Consequences Are Your Friend

One day I was checking the docket at the courthouse when a woman approached me to ask where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled for an appearance on a possession of marijuana charge. “Why does that make you nervous,” I asked her?

“He could go to jail,” she said.

“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her that “well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”

“But he’s my baby,” she explained.

“How old is he?” I asked. After learning that he was 19, I told her, “he’s not your baby, he’s a grown man.” It was about that time that he walked over. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed that it was.

“Listen,” I told him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”

This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked scared to death. It was clear that she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.

I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow for the consequence to draw him into responsibility.

Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From that place of pain that comes as a result of or rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.

We all mess up sometimes. The stuff that we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe that the mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance; not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment which we may offer in its place.

The Road Goes on Forever

Our freedom is entirely dependent on our willingness to sacrifice our preferences to the objective truth. We can’t generate our own sense of liberty from our desires. Those desires are often legitimate indicators of our design, but the context they are created for is submission to the Father as sons and daughters. Any application outside of the family of God is an application of a prodigal headed towards disastrous consequences.

We don’t maintain freedom from an occurance; we nurture freedom as an alignment. Without the alignment of submission to truth, we will steer back into the dominion of sin and/or the burden of the law from our fallen state. The alignment is a realization and reminder that Jesus is Who He says He is and we are who He says we are. Not because we are doing good, feeling good, wanting good or any other subjective measure. It is true because He is Truth.

Recently, I had the honor of accepting the position of Executive Director at Fellowship of the Sword. At Fellowship of the Sword, we facilitate events that serve as a catalyst to set hearts in healthy rhythm. Hearts are not set in healthy rhythm from our teaching or program; they are set in healthy rhythm by encountering the Truth of Jesus. It’s between Him and those that seek Him. He is the One that changes things.

That encounter, the freedom born of it and the transformation is all temporary unless nurtured and maintained. The nurturing and maintenance takes place in the local church. The community of believers that you plug into is intended to sharpen, encourage and comfort when you have been tempted toward subjective distractions from the objective truth. Without community to call out our blind spots and without willingness to live with others in a way that is vulnerable to inspection, any freedom we have tasted will be a fleeting experience.

I believe in the catalyst. The jump-start is powerful. The transformation is real.

I also know that I know that the catalyst requires the context of the church in order for the benefit to be sustainable.

I am so honored and thankful to get to do the stuff that I do. God is good and He is faithful and the journey from “there” to “here” has not been easy, nor is this the end of the road. In the words of Robert Earl Keen, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.” While my application of his lyrics differ from his, we apparently can agree on the truth of the eternal journey. Enjoy the ride, and don’t travel alone.

There Are Imprints on Our Soul and Glory Resides Within

Stuff happens, and it will happen again. Bad things are part of our stories and we’re not done dealing with things that we would prefer went another way. We’re going to have trouble for as long as we’re here.

That stuff makes imprints on our soul. Our soul, is the battleground of glory. God’s glory resides in our spirit, if we have received that glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. That means we have given up our lives for His. If so, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead, lives within us. It’s in us for us, but also for the world. The intention is that we carry glory to put Him on display through our lives.

The soul, that is our mind, will and emotions, is all that stands between a world full of hurt and darkness and the glory of God which can radiate from us. The stuff that’s happened and is happening from that same world in need of a glimpse of His glory is leaving divot marks all over our soul. Our mind is confused by the messages of the world, our emotions are hurt and insecure as we work out our identity and our will wavers as we are work out God’s glory in our lives. We have scars, ditches, graffiti, and all kinds of other imprints and distractions in our soul.

We won’t walk into the fullness of our design, which is to be included in the great and glorious nature of the Kingdom of God, just because we are “good.” We won’t figure out the secret combination of perfection in our soul by reading more or attending more conferences. We’ll only free the Freedom within us by grace. Only where we rely on Jesus and His grace do we have a shot at the fullness of the purposes He has placed within us.

There are imprints on our soul and His Spirit will overcome every single one of them. By grace. By giving up. By not caring. By allowing Him. By agreement, not by performance. By identity, not by position.

Jesus, I yield myself and my wounded soul to You on this day. I give you my life because You gave me Yours. I believe Your glory is true and real and yield now to the greatness of You within me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith Requires Knowledge and Revelation

All the studying in the world won’t get you to a place where you feel faith. No matter how much material you introduce your head to, it won’t change your heart. Your heart requires encounter and encounter embodies a relationship. The connection with God that we are invited into is one of relationship. Relationship requires encounter, not simply education.

You’ll never call God “Papa” or “Daddy” from the knowledge that He is Father. It takes revelation to cause that reaction. We hear from Holy Spirit in our spirit that we are God’s child and then, only then, do we call out “Abba.” (Romans 8) He says it, we hear it and we declare it because we are so convinced at our core (spirit) that we can’t contain it. Then we can walk in our purpose. Then we can see the Kingdom.

The heart and the head work in concert and neither can supersede the other. If you have revelation of God but no knowledge of His Word, you will walk in error. You’ll be making things up as you go based on emotions and desires that seem good and kind of god-ish. Without revelation, however, the knowledge is dry and rigid and there is no life flowing through your faith. Knowledge, by itself, will lead to pride as you argue points that often can’t be proven or mastered. Knowledge without the breath of God leads to arrogance and argument.

Study is critical and drawing near to encounter Him is just as important. God is Spirit and we are created as spirit in His image. We need to relate spirit to Spirit, not just information to our mind about Spirit. From that place of revelation, we find the satisfaction of relationship and the comfort of love. The grace of Jesus affords us access to the Father’s love, which floods our fears as our insecurity as orphans gives way to the security of His kids.

I wrote a positive endorsement of The Shack the other day because I’ve known God as Daddy for some time. I’ve encountered Him and He has healed me from the inside out. I’m still working it out, but I know Him as Healer, Comforter and Friend. From that, I can receive and process knowledge through His lens of grace and love. I don’t need to or want to know things about Him for the sake of a blog or sermon. I want to know Him intimately and want the same for others.

In that move, the main character (Mac) went into motion immediately following revelation of God’s love. He went about the business of being an agent of healing for his older daughter and a pursuit of growth and community in a local church. He had been to the church before, but now he actually sang. He sang for the same reason that King David sang. He sang because he had the heart of God. We’re invited not just to learn, but to sing; from the inside out.

Pressing Through Trials to Advance in Maturity, Wisdom & Character

I have a friend that has interesting counsel when you share a struggle with him. If you are going through some difficulty, he’ll ask, “Do you think you are at the front end of that challenge, in the middle of it, or closing in on the end? It’s good to know so you can persevere and get everything out of it God wants you to see.”

God doesn’t torture us, but He will allow for discomfort to shape us. He’ll use the troubles that are inevitable in our fallen state to mature us into greater relationship. As we are going through whatever it is we are going through, the best thing that we can do is look for the best things within it. At least then, the wisdom available through the adversity is maximized.

If we are looking for the fastest way out of any discomfort we face, we are cheating the process that is available for the production of wisdom and maturity. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Discomfort is not appealing and all too often not highlighted related to the Christian message. We love the promises and the freedom and the identity stuff, but the suffering part isn’t too compatible with our American Dream(s). It must be an attack.

We are sons of God and heirs with Christ and can share in the glory of Christ . . . if we will share in the sufferings of Christ (Romans 8:17). So difficulty invites inheritance in as much as we persevere. In as much as we stay the course despite the challenge and doubt, we can increasingly taste of the victory.

When, not if, you are going through whatever stuff it is that you go through, consider whether it’s the beginning, middle or end and hold on. Hold on and journal. Don’t miss “it,” whatever “it” is for that experience. Come out of it with more character than you went into it with as it finishes it’s work by your acceptance that suffering is not always an attack, but sometimes an advance.

There is One Church in the City; Not a Bunch of Clubs

img_1502I had an opportunity to visit with a church down the road from us this weekend and was impressed with the hospitality and relationship which was extended. Their pastor and I have been developing a friendship over the past couple of years; he has spoken at Heritage, where I pastor, a couple of times and I have spoken to their men previously. This weekend was fresh vision for what the church of the city could possibly be.

When Paul wrote his letters that we find in the New Testament, he was writing to the church of the city (Rome, Ephesus, etc.); not a church on the corner. He was addressing a movement of the Kingdom in a region; not the club of a celebrity in a building. The Kingdom is designed to be advanced across gatherings that have a common interest in an area.

The gatherings of separate congregations are separate by logistics, but not purpose. They are not isolated to their own “brand” and what they might be able to build for their own expansion. They are together for the purpose of building up the house of God, which is people together with Christ as the Cornerstone, not brick and mortar with an attractive sermon series as the foundation.

Julie and I were received incredibly well by this church in our city. We were loved and honored because their pastor, Gabriel Andrade, loves and honors them. He makes it safe for them to receive from others without the dance because he has built trust with them that can only come from caring about their hearts. He ministers to them, which makes it possible for them to receive ministry from others. The word “ministry” comes from the word “serves,” by the way. Ministry is service.

Going forward, it will be imperative for the consumerism and attraction to be secondary to the sacrifice and service. The collaboration between congregations to take advantage of diverse demographics and gifts is what will change the city; not a better worship service in one corner of the city pulling people from one gathering to the other.

In the current culture of the United States, the consumeristic, attractional model of church for the sake of the provider of the attraction that appeases the consumer has not worked. There has been a shift where certain churches grow large but they do so by transfers from other churches in the same city more so than new disciples of Jesus Christ. Among us, there is a slide from building to building based on latte’s, lights and services more than an advance where light overcomes the darkness.

It’s time for the slide to stop and the advance to begin. With congregations locking arms to agree to not only receive but also to serve others. Individually, we can be transformed; together we can be transformational.