Monday, April 16, 2012

Human Limitation - it's real

Two weeks ago I taught on Mark 9:14-32 at Colossae and talked about some limitations we experience as people.  At one point (v.19) we even see Jesus articulate the harsh reality that people are actually incapable of remaining faithful to God's design for them.   Throughout the book of Mark we've seen him articulate his realizations of people's limitations a few different times in our study and here it seems that he knows he is going to have to reconcile these issues himself - by leaving and dying to make the imperfect, perfect. 

Anyway, we didn't break the message down this way necessarily, but we saw human limitations expressed in at least 3 different ways through this passage:
  1. The misplacement of expectations.  We can often take what we should only expect of God and expect the same of other people.  We saw this with the man who brought his boy to Jesus, but then placed what he expected of Jesus onto the disciples.  They could not meet his expectations and it ended up in an argument (v.14-16).  Unmet expectations always lead to relational tensions.    
  2. Doubt and unbelief.  We all have areas of doubt in our lives because we all have areas of life that we are somewhere between uncertainty and absolute certainty in.  That's all doubt is.  But we also talked about how doubt is too often viewed as an enemy to faith rather than a reality of human limitation.  The bottom line is our limitations will not allow us to avoid doubt.  We will always deal with it to some degree.  Our response then should be that of the man who was honest about these areas with Jesus and turns to Jesus for help in his unbelief (v.24).  
  3. Reliance on self vs. dependence on God.  Jesus makes it clear at the end of this passage (v.29), with a little jab straight to the heart of the disciples, that they were trying to do the work of God by their own power.  Jesus tells them that this could only be done through prayer.  Prayer is a posture of dependence and that's what Jesus is wanting his disciples to understand.
We looked at these things from a few different angles but boiled it all down to the following statement:

"Our human limitations are seen in our limitless weaknesses and therefore we must rely on God’s unlimited power."

As you think about that this week, maybe you can ask yourself a few questions:
  1. What areas am I trying to do God's work in my own power?  When you recognize these things, I'd encourage you to go to God in repentance, asking for His help.
  2. What areas am I struggling with doubt and unbelief?  Recognize these areas and go to God, asking Him to help those areas.  In other words, let these areas of your life draw you to God versus away from Him.  This way doubt will be a catalyst to your faith versus an enemy.
  3. Am I placing unrealistic expectations on people that only should be expected of God?  If you are expecting things of people that should only be expected of God - like being perfect - then I'd encourage you to recognize that this is part of your own imperfection and to ask God for help in that.
The bottom line is we will either rely on our limitless weaknesses (which will create all sorts of tensions) or we can depend on God's unlimited power. I've found that a great practice in every day life for relying on God's unlimited power is to begin by consciously realizing the areas we are weak in and then turning to God for help in those areas.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Leadership 101

Over the next couple weeks I will be throwing out some thoughts on leadership.  I of course have a lot of different thoughts so this will be simply me throwing out whatever thought comes to me at the point of writing.  They will be somewhat random, straight to the point and hopefully helpful for you - although you may be the one that should be writing these instead of me. 

Todays thought comes from the apostle Paul and understanding a bit about his ministry.  For me, one of the biggest things that pops out about his leadership is the fact that he "lived among" those he served.  See Acts 20:17-21 for an example.  You can also see this phraseology throughout the book of 1 Thessalonians.

You might say Paul's leadership was "down to earth" and there is a beauty to leading this way.  He didn't lead from a position, he led from his life.  In Acts 20:17-21 alone we see those he led could attest to at least the following things:

1. his humility.  Can we look at those we lead and say to them that they can attest to our humility?
2. his compassion for them as human beings. Do we actually love people or just say we do?
3. his own trials in life.  Do we allow those we lead into even the difficult aspects of our lives?
4. his commitment to speaking truth. Do we love people enough to tell them the truth?
5. his consistency between public and private settings.  Are we consistent in character regardless of where we are?
6. his unchanging message.  Are we committed to telling everyone about the gospel? 

It seems as though Paul could answer all these positively, which is partly what made him such a powerful leader.  I hope to be able to do the same.