and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” and “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” John 15:12 and “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” John 15:17

Leadership Take-away: Lead with love. Upon examination of Jesus’ commandment it seems pretty clear what we are to do. In these difficult economic times some of us are really hurting, and some of us still have some ability to help. No Christian should go without during this trying economic season. If you can help, love your brother by giving what you can. And show some initiative, ask your church leadership who is hurting. Most people in your church family aren’t going to approach you with their hand out. Help them find work if you can, offer to pay a bill, or invite their family over for a meal.

Yes we should, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and with discernment, help those in need on the street, but let’s heed the commandment of Jesus first, “…love one another.” John 15:17

5 Alarm Apartment Fire

My fire department fought a fire last night. It came in around 8pm as a fire in an apartment. When our first engine arrived there was heavy involvement on the first floor with significant extension into the second floor. When I arrived there was heavy fire venting from the roof. At that point I would have bet that we would lose another two or three apartments in addition to the original fire apartment. One of the occupants suffered smoke inhalation — she was treated at the hospital and released.

The Incident Commander and the firefighters who fought this fire did a phenomenal job. They confined the fire to the apartment of origin with some relatively minor water damage to the 2 apartments adjacent on either side. No firefighters were injured.

Leadership take-away:

One sign of good leadership is how your followers perform when you’re gone. The Medford Fire-Rescue Fire Chief was visiting family 1,000 miles away for Christmas yet his fire department did a great job handling a 5 alarm structure fire.

Consider the following excerpt from Traveler and the Chaplain:

Traveler said, “So my mission for God here on earth doesn’t end then after I die.  I’m supposed to grow future leaders to carry on what I’ve been doing while I’m alive.”

“Not just carry on but even exceed!” the Chaplain said with great enthusiasm.  “Look at what Jesus’ followers have accomplished since his death.  There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world today.  2.1 billion.  That’s a lot of fruit!  If you started counting Jesus’ followers out loud, one per second, after 31 years and 8 months, you would still be less than half way to finishing!  And of course during that 31 years and 8 months more people would be accepting Christ at an exponentially expanding rate.  So really, it would be impossible to keep up with the pace at which Jesus is bearing fruit for God’s kingdom.”

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit — Wow, this video is like something out of a Hollywood movie — only it’s not — it’s real. Seems like the U.S. should help to free this guy.

From Wiki:

Gilad Shalit (Hebrew: גלעד שליט‎, born 28 August 1986) is an Israeli soldier who was captured[2] on 25 June 2006 by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid. He was abducted[3] through the Kerem Shalom crossing (in Israel), and has been held as aprisoner in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since.

Shalit, 19 years old at the time of his capture, held the rank of corporal in the IDF’sArmor Corps at the time of his abduction, but has since been promoted to staff sergeant.[1]

He was the first Israeli soldier captured[4][5] by Palestinian militants since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994.[6] Shalit holds French citizenship, a fact that encouraged France and the European Union to be involved to some extent in efforts to release him.[7] He also received Italian citizenship after his abduction.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Hamas has refused requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross to allow the ICRC to visit Shalit. Several human rights organizations have stated that the terms and conditions of Shalit’s detention are contrary to international humanitarian law. In exchange for his release, Hamas is demanding the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, including many convicted of deadly terrorist attacks against Israelis.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21] The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which released a report in September 2009, called for Shalit to be released.[22]

If you were held by terrorists and had the opportunity to be released, but, it would mean the release of 1,000 imprisoned terrorists, would you tell your government to make the deal?

My take is that this is one of those situations where you don’t know how you’d react until you were in that actual circumstance. I would hope that I would have the courage to find a way to tell my government to hold fast and not make the deal.

In the words of Jesus, Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I have to believe that if 1,000 terrorists were to be released, odds are that people are going to die at their hands. I doubt that Gilad would encourage such a deal.

Leadership take-away: To be a good leader we must put the needs and welfare  of other people ahead of ourselves. As soon as you put yourself before others, things go downhill fast. Jesus first — Others second — Yourself third.

Please remember Gilad Shalit in your prayers.

Keeping Cool

Has anyone seen the story about the off duty police detective who drew his gun at a snowball fight? Check out the video:

Sunday night (12/20/09) on 60 minutes I listened to a telephone answering machine message from Alec Baldwin — he was unloading on his teenage daughter. His embarrassment and humiliation were painfully obvious as I watched him try to explain why he lost his cool. Teenage daughters or unruly crowds can bring us to a point of frustration where we may be tempted to unload.

Can you think of a scripture that supports the idea of keeping your cool?

Updated information below added at 2145, 12/21/09

OK, I can’t take it anymore. I’ve read some articles on this snowball situation and I think that everyone I’ve read is missing it. The detective blew it, yes, definitely. There is no way a cop should pull out his gun because he was provoked by a group of snowballers, I mean, that’s obvious right? The guy lost his cool and now he’ll pay for it with discipline from his police department and, most painful of all, a large smudge on a good long career as a peace officer. He was wrong.

The other side of this thing though, is that the snowballers themselves were also way out of line. As a leader in my organization I used to run some of the behavior of my firefighters through the teenage son test. That is, when I thought one of the firefighters perhaps did something stupid I’d ask myself, “Would either of my two teenage sons do something this dopey?” If I could answer no, then I knew for certain that the behavior was out of line. I would think that most of us would have grown out of throwing snowballs at vehicles by the time we were out of junior high school. Throwing snowballs at a man with a gun in his hand is, well, that’s beyond my comprehension. That – was – incredibly – stupid! Disrespecting a police officer — also stupid, and behavior that I would describe as, small minded. The snowballers: also wrong.

As for the scripture, two come to mind, both from James.

For the snowballers consideration: James 3:17, 18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

And for the detective: James 1:19, 20  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Is Humility Essential to Good Leadership?

Are you a Mom, a Dad, a coach, a boss, an older brother, or an older sister? If you are then believe me when I tell you that you’re a leader. And if you’re a leader it’s worth your while to learn to lead well! It will change your life!

Check out this video of junior Democratic Senator Al Franken before reading the rest of this post.

The question posed in this post is: is humility essential to good leadership? Consider this excerpt from Traveler and the Chaplain and the words of Jesus in the italics toward the end of the excerpt.

“So what is it then? What is humility?” Traveler asked.
“Humility is an absence of pride that comes from a keen awareness of who I am in comparison to God.”
Traveler sat with a blank look.
“Let me try to explain,” said the Chaplain. “Name one of the most famous athletes in the history of our planet.”
“Uhmm… Michael Jordan?”
“OK, he played basketball right?”
“Yes. You have to ask?”
The Chaplain ignored the question. “Suppose you and a friend were playing basketball together on the same team as Michael Jordan. And at the end of the game the three of you combined for 50 points: you scored 1; your friend scored 2; and Michael Jordan scored 47.”
“That sounds about right.”
“How ridiculous would it be for your friend to then deride you for not scoring as many points as he? It was Michael Jordan who scored all the points!”
“I guess it would be pretty silly,” Traveler said.
“How much greater is the difference between man and God than the difference between your friend and Michael Jordan?”
“The difference is infinite?” Traveler answered half asking.
“Yes, that’s right!” the Chaplain said excitedly. “The difference is infinite! Remember the story that Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector?”
“Yes”
The Chaplain continued, “Two men went into the temple. The first, a Pharisee, thanked God for making him superior to the other who was a tax collector. The tax collector, recognizing that he was a sinner, simply asked God for mercy. Jesus said…
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:14
“One of these men, the tax collector, recognized that in comparison to God he was but dust, he was a sinner, he was in need of God’s mercy. Pride manifested itself in the other, in the Pharisee, as he compared himself to another human. Comparing yourself to another human is ridiculous in the context of God’s majesty, and God’s majesty is ever present. Therefore it is always ridiculous to compare yourself to another human.”

This ties into a great teaching on leadership that I heard at the Applegate Christian Fellowship’s http://www.applegatefellowship.org/ last Wednesday (12/16/09) night service.

In Jesus’ last public sermon, recorded in Matthew 23 Jesus is teaching on leadership and using the Pharisees and the teachers of the law as an example. He starts with 1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

The meaning of the word sit, in the original language, communicates the idea that they seated themselves. A good leader never has to “seat himself or herself.” That is they should follow the teaching from Jesus in Luke 14:7-11 Don’t take the place of honor, But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Back to Matthew 23:8 Jesus goes on to say, “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

This idea that we are all brothers and sisters, that we are all the same relative to Christ, is also expressed by the Chaplain in Traveler and the Chaplain.

“Comparing yourself to another human is ridiculous in the context of God’s majesty, and God’s majesty is ever present. Therefore it is always ridiculous to compare yourself to another human.”

Is humility an essential characteristic of  a good leader? Three times, once in Matthew and twice in Luke, Jesus says that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted — each time in the context of current leadership.

What do you think about Al Franken’s behavior?