We All Want to Preach

We all want to preach because it’s easier than the real deal. We want to have it figured out and tell others the answers. We want to master the incomprehensible so that we can control the limited reflection of eternity we have wrestled into our inadequate perspective. Then we can’t fail because we figured out the rules, keep them and tell others what they are and how to follow them.

The difference between preachy church goers and social media proclaiming of various political and social perspectives is the misuse of authority. That is, those that want to preach what they claim and hope to be eternal truth use the Bible to justify their vague understanding. Present company included.

At the same time, as an audience we want someone to have it figured out. If we can read a book, hear a sermon, attend a seminar or digest some other form of secondary understanding, we won’t have to allow the Source to examine us to produce intimate understanding. That is, if we can “be fed” by someone, we can avoid the hunt.

The net result is a Christian culture of pontificating which entertains heresy in order to foster freshness. A specific and untapped niche for the advancement of a platform is valued above the transformation available to us personally or others uniquely. Finding the place from which we can be heard to “help people” understand and do what is good and right is the controllable and satisfying place of ministry malpractice.

If we gain some understanding of the Word, it is not God’s way of giving us a ministry; it is His grace offering to transform us personally. He will do the same for others, but they will have to go to the same Source for the same introspective examination of their soul. The Word is an invitation into knowing God, not fodder for a sermon.

When we truly know Him in the glimpses we can handle of Him, we are undone. The paradox of His might and His mercy becomes an endearing and transformative catalyst for our growth. The deepest understanding of HIs Word often leaves us speechless and sometimes in tears; completely undone as we realize our own humanity compared to His magnificent Divinity.

Ministry, then, is to afford others the same. It is an invitation into the search which produces intimacy with Him and not impressions of us. Our messages, preaching, blogs, programs should simply hope to tell only of our lack to afford His glory to be evident. It’s His glory that carries the message that people need to hear.

Don’t Take the Bait

I fell into a trap lately and, before you know it, I was stuck. The consequences weren’t catastrophic other than the fact that the net result robbed my potential joy and diverted my attention from God’s glory. Not good.

We had a chance to minister overseas in a culture which is vastly different from what we know as normal. The language differences as well as event logistics resulted in a dynamic outside of the norm from which we typically operate. The time we had to engage was limited and we left soon after we were done. Frankly, it was a little difficult to tell how effective the time was. We had flown 1/2 way across the world and it was just difficult to tell whether it impactful. With the commitment of time and resources we had made, the question of impact was relevant.

Not being able to tell, I came home partially satisfied. I knew that some good things had happened as there was some feedback. I was less than 100% secure in the value of the trip as I processed the experience.

Then another member of the team who flew out separately got back and he had numerous video testimonies that he had taken following our time with these people. He also had a chance to spend time with local leadership after our departure and their appreciation for what was happening was evident. The long and short of it was the feedback that I was missing, he had captured. From those testimonies, It was undeniable that the trip created a huge ripple effect and God had clearly moved in people’s lives in powerful ways.

The trap I had stepped into was the need to satisfy my soul. My mind, will and emotions wanted validation that the sacrifice was worth it. I wanted the security blanket of getting to see results from the process we had engaged in. I wanted the visible to affirm the invisible. My faith in God’s faithfulness was weak compared to my need to be assured that He did what He does.

Ministry is not, cannot be and should never be about me (or any of us). If you go, it’s because He called and if you serve, it’s unto His pleasure and His glory. The results, then, are His to work out. Obedience is the call of HIs Spirit to our spirit and the wants and desires of our soul are irrelevant comparatively.

We don’t save people, heal people or set people free; He does. If it happens, He did it. If it doesn’t, that’s His deal with them. We don’t get credit or blame; we just get called and have to decide if we are in or not; no matter the outcomes.

Value Within the Unfamiliar

Last week, I was in an airport across the world waiting to come home. We had a 14 hour layover and were just spending time in the coffee shop when I wandered out front to stretch my legs. My phone was charging at our table just inside the outer window as I strolled out to take in the scenes and smells.

I turned to walk back in but there was an armed soldier preventing my re-entry. He pointed upstairs and informed me that I could only re-enter through the doors on the second floor. My attempts at an explanation or appeals to step right back into my table got me nowhere.

Upstairs, they informed me that I needed my outbound ticket to be granted access. I realized that the only ticket I had was on my phone, which was inside. I tried to explain and got nowhere. Fortunately, I was able to go back downstairs and get the attention of my friends through the glass to bring my phone out but for a minute I was stranded in a foreign land with no way to get to what or where I needed to go home.

This was the return trip from a week in a culture where language, food, smells, traffic and customs among other things were outside of my comfort zone. Connection and understanding is possible but requires greater intentionality than the familiarity of home. Insecurities related to your purpose, abilities, reason or choices can emerge in the discomfort of the unfamiliar.

Going places on a calling related to the Kingdom brings hope that you are bringing some value. Beyond that, however, the value is within. The revelation of insecurities when security based in preference is gone offers the opportunity for redemption. It requires dependence on God’s grace and your identity in Him beyond the controllable aspects of life and ministry.

Every time we agree to step into unfamiliar circumstances the likelihood of exposure within us multiplies. For as long as we are comfortable and controllable, there is a security in our maintenance. Outside of routine boundaries such as common language and agreement based in our upbringing, there are questions that can bring value in their answers.

Reliance is so much more real when there is no other plan. True reliance builds true understanding of true identity in true faith. The product is greater security in Him; not the substituted security controlled by me or my ability to move in familiar expectations.

 

The Grace of Submission

Something being good for us doesn’t automatically equate to our embracing or practice of it as a habit or belief. One of the most neglected dynamics afforded us for our benefit is the posture of submission. While many of us are entirely comfortable with the thought of submitting our lives to God, many of us are “out” when asked to submit to people. Here is the problem; God often works through delegated authority and that delegated authority is man (or woman).

Authority is intended to be sacrificial. That means that those in authority should primarily filter their choices through the evaluation of whether or not they are for the benefit of others. Their responsibility is to make a way for others so that they (the others) are benefitted from their place of submission.

Submission, then, seeks a benefit. While we all too often view submission as a place that is inferior with the authority lording over it, that perspective is not the intended correlation of authority and submission. It is intended by design to be in the wake of the path that has been made. The benefit from that place is that the submitted party doesn’t have to clear the path and isn’t the first one to take the hits when trouble comes. The authority, from out front, clears the way and takes the hits for the benefit of those that are submitted.

Submission requires a lens of grace. First, for how we see ourselves and then for how we see others (in this case others that might be in positions of authority). Here is what I know; there is no perfect person other than Jesus so whoever is “in charge” has flaws. That doesn’t invalidate their potential benefit to those that submit.

Without grace, the potentially submitted will be too insecure to trust those that might otherwise choose to sacrifice for their benefit from a place of authority. They (the potentially submitted) will be afraid of the potential negative outcomes or exposure of their own flaws and will control or manipulate imaginations and fears to leave only a shadow of submission in the reality of rebellion.

In the absence of grace to affirm the potentially submitted party’s identity beyond their own flaws, they won’t be willing to look past the flaws of even well intended sacrificial authority. Their fears and imaginations will direct their judgement at every turn and the fits and spurts of peace they know in the wake of benefit will be hijacked.

Jesus sacrificed for our benefit. Belief in His authority, sacrifice and benefit results in lives that are turned over to Him. Submission to Him goes beyond our knowledge of Him and demands that our choices reflect a will willing to release control to Him. An inability to submit to His legitimate delegated authority in all of its flaws likely indicates a lack of true submission to and trust in Him in the first place.

 

Minding the Gap

I sincerely enjoy what I get to do and am appreciative for the opportunities that I have to do it. The journey has been an amazing, scary, frustrating and fulfilling walk of faith. I am more amazed than ever at the faithfulness of God through the personal experiences He has afforded.

For some of us, there was a time in our lives when everything changed. From that point on, nothing was the same as we were changed from the inside-out. The transformation was initiated by grace as we realized the need to give our lives to Jesus in order to receive the life He bought for us with His own.

The realization of Jesus and surrender to Him and the resulting new birth are vertical experiences. That is, they connect us with the higher perspective. According to Scripture, we become seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), which is a vertical ascent.

The challenge in walking out the new birth is in the confusion, temptation and illusion that horizontal experiences present. That is, as we live in this world the things of this world capture our attention to distract us from the vertical ascent we once and sometimes realized in Christ Jesus. We live horizontally even if positioned and invited vertically.

I’ve found in ministry that some are very tuned into the vertical but have little to know connection to the reality of the horizontal. That is, they hear from God, have strong faith and appear to be completely aligned with heavenly perspective. Others are completely distracted or consumed with the challenge and opportunity of the horizontal and the vertical isn’t considered when working out earthly circumstances.

Both the vertically minded and the horizontally focused have their strengths and weaknesses. They each can come to be remarkable in their abilities as aligned with their focus. Without the appropriation of the benefits and challenges of each of the two perspectives, the opportunity to agree with God on earth as it is in heaven is missed.

The opportunity of the Kingdom of God is to mind the gap. It’s to stand in the intersection and connect eternal truth with temporary circumstances. It’s to recognize the invisible beyond the visible and bring eternal wisdom to temporal situations. Christ followers are not called to an illusion; they are invited to agree with Him in the advancement of His Truth into temporary facts. Never acknowledging the challenge of those facts is just weird. Never connecting Him to those facts is just disconnected.

Stand in the intersection and pray, minister, listen and assist real people with real stuff. Pay attention to the challenge and pray for the solution. Don’t be so good at the vertical that you miss the horizontal and don’t be so focused on the horizontal that you disregard the vertical.

I’ve Been Angry (and I’m Probably Not the Only One)

I realized recently that I have been angry for quite some time. Not typically explosive, but at least simmering. A constant management of emotion that was dissatisfied, disgusted, disillusioned or other descriptors for pissed off. The realization was a gift as I am now able to own it so that I can exchange it.

My dad died about 14 months ago and there has been ongoing hurt. Hurt defiantly fuels anger. Missing my dad and hurting over his death has been a contributing factor to my slow boil.

There are other hurts and disappointments on a day-to-day basis. Julie and I love each other but we aren’t perfect. Marriage can bring various ups and downs. We have kids that can cause us worry (fear) and hurt as we attempt to raise them perfectly without the capacity for perfection.

I’ve seen, after many years in for-profit endeavors, that non-profit or faith-based efforts bring a different level of emotion than secular attempts at making a living. Not too many people had opinions about my performance or decisions as an attorney or business owner; quite a few have something to say about my choices in the faith-based leadership attempts. Opinions can sting and sometimes outright hurt. It’s likely that fueled some of the anger.

The effort to “do the right thing” got away from me a bit. I started trying to fix everything all the time. In the middle of it all, I didn’t want to hurt anyone so I started to provide soft landings for people; worrying about their emotions to the detriment of mine. Carrying too much. Fear and frustration can fuel anger and my efforts to be able to answer, fix, manage and maintain everything caught up with me.

Here is the challenge: how do I (or any of us) operate in our gifts, skills and abilities in and for the Kingdom of God while maintaining a posture of dependence? I want to be capable, reliable and other descriptors of qualities that are positive attributes of God’s design. At the same time, I want to stay completely reliant on Him and His grace to allow for His outcomes without forcing the issue(s) in my own efforts.

I don’t know how to do that. I know how to work hard and I know how to give up. Working without striving requires His grace and I’m asking. I’m asking for the peace that comes in His multiplication to replace the anger that comes in my intensity. I don’t know what’s next but I know that He is faithful and He is good. I also know that I haven’t been angry since I realized I was.