by Bill Lawrence, President of Leader Formation International
Short cuts along zigzag lines over wilderness wanderings to Christ’s will
Jesus, the Leader, was real. Radically, totally, absolutely real. This means He was fully God and fully man in the same person.
However, He emptied Himself of His divine prerogatives and was absolutely free, not of His deity, but of His rights as God, His self-reliance and His own will. He limited Himself and accepted human limitations and human needs, yet without sin. He was fully man with no sin. He was Genesis 1 without Genesis 3.
He absolutely needed the Father and depended on the Holy Spirit. He was exactly what God expected man to be before man sinned. Now some may react to the word absolutely, and I understand if they do. I don’t mean absolutely as in out of control; I mean absolutely as in the deepest need possible. We must not be afraid to recognize Jesus as human, as one of us in every way but sinful. That’s what Christmas is all about; that’s what His humanity is all about; that’s what the incarnation is all about. Jesus was fully and totally identified with us. He was not like the father who plays with his children and pretends they are bringing him down to the ground, laughing with great joy that they can take this bigger than life figure down to their level, although both children and father know this is not the case. The incarnation was not a make-believe event for Jesus; it was the most real historical event ever. Thus we know that His infancy was real, boyhood was real, His need for prayer was real, His limits were real, His testing and temptation were real, His suffering was real, His pain was real, His death was real, His resurrection was real. Everything about His humanity was real. Period.
In fact, His testing and temptation not only were real; they were imperative. His testing and temptation are what made the wilderness imperative for Jesus, and if the wilderness was imperative for Him, how can it not be even more imperative for us? So it was that the Holy Spirit impelled (Mark 1:12) Jesus to go into the wilderness so He could prove Himself as the Messiah. Long after Moses built the tabernacle and Solomon built his temple and Herod built an even greater temple, the wilderness remained God’s original temple, the place where His worshippers went to meet Him in solitude and isolation. God’s presence made the wilderness holy, but where holiness is, evil is not far away because evil has a compulsive need to combat holiness and seek to replace it with its own destructive desires. As a result, Satan was not far away when Jesus entered the wilderness.
The wilderness was an awful place, the place most impacted by the curse of sin in the physical world, a place full of nothing that was holy, just as sin that promises everything ultimately is full of nothing that is holy. It was Jesus with the wild animals growling and roaring about; Jesus with the angels supporting and encouraging; Jesus with the Holy Spirit enabling and sustaining Him; Jesus with the Father praying and communing with Him; Jesus with Satan, testing and tempting Him. Forty days in solitary isolation without food, forty demanding days that tested Him as Messiah and led to intense temptation. Testing and temptation always go together, and at the end of those forty days, Satan came to tempt Him directly with three of the greatest leader temptations any of us can experience and all of us feel every day.
The first temptation—turn these stones into bread—was the temptation to self-reliance, to take things into His own hands and meet His needs apart from the Father. It was a temptation to doubt the Father and to act on His own because the Father was not acting quickly enough. In His response, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Jesus says some things are more important than bread, even after forty days of fasting and trusting the Father, and obeying God is one of those things.
The second temptation was the temptation to self-protection, to take care of yourself and keep yourself safe no matter what you face. But Jesus said, “Put not the Lord your God to the test.” In other words, do not put yourself in danger, but know that Yahweh your Elohim will protect you at all times no matter what danger you face. Safety is never a matter of self-imposed danger but self-disciplined trust.
And the third temptation was the temptation of self-promotion. Make yourself successful, self-exalted. How common a failure this is among leaders in our day. So many fall into this failure. They seek self-recognition and actually want worship from others. No failure is more destructive than this shame. To lead you must model for all what it means to lead from your knees and cry for forgiveness from the cross and resurrection out of the grave. Then do as Jesus did and lead His way from His grave through Him out of death through His life into His glory. This is Resurrection Leadership.
Inevitably, we take short cuts to long ways that lead us to zigzag lines along wilderness wanderings. What looks like a short cut turns out to be the longest way possible. Taking control of life and relying on ourselves to meet our needs virtually results in a long wander, rather than a short sojourn. We turn into a confusing wilderness. For Jesus, it was far more important that He trust the Father’s good will than that He turn to the ill will of the Evil One. Often we fail to realize that when we take things into our own hands as leaders and rely on ourselves, we actually turn to the destructive will of the Evil One and reap his tares rather than the Father’s fruit. After all, a starved Messiah was of no use to the Father, even as a failed leader cannot glorify the sovereign Lord or lead His people. It’s all a matter of trusting Him and fasting a little while longer if that’s what is needed. By saying no to the self-reliant Evil One who tempted Him, Jesus trusted His Father and proved Himself worthy of being the crucified Messiah. And for us as leaders not to trust ourselves but to trust Jesus turns us away from self-reliance and proves us worthy to lead the Jesus way, the way that takes us to the cross and the grave, then through His resurrection to the glory of His purpose and His power. Nothing could be more demanding nor more effective.
The death of the leader means broken leadership, but broken leadership means resurrection leadership. What could be greater?
Published on Tuesday, November 2, 2021 @ 3:05 AM CDT
He is growing you to be the kind of man or woman He wants you to be so you can make a difference for Him—the kind of difference Jesus would make, since He is the One doing it through you. That means that your church, your career, your position, your marriage or your children can be His means of transforming you from who you are to becoming who He wants you to be.
God is at work in you, not only because of what you do, but even more because of who you are becoming. After all, what matters the most to Him—what you do or who you become, especially as you become like Christ?
Isn’t what you do as a leader important to God? Of course it is, but if you think it through carefully, you realize that what you get done is God’s means to make you like Christ. He uses the experiences of your life to make you into His image to accomplish His purpose and fulfill His will.
So, God is at work in you, forming you to become the kind of person He wants you to be, a ministry or business leader like Christ, a man or woman who does what Christ would do if He were the leader of your church or your business or your movement or your mission.
Therefore, everything He wants you to accomplish has another major aim besides success. He not only wants you to get a deal completed, a building built, a business organized, or a successful ministry established, He wants you to grow on your way to become like Christ. He is growing you to be the kind of man or woman He wants you to be so you can make a difference for Him—the kind of difference Jesus would make, since He is the One doing it through you. That means that your church, your career, your position, your marriage or your children can be His means of transforming you from who you are to becoming who He wants you to be. It is true that He wants things done through us, but that’s not the end in itself. His ultimate intent for every one of us is that we should become like Christ through the issues we face in life.
Only God’s kind of person can be God’s kind of leader. There is only one way to become God’s kind of leader and that is to serve as well as to live His way.
How can you live God’s way? Only by understanding the Jesus way to live which He taught in the Gospels. Don’t just study information. Study how to live, and then learn to depend on Him because that’s the only way you can live the Jesus way. It is not only a matter of performing miracles as He did, but a matter of truth and love, endurance and patience, sacrifice and trust, shame and glory, death and resurrection.
We take His place in the world today. Are you ready for this? Who could possibly be ready for this? That’s why God is putting you in situations that can be carried out only through resurrection resources.
This is why you must grow to become God’s kind of leader—a Christ-like leader. A real leader.
Quite a task, isn’t it? A real task to make you a real leader.
Published on Aug 06 @ 11:04 AM CDT
For us this has the ordinary meaning of who He is, a statement of identity, but He means far more than that. He means I AM YAHWEH, the God of the Old Testament, the One Who Is, the Ruler of All, the Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper, who delivered the nation out of Egypt and gave them the privilege of being His people...
I am the true vine
A long time ago, on the night before Passover, twelve men walked the narrow streets of ancient Jerusalem going from an upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane.
All of them were from Galilee in the north—fishermen, craftsmen, one tax collector—ordinary men with no value in the Roman empire, except for the tax collector. They were led by, of all things, a carpenter, though by the time they were together He was a recognized Teacher. He had attracted a handful of men who listened to what He said and debated it among themselves. They had a different understanding of what He was saying, but He was radical, and they were radical, so they listened to Him with expectation that He meant what He said. Eventually they would become as radical as He was, but not yet. Nonetheless, we need to understand His words to them in that upper room, today as much as they did if we are going to be used to make the difference He wants to make through us. Consider these few words.
I am the true vine.
For us this has the ordinary meaning of who He is, a statement of identity, but He means far more than that. He means I AM YAHWEH, the God of the Old Testament, the One Who Is, the Ruler of All, the Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper, who delivered the nation out of Egypt and gave them the privilege of being His people. He is the One who met them at Mt. Sinai and made them into a nation, and who has kept His covenants with them. What it must have been like to walk along the streets of Jerusalem with Him after hearing Him declare that He was the Maker and Keeper of the New Covenant through the Cross.
He is the One who made the New Covenant, the only One who makes eternal covenants and keeps His word, the One who we can trust no matter what happens. Jesus, in John 15, is talking to His leaders, those who will speak for Him, equip others for Him, reproduce for Him, and who will prepare one generation after another for Him. We, as His leaders, must also lay the foundation for Him, bear fruit for Him, and matter for Him. These are the aspects that give us life, strength, and value, all the elements that make us leaders. There are many claims, but He is the only one who does what He does. The, a small word with an amazing meaning that speaks to us, His leaders, in the 21st century.
I AM THE TRUE
He is the true vine, the real thing, in radical contrast to all others who claim to be the true sources of life and success. Large numbers of leaders rely on false resources in the name of Jesus, and don’t even know they do that. The primary source of significance for many who lead is themselves. They do all the things they must do to become leaders, but what they produce is temporary, weak, without fruit, and then gone. Only Jesus does what is eternal, and He does this through us. No other vine can bear eternal fruit.
I AM THE TRUE VINE
He had to tell them this on His last night with them to prepare them for His departure and to get them—and us—ready for the Great Commission. This is part of the coming assignment.
Think about Jesus as the Stem in your life and ministry because He is the Source.
He is the Sustainer of your Life.
He is the Strength of your Life.
He is the Enablement of your Life.
He is the Stability of your Life.
He is the Fruit of your Life.
He is the Value of your Life.
He is the Identity of your Life.
He is the Reason for your Life.
He is the Hope of your Life.
All of this is what it means for Him to be our Vine. As a leader, we must be radically dependent on Him because HE IS THE TRUE VINE.
The only way you can be effective as His leader is to be radically dependent on the Vine for life and fruit. You can have position, recognition, honor, authority, and all the other elements that are part of leadership, but you will never bear His kind of fruit without His enablement. Draw on these truths and you will accomplish things you would never have otherwise.
Published on Jul 29 @ 12:25 PM CDT
God wants you to equip others in order to build your ministry, strength Christians in your business, or lead an organization or church that impacts your world with the gospel.
“. . . make disciples of all the nations . . .”
This is the start of several resources designed to help you grasp how you can learn what Jesus did to obey the Great Commission. The one aim of these concepts is to enable you to form leaders in obedience to Christ’s command to make disciples—that is, to reproduce leaders who reproduce leaders. This is exactly what Jesus did with the men He formed during His time on earth, this was His intent in giving this commission in the moments before He ascended onto His throne at the right hand of the Father, and that is exactly what the intent of the following materials are designed to do.
Reproducing leaders is the impact of an effective leader who wants to make a difference for Christ. A constantly triumphant leader produces constantly effective leaders. This is the essence of the Leader Formation message. Any leader who forms future leaders according to the biblical principles found in this truth will gradually produce effective leaders who will equip even more productive leaders. As a result, the body of Christ will do what God created it to do and reach the world with the Good News concerning Jesus. Your church will grow, your community will receive Jesus, your city will have many new believers in Christ, and your nation will be changed according to His will just as the Roman Empire was impacted after the cross and the resurrection. The leaders of Israel and the rulers of Rome both tried to resist God’s truth and destroy the body of Christ only to be overcome by God and replaced by the gospel. What happened in the first three hundred years of this era will happen today, even in the most resistant parts of the world, if only leaders will have the heart of Christ, a head that is influenced by God’s truth, and hands that are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The purpose of every Christian leader is to form leaders who lead this way.
God wants you to equip others in order to build your ministry, strength Christians in your business, or lead an organization or church that impacts your world with the gospel. This is what you can accomplish through this thinking because this is what I have seen in fifty years of forming leaders. I have certainly not done this alone, but I have seen the truths found in these studies work in amazing ways as many have learned them and implemented them through radical dependence on Him.
Published on Jul 10 @ 4:26 PM CDT
How do we become all that God wants us to be this year? What can we do to live 2020 in obedience to God and thus become a blessing to Him? Scripture instructs us to Bless the Lord and to Bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord Oh my soul...Bless His holy name
How do we become all that God wants us to be this year? What can we do to live 2020 in obedience to God and thus become a blessing to Him? Scripture instructs us to Bless the Lord and to Bless His holy name. God is a holy God and we are unholy, yet He wants us to bless Him. What does this mean? How can we possibly be a blessing to God? Does He want ordinary sinful men and women like us to bless Him? Yes, He does or He wouldn’t command us in His word to bless Him as He does. How do we bless Him? After all, He blesses us, we don’t bless Him, or do we? Consider some of the ways we can bless God.
By thanking Him for all that He has done...
We first thank God for salvation by which we are delivered from condemnation. We have been given a permanent relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three gave themselves to give us eternal life. The Father released His Son for us. The Son gave His life on the cross for us. And the Spirit gives us His power by living in us. How can we do anything but thank Him? When we thank Him for all that He has done and is doing in our life, we will bless Him.
By trusting Him even when we don’t want to...
Life is painful at times, so we may become resentful and not want to respond to God. But He still wants us to bless Him even when we don’t feel like it. We may deny our faith as Moses did. He attacked God and accused him of doing evil. Imagine that—he called the sovereign holy God evil. Yet God used him and He made Moses the leader of His people. We may not be able to see or understand what God is doing in our life, we may feel that He is failing us, but we must still trust Him, remembering that He loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son on our behalf. When we trust Him we will bless Him.
By worshipping Him even when we doubt...
Worship is an act of exalting God and being dependent on Him no matter what our circumstances. It is relying on Him in the midst of facing a powerful opponent and keeping our mind centered firmly on God alone. Worship is crying out to God and turning away from ourselves to focus only on Him. It is praising Him for who He is—His character, and for what He has done—His actions. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that God wants us, unholy and sinful men and women, to worship Him and be His people. As worshipping our great God becomes more and more a central part of our lives, we will lead others to worship Him as well.
Plan to improve your vision this year so it is 20/20. Not with glasses but by seeing God in a new light. Do what God wants you to do by thanking Him, trusting Him, and worshipping Him. In this way you will bless His holy name consistently, remembering all that He has done for you and all that He wants to do through you in 2020.
Published on Feb 14 @ 11:25 AM CDT
Rome ruled the world for centuries. Armies marched, kings were defeated, territory was taken, an empire was established, Caesars ruled, and taxes were demanded. At the beginning of the first century AD a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, passed a decree that a census be taken of all who lived in the Roman world.
Rome ruled the world for centuries. Armies marched, kings were defeated, territory was taken, an empire was established, Caesars ruled, and taxes were demanded. At the beginning of the first century AD a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, passed a decree that a census be taken of all who lived in the Roman world. This meant that everyone under Caesar’s rule had to return to their place of birth to be counted. At that time a man named Joseph, engaged to a pregnant woman named Mary, lived in a town called Nazareth on the eastern edge of the Roman empire. They were required to go to Bethlehem in Judea to be counted and eventually taxed for the empire’s benefit. They were two common people who had no wealth, no power and who did not matter except for their value as taxpayers. When they arrived in Bethlehem and found there was no room for them, Mary gave birth to her son in an animal’s stall and laid Him in a manger.
No one knew, of course, that the One born in that manger was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No one knew that He would die for the sin of those who would take His life as well as for the sin of all who lived before and after Him, including we who live today in the twenty-first century.
It is at Christmas that we recall that the Light of the World was born into the kingdom of darkness in order to overcome the darkness of sin with the Light of God’s love. No matter where we live, whether it be in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa or North America, whether in Arabia or the Islands of the sea, all of us are citizens of one of two Empires: the kingdom of darkness or the Kingdom of Light. Christmas is a time of remembering the grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness of Christ’s compassionate sacrifice, given to all who accept it.
Jesus, whose birth we celebrate, had an unknown birth in order to be offered as a well-known sacrifice so we do not have to pay the price for our sin. If you know Him, praise Him and rejoice in His provision for you. Have joy because that’s what He wants you to have, as He said on the night of His arrest (John 15:11). Be thankful for all He has done for you and allow Him to bear fruit through you. Remember, He was born to die for the sin of all, from the beginning of time. Remember that He rejoices that we have trusted Him for what He has done for us.
And if you don’t know Him, now is the time to accept all He has done for you, for dying for your sin, for offering forgiveness for your disobedience, and for providing eternal life.
Christmas is a constant celebration of our deliverance from sin to the anticipation of eternity. Rejoice with Him for what He has done for you and make Christmas your way of life.
Published on Dec 16 @ 1:35 PM CDT