Ability doesn’t equal identity

Last week, my friend Jeff Centers, pastor of Riverland Church, shared a thought with me. He said one of the primary ways the enemy attacks ministry leaders is in the area of identity. As we discussed this concept I began to believe Jeff was right. Immediately my mind went to the interaction between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness. There it was, as plain as day. So I’d like to explore this concept with you for a few posts. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


In this first interaction, Satan challenged Jesus to turn stones to bread. He just challenged Jesus to do an impossible, miraculous task to produce an ordinary result. What’s so dangerous about this challenge is, the enemy ties ability to Jesus’ identity. 

If you are the Son of God, do the impossible. If you are who you say you are, then do the miraculous. Surely someone with your skills, talents, and gifts should be able to dazzle everyone with your power. Does that sound familiar to you? It does to me. 

I hear this; “if you’re the pastor, you have to go above and beyond to impress others.” “If you’re the ministry leader you have to be so talented as a leader that you grow the ministry to worldwide status.” “If you’re the preacher or speaker then wow us with your powerful words and compelling messages.”

If we listen to these ideas, we may begin to believe our identity and worth are measured by our abilities. We may even begin to compare our abilities to the abilities of others. We may find ourselves fixed on performance instead of faithfulness. Worst of all, we may become discouraged when we fail to work miracles for the pleasure of spectators. When these things happen, Satan keeps us bound and causes us to discredit ourselves. 

Don’t tie your identity to your abilities. You are not your skill set. You are not your voice. You are not your leadership ability. You are a Son or Daughter of God. Jesus reveals a truth we must all grasp in order to survive the enemy’s attack:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Sons and Daughters of God live by God’s word. Our true identity is whatever God says about us. Our source of life is his word. The only one who can command us and empower us to do the impossible is God. Whether we perform miracles or not, we’re still his children. 

Good Morning Baltimore

Image from Hello World Media via Flickr

Image from Hello World Media via Flickr

The movie “Hairspray” opens with the song “Good Morning Baltimore”. It’s a happy song about the finer points of the city. But as the movie progresses, the very serious issues of body image discrimination and racial segregation take front stage. In the end, it takes a galvanizing leader and a courageous teenager to open the eyes of the public and bring about reconciliation. 

Currently, there is a great need for reconciliation in Baltimore since there have been protests and riots involving physical violence and destruction of property. All of which are prevalent in the wake of the brutal beating and subsequent death of Freddie Gray. The images I’ve seen on the news and social media have been both disturbing and disappointing. My heart and prayers go out to the community that has been hurt on both sides of the police brutality and injustice issues. 

I know that I’m an outsider looking into the current state of affairs in Baltimore, Maryland. I realize at the end of the day, the people in that city must find a way to bring lasting peace and hope. However, I feel the need to add one more observation to the myriad of blogs, tweets, and posts on this subject. In my opinion, Baltimore needs clear social leadership. 

So far, in this circumstance I’ve noticed each media source has tried to get statements from various leaders. We’ve seen church leaders, city councilmen, gang leaders, student leaders, police leaders, mayors, the governor, national minority leaders, and more. But there doesn’t seem to be one clearly identifiable leader who has the influence to speak on behalf of the masses. 

During the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was that leader. He was the key figure whose leadership gave the plight of minorities a voice. Historically, every major movement that affected change had a leader who courageously represented the weak in the face of the establishment. From Moses to Ghandi to Dr. King, dynamic leaders have played a vital role in the success of freedom movements. That said, I believe Baltimore could benefit from having a leader who unifies all of the splintered pieces of social injustice into a comprehensive and focused agenda. 

I pray that God will raise up a leader who has the integrity to command the listening ear of the public. I’m praying for a leader who will endeavor to do what’s right for right’s sake. This leader must have the complete trust of the people and the selfless disposition to serve the greater good of the city as a whole, without expecting anything in return. 

I’m praying for a leader whose passion for this cause will not flicker out after the news reporters move on to the next hot topic. A leader who is willing to do the hard work of deep, lasting, transformational change is needed to insure future generations can shake off the curse of racism and discrimination in the city. I pray that God causes a leader to emerge who has the miraculous ability to grasp anger, fear, chaos, and rage, wrestle them into submission with divine authority and make peace. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭9‬ NKJV)

Correcting with Grace

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When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭49-51‬ NKJV)

Every good leader wants team members who are competent, trustworthy, self-starters that don’t require a lot prodding to get things done. But sometimes those team members can go too far and the leader must take corrective action. How do you handle it? 

Jesus dealt with a similar situation involving his disciples. One of them, Peter, cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest when a group came to arrest Jesus. Instead of embarrassing or berating his disciples, Jesus corrected the action without harming them and healed the servant. From his example we can learn a few tips for correcting our teams. 

Know the Situation
Jesus was fully aware of the situation that led to his disciples’ actions. This knowledge was crucial to determining the appropriate response. Leaders should never make disciplinary decisions based on assumptions. Assuming in correction makes the leader look self-centered, incompetent, and uncaring in the eyes of the team. Gather as many facts as possible to help you make an objective decision. 

Correct the Action
When Jesus spoke after the man’s ear was cut off, he didn’t try to punish his disciple. Instead, he corrected their actions. When we set out to “fix” a problem we’re often tempted to project our frustrations toward a person. When we give in to this temptation we end up bruising the person which could slowly deteriorate the working relationship in the future. Instead, we should give grace with correction. We should use the correction as a teachable moment. We should speak the truth but do it in love so our team members won’t lose their confidence and we won’t lose their trust. 

Leverage Your Power
In this case a man’s ear was cut off and only Jesus had the power to heal him. For leaders, there will be times when our team members will create problems they are not qualified or equipped to handle. For these times, it’s important for us to step up and exercise our authority for the good of everyone involved. It may cost us initially but we gain in the long run. By stepping into the situation we can appease and retain disgruntled clients or members, mend broken relationships, and avoid future damages. 

No matter how bad the mistake or the problem, at the end of the day leaders must still value and honor their team members. We must do our best to separate the person from the actions by extending love and grace.