The Foundation of Faith

It’s easy to forget the most important thing and move on to other things. The foundation of the context of our understanding can be taken for granted as focus shifts from design to decoration. How many times have you stopped to admire or even appreciate the concrete foundation of your home? More than likely, it is the paint, flooring, appliances and window dressing that are the focus.

The foundation of our faith is grace. Nothing in the New Covenant works for you as you work it out without an ongoing appreciation for the foundation of the grace of Jesus.

The breath you breath; literally, figuratively, physically and spiritually is only available by grace. Grace got you saved as the death and resurrection of Jesus provided your new birth and provides the resurrection of your soul. It’s His grace that saved you and now it’s His grace that transforms you.

Without a constant focus on the foundation of grace, you and I are going to think it’s about us. Our works, disciplines, ministries, knowledge, attendance, giving or some other decorative additions. Those things are nice and they can be upgrades to the previous structure, but they are secondary to and dependent on grace.

Without the ongoing and urgent embrace of grace, the Righteousness of Christ afforded to us is overlooked for our self-righteousness. We get excited about how good we are at the expense of realizing how Holy is He that lives within us.

You’ll be able to tell when you forget about the foundation if and when you find yourself full of opinions related to the decorative presentations of others. When your approval of them depends on the aesthetics of their extras (good or bad), you don’t see the Righteousness of Christ available to them as the same foundation you have required. The way you see others reflects the way you see yourself.

Wisdom for The New Year

For many of us, the new year marks a time that we seek wisdom and vision for the circumstances we face going into that new year. We consider the things around us and before us with something of a fresh look and make plans for how to move forward. That look and those plans, however, are limited to the same duplicity and faults that were applied last year unless and until we submit them to a greater Source.

Psalm 2 establishes that Jesus has been ruling and will rule from His throne for eternity. His place is absolute and His perspective is perfect. By His grace, we have access to His rule as we consider the things that we might rule if we will choose to submit our things to Him.

The wisdom we desire for application to the opportunities and challenges we face is available and the first step towards attaining it is towards Him. Proverbs 1:7 says that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord. but that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

To attain the King’s wisdom for our issues, we do so through recognizing His holiness (which will produce what is described as fear of the Lord). Recognition of His holy perfection will only highlight and contrast our imperfections. That’s the beginning of wisdom; true recognition that He is God and we are not.

Fools despise it because they don’t want to be reminded of their foolishness. I suspect that each of us is a fool with some frequency as we would prefer to operate from the limits of our imperfect skills and abilities rather than be reminded of our faults. I know that I am foolish in that way with embarrassing frequency.

The humility required to admit our faults positions us properly in relationship with an eternal and perfect King. We can properly submit our lives and the issues within them to Him as we seek His wisdom, favor and grace. Our humility affords His anointing; that is, when we bow down in recognition of our limits, His Spirit within us is afforded permission through us to present eternity to an earth in need of glimpses of heaven.

True security will facilitate successful relationships, stewardship and influence. That absolute security can’t come from the limits of our soul, but can only be accessed through the fullness of His Spirit. Our humility in recognition of our limitations will grant us the perspective, wisdom and anointing of an eternal King. Our hope for the coming year will be well founded and applicable well beyond the next 365 days.

Overcoming Our Overwhelming Desire for Justice

In this era of instant access, we are flooded with stories of the shortcomings of others. The mistakes and misconduct of celebrities as well as the relatively anonymous are advertised on social media as well as the main line media. The depravity of people is almost celebrated.

To consider these stories a “celebration” of the mistakes of others may seem too drastic, but is it? Haven’t we become a society similar to the era of Roman citizens gathering in the coliseum to watch the death and manipulation of others?

Through it all, we have become a society of judges. We view the news, reality shows and internet communities with a lens that filters the information so that we can form immediate opinions on who is right and who is wrong. We decide based on the fraction of information we are given access to who is “right” and who is “wrong” in a given situation. Then, with this freshly formed judgment, we engage in online debate and justification of our position with increasing conviction and pride related to our conclusion.

Underneath it all, we are allowed multiple opportunities every hour to find somebody more screwed up than us, as far as we can tell. As a result, we can rest in our own junk as justified by comparison. The judgments we pass validate our own shortcomings and, as a result, we stall out in our own growth. We settle for less than we were created to be because at least we are not as bad as “them.”

Judgment is a difficult burden and one that should not be taken lightly. The decisions we make when residing in our position as judge over the lives of others either in the media or in our personal lives have consequences. Every time we choose justice over grace, we get to apply that same standard to how we view ourselves. We live with the burden of right and wrong and good and bad and strive to perform according to our version of the law.

Once the burdens are too heavy and we realize that we really just can’t do the deal ourselves, then and only then do we find room for grace. We cry out to be relieved of the burdens of performance. When we are shown grace in a personal and transformative way, we view the problems of others with increased restraint on our judgment. If that revelation of grace occurs at all is determined by the Source of grace in the first place. His name is Jesus.

This is the Big One

I suspect every one of us has done it, but only because it seems minor compared to the “big” stuff. The harm is so hidden that it’s easy and it just makes you feel better. Yet, it’s tucked in right there among stuff that could get you thrown in prison:

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips.” (Romans 1:29)

While nobody is going to endorse murder or excuse depravity, gossip is commonplace. Among the church, it’s not only accepted, it’s embraced and even deployed for what might seem like the purposes and outcomes that God would prefer. He doesn’t.

Gossip is extremely hurtful as it isolates and degrades the person who may find out that they are the one being talked about. It tears apart relationships and creates division. There are real victims when we choose to target someone as worthy of our descriptions.

No doubt that when someone is torn down or division is created, there is harm. The other harm, however, is within us as we choose to entertain the stories. The deeper division is within us as the chasm is stretched every time we foster the desire we have to relieve ourselves by reducing others.

Reducing others makes us feel better in the wake of some discomfort as it helps us to elevate ourselves to a seemingly superior position on the imagined battlefields of our minds. This elevation is pride.

When we choose to tear down others, we don’t even have to mention ourselves to actually be promoting ourselves. Our insight, intellect and understanding that inevitably comes out in the shadows of our stories makes us feel better about us temporarily.

That’s a problem. God says so. He says that He will oppose the proud; literally going toe to toe with them to ensure that their schemes don’t advance. Pride sets us at war with God as our strategies will not be promoted above His ways.

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” (Psalm 101:5)

I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it, and I repent. My battles will not be decided in my wit or words, but by His grace and sovereignty. I pray for the satisfaction He provides from within that will satisfy the temptation that I may feel to exact justice in my stories.

We Don’t Catch Our Issues; They Come Out of Us

When representing people charged with a crime, one of the first things that was necessary was to hear their story. Asking them how they viewed the circumstances would help uncover not only facts, but attitudes. It was common for many criminal defendants to say that they “caught” the charge.

Depending on the situation, I would sometimes stop them there and help them realize the flaw in their choice of words. The choice of words, whether it started out as a mindset or not, can create a mindset which is based in a lie. That is, for them to continually say that when they are charged with a crime, it was something they “caught” can create the idea that somebody threw it at them or it was just bad luck.

Criminal charges don’t typically float around and just get on people. They are not like a cold or the flu. Charges almost always come from someone putting themselves in circumstances that lead to trouble. They typically come from bad choices. We don’t catch bad choices, we create them, and if we don’t own them then we’ll make them over and over again.

Whether it’s a criminal defendant or anyone else, breaking patterns of destructive decision-making can be difficult. It may be that we have irresponsible spending habits or sloppy time management. The first step for any of us in getting things going the right direction in a particular area of our lives is to own it. It’s our deal; we are the ones responsible.

The next thing is to strip it down to its lowest common denominator. We need to ask ourselves “why do I do the things that I do?” The answers are within us and we have to be willing to do the hard work of responsibility and honesty to dig to the core. God will show us if we are willing to ask and examine and He will redeem anything within us that is producing the consequences in our lives that are distinct from the glory He intends from us.

Every time a flaw, insecurity, stronghold or some other expression of our soul is revealed to us it is an act of grace. The revelation of our depravity affords us redemption for security in His identity. We don’t have to stay where we are if we are willing to admit that we didn’t catch it; we chose it.

 

Graceful Absolutes

From time to time, I’ll have someone tell me that they agree with aspects of Christianity. They value Jesus in some ways, but not others, and they agree with aspects of philosophies or religions that aren’t aligned with Him. They lean into a “universal” approach to God where all’s well that ends well and, in their estimation, it ultimately ends well for anyone that tries. Or something like that.

I typically will pseudo-congratulate those people for creating their own religion. They have walked through a buffet line of ideas and picked their way to a meal they prefer, but they are likely the first in the history of ever to pick that unique combination. I’ll often encourage them that they are now the prophet of the religion of “me.” I do so without any condemnation or rejection, just the logic that goes with the reasoning they have used to avoid absolutes.

We are currently in an era that wants to reject absolutes. The idea of absolute Truth where someone can be wrong has increasingly become offensive. The Gospel of grace is, in fact, offensive by its very nature and it is founded on absolutes. With no absolutes, there is no need for grace.

The challenge for those of us that embrace the absoluteness of Jesus and His invitation into an eternal Kingdom,  is to handle the absolutes with the grace they empower. If/when we wield them like weapons of judgment and condemnation, game over. That conversation will go no further. If and when we can find the sweet spot of grace in the middle of Truth, we may just be able to connect people to eternity. We may get to be included in God’s heart for them and us.

Forcing absolutes is likely going to be manipulative and maybe even abusive. Holding them gently and receiving people gracefully is inviting. The invitation holds the promise everyone is ultimately looking for; to be connected to the love of the Father. His love is absolute, and the connection is available. How we receive that perfect love for ourselves will often be reflected in how we offer it to others.

The disagreements related to behaviors are growing so don’t accept those as your premise. The love of the Father through the grace of Jesus Christ is what drew you in to start with and it’s what “they” want, too. Or not; and if they don’t, the argument becomes moot, anyway.