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.

Invited into Extreme

We are living in extreme times where the rhetoric and divide has escalated negotiable to absolute. At the same time, absolutes are too offensive so things that used to be held as true are compromised for comfort.

In the middle of those political and societal shifts, matters of faith get chipped away at as fringe and extreme. Most people don’t want to be either fringe or extreme so the instinct is to adapt in small ways to remain relevant. Compromise is seldom drastic and the slide is usually indiscernible.

This year, and in the coming years, there will increasingly be no room for compromised faith. There will be no power anywhere except for the extreme and extreme will be easier to attain by contrast to the culture. Weird is weird and it’s increasingly weird just to profess belief, much less to zealously follow and advance the cause of Christ.

Here’s the thing; it’s His cause, not a plank on the platform of the religious right. Extreme faith will be in Him, not ideas about how Him. Reliance on Jesus for supernatural protection, provision and promotion is neither boastful nor argumentative. The argument is in our actions and our choices must be dependent on His power. Our extreme place in these extreme times is less, not more. Less of us and our ideas and more of Him through our humility, brokenness and obedience.

We don’t need better candidates or laws; we need a Church that is as authentic in the sufferings of Christ as they are in the abundance of His Kingdom. We don’t need to win; we need to die. Death to ourselves allows the anointing of His Spirit to exude from us. The compelling extreme of the Holy Spirit circumvents all theological or philosophical debates as He draws others towards Himself despite what we do to repel them.

The coming years of extreme invite us to die to ourselves for the One whom we say we believe. When He invited us to follow Him, the glory He promises is through the crucifixion He modeled. Christianity is neither a spectacle nor a program, but agreement among us in the absolute of Him. He did and does everything that needs to be done; the stuff we attempt to heap on top of His absolute is compromise no matter the intention of our souls.

Two Kinds of Wisdom

We all want wisdom and many of us proclaim wisdom once we think we have something figured out. Those premature declarations are indicators that we’ve attained the wrong or incomplete version of wisdom, however. Wisdom, by definition, comes in two forms; man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. When we declare our wisdom, we settle for the inferiority of man’s wisdom over the eternal potential of God’s wisdom.

In order to realize the life of Jesus available from within us, we are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (our mind, will and emotions). If/when we will give up our opinions and desires, we can be informed by Holy Spirit’s perspective and not limited to our own. If we will die to ourselves, we will live and enjoy His wisdom and not our cheap substitute.

Wisdom that is me and not Him is “not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:15)

The description of my wisdom is given in three terms but they don’t mean the same thing. They can’t mean the same thing, since “unspiritual” and “demonic” are contradictory on their face. Human wisdom, if given priority over the availability of God’s wisdom which is available by submitting our soul has the following progressive (or regressive?) attributes:

  • Earthly – basic wisdom from existing on earth; if you touch fire, it will burn, so don’t touch fire.
  • Unspiritual – “sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.” This means driven by your own will and emotions, or soul. Beyond just the wisdom of the flesh, this is trusting the wisdom of the soul. It is, in effect, choosing to be your own small “g” god in those areas where you rely on your perspective.
  • Demonic – this is influenced or tormented by the perspective of an enemy that comes against the purposes of God and is intent on destroying you. Nobody would willingly choose this form of wisdom out of the gate; it is a progressive slide where the consequences of soul-ish wisdom lead to a greater depravity and give permission to evil. Sin has a progressive nature (it waits to devour you).

James goes on to say “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (3:17) “Good fruits” include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” from Galatians.

That means that God’s wisdom isn’t just knowledge or ability; it is the feeling that comes with contentment as described in James and Galatians. It is without anxiety, fear, worry, shame and guilt. Wisdom from God comes at the expense of your preference but gives you life in abundance where otherwise we are limited to the boundaries of our soul.

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.

 

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.

 

Small Choices of Rebellion Lead to Big Consequences of Arrogance

I was on the way to an appointment last week and I wasn’t really running late, but I was running “just in time.” When you are wired like I’m wired, just in time feels late so I was pressed to get there as quickly as possible and I had missed a turn. I needed to make a U-turn and was sitting at a red light, only to see a no U-turn sign. I began to survey the landscape for cameras and/or police. There were none, so I decided the U-turn wasn’t going to hurt anybody.

As I waited for the light to turn, I realized a prompting from the Holy Spirit. “You are about to intentionally choose to rebel.” That was it; nothing more about the light or what consequences I would deal with and there was no fear or shame. Just that gentle nudge that showed me my heart. I turned left and proceeded to the next intersection where I could make a legal U-turn.

Nobody would ever know the difference except for the fact that I’m writing about it now. Well, I would and God would and others would as rebellion became more comfortable to me so the next rebellious thing would be that much easier. Oh, and I might forfeit things that God has otherwise qualified me for which I don’t even know about yet.

“For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” – 1 Samuel 15:23

Rebellion is as the sin of divination, or witchcraft. Witchcraft is our attempt to harness the power of God. We turn the truth of His word and power of His Spirit into a technique that we can master. We try to control the outcomes of supernatural things.

By contrast, we are invited into His love for people when we are submitted the manner in which He loves. Submission and humility are the posture to observe and sometimes even participate in the supernatural love of God. Doing things our way, even for the purpose of church or ministry and even for what we believe are good intentions, is rebellion and witchcraft.

It’s the little things that open the door to the big things. Nobody may notice the U-turn but when we intentionally reject submission in the small things, we will be ready to grow in that seed of rebellion. There may not be cameras and there may not be cops, but there are always consequences.