Tag Archive for: genesis

There is an opportunity for hospitality every time your church gathers. A diversity of people gathers to worship together, learn, and grow together, as they become related to one another centered upon Jesus.  As a congregation, you have the opportunity to offer a home and family to people who, at that moment and for all practical purposes, are looking for a place to belong. Every gracious host or hostess offers “Make yourself at home.” 

Hospitality is God’s Business

As a follower of Jesus, you have an opportunity for hospitality with every person you encounter. Whether family, friend, colleague, neighbor, stranger, or enemy, you have the opportunity to be God’s loving presence in the way you receive them and interact with them. Hospitality is part of God’s mission, and you were invited into that mission when you were claimed as a “beloved child of God” and called and commissioned for ministry at your baptism (Read Preparing for Misison: Being About God’s Business). Hospitality is God’s business. 

With that in mind, think of the church as a community of Jesus followers who exist primarily for people who are not members. As a follower of Jesus, you are an instrument of God’s love for people who do not know or understand the love of God.  The apostle Paul instructed the church in Rome, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Hospitality is your response to God’s grace, God’s great hospitality offered to you in Jesus. 

Said another way, as a beloved child of God, you love others for the purpose of being who God created you to be. You become an instrument of God’s grace, extending a welcoming heart and hand in the name of Jesus. Hospitality becomes who you are. It becomes the way you live your life. God sends people your way every day. So, reach out and receive them for the glory of God. It is who you are. Love them the way you have been loved by God in and through Jesus. 

God sent strangers to Abraham in Genesis 18. 

Read Genesis 18:1-8 (The Message) 

18 1-2 God appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. 3-5 He said, “Master, if it pleases you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.” 

They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.” 

6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.” 7-8 Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate. 

Reflect

Abraham was going about his normal day when three strangers appeared.  It was not unusual to encounter traveling nomads who had no place to stay. Because he and his family were nomads, living in tents, he understood the need for shelter and food. So, he extended hospitality to the traveling strangers. 

In verses 3-5, Abraham says, “Master, if it pleases you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path” (The Message).

Hospitality as a Lifestyle

Abraham offered water, food, and shelter before he was asked. He offered to meet their needs before the need was apparent. For Abraham, it was an honor to serve, care for, and shelter strangers. Because he had been welcomed by God, he was ready to welcome the stranger in his midst. Hospitality was his lifestyle.

From this perspective, hospitality is an opportunity to welcome strangers and friends into your life. It gives you an opportunity to identify with outsiders and to treat them like insiders. Through hospitality you are offering outsiders a place to call home while extending privilege across differences.  

Welcomed into the Household

In the New Testament, we see Jesus bringing people into his family. Mary Magdalene became a friend and part of his household. But when he freed a man bound by his own demons, Jesus sent the man home to share what God had done for him. The man went to tell his community what God had done, inviting them into his household.

The word “household,” in the New Testament, includes neighbors, coworkers, friends, and anyone with whom you were connected or related. Welcoming people into your household was to share God’s love. By inviting people into your household was to witness to what God was doing in your life and how you were being transformed by God’s love.  Hospitality becomes your lifestyle.

A Place to Belong

Everyone you meet is on a journey, traveling as strangers.  Each person  is longing for community. When hospitality becomes a lifestyle, in response to God’s love, you are able to draw your circle of love wide enough to provide a place for them, working for their good regardless of who they are or what they have done.

The reality is this, hospitality is neither about you, your likes and dislikes, nor your convenience. Hospitality is about God’s offer of love to you in Jesus. And who you are as a child of God is your response to God’s love. Hospitality is a way of offering God’s love to everyone God sends your way. Hospitality is who you are, and who you are is how you lead.

Respond

Today be aware of how you offer hospitality to the people you meet. Take notice of each person and your response or reaction to offering God’s love. Be mindful of the opportunities to “welcome others as Christ has welcomed you.” Be aware of what you think and feel about each situation and circumstance. Begin to be intentional in making hospitality the way you live your life. 

Prayer

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me extend hospitality to the people you send my way. Help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me in Jesus. Help me be faithful to your call upon my life so that I may be a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen 

Return

As you reflect upon your day, give thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. In what ways were you hospitable? With whom did you share God’s love? How did you invite people into your household? Where did you notice others offering hospitality to strangers and outsiders? With whom do you need to celebrate the love you experienced in and through them? What will you do differently tomorrow?


Distrust has become a serious problem in our culture. Watch any news program, peruse any social media platform, and you will become aware of the distrust that is informing our thinking and behavior. The lack of trust has become so serious that it now shapes the way we interact with one another in our communities and in the church.

Distrust’s Impact on Communities and the Church

Distrust has become such a problem that we treat people outside our circles with so much suspicion that our circles of trust are getting smaller and smaller. It is undermining the very foundations upon which we build relationships. It is destroying friendships and is causing psychological harm.

Statistics on Trust: A Troubling Decline

Kevin Vallier, Trust in a Polarized Age, points out that there has been a 40% decrease in trust in 50 years. In the late 1960s, half of the people in the United States said that most people could be trusted. Today it is less than a third. In the 1960s over 70 percent of Americans said they trusted the government most of the time. That number has collapsed to below 20 percent today. Even politicians don’t trust each other. Whether Republican or Democrat, 70 percent of both groups said they distrusted anyone who voted for the opposing candidate.

Root Causes of Distrust

The major underlying factors seem to be administrative policy, attitude, and control. We have become suspicious of anyone and anything we cannot control. Leaders are looked upon with suspicion, distrust, and fear because of the confusing cries of assumed theological and doctrinal changes.

At the very heart of distrust is the fear that we have placed our faith in the wrong place or person, revealing we are unsure of the grounding of our faith. As a result, our trust in God, God’s truth, and each other has broken down even while we deny it has happened. Distrust is seen in our fear of being hurt, misled, or looking silly.

Biblical Insights on Distrust: Genesis 3:1-7

There is a story in the scripture that gives insight to the distrust so prevalent in our culture today.

Read: Genesis 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took off its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Understanding the Origin of Distrust in the Scripture

Having set the experiment of joy into action, God showed the man and woman how things were meant to be in the garden. God said they were free to eat the fruit from all the trees of the garden except one tree. It was the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said the fruit of that tree was poisonous to their systems. It was placed there to serve a religious purpose rather than a nutritional purpose. 

God was pleased and saw that it was good. It was at that point the snake entered the picture. The snake addressing the woman asked, “Did God put you in the beautiful place and then prohibit you from eating all this fruit?” Notice the overstatement and false characterization. 

The woman replied, “Oh no. We can eat everything in the garden except this one tree. God said it is poisonous to us.” 

The snake shook his head and said, “That old scoundrel. God is threatened by you. God knows that if you eat that fruit, you will be like God. You know God cannot stand that. You were created to feed God’s ego. Holding you down builds God up. If you know what is good for you, you will call God’s bluff. You will eat the fruit and take over this place.”

Carelessness Brought Devastating Results

That one conversation put creation into a whole different light. There was no indication that such suspicion had ever entered their minds. There was no evidence for such an attitude of mistrust. Nothing up to that point had God done to give the humans reason to believe the snake’s accusations. So, without checking things out or going to the source trying to get the truth of the situation, the first humans bought into that unfounded suspicion. For no good reason, they embraced the rumor and began to act as if it contained the truth about God. Such carelessness brought about devastating results. 

That is the point of this story. Our forebears took the word of a snake over the word of God the creator when it came to interpreting life. Because of their carelessness, the world became a conspiracy rather than a creation of joy. God became a foe rather than a caring parent of love. This is the story that explains why we humans continue to take life apart and try to put it back together in ways that do not work. 

Culture of Distrust

The first humans drank the poison and got sick. That is how God got a bad reputation. It is based upon a flimsy accusation along with some sloppy careless assumption work. We humans, to this day, continue to build our assumptions in the same way. We have created a culture of distrust.

I confess that my earliest impressions of God were negative. I thought if I became a Christian, I would be giving up all the fun things in life. In my earliest impressions of God, I was convinced that if I did not live a certain way, God would send me to hell. The result was that I attempted to change my behavior, but my heart remained unchanged. Deep within, God suffered from bad press. I developed a culture of distrust in my heart.

So, how has God responded to our careless attitudes and distrust? Did God blow up in rage? Did God become defensive or strike back? Was God revengeful? No. The single most creative thing God could have done is heard in the words of Paul to the Romans, “God did not spare his own son but gave him us for us all,” It is while we are yet sinners, missing the point of God’s love and joy for us, that Christ died for us. It is in the midst of distrust that God’s love comes to us with its greatest force.

Reshaping Assumptions and Attitudes through Jesus

My assumptions were reshaped, and my attitude changed when I encountered God in and through Jesus. John Killinger said, “Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation.” In Jesus, I began to see and understand God’s love for us and God’s joy in sharing creation with us. It was over and against this confusion and suspicion, that God sent Jesus so we could see what God looked like in history and understand what God looks like every day. 

Can you trust a God like you see in Jesus? If so, will you let Jesus reshape your assumptions about God and your distrust of the people you encounter each day? To put it another way, are you willing to take the action of God, in Jesus, seriously enough to let it do its work in you? Will you allow the image of Jesus to penetrate your distrust so your attitudes will change? 

When you are shaping your assumptions about God, politics, race, gender, health care, etc., will you do it carefully and realistically? 

Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation. Will you let God do his redemptive work in you?  

Respond 

How do you respond to the distrust permeating our culture and church? Be a healthy, courageous, and competent Christ-centered leader who will encourage and sustain diverse conversations and communities. Be a trustworthy leader who will create environments of trust where promises are kept, and people feel safe to engage in conversation regarding faith, hope, and the future. 

In this time of polarization and distrust, model your commitment to be a follower of Jesus. Sit down across the table with those with whom you disagree. Drink coffee, tea, or Diet Coke with one another. Even though there might be disagreements, help people be encouraged and supported by the love and peace we know in Jesus. Be a model for the community of Jesus followers who are the evidence of God’s love and wisdom. 

Cultivating Trust in the Role of a Leader

So, as a Christ-centered leader, create a space, an attitude, a lifestyle where honest disagreement in love and care can take place. The writer of James said it this way, “First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts” (James 3:13-18). 

As a follower of Jesus and a leader, you are called to cultivate trust. Promoting trust and stopping the constant decline into distrust is not easy. It will require critical reasoning and judgment. You are leading with love, just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). 

Model God’s redemptive work taking place in your life so that those around you will learn to trust God and God’s love for themselves and for others.    

Return: Giving Thanks

Give God thanks for the day and for the people you met and encountered today? In whom did you encounter God? How did you show your trust in them? What were your underlying assumptions? How were they formed? With whom do you need to confess your distrust? With whom do you need to celebrate God’s presence and love?  

It is my prayer that you will allow God’s love in Jesus to replace your attitudes of distrust with trust and compassion. Your trust and attitudes shape your leadership. Who you are is how you lead.

Prayer

O God, I am grateful for your grace when it comes to my careless distrust and attitudes toward you and toward the people you send into my life. In Jesus, I have experienced your extravagant love. Again, by your grace, help me let Jesus do his work in me so that I take more seriously the work of building and shaping trust in my life. By your grace, help me become more the person you have created me to be and become a conduit of your love and joy to be people entrusted to my care. I offer myself to you in Jesus. Amen 

Your assumptions make a difference. They affect how you relate to people, make your decisions, and how you understand God and God’s love for you and the people entrusted to your care. Your assumptions shape your political viewpoints, your view of social issues, and your relationships with people. Your assumptions shape your leadership. Your assumptions make all the difference. 

Over the years, I have learned that most of us do not take the work of assumption building seriously enough to understand why we think what we think or say what we say. We tend to accept what we think and do as being the right way. How do you go about forming the realities that influence your decision-making and your leadership? 

It is important that you understand how your assumptions are formed. Let us look at a scripture that can assist us in our assumption building. 

Read Genesis 3:1-7 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ”But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took off its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. – Genesis 3:1-7

Reflect

When I was in the ninth grade my English teacher and her doctor husband moved to our small town in West Virginia. We all attended the same church. They sat across the sanctuary from where I usually sat. The doctor had long hair, a beard, was a VietNam veteran, and drove a little red sports car. All topics of conversation at one place or another in the community. 

I remember the headlines of the local newspaper when they reported that the doctor had been arrested for the illegal use of drugs. The next Sunday in worship, I sat with my grandmother and a couple of her friends. Although the doctor and my teacher were not present, there were two different reactions to the doctor’s arrest. 

One reaction was, “I’m surprised. I simply don’t believe it. I’ve known his family for over 40 years. They are good people and I know he is too. He is so caring and attentive to the needs of others.” 

The other reaction was, “It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve never trusted him. Look at that long hair, the beard, and the car he drives. I have always been suspicious of him and his family.” 

I remember how confused I was. Two different views of the same event. It was not until years later that I began to understand the complexity of our human decision-making processes. Too often our decisions involve more than an objective response to facts. 

Over the years, I have learned our assumptions are important in how we deal with facts. We are rational and objective creatures. We end up with a conclusion that is shaped by our assumptions. Your assumptions make a difference. 

Where you start affects where you end. Whether it be in politics regarding reactions to vaccines, how we view our rights, health care, guns, etc. or it is in the church regarding reactions to decisions, who makes those decisions, and how people follow policies and guidelines, each of us responds or react based upon our assumptions. 

Our assumptions also affect how we view and live out our faith. It matters where you start with God. Do you start with trust or mistrust of God? Your assumptions make all the difference. 

A single event with two different reactions. Because the assumptions of each woman were different, each conclusion was different. Assumptions are critical in your decision-making. The question is, how do you go about forming these powerful realities that influence what you think and do? It is my assumption that we don’t take the work of assumption building seriously. We tend to be sloppy, irrational, and arbitrary which throws our decision-making processes out of alignment. 

Forming Assumptions

So, how do you go about forming your assumptions? Do you base them on solid evidence or arbitrary hearsay? Are you seeking truth through searching the scripture, praying, developing relationships, and testing what you are learning through conversation and interaction with others? Or are you reacting based upon something you learned as a child or taking the word of someone who might have ulterior motives? 

This scripture from Genesis describes how the first assumption of mistrust of God came into existence. It is an example of irrational assumption building. It was out of joy that God created the world. There were no ulterior motives. God wanted to share the joy, so God widened the circle by creating human beings. 

Having set the experiment of joy into action, God showed the man and woman how things were meant to be in the garden. God said they were free to eat the fruit from all the trees of the garden except one tree. It was the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said the fruit of that tree was poisonous to their systems. It was placed there to serve a religious purpose rather than a nutritional purpose. 

God was pleased and saw that it was good. It was at that point the snake entered the picture. The snake addressing the woman asked, “Did God put you in the beautiful place and then prohibit you from eating all this fruit?” Notice the overstatement and false characterization. 

The woman replied, “Oh no. We can eat everything in the garden except this one true. God said it is poisonous to us.” 

The snake shook his head and said, “That old scoundrel. God is threatened by you. God knows that if you eat that fruit, you will be like God. You know God cannot stand that. You were created to feed God’s ego. Holding you down builds God up. If you know what is good for you, you will call God’s bluff. You will eat the fruit and take over this place.”

Checking Your Assumptions

That one conversation put creation into a whole different light. There was no indication that such suspicion had ever entered their minds. There was no evidence for such an attitude of mistrust. Nothing up to that point had God done to give the humans reason to believe the snake’s accusations. So, without checking things out or going to the source trying to get the truth of the situation, the first humans bought into that unfounded suspicion. For no good reason, they embraced rumor and began to act as if it contained the truth about God. Such carelessness brought about devastating results. 

That is the point of this story. Our forebears took the word of a snake over the word of God the creator when it came to interpreting life. Because of their carelessness, the world became a conspiracy rather than a creation of joy. God became a foe rather than a caring parent of love. This is the story that explains why we humans continue to take life apart and try to put it back together in ways that do not work. 

The first humans drank the poison and got sick. That is how God got a bad reputation. It is based upon a flimsy accusation along with some sloppy careless assumption work. We, humans, even to this day, continue to build our assumptions in the same way. 

Impressions

I confess that my earliest impressions of God were negative. I thought if I became a Christian, I would be giving up all the fun things in life. Somehow I was convinced that if I did not live a certain way, God would send me to hell. The result was that I attempted to change my behavior, but my heart remained unchanged. Deep within, God suffered from bad press. 

So, how has God responded to our careless attitudes and assumptions? Did God blow up in rage? Did God become defensive or strike back? Was God revengeful? No. The single most creative thing God could have done is heard in the words of Paul to the Romans, “God did not spare his own son but gave him us for us all,” It is while we are yet sinners, missing the point of God’s love and joy for us, that Christ died for us. 

Reshaping Assumptions

My assumptions were reshaped, and my attitudes changed when I encountered God in and through Jesus. John Killinger said that “Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation.” In Jesus, I began to see and understand God’s love for us and God’s joy in sharing creation with us. It was over and against this confusion and suspicion, that God sent Jesus so could see what God looked like in history and understand what God looks like every day. 

Can you trust a God like you see in Jesus? If so, will you let Jesus reshape your assumptions about God and your assumptions about the people you encounter each day? To put it another way, are you willing to take the action of God, in Jesus, seriously enough to let it do its work in you? Will you allow the image of Jesus to penetrate your assumptions so your attitudes will change? 

When you are shaping your assumptions about God, politics, race, gender, health care, etc., will you do it carefully and realistically? 

Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation. Will you let God do his redemptive work in you? 

Respond

O God, I am grateful for your grace when it comes to my carelessness in forming my assumptions and my attitudes toward you and toward the people you send into my life. In Jesus, I have experienced your extravagant love. Again, by your grace, help me let Jesus do his work in me so that I take more seriously the work of building and shaping my assumptions. By your grace, help me become more the person you have created me to be and become a conduit of your love and joy to be people entrusted to my care. I offer myself to you in Jesus. Amen 

Return

In whom did you encounter God today? What were your assumptions of those persons? How were your assumptions formed and shaped? With whom do you need to confess your careless assumption building? With whom do you need to celebrate God’s presence and love? Give God thanks for the people you experienced today. 

It is my prayer that you will take your assumption building seriously. Your assumptions shape your leadership. Who you are is how you lead.

How are you doing? How are you holding up while leading through these days of fear and uncertainty? I thought of you recently during a conversation about courageous leadership. 

The conversation was with a guest on LeaderCast. While telling of his experiences of courageous leaders he said, “It takes courage to follow Jesus.”  Wow. I know that to be true, but I have not heard it articulated regarding leadership. 

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

So, I began to think, it takes courage to love your neighbor as yourself.  

It takes courage to love the people with whom you disagree much less love your enemy. It takes courage to pray for those who hurt you as well as to be reconciled with them. It takes courage to turn the other cheek, forgive as you have been forgiven, and to serve with care and compassion. It takes courage to lead in times of fear and uncertainty. 

Courageous Leadership

I confess, sometimes I would rather not think about courageous leadership, especially when I fall so short of my own expectations. When I stop and think about it, I have had enough of my life being turned upside down. I would rather live life peacefully, without a lot of noise and turmoil. But, while writing this blog, I began to ask myself why I am resistant to stepping up and leading with courage? 

With the statement of “It takes courage to follow Jesus” ringing in my ears, I discovered that more times than I want to admit, I’m afraid to follow. My fear is not rooted in a lack of belief.  It is rooted in the uncertainty of following without knowing all that it means to follow.  What are the risks? What are the pitfalls? What does it mean to say/sing, “All to Jesus I surrender?” How does following Jesus make me look as a leader? 

Fear

Early in my ministry, I read a statement by Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia. He wrote, “Fear is the polio of the soul. It paralyzes us from living by faith.” He talked about a healthy fear. It is the fear that allows us, as human beings, to survive. Healthy fear is a built-in, automatic, and dependable system that alerts us to the presence of danger. On the other hand, there is an unhealthy fear, the fear that paralyzes us.  It is the fear that is based upon assumption and projected onto reality. There are times we are confronted with real threats, but most of the time you and I create our own fears.  

The Middle of the Night

When I was in seminary, my wife and I lived in a neighborhood just south of Atlanta.  Although crime was rising in the city, we felt safe in the community in which we lived, until about four o’clock one Sunday morning. 

We were awakened by a loud knocking at our back door. When I realized I was not dreaming, a sense of terror swept over me. Kim, my wife, said in a frightened voice, “someone is banging on the door?” I remember thinking, “Who in the world could this be in the middle of the night? Is someone trying to break in? Are we going to be robbed? Killed?” In my terror, all kinds of possibilities flashed through my mind.  Should Kim and I try to escape by climbing out a window? Should we barricade ourselves in the bathroom and hope that the lock on the door keeps us safe?

Finally, I grabbed my baseball bat, told Kim to call the police, and managed to creep to the door. With my heart pounding as hard as I can remember, I forced myself to push aside the curtain covering the window on the door. There, to my relief as much as my fear was my next-door neighbor.  He was sitting on the step outside the door, holding his chest. 

I opened the door. My neighbor was having a heart attack. Because his family was gone for the weekend, his only hope for help was to come to me, his neighbor.   

The Unknown

The fear I had experienced from the moment I awakened until I finally opened the door was entirely my own making.  It was what I had done to an event, rather than what the event had done to me.  

Think of a time you let the unknown send you into a panic.  A time when instead of “going to the door” and directly confronting reality, you let your anxiety and imagination take over. Did you imagine the worst and react, not to what was really there, but to the terrible things you created in your mind?  

Genesis and Fear

According to Genesis, one of the reasons our world is in such a mess is rooted in the mishandling of fear.  The first man and woman are seen as living in an unbroken harmony with reality.  Then a serpent appears and proceeds to give “a knock at the door.” 

The serpent stirs up a sense of anxiety by insinuating that they do not know what they are doing, that they are not okay as they are, and that they are only a fraction of what they can be.  Then the serpent identifies God as the problem.  He lays the blame squarely on the Creator, claiming God has lied to them about the forbidden fruit. Then, in the midst of the anxiety, the serpent explains that they will not die if they eat the fruit, but their eyes will be open, they will be able to determine right and wrong for themselves, and they will become gods in their own right. 

It was their first experience with the anxiety that grows out of uncertainty. What would have happened if they had responded differently? What would have happened if they had faced their fear and taken their uncertainty straight to the reality in question? Would they have seen the positive joy that is the source of everything and not be afraid anymore? 

The tragedy is that they did not answer the door.  Instead of finding out for themselves about God’s true nature, they jumped to a conclusion about God that had no basis in fact, and they proceeded to act self-destructively. 

The Key to Courageous Leadership

So, what does this have to do with courageous leadership? Who you are is how you lead. Let’s go back to “It takes courage to follow Jesus.” Here is the key to courageous leadership. 

You have been created to lead at this time in history. Whether you like or want it, God has gifted you to live in this time and to love the people entrusted to your care. The greatest gift God has given you is the gift of faith. Your leadership depends upon your desire to trust who God is and who God has created you to be. The ultimate source of your existence is working for your good. While there will be painful and harmful things that happen, nothing has the power to separate you from the God who created you and who loves you.

I know it goes without saying, but you and I know this God in and through Jesus. Over and against all the confusion, anxiety, and fear of the day, God sent Jesus so we could see what God looked like in history, walking our streets, living in our neighborhoods, caring for all people, loving even the unlovable. The leadership question is, “Can you trust a God like that?” Are you willing to take this action of God seriously enough to let God do God’s work in you? It takes courage to trust and to follow. 

It Takes Courage

It takes courage to get in touch with your true thoughts and feelings, but until you do, you will not realize how big a part fear plays in your living and in your leadership. It takes courage to follow Jesus. 

Maybe you can look at it this way: Fear of failing can paralyze you, but you can look at failure as a learning experience. Failure only stops you if you let it. Fear of facing unwanted situations can paralyze you, but you can face what is before you with the confidence that you are not alone and that the situation is resolvable. Fear of relationships can paralyze you, but you can risk being vulnerable and empathic, knowing that you are loved and accepted. 

Who you are is how you lead. Knowing what you know about God in and through Jesus, you do not have to be paralyzed by fear. The knock at the door just might be Jesus. When you answer the knock, I pray you will, by God’s grace, have the courage to follow him.  

Take time this week to reflect upon why you think and feel the way you do. What one fear is paralyzing you? How will you face that fear this week?

Final Reminders  

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week on LeaderCast, Sara Thomas and I have a conversation with Bishop Cal Holloway as we discussion of the essential callings of Christ-centered leaders. Listen to Episode 196 here, Being Among the People. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

And, remember, who you are is how you lead.

Leading through the COVID pandemic has been exhausting and emotionally draining. It seems that no matter what you say or how you lead, someone is unhappy and feels the need to make it known. Whether it be with wearing a mask or being vaccinated, it has been difficult to stay the course and be focused in the midst of the continual pushback. 

Leadership has become more of a burden than an opportunity when you add a divisive political climate, racial unrest, and uncertainty of the church to the pandemic. It has become difficult to lead with confidence and courage when you feel the ground is moving and you don’t have a firm place to stand. 

The Complexity of Humanity

I get it. When I was in my early teens, a very important person in the community, a church member, was arrested on drug charges. His arrest was part of the headlines of the local newspaper. 

The Sunday after his arrest, I was sitting with my grandmother in the sanctuary before worship. I listened as she and her friends discussed the man arrested. I heard two different reactions to the event. 

One person said “I simply don’t believe it. He and his family have been a part of this church for years. He has served in Viet Nam and become a leader in the community. I think this is a mistake. He is a good man.”  Another person said, “I wasn’t surprised at all when I read the paper yesterday. I never have trusted him. There is something about him that has always made me suspicious.” 

I remember being confused by the differing reactions. I know now that I was learning how complex the human decision-making process can be. Obviously, there was more involved than just an objective response to facts.  

Assumptions

Before the man was ever accused of anything, people had already formed certain impressions of him. Those assumptions explained why one person could look at the situation and say, “I don’t believe it; there must be a mistake,” while another person could look at the same set of facts and say “I’m not surprised at all. I never have trusted him.” 

Assumptions are important when it comes to how we deal with the facts in the world around us.  We human beings are not purely rational, objective creatures.  We see the world through our assumptions. That is why I say, “it matters where you start.” 

You are influenced by your assumptions about God and your assumptions about the people entrusted to your care. It is not simply about what God does or does not do, but whether your starting point is one of trust or mistrust. Your assumptions make all the difference in your leadership. 

Where You Begin Matters

If our assumptions are so influential in shaping our decision-making, how do we go about forming our assumptions?  According to the scripture, this is the place where our trouble begins.  We human beings do not take the task of assumption building seriously enough. The question is, do we base our assumptions on solid evidence or arbitrary hearsay? 

Genesis 3

In the third chapter of Genesis, we get a description of how the first mistrust of God came to exist.  It is an example of careless, irrational assumption building. Out of the joy of God’s own aliveness, God decided to create the world.  There were no ulterior motives. God was not trying to get something for himself. Rather God was trying to give something of himself. God wanted to widen the circle of joy.

To set this into motion, God proceeded to show the man and the woman how things were meant to work. They were free to eat from all the trees of the Garden except one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The fruit of the tree was poisonous to their systems. It was placed there to serve a religious reason rather than a nutritional one. God saw that the whole mechanism looked good. 

Asking Questions

Then out of nowhere, a snake moved into the picture and began to ask questions.  He asked the woman, “Did God put you in this beautiful place and then prohibit you from eating this fruit?” She responded quickly to the gross overstatement, “Oh no, we can eat everything in the garden except that tree in the center. God said it would be poisonous to us.” 

The snake shook his head and said, “The old scoundrel is threatened by you. God knows that if you eat the fruit, you will be just like God. You were created to build up God’s own ego. Holding you down builds God up. If you know what is good for you, you will call God’s bluff. You will eat the fruit and take over this place.” 

Carelessness 

The accusation of the snake put creation in a totally different perspective. Up to this point, there was no indication that suspicion of any kind had entered the minds of the man and woman. More importantly, there was not one shred of evidence for such an attitude of distrust. Nothing God had done would have given the humans reason to believe the serpent’s accusations. 

Without checking things out or going to the source and trying to get to the bottom of the situation, the first man and woman carelessly bought into the unfounded suspicion raised by the snake. For no good reason, they embraced the rumor and began to act as if it contained the truth about God.  That incredible carelessness has had devastating results. 

A New Perspective

So, imagine that I am sick, and I am caring for myself with old prescriptions. I get sicker and sicker until I call my trusted primary care physician. Suppose she comes by my house to check out my illness. I show her the medicine I have been taking, and she says, “This is the worst possible stuff for your problem.  Put it away and start taking this prescription. In a matter of hours, you will start feeling better.” And she writes out a prescription. 

Mistrust

When my trusted physician leaves, suppose a plumber who has been working to unclog my sink comes out and says, “I overheard that conversation. Did that doctor tell you to quit taking your old medicine and start taking some of this new stuff?  Those doctors.  The problem is your old medicine was paid for and there is no profit in it for her. The only reason she is giving you this new prescription is to make a little money on the side.  You can’t trust doctors these days. If you know what is good for you, you will stick with the medicine you have and forget all about that new prescription.” 

Now, what would you think of me if I bought into that kind of mistrust?  You would say I was crazy to take the word of a plumber over the word of my physician when it comes to medicine.  

Yet, according to Genesis, this is exactly what our forebears did back in the beginning.  They took the word of a snake over the word of their Creator when it came to interpreting life.  They uncritically accepted a negative image of God that had no basis in fact and began to build their assumptions with mistrust. Thinking the world was a conspiracy rather than a creation and God a foe rather than a father, the humans proceeded to take life apart and put it together in ways that did not work.  They drank the poison and got sick, just as they had been warned, and all of creation proceeded to degenerate into chaos. 

Careless or Care Full?

That is how God’s bad reputation got started.  With a flimsy accusation and some careless assumptions, centered in mistrust. 

Now, how has God responded to this carelessness? Did God get defensive and strike back in anger? No. According to the scripture, God’s response was, “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). 

Jesus Sets Things Right

John Killinger put it this way, “Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation.” Overall the confusion and suspicion that has been generated by the conspiracy theories, God sent Jesus so that people could see what God looked like. In other words, in Jesus, you can see and experience that God believes in you. The question is, “Can you trust a God like that?” Is the one Jesus portraying a sadist, trying to hold people down and dehumanize them, or a joyful Creator who all along has had nothing but good in mind? 

Jesus is God’s attempt to set right what has gone wrong. This is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Jesus is God’s way of reaching all the way down to our assumption level and showing us that, from the Garden until today, we have been mistaken about who God is and what God wants to do with us. 

It Matters Where You Start

You are leading in a time of mistrust and suspicion. In a time when some people want to take the word of social media over the fact of science. When others want to create anxiety over a healthy vaccine yet put their lives in jeopardy with a horse dewormer. You are leading in a time of inconsistencies when people say they have a right to make decisions about their own bodies by not wearing masks yet want to take that same right away from women when it comes to their own bodies. How do you lead courageously in the midst of such mistrust, suspicion, and confusion? 

It matters where you start. As you know, going toe-to-toe, arguing your point does not work, much less bring peace. So where to you start? Start by taking the action of God seriously enough to build your assumptions upon it. Allow the image of Jesus to penetrate down to the level of your assumptions, and love the people, regardless of their point of view, the way you have been loved. 

My Assumptions

  • Based upon this action of God, my assumptions are:
  •  You are a beloved daughter and son of God. God has chosen you, given you a name, and loved you from the beginning.
  • You have been called a lead in this time in history.  God created you to live and lead in this time.
  • You have been gifted to face the cynicism and conspiracies of today. It is never easy to stand up and speak when the vote is going the other way, but you are not alone. God is with you, for you, and works for your good. 

God believes in you. 

Because who you are is how you lead, what one thing will you do this week to show the people entrusted to your care that God believes in them? Remember, it matters where you start.  Why not start with the fact that they are beloved children of God and gifted for love and service for this very time in history?

Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation about Leadership as Service. Listen to Episode 194 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.