A Priest, A Lawyer and a Business Owner Walked Into a Bar

I’ve been doing this for a living for about five years. Before I did this, I was practicing law. When I practiced law, I was responsible for the representation of clients as an advocate. That advocacy sometimes meant investment that exceeded their legal questions. Life questions got them in legal problems so my advocacy sometimes meant life investments.

Before that, I was a business owner. There were things I did well as a business owner and there were things that I did not so well. My intentions were to serve my clients and my employees in a way that was honoring and gracious. For those that didn’t know Jesus, my hope was to put Him on display in the ways that I interacted with them.

Now I am a professional minister. I’ve had several roles, but my job is Christianity. This has afforded incredible opportunities to  grow, share and multiply in the life I have found in Christ. It has also afforded me a perspective of what is challenging in the professional endeavor of Christian leadership.

The truth is that I am no more or less of a Christian leader than I was when I owned a business or practiced law. I was a born again believer in Jesus Christ, committed as a disciple to carry the good news of the Kingdom of God then as I am now. The recognition, credibility or validation that comes with vocational positioning does not qualify me any more or less than He did in those previous roles.

The problem, to some extent, is that we struggle to accept that. We struggle to accept that lawyers and business owners are the same as pastors and ministers. The separations are subtle, at times, but insidious, just the same. The little hints of superiority or separation feed the lies of inferiority and disqualification. In every way that we elevate professional clergy, we disqualify the saints that are called to do the work of the ministry.

I’m just as righteous in Christ today as I was in the courtroom, and so are you. I’m also working out that salvation through my flawed and wounded soul as a professional minister as you likely are as someone who is engaged in the marketplace. We’re the same. Our flaws don’t disqualify us nor does our knowledge validate us. There is no more pressure on me to live a perfect application of religious expectations as there is possibility that you are able to pull it off outside of grace.

The Impact of Fathers

I used to volunteer in youth prisons and over time developed a routine which I tended to default to when I met a young man (ages 14-17) for the first time in the facility. I would introduce myself and ask the boy his name and where he was from. He was reluctant to interact at all and would usually be looking at the floor with no interest in opening up even a little bit about himself.

I would then ask him where his father is and that would get his attention; he would usually look at me with interest for the first time. His eyes would communicate, “How did you know?” I would often have to repeat the question as he was caught off guard, “where is your father?”

The stories were always terrible; they were dead, in prison, never been around, drunk, on drugs, etc. The only reasonable response at that point in our conversation was, “I’m sorry; I’m really sorry that you have had to deal with that.” I can’t fix it, I can only hope to meet the kid where he is and show some comfort that his story and hurt is legitimate.

That was often a start to talk more about the hurts in his life that he had been challenged with and the choices that flowed from those circumstances. Connecting the heart and the head to begin to understand that he wasn’t weird for being angry and that the anger came from the hurt. Understand the hurt, hopefully choose to forgive and maybe begin to walk out of the cycle.

When I would offer comfort, however, it wouldn’t initially be received. “It’s alright,” or “It doesn’t matter” was always the response. Always. They were in prison; it mattered.

The need for affirmation and acceptance with unconditional love is foundational; we all need it. The connection to our experience with our father produces a lens within us for how we see God, how we see ourselves and how we see the world. The best dad in the world, however, isn’t the target; the Father is.

Our dad relationship is either a bridge or a barrier to realizing the love of the Father. Ideally, we have a father relationship that fosters an easier realization of trust and acceptance than abusive, neglectful earthly experiences would. Either way, though, we seek to hear from the Father, “You’re a son . . . and I’m pleased with you.”

Acknowledging the condition of our hearts related to our experience with our biological father positions us to hear from the Father. When we have let go in the natural, we can receive in the supernatural. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can hear this testimony of the Holy Spirit. From that, we will call out, “Abba (Daddy), Father!”

 

 

Reading the Writing of Law and Grace

If you look close enough at any of us, there is evidence against us. We’ve all done stuff that’s contrary to the intention of our design. If we were under the pressure of the burden of keeping the law, we could all be dragged out into the public square for persecution.

That’s what happened when Jesus was presented with a lady who had been caught in the act of adultery. There was compelling, albeit awkward, evidence of her guilt. The people who accused her brought her to Jesus to give Him a chance to defend her. It was a losing case, for Him, they figured as the law was clear and the evidence was sufficient.

When I was practicing law, I defended people who had broken a law all of the time. People, mostly Christian people, asked me (still do, sometimes) how I could morally support the decision to be an advocate for the immoral. It’s easy. Jesus is our advocate and we did “it” in some form or fashion. The case is airtight against us, but He doesn’t turn from us.

In this case where the woman was caught in adultery, His method of defending her was peculiar. He stooped down and wrote in the dirt. Then, He stooped down and wrote in the dirt a second time. In the middle of His stooping and writing, He allowed for anyone that was without sin to begin the punishment of stoning by throwing the first rock. Nobody could, and the old men slipped away first because they had sinned the most.

Jesus wrote in the dirt as a primary tactic in His defense of the woman. While it seems strange, it was actually necessary in the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose. God had written in the earth with His finger previously and here He was doing it, again. The first time was when He wrote the Ten Commandments. He actually wrote them twice as Moses broke the first set. Now, here He is writing in the earth again. Twice, just like the first time.

The first time God wrote in the earth, He wrote the law. The second time, He wrote grace. Jesus came to satisfy the law for us since we can’t, just like the old men couldn’t. Our perspectives of God and people, starting with ourselves, are reflected what we are writing. We are either writing law or grace and we are only able to write what we receive, first. Realizing that we are not unlike the women allows us to receive grace and it allowed me to defend other people who did “it,” too, just like I have.

The Visible Comes From the Invisible; Do You See It?

There are all kinds of clues, but we have to pay attention. We can see beyond the veil, and the traces of evidence that get us there are in plain sight. Look around and you’ll see God.

While the Kingdom of God is invisible, faith is tangible. As such, the evidence of the Kingdom of God is going to show up in very tangible ways. If we aren’t looking for them, we’ll miss them even when they are right in front of our faces.

When asked of the greatest commandment, Jesus said it was to love God with everything that’s in you but He didn’t stop there. He went on to say that just as important was to love other people as you love yourself. It’s hard to know what’s in us; we can be deceived by our own intentions. It’s easier, however, to work from the outside – in to know things that are deeper.

Jesus said to love others. How are you with others? How are others with you? How are others with others? Not for the purpose of judgment, but for the purpose of identification. Do you see the Kingdom in the way that interactions with people unfold? If not, there is no need to panic; it’s simply an opportunity to invite the Kingdom. “On earth as it is in Heaven.”

The limitation we have regarding our capacity to love people is the degree to which we love ourselves. How well do you love yourself? What habits affirm or challenge your perception of your opinion of yourself? Do you take care of you? Are your words truth or slander? The easiest way to know is when something goes wrong.

The supernatural will reveal itself in natural ways. When we pay attention to the words, actions, options and choices going on all around us, we can ask for eyes to see beyond the obvious. What is God orchestrating and how can we agree with Him in what He may be inviting us into? If we’ll pay attention, we’ll see it and know.

The Christian life is not intended to be perfectly arranged and figured out, like career management. It’s a relationship with a King that is about the expansion of His Kingdom. We get to agree with Him as agents of that Kingdom if we’ll pay attention. His written Word is the framework for our perspective which adds depth of understanding to the things we are able to observe.

When we know the truth, the truth can set us free. Free to be included in the greatest mystery and adventure ever known to man. When we pay attention.

Easter Is Freedom and Life

It’s Easter weekend and churches everywhere are scurrying around to make things just right for the big crowds. Pastors prepare sermons meant to captivate the casual attendee with the hopes of an eternal impact. People show up this one weekend in an effort to check the box to be right with God somehow. The formula of Easter, however, can’t match or meet the fullness of Jesus.

Jesus started talking about Easter early on in His ministry and for the first time in John 3, when He said, “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

He referenced a story from Numbers 21 where Moses was instructed by God to build a model of a snake on a pole because people were dying from their rebellion. God gave them life if and when they were able to lift their eyes off of their circumstances and look at the snake on the pole. Jesus would bring eternal life in a similar way; He would hang on a pole (a Cross) and if people would look to Him, they would have eternal life.

The snake on the pole, is what Moses brings and that is the law. Jesus, however fulfills the law for us with grace and truth. (John 1:17)

Many of us continue to operate out of the law even if we say we believe in Jesus. We think if we do the right things, we’ll get the right results and find the right favor. Our good intentions leave us staring at a snake on a pole instead of receiving the resurrection of Jesus to fulfill the law within us.

Easter is about the risen Christ who went to the Cross to pay the price of our rebellion. If we’ll receive the sacrifice of His offering, we won’t have to perform compared to the rules anymore. We get to receive His abundant life within us to be put on display through us. It will cost us everything, but it’s better than staring at a snake on a stick.

Just When You Think You Have It Figured Out, It’s Time to Take Another Look

Traditions are a cheap substitute for the possibilities of Truth. When we add our preferences one on top of the other and then pass them along to others, we do so at the expense of divine connection. Thankfully, when we think we have it figured out, the puzzle will get scrambled.

We are in what’s called a “post denominational” expression of the Christian church. It means that people who go to church do so because they are interested in Jesus, not the practices of a particular institution. They seek the Kingdom of God, not the organization of man who is at least one step removed from that Kingdom. It aligns perfectly with the announcement of Jesus in Luke 4:43 when He said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

Foretelling of this time of the Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah wrote  “These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (v. 13-14)

When we think we have God figured out, we will try to master our perceived understanding by the creation of a rule, process, ceremony or program. That’s what religion does. We take what is living and active and attempt to harness it for the purpose of mastery, which simplifies the mysterious. We sacrifice the breath of God for a previous whisper which was turned into a doctrine of man.

The wisdom of the wise is only wise by comparison to the unwise. It’s foolishness to the infinity of God. The intelligence of the intelligent is only deemed so compared to others who make the same attempt at what is ultimately folly. Childlike faith overtakes cerebral mastery.

Look again at what Isaiah wrote. When we worship God based on our own creations of rules or traditions, He will astound us with His wonder. A fraction of understanding is overcome by a glimpse of His wonder. The glory of God is revealed in pursuit of the relationship. For the sake of His glory, put aside the things you think you know today and sit down beside Him. He’ll give you a fresh glimpse at the wonder of the One Who Is. Invite Him to astound you.