Power and Glory

It seems like everything should be able to fit into a series. A nice, packaged summary of all truth related to a topic and a transition to the next thing seems reasonable. After all, one thing gets boring after a while, doesn’t it? Isn’t it best to move on just to sustain interest?

I haven’t found that to be the case. I haven’t been able to get beyond grace. I got turned upside down during a deep, personal dive into the ramifications of grace about four years ago and I’ve never recovered. I don’t want to, either.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 16-17)

Jesus came to offer us a change. A change of identity and positioning. We were welcomed as adopted children into the Father’s love by the Son. We were invited into His grace if we want to step away from the striving of the law. He would change who we are, how we see things and what increasingly would come out of us. All we have to do is agree.

The time of Jesus’ ministry on earth to the time of His return, which is increasingly imminent, is the time of grace. We are welcomed in and given His right standing (righteousness) with the Father simply by our “yes” to his invitation. It’s been going on for two thousand years and we will know when it’s time to turn the page: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)

Until then we enter by His grace, finding a loving Father and a willing Comforter ready to receive us as family. From our place as family and His place within us, the stuff that will come out of us will be inviting of others into His family, as well.

The stuff coming out of us when we are communing with Him is the same thing that invited us in; it will be His grace. His grace through us invites others to commune, too. That’s a message that never ends, until it does, and we’ll know when that is by “power and glory.”

Value Within the Unfamiliar

Last week, I was in an airport across the world waiting to come home. We had a 14 hour layover and were just spending time in the coffee shop when I wandered out front to stretch my legs. My phone was charging at our table just inside the outer window as I strolled out to take in the scenes and smells.

I turned to walk back in but there was an armed soldier preventing my re-entry. He pointed upstairs and informed me that I could only re-enter through the doors on the second floor. My attempts at an explanation or appeals to step right back into my table got me nowhere.

Upstairs, they informed me that I needed my outbound ticket to be granted access. I realized that the only ticket I had was on my phone, which was inside. I tried to explain and got nowhere. Fortunately, I was able to go back downstairs and get the attention of my friends through the glass to bring my phone out but for a minute I was stranded in a foreign land with no way to get to what or where I needed to go home.

This was the return trip from a week in a culture where language, food, smells, traffic and customs among other things were outside of my comfort zone. Connection and understanding is possible but requires greater intentionality than the familiarity of home. Insecurities related to your purpose, abilities, reason or choices can emerge in the discomfort of the unfamiliar.

Going places on a calling related to the Kingdom brings hope that you are bringing some value. Beyond that, however, the value is within. The revelation of insecurities when security based in preference is gone offers the opportunity for redemption. It requires dependence on God’s grace and your identity in Him beyond the controllable aspects of life and ministry.

Every time we agree to step into unfamiliar circumstances the likelihood of exposure within us multiplies. For as long as we are comfortable and controllable, there is a security in our maintenance. Outside of routine boundaries such as common language and agreement based in our upbringing, there are questions that can bring value in their answers.

Reliance is so much more real when there is no other plan. True reliance builds true understanding of true identity in true faith. The product is greater security in Him; not the substituted security controlled by me or my ability to move in familiar expectations.

 

Minding the Gap

I sincerely enjoy what I get to do and am appreciative for the opportunities that I have to do it. The journey has been an amazing, scary, frustrating and fulfilling walk of faith. I am more amazed than ever at the faithfulness of God through the personal experiences He has afforded.

For some of us, there was a time in our lives when everything changed. From that point on, nothing was the same as we were changed from the inside-out. The transformation was initiated by grace as we realized the need to give our lives to Jesus in order to receive the life He bought for us with His own.

The realization of Jesus and surrender to Him and the resulting new birth are vertical experiences. That is, they connect us with the higher perspective. According to Scripture, we become seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), which is a vertical ascent.

The challenge in walking out the new birth is in the confusion, temptation and illusion that horizontal experiences present. That is, as we live in this world the things of this world capture our attention to distract us from the vertical ascent we once and sometimes realized in Christ Jesus. We live horizontally even if positioned and invited vertically.

I’ve found in ministry that some are very tuned into the vertical but have little to know connection to the reality of the horizontal. That is, they hear from God, have strong faith and appear to be completely aligned with heavenly perspective. Others are completely distracted or consumed with the challenge and opportunity of the horizontal and the vertical isn’t considered when working out earthly circumstances.

Both the vertically minded and the horizontally focused have their strengths and weaknesses. They each can come to be remarkable in their abilities as aligned with their focus. Without the appropriation of the benefits and challenges of each of the two perspectives, the opportunity to agree with God on earth as it is in heaven is missed.

The opportunity of the Kingdom of God is to mind the gap. It’s to stand in the intersection and connect eternal truth with temporary circumstances. It’s to recognize the invisible beyond the visible and bring eternal wisdom to temporal situations. Christ followers are not called to an illusion; they are invited to agree with Him in the advancement of His Truth into temporary facts. Never acknowledging the challenge of those facts is just weird. Never connecting Him to those facts is just disconnected.

Stand in the intersection and pray, minister, listen and assist real people with real stuff. Pay attention to the challenge and pray for the solution. Don’t be so good at the vertical that you miss the horizontal and don’t be so focused on the horizontal that you disregard the vertical.

The Foundation of Faith

It’s easy to forget the most important thing and move on to other things. The foundation of the context of our understanding can be taken for granted as focus shifts from design to decoration. How many times have you stopped to admire or even appreciate the concrete foundation of your home? More than likely, it is the paint, flooring, appliances and window dressing that are the focus.

The foundation of our faith is grace. Nothing in the New Covenant works for you as you work it out without an ongoing appreciation for the foundation of the grace of Jesus.

The breath you breath; literally, figuratively, physically and spiritually is only available by grace. Grace got you saved as the death and resurrection of Jesus provided your new birth and provides the resurrection of your soul. It’s His grace that saved you and now it’s His grace that transforms you.

Without a constant focus on the foundation of grace, you and I are going to think it’s about us. Our works, disciplines, ministries, knowledge, attendance, giving or some other decorative additions. Those things are nice and they can be upgrades to the previous structure, but they are secondary to and dependent on grace.

Without the ongoing and urgent embrace of grace, the Righteousness of Christ afforded to us is overlooked for our self-righteousness. We get excited about how good we are at the expense of realizing how Holy is He that lives within us.

You’ll be able to tell when you forget about the foundation if and when you find yourself full of opinions related to the decorative presentations of others. When your approval of them depends on the aesthetics of their extras (good or bad), you don’t see the Righteousness of Christ available to them as the same foundation you have required. The way you see others reflects the way you see yourself.

The Glory of Shutting Up

Somewhere along the way, we have largely embraced a cultural value and belief that we need to be heard. We need to have a voice to proclaim our perspective. We need to be afforded a seat at the table to weigh in on whatever subject we deem ourselves interested and opinionated.

It’s not true. We don’t need to be heard. Often times, it’s actually to our advantage to not be heard. The position of no position is peaceful compared to the contentious places of preference.

In Matthew 16, Jesus begins to teach His guys this lesson. He begins to teach them the Kingdom. Verse 21 says that Jesus “began to show” His disciples that He “must” suffer, be killed and be raised.

Peter actually starts to argue with Him. Peter needed to be heard, with what most of us would have concluded to be a noble position, but we would see in the reaction of Jesus that it was anything but noble. Peter said that he wouldn’t allow Jesus to suffer and be killed and Jesus shut him down; actually called him Satan.

Jesus tells Peter that his perspective is wrong; he’s looking at things from man’s perspective, not God’s perspective. Jesus goes on to say that to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, which actually means to forget about ourselves. It means to not focus on us or the opinions we foster within us. Those opinions don’t need to be heard.

We are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (vs. 25-26) just like Jesus was. We get to not have an opinion. We get to enjoy the benefits of sacrifice, if we will reject the apparent satisfaction of being heard or considered or preferred. If we’ll allow ourselves to lose, we will win.

Glory comes on the other side of crucifixion. Where we willingly allow ourselves not to matter and deny our desire to advance the preferences of our soul, the glory of God can come through us. Where we will sacrifice our mind, will and emotions, His Spirit will be put on display through us.

Jesus didn’t come to provide a history lesson or abstract idea; He came to unleash His Kingdom and His plan for multiplication of that Kingdom is us. We are invited to follow Him in His ways; the ways of His Kingdom. Not our ways and our need to be heard. His ways are better, but they come at the cost of our preferences.

Being OK When You Find Yourself in the Wrong Place

My wife got to take an incredible trip to Germany and France recently. One evening, we were going to dinner with my sister and her husband who live in Germany, along with some of their friends. I was driving one of the cars to a restaurant in Heidelberg. We got a little turned around and were trying to find the restaurant.

Along the way, I made a few mistakes. First, I drove across a bridge that was a footpath. People all over the bridge had to make way for this rogue car. Then, I drove through a restaurant’s outdoor seating, prompting my sister to say, “you’re about to hit the waitress.” Finally, I found myself in a designated bus lane with no way out other than to follow the bus in front of me.

While sitting at a red light while in the bus lane with my window down, we noticed a German man staring me down. He was obviously taking exception with my choice of lanes and rightfully so. He was staring intently at this crazy driver who was either rebellious, chaotic, confused or some combination. As we noticed him glaring at me, I instinctively put my hands up in a surrendered posture and said simply, “I’m in the wrong place.” At that simple declaration, his grimace turned to a bit of a smile and he turned and walked away.

While I didn’t want to be in the wrong lane or threaten the wait staff with my wayward choices driven by my confusion, I wasn’t offended or threatened when the man confronted me with a look. I knew I was in the wrong place and he knew that I was in the wrong place. I knew that I wasn’t a bus and this was a mistake. I was going to get back in the car lane as soon as I could. That response of confession and surrender disarmed any accusations he was formulating.

When we know who we are, we know when we are out of our lane and the temporary time in a place we don’t belong won’t threaten our identity. We won’t react to threats or accusations when we are grounded in the security of the Truth of our identity. We’ll be secure in our confession and change our mind. No need to fight; you know I’m not a bus and I know that I’m not a bus.

Identity breeds security and security fosters emotional maturity. When we are affirmed in who we are by the One who made us, we can know peace in our mistakes as well as our victories because neither define us.