Thursday

My Authority


Authority is always given, never taken.  That’s pretty much immutable.

Father could claim authority in my life in his role as my creator, but he doesn't. That's what free will is about: he gave me the right to choose whether he will actually be my Lord or not, and it’s a choice I need to keep making, not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it choice.

Civil government assumes (correctly) my submission to its authority by virtue of the fact that I choose to make my home within the boundaries of its authority.

Nobody else has the right to claim authority over me, though some may claim power over me (e.g. incarceration).

I can and do choose to submit myself to other authorities in my world. I have submitted much of my will to my bride with the simple commitment, “I do.” I have a pastor (not in position, but in fact) to whom I submit this: I will always listen to his input, and take it seriously, but I do not delegate my decision-making (my will) to him.

Similarly, I have invited a few others to speak into my life, though not all of them know it. However, if someone assumes that they have authority in my life, that generally disqualifies them to speak into my life. If they insist, we’ll have a blunt conversation. I am the one responsible for me. Only I can exercise my own free will, regardless of theology or psychology or civil law. The best they can do is either a) counsel me on *how* they think I should make my choices, or they can make their own choices for how they will respond to my choices (e.g. if I drive drunk, they might choose to incarcerate me), but they cannot make my choices for me.


I’ve had a goodly number of folks come into my life for the sole purpose of assuming authority over my life and my choices. I used to submit to that process, but giving away my free will has never worked out well in my world. And it insults my beloved King if I despise (= “to treat as unimportant,” e.g. by giving away) his precious gift of free will.

In my opinion, this is one of the greater obstacles to the western Church, and one of the greatest problems in many western nations, particularly my own: individuals giving up their responsibility for our own lives, choices and circumstances. 

The current buzzword for the process of not taking responsibility for our free will is “entitlement,” and it’s a doozy. The sense of “It’s not my fault!” is pretty epic right now, and it’s often accompanied by either “…therefore someone should pay me for it!” or “…therefore I’m powerless!” or pretty often, both.

So much gets resolved when we merely accept responsibility to make our own free-will choices.





The Bible or Relationship?

I love the Bible.

I don't mean that metaphorically, this is literal: I love that book, I love those stories. Even more, I love the precious revelation of this relationship that I've been reborn into, the Story of Covenant.

However, I'm far more interested in hearing Holy Spirit speaking through the words than I'm interested in taking the words of the translators - skilled as they are - for my definitive final word.

Even if I could get past the translators, if I could have walked around with Peter and Paul and John and hear them, in their original language, share their experiences and counsel of their relationship with God, I'd still rather talk with God, face to face.

And I think He'd prefer that, too.

This is about a relationship, isn't it? A PERSONAL relationship, right? So the relationship with the person is the authoritative reference.

I am thankful for my marriage certificate. It tells me about a relationship that is precious to me. But I can tell you that I'd much rather curl up before the fireplace with the Lady named in that certificate, than with the certificate itself.

The certificate is valuable, priceless even. The Lady, and my relationship with her, is even more priceless.

Sent

We Are Sent.

There’s a big difference between us going out on our own and spreading the Good News of the Kingdom because we like it, and being sent on assignment to to do the very same work.

We’re sent. We're on assignment. Commissioned by Heaven.

Jesus sent us: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” [John 20:21]

Think about that first word, “As” for a minute: This is like what Father has done.

You and I are sent under the same terms and conditions that applied when Father sent Jesus to Earth.

Let that mess with your head for a minute. Jesus was sent as the embodiment of Heaven to extend the Kingdom (“kingship”) of heaven on Earth. Every time Jesus confronted darkness, the Kingdom of Heaven emerged victorious. Every time Jesus met someone sick, he healed them.

OK. That stretches me a fair bit. I’m not just a follower, just a “believer”, just a pew-warmer, just “little ol’ me.” I’m sent to Earth with the same assignment, with the same backing, with the same power that Jesus was sent with.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Whoa.

Now for the second half:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God….” [John 13:3]

How was Jesus sent from the Father? With all things under his power, knowing he had come from God, knowing he was returning to God.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” What does this say about how you’re sent?

And of course, the very next thing Jesus did was to wash the boys’ feet. Isn’t that how we’re sent?

We're sent to wash feet in the power of, and as a representative of, the King of Kings. He's washing feet through you and me.










Guard Your Heart

You’ve all heard people talking about “guarding your heart.” You’ve probably heard a sermon or ten on the topic.

It’s usually presented as, “Don’t let the enemy influence your heart in any way.”

A famous Bible teacher said it this way, “The enemy wants to embitter and corrupt you. Guard your heart against contamination by lust and loneliness, bigotry and arrogance, and everything in between.”

Now that’s all well and good, but I saw this in a new light recently. It messed up my thinking, and I think I'm on to something.

I used a revolutionary new Scriptural Interpretation Technique (maybe we can call it SIT?) for this new revelation. Let me share it with you:

• Read the whole freaking verse.

That’s it. Read the whole verse. Pretty complicated, isn’t it? Let’s practice this together on this topic, shall we?

Turn with me to Proverbs 4:23: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

Do you see what it’s saying here? It’s not talking about guarding your heart so you don’t think bad thoughts. If you’re in love with Jesus, if your mind is “fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1&2), then there’s no room for the bad thoughts anyway.

It says, “Guard your heart… for....” “For” is an awfully big word. In other words: “Here’s the reason you guard your heart: because stuff springs out of your heart if it’s not guarded well.”

Have you ever spoken before you took a second to think, and wished you could take those words back? Have you ever discovered that you related to somebody through a messed-up filter? Have you ever believed a lie, and had that lie influence how you do life?

The reason you guard your heart, the reason I need to guard my heart, is not so bad stuff doesn’t get IN. It’s so the issues of my life don’t get OUT to mess up other people.

Moreover: our job is to guard our heart DILIGENTLY so we don't let the wrong stuff out. This is a big deal.

We don’t guard our heart to protect ourselves. We guard our heart to protect the folks around us.

(Wait. How often are we actually commanded to protect ourselves, and let everybody else fend for themselves? Yeah, like never. So this is consistent with the “whole counsel of God” too! Nice.)

--

“Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”



Friday

Victory. Overwhelming Victory.

This has been on my mind for a while.

Where our Owners’ Manual speaks of the battle (in Ephesians 6), it’s very specific: the victor is defined as the one still standing when the dust settles.


“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore.”

So if you’re battered and bloody and discouraged and weary when the fighting stops, that’s normal. If you’re still standing, you’re the victor.

We tend to think “victory” means that we’re still humming a happy tune, the birds are still singing and our armor is still shiny.

Bah! Shiny armor means you haven’t been in a real battle yet. And the birds will sing again when it’s time. And you can always choose what kind of tune you want to hum.

Someone will bring up Romans 8: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” True that. We are more than conquerors. Isn’t that talking about the happy Hollywood ending where the hero (you) rides off into the sunset with his heart’s desire next to him?

Not so much. What it means is that you’re still standing.

How do you conquer except that you do battle? Real battle. War. Blood. Guts. Demons flapping. Curses flying. Tongues wagging. Naysayers naying. Enemies screaming.

Look at our own example of “more than a conqueror.” He wore the crown of thorns and not a scrap of cloth as he dangled bloody, groaning “It is finished.” That’s our example. That’s our Forerunner. That’s our King.

Have you fallen and you’re not getting up? That’s not winning. I don’t care who’s fault it is. Lying there, staying there, with your face in the mud and blood is not victory.

Having face-planted, and then struggled to your feet as the angels mopped up the battle, even if you need three others to help you to your feet, that’s victory. That’s more than a conqueror.

Do not let the devil tell you you’ve lost if you’re still on your feet, if you’re still fighting, if you’re weary to the bone. If you’re upright, you’re the victor.

‘Nuff said.

Thursday

Reflections on Some Influencers

I was reflecting on some of the guys who have influenced my life in God over the years. None of these guys had a position of “leader,” but all three of them were competent leaders.

I knew a man who studied God, and God’s ways, for decades. He could put all kinds of letters after his name, including DMin, and PhD. He understood the Bible better than anybody else I knew at the time.

When I listened to him, I thought, “What a learned man. What a great foundation! I need a foundation like that.”

I knew another man who didn’t have a degree, but had spent a couple of under-funded decades among a people who didn’t even know who God was: teaching some, discipling a few, and desperately depending on God every day, for his meals, for his ministry, for his family’s lives.

When I listened to him, my heart melted. I prayed earnestly, “Father, I want to know you like this man knows you!”

I knew another man who came from the streets, and even that was just recently. He had not the slightest shred of education, and it showed. But he spent hours, many hours, just sitting in God’s presence, listening to his heartbeat, talking with him about what was on his heart.

When I listened to him, I realized that he had some ideas that were pretty messed up, and the first guy could help him with that. And I saw that he had some serious insecurity issues, identity issues, and the second guy could really help him with that.

But when he talked, he blew my mind. He healed the sick regularly, got words of knowledge effortlessly, and unbelievers listened carefully when he talked about his Jesus.

When I listened to him, I thought, “Father, is this really possible? Can your children walk in this kind of revelation, this kind of power, in this day and age?”

I learned some things in this reflection.

I really do love meditating on the things God has done in my world, in my life. The angel in Revelation 19 was right: the testimony of Jesus, who he is, what he's done, really is the spirit of prophecy. Mmm mmm. So good.

Different people have imparted different strengths into my life. If I only listened to people like me, I would certainly not be who I am today. Since both my wife and I like who I am today, this would be a bad thing.

Even people that make me uncomfortable can have a great impact on my life, provided I’m willing to learn. It's that "willing" part that I wrestle with sometimes.

It’s not enough to know ABOUT God. I must know God. And there’s more to know than I have any idea, even now. What a big heart!

It’s not enough to know God. I must also know ABOUT God if I aspire to trust him, to be like him. And again, there’s more to know about him than I even believe is possible.

When God invests himself into a person, he doesn’t necessarily make that person tidy, neat, clean, respectable. My ideas for what a “Good Christian” is were woefully inadequate, which means they are probably still woefully inadequate today. (Yet again I am reminded: He is NOT a tame lion.)


Believers Who Find Fault

A favorite activity among some (not many) Christians is fault-finding. When someone makes a positive comment about certain topics, the faultfinders are quick to point out all the reasons we shouldn’t be positive, all the bad things that are associated there. 

Favorite targets for these people include:

a) Famous Christians (“Did you know that this famous leader once sinned? Gasp!”),

b) Politicians (This doesn't need much explanation; there aren’t many Christians who can say positive things about all three: Trump, Clinton and Obama),

c) Poignant Facebook posts (“Martin Luther is an evil man because some of his followers did bad things!”)

I’m convinced that this is a model given to us by the accuser of the brethren, since these are indeed accusations, and it’s aggressively marketed to us by the secular (and, to a lesser extent, Christian) news media.

When I run across people who have to begin their conversation with criticism or “We need to know both sides of that!” then I’m afraid I make the assumption that this is a person who is more influenced by the news media than by the Spirit of God. (I don’t like assumptions, particularly in myself.)

Our Instruction Book gives us certain standards for our behavior, and for our conversation with each other, standards like “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6)

And one of those standards is not fault-finding: Proverbs 11:12 “People without good sense find fault with their neighbors, but those with understanding keep quiet.” & Jude 1:16 “These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”

Another of those standards is the solution: fixing our attention on whatsoever is good and right. Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”.

Faultfinding is a fundamental failure to meet Scriptural standards, I’m afraid. It’s also something I aggressively discourage in conversations on this page (as I am doing in this post).

Off the record, my motivation for discouraging this is not Scripture: you are responsible for your own response to that standard; that’s not my job.

I speak up because being around that particular work of the enemy (the “accuser of the brethren” Revelation 12:10) is like swimming in a sewer for me: it’s incredibly distasteful, and more importantly, it’s really quite dangerous to my own health.

If you want to find fault with people, living or dead, do it somewhere else. If you to take a crap, don’t use my swimming pool for that purpose.

Thanks! 

God’s Beauty in Creation

It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was out and the rains of winter hadn’t come yet so it was cool and clear.

I was wandering through a grassy field with Father. We were talking about something or other, sauntering, quiet and peaceful. I was running my fingertips through the tops of the grass as we walked.

I loved the way the wind moved the grass, blowing gently, eddying. The tops of the grass swaying with the breezes was fascinating and lovely. I sighed in appreciation.

I latched onto  one stalk of grass as I walked and pulled it out, something to fiddle with as we walked, rolling it around my fingers.

After a few minutes of fiddling blankly with the grass, I looked at the single stem of grass, and suddenly I saw it. Suddenly I realized that the single stalk of grass was every bit as beautiful - in a completely different way - as the entire field of grass. The tall, straight stalk had a classic, almost a formal beauty.

I reflected on that for a while as I looked at my piece of grass. Then I looked more closely, and I saw the pattern of the veins in the leaf. It was on the stem, too: completely irregular patterns that reflected it’s Creator’s attention to detail.

I stood there in awe of how beauty infused the grass at every level: the field was beautiful, the single stalk was beautiful, the tiny veins were beautiful. What a wonderful Creator we have. That’s Jesus (John 1). He’s amazing.

 Suddenly, I remembered my high school biology classes where I examined the cells of a leaf of grass. That had another beauty all its own: row after irregular row of semi-autonomous life all contributing to the overall life of the plant, each asymmetrical in its beauty.

And then I thought about the molecular structure of the grass, the molecules all reaching out and attaching to the molecules, all the atoms perfectly in place within each molecule. Wow. What beauty at that level, too.

And then we could talk about quarks and neutrinos and string theory! Beauty, all the way down! I was overwhelmed.

And that’s it. Nothing profound. Just amazement at a Creator who fills, full to the brim, everything He touches with beauty.

Beauty is everywhere. I just need eyes to see it. And when I do, I get to see more of God’s amazing attributes.

I’m so proud of my big Brother. He’s amazing!