Oppression or Generosity

small__12328603084Recently I spent some time on the South side of Chicago. I came face to face with some of the poorest of the poor. I learned new terms like “food desert” and “structural violence.” I encountered suspicion, friendliness, despair, joy, community, and poverty. I have not gotten over my day in the hood. How do I consider the poor? What is my attitude? As a leader, what is my responsibility?


Proverbs 14:31 states, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults His maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Oppression and generosity, two completely antithetical notions.

The objects of both of these expressions are the poor, the needy.

These are the disenfranchised, the marginalized of our society–of any society. The problem is that the poor are made in the image of God too.

If you want to insult God, then certainly engage in oppression of the poor whom He created.

If you want to honor or glorify God then show generosity to the same. 

The Hebrew word for “oppress” can mean to press upon, defraud, violate, to drink up, to exploit, or to crush. Oppression usually results from one person despising another person. When you despise someone you hold them in contempt–you see them as insignificant. But the value of being created trumps the value the world places on a person. That is why the concept of creation matters–it gives inherent value.

The Hebrew word for “generosity” can mean to properly stoop in kindness to one in an inferior position, to favor, or to move to favor.

Are the poor and marginalized in an inferior position?


Are they insignificant?

No, they have created value!

Generosity is not primarily transactional.

It is relational.

It is advocational. 

I am still in process in my understanding of what it looks like to oppress or to be generous. Even my apathy might be a form of oppression. It certainly leads to ambivalence concerning my generosity.

The mandate is to show generosity–in my learning, my attitude, and through all of my resources.

What will you do?

(photo credit)

5 for Leadership (12/21/13)

imgres-1Here is a new 5 for the week before Christmas. There are posts on the character of a leader, leadership emotion, looking ahead to 2014, servant leadership, and what Joseph of the Christmas story can teach us about being a man. Enjoy!

Leadership Is About Emotion  This is an excellent article from Forbes. “Make a list of the 5 leaders you most admire. I’ll bet that everyone on your list reaches you on an emotional level.” Meghan Biro shares eight skills that can help you connect better as a leader.

10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before January 1st  It is not too early to begin assessing 2013 and looking ahead to 2014. William Arruda provides us with some well thought out questions for looking ahead. This too comes from Forbes. “The following powerful questions will provoke powerful responses.  Pay attention to your immediate answers and how these questions make you feel. This process will reveal an inspiring, effective action plan that will help you increase your influence, success and happiness at work in the coming year.”

4 Senses of Character Based Leadership   “Character-based leaders are people who have chosen to adopt a leader’s mindset, regardless of their position in the organization.  Anyone can be a character-based leader. Their character, their ‘who-they-are’ will not let them simply go with the flow or ‘do whatever.'” See what else Mike Henry has to say about character based leadership.

How Great Leaders Serve Others: David Marquet-TEDx  Here is an 18 minute video on empowering others and raising up leaders.

What Joseph Can Teach Us About Biblical Manhood  Christmas is upon us. We know the story of Joseph. Mary and baby Jesus. And lately there has been a lot of “talk” in the blogosphere about gender again, and the concept of biblical manhood. Can Joseph teach us something? See what you think.

There are the 5 for this week-Merry Christmas!


Sarah Hale & Thanksgiving

imgresSarah Josepha Hale is often referred to as the Godmother of Thanksgiving. This New Hampshire woman, who was born in 1788, worked tirelessly to see Thanksgiving become a nationally recognized holiday in America. Hale was a successful writer and editor and is credited with penning the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Hale labored for 17 years to see Thanksgiving become a national holiday, which was finally declared so in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.

There were two strong themes to why Hale believed this to be a necessary annual event in the life of our nation. One was to draw our attention to God as the source of all blessings. Here is an excerpt from one of her writings to lobby for the holiday.

“THE FOURTH OF JULY is the exponent of independence and civil
freedom. THANKSGIVING DAY is the national pledge of Christian faith
in God, acknowledging him as the dispenser of blessings. These two
festivals should be joyfully and universally observed throughout our
whole country, and thus incorporated in our habits of thought as
inseparable from American life.” (1852)

The other theme was the unifying nature of a holiday focused on giving thanks for a nation that was drifting apart. Here is another excerpt that highlights this concern.

“it would be better to have the day so fixed by the expression of public
sentiment that no discord would be possible, but, from Maine to Mexico,
from Plymouth Rock to Sunset Sea, the hymn of thanksgiving should be
simultaneously raised, as the pledge of brotherhood in the enjoyment of
God‟s blessings during the year.“ (1854)

Of course her emphasis on this point was all too salient as the Civil War began a few years later.

But I believe Sarah Hale understood something important about the nature of giving thanks. To show gratitude to anyone is to acknowledge that we are not self sufficient. To see a whole group of people focused on giving thanks at the same time can have a unifying effect. It takes our eyes off of ourselves and places them somewhere else. It rightly places them on a Holy God and His provision. It acknowledges His self sufficiency and His common grace in sustaining us all. To celebrate this as a national holiday is meant to demonstrate more than a reason for food and family. It is meant to see our need for God and others. Take some time today to consider His blessings, personally and corporately.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why Do You Lead?

small_3433136680There are many reasons people choose to lead.

Some do so because they are thrust into leadership by the demands of the moment.

Some lead to validate their identity.

Some lead for the applause of the crowd.

Some do so for the status they hope to achieve.

Some lead sheerly for the power to do so.

And some rightly lead from a sense of calling and a desire to serve others.

Leadership can be a drug.

Even within the Christian realm we tend towards celebrity leadership.

The young leader naively enters in, not knowing what price he may have to pay.

The old leader often reflects with regret on the cost of leadership paid.

There is one aspect of leadership that always accompanies this risky endeavor.


There is a scenario in the Bible where two brothers who are close followers of Jesus ask him if they may occupy the 2nd and 3rd most powerful positions in his kingdom. They do this in the context of the rest of the twelve and through their adoring mother. James and John are anticipating a reordered realm where the chains of Rome will be cast away. They are hoping for a new politic where they might assert themselves in ways they have only imagined. Jesus confronts their misunderstanding and asks them a penetrating question that was meant to shake them to the core. In Matthew 20:22 Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”

The metaphor of the “cup” in Scripture is almost always an image of judgment.

Throughout the Old Testament, with which these Jewish men should have been familiar, the cup often referred to God’s wrath. In particular the prophetic literature of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel make use of the cup imagery in this way. Jesus knew that for him this mean a path to the cross where he would take on the judgment and wrath for all the world’s sin. For these would be first century leaders it held the derision of an ancient near east religious culture and a dictatorial one in Rome. Ultimately, James would be beheaded for his faith and leadership and John would be exiled to an island between Greece and Turkey. They tasted and drank the cup of leadership.

Leadership is always this way.

Leaders, if they are to lead well, must at times take a stand.

They cannot appease everyone.

They must make unpopular decisions.

They must have a greater good in mind.

They will be judged–fairly or unfairly.

And if you lead for any other reason than the well being of those who called you or those who follow, you will probably suffer old leader regret.

The question of why you lead, attendant with the knowledge that some level of judgment is always in store, should help clarify your motives.

Read the whole story. Matthew 20:20-28. You will encounter a counter intuitive form of leadership that will withstand the cup of judgment.

5 for Leadership (11/16/13)

images-2Here is a new 5 for this 3rd week in November. We will take a look at the centrality of Christ in church ministry, doing your best, insecurities of a leader, must have abilities of a leader, and how to protect your leadership from an affair.

7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From An Affair  “It seems every day we hear of another big name celebrity, politician or pastor that has fallen into the temptation of lust and had an affair. I think it is dangerous for any leader to assume this could never happen to him or her.” This post is from Ron Edmondson and is a must read for any leader.

7 Unique Abilities of Good Leaders  Here is double dose of Ron Edmondson. “Leadership is never easy. To lead well requires unique abilities.” Ron gives us seven sound abilities for solid leadership.

5 Insecurities Leaders Have To Overcome  “As a leader, people naturally have high expectations of you—knowing the answer to every problem, highly reliable, calm in the face of pressure. However, leaders are still regular employees who have to accomplish tasks but with increased accountability and expectations.” This is a great post from the Lead ChangeGroup blog. There are some common insecurities and quality solutions-take a look.

Be Bold: Your “Future Best”  This comes from Tim Milburn’s blog and is a guest post by Jeff Shore. “Your best is not the same as the highest you can achieve! At some point in your childhood, you were probably told to “do your best.” While not bad advice, this phrase contains some potentially negative implications.”

3 Ways Christ Can Be Outside Your Church  This final post if from The Gospel Coalition Blog. “Spiritual temperature rises as Christ becomes central to the whole life and ministry of a church. And that includes a church’s preaching, mission, and fellowship.” This is a very thought provoking post by Colin Smith and a good read for any leading in spiritual endeavors.

There are the 5 for this week. Enjoy and lead well!


A Leader’s Prayer-Resting On God


Kevin Dooley on Flickr

I have often been ministered to by the prayers of the Puritans. The one below was especially meaningful for me today. Every leader I know is in deep need of rest. This simple, yet profound, prayer points us in the right direction. May it be a blessing to you.

O God Most High, Most Glorious,

The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling, moiling, troubled and distressed, but that art forever at perfect peace.

Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment, they stand fast as the eternal hills.

Thy power knows no bond, they goodness no stint.

Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are thy victories.

The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; Revive deep spirituality in my heart; Let me live near the great Shepherd, hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget thee.

Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee, that all else is trifling.

Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.

Abide in me, gracious God.

(from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 2003.)

Set Up For A Fall & Our Real Enemy

Spiritual leader beware!

You have an enemy and it is not someone in your congregation, a member of your staff, or your peer across town. This enemy is not a member of your immediate family, extended family, or the person you bike with. This enemy is not popular culture, the political left or right, nor the latest movement that seems antithetical to the teachings of Scripture. This enemy is the enemy of your soul and he knows your most vulnerable tendencies.

Peter, in his first epistle, chapter five, addresses the spiritual leaders of the diaspora communities in Asia Minor. After posturing himself as a servant leader and speaking to the proper motives of a true spiritual leader, Peter warns them about this natural enemy with some of the most graphic language he can muster. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

“In encounters with the king of beasts, an unarmed person is ‘one of the most helpless creatures,’ notes Charles Guggisberg in Simba: the Life of the Lion. ‘Man cannot run as fast as a zebra or a gazelle, he has not the horns of the sable antelope or the tusks of the warthog, and he cannot deal terrific blows like the giraffe.’ People are, in other words, easy pickings.” (The Most Ferocious Man-Eating Lions, The Smithsonian, 12/16/2009)

Just prior to this staunch warning, Peter provides us with the three biggest chinks in our armor as leaders that can prove to be our downfall.

1. Pride.

Verse 6 states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you . . .” The antithesis of humility is pride–self exaltation. If we are spiritual leaders it is because God has given us a platform to do so. It is his doing and his calling in his timing. Pride tries to run ahead of God. Pride sees superiority, not humility. Pride makes us very vulnerable to the lion.

2. Anxiety.

Verse 7 says, ” . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Leadership is difficult. Leadership into anything of significance finds itself in the fertile soil of potential anxiety. This is the disease of fear over what might happen. We are commanded to hurl all of our anxieties upon God. This verb is the notion of a 97 mile an hour fastball pitcher unleashing the ball as fast as he can. The motivation is the absolute, perfect care of God. I especially become anxious when I think no one cares. That is never the case. There is One who always cares–and we can unfetter ourselves of all that weighs us down as leaders.

3. Unaware.

Finally, in verse eight, Peter tells us to “be sober minded; be watchful . . . ” As spiritual leaders we deal in the spiritual realm. We should never be surprised that we will be opposed. But we are regularly. We forget that we are in a battle and that all of our leadership decisions are leveraged. We are not thinking correctly. We lack perspective. We are unaware. To be aware takes discernment and community. We need the help of others, peers, to see accurately.

Peter does provide us with an equal measure of reassurance in dealing with our enemy. In verses nine through eleven, he first tells us to actively resist the devil by standing in the gospel. He tells us to realize that there is world wide community of brothers and sisters who are suffering too. We never suffer alone. And he promises us that the God we serve will personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us–for he alone has all dominion. Not some roaring beast who threatens to dismember us.

Where are you feeling superior today?
What are you afraid of today–that is making your belly ache?
Where are you being obtuse today?
The enemy doesn’t have to win. Lead well!


(photo credit)


My Top Posts for September

UnknownHere are the 5 most popular posts from this past month.

Delegation vs Empowerment  “To delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another.  To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else.  Do you hear the difference?” This is in the top 5 every month.

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  “Sometimes leaders look at decision making like a game of rock, paper, scissors.  We use the same approach in every situation and we leave it up to chance.  But there is a way to think through the type of decision that should be made for the best possible result.”

21st Century Leadership: 7 Questions for Evaluation  “Lynn Joy McFarland, Larry E. Senn, and John R. Childress have written a well informed work entitled, 21st Century Leadership: Dialogues with 100 Top Leaders. As I was reading a portion of their book I was struck by the wisdom of seven sets of questions that are posed to help you in evaluating your 21st century leadership readiness.”

Lust Destroys Beauty  “Lust is about self gratification, which is counter to a benevolent, all authoritative God. And this is a God who is ultimately beautiful. We literally appreciate beauty because we were created by a beautiful Creator. Lust is our desire for beauty turned inward.”

The Character It Takes To Be A Good Partner  “We were designed for community and we are most effective when we live out our work in community. It is a necessity inside your organization and with others outside the organization. This truly requires partnership.” But what type of character dos it take to get there?

There are the five most popular posts from my blog for September. May you have a blessed October!

5 for Leadership (9/28/13)

images-2Here is a fresh 5–on time! We have leadership thoughts about TV, on church planting, on confrontation, telling the truth, and leadership influence.

9 Reasons To Lead In A No Spin Zone  This is a great post from Mike Myatt. “Leadership not deeply rooted in a foundation of truth is leadership destined to fail. The reality is the best leaders are also absolutists when it comes to truth – they view truth as a non-negotiable.” This is a must read.

Speak From The Heart Lolly Daskal always has content that communicates and is profitable. “Difficult conversations with difficult people come in all sorts of situations and circumstances.  Often they involve a sensitive topic, and we worry about finding the perfect time and perfect place to approach it. So how do you engage in a difficult conversation with a difficult person? The answer is in the heart.”

6 Lessons On Creating Lasting Influence  “In an organizational context, ability to influence is at the heart of a leader’s success in driving changes, building great teams, delivering results and implementing the strategic vision. At an individual level, your ability to influence others is at the core of building relationships, creating a network and achieving your goals.” See what Tanmay Vora has to say.

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter  Here is another solid post from Ron Edmondson. His theory is we have to recognize our fears to overcome them. Take a look.

Badly Broken  This final post is a theological perspective on the popular show Breaking Bad. Read this to find out why we are all Walter White.

There are the 5 for this week, the final one for September 2013! Keep enjoying your fall.

The Story Beyond The Story

images-3“On October 3, 1993, U.S. Special Operations Forces from Task Force Ranger operating in Mogadishu, Somalia launched a daytime mission into the Bakaara Market to capture high-priority targets loyal to war criminal Mohammed Farrah Aidid. The raid, meant to last no longer than one hour, quickly shifted when armed Somalia militia, armed with assault weapons and RPG’s, managed to shoot down multiple UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. As the numbers of armed Somalis quickly increased into the tens of thousands, U.S. Rangers and Special Operators, heroically attempting to defend both crash sites, quickly found themselves pinned down and surrounded in a 19-hour standoff that lasted throughout the night. Ultimately, 18 U.S. soldiers were lost in the most intense combat firefight since the Vietnam War. Now, 20 years later, Jeff Struecker, a former Army Ranger from the battle and a key character in the film, returns to what is still considered the most dangerous place in the world, the lawless streets of Mogadishu, to relive the battle.”

My friend Mary Beth Minis produced this film. You must watch it. Most of you will remember the events that surround this story. Some of you are too young to connect that day to this one. But the message that arises out of the chaos of that day is one that goes way beyond the significance of this one.

Return To Mogadishu Web Site