It's been a bad week.
For the past few weeks I'd been trying to repair my '88 Honda Civic. Last week I finally gave it up, took it into a mechanic who told me the timing belt had snapped... and valves may have been bent. I was looking at $450-500 with a possibility of $1700-1800 to repair a car older than some of my coworkers.
This week I purchased a 2002 Nissan Altima that was supposedly in good shape and had less than 100k miles on it. I test drove it and had a couple of hesitations but got it for a decent price so I figured I'd go for it.
The day after I got it home I the check engine light came on and I took it to a mechanic. The verdict?
- Leaks oil
- Needs new exhaust
- Needs new brakes
- Needs two new tires
- Needs floorboards replaced
- Needs motor mounts replaced
- Needs air conditioner recharge
- Needs door hinge
And there's probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. There's $3900 down the drain.
Let's just say I haven't had the joy of the Lord for the past few days.
But today I forgave the guy who sold me the car, who I'm pretty sure knew what the problems were when he sold it to me.
I was trying to think if there's anything I could do to get back at the guy, any way I could sue him in small claims court. But today I forgave him.
And while I'm still hoping to get some of my money back, I'm also hoping I can somehow witness to him about Christ.
Hopefully the weekend will be better.
Once we leave our families, the people who have the most influence over us are often people who have no authority over us.
It is called moral authority. It occurs when people see alignment between what we say and what we do.
The majority of our leadership will come from the well of our moral authority. It is something that can be easily lost.
In the U.S. people expect their religious and political leaders to have moral authority.
Most of us have experience working for someone who we have lost respect for. They may have authority over us, but we lose respect for them.
Moral authority is so important because for most of us, all we have is influence. At the end of the day, even most people we may have authority over can leave at any time.
For the next couple of days, you are going to get incredible insight in terms of leadership.
If there’s not alignment between creed and deed, all of the leadership tricks in the world will not overcome that hypocrisy.
We will follow even poor leaders if they are authentic. They draw us in even if they have no official authority in life.
Nehemiah works for King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah gets permission from the king to go back to Judea to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. He returns as the governor. He shows up in a context where the economy is almost non-existent. People had loaned money to people who couldn’t pay back loans with high interest rates, so people had to pledge their homes and fields (and eventually their wives and children) as collateral for these loans.
Nehemiah shows up and gets the people all psyched up to rebuild the wall, but Nehemiah realizes that these people can’t take time off of work because they owe so much money. Nehemiah bails the people out. He buys the people’s loans and charges the people no interest.
The people begin to complain. He realized that just because the people’s debts were paid didn’t mean that they knew how to manage their finances. The wealthy nobles had begun re-loaning money to the people, and the same process started all over. The wealthy were undermining the project of rebuilding the wall that Nehemiah was undertaking.
It was against the law to charge a fellow Jew interest.
Nehemiah: As far as it was possible, we bought back our countrymen, and now we have to buy them back from you! Knock it off!
The nobles promised not to do that any more, and Nehemiah made them promise before the priests.
As governor, Nehemiah was entitled to a certain amount of food from the people’s crops. Taxes, essentially. Nehemiah wouldn’t take it out of reverence for God.
Nehemiah devoted himself to working on the wall. In other words, he did what he asked everyone else to do.
He didn’t acquire any land. He did not take advantage of depressed prices to enrich themselves.
Additionally, Nehemiah fed 150 people out of his own pocket, not the money that he was entitled to as the governor.
This is why he could stand up to the rich and powerful in the community. He wasn’t asking them to do anything that he hadn’t been doing for the past 12 years.
Forgiveness, Family, & Finances
- Forgiveness – our message is the message of forgiveness. We have been forgiven; therefore, we must forgive.
We must practice what we preach.
If you’re a leader, you’ve been hurt, stabbed in the back, betrayed, have not gotten your fair share, not been recognized when you should have.
Here’s what Jesus said: The servant is never greater than the master, and this happened to him, so why would you think it wouldn’t happen to you?
Some people’s stories are so bad, we want to give them a pass. We don’t want them to forgive the people who hurt them.
There is no excuse for angry, bitter church leaders. Because when we are that, we lose moral authority.
You can’t help others forgive from a heart that is not forgiving.
Don’t bring unresolved junk into the context of ministry. We’ve been forgiven. We must forgive others.
Perhaps the boldest leadership move you can make would be to get on your knees and release all the crap you’ve been holding onto for so long.
If you’re ever going to speak, teach, counsel, or encourage in the area of forgiveness, you need to do so as one who is and has forgiven.
- Family – If your spouse feels like the Church is your mistress, you are part of the problem that you are trying to solve.
If your family feels neglected, not IS neglected, FEELS neglected, then you are part of the problem. We live in a society that prioritizes many things over family, and we MUST be able to speak with moral authority.
For some of you, the boldest leadership decision you could make is to leave this conference and go back home and see your family. If you’ve missed your kids’ last three games, if you haven’t had dinner with your spouse in a long time, then you need to fix that.
You need to prioritize the role that no one else can play (your role in your family) over the one that many other people could play (whatever you do in ministry).
This is the root of many problems in our country.
- Finances – most of us work for a non-profit (that’s true for even more people now ).
If you work in an organization where your paycheck comes from people’s donations, then you must have moral authority in your finances. We must practice good stewardship. Any time God lets us manage $100, we need to give $10 to God first.
Do you want to lead generous people? Then you need to be a generous person. Don’t worry about this verse or that verse, NT, OT. Be generous.
Give, save, live on the rest.
What if everyone in your church/organization had been giving first, saving next, and living on the rest?
The Christians in our country would be able to stand up and say that God’s financial principles are the ones that work.
Perhaps the boldest leadership move you can make is go home and write a big check, and give it away.
The best leadership decision that Nehemiah made is when he walked into Jerusalem and said, I’m not taking my fair share.
People will have confidence in us if we are authentic, when our walk matches our talk.
If we don’t get this right, everything else we say will bounce off. No one cares what we say if we don’t follow our own advice.
I was assaulted tonight on my way home from a friend’s house. It was kinda strange. I was walking down the street and it seemed like two people were following me. I heard them talking, and I could have sworn one of them said, “Why are we running away from him?” As they got closer I was alert and aware, but I didn’t realize exactly what they were doing until after they hit me.
One of them punched me in the back of the jaw and then they both ran the other way. I had gotten a pretty good look at one of them. He was around 15 or 16 years old and probably 145 pounds. I was a bit shaken but turned around to find them a decent ways away from me. I must say that my response probably wasn’t the greatest for a lot of reasons. I told them in some some not so nice terms to come back and get what was coming to them.
The one who was still around and who I had gotten a good look at yelled something at me. I don’t remember exactly what.
So many things about this situation amazed me. I was surprised that they attacked me at all. They didn’t try to take my wallet or anything else. There were people on their stoop across the street. It was a fairly well lit area, and judging by the size of the one guy (and I think the other guy as well), they ran a serious risk of getting greviously injured should I have fought back. That said, I’m somewhat surprised I wasn’t hurt worse. If they had some sort of weapon, they chose not to use it.
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about how I handled the situation. I probably shouldn’t have yelled back, both because it wasn’t the right thing to do and because you never know what will happen when you provoke someone. I called 911 and reported what had happened, and I chatted with the people on the stoop while the police came and took a statement. I gave them a description of the one guy I saw clearly.
Part of me wishes I had turned around and confronted them before I got hit. I’m pretty sure that would have ended in either no one getting hurt at all or two guys who would think twice before attacking someone again. A large part of me wants to beat the snot out of them. What just occurred to me was that I need to pray for them, so I’m going to stop writing for a minute and do that. Although, I’ll be honest; I don’t really want to.
I prayed for them, and I prayed for myself. I prayed honestly that I really didn’t feel very much love for them, but that I know God cares for them too. As I began to pray my heart began to soften, and I prayed that God would work in their lives, that He would help them to forgive themselves once they knew what they had done. I also prayed that God would help me to forgive them.
The whole thing was very strange. I ran the gamut of emotions from wanting to leave the city to wanting to rain down wrath upon their heads. Part of what’s odd is that I’ve always felt relatively safe in the city. I’ve always tried to watch myself, and I’ve only had one other incident, but that was even stranger, a long story, and not something where I was actually attacked, just a bit of an out of the ordinary confrontation with someone who I’m pretty sure was a drug addict.
One of the thoughts that ran through my mind as I finished walking home in the torrential downpour that started right after I finished with the police was how minor this was in comparison to what so many people deal with. Someone hit me, and it was someone who couldn’t have really done much more damage (barring having a gun or knife or something). People live in neighborhoods where they hear gunshots on a regular basis. There are communities that regularly mourn violent death, and that is just here in America. It doesn’t even begin to address the tragedies that occur in places such as Iraq, Darfur, and China.
In all I’m fairly lucky. If that’s the worst thing that’s happened to both my wife and I in the nearly three years that we’ve lived in DC, I’ve gotten off pretty easy.
I’m not sure what exactly comes of this. I don’t know how this will change the way I act and think. Right now I feel kinda like I did when I spun my father-in-law’s truck across four lanes of LA traffic. I didn’t really want to get back in the driver’s seat. Right now, I don’t really want to go walking around the city. On the other hand, that’s no way to live your life, especially considering that I don’t have a car, so I walk everywhere.
I know this wasn’t the most well written post. It was mostly stream of consciousness to help me think things through.
I think I’m done writing now. I’m definitely not done processing. I know I need to keep praying, both for myself and for those boys, not to mention for this city. I’ve resisted calling them kids throughout this. I think because I’m somewhat angry (although less so now than when I started writing). I want them to be held responsible, but really, they’re just kids. They’re kids that need to be taught and loved. They’re kids who probably don’t have the greatest home lives. They’re the children about whom Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.“
So, if you get the chance, say a prayer for me that I will finish processing this and will forgive, but more importantly, say a prayer for them that they will come to know Christ and His love for them. And God, if there’s some way I can be a part of that, then use me in that way.