Monday, October 16, 2017

Motivation or Manipulation?

One of my favorite tools for helping folks understand themselves and the people in their lives is a the DiSC Behavior Profile System.  It's a simple, yet fascinating, study into the motivations behind various expression of  human behavior.  I've lost count how many times I've taught these concepts.  But each time I do, something new is discovered or something previously known is brought into sharper focus.  The current evolution my imagination has been drawn to focuses on the differences in environmental needs.

Cliff note version:
Image from www.equanimityexecutive.com
Dominate "D" types thrive in challenging, competitive, and even antagonistic environments.
Influencing "i" types seek fun, friendly, people-filled ones.
Steady "S" folks are on the hunt for calm, conflict-free environments where they can roll up their sleeves and offer a helping hand. Conscientious "C" people are looking for non-confrontational environments that appreciate and satisfy their need for facts and honors their need for order.

There are, of course, secondary and tertiary combinations of these basic archetypes, but for simplicity's sake we'll stick with the fantastic four.

So, let's assume a person wakes up one morning and realizes they are not enjoying the environment staring them in the face.   The "D" might be bored to tears with the thought of one more minute of the same old routine or an "i" might feel suffocated by what feels like fun-draining hostility and rejection.  The proverbial light bulb might one day reach its glowing apex for the "S" when it finally registers that what they have to offer isn't really wanted or needed and might (horror or horrors) be contributing to a conflict rather than helping resolve it.  The final straw for a "C" might come from the sheer exhaustion that comes from trying to make sense of  the chaos or the pressure that comes from  people and situations that don't make sense or follow the rules.

Why do these things matter?  Because every person you come in contact with is unconsciously working to create their optimum environment, and there's a really good chance their optimum is diametrically opposed to yours.  And that's when the fireworks (or slow simmer depending on style) begin.

Here's the deal - if you love the people in your life, and truly want to see them succeed, it's imperative they have an environment in which to thrive.  And here's a kicker - love, by definition,  is not self-seeking.  Which means if I genuinely care about the needs of someone I claim to love, I will put effort into helping create environments that serve them and their needs.  (Told you it was a kicker)  When others have needs that are off your mind's grid, it takes deliberate intention to recognize, accommodate and not belittle them for needing something so foreign to your way of thinking.

If you are one who is energized and motivated by competition, challenge and antagonism your natural tendency, when wanting to motivate someone else, is to create an environment that is competitive, antagonistic and might throw in a competition or two.  NEWS FLASH If the person(s) in your life are not wired that same way your efforts will produce a completely opposite result than intended.  They are not just demotivated, there's a good chance they will be doing the exact opposite in their subconscious effort to protect themselves from the antagonistic onslaught.

Or maybe your's is a conflict-free, no-big-surprises environment of choice.  There's a good chance the fun/adventure seekers in your world, might find themselves bored to tears and battling a level of frustration foreign to you.  (My sincere apologies to my own adventure-seeking, fun-loving children for having learned this too late for them to have benefited from the knowledge.)

Admittedly, this proposition is difficult but not impossible.  As a person infused with the grace, power, and love of God, it is within your ability to make love for others your motive and impetus.  If I continue to insist the people in my life come over to my way of thinking or motivation - that isn't loving nor is it motivating.  It is control and manipulation.  And that, regardless of behavior style, isn't cool.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pardon Me

Caught the line of a song the other day and as intended it caught my attention, although I doubt the path it led me down was the lyricist's intended.  It took me back to 1966.

I was with my mom and older brother (our younger one didn't get here 'til '67) at the grocery store.  More specifically, at the bulk candy area of the grocery store staring at the lemon drop bin.  Nothing activates creative problem solving quite like an ignored request.

Armed with the short-sightedness of a fixated preschooler lacking pockets of her own, I convinced my brother to procure a fistful of my obsession.  I'm not sure how many lemon drops fit in a 6 year old's tiny hand; three maybe four. The particulars are fuzzy when five decades separate the event from the memory but not as fuzzy as those lemon drops were after having spent the rest of the shopping trip clutched in a sweaty fist inside his fleece-lined coat pocket.

What's not fuzzy is that emotional cluster exploding in my heart and head when Mom told the cashier that we had a purchase to make and then asked Rick to put what he had in his pocket on the conveyor belt so he could pay for it.  Money?!?  We had no money!  The cashier insisted that it was not a big deal.  Mom insisted otherwise.  I believe the agreed upon restitution was one cent per drop.  Might as well have been 100 dollars per drop.  If you don't have it, you don't have it.  Mom eventually paid the bail after we agreed to work off  our debt but our relief was short-lived.  Before leaving the store, or earshot of the checkout stand, she insisted we consume our ill-gotten-gains.  Sweaty palms, fleece-lined pockets harboring long forgotten treasures, fear-bred snot and relief-bred tears is a memorable concoction.  Desire, anticipation, terror, guilt, redemption, relief, shame...lesson eternally etched.

Had the cashier gotten his way, we would have been pardoned.  Mom had a different idea. What we got was a lesson in guilt, redemption, restitution and forgiveness. But what I (can't speak for my brother) wanted more than anything was to be innocent.  Impossible.  I am forever the mastermind behind the great lemon-drop heist of 1966.  My influence was directly responsible for dragging another human being into the cesspool of criminal activity.  Innocent can never be a part of the definition of who I am.  I am forgiven...but not innocent. Restitution has been made, a price had to be paid because of guilt.

So when I hear a song declaring "I'm forgiven.... I am innocent,"  I say no!  Forgiven, by definition implicates guilt. Innocent means I did nothing wrong.  To be innocent means I have no need of forgiveness.  No need for redemption.  No need for pardon. And if there is anything I am in need of, it is forgiveness, redemption and pardon.  Remembering that keeps me grateful, appreciative and never wanting to be the cause of another's fall from grace. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hand-me-downs

Been spending lots of time at my childhood home lately.  That seems to be fueling multiple trips down memory lane.  Never sure where the road might lead, or where I might find a point along the trail to pull off and ponder a scenic overlook.  Today's retrospective --- hand-me-downs.

In those younger years, my wardrobe was made up, almost exclusively, of the outgrown cast-offs from others. Don't get me wrong; I thought then, as I believe now, that it is a perfectly wonderful arrangement. In fact, one of my favorite current hobbies involves trying to breathe new life into old articles of clothing. Thank goodness for community theater costuming needs!

This month my dad turned 82.  I watched him open a gift containing shirts (new with tags).  Will he wear them?  Doubtful.  Why?  They are labeled extra large.  And my dad insists he's a medium.  Oh, Dad, that train left the station a few decades back, but he's become so accustom to ill-fitting clothes he thinks that is how things are supposed to fit.  Ever found yourself in that situation?  I love the line from Dolly Parton's character in Steel Magnolias when they're discussing shoe size.  "I wear a 6, but a 7 feels so good that I buy an 8."

All that aside, I'm reminded of an ancient story involving hand-me-downs. Well hand-me-ups better describes the situation.  David. Sandwiched between the time of his service to Saul as an armor bearer, and taking the throne, was that little Goliath incident.  1 Samuel 17 tells us the story.  Before the sling's shot that was heard around the world, Saul, who was "head and shoulders" taller than the average Israelite, offered his battle gear for David to wear. Intention far outweighing execution here.

My guy is exactly head and shoulders taller than I, and that amounts to a 12 inch difference.  Google Iron Age armor and it's easy to see why Saul's offer lacked wisdom and foresight. There's no 'give' in that stuff! What was he thinking?

What was David, who had been charged with hauling that stuff around prior to this altercation with the Philistine, thinking?  He would had to have known that he wouldn't  be his most effective self ensconced behind a wall of iron, I wouldn't be surprised if  he hadn't actually already tried the stuff on back when he was Saul's armor barer. It would be hard to resist.  And we know David had difficulty in that area, but that's a story for another day.

Today has me wondering  what is it any of  us might be thinking when we, like Saul,  insist others walk in a life not designed for them?  Or, how delusional one must be to ignore the pain of trying to wear the ill-fitting armor fashioned specifically for another?  Thankfully David came to his senses, shed Saul's stuff, and trusted in what he knew: his God, and his God's promise as well as his own practiced skill.

What happens when we refuse to honestly assess our lives by comparing them with another's or even against what may have been our own but is no longer relevant?

Today I look at my closet and I see a lot of  hand-me-downs. Most fit me well enough and were perfectly suited to the person I was yesterday.  But today's a new day.  And there's nothing pretty about insisting on squishing into a medium when my needs have expanded to accommodate an extra large. Not sure what that means but it's time to find out.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

The 'sons of god'

The ‘sons of god’
1928 Excavation
This three word label, as used in the Old Testament, is responsible for countless theological debates.  Frankly, I’ve read more academic papers on the subject than I care to admit. Granted I’d rather read an academic paper – dull as it might be – as opposed to hearing another single regurgitation of the theory scraped out of The Book of Enoch.  If you don’t know what that entails – don’t worry, you’re not missing a thing.  If you’d like to research a bit on your own, I recommend checking out what  www.refuteit.com/article-blog/the-dangers-of-the-book-of-enoch  has to say on the subject.

After having wrestled nearly five decades with this myself (not even kidding!), I stumbled on something that has settled the question for me.  Much like the Rosetta Stone provided the key to deciphering all Egyptian writing forms, this 100 year old discovery has the potential to shed light on some long held assumptive guesses we have had in Biblical interpretation and understanding. The ‘sons of god’ being one of them.

Enter the world or Ugaritic Text.  What?  Never heard of it?  Neither had I, until recently.  The condensed version: in 1928 the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit was discovered along the Mediterranean Coast of modern day Syria.  This city had been built during the Neolithic period at about 6000BC (roughly the time the Bible tells us that Noah’s grandson, Canaan would have been marking his territory – but hey, that’s another blog). Archeologist uncovered a massive amount of written information housed in the city of Ugarit. What’s interesting are the languages that information was written in: three known and one previously unknown.  That unknown language has been dubbed, Ugaritic, and is presumed to be a transition-era blended version of alphabet script (like Hebrew) and cuneiform (like Hittite, Sumerian, and Ancient Persia). 


World's first alphabet - 1400 BCIt appears that the Ugaritic language and Hebrew are kissing cousins, and that’s what makes it so important for anyone interested in Biblical history.  The city of Ugarit was a thriving metropolis at the time of Joshua’s conquest and during the 400 years recorded in the book of Judges.  And what has been established thus far, is that the grid through which our Western eyes have tried to understand the ancient Hebrew world needs to be a lot less Babylonian (which is between 500 and 1,000 years too recent) and a lot more Canaanite. Ugaritic texts are the solution to the myopia.




All this to say, it was a simple phrase used by the worshipping Canaanites discovered in the Ugaritic writing that ended my 50 year questioning conundrum…Baal worshippers referred to themselves as ‘sons of god’.  Which god (el)?  Which ever one chosen from a plethora: Baal and Dagon were among the favorites.

Because the writers of the ancient Hebrew Bible knew their audience and shared similar cultural understandings, there was not the confusion we have today with the phrase, ‘sons of god’.  Easy, peasy. No need to upend the laws of physics, nor speculate on the amorous urges of disenfranchised angelic beings, or resort to an 1,800 year old work of fascinating fiction in an effort to come to grips with the meaning of those three little words, ‘sons of god’. 

Now that that is settled, it’s time to head into my craft room and hopefully unearth a few treasures of my own. 





Friday, September 15, 2017

What Can You Do About It?



What is it about humans that make us want to look for answers where they are not found?  Years ago I had a brief conversation with a person pontificating against a strongly felt issue.  After agreeing I asked, “What can you do about it?”   

*Insert cricket chirps here.*

I get it.  It’s easy to rail against what we find objectionable. After tying on a good old fashioned gripe-fest, a person often feels a sense of resolve, as if something has been accomplished.  But has it really?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve participated in my share of gripe-fests, but all that’s needed to shut them down is to ask, “What am I going to do about it?”  I will either shut-up or search for an answer. 

We often feel powerless; like insignificant specks in a great cosmic pinball game. It takes less effort to think that than to believe otherwise.  What if this thing we call life isn’t something that just bangs us around while we cross our fingers and hope for the best?  What if your life is so significant that it can - like the stars did the Magi 2000 years ago - lead others to life and freedom? 

The disciples asked Jesus for a sign to show them when His inauguration would take place. They’d imagined Him becoming a King, like David, to lead their nation in conquest over the stifling Roman government.  His answer is recorded in Matthew 24.  After describing the tribulation that would be preceding the destruction of Jerusalem and their Temple He said there would be a moment when they would understand. Jesus said, “the light would arise out of the East and go to the West (meaning a new level of understanding was on the horizon) and the sun will be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, the stars shall fall from heaven and the power of the heavens shall be shaken.” WHAT?!? The light will arise, but the lights are going to become dark?

Translation:  The heavenly signs that had been used to point to The Savior’s coming would no longer carry any weight.  The Savior had already come. Stop looking for the stars as the guide to His presence. Look, instead, for lives that shine with the glory of God’s life, light and love reigning and changing the hearts of people.  That’s His Kingdom plan for righting the world’s wrongs.


What can you do about it? 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Are The Stars Trying To Tell Us Something?

With next week’s eclipse followed by another astronomical anomaly next month, speculators are making their predictions and well intentioned individuals are issuing warnings based on those predictions. 

What's all the excitement about?  

On September 23rd the constellations Virgo and Leo will be hosting 4 planets: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus as well as both the sun and the moon.  What bumps this up on the interest scale is that John wrote about it in Revelation 12: 1-2

And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of 12 stars, and she, being with child cried, travailing in birth…

The apostle John was actually describing – in this passage - the birth of Jesus. Verses 3-6 describe his life, ministry, and the Roman government under which he lived.  Revelation 12 tells us about the sign in the heavens that convinced the Magi to leave Babylon in the East and head West in search of a King so magnanimous that his life’s purpose was written in the stars.   Check out The Star of Bethlehem  on youtube if you’d like to learn more about this. You’ll not be disappointed. 

My prediction?  We will wake up September 24th  and life will look like it did the day before.

I know my prediction goes against the grain of heavenly sign seekers.  I might be labeled a heretic (wouldn’t be the first time). Some will accuse me of not believing the Bible – let me set the record straight on that one.  I believe the Bible. It’s reckless, fear-based interpretations I have issues with. 

Three Questions - At this point you really must read Matthew 23. Jesus has just delivered a scathing message to the Jewish leaders gathered in Jerusalem.  The Scribes and Pharisees who are disciples of Moses and have taken it upon themselves to sit in judgement.  In verse 37 He addresses Jerusalem and the consequences it will face because of their refusal to recognize and the murder of  every single prophet that had been sent before His arrival.  And in verse 39 He warns them that they too are as blind as their predecessors and will not see Jesus for who He is until they hear of His return.   

In Matthew 24 Jesus answers three questions his disciples had asked. One was concerning the destruction of Jerusalem that Jesus had just prophesied.  

Question number two asked about the sign of his coming (the word translated coming might also be translated presence or in this case His return mentioned in 23:39).  Remember, they weren’t asking when he was going to come again after having been crucified, raised from the dead and ascend to heaven. None of those things had happened yet.  No, they were asking when Jesus was going to take the throne as King of the kingdom after Jerusalem fell in ruins.  

Question number three, when is the end of the age.  Again, they weren’t curious about the end of life on the planet, they wanted to know when the Kingdom that Jesus had been teaching about was going to be established bringing to an end the horrible chapter they were living in. Not only under Roman oppression but also the issue at hand, ousting the Scribes and Pharisees from the power they had illegitimately been wielding for centuries.   

Jesus describes in verses 4-25 of Matthew 24, the horrors of Jerusalem being under siege by the Roman army. He warns the listeners to not hesitate for a minute, get out of the city.   

What is the sign of your coming? He warns them to not be fooled or deceived by false messiahs.Verse 27, the sign of my coming (presence) will be lives that are illuminated, light coming from the East (beginning, origin) and shining its light to the West. 

Remember the questions being addressed! 

Verse 29, “after the tribulation of those days” – which days?  The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give light, and the stars will fall and the powers of heaven will be shaken”.

He is saying that after the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, the celestial signs cease.  All that they had been pointing to would be fulfilled.  To continue to seek for answers and directions in the sky is foolish, the message they carried is now yesterday’s news.  To find him, don’t look in deserts or secret places.  The new 'sign' to look for is changed hearts and lives.  That is the sign of God’s presence. 


So, September 23, 2017 will be a rare alignment of our solar system’s planets having occurred only a handful of times throughout history.  That’s cool.  It is the same alignment just over 2000 years ago that God used to proclaim the birth of humanity’s savior.   But does it signal the end of the age? No. That was fulfilled in 70AD. Does it signal the coming (presence) of Christ?  No, he’s to be found in your own heart, let his presence transform your life, making it a light that points others to the Savior. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Wisdom of Jesus on Display

In the tenth chapter of Mark we read about the Pharisees’ plot to catch the Lord in a war of wits. Their trap came in the form of a question. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  It’s  important to note that the word translated ‘divorce’ in Mark 10:2 ought to be translated ‘put away’; a practice that is unknown in our Western culture. 

The Lord’s parlay; “What did Moses say about it?”
Brilliant!  Why? Because the Pharisees were disciples of Moses.  Jesus was saying, in essence, it doesn’t matter what I think, what does your own authority figure say on the subject? 

Because they were so skilled at quoting the law – they trapped themselves in the pit they intended for Jesus to fall in.

Verse 4, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

At this point my imagination has Jesus’ head tilt to one side.  His eyes get wide, brows raise, and the palms of both hands turn upward in that full body gesture that says “and there you have it. Clear as day.”

Only trouble was, they didn’t get it. 

What did they miss? 

That Moses commanded a two-fold process, both legal and emotional.  The Pharisees had so accepted the cultural norms that they were blind to the obvious.  It was culturally acceptable for men to apolyo (put away) their wives because their hearts were hard and calloused.  To apolyo a wife meant she was nothing to you.  Like rubbish.  Men having more than one wife at a time was culturally acceptable.  The real kicker wasn’t the polygamy it was their refusal to sign the necessary documentation releasing the put away woman so she could legally remarry.  When hard-hearted men refused to provide their discarded wives with a certificate of divorce, they were sadistically forcing the women into lives of poverty or, if they were to remarry without the certificate of divorce they would legally be classified as adulterers.  The adultery Jesus speaks of was a legal issue that hard hearted men were forcing upon the women they had abandoned.

The trap they set for Jesus to fall in trapped them instead by revealing the wickedness of their hard-hearted, evil intentioned practices.  He also made it clear in verse 12 that women discarding men were equally guilty.  A backdoor way of elevating women in a culture that had relegated them to a status so much lower than God’s intended design.   

Even though our culture doesn’t have a recognized equivalent to the ancient practice of putting away ending a marriage is two-fold.  Apolyo AND grapho biblion apostasion.  One speaks to emotional ties, the other to legal matters.  One is handled in a county courtroom, the other in the courtroom of Heaven.  The ruling in one courtroom does not satisfy the needs of the other.  One determines the separation (forgiving) of tangible things, the other will deal with the separation (forgiving) of heart things. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Evolution of a Prayer’s Life

My earliest memories involve prayer. They include: 

Grace at meal-time
 “Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you Lord for everything.”  Succinct. Adequate. God focused.

The classic bedtime prayer
“Now I lay me down to sleep ...  If I should die, before I wake...”  What?!?!  Sleeping carries the possibility of death?  (This 'I' focused prayer set the misguided standard for adulthood prayer-life.)

The Lord’s Prayer added to my repertoire: 
Our Father Who art in Heaven.  Art’s in Heaven?   Like Rick’s Popeye picture on Grandma’s fridge?   
Hallowed be thy name. Oh, a name. Must be talking about Uncle Art.
Thy kingdom come. How long will that  take? Must be harder to make a kingdom than Heavens Earth.
Thy will be done.  God’s will doesn’t just happen?
On Earth as it is in Heaven.  God gets His way in Heaven, but not on Earth? 
Give us this day, our daily bread. Not Captain Crunch?
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us. We don’t have any ‘No Trespassing’ tire signs hanging on our fences like Uncle Walter does. So I don’t think this applies to us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  WHAT?! Isn’t this a given?  I have to ask to not be taken to evil I? This prayer must activate the default override and cause God to be merciful to me. 
For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. I thought the kingdom needs to come but now it’s forever?  When Jesus first prayed this the kingdom must have come sometime between ‘Thy will be done’ and ‘forgive us our trespasses’. Confusion reigns.

Then came variations of that bed-time prayer. I call them the Sales-Pitch, Instruction Manual, and Indictment prayers:

The Sales-Pitch involves enumerating commendable attributes and accomplishments in an effort to build a case in the hopes of swaying a stingy god to generosity.

The Instruction Manual is the creature telling Creator what to do and how to do it.

The Indictment (most often employed when ‘praying’ for others):
Contemptible accusations are recounted and preferred consequences described in an attempt to extort 'justice' and condemnation.

Much later in life I realized God is God.  I am not.  That’s the day my prayers became a lot less talk and a lot more listen.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall Who’s the Greatest?

Yesterday and today's blogs are from my book, World Changer's Guide to Turning Lives Right-Side Up.  It's available on Amazon.  

When character traits and cultural standards clash with Christ, the Kingdom suffers.

Matthew wrote his gospel to show how Jesus trained his disciples. By the time we get to chapter 17 he has shown us that Jesus:

1. met all the qualifications necessary to be God’s promised messiah

2. Took the lead in showing us how to enter into the realm where God is King, i.e. the kingdom of God by:

a. obedience to the message being proclaimed by God’s messenger, John the Baptizer, which told them to change their thinking. That the  inauguration of God’s Kingdom would make what they previously held obsolete.

b. revealing the process He went through in assessing His own beliefs and temptations that would have destroyed any hope of Him walking in the Kingdom of God.

c. surrendering his ideas to the truth of God’s reality.

d. walking in and demonstrating the power that is available to those who walk in God’s ways and principles, i.e. Heaven’s Kingdom.

3. taught those who were hungry to know, the principles by which God’s Kingdom operates This brings us to the next lesson in Jesus Disciple Training Program: deal with the disparity in their hearts. Things get personal as Jesus focuses on heart-held beliefs rooted in the principles of the world’s system.

FAILURE

Matthew 17 ends with an account of the disciples’ first failure in ministry. Something that should have been routine; they were unable to cast a demon out of a boy.

14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. NKJV

This seriously messed with these men who had front row seats to the greatest demonstrations of God’s power in history: a few fish and loaves of bread multiplied to feed thousands, blind eyes and deaf ears opened, withered limbs restored and dead people raised to life. Deliverance from demons1 was just run of the mill stuff.

The disciples themselves had been used in a very successful Kingdom of God Campaign tour where demons were subjugated to their commands.

HE ANSWERS
Matthew 17
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. NKJV

The word translated unbelief in verse 20 means to withhold belief in divine power and putting faith instead in a lesser power –rendering their power neutral.

Jesus’ message to them that day: The reason you failed in this is because you have put your faith in something powerless and impotent. The kingdom reality is that when you anchor your faith in truth you would have been able to say, to this (or any other)
self-exalted enemy power that rears its ugly head, leave and it would be impossible for it to not obey you. (paraphrase)

THE LESSON BEGINS
Matthew 18:
1… At that time, the disciples came to Jesus,  saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" NKJV

As you read chapters 18, 19 and 20 keep their question in mind:

Who is the greatest in the kingdom?

Jesus begins to deal with the heart issue that their question revealed: pride and the various forms it takes.

  • If you believe you are greater than a child, you are not great by Kingdom of Heaven standards. Matthew 18:6-9

  • If you treat those who are weaker and younger with disdain and disregard, offending as you go, you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 18:10-11

  • If you cannot see the value of one you are not great in Kingdom standards. Matthew 18:12-14

  • If you use a public platform to your advantage to ostracize another you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 18:15-17

  • If you refuse to forgive, you are not great by kingdom standards. Matthew 18:18-35

  • If you are one who would put away2 your wife, you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 19:3-10

  • If you despise little children, you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 19:13-15

  • If you think that keeping all the laws of Moses is what qualifies you for eternal life, you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 19:16-22

  • If your trust is in your financial status, you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 19:23-26

  • If you work in the kingdom, but not for the kingdom, you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 19:27-29

  • If you think, it is about rank, authority and privilege you are not great by Kingdom standards. Matthew 19:30

THE LESSON ENDS

Matthew 20:25-28
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." NKJV

TO PUNCTUATE THE POINT

What we have next might, at first seem out of place but it actually punctuates the lesson and is the segue to the next one. Matt 20:29-34

29 Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. 30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" 31 Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" 32 So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" 33 They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened." 34 So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. NKJV

This story illustrates the fact that there are two kingdoms. All the efforts we put to trying to measure our worth in The Kingdom of Heaven by using the standards of the Kingdom of Darkness proves that we are blind and must have Jesus open our eyes to see our worth by God’s standards.

Failure was the springboard. A question exposed the beliefs that neutralized their effectiveness. And the lesson provides us with a guide to trouble shoot our own lives when I find myself walking in failure and ineffective ministry, it is time to examine my
heart.

Footnotes:
1. Luke 10:17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." NKJV


2. ‘Putting away’ was a common practice used at that time. Men would leave their wives and refuse to give them a legal divorce. Making it legally impossible for the woman to remarry, often forcing the woman into a life of abject poverty, illegitimate relationships, or slavery. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Higher Law~Greater Good

When truth is not spoken in love, it often ceases to be truth.

The success or failure of the very first disciples of Jesus hinged on whether or not they were able to grasp and implement the heart message. That same criteria holds true for His disciples today.

It’s important to recognize that some of the most difficult beliefs to recognize as needing to be examined are those accepted as having come from teachings rooted in the Word of God, and Jesus addresses one of those sacred, unexamined areas in Matthew 18.

It has been my experience that this chapter is usually dealt with like so many other scriptures- out of context; resulting in conflicting concepts that do not produce a seamless flow of Kingdom principles.

The disciples have asked a question in verse 1. “Who is the
greatest in the kingdom?”

The answer to that question takes up the entire chapter and Jesus uses a classic Hebrew teaching technique—compare and contrast– to address the question.

The introduction to the Lord’s answer is found in verses 2-11.
In verses 12-14 Jesus illustrates His reasoning and validates His answer.

And then we are given the contrast.

Verse 15 begins with a tiny, two letter, word informing us that what we are about to read is in complete opposition from what we just finished reading. 

Grammatically speaking, it is a conjunction of antithesis. Because that conjunction of antithesis has not been translated, this next chapter has, for centuries, been used as a “How to handle conflict guide”  used in justifying the removal of offensive people.

However, when this portion of scripture is read in context, it is easy to see that Jesus was teaching His disciples how their current methods of handling offenders is in complete opposition to the ways of nature and the ways of The Father’s Kingdom.

Lost sheep are sought after so they can be protected, not turned out and vilified until they can be shamed into admitting that they, or their actions, are offensive to their accusers. It seems the church has really missed the boat on this one, time and time again.

The very purpose of verses 15-20 is to show how the disciple’s standard way of handling situations (legal as they may have been) was in direct conflict and contrast to the ways of The Kingdom.

Jesus reminds them; again, of the authority man has to release people from the guilt of their sins. He says it twice. Why? Because the spiritual law of love governing God’s instructions are higher than the letter of the law they were accustomed to observing.

Verses 21-35 we see Peter looking for clarification. Just how far is this love/forgiveness thing to be taken? And again, thanks to Peter, we are treated to another fabulous parable that illustrates the mind of Christ and the ways of the Kingdom.

This parable teaches us that to hold offenses against others when we have been released from and forgiven of every sin committed at our hand, results in a life returning to a place bound by torment. Why is that? Because a heart that continues to hold a belief that demands recompense and punishment, even after it has been blessed by forgiveness and received mercy has clearly decided to choose the kingdom of the world over the kingdom of God.

There are two kingdoms; each operating under different laws: the kingdom of the world, which demands blood, sweat, sacrifice and results in death.; and the kingdom of God which requires its subjects to walk in the freedom that comes from being released from the prison our sins created.


Whichever kingdom your heart belongs to is the kingdom your life represents. The Lord warns us that you cannot live by the laws of both. Again, it is a matter of the heart, and  the heart-owner is the only one authorized to make the necessary changes to their heart’s holdings.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cliche's. Gotta love um.

As creative, imaginative beings, plunked down in the middle of a tiny planet in an unlimited universe there is so much to learn, wisdom to be mined and fallacies to be debunked. This world is full of things to be amazed by.  There are mysteries to explore, and truths to discover.

I did a brief stint in elementary/secondary education.  Several factors were involved in the decision I made to walk away but in all honesty, one thing would have kept me in the game. Curiosity.   I didn't try to force students to be curious about the things that fascinate me.  But the flint from my wonder-starter was worn smooth in just a couple short years by futile efforts to spark curiosity, imagination, creativity, and wonder.

I am sitting next to a seven and a half pound wonder-filled creative being who's desire to learn has yet to be euthanized. My prayer is for that desire to never cease and that I would be one who helps nurture its existence.

The Bible* instructs us how, when, and where to best educate our littles; when you are in your homes, when you travel down the road, when you are going to sleep, and when you are awake. I take that to mean anytime you are with a child - and don't have an audience you are trying to impress - it is a great time to talk with them about the wonders that make up their world.

I think it's interesting that the word 'talk' is used rather than 'teach' in this verse.  Talking is comfortable and congenial.  Talking is an organic way of learning many things.  Teaching is formal and demanding. Teaching requires cooperation between teacher and learner if it is to be successful.  It is formal method of learning.  This is not to say it is not effective or necessary.  It simply means that is the student and teacher must, at some level, agree to the process.

Any number of agreements can be employed: respect, desire, fear, awe, gratitude, satisfaction, adoration, appreciation, and desperation are a few that spring to mind.  Without agreement, there is little, if any, learning taking place.  Defenses are fortified by ensuing ignorance? Yes. But imaginative, inspiring, creative exchange of ideas and information? Not so much.

Curiosity killed the cat? Perhaps.  But killing curiosity is catatonic.  Fan the flame of curiosity if you are fortunate enough to locate an ember.

*Deut. 6:7

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Place to Belong

In 1982 the television show Cheers was launched. Here I sit, 35 years later, with the show’s theme song running through my head.  I also remember the 35 year past tirade of an angry preacher (who had recently been reassigned by the denomination’s HQ to our little parish) warning the tiny congregation to not be enticed by an empty desire for a place where your name is known, and people are glad to see you. 

REALLY?!?  Granted the details are fuzzy this far out, but the realization of how incredulous his statements felt are as strong today as they were then. 

Even though I was new to the ‘church game’ my young heart knew better than to believe what spewed from that pulpit that day. I’ve since learned authentic truths like ‘people don’t do well when isolated’ must be sacrificed to make room for religious dogma; something I’d been introduced to back then and had begun developing an increased tolerance for. So, I tried to make myself believe the angry man. One of my professors used to say, “this Gospel is so simple you need help to screw it up”.  Let’s just say angry preacher was all too eager to help. 

Thankfully the Spirit of God continues instructing, teaching, and counseling in spite of our insistence on listening to people who have no business trying to lead people to a God they have yet to meet, via a path they've never traversed. 

Today, I am a card carrying member of our local golf course.  It doesn’t matter that I am a poor golfer. Being a good golfer wasn’t a membership requirement.  Paying the fee and following the rules is all it takes to qualify. Membership insures a place I belong, where they are glad to see me, and the computer knows my name. All of us ‘members’ have the same troubles. We are bested by a little ball and a hole in the ground. And I am fairly certain, we are happy to have a place where we can say we belong.


God knows humanity’s need for a place to belong.  It’s not a design flaw. He’s made a place for members of the human race to belong. He calls it His church. Jesus paid your membership fee. Solid members might not know your name but they know the Father loves you. They might not understand your struggle but should respect you in it.  And they might get it wrong sometimes, but established members can communicate how valuable you are in this club. Cheers!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Big Accomplishments

Who doesn’t want to save big and sacrifice nothing?  But doesn’t  it seem as though the game has become to see how little we can invest and still demand the rights of the fully vested? As if how little one can get by with is the goal.  I’d like my clothes to look great but I’m not too keen on ironing.  I want to enjoy a clean house without ever having to get out the mop.  And why can’t the results of 30 minutes in the kitchen wow like a gourmet’s meal? I own my wardrobe, house, and those kitchen appliances.  I think that should be an adequate investment to insure an optimum return.

Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it?




Fact is all that wishing doesn’t fill hearts with peace or lives with purpose.  So I plug in the iron, dig out the mop, and read a recipe or two and put a little more of me into the equation.  The result - satisfaction.  I stand a little taller, head a little higher.  I am a little more confident and feel a little more valuable and bring more to the game that is my life.

Look in the rear-view mirror of your life.  Aren’t the most satisfying chapters all written around the things that required significant investment, sacrifice and plain old hard work?  Things we chose to invest - not a token nod or few dollars - but our lives: heart, soul and body into?  There is an emotional high that comes from this powerful combination of valued accomplishment and fulfillment of purpose, a high deeper than satisfaction. It is a heart-felt contentment that only comes from an all-in commitment.

No one in history has ever demonstrated this more successfully and completely than Jesus.  His all-in-nothing-held-back commitment to the purpose of His earthly existence is what gives us reason to celebrate.   His life has made it possible for us to live all-in, no longer held back by past failures. It was for freedom that Christ has made us free.  Why? Because it is Our Father’s insatiable need to show His insatiable love that this game of life is all about.

His will was expressed so completely by the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, Who is The Way because He alone made The Way for us to be able to know the contentment and peace of God’s presence in our lives.  

If you haven’t already, do yourself (and the lives of all you touch) an enormous service. Commit to bring more of you into everything you do. Receive, accept and honor His Truth  and the Power of God’s Spirit.  Doing so activates the life of purpose and fulfillment we all long for and life begins  the transformation from what we have been known and recognized for to becoming more and more like our Heavenly Father: people who, like our Dad, are full of mercy, compassion, kindness, patience, understanding, and love.  It’s a win/win proposition.  

Our Lord gets a maximum return on His investment, and you’ll enjoy a maximum return on yours!