Trusting God . . . or Not

I’d like to say that I trust God, but I wonder if that’s true? If I truly trust Him, why do I experience so much worry, anxiety or fear? Why don’t I just pray and wait when faced with challenges?

Trust is, by definition, “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” With that definition, I must trust God. I firmly believe that God is reliable, true, able and strong so that means I must trust Him, right? Why, then, do I worry and imagine and strive? Maybe another definition is necessary.

The definition of dependence is “the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else.” Uh-oh, I think we’re on to something. Being controlled or even reliant are not appealing qualities to me. They don’t even seem very masculine or responsible. I can’t say that I value those traits very highly. Can I really trust without being dependent?

Allowing God to control me and my outcomes and to rely on His goodness takes faith. I have to believe that His ways are better. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

That’s quite a promise but the conditions are significant. He “rewards” those who “seek” Him. Seeking includes the ideas of searching, figuring it out for one’s self . . . craving. There is a demand in the idea of seeking that suggests until the answer is provided, the search will not cease; not even unto death.

Here’s the trick, I think . . . Hebrews doesn’t say that He rewards those that seek the answers to their problems. It doesn’t say that He fixes things for those that ask for stuff. It says that He rewards those that sincerely seek Him without any “give up” in their inquiry. For those that will seek God for God’s sake unto their own death, He is pleased with them to the point of reward.

When focused on my problems, real or imagined, I don’t seek God nor do I trust Him, nor am I dependent on Him. I want what I want when I want it. He is reduced to a tactic to try to get my way. He is kept at arm’s length for the sake of my primary attention going into the problem solving process to control my outcomes and protect my comfort.

When I seek Him for Him with faith that He exists and can be found, the reward is satisfying no matter the answer of the prayers. When I seek Him unto the death of me, the stuff in my life is secondary to the eternal hope and satisfaction found in the intimacy of finding Him.

Do I trust God? Sometimes.

Do you?

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.

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.

 

Is Masculinity Toxic?

Sometimes masculinity is toxic. Sometimes it is juvenile, confused, hurt and insecure and sometimes those things are covered with aggression, manipulation, dominance, control and other defensive and offensive tactics to cover the toxins. When relationships are formed around the acceptance of those unacceptable reactions to internal turmoil, the culture of that group is toxic. The working out of a mature man is a process that requires recognition of the immaturity present far beyond puberty.

I’ve been toxic at times and so has every man who I know. That doesn’t mean that the healthy expression of masculinity I am called to is the wrong target. The opposite of toxic masculinity is not femininity; its healthy masculinity. It’s not time to neuter men; it’s time to empower them. Empowerment, however, is not for the abuse of power but for the unleashing of purpose.

Men need to be affirmed in their identity as men to breed the security that overcomes the toxins that are inherent in both genders. Affirmation and empowerment produce security and security produces humility. Humility is a key indicator of healthy masculinity.

For men, our responsibility is to tend to the toxins by honestly admitting that they are present. They are present from life’s hurts, disappointments, mistakes and challenges. They are present from dads that were absent, neglectful or abusive as they wrestled with their own toxins. The toxic form of masculinity often gets passed from one generation to the next. Healthy masculinity declares to the heritage that produced toxicity, “no more.”

  • No more abuse.
  • No more anger.
  • No more isolation.
  • No more domination.
  • No more manipulation.
  • No more.
  • Not on my watch.

But there has to be a target as you can’t really be defined by what you aren’t. So where there was toxic masculinity the determination has to be emulation and duplication of a model of masculinity that provides a greater alternative.

That Model is the man of Jesus Christ. He was strong enough to be accused and not fight back. He was courageous enough to suffer and not duck out. He was secure enough to love and not pervert. He is the model for healthy masculinity and I’ve yet to meet a man who has it perfected like He did. I count myself among many, however, that are determined to keep trying.

Working From Truth vs. Working for truth

There is a growing belief that truth is flexible and that there are evidences of what is actually right based on circumstances, feelings, compassion and preferences. Many are forming a “belief” system based on their experiences and our culture is embracing the flexibility to ensure that nobody is left out, offended, marginalized or contentious. Truth, it seems, is increasingly an archaic concept.

The problem with that is me. And you. We are too messed up to figure it out; we need a fixed point which is reliable, has stood the test of time and demands more from us than the limits of us. Truth calls us to a higher perspective and changes us in transit by stretching our capacity for actual understanding instead of contextualizing everything to our liking.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18

The definition for “futility” indicates “what is devoid of truth” and even includes the idea of idolatry. That is, to try to figure the truth of everything out from our own perspective or even the perspective of others is lacking. That inside-out production of “belief” is, by definition, working from a faulty source which his absent the thing it requires (truth). Furthermore, it’s what we all have wanted all along; to be our own little gods. It’s exactly what happened at the fall of man, as Adam and Eve opted for control over wonder and sovereignty over dependence.

Pick a Source beyond yourself and choose One with an eternal scope. For me, it’s the Bible. Written by numerous authors, yet fitting together perfectly and standing the test of time for century upon century, I’m going “all in” with the written Word of God as a reliable Source to work from.

The pursuit of Truth will bring you to uncomfortable intersections; that’s good. Wrestle and ask the Author of the Word; relate with Him and allow for Him to change you where otherwise you might attempt to judge and/or define Him. The beauty of that as a path for pursuit is that He is incredibly faithful and He is good; He loves you more than you even love yourself. And as for the left out, offended, marginalized or contentious? He loves them, too, and His plan for them is better than your well intended attempts to rescue them.