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.

No Offense in the Feedback of Relationship

Public_Domain_Image_Mosaic_1I learned something in my marriage recently that has eluded me for years. The main issue we have faced which has come around consistently is me feeling criticized and the arguments that would ensue from there. Julie would express her feelings about things, but it seemed that those things always came back to me doing something wrong. From hurt, I would defend myself and here we go again.

While I knew I wasn’t perfect, I also wasn’t choosing to point out her flaws nearly as often as it seemed she was pointing out mine. I would feel beat up and defeated from the thought that I just couldn’t get it right. The truth was and is that I am a pretty good guy sincerely trying to be a good husband and dad, so why the criticism?

I heard a friend’s wife who has been married much longer than us explain that she needs to give a voice to the emotions she has in order to move forward. She explained that life’s hurts, disappointments and misunderstandings that come from living in close proximity caused her pain and other emotions. She would approach her husband to redeem those emotions through acknowledging those emotions. She wasn’t attacking or berating him, she was being intimate with him. She wasn’t rejecting him, she was sharing with him. She wasn’t against him, she was for him.

That was it. All this time, Julie had emotions that came from interactions with me and when she wanted to talk about them, it wasn’t about me. She wanted to give the emotions a voice to resolve them and move forward. She loves me and is for me and doesn’t want to hurt me. At the same time, she doesn’t want to live life with me full of unresolved feelings.

It’s only been less than two weeks since this hit me and I won’t handle it perfectly every time, but this is a huge step forward. If I can receive Julie confident in my identity and not reactionary with emotion to her emotions, she can empty her cup without my interpretation of criticism, guilt, shame or condemnation. We can have healthy dialogue and things don’t have to pile up.

Men can sometimes be more comfortable with logic than emotion and women can sometimes be more in tune with emotions. One does not negate the other and one cannot ignore the other, either. We have an opportunity to relate to the other by not being offended by the other. We can receive the other without being defensive and the net result will be a oneness which puts a more complete picture of God on display than one or the other.


The Confidence of Belief

tintern_abbey-inside-2004Conviction of belief has no need to argue; it is self-assured even in the face of criticism. Strength doesn’t need to defeat opposition to be strength; it just is. Where faith actually becomes substance and evidence and not just opinion, it doesn’t need assistance. Objective is not fortified by subjective.

In Luke 23, Jesus is questioned by Pilate and is asked if He is the King of the Jews. Jesus, knowing who He is, responds basically with, “whatever you say.” He doesn’t argue, prove, debate or object. Jesus stands on the strength of conviction rooted in identity.

Jesus also doesn’t counter-assault. He neither attacks Pilate nor the Jews that presented Him for prosecution. He stands accused and never blinks at who He is.

Jesus was doing was more than just living out what was intended to eventually become Luke’s account. Jesus was modeling what we are called to be. He was putting on display what a Son looks like and acts like and presents Himself, even in the face of accusation. He was going to die so that we could become sons, too, but the die was cast and we all too often think that sons have privilege that deserves promotion where crucifixion was modeled.

Pilate is clearly uncomfortable with the assurance of Jesus and finds no fault in Him, punting to Herod to avoid the question. The quiet assurance of identity will bring out the insecurity of the those that don’t know Him as sons. We don’t need to be the ones that convict of where they miss the mark compared to the conviction of our belief, the conviction of our belief will allow that to happen without us winning any arguments.

Every one of us has insecurities of one form or another. When faced with absolute security, our insecurity is uncomfortable to the point of objection. We will be dissatisfied with our insecurity when exposed to the security of Jesus. We can feel His strength compared to our weakness and we face an internal choice of stepping into strength or preserving weakness.

Want to win the argument? Stand in the silence of conviction, answering only objectively and without the need to enter into personal combat. The strength of your identity will come through the submission of your insecurities and others will see Him objectively instead of being distracted by you subjectively.

First Class Passengers

Corporate-jet-001I had a boss one time who had enjoyed some success with the company we were working for. She had worked during the first part of her career as in-house counsel and been afforded the opportunity to handle some high-dollar, high-profile cases on behalf of the company. The profile and exposure of her cases put her in front of the company’s “C” level executives on numerous occasions.

As her career advanced, she accepted management positions which were outside of the practice of law which she had been focused on. In this new environment, she was responsible for people beyond herself and her influence was as important as her competence.

When working with people, there are conflicts. People who had their own agenda or competing interests would get into contentious discussions with her. Sometimes, in the heat of the situation, the tone of the conversation could become emotionally charged and even personal. In those times, it was more important than ever to remain calm and restrained from an emotional response.

My boss would use a technique she shared with me one time for those times which invited defensive reactions. She would, in the middle of the “attack” think to herself, “I’ve flown on the corporate jet.”

In a non-spiritual way, she was reminding herself of who she was. The context would provide the emotional buffer necessary not to jump into an emotionally charged dispute. The restraint would facilitate clear-headed wisdom and accommodate dispute resolution.

We need to be reminded or we will take the bait. Romans 8 tells us that the Holy Spirit will testify with our spirit regarding our identity. When He tells us who we are, we are more inclined to operate as such. When we do, we’ll avoid the emotional traps of offense and self-protection and allow Him who says it to defend it, as well.

We are going to find ourselves in situations where others are opposed to us. If we operate from the insecurity that comes when we forget who we are, then we allow for the attacker to dictate our context. When we are reminded by Holy Spirit that our identity is assured and our purpose is eternal, we are equipped to meet the accusations and contention with grace and wisdom.

You may never fly on a corporate jet but you have a greater status symbol in the King of Kings. Jesus labels you as His but we will forget in the heat of the moments of a world that might never know for themselves. We need to be reminded. We need to remember.