Are You Fasting or Feasting on Your Gifts and Service?

I was leaving for a Quest last week and my wife, Julie, told me “it’s OK for us not to talk until you get home; you don’t need to call me.” She went on to say, “you don’t need to call me . . . as long as you are pursuing God. If you aren’t pursuing God, then call me.”

I do Quest events frequently and Julie encourages me to receive as well as give. She encourages me that if it’s just a job and there is no refreshing for refilling, then I’ll have to find another way to fill my tank. Her wisdom and support are incredible.

As I took her advice and began to pray and seek the Lord at the beginning of the week, I was quickened to consider a fast. As I asked God if I was being invited to fast, I was reminded of Isaiah 58, which asks, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I took that as a call to minister; that is, to simply offer up to God my service through ministry. From that, He was going to set men free. So that’s what I did, and would have likely done anyway. I continued to seek Him along the way and spent time without distraction when afforded the opportunity through the week.

We went through the week and God set men free. He saved them, He freed them, He redeemed them and He unleashed them. He moved in power, compassion, revelation and Truth. I agreed with Him and He was, as always, faithful.

At the end of the week, He and I had some time while the guys were eating breakfast. We had time where I was reminded of His love for me in a way that was refreshing and life-giving. My tank was filled.

We all have gifts and we are all invited into His purposes. He’ll get His stuff done and we’re invited to participate. Along the way, He will fill us, heal us and restore us, too. The way in, however, is to fast your gifts, not to feast on them.

We can’t serve to be seen or to be satisfied in the accomplishment. We fast our gifts by giving them over; not needing anything in return. It’s a fine line and it’s all heart. It can look the same two different times and one time it’s for Him and the other it’s to scratch an itch you have. Only you and Him can tell, more than likely. Here is the promise He gives for our offering of the agreement with Him and sacrificing the “us” in “our” ministry:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

Honor Makes a Way for Solutions to Disagreements

Last night, the Dallas Cowboys stood together. More accurately, they knelt together. They knelt together in a sign of protest against racism in the United States, and they did it before the National Anthem. As a reminder, that is what all the kneeling was about in the first place, although it has been largely forgotten in the politics and opinions.

In case you didn’t see it or hear about it they came out as a team, joined arms and knelt. Then they stood up. They knelt before the National Anthem ever began and they stood up during the national anthem.

All along, the objection to the protest has been that protestors should stand and respect the flag. Last night, they did. Yet, in an overnight poll in the Dallas Morning News, the initial opinions offered were that 54% of respondents felt “Cowboys should not have knelt at all.” This was a Dallas newspaper, mind you, so this is a biased sampling presumably in favor of what the Cowboys do. I don’t know what the sampling size was, but that result is disheartening.

This poll showed that for some, it was never about the flag in the first place. It was about being right. For some, they aren’t patriotic as much as they are just prejudiced. When you don’t want somebody that is different from you to say anything about their perception or experience based in those differences, you are protecting the status quo, not the traditions surrounding the flag.

We tend to like what we like and want what we want and will often find justifications to protect our preferences. Our preferences are rooted in our perspective and our perspective is limited to our experiences. Those experiences, in this nation, are vastly different. Experiences surrounding race and racism cannot be the same where the there are differences in race. It’s just not possible.

The opportunity going forward is honor. I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan for the past four decades, but my admiration of their collective voice last night isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about honor. They were able to show honor towards the flag while also projecting the voice of the perspective that was calling out. They were able to agree about disagreements that they had not all experienced. That’s what the flag stands for, in part; the freedom to be heard in an honorable way.

When 54% say there should be no disagreement at all, there is going to be disagreement. If and when the majority can agree that the experience of the minority is different from their own, then there can be solutions. Honor makes a way for solutions to disagreements.

The Visible Comes From the Invisible; Do You See It?

There are all kinds of clues, but we have to pay attention. We can see beyond the veil, and the traces of evidence that get us there are in plain sight. Look around and you’ll see God.

While the Kingdom of God is invisible, faith is tangible. As such, the evidence of the Kingdom of God is going to show up in very tangible ways. If we aren’t looking for them, we’ll miss them even when they are right in front of our faces.

When asked of the greatest commandment, Jesus said it was to love God with everything that’s in you but He didn’t stop there. He went on to say that just as important was to love other people as you love yourself. It’s hard to know what’s in us; we can be deceived by our own intentions. It’s easier, however, to work from the outside – in to know things that are deeper.

Jesus said to love others. How are you with others? How are others with you? How are others with others? Not for the purpose of judgment, but for the purpose of identification. Do you see the Kingdom in the way that interactions with people unfold? If not, there is no need to panic; it’s simply an opportunity to invite the Kingdom. “On earth as it is in Heaven.”

The limitation we have regarding our capacity to love people is the degree to which we love ourselves. How well do you love yourself? What habits affirm or challenge your perception of your opinion of yourself? Do you take care of you? Are your words truth or slander? The easiest way to know is when something goes wrong.

The supernatural will reveal itself in natural ways. When we pay attention to the words, actions, options and choices going on all around us, we can ask for eyes to see beyond the obvious. What is God orchestrating and how can we agree with Him in what He may be inviting us into? If we’ll pay attention, we’ll see it and know.

The Christian life is not intended to be perfectly arranged and figured out, like career management. It’s a relationship with a King that is about the expansion of His Kingdom. We get to agree with Him as agents of that Kingdom if we’ll pay attention. His written Word is the framework for our perspective which adds depth of understanding to the things we are able to observe.

When we know the truth, the truth can set us free. Free to be included in the greatest mystery and adventure ever known to man. When we pay attention.

Inviting Freshness

flaresSometimes different is better and challenges are gifts. We can get into such a routine that we don’t stop to consider what the real opportunity is. Doing good is good but allowing more is best. Those times that our plans are frustrated invite relief that can’t be managed. I had one of those times recently.

We were cruising along in ministry, doing the deal. The truth of the matter is that it is entirely possible to do Christian ministry without Christ. On its face, that seems incredibly bad and it isn’t good, but maybe not as terrible as it seems. He equips us and commissions us to engage in the lives of others on His behalf and there are times we just need to do that. Go too long on your own ability, however, and everything will run dry.

There was a small change that had to happen that caused me to stop and ask, “OK, we usually do something right here that we can’t do now, so what do You want to do?” And I waited.

It was in that time of pause that He breathed. The faithfulness of God came in the need of the moment. Waiting and listening and discerning and obeying opened the door to His faithfulness being manifest in a place where He is typically faithful. If we had done what we normally did, it would have been good; this time it was supernatural.

God comes with a fresh breath and timely word where we don’t depend on yesterday’s recipe for making manna. I saw the opportunity in a new way and knew the reward of the risk in this fresh expression, as well.

Jesus said that He came to heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free and He’ll do that, no matter our efforts. We can be included in the accomplishment of His ministry if we don’t make His ministry our ministry. It’s always His and we are included. He invites us into what He is doing and when we simply agree, the dynamic is incredible. There are gifts that flow and the gift recipients are changed as are the one that deliver the gifts from Him.

It’s easy to get good at this stuff. We can sing and dance and control and maneuver and few will know the difference. Everyone realizes, however, when it’s not a show but it’s literally heaven on earth and it comes in the freshness invited in the surrender.

Seeing the Seer

seeing_time_by_xclockworkcalamityx-d8bn216Think back to a time when you were struggling. You may have wanted to escape through distraction or quit and run away all together. Often times, one of the drivers in those times of trouble is the feeling of loneliness. When we think we are alone in our troubles, we’ll often want to remove ourselves from those that we believe can’t understand our unique perspective.

In Genesis 16, we can read about Hagar, who was a slave. She was given over to Abraham to bear him a son. Hagar’s pregnancy caused contention between Hagar and Abraham’s wife, Sarah. The contention and mistreatment prompted Hagar to run away. God met Hagar in her flight, and told her to return and submit with a promise that He would provide increase for her.

Interestingly, God also tells her that her soon-to-be-born son is going to have trouble and be trouble. Despite this difficult news regarding her son’s future, Hagar willingly submits herself. God calls her to submit and she does, although the promise associated with that submission is not entirely positive. She submits, just the same, to the voice of God and rejoices in His direction no matter how good or bad it may seem.

She says in Genesis 16:13, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'” She’s so happy to hear from God, no matter the message, that she relates to Him so differently that she calls Him something different. She calls Him “the God who sees me.”

Hagar needed to be seen. She needed to know that she was more than just a slave who was being mistreated. She needed a promise that gave her meaning beyond her circumstances. She needed to be recognized and valued enough to be acknowledged.

We all need to be seen. We want to be seen by others and we need to be seen by God. If we feel like we are lost and forgotten, we will increasingly withdraw to protect from the disappointment of being ignored. There will be trouble and challenges even in the promises of God, but in the knowing that God has not forgotten us, we will find hope and faith. We will willingly submit to even challenging circumstances when we see and remember that God sees and remembers us.

If you find yourself in one of those times of wanting to run, ask Him. Ask Him to show you how He sees you. Your faith to make such a request will reveal His faithfulness. He is the God that sees you. He sees you; do you see Him seeing you?

You Be You

sunglassesThe greatest things are simple. When we complicate things that have tremendous value, the treasure gets lost in the treasure hunt. Sometimes we need to simply allow the treasure to speak for itself.

If you are living life from a desire to give it away, there are some practical ways to foster those opportunities. The practical eventually gives way to the supernatural, however, and there is an intersection of moving from the visible to the invisible. The only way to make an eternal change is by way of introduction to the eternal Source.

How do we do that? How do we share Jesus and what He has done for us without being judgmental, rigid, legalistic and alienating? How do we actually represent Him and not a Republican, suburban expression of how we think others should act in His name?

It’s actually simple. Just tell your story. Living in a way that facilitates giving it away as described in my last blog post, there will be natural, relational and non-threatening ways to share. When you face those intersections, consider sharing your story:

  1. What it looked like before Jesus – a description of your condition when depravity was given its place as primary. It doesn’t need to glorify sin or contain “big” sins that society rejects. What was the condition of your heart? Did you know joy? Peace? Love?
  2. What it looked like when you met Jesus – Alan Smith asks the question like this: “Can you tell me a time when you met Jesus and, after that, everything changed?” This requires encounter and new birth. It’s the antithesis of religion and self-will towards moral rule keeping. It’s the validity to who you are in Him; a new creation.
  3. What it looks like since meeting Jesus – what does your relationship with an invisible God look like? What is the fruit He is cultivating in your life look like? From a place of vulnerable transparency, what is still being worked out in you?

The sharing of Jesus is the sharing of relationship. Our ideas, theory, rationale and positions regarding Jesus don’t invite an introduction to Him, they invite an argument about Him. Nobody can argue with a vulnerable sharing of your story.

Here’s the deal . . . your story is about you. And Him. How the other person reacts to your story is about them. And Him. Don’t own their reaction. Just offer the sacrifice of transparency without expectation or agenda. You can’t save anybody and if they reject Jesus it’s not your fault. Just represent Him for who He is in your life. Maybe they’ll want Him in their life, too. Or not.