Tag: learning

Learning To Love ISIS, Starting With The ISIS In You

Everything is spiritual.

We can mud-sling political views around. Debate historical data. All, painting each other into corners. We may feel a release, but there won’t be a resolution.

ISIS is a spiritual manifestation and a human problem.

On the surface, it reveals itself as terrorism, murder, hatred, war, and violence. Terrible realities, worthy of our anger and conversation. Yet underneath, there is a cancer much deeper, a catalyst much darker. Until this is healed, there will be no healing. It is beyond the reach of missiles, religion, sanctions, politics, rhetoric, ideologies, and war. All, perpetuating the cycle.

Everything is spiritual. Requiring spiritual evaluation and application. This is why we must talk about the root of all that is terror… condemnation.

It’s a simple story.

In the creation poem that opens its scroll at the front of the Christian Bible, God speaks the world into being. With hands coursing His artistic beard, He pauses between breathes to evaluate His living imagery. In rhythmic cadence, with each step He declares, “it is good.”

Soon after, the Tempter in serpent form, exploited the Garden of its goodness, playing his sole card of condemnation, the only one in hand. The first human ones bit the bluff, that God is holding out because of something they can’t handle. Convinced they lacked in some way, unworthy of the worthiness etched into their being. What was natural became naked, and the yarns of shame and guilt slithered their coil through the threads of inherent goodness. It is a complex weave. And we, are a complex people in the arduous journey of trying to unravel from condemnation’s relentless entanglement.

This is the story of every human being, bobbing and weaving, wrestling to come out from under condemnation believed. The genesis of all contortions, twisted personas, and justifications. It is the root of all sin. The birth of all religion. Compelling us into the dance to heal or conceal a shamed heart. All of us have a life that tells a unique, complicated story and reveals a personal shaping from our quest to be released from the lie we swallow as truth… condemnation.

This is the essence of all religion. The soul trying to heal its concluded unworthiness through efforts of appeasement and pleasing… people, self, Gods, standards, expectations. A never ending list.

Religion, it is a contrived system, all to place the conquering of condemnation in human hands and within human reach. It has names like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but it’s reach is far greater, and origin far more universal. For it is first a human system, and then a human system falsely projected onto God. Starting from humans, and within all of humanity. Religion is not of God, it’s of us.

Living up to the Jones’ next door, or living up to a Diety in heaven, it is all equally religion. Striving to feel good about you, people feel good about you, a Being above to feel good about you. It’s all religion.

People pleasing, God pleasing. Earning self approval, God approval. Call it what you may, a path, a pursuit, a faith. Jesus calls it religion. Evil, from its beginning, especially in what it becomes at its fruition.

For the ultimate manifestation of condemnation is religion. The ultimate expression of religion is… violence.

Just ask Cain and Abel.

A mere stones throw from the Garden, the first act of terrorism. From condemnation’s stem, the religious barbs grow. Cain and Abel believe they must please God, offerings of show. Covering over guilt, justifying their concluded lack. Cain and Abel enter the sanctuary to perform their religious act.

Cain’s perception? God sees his offering as inferior compared to that of Abel. It’s lacking, unworthy. He is therefore, lacking and unworthy. Internalized condemnationSentenced to disapproval, the cell is too much. If only to break free. To even the score. To bring one down, to lift one’s self up.

Murder, terrorism, its origins the same. Cain bites the bluff and kills out of shame. All in attempt to clean, clear, lift, and better his name. To win at playing this religious game.

Be it Christianity, Islam, or ISIS, there is no difference. The root of terrorism is condemnation fully grown into religion.

Violence is born out of people who see the lowering, hurting, or death of another as a path to the validation or justification of self. It is born out of those seeking to perpetuate or defend the religious system they use to justify away concluded condemnation. For the death of their religion is the death of their self-justification, the self-healing of self, their very salvation.

All the way to believing they are better, instead of only different.

Crusades, planes, bombs. Christian or Islam, makes no difference. All is religion.

Isn’t that what most of Christianity has become, just another religion?

Isn’t that who we are as people, mostly religious in prescription?

Living to overcome condemnation through our performance, be it spiritual or secular, it makes no difference. Causing us to believe we are better than another, where in truth, we are only different.

All is spiritual, and most all, have simply become religious.

In doing so, terrorism is already here.

For we are a terrorist nation, because we are a religious nation. Our violence just looks different.

Infidels declared. Homosexuals, transgenders, all condemned. Those on the left, those on the right. Immigrants, refugees, or somewhere in between. Pro-life, pro-choice. Those who have, those who have not. All sighted as targets, candidates for open season. None, it seems are exempt from hate. We are a hating, violent country, because of our religions.

Where we are a religious person we are a terrorist person, our violence and evil nonetheless violent and evil.

Bringing people low to lift ourselves up, terrorizing with the planes of our disapproval. Crashing people to pieces to fabricate an affirmation of self and shame’s removal. Pushing people behind simply to get ahead. Pimping dreams that are merely schemes. Condemning, judging, isolating, labeling, all to win in this religious game. Ultimately, to believe we are better, instead of merely one in the same.

Missiles of marginalization, bombs of bigotry. Shrapnel-laced blog posts, and weaponized rants of ideology. Whether it’s a pen or a pipe-bomb, legislations, labels, or land-mines, they are nonetheless, mere extensions of a heart poisoned by religion. Purposed primarily on justifying ourselves, our faith system, or our position.

Even that we are better, instead of merely different.

Murdering people, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. All is terrorism, nonetheless.

Just ask Jesus.

For Jesus, to hate in heart is to murder in action. At the core, either choice changes not our position. To pray “thy Kingdom come,” to give Jesus your adoration. This diagnosis must become our admission. We all need Grace, and all equally. Non are better, only different.

There is ISIS in us all, because there is the religious in us all.

This is the true battle within and without. Where external or inner condemnation attempts to engage our performance, spiritual or otherwise, to cover over or rise above areas where one feels lack. Be it appeasing a God, living up to religious standards, using success to medicate inner insecurities, bringing another down to lift one’s self up, ISIS is within us all. To choose religion over Grace.

Grace is God’s best idea to show the heart that believes it’s condemned, that there is no condemnation to believe. Grace is based on the eternal truth, that through Jesus none are condemned, none are lacking, all our whole, righteous, complete, and without blemish, all because of Jesus’ performance, our only hope.

Religion is based on the lie from Satan, that all are condemned, lacking, incomplete, poisoned, and their only hope ultimately rests in some level of their performance to appease an angry, conditional-loving God who requires something of their actions to trigger His.

Where we choose religion over Grace, ISIS is not just them over there, it’s you and me, right here.

Until the world awakens to Grace and dies to religion, there will always be an ISIS within and without.

Until you can see the ISIS in the mirror, you will not see yourself in ISIS. We are all human, none are better, only different. This is the scandal and humbling of Grace.

Terrorism is a complex issue that needs many levels of response.

But until we believe within Grace lies the way, we really don’t believe Grace all the way, and we will forever miss its capacity to heal the true root of all that is terrorism, and rid our planet of its power.

Until ISIS is you, you will not believe you need the same enormity of Grace necessary to be given, for ISIS to be no more.

You can’t give what you don’t have, and you don’t have what you don’t believe you need.

Religion, retaliation, revenge, only serve to arm and rearm.

Only Grace, disarms.

Our only chance to find true healing, of the ISIS within and the ISIS without.

My Top 3 Leadership Mistakes

My Top 3 Leadership Mistakes

If you are a leader, you surely have made mistakes.  And chances are, you have made the same mistakes more than once. Why?  Because we all have leadership blindspots, areas where we tend to make repeated miscues because we don’t see things within ourselves or those people or systems we lead clearly.

Over my ministry, I have made three general mistakes several times. The good news is that for so long I didn’t even see it, but only the pain these mistakes caused, but now I do.  A great prayer leaders should pray is, “God help me to see the blindspots in my leadership”

Mistake #1  Raising Up Leaders too Quickly

I am a guy who likes to say “yes” and who likes to believe in the best, especially in people.  I want to be a builder of people and groups so much that at times, I rushed ahead. So, when a person comes with an idea, or a position is needed, instead of taking the time to discern and delegate gradually overtime, I would quickly commission, send them up the mountain, and wish for the best.  I didn’t delegate, I abdicated. On so many occasions, my instincts would tell me, “this person isn’t the right fit” or “this person isn’t quite ready” or “we need to take this one step at a time.” However, I would ignore my instincts in an effort to move ahead. Big mistake. As the saying goes, “It’s a lot easier getting married than getting divorced”  Most of the greatest challenges I have faced in ministry have been because I raised someone up too quickly, and knew I was doing it in my spirit.

Can you believe it? I knew in my gutt I was doing the wrong thing, but I pushed ahead anyways.  As Alex McManus once told me in a coaching session, “The moment you stop following your gutt is the moment you stop leading” Ouch.

No one is perfect, nor perfectly ready for any task or appointment, that’s a given. But, in the name of blazing ahead of God and wanting to say “yes” I rejected the model Jesus displayed of taking time upfront to discern, train, develop, and delegate over time. I ignored passages like, “Be careful in the laying on of hands” and “He who is faithful with little will be faithful in much”  And every time, I payed dearly on the back side when that person got in over their heads, couldn’t handle the power, moved too slowly or quickly, spun out of control, or flat out became a renegade. In moving ahead prematurely, I failed them, God, and the ministry as a whole. All in the name of saying “yes” and a trying to be an overnight builder of people and groups.

Mistake #2  Believing I Could Fit where I Didn’t Fit and Change what Really Didn’t Want to Be Changed

No where in ministry has my ego caused me more pain then in thinking I could do what is really impossible, and that is, to change people and circumstances that were set up and bent on resisting change.

On at least two occasions, I have signed on to ministry challenges that in my spirit I knew were set up to fail, but my ego told me, “You are a great leader, you can do the impossible, you can love them on board, pray them on board, and cast enough vision that everything is going to work out all dreamy!” Not. Wise, spirit-filled people even told me ahead of time, “don’t go there” but my ego said, “I can handle it.”  The common sense check/warning in my spirit God gave me ahead of time, I ignored again. How stupid is that? Very.

It doesn’t work well to try to take a square object and jam it into a round hole. Both the object and the whole end up loosing in the end. Yet, I have thought in ministry that I could find a way to fit in or change the shape where there was an obvious misfit.  Do I believe in change? Absolutely. Do I believe people and groups can be transformed, absolutely. But not apart from a comprehensive move of God and the comprehensive openness of the person or group. Furthermore, some organizational systems and strongholds within a group are change killers, and to think one is going to go in and turn it around a part from the spiritual surgery of God and the openness of the patient, is not wise. Even Jesus couldn’t accomplish this among so many groups and individuals. So, why did I think I would be any different? Pride.

The scriptures are true, “Pride comes before a fall” and to be sure my pride has led me down ministry paths I never should have never traveled. I love a challenge, I love to believe in the impossible, I love going where the chance of failure is greater than the chance of success, I love facing the odds and rising above.  But, what you can lead in your own life cannot always be led in the lives of others and groups of people. Discernment and listening to the Spirit of God to only face the challenges He assigns is key.  I will no longer try to lead that which God has warned me not to lead.

Mistake #3  Internalizing Conflict

Conflict is a part of all ministry. So a leader must learn to deal with it without internalizing it. For me, this has been much easier said than done.  I love people, and honestly, like to be loved. Who doesn’t?

For most accomplished leaders, they have those tough conversations, they make the tough decisions, they face the floggings and the oppositions. Does it hurt them? Yes. Does it break their heart? Yes.  Do they consider their own brokenness and shortcomings? Yes.  But do they internalize it and let it all eat them alive? No. Somewhere they have learned to “turn it off” and “let it go.” They have become skilled at resisting second guessing themselves to death and emotionally nose diving into a tail spin.

I don’t like the idea of getting thick skin. I like the idea of coming into the secret place of God. I’ll take His skin over any thickening of mine.

I am learning how to come into the presence and strength of God in such a way that enables me to be secure and safe while still being as direct, decisive, and assertive as good leadership requires.

May God bless you and your leadership!

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