Author Archives: Steve Godfrey

About Steve Godfrey

Husband of one, Father of three, and seeker of classical Christian orthodoxy. Leadership Coach, Writer, Musician.

For there the Lord commanded the blessing

Psalm 133
For Sunday, April 11, 2021
Second Sunday of Easter, Year B

Mount Hermon in Northern Israel (https://www.elal.com/magazine/en/portfolio-items/travel/ideas-info/mount-hermon/)

Have you ever had your emotional fur rubbed the wrong way? How do we get from there back to a place of relational shalom? Psalm 133 gives us a picture of the glory and joy of the destination so we can push thru what is encumbering us.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Can you think of a time in your life when you enjoyed complete unity with someone else – perhaps a parent, a spouse, or a good friend. Memories that come to mind for me are a conversation about coming to Christ in junior high school with a good friend on the side of my parents’ house; locking in as a jazz drummer with one of my favorite bass players; and having a good laugh with my wife Heather over a shared experience we had just this morning.

David says that such unity is like precious oil running down Aaron’s beard. This is not a simile that most of us will relate to readily. When I first read it I wanted to reach for the emergency spot remover in my satchel! Who wants oil on their beard much less on their clothes?! Yet think in terms of overwhelming abundance and the picture will come into focus. Often when I’m writing and studying I’ll light a candle and burn frankincense. The light of the candle and the aroma of frankincense bring my too easily troubled mind and heart back into a place of peace and strength, or shalom. The unity God wants for us with him and with others is this shalom.

Then follows another difficult to access simile. “It is like the dew of Hermon, which flows down upon the hills of Zion.” The key to unlocking this one is to understand that Mount Hermon was the chief mountain of the northern kingdom of Israel while Mount Zion was its counterpart in the south. When David wrote this he was mourning over the split between the northern and southern kingdoms of the formerly unified Israel. He was mourning over the splits within his own family. I’m sure many of us can identify at this point. Mount Hermon was renown for the heavy dew that graced its slopes every morning because of the moist climate. Mount Hood in Oregon might be a good equivalent. Mount Zion on the other hand was very dry in the summer. David is saying when there is unity that the blessings of abundance flow to the places of lack so that everyone wins. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

For there the Lord commanded the blessing.” Unity is what our Heavenly Father enjoys in constancy. He enjoys it within the three persons of the Trinity, he enjoys it with his bride, the church, and he enjoys it with everyone who responds to the forgiving and healing voice of the Holy Spirit. Hear his voice today. Respond to our Father’s committed grace. Receive Jesus’ forgiveness and healing. This is where the Lord commanded the blessing.

NOW I get it

Acts 10:34-43
For Sunday, April 4, 2021
Resurrection of the Lord, Year B

The Apostle Peter was a passionate man. This sometimes got him in trouble, like when, in front of a charcoal fire, he denied Christ three times in a moment of abandonment and anger. Yet even though failing at that crucial moment, Jesus did not reject Peter, but rather, appearing to him personally after having been raised from the dead, restored Peter to leadership. Where? Again, in front of a charcoal fire (see the Gospel of John’s account). Can you imagine the gratitude and commitment this evoked in Peter’s heart?

Peter opens here by saying, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.” This has a double meaning. On one level, Peter is thinking about Jews and Gentiles. He’s saying, “Now I get it. God wasn’t out just to save Israel. He was out to save every nation on earth!” That was a stupendous discovery! Yet on a deeper level isn’t it likely Peter was also thinking about himself? God doesn’t show partiality even to leaders that fail at crucial moments!

We live in a culture that wants to be lord of it’s own reality, but there is only one Lord “ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.” This is the best news any nation or person could ever receive. Forgiveness of sins is available. Healing from the devil’s oppression is available. Jesus Christ, Messiah, is the one about whom “all the prophets testify”. Because of what he accomplished on the cross, WE are acceptable to him, full stop.

NOW I get it!

Quiet Committed Resolve

Albrecht Altdorfer, “Crucifixion with Mary and John”, 1515-16, Staatliche Gemäldegalerie zu Kassel, Kassel, Germany.

Isaiah 50:4-9a
For Sunday, March 28, 2021
Liturgy of the Passion, Year B

How do we win our biggest spiritual battles? This passage in Isaiah points to the way.

“The Lord has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word” (v. 4). This hits me very personally: I’m called to be a teacher and sustain others with God’s Word. Of course, in the passage, it applies first and foremost to Messiah, but by extension, it applies also to all who follow him, and particularly to those with a calling to write and teach. At the present moment, many of us are weary; weary of the state of our countries; weary of the state of our families; weary of the state of our souls.

Jesus won the biggest spiritual battle ever fought. How? Through overwhelming force of personality? Through superior organization? Through military firepower? Through cleverness? No. He won the biggest spiritual battle ever fought through quiet committed resolve.

“The Lord has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.” We need to open our ears to what the Spirit is saying, not rebel when things start to become uncomfortable, and commit to pressing into the battle when others would shirk away.

“I gave my back … my cheeks … my (face)” (v. 6). Actions speak louder than words. Actions of humility, and the inner confidence and faith required to exercise it, speak loudest of all.

“The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (v. 7). Let’s recognize we are not in this battle alone. May our visages reflect the resolve of inevitable victory. Because Christ triumphed on the cross, we will never be put to shame for following him, no matter the light and momentary afflictions that may attend.

“It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” At the moment of his crucifixion, Jesus had but a few wavering disciples still on his side. Everyone else was declaring him guilty! Yet he was immediately and ultimately found innocent in the one court that mattered: the court of the Heavenly Father. In that same Holy of Holies is our personal victory assured.

Live this week with quiet committed resolve!

A Mystery Man Who Matters

Heb. 5:5-10
For Sunday, March 21, 2021

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B

I haven’t posted in a long time but am resuming again! If you are a returning reader to this blog would love to hear from you! If you are a new reader, would love to hear from you too!

Abraham gives a tenth of everything to Melchizedek

What do you know about the Mystery Man named Melchizedek?

If you are like me, your mind might immediately go to, “Oh man, that is some arcane Bible knowledge that I really don’t have time for!” Yet for the author of Hebrews (whom I personally think was Apollos) Melchizedek was a very important topic. Why? Because Melchizedek is crucial to the unfolding of the gospel story. Melchizedek is the Mystery Man who matters.

First, Melchizedek is the key to unlocking the mystery of how Jesus could be a high priest. Without Melchizedek, Jesus would have had to be a Levite in Aaron’s line even to be a priest, much less a high priest. But Jesus wasn’t a member of the tribe of Levi. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. So the only way for him to also be a high priest is if there was another priestly line outside of the Levitical priesthood. Aha: enter our mystery man Melchizedek.

Gen. 14 introduces Melchizedek as king of Salem and a priest of El Elyon who blesses Abram. Abram reciprocates by giving to Melchizedek a 10th of everything he owned! (Gen. 14:20). Melchizedek then gets mentioned again in Psalm 110 in a reference as cryptic as a Q drop. Some person would be declared a “priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4).

Second, the re-emergence of Melchizedek meant the end of the Levitical priesthood. Our author will have much more to say about this later in Hebrews (see chapters 7&8). But for now, think about the significance of this: the Levitical priesthood is over.

Third, Melchizedek opens the door to our eternal salvation. What we needed was someone who experienced all the travails that we do, yet overcame them. That is Jesus. Yet he had to become our priest in order to represent us, and that never would have happened without Melchizedek.

Hebrews can be one of the hardest books to understand in the entire Bible, yet it can also be one of the most rewarding, because it explains how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, and how the New Testament is a fulfillment of all to which the Old Testament pointed. Some will suggest that with the coming of the New Testament, the Old Testament became obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s promise to Abraham was made for eternity. The New Testament unlocks for us how God has moved to fulfill and secure it. We need both Testaments because we can’t appreciate either without the other!

There is a spiritual principle in all of this too. God has a way of coming to our rescue in unexpected ways but in ways that he has hinted at all along, and only make sense in retrospect. If you are facing a challenge today, you can know that God has already put in place the seeds of your deliverance!

For a great commentary on Hebrews, check out David Gooding, The Unshakeable Kingdom.

Who defines reality?

1 Cor. 6:12-20
For Sunday, January 14, 2018
Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B

We live in a culture that wants to elevate self as having the right to define it’s own reality.  The problem is that reality has already been taken by someone else.

gauguin_christ-jaune

Paul Gauguin, “The Yellow Christ” (Christ Jaune), 1889, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

One of the Lectionary readings this week is 1 Cor. 6 in which The Apostle Paul is challenging the Corinthian’s thinking on sexual identity.  How striking the parallels between the Corinthian’s thinking then and conventional cultural wisdom today.  We desperately want to define our own realities.

In Planned Parenthood versus Casey (1992) Justice Anthony Kennedy famously said,

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Contrast this with what The Apostle Paul says about our human identity here in 1 Cor. 6:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? … For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

The reality is that we did not create ourselves nor do we have the right to create our own existence.  We can pursue this illusion in a desperate quest for freedom and autonomy yet true freedom will be found only when we embrace who we actually are: creations of God intended to be a temple for his Holy Spirit.

What does it mean for your reality this week that you have been bought with a price?  How would you most like to glorify God this week?

A Thanksgiving Day Blessing

We live in a nation of discord.  So it was when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863.  The encouragement he found then is the same encouragement available to us today.

Brownscombe_First Thanksgiving

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

One of the things I love to do when we sit down as a family for Thanksgiving dinner is to read Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.  We live in a culture so distracted by our digital devices that we can no longer remember from where we came or why.  Taking a moment to reconnect with history can do much to clear the fog and help us remember what really matters and why.

Abraham Lincoln made his Proclamation on October 3, 1863.  Just as we are presently experiencing the present strife of Weinstein and Moore so was he experiencing strife, and actually of a far greater magnitude: the country was at war with itself.

The first thing Lincoln does is observe that even amidst the strife any sensible heart will see that we remain under “the watchful providence of Almighty God”:

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Another thing Lincoln does is call for penitence and mercy.  These are concepts we’ve almost forgotten but how we need them today as he did then:

And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, for such singular deliverances and blessings; they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

Our greatest challenges personally and nationally are neither political, nor even cultural, but spiritual.  May all who are Christians join me today in humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.  May all who are fellow citizens, Christian or otherwise, join me in reaching out in tender care to those among us who are widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers.

How would you like to stand for our country in penitence?  To whom has God put on your heart today to extend mercy?  Please share your comments below.

I dedicate this post to my good friend and newly bereaved widow Lida Pederson, whose dear husband Doug went home to be with the Lord this week after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Happy Thanksgiving.
November 22, 2017.

The story of Thanksgiving

One of the things I love about the holidays is encouraging the family to reflect on where each holiday came from historically so that we can let it shape our mutual story going forward.  Here is David Barton of Wallbuilders sharing the story of Thanksgiving in America.

cropped-proclamation

What is most significant about Thanksgiving for you personally?  What do you think the significance of this annual observance is for our families and country today?

Emotion: Power For Change

Things not working out the way you hoped?  God has given us a nuclear reactor to power change: emotion.

Aivazovsky Wave

Ivan Aivazovsky, Wave (Волна), 1889, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

I took a course this week called “Managing Corporate Change“.  One of the first questions was, “How much of any change do you think is emotional?”  Consensus: 80%.  The follow-on question: “How much time do we as individuals or organizations focus on emotions when navigating change?”  Answer: 0%.  Zoiks!

A large corporation I used to work for wanted to change it’s culture.  Conventional business wisdom is, “Now let’s not get emotional about this.  Let’s focus on behavior.”  Here’s the problem: if we don’t start with the 80% of any change, emotions, how will the other 20% possibly work out well?  It probably won’t.

But isn’t this a minefield to be avoided?  I feel all kinds of things about everything that happens to me.  If I go there I’ll just wander around getting blown up left and right.”  Incorrrrrect.  Emotions are not a product of the Fall.  God himself has them.  What did he say after every step of speaking the world into being?  “Ah… it is good!”  Emotions are meant to create positive energy to move forward.  Joy, for example, is an emotion that says, “Keep going in this direction”.  Anger is an emotion that says, “Something needs to change here!”  Our emotions are not a minefield to be avoided but rather a nuclear reactor to be harnessed.

“But, my God, when I start to feel stuff, my heart jumps all over the place.  I can’t even make sense of it!”  No worries.  This jumping around is how emotions are supposed to work.  What you are experiencing is the fusion reaction intended to result in a powerful beam of energy for change.  This is precisely how the Psalms of lament work.  The Psalmist feels the pain, acknowledges it, and is then freed up to embrace the hope that is unfailingly present, because of the unfailing God who embodies it.   “A plan in the heart of a man is deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out” (Prov. 20:5).

I can’t recommend this course highly enough.  I believe it will lead to a 20X increase in my own ability to deliver value.  Please consider it for yourself and your organizations.

What change are you facing that is presently causing you pain?  Have you asked yourself how you feel about it?  Let the reactor light it up.  What possibilities do you then sense bursting forth?

Embrace Your Story

Every one of us is a human story in the making.  There are three simple questions we can ask ourselves to embrace our stories and propel ourselves forward.

Kandinsky_Yellow Red Blue

Wassily Kandinsky, “Yellow Red Blue”, 1925, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France.

Over the summer I visited one of my mentors in Chicago, Jerome Iverson.  Jerome is a Christian and a gifted psychologist.  If the wheels have fallen off your wagon he is the guy who can put them back on for you.  He did for me.

During our summer visit Jerome reflected, “Everyone has a story that consists of the answers to three simple questions: Who am I?  Where am I going?  How will I get there?”  He’s absolutely right!

I am an adventurer, scholar, and entrepreneur.  I am called to advocate for the gospel in all of life (hence the subtitle of this blog).  I am getting there by investing in a flourishing marriage; investing in flourishing relationships with my three dear sons Nate, Karcher, and Noah; and by serving as Executive Director for Pinnacle Forum Chicago and Wisconsin.

These questions apply to organizations equally well.  My friend Greg Marshall was just honored as NeWaukeean of the Week.  NeWaukee is a movement of emerging leaders working to make Milwaukee New.  Love this!  Greg works with companies to help them answer The Three Questions.  Here is how he describes it:

I help companies find consensus on their story and then I help them produce experiences with that story so that customers and employees can feel and act on it. Aligning the imaginations of leaders and then activating that shared story with them is a lot of fun.

Yes!  We need to engage our own imaginations to embrace our own emerging selves!  We will then be activated to become the selves we were always meant to be.  There is a good book I read that puts it this way: “The plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out” (Prov. 20:5).

What is your story?  Please share briefly about it here even if it comes with questions.  We’ll embrace it together and you will be on your way to becoming all that God is calling you to be!

 

Stewarding Our Cultural Influence

Many of us think deep down that we’ve lost the culture and there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every Tower of Babel stood against the truth will fall.  What is required is for us to steward our cultural influence together.

Peter Bruegel the Elder, “The (Great) Tower of Babel”, c. 1563, oil on panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

I serve as Executive Director for Pinnacle Forum Chicago and Wisconsin.  Our tagline is “transforming leaders to transform culture”.  One question I’m often asked is, “So what does success actually look like?”  Perhaps like this:

  • a national network of leaders each of whom is clear on their personal calling
  • nurturing relational connections within this network
  • a collective commitment to steward personal and institutional influence together

A National Network of the Called

The first criteria for success is a national network of the called in which each leader is clear on personal calling.  Within our national network leaders connect in peer Forums of 6-12 leaders that meet regularly for encouragement, equipping, engagement, and execution on their respective callings.

With respect to calling, let’s define it here as the set of commitments that uniquely reflects an individual’s personality, spiritual gifting, and life history.  As Os Guinness points out, we each have a primary calling to follow Christ.  We then have a set of secondary callings in which we live this out in the realms of family, work, and community.  For me, engaging culture for Christ is a compelling interest.  I pursue this thru reading and writing (as here), thru my family, and thru my work with Pinnacle Forum in Chicago and Wisconsin.

One resource to help us get clear on our callings is The 210 Project.  The Project is named after Ephesians 2:10 which says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

What other resources would you recommend?

Nurturing Connections

The second criteria for success is that leaders with similar interests can find and help one another.  Within Pinnacle Forum nationally, we offer leaders the opportunity to connect in the following ways among others:

In what ways do you most like connecting with other leaders?

A Collective Commitment

The third criteria for success is a collective commitment to steward cultural influence together.  We are all called as Christians to this: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

We replace passive conformity with active renewal.  We turn off the TV, take care of our bodies, read, plan, and move strategically in everything we do whether in the spheres of our family, friends, co-workers, or community.

This kind of living gets noticed more readily than we realize.  I sat down this morning for a Pinnacle Forum we hold at the Hudson Business Lounge here in Milwaukee.  My friend Jenny brought my coffee over and said, “Is your group meeting this morning?  Good!  There will be some positive energy in here.”  This is a pointer toward “what is good and acceptable and perfect” and these pointers keep me coming back for more.

So What?

Just as the Clapham Sect transformed the culture of 19th Century England so is there a similar opportunity for us today.  Are you with us?  I plead with you as a fellow leader to do something, whether thru your local church, thru Pinnacle Forum, or thru that collective effort to which God is calling you.

What has God put on your heart to pursue for his glory?