It’s One or the Other; Not a Combo Deal

There are two options for life: law or grace. They present a choice, not a combination. There’s no “Law- Grace Combo Option” for our inadequate attempts at performance when we want to enhance our chance of acceptance. Either we choose the self-reliant performance woven into the Law of Moses, or we accept the satisfaction of the law through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus.

Human nature pulls us toward the default position of keeping rules because—believe it or not—it’s easier for our flesh than relying on the finished work of Christ. Our flesh craves the tangible. It takes conscious effort to deny its innate bent toward score keeping. The letter of the law is what we point to as evidence of our self- provided righteousness. At the end of the day, we place a star in the box, measure our performance and judge ourselves good. Or not.

Our flesh pulls us to perform though we know we can’t pull it off. It produces shame and fear of exposure and conceals us behind Moses’ veil to hide the limitations of our soul, creating or reinforcing walls between us and God, us and other people, or both. Such walls stem the ow of grace.

We can’t enjoy the freedom of the New Covenant while striving to keep the Old. Energy meant for bold living gets spent struggling to hide behind the veil, and the covenant of Moses breeds insecurity from the certain knowledge we will fail and someone will actually see us. That insecurity results in prideful self-promotion as we try to hide our limitations.

Insecurity shows up as boastful arrogance or timid fear, both outward manifestations of pride. God never offers to meet us in our pride. In fact, He actively opposes a posture of pride: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). Our only hope is choosing the covenant Jesus offers, which means dropping the veil in humility to allow for our flaws. Our performance behind Moses’ veil puts us on display. Our flaws revealed on the grace side of the veil put Jesus on display. His glory shines.

Accepting the invitation into a life of grace-only is liberating and powerful. Sold out to the truth that we are “good enough” only by the gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus, we can stop trying to preserve the charade of our perfection. We can stop pretending in order to throw religious folks off the scent of our depravity. We can be about the true transformation of our souls.

Freedom is born from grace that lets us drop the veil to live authentically with others. They get to see us; really see us. Not everyone we know needs access to the closed closets and dark crawl spaces of our souls. However, for those with whom we have time-tested relationships, we foster transparency for the ongoing transformation that results in greater liberty.

Admitting our weaknesses and imperfections, we become strong and perfect in Jesus. His grace never blinks at our depravity but meets us eternally with redemption. He embraces us and removes our limitations so we walk in His fullness. From the realization of His grace, we know love; we know the Father through the Son.

From “Abundant and Free” available on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Don’t Run Ahead; Enjoy the Walk

When my children were young, I made them hold my hand as we walked through parking lots. We would talk along the way, and I would tell them where we were going. I didn’t tell them so they could let go of my hand and run ahead. That would be dangerous. I told them so we could walk together toward the destination because I enjoyed them and wanted relationship to raise them into maturity. I don’t hold their hands in the parking lot as I used to, but I still don’t want them to run ahead. The enjoyment in walking toward the destination is in the companionship.

God created each of us for great and glorious things. Those things are for His glory and the advancement and fulfillment of His purposes. Our part is to agree with Him in His purposes and be conduits of His glory. As such, God does not use us; God includes us. We don’t do things for God; we do things with God. Those are big differences.

Once we gain vision and purpose, the biggest challenge for many is the pace with which we approach that vision. Deciding we will be “used” by God to work “for” Him, we likely will run ahead and be about our purpose rather than His purpose for us. There’s more than a little irony in this arrangement. When we embrace purpose so tightly that we think it’s ours, we are actually choosing to exclude the One that created us for that purpose.

“When you have eaten your ll in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 6:11–12).

God warned the Israelites—and you and me—what happens when we look around and think we’ve actually done something. If we run ahead to do things for God instead of walking with Him, we will almost certainly get to the place of some accomplishment and think we did it. In truth, we may have not depended on Him at all. Any accomplishment limited to us is always less than what He wants to accomplish with us. He’ll show us where we are going, but not so we can run ahead. He wants us to enjoy the walk.

Once we taste and know the greatness of the glorious, we’ll never again be satis ed with the mediocrity of the mundane. By His grace, and in our obedience to His invitation(s), He walks with us toward the fulfillment of our grand design.

We pursue a purpose that requires our effort in agreement with the One whose purpose it is. Just like the defense attorney, we are called to be zealous about the tasks of our day; we are not, however, called to own the outcome. When the world sees us owning the outcome, the only God they see in our lives is ourselves.

The whisper of God to our spirit to race toward a destiny of significance is not a prompt toward behavior. It’s a reminder from our Father that by His grace we have access. We have a race to run, but we don’t have a result to control. We run with disciplined passion and commitment, and then trust the results to the promises.

From “Abundant and Free” available on Amazon by clicking here.

“And” Keeps “Or” from Being Weird or Rigid

All too often, we hear that things need to be “balanced” and what is meant is that they need to be under control. Control is an illusion and pursuit of control is typically dysfunctional. Balance isn’t control and it isn’t compromise; it’s order. Balance should agree with the order of things and often it presents a tension. Tension is good as it presents opportunities for stretching without breaking.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The prayer in Ephesians is for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; not the Spirit of wisdom or revelation. Holy Spirit is wisdom with revelation. Revelation and wisdom; both together at the same time.

All too often, we can orient towards one or the other, preferring either wisdom or revelation. Where we prefer wisdom, knowledge and experience will trump the mystery. The ability to control, manage and maneuver will supersede any awe and wonder of the power of God.

Where revelation is preferred, the idea that God is speaking will trump the need to ensure Biblical accuracy. Potential revelation, left to its own merits, is potentially fallible. It has to be subject to the infallible Word and allowed context that comes with counsel from a diverse gift mix in a community. There can be no rogue prophets.

It seems reasonable to consider revelation, or the realization of eternal truth by hearing, seeing or knowing to be the “what” that God is making clear. If it lines up with the Word and proves trustworthy from the test of wise counsel, it leaves open the “when” and “how” of wisdom. Just because you know something, it doesn’t mean it’s time to do anything.

Often times, God will let us in on His plans, but it isn’t for us to get things done for Him. It’s simply to be relational and invites us to pray. We get to pray in accordance with the revelation and watch as we agree with heaven on earth. It builds our faith and includes us in the advancement of an eternal Kingdom.

Hold it loosely and walk with the humility required of submission. Pray first, act sometimes. Listen closely and pay attention; we are all invited into the eternal perspective. Eternal perspective is orderly; not controlled or compromised.

The Way in the Wilderness; Streams in the Wasteland

Two things have been elusive to me: contentment and joy. The drive that pushes can also produce the anxiety that wishes. Wishes of better circumstances, less trouble, greater comfort or whatever can distract from the abundance of the moment. The feast that is evident with every meal when no meals are missed. The protection of shelter when the rain never gets on me as I sleep.

Never. Never a missed meal or homeless exposure. Yet, those things don’t seem to matter even though they are foundational to everything the rest of the things (according to Maslow). When they are overlooked, the top of the pyramid is always one or more anxious wish out of reach but seemingly within reach with a little more effort.

Lately, however, I’m seeing it differently. I’m considering the joy that is available within the problems. I’m intentionally orienting towards joy and contentment when the trouble squawks, opportunities tempt or worry taunts. I don’t have it figured out or mastered but I’m seeing the target and getting the words which are the ability to hit the bullseye.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

The way is in the middle of the wilderness; not after deliverance from the wilderness. It’s right there among the wilderness and all the shadows that are inherent in wilderness culture. The streams interrupt the wasteland but they don’t overcome it. The enjoyment, relief, satisfaction and thanksgiving for the way and the streams are available within the context of the wilderness and wasteland. One doesn’t cease to exist because of the existence of the other; they co-exist.

I’m learning to sit in the stream and not care about the wasteland which is still looming. The emotions that are stirred from the observation of the negative possibilities that the wasteland holds don’t have to be given priority. The cool of the stream and sound of its trickling will prevail if they are given their due. The peaceful and consistent reassurance of their refreshment will be enjoyed right up until the point where I focus on the threats of the wasteland.

Peace is in the river despite the limits of the river banks but the shore of the wasteland will consume everything that I give it. Stepping out of the stream into the wasteland to fix the wasteland is a fool’s errand. In this world, we will have trouble; that’s not going to change. The way and the stream are not of this world.

Church or Something Like it In a Coffee Shop

A little over a year ago, we were considering where to go and what to do. The building we were meeting in was for sale but it wasn’t a bad thing as we knew there was something more and needed a change, anyway. One morning outside of a coffee shop, God whispered and the conversation began.

Last night, the church moved into the heart of the marketplace. We aren’t the first congregation to start or move in a coffee shop, bar or other market centered location, but it’s not entirely common, either. The first night of “Ekklesia” was full of life and power as God showed Himself faithful, because He is.

As of 2014, according to the Barna Group’s book “Churchless,” 48% of people consider themselves “churched” (at least once a month) and 41% are either de-churched or marginally churched (once or twice a year). Only 10% are truly “unchurched” where they have no history or experience with church at all.

Of those that are de-churched or marginally churched, they are overwhelmingly still interested in God, spiritual growth, etc. but have various reasons why they eventually were done with the institution as we know it. Their theology and world view wouldn’t typically line up with the main stream church, but they need places to figure it out. They need to be able to disagree, out loud, without disqualification or stigma. They need authentic relationship regardless of theological agreement, conversion or tithing.

We are going to give it a run in a coffee shop, because it seems that God said so. We are going to try to be a part of the Church with a unique little spot that isn’t really designed for large crowds. We’ll never have gatherings of over 100 because we want people who are there to have an opportunity to be heard and be part of the experience. We want to foster gatherings that are participative, not consumeristic. Many voices, not a single voice. If we grow, we’ll multiply the number of meetings, but we won’t be starting a building campaign or moving to a larger building.

Some people have been hurt, misunderstood, offended or grown weary of religion and church as we know it. It’s not necessarily anybody’s fault, it just is what it is. They won’t go back into a building with a steeple but we hope they’ll have a cup of coffee with us whether they agree with us or not.

8700 N. Tarrant Pkwy, North Richland Hills, TX . . . We meet Saturdays at 6 pm.

Absolutely Abba

It’s only been five months and it’s pretty surreal. The absence of my father is so permanent that the pain of the permanence is the hurt that re-visits most often. It’s also the place where the mirage of the faint and passing thoughts that I am about to see him show up. Those brief and passing moments where I forget the unforgettable give way quickly to the realization of reality.

With that said, I am not an orphan. My father on earth has gone the way of all the earth, but my Father in Heaven is increasingly prominent in my consciousness. The infinity of God co-exists with the intimacy of God and He is Father in the connection of distant to personal.

No matter what the challenge or celebration is, the need for a Dad is real for all of us. We want and need the pivotal relationship with an earthly father and where there are fractures or voids, we hurt and want. The earthly father experience, however, is a flawed and temporal expression of the perfect and eternal identity of who God is for us and through us if we will simply come home to Him.

Coming home to the Father is a daily choice made first and foremost in our will. It’s not a theological debate nor is it complicated set of rules to follow. Our return to the Father through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus is a daily submission of our will and our lives to His goodness and sovereignty. It’s our will that has to die first.

When we will submit our wants, the return on that investment is freedom. When we die to our drivers and choose to depend wholly on the One who is Holy, the fruit of His life can come through us. We can exchange our anxiety and self-consciousness for His peace and love. He loves His kids and that love is the greatest satisfier of any of the wants, fears or forecasts we entertain when we are driving.

Trust is fostered in the silence. Time spent quietly considering and connecting to God as Abba, or Father, or Daddy is an investment into the satisfaction of things that otherwise unleash my will to have its way. These brief and passing moments where I realize the Absolute give way to temporary distractions of earthly temptations and I am in need of my Abba again. Thankfully, I am not an orphan and He shows up time and time again.