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Leadership Archive, 2024

3/1 Leadership Proverbs:

In my phone I have a Notes app where I jot down illuminations the Holy Spirit gives me throughout my day. One of the folders pertains to leadership. These notes eventually turn into books or articles or sermons, and some go to private leadership development. It is fascinating to see these succinct illuminations become so transformational in the personal and professional lives of leaders. Sometimes we do not need a book, an article, a sermon, a Glory-filled prayer time, an expensive conference, etc. to set a new personal or professional trajectory. Sometimes we simply need a Spirit-anointed proverb that digs and digs and digs into our soul as it plays in our mind repetitively at the loving insistence of the Holy Spirit.
    The following proverbs are from the Leadership Notes folder in my phone, accumulated over several years. In recent seasons these particular proverbs have emerged to the forefront of many people's personal and professional development. In other words, they seem to be especially salient lately, perhaps prophetic.

Opportunity does not care what you're going through.
    Many years ago I wrote an article entitled, The Perplexity & Complexity of the Reward. In it I explained, using multiple scriptures across both Testaments, how the Lord's answers, rewards, and blessings do not always come at the time or in the form we expect. For this reason many people miss, or reject altogether, the most visceral desires of their heart incarnating right before their eyes. This is life on earth; no timing and no circumstance will ever be literally perfect. If you are too anal about everything being just right, the perplexity and complexity of the reward will offend you, and you will miss the very promise land you pray and daydream about. Luke 19:42,44 (NIV): ...If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes...because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.

Mercy triumphs over judgment, but what happens when pride triumphs over mercy?
    Many Christians--especially those lost in the seeker-sensitive, sloppy agape, greasy grace fantasyland--love to quote and only quote James 2:13. The problem is, there are just over 31,100 verses in Scripture. James 2:13 has to be synchronized, harmonized, and understood with the other 31,100 verses, and more specifically, the other 7,957 verses of the New Testament. Whatever you think "judgment" means in James 2:13, it absolutely cannot mean to stop all moral inquiries and conclusions, because too many other New Testament verses tell us to do just that, even James himself! See James 1:21, 3:14-16, 4:1-10, 5:1-6 and the assertive moral analysis and conclusions in those passages. In fact, James 4:6 says God opposes or fights against or sets Himself against the prideful person (he is writing to Christians). Mercy triumphs over judgment, but James articulates that pride can triumph over mercy, setting the prideful person up as enemy-status in direct conflict with God.

Understand the dictator's fake bargain.
    One of the most insightful books ever written is, The Logic of Authoritarian Bargains: A Test of a Structural Model (by Anders Olofsgård, Raj M. Desai, Tarik Yousef). If you have had any degree of personal experience with controlling and domineering individuals, read this book. It is written in a political context, however, the conceptual understructure is the same for all types of domineers, from the eggshell parent to the eggshell romantic partner to the eggshell friend to the eggshell coworker to the eggshell pastor.
    A dictator offers some existential, emotional, and/or economic value in exchange for control. Those controlled accept this "bargain" because of foundational fears and missing pieces in their own personality and reality. It is a partnership of sickness, like the blind man carrying the lame man who can see. It is not a relationship, it is an exploitationship. You have questions you can't answer and they have answers you can't question. When you have little to no identity, individuality, and independence you are a blank screen for a domineering person to project upon.

A dictator's greatest fear is an attractive alternative, or someone who empowers identity, individuality, and independence.
    A controlling person's demons, their deepest and sickest inner darkness, is most obvious when those under them are exposed to an attractive alternative to the bargain, i.e., someone who empowers identity, individuality, and independence.

A fighter versus a mercenary versus a strategist versus a wise ruler.
    A fighter starts the battle. A mercenary wins the battle without loss. A strategist wins the war. A wise ruler wins the peace. Being a fighter is truly the lowest, most elementary level of combat. This is why Paul said we are and we must be "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Ro 8:37).

Beware of plastic fruits of the Spirit.
    No one is better at toxic positivity than fake Christians. This subset of alleged Christians are condescendingly polite, smugly self-righteous, act like your Holy Spirit, and yet have glaring hypocrisies, double standards, and salacious skeletons in their closet. When you display spiritual progress and victories they give you that "lollipop and pat on the head" attitude. Beware of plastic fruits of the Spirit. 

You decide: biopsy or autopsy.
    Refusing a biopsy today means your autopsy tomorrow. I am referring to cancers of the soul, cancers of character, relationship cancers, cancerous individuals, all forms of intangible cancers that require recognition, treatment, and full removal before they permanently destroy the inheritances and promise lands God has p
lanned for you.


10/23/23 A House of Crooked Mirrors:

Pastors, professional Christian counselors, and other types of Christian life coaches and mentors, have varying degrees of success in helping others actualize genuine, permanent personal transformation. Why the variegated results from leader to leader? There are several reasons. However, one of the most consequential that I will focus on in this commentary is, the world the sufferer lives in, and who controls that world.
    Those wanting and needing personal transformation rarely live in their own world. They are often pieces of furniture in someone else's world, a world the someone else controls overtly or passive-aggressively or an alternating blend of both. Thus, guiding a sufferer into personal transformation will have a low ceiling with limited results if the sufferer's world is not equally and also addressed. A person's spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and behavioral issues are simply cogs in a bigger machine that is their total personal world. A machine run, almost always, by someone that is not them.
    Addressing the larger context of their life, however, often negatively provokes the overlord that controls that context. The potential blowback from controlling figures behind the curtain is one reason some leaders address only the individual, while nonchalantly steering clear of the larger regime the individual lives under. In doing so, the leader saves his/her own skin from persecution, often aggressive demonically-empowered persecution. However, the leader has, in a sense, scammed the sufferer. The sufferer is wanting and needing personal transformation, and is beseeching the shepherd for help, but the shepherd responds by giving help that is incomplete or unaware, at best, scared and preoccupied with self-survival, at worst. If you are a cowardly leader preoccupied with self-survival, you do not deserve the high responsibility of shepherding others. Jesus referred to these scared, self-survival, me-first leaders in John 10:12,13 (ESV): He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
    For those of you who truly care about the misery and vexation of sufferers who come to you for help--no matter what the blowback might be from possessive overlords and self-appointed guardians around them--here are a few strategic and tactical insights to pray through and work into your shepherding. The following is not comprehensive.

Understand, truly understand, the sufferer's world is a house of crooked mirrors. The overlord has control only if the sufferer sees himself/herself wrongly in the broken mirrors the overlord has established. The overlord regularly reminds the sufferer, overtly or passive-aggressively, why the sufferer needs him/her, why the sufferer cannot be genuinely independent, why the sufferer cannot think for themselves, why the sufferer cannot do this or that, and so on. The overlord is an architect, an architect of mirrors that make the sufferer see only what he/she wants them to see--about themselves, about the world of possibilities beyond, about God, about anything. Of course the overlord would never say this. They use noble words and artificially-sweet gestures to dress the pig in a tuxedo. But a pig, even in a tuxedo, cannot resist mud. Threaten the overlord's wittle kingdom, threaten their narcissist supply, and watch that noble, sweet exterior thrash, convulse, and return to its vomit in the mud.
    You, the transformational instructor, must realize, in a deeply empathic way, that this machiavellian hellscape is the everyday reality of the sufferer. If you are going to guide sufferers into genuine, permanent personal transformation, you will have to build a new house of mirrors around them. Mirrors that are not crooked, mirrors that do not clip their wings, but mirrors that enlighten them to see all the God-given treasures and potentials buried inside them. The overlord does not want them to see these identity diamonds, or, to pursue them independently of their own management and surveillance.
    Jesus said He bought the whole field, full of dirt and weeds and thorns and field mice, for the treasure of great price hidden in that field (Mt 13:44). If you are going to help sufferers that are ready for major personal changes, you will have to declare to them, explain to them, show them, inspire them (and trust the Holy Spirit to confirm your words) of the great treasures and potentials hidden inside them. They need to hear powerful, true, Biblical, identity-empowering narratives about themselves (and about life in general) that break the spell of the codependent narratives the overlord keeps jackhammering or slow-dripping into their head. The overlord normalized crazy to them, so you will have to re-crazify crazy (call out, point out, and detail abuse structures) and normalize healthy (renew their minds with Biblical paradigms for living). You cannot control the sufferer's response (or the overlord's demons), but you can be a faithful witness and give them the best chance at genuine, permanent transformation.

You will be surprised, incredibly surprised, at how many sufferers say Yes to major transformations when you have the anointed fearlessness to demolish the crooked mirrors around them, set up by abusive petit-dictators as a high thing against the knowledge of God (2Co 10:4,5), when you care about the sheep enough to lay down your life for them, when you set them before the Mirror of God's Word (Jms 1:23-25) so they can see, perhaps for the very first time, what Jesus sees: a great, great treasure buried and suppressed in a dirty, weedy, thorny, vermin-infested field.


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