How We Change a Nation

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There is an opportunity we have day in and day out to make a difference in our specific environments. The difference comes in honor. Where we can honor despite our disagreements of belief or preference, we will find favor. Where we have favor, we have influence.

There is a maturity required for cultural impact that exceeds the conviction of belief. Belief for yourself to govern your choices is useful for your personal transformation. Broader impact to be instrumental in the transformation of neighborhoods, workplaces, communities and groups we are associated with requires greater humility to honor. Humility to honor despite disagreement with or rejection of the beliefs which have been instrumental in your personal transformation.

In the book of Daniel, we see Daniel consistently honor authority even where his personal convictions prevent adherence to an unrighteous rule. His stand is not carried out with arrogance or rebellion, but reliance on the truth and faithfulness of God. As a result, he faces severe trials but God rescues him and is glorified in the process. Daniel enjoys promotion and prosperity but God gets the glory (Chapter 6).

2 Peter 2 says that those that “despise authority” are “presumptuous, self-willed . . . not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries” even though angels of greater power do not bring accusation.

We live in a divided nation. There are things that happen on a national level which are easy to be concerned about and presumptively declare right or wrong. Yet, the call to the mature believer is to get small. Quit working from Yahoo news and allow the truth of the Gospel to first work within our own soul. Then, serve where we are called with humility and honor with an excellent spirit. We will find favor despite the trials and when our God is faithful, He will get the glory.

No matter which side you are on regarding the issues, a Facebook post or break room rant regarding the president of the country or president of the company won’t change a thing. The mature character of Christlikeness will, however. The humility of excellence in serving others no matter their agreement will provide an opportunity to put the faithfulness of God on display. That display will likely come through your influence which is meek and honoring. The net result will be transformation beyond what any one of us can accomplish in our own limited convictions or wisdom.

Zealously Resting

busstop_hccCriminal defense attorneys spend a career losing. Most criminal defense clients end up making a deal because most did it. They did something wrong and the prosecution can prove it, most of the time. Yet, the defense attorney is tasked with zealous advocacy to ensure that due process is adhered to. Without a zealous defense bar, there is no freedom for anyone as the presumption shifts from innocent to guilty.

A career in which the majority, by a large percentage, of your cases are going to produce what could only technically be called a “loss” could be frustrating without perspective. Despite the end result, the system, your client, the Constitution and your own integrity demand you go to the courthouse and ensure the best possible outcome. At the same time, you can’t own the results. Go to work, but don’t squeeze the need to control the outcome.

“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection,
blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.” (Psalm 31:19-20)

David writes of the exceeding goodness of God in this Psalm. He tells of God’s protection and blessing. God will provide and protect those that the watching world knows are His. He will prevail on their behalf as an effective advocate when they are reliant on Him as their protection.

We have stuff to do day in and day out and there will be conspiracies against us. The question will be whether or not we rest in God’s protection or attempt to protect ourselves. Will we be seen by the world as full of the peace of the Lord because He is our advocate or will we try to win every case ourselves? Will we try to squeeze the need to control the outcome or trust Him?

We are called to purpose which requires our effort in agreement with the One whose purpose it is. We are not, however, called to own the outcome. When the world sees us owning the outcome, they don’t see any God in our lives other than ourselves.

Just like a criminal defense attorney, we need to be zealous about the tasks of our day. We have a job to do but we don’t have a result to control. We work hard, be about the task and then trust the results to the promises.

 

 

Thanksgiving is the Beginning of Everything Else

img_1089Julie and I went away to rest. We have had one of the busiest years of our lives. It’s been a good year and we are enjoying God’s favor, and even in the realization of good things we are called to give of ourselves. It’s good to pour out and it’s necessary to fill back up again.

As we retreated, many things are on our radar for the coming year. Many things to think about, talk about and pray about. We’ve begun to look forward but something happened along the way. It wasn’t planned, but it is part of the plan.

As I began to pray the first morning away, all I could really think to pray was thanks for what God has already done. There were no prayers of “ask,” only prayers of “thanks.”

As I reflected on that, I concluded that thanksgiving is the foundation for everything we do in the Kingdom of God. We find contentment in thanksgiving. We find joy in thanksgiving. We find purpose in thanksgiving. We even find more in thanksgiving. In other words, where we can be thankful, we can recognize the Source and are able to be trusted with more.

The trick is not to jump too quickly or too frequently into asking for the more just because you’ve covered the thanks. The more comes as a result of the thanks. The thanks are a reflection of a heart positioned to receive. At least in that moment, it is a heart submitted to God.

We practically can’t worry in thanksgiving. We are celebrating the faithfulness of God so we don’t have to battle or question the faith we have in God. When appreciative for what is done, there are absolutes, when forecasting what He might (or might not) do, there is the anxiety of “what if?”

Truthfully, as a pastor, I sometimes struggle with holidays. The dictation of the calendar for direction of what God is saying feels confining. In other words, when forced to consider Thanksgiving because a sermon is needed, the breath of God seems to be secondary to the calendar of man. That’s not the case this week. This wasn’t preparation for sharing with others; it was revelation for enjoyment myself.

Not because this is Thanksgiving week, but because every day is a day for more, I am thankful. I am thankful for many things, perhaps most of all the faithfulness of God in revelations such as His goodness. From there, for the moment at least, the rest is relatively easy.

Grace on Display Puts Identity in Focus

romoThis post isn’t really about Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys so don’t let that prompt a premature judgment. I have to say that because I am acutely aware of both the pride that can be taken in following that franchise as well as the disdain others have for everything associated with it. This, however, isn’t really about that.

Tony Romo is a quarterback in the latter part of his career who has battled injuries for the past few years. He has, at times, had tremendous success and led the team exceptionally well. He has also occasionally been involved with failures or mistakes that have come at critical times late in the season.

He was injured early this preseason and unable to play. The team’s backup quarterback also got hurt and the net result was that a mid-round draft pick who was passed over by every other team became the starter. That unexpected starter is Dak Prescott. Dak has performed incredibly well, for a rookie or otherwise, and the team is winning.

He’s ready to come back but this kid and the team are on a roll. Do you give the job back to the loyal and talented veteran or stick with the hot hand? Tony ended the debate this week with an unprecedented press conference. He stood in front of microphones and shared that Dak has earned the right to keep the job. As he read his statement, you could feel his emotion. This wasn’t easy for a man who likely still believes he is the best quarterback on the team.

Tony’s grace, honor and security were what caught my attention. Cowboys fan or not, Tony Romo fan or not, take note of what honor looks like. Take note of what security in your identity sounds like. Take note of how grace interacts with others.

I don’t know Tony’s spiritual condition, although I hear through the grapevine that he has an active faith and attends an excellent church in the area. What I do know, however, is that he looked like a son of God this week. He looked like a man who knew who he was and, despite difficult human emotions, rested in the provision and promotion of a Father who has plans for his future. He looked like a man who knew what it was to rest in the Father’s promises and not scramble and strive to make a way for himself.

Sometimes we need to see what it looks like to be reminded of who we are. I was reminded of who I am this week by a man that I’ve never met. He showed me the strength of deference and the power of humility. It’s good to see and be reminded.

Generosity Puts Good News on Display Above the Bad News

U.S. Navy Culinary Specialist Seaman Gabriel Common places a piece of chocolate cake on the mess deck serving line before evening meal onboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) March 20, 2008. Lincoln and embarked Carrier Air Wing 2 are under way in the Pacific Ocean on a planned seven month deployment to the 5th Fleet Area of Operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Geoffrey Lewis) (Released)

My son and I stopped in a great BBQ place the other day that’s not too close to the house so we don’t get to go all that often. Their brisket is the best I’ve had, ribs were great and side dishes are all excellent in their own right. Then, the grand finale. Dessert.

For dessert, there was peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream on top. Now, to be truthful, the main course was better than the dessert but the dessert was free. They have a dessert area where you help yourself at no additional cost. Can you hear the angels singing?

It’s genius. People love free. People love the special feeling that comes with getting something you don’t have to pay for. I have no idea if I like the owner’s personalities or not (since I don’t know them personally) or agree with their beliefs or voted like they did. I do know, however, that I like free dessert.

As Jesus followers walk into this new normal where, like it or not, we have been aligned with possibly the most controversial president-elect in the history of the United States. After all, the statistics say that something like 82% of evangelicals who voted supported this president-elect. At best, this nation is split right down the middle. At worst, Clinton won the popular vote.

The net result of 82% alignment and a split if not a minority, is that culture is against evangelicals. That is, they don’t want to hear any “good news” from the group that they blame for what they believe is bad news.

In the coming days, if you are a Jesus follower, what are you going to do to close the gap? After all, you are the evangelist if you are an evangelical, as I wrote here last week. How are you going to evangelize a culture that associates you with racism, hate, divisiveness, and other descriptors that attempt to tag the current environment?

There are many ways to start to bridge the gap and build relationship and I’ll suggest a first. Give everything away. Be generous. People love free dessert.

I’m not suggesting any form of manipulation; I am suggesting extreme generosity. When you see a need, meet it. When you see an opportunity, take it. Resist any bias that supports any form of “us” vs. “them” and look for ways to be a blessing. Give away compliments, tip wait staff extravagantly, find needs in the community and meet them and rally other believers to corporately meet needs that exceed your individual capacity.

Our friend, Amy Ford, calls this kind of extravagant giving “love bombs.” Kill them with extravagant kindness, love and generosity. Let the Good News declare itself beyond the distractions of the evening news.

Donald Trump Is Not An Evangelical Leader

donald-trump-1547274_1920_0Donald Trump is not an evangelical leader. The reason this statement is necessary is because so-called “evangelicals” have portrayed him as one. He isn’t and neither is Hillary or W. or any other politician. The reason this is important is because the misperception is negatively impacting evangelism.

Evangelism is, by google’s definition, “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or by personal witness.” The “Christian gospel” is the good news of Jesus Christ. That good news is that He died to restore us to relationship with a Father that loves us and created us for the satisfaction that comes with fellowship with Him. That’s not what any politician is doing, nor is it what they should be doing.

Christians all over the United States have aligned with a political party and/or a particular candidate with various statements of how this is what God wants. If God would have intended for the good news of Jesus Christ to be spread by legislation produced from the political process, Jesus would have been a politician. The plan wasn’t, and isn’t, to restore others to relationship with a Father that loves them by way of a governmental system.

When we align with politicians so zealously, we subvert the purposes of the intended evangelists. The plan for evangelism is, and always has been, intended to be carried out by those that have been restored to the love of the Father by the grace of Jesus. If that’s you; you are the evangelist. You know the good news; tell somebody.

When we are using our relational collateral to tell others about the political parties, positions or candidates we think best represent our views, we sacrifice the actual views. The good news gets lost in the debate of things that are not eternal and issues that are not primary. The grace of Jesus and love of the Father gives way to arrogance of political competition.

If we’ll remember whose job representation of Jesus is, it will drive our public discussion towards Him, and not things we think He wants people to do. Our recognition of eternal purpose will re-align our passion from political victory to Kingdom expansion. It will reach out to hearts that are hurting and alienated and in desperate need of good news. If we’ll remember the people who Jesus died for, we’ll be more likely to quit alienating them for purposes we want to make our lives about.