Seeing Past the Labels

We are more complex than the labels we depend on to try to quantify our qualities. We call ourselves things and we call other people things in an effort to package and control the human variable. Most of the time, we look at the obvious and immediate at the expense of the hidden and eternal.

When I was practicing criminal defense law, I would not have been an effective advocate if I had decided to label each client with the crime they were accused of. Even if the labels were attached following a conviction or confession, I would be missing the opportunity to see the person and agree with their design. They weren’t designed to be a criminal; their intention was hijacked somewhere along the way.

Seeing the person afforded the opportunity to speak about the person in agreement with who they are; not based on what they had done. That was true of the accused and it is true of the less obvious accusations more common to day-to-day  life. There are people every day who, on the surface, are “wrong” in various forms. Yet, even if accurate assessments of justice, grace calls us to look beyond the flaws and into the design.

There is a character in Scripture that we have labeled as “doubting Thomas.” When Jesus was resurrected, Thomas says he won’t believe the resurrection of Jesus unless he is able to touch the wounds of the resurrected body of Jesus. So Jesus presents Himself in John 20 and meets Thomas right where his lack of had him stalled. That’s grace.

Interestingly, in John 11 the same man operated with a different label. He was traveling with Jesus as they heard of the death of Lazarus and Jesus decided to go to where Lazarus was. It was pointed out that this was the same place where people had tried to stone Jesus and would likely try again. This was dangerous and anyone with Jesus could lose their life, too.

The reaction of Thomas, however, was different from the label he gets in chapter 20. Thomas says, “let’s go with Him, so we can die, too.”

Maybe figuring Thomas out isn’t so easy. Is he doubting or courageous? Yes. Depends on the day; just like it does for any of us.

There are things we do that we are working out. Sometimes we are doubting and sometimes we are courageous. Neither necessarily affords us a title; both reflect the working out of our identity through a soul that wrestles with the eternal nature of God’s Spirit. Both require grace.

Not para, but Part Of

You’ve got to know who you are. When you know who you are, everything flows from that as you do the thing(s) you are designed to do. It’s the first step towards understanding your context and understanding your context is the first step towards fulfilling your purpose.

I recently took the responsibility of becoming the Executive Director of Fellowship of the Sword. For the first time in the 15 year history of the organization, the ministry is Board-led where it had been founder-led. The fact that the Founders, Richard and Paige Henderson, had the courage and humility to facilitate the transfer is remarkable. For many organizations, the founder’s unwillingness to hand off operations cripples the capacity and potential of incredible vision.

Some would call FTS a “para-church” organization. One of the most important and enlightening things I have heard from Richard over the past several weeks is his clarification of that tag. “We are not a para-church, because ‘para-church’ means to come beside the church. We are not coming beside the church, but we are part of the church,” Richard said.

There is only one church. It’s not different churches determined by different buildings. There is one Bride of Christ. We are here to serve His Bride as part of His Body. We are in, not beside.

This is a big deal for many reasons, one of which was that the only grant of authority that Jesus gave was to make disciples (Matthew 28). He didn’t commission us to start a ministry or facilitate a Quest or anything else unless it is to contribute to the disciple making process. He gives us that authority and the mechanism through which that occurs is the local church.

This opportunity comes several years after answering a call into ministry which moved me away from a fulfilling practice of law. The only way that Julie and I want to do things is on a call from the Lord. His call includes this recent invitation to serve the local church through this ministry called Fellowship of the Sword.

The primary mechanism by which the Lord has equipped FTS for this purpose is the facilitation of Quest and HeartQuest events, which serve as catalysts in the disciple making process. That process, first and foremost, is accomplished through the local church. It’s our pleasure to serve the local church in this way as hearts get awakened and set in healthy rhythms, to be alive in their purpose and passions which are to be carried out in their eternal context. That context is as part of a local church.


Don’t Just Go to Work; Carry the Kingdom with Passion and Purpose

When we are searching for our purpose, the first place to inventory is often our passions. The question we are asking is, “why am I here,” and that question requires context. The context is creation and creation is a product of the Creator. The same Creator that initiated the context, designed us for the context.

So how are you wired? What stirs you? What are your passions? These are breadcrumbs on the trail in the journey I touched on in last week’s article.

The passions that are stirred are indicators of design and the design is only legitimate for so long as it fits within the context. This is where it can get tricky, if you aren’t careful. The context is bigger than you, me or any individual. It’s not about us. The passions we uncover aren’t to be explored for the sole purpose of satisfaction, but they are actually indicators of equipping for service. Service within the framework of the context.

The context is the Kingdom of God. He is the Creator and He is the Designer. Everything starts with and comes back to Him. Every gift, ability, passion or purpose within us is designed by Him to be offered back to Him. The fact that the get to feel His pleasure in the pursuit of our purpose in the context of His Kingdom is a bonus.

The Kingdom extends beyond the institution of a church, into the society within which the church operates. The gatherings of “church” have to be considered in the context of the Kingdom. The passions and purposes of the church folks applied in context extends the reach of the church beyond the four walls of the church.

The marketplace needs the gifts of the church for any hope of light in the darkness. In other words, Christians walking in their purpose reach places that won’t be touched by a pastor as people who won’t be attending a church interact with the church in the context of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom is the invisible reality beyond the visible facts (Hebrews 11:3). When working among the world, don’t be satisfied with the visible facts but ask for eyes to see. Ask to see the invisible and reach beyond the tangible. What are the eternal needs in the temporal facts? The answers that God shows you will be in need of a Kingdom ambassador walking in their purpose, given permission by the gifts of their passion to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.

Kingdoms are Colliding but You Have to Pick a Side

stars-collision-planets-astronautics-nasaI have a post on Facebook that has been converted into a boosted post which is, in effect, an advertisement. It pushes the message of the post out further than the immediate circle of friends that are connected to me. The topic of that post is simply a link with a short description of my new book.

To be honest, I am figuring out the best way to make the book and other things that I do available in the spirit of good stewardship without becoming a self-promoter. It’s not comfortable yet. From that discomfort, the reality is that this boosted post pushing my book proclaiming freedom in Christ is now “out there” for thousands of strangers to come across.

The other morning, there was a comment added to the post. The comment was a photograph and the photograph was depraved.  I deleted it and was reminded immediately that there is an enemy that comes against the Good News of the Kingdom of God. I was reminded that there is light and there is darkness, but there are no shades of gray.

The reminder that this kind of opposition persists was a good reminder. It was good to realize with fresh experience that Jesus won and we do through Him. My reaction to the photograph, other than deleting it, was to worship. I was in my car and I began to pray and sing. There were some great worship songs that came on over the radio and over the next 20 or 30 minutes I celebrated Jesus.

Yesterday morning Richard Henderson was reminded and shared with us that following Jesus is not balanced. There is no balance in a life given over to Him and His Kingdom. It’s unreasonable, unbalanced and uncommon. The weight of that reminder and the stirring of that weight resulted in a clearer vision of the clash of kingdoms. Light and darkness collide and you don’t want to be standing in the intersection of a collision. Pick a side and gain momentum.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

He already won. We win in and through Him. We can know the fullness of abundant life and the glory of God when we die with Christ to live in Him. We’ll face opposition but that threat is a head fake. Nothing can undo what Jesus has done.

Wicked Choices are Fueled from Wounded Places and False Identity

concentric-circlesThe stuff that we do which is unhealthy and wicked doesn’t have to be our story. We can exchange our depravity for holiness by grace. Jesus will accommodate that exchange where we offer up our will for His. First, we have to consider ourselves and ask Him to show us the things that aren’t His best for us. In the video that I made accompanying a blog the other day, I referenced Psalm 139:23-34, which is: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

We can ask the Lord to search us to see if there is any wicked way in us and He will lead us from it. Not a bad idea as wicked ways produce destructive results. Sometimes we’ll fool ourselves and think we are right when we are wrong. His whisper of truth is a course correction that will save us from difficult consequences.

The original word which is translated as “wicked” means, “1) pain, sorrow and 2) idol.” So we can understand the prayer of Psalm 139 to mean we want God to search us and show us any painful, sorrowful or idolatrous way within us. This is a great clue into the function of our soul.

Where there is wickedness in our will (behaviors), there is a reason for it. Our wicked choices are driven by our broken soul. If we examine our wicked ways and ask the Lord to show us, He will often take us to a lie that we are believing. From that lie, we are making bad choices. If we’ll continue to ask Him, He will often show us a wound the lie took root in. Somewhere along the way, something hurt us and we believed a lie about us and/or God that led us to self-protect from getting hurt again. If we get to the hurt, it can be healed. It it’s healed, the lie has no place to fester.

When we believe a lie that comes from a wound, we promote ourselves to god over that area of our lives. We reject the protection and provision of God and determine that we are better as god in that area. We don’t risk the vulnerability of hurt again to his protection and we self-protect figuring we can control it better than He did. That will result in increasingly depraved choices and difficult consequences. The spiral of depravity has begun.

“Search me, O God” will take us as deep as we are willing to go. If we’ll trust Him to show us, He will not only exchange His will for ours, but He’ll heal the hurt that led us to the place of making ourselves idols over those areas of our lives in the first place.

With Isn’t For

imagesThe bad news is we can’t do it; the good news is we don’t have to. We really don’t have anything we have to prove or accomplish that advances us in favor or blessings. We don’t have any burden to do stuff that protects God’s reputation or advances His cause of our own initiative. We do get to, however, join Him in the stuff that He will do.

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1.

Paul writes about the opportunity of walking as an ambassador of Christ, offering the message of reconciliation to a world that needs to be reconciled to Him. The only thing that qualifies anyone as an ambassador of Christ and minister of reconciliation is that they have been reconciled to Christ. The qualifier is Him. The Savior is Him. We just receive.

In the same way that we once were lost and dead in our separation from Him, others still are and we are commissioned to bring them the good news of His salvation. In the bringing of that good news, however, He doesn’t become any less the Savior than He was when we were saved. It’s Him that saves and we get to be there when He does. We get to participate with Him. We don’t do it for Him because we don’t have capacity to save.

Remember what Paul wrote in the passage quoted, “together with Him.” How many times have we said or heard others say they were doing something or wanted to do something “for Him.” Big difference between the “with” and the “for.”

Agreement with Christ as King in the advancement of His Kingdom is acceptance of an invitation into life and living. We are just as impacted in engaging the lost and broken as the lost and broken are in our engagement. We are encouraged and alive in the purpose that comes with accepting the invitations into the eternal even as we are otherwise bound by the temporal.

Doing stuff for Him is burdensome and lifeless. It’s fulfillment of an obligation that never existed towards a purpose we can’t accomplish. It’s hoping distant father notices the striving child and grants approval based on performance. It’s orphan stuff.

As children of God the Father through Christ the Son, we are already in Him. We can’t get anymore in and we don’t need to do anything else. We are invited to experience Him in an infinite variety of ways through our finite earthly existence. We are sons and daughters in Him and we don’t need to prove it or earn it.