Friday, November 26, 2010

Antithesis in Leadership

Mankind has not changed since Adam and Ever were cast from the Garden. The things which surround mankind - technology, commerce, culture - have changed, but the heart of man remains as it has always been, prone to sin and wickedness and in need of a Savior.

That being the case, we see in Isaiah 32 that the antithesis residing in man's heart can be seen in the office of leadership. As Isaiah lays out warning and promise to an errant Israel, he also lays out for us what leadership is and what it is not.

In Chapter 32, verses 1 - 3, Isaiah gives us an example of virtuous leadership and how it behaves.

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule in justice.
"Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

First and foremost virtuous leadership governs with righteousness and justice, but - especially in our own age of relativity - we must take care to define what that means, and we can derive that definition from Chapter 32 by seeing what righteousness and justice do.

"Each will be like a hiding place from the wind ... a shelter from the storm ..." A virtuous leader protects and defends those he leads. In our day, in our nation, we can see how that is outlined by the U.S. Constitution; our leaders are to defend our nation from enemies within and from enemies without, as well as from oppressive tyrannical government. In our churches, virtuous leadership is to protect the flock from false teachings and idolatry. Righteous and just leadership is ever watchful, ever alert, and ever active in the duties of defense and protection.

A virtuous leader also sees that the weak, the helpless, the truly needy are provided for and cared for. He is "like a stream of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land." Later in Chapter 32 Isaiah describes it as being "a stronghold to the the needy in his distress." (25:4) This kind of leadership is compassionate, a servant to those he leads. He feeds his flock rather than feeding off of them. By protection and provision, a virtuous leader will guide those he governs to walk in truth and wisdom which leads to righteousness and peace. (v.4,7)

Conversely, we can also see in this passage of Isaiah what leadership should not be or do. He should not substitute deception for truth (v.5) calling "evil good and good evil...darkness for light, light for darkness...bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Is. 5:20) In fact, unrighteous leadership will actively pursue injustice by seeking new ways to pervert truth and intentionally teach falsehood (Is. 32:6). And because this kind of leadership denies truth, it cannot possibly protect and defend as it should. Instead, it deprives the hungry and thirsty (v.6), devises ways to ruin the poor and needy through deception, denies justice to those he governs (v.7), using his position of power to oppress (Micah 2: 1-2) He does not serve, but instead demands to be served. This is not true leadership at all - it is tyranny.

Today, as in Isaiah's day, there is a continual tension and struggle as to what type of leadership will prevail. As Christians we often feel that the unjust and unrighteous usually win the day, but God's Word encourages us to standfast on what is good, true, and beautiful and to continue doing good works. "...he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands." (Is. 32:8) And while standing nobly may often seem like a lost cause, it is good to remember what God Himself has to say about unrighteous leadership:

"The LORD will enter into judgement with the elders and princes of his people:
"It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?"
declares the Lord GOD of hosts." (Is. 3:14-15)

It's not difficult to see, therefore, that there is a clear antithesis of leadership before us today as there was in Isaiah's day. The question for us is to which kind of leadership shall we consent, and what kind of leadership shall we be?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving of a Different Sort

It has been 32 years since there were no children at our Thanksgiving table. This startling thought occurred to us a few short weeks ago (funny how things sneak up on you that way) and we began to ponder how to celebrate a Thanksgiving that was bound to be different no matter what we did. We don't live near any family, so that wasn't an option; but we do have numerous friends that we could gather with if we wanted to, but it began to dawn on us that it just might be pleasant to celebrate on our own - just the two of us. And a couple of dozen animals. Now this idea didn't derive from "Woe are we - our children are flown", but a recognition that we are truly grateful for what God has done in our own lives in these past two years. We have seen that true abundance is found in Christ, just as His Word promises.
So, we are doing farm chores, preparing a feast, preparing a Christmas box for our children in Germany, eating delights, relaxing, doing more chores, eating again, and relaxing again. We are thankful, for those things and for much, much more ....
Horses munching evening hay.
The soft clucking of chickens.
The comic lives of the Guinea Fowl.
Beautiful autumn colors.
Flower beds prepared for winter.
The strong south wind promising coming cold.A cup of fresh ground coffee and pecan pie (made by John!)
The fresh free-range turkey in the oven.
The first of the Christmas baking already in the kitchen.
The dogs out in the yard gnawing on their own treats.
For dear family.
For friends old and new.
For our grand-blessings who never fail to delight us.
For the newest grand-blessing who is soon to arrive.
For our grand-blessing who awaits us in heaven, along with our own grandparents.

For the Word of God who daily feeds us.
For the loving-kindness of our Father Who redeems all things.
For the work on the cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
For the Holy Spirit, who daily guides and leads us.

Lord, for all these things and more may we ever be thankful to Thee.