Understanding Others Starts with Understanding Self

I was on a video conference call with people from the other side of the world last week. People who have become friends from time that we have gotten to spend together and now work we are getting to do together. People of different cultures and countries with a common goal. Even seeing them on video and interacting in that way stirred warm feelings of friendship and appreciation for them.

As we finished our meeting, someone asked me to close our meeting with prayer. As I started to pray, the Lord stirred the story of the Tower of Babel and I prayed in agreement. In that story from Genesis 11, people were building a tower to reach the heavens. God decided to confuse their common language to prevent their understanding and stop them from accomplishing their task.

Where we can gain common understanding, we can reach heaven and heaven will reach us. Where we can break through the common and preferred way we know things to understand them from a foreign perspective, we’ll gain insight into the Kingdom of God. When we are willing to be uncomfortable and hold our preferences loosely, we can gain the eternal alternative.

Ephesians 2:22 says that God, on the cornerstone of Christ, is building His household to house His Spirit. The household is people in relationship, not institutions, buildings or programs. Where we seek common understanding relationally, we have the capacity to house the very Spirit of God among us.

When stones are arranged relationally to build a structure, they require shaping. The shaping incorporates hammers, chisels and saws. There is abrasive effort to take a stone and alter it in such a way that it can fit with other stones unto a greater purpose than any of the single stones will serve alone. We require the same shaping.

We can reach the heavens as part of the household of God. Where we seek and depend on common understanding, we come closer to heaven and invite heaven closer to earth. That understanding comes at the expense of our preferences and sacrifice of the selfishness of our soul. If we will allow the shaping, our individual purpose will be multiplied in relational agreement with others who are being shaped, as well.

We won’t really understand them until we understand us. Until we are honest about our faults and insecurities, we won’t have any true strength. Our faults will be a fault in the structure until they are recognized and compensated for by the offsetting strengths of the others. We’ll know their strengths compared to our weaknesses if we are willing to admit our weaknesses first.

Overcoming Our Overwhelming Desire for Justice

In this era of instant access, we are flooded with stories of the shortcomings of others. The mistakes and misconduct of celebrities as well as the relatively anonymous are advertised on social media as well as the main line media. The depravity of people is almost celebrated.

To consider these stories a “celebration” of the mistakes of others may seem too drastic, but is it? Haven’t we become a society similar to the era of Roman citizens gathering in the coliseum to watch the death and manipulation of others?

Through it all, we have become a society of judges. We view the news, reality shows and internet communities with a lens that filters the information so that we can form immediate opinions on who is right and who is wrong. We decide based on the fraction of information we are given access to who is “right” and who is “wrong” in a given situation. Then, with this freshly formed judgment, we engage in online debate and justification of our position with increasing conviction and pride related to our conclusion.

Underneath it all, we are allowed multiple opportunities every hour to find somebody more screwed up than us, as far as we can tell. As a result, we can rest in our own junk as justified by comparison. The judgments we pass validate our own shortcomings and, as a result, we stall out in our own growth. We settle for less than we were created to be because at least we are not as bad as “them.”

Judgment is a difficult burden and one that should not be taken lightly. The decisions we make when residing in our position as judge over the lives of others either in the media or in our personal lives have consequences. Every time we choose justice over grace, we get to apply that same standard to how we view ourselves. We live with the burden of right and wrong and good and bad and strive to perform according to our version of the law.

Once the burdens are too heavy and we realize that we really just can’t do the deal ourselves, then and only then do we find room for grace. We cry out to be relieved of the burdens of performance. When we are shown grace in a personal and transformative way, we view the problems of others with increased restraint on our judgment. If that revelation of grace occurs at all is determined by the Source of grace in the first place. His name is Jesus.

“And” Keeps “Or” from Being Weird or Rigid

All too often, we hear that things need to be “balanced” and what is meant is that they need to be under control. Control is an illusion and pursuit of control is typically dysfunctional. Balance isn’t control and it isn’t compromise; it’s order. Balance should agree with the order of things and often it presents a tension. Tension is good as it presents opportunities for stretching without breaking.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The prayer in Ephesians is for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; not the Spirit of wisdom or revelation. Holy Spirit is wisdom with revelation. Revelation and wisdom; both together at the same time.

All too often, we can orient towards one or the other, preferring either wisdom or revelation. Where we prefer wisdom, knowledge and experience will trump the mystery. The ability to control, manage and maneuver will supersede any awe and wonder of the power of God.

Where revelation is preferred, the idea that God is speaking will trump the need to ensure Biblical accuracy. Potential revelation, left to its own merits, is potentially fallible. It has to be subject to the infallible Word and allowed context that comes with counsel from a diverse gift mix in a community. There can be no rogue prophets.

It seems reasonable to consider revelation, or the realization of eternal truth by hearing, seeing or knowing to be the “what” that God is making clear. If it lines up with the Word and proves trustworthy from the test of wise counsel, it leaves open the “when” and “how” of wisdom. Just because you know something, it doesn’t mean it’s time to do anything.

Often times, God will let us in on His plans, but it isn’t for us to get things done for Him. It’s simply to be relational and invites us to pray. We get to pray in accordance with the revelation and watch as we agree with heaven on earth. It builds our faith and includes us in the advancement of an eternal Kingdom.

Hold it loosely and walk with the humility required of submission. Pray first, act sometimes. Listen closely and pay attention; we are all invited into the eternal perspective. Eternal perspective is orderly; not controlled or compromised.

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.

Mastering Your Ability to Fix Problems and Resolve Disputes

I spent the first 20 years of my career largely focused on dispute resolution. As a representative for insurance companies in third-party (liability) claims and litigation as well as in the practice of law. Time and time again, I was in the middle of a problem and needed to be an effective problem solver.

Early in my career, I worked for a company that used a slogan to teach and reinforce their approach to dispute resolution. They encouraged employees to “Master the Basics” and I believe those same “basics” apply to approaches to problem solving in whatever endeavor we find ourselves. Effective problem solvers are effective in their calling, no matter what that calling may be.

In considering the systematic approach to working through disputes and problems, consider the “basics” of:

  • Coverage – the policy has to cover the loss to move towards a resolution, otherwise the claim is denied. In more general terms, coverage is either authority or permission. You need to either have the authority to speak into a situation or permission to do so. Forcing your solutions into a place where you don’t have authority or permission creates relational problems and frustrations.
  • Investigation – ask questions to determine all aspects of the details surrounding the situation. Ask the questions without a bias to try to get to an pre-determined preference. Ask the questions and pay attention to the answers without accusation, coaching or presumption along the way. The questions are to solve problems; not to build a case or support your positions.
  • Evaluation – what are the options? Is there a 3rd way that is in between the cracks somewhere other than the two opposing forces that are most prevalent in a  dispute or problem? Have the facts fueled creativity in the creation of potential solutions?
  • Negotiation – working with people to steward relationship as you move towards a resolution. Hearing reactions along the way and paying attention to the emotion and perceptions along the way. Working towards agreement, not towards winning. Be willing to concede things as opposed yet valid points are intertwined in the disagreement.
  • Resolution – finding the closest thing to a “win-win” that you can. Attempting to move everyone forward with buy-in and preservation of relationship even where there is compromise. The best resolutions are typically where each party gives up more than they had hoped but has done so from a position that recognizes the value in that choice.

In most jobs, our title could be “problem-solver,” or at least it could/should be part of our job description. As such, it likely makes sense to be intentional about how we go about doing so and be as good at it as we can. “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

You Can Know the Answers to the Mysteries

We are not invited to be good. We are not invited just to read, meet, sing and give. There is more. We are invited into more.

The depth of what is available to us by faith in Jesus is the difference between maintaining religion and living in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus died for the sins of man, He did so on  the heels of preaching of the Kingdom of God. The promise He brought was for eternity and eternity starts immediately. There is no waiting period between the time when you meet Jesus and the realization of His Kingdom.

Jesus was asked in Matthew 13 why He taught in parables. Why not just be crystal clear and make it easy for people? Why the riddles? Jesus responded in verse 11, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

When you are born again as a believer in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are invited into the mystery. Beyond the obvious and into the depth of knowing that exceeds knowledge. He will show you the “why” behind the “what.” He will give you new eyes to see things eternally, even now.

Unfortunately, most believers don’t look. The appetite to see more and to know the mysteries of the Kingdom are relegated to the super spiritual or the professional clergy. Jesus clarifies in the next verse that it is for “whoever” and He was speaking to tax collectors and fisherman. Not special people based on societies standards and not unique based on religious qualifications.

We are going to face trouble in the world, that is certain. What is left for us to decide is whether or not we want to face those troubles as confused and defeated orphans or empowered and enlightened royalty by adoption?

As you walk in your purpose today and as you encounter people and circumstances that require consideration, ask for eyes to see the mystery of the Kingdom of God in those situations. Ask for eyes to see so that you can agree with eternity in the middle of the temporal challenge. Go deeper; choose to live in the truth of Jesus’ promise. Be a mystery solver.