Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Part 2)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about dust. After all, I need a new Swiffer. Possibly another Dyson.

However, in this case, I’ve been contemplating not only my relationship with God, but my relationship to God.

For when in crisis, it’s hard not to consider the contrasts…

  • When chaos is great, God is greater.
  • If man is small, how much less are his problems?
  • If man can do good, how much more can God do likewise?

You get the drift.

Granted, it makes sense to embrace these dichotomies in seasons of trials; hence, why I’m writing this.

‘Cause truth is…

When we wrestle with God during challenging times, we’re wrestling in our weakness to understand Him…and trust IN Him.

As the story of Jacob’s wrestling match (Genesis 32) tells us, there is a holy way to contend as we confront our failures and frailties.

The question is: How do we model this type of dependence?

For starters, I submit we perceive our smallness as a big deal. As the Scriptures stress, we are significant, yet small compared to the grandeur of the Almighty (Psalm 40:17, Isaiah 66:1-2, James 4:8-10); in fact, the Hebrew word for ‘wrestle’ literally translates to dust. Go figure!

As such, we can take joy knowing the freedom of living life to scale in the fullness of who God is.

For when we embrace our weakness at the feet of Jesus, we can accept how struggling with God in faith leads to peace, revelation, even blessings. This ties to the concept of divine wrestling being a grappling of our humanity and a tenacious acceptance into intimacy. Just as God relentlessly pursues us, so is there a renewing of life when we hold onto the vastness that is Him.

My encouragement to you, my friends, is this: If you’re, like me, feeling like dry bones, as if you’re going back and forth between, ‘All I can do is stand’ and ‘All I want to do is fight’, understand the reason you’re not alone is also the reason you’re more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) with life to come back to.

While the ways to restoration are many, dare to see wrestling with God as a spectacular way to get there. Even if you feel too weak or too stuck, remember who you are in light of God and what you can do when you view perseverance as a way to discover Him. You’ll find as you abide in God’s sovereignty, the more capacity you’ll have to hope while receiving His strength in place of cheerful fatalisms.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock

The Struggle is Zeal: A SOAP Study on Romans 12:18-19

Not long ago, I was on the phone with an obstinate client. 

A stubborn deer in the headlights, I made every attempt to lead him to clarity. Timelines, next steps, how to discern and provide relevant information…the works. 

Yet, after 20 minutes of verbal tennis, our conversation had locked even at deuce, the writing on the wall now clear: No call to action or motivational strategy was going to move this client

Partially defeated, I started to guide this call to a landing when I suddenly I heard the following: “Do you advise I do this?” 

A necessary inquiry in this case but one rarely sprung so late in the game. With match point in sight, I summoned my best response in the moment. The lead off?

As far as it be with you…

A few seconds later, I sensed a shift in momentum as if somehow this sentence had turned the tides. Finally, the silence was pierced. 

You’re right. While I had considered that, I just needed to hear it was possible.”

And before you knew it, we were on our way – 20 seconds of insane courage pressed against 20 minutes of desperation trying to get there. 

Fast-forward to today and I’m still processing this happy ending and the clause that made it happen. Given the Scriptural implications, I’d like to piggyback off this story to help us understand Romans 12:18-19 in a fresh light and how we can serve customers of all types with zeal (Romans 12:11, Titus 2:14)…as far as it be with us

Ready to jump in?

Let’s do it…

Scripture 1: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” ~ Romans 12:18 (MSG)

Scripture 2: “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~ Romans 12:19 (MSG)

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19 (NIV)

Observation 1: Let’s be honest. While God created good in everyone, we seldom see it in full display during our initial interactions. Perhaps the occasional flash or two. But generally nothing more due to limited exposure, the hustle of business, and the lack of physical engagement. In a marketplace context, this is especially true when dealing with difficult customers and colleagues. With the number of walls and veils in existence today, discovering the beauty in everyone can seem like blind faith; however, when we filter this verse through a vocational lens, we can find joy in blessing all people under our breath, if not through direct encouragement. Even when we encounter antagonism, we can promote harmony as peacemakers in the opposite spirit. As Paul later says in v. 21, we champion goodness, generosity, and joy not by what happens to us externally but the light we carry internally. Accordingly, if your goal is to be reactive, then you cannot be proactive in seeing the silver linings in challenging people and situations.

My thought is: When we go into work each day, why not center our hearts and make up our minds to get along with everyone? After all, we don’t commit to these calls because they’re easy but because we have the ingredients to season our settings with hope. All the more reason to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus‘ during the dial-ins and commutes of life. 

Observation 2: In a fast-paced culture, timing and timeliness are everything. At least, that’s what culture wants us to think. And to be fair, in a client care context, this makes sense. Many times, the pathway to blessing a customer is to honor their time with a mixture of best practice and efficient decision-making. But what about when clients delay the help they crave through impatience, procrastination, even obduracy? What do we say, what do we do when colleagues or clients insist their way or the highway? Is there a holy solution to “good riddance”? Well, in a single word, yes. There is most certainly a way and Romans 12:19 hints at the answer:

Whenever we’re inflicted in a way worthy of judgment, we have an opportunity to let go and let God handle it.

Far too often in the heat of the moment, our offense disables compassion and grace; however, when we apply v.19, we make room not only for God’s wrath (i.e. His ministry of reconciliation and love manifest through justice) but for care to be centered on the person, not their grievance. Don’t waste time trying to make things right in your own strength; you’ll only burn out in frustration or overstep an unauthorized boundary. Instead, as far as it be with you, trust God to take care of the consequences as you passionately bear results through meekness. Put another way, don’t consume yourself with unassigned fire; rather pay it forward with humility and watch God win your adversary over. 

Bottom Line 1: As you follow Christ’s example and live a life controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21), inspire peace and mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). 

Bottom Line 2: As you trust God in trying situations, make room for His justice and reconciliation to prevail. 

Prayer: “Father, we come before you now. We thank you for creating in us hearts that desire good and godliness, for upwelling thirsts for righteousness in our workplaces; however, we also confess we’re not always consistent in acknowledging your beauty, let alone the beauty you’ve cultivated in others within the mundanities of life. For those who may be struggling with offense, desiring retaliation in self-gratifying ways, refresh their hearts to know your wrath is pure and able to permeate the darkest chaos. Help them be still, to know your presence as they leave room for your wonder working power. As for the rest of us, center our desire for influence, excellence, and resolution in a supernatural satisfaction that only comes from abiding in your sovereignty. Regardless of where we’re at, what circumstances we’re facing, help us exchange our lust for control for a trust that surrenders. In all we commit our hands and feet to, may the fruit of our effort be blessed for your glory’s sake. Amen.”

Cover graphic creds: Business 2 Community

How to Survive a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Crappy Day

Written 9/21/15; revised 7/18/21

Have you ever had a really, really, really bad day?

You know…the kind of day where absolutely nothing goes right…where the only musterable reaction is a masquerading laughter to hide behind?

Well, let’s just say I had one of those infamous episodes a few days ago…

…one that was not only terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad, but one that gave a new and literal meaning of what it’s like to have a ‘crappy day’…

It all started last Wednesday, when I returned home from a decent day at work ironically enough. I was on the phone with my wife, Lyssah, discussing our next day travels to Atlanta and prepping to take our new puppy, Selah, on a walk when I suddenly slammed into a brick wall disguised as a sinister stench.

The smell was downright unbearable…like fermented dung reeking from the decaying innards of an infested beast.

Okay, okay…maybe it wasn’t that bad, but clearly something was wrong

After all, we had just finished decking the halls with cinnamon branches and autumn-wreath scented candles a few days prior. One would think the fragrance in the aftermath would be seasonal, not hinted with nuclear bowel explosions.

At any rate, while I could only pray the stench belonged to a deceased rodent, as I crept towards Selah’s crate, the writing on the wall became clear…and brown with streaks of splattered excrement. Like a chaotic scene from an abstract Jackson Pollock painting, my mission was now set:

I had to free Selah from her sharty prison…and the demonic oppression possessing her stool.

And so for the next hour-and-a-half, I devoted all energy to conquering Selah’s anal glands and my chemoreceptor triggers. After a thorough scrubdown, I then called Lys to discuss our Wednesday night gameplan in light of the situation. Initially, I was to meet her at church following my Selah break to pick her up from a Sunday service video shoot. From there, we’d return home, eat dinner, and head back out to church for our youth discipleship gathering; however now, due to changes in Selah’s health, Lys would forgo youth service and hitch a ride home to tend Selah leaving me to lead youth service alone.

An understandable predicament all things considered; unfortunately, since I’d lost 90 minutes cleaning fecal material and had to be at church one hour before service, I had no choice but to leave Selah unattended outside her crate. Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, I figured the risk was worth taking given what I had just cleaned on top of Lys having started her drive home. I mean, c’mon! What damage could Selah possibly accomplish in 10-15 minutes or less? Or so I thought…

Well, as it turned out, quite a bit actually.

Although I can’t vouch for every canine conundrum, at some point during that 10-15 minute window, Selah apparently snuck into the bedroom, located the sparkling spectacle that was my wife’s engagement ring, and devoured it.

Now, thankfully, I wasn’t aware of this prior to youth service; however, after returning home to a wife and dog pawing around the bedroom floor on all fours, it didn’t take long for the light bulb to ignite. A quick glance at my wife’s eyes told me everything.

Something valuable had gone missing…

…and something as valuable had contributed to it.

Needless to say, once I realized our furry companion had consumed Lys’s engagement ring, I couldn’t help but wonder what the crap was going on (pun intended). First, the fecal fiasco; now this!?! Sure, the day could have been a lot worse, but this was getting ridiculous. Something needed to give and fast.

Well, as it turned, I didn’t have to wait long or look far for motivation. For as I watched my wife morph into a modern day version of the woman looking for her lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), it hit me how our joy was being deliberately pursued.

Realizing the target on our backs, Lyssah and I stopped our ring hunt, prayed, packed our suitcases, watched a new episode of 30 Rock, then prayed some more. During the time, we were discouraged but hopeful God would shed light on the missing ring and cure Selah’s rectal dysfunction.

The next day, as we started our Georgia journey, we both sensed the same conviction: Although we did well in praying into the stress, we hadn’t taken every negative thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) to the obedience of Christ. Having recently preached on this with LEGACYouth, we knew full well what we needed to do.

  • First, given the small and big-picture anxieties, we recognized we’d been under assault from the enemy. So we acknowledged our authority in Christ and rebuked his schemes.
  • Secondly, we confessed we hadn’t been as immediate in our obedience to overcome. So we repented and asked God to forgive us and redeem any unsurrendered part of our hearts.
  • Thirdly, we renounced our fear and replaced it with godly belief and truth. And lastly, we expressed thanksgiving unto the Lord for all He had done for us.

Once we took these steps and laid our troubles at the feet of Jesus, I kid you not…the atmosphere in the car completely changed.

  • Suddenly, we felt secure in our circumstances knowing we’d been given everything we needed to be content in the Lord.
  • Suddenly we felt excited knowing there was nothing Satan could do to break our confidence in Christ.
  • Suddenly, we felt hopeful that God would meet our needs…and then some.

I mean…you talk about a weary car-ride transformed into a triumphant road-trip; no question, we had entered into a new peace as we crossed over into a new place both internally and locationally.

So why do I share all this?

Well, for starters, you may feel the emoji of your life right now is nothing more than a steamy pile of crap. You may feel burdened by adversity and think there’s nothing you can do when the devil comes after you. For others, you may feel indifferent or incapable of persevering through the obstacles in your midst.

Wherever you’re at, remember when your joy is being pursued, you can pursue joy in the Lord right back. Even when the bottom line feels like a loss, you can still choose to see endurance as victory and strength when you feel Satan is after your weakness. And if you feel powerless to do this, when in doubt, just pray…even if you don’t have the words or the energy. For it’s in these moments God wants to reveal His grace, power, and understanding to you…to encourage and remind you He’s not only present in the dark times…but all the times!

My encouragement to you, friends, is to be unwavering in your reliance especially when Satan seeks to rob you of the good you carry. Rather than feel helpless or assume you’ve done something wrong, dare to let Jesus answer the call. As Billy Graham once said, “He’s the best home security system there is“; therefore, we have nothing to fear and no grounds to worry. Whatever you’re walking through, the next time happy and crappy collide, consider the intersection a sweet spot where you can lean into Jesus and receive His love anew and afresh.

You got this!

Selah.

Cover photo creds: MasterKool

Eyes Wide Open: The Keys to Watchful Prayer (Part 2)

After discussing what watchful workplace prayer looks like in Part 1, I want to offer some verses and commentary when specific situations are encountered. For those who missed my introductory post, the goal of this series is two-fold:

  • To equip and default us towards God’s Word during stretching circumstances.
  • To help us hide God’s Word in our hearts so we’ll abide in His Word in our interactions.

Again, we’ll explore different vocational components as time goes on. For now, let’s start with how we can encourage saints at work and how we can endure when dealing with challenging clients/situations. Sound good?

If so…

Encouraging Unity

Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others].” ~ Colossians 3:14

For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:9

Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful].” ~ Ephesians 4:3

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love [toward one another], knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose [and living a life that reflects your faith and spreads the gospel—the good news regarding salvation through faith in Christ]. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.” ~ Philippians 2:2-3

Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

But continually encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “Today” [and there is an opportunity], so that none of you will be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [its cleverness, delusive glamour, and sophistication].” ~ Hebrews 3:13

Not surprisingly, the Bible has much to say about community and relationships.

Case and point: While I was stitching this six-pack together, there were still 8-10 more verses I wanted to add but couldn’t due to length and reference strategy. Honestly, the Word is just that rich on the matter.

Still, while many can agree to the principles of these passages, the struggle to stay consistent in them is worth discussion. Ideally, these absolutes reflect unconditionally regardless of setting; however, if we’re honest with ourselves, how we live with our church family and inner circle often contrasts how we work with colleagues and clients. Why is that?

For starters, I believe many of us compartmentalize who we do mission with because we’ve lost sight on what mission is altogether. Why do we do anything at the end of the day? Is it to hit our bottom lines? To feel fulfilled, meaningful…to belong? Or is it with the heartcry of as in heaven, so on earth (Matthew 6:10)? As in heaven, so in my office? As in heaven, so with my clients entrusted in my care? As in heaven, so with the team I get to serve alongside with? I could go on.

In fewer words, we rank, compare, and categorize any time we detach Kingdom from our uniqueness and calling. And while a closer examination of this point will take place in ‘Part 3’, for now…

  • Consider the temptation to tier off relationships based on the nature of individual connections over corporate identity.
  • Rely on the Spirit as you make God’s joy complete from one to all, in big or small.
  • Encourage colleagues/clients with the intent to build them up as God builds you up.

After all, we’re all co-laborers and co-ambassadors called to be co-dependent on God. As much as we love the ‘go’, we can’t get anywhere without the ‘co’.

Again, more on this in future posts.

Enduring Challenges with Confidence

Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” ~ Hebrews 12:3

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments [that encourage you to sin], for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience [those who habitually sin].” ~ Ephesians 5:6

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” ~ 1 Peter 2:4-10

Tell them these things. Encourage and rebuke with full authority. Let no one disregard or despise you [conduct yourself and your teaching so as to command respect].” ~ Titus 2:15

While this one hits home and is borderline “too soon“, I can’t resist this palate cleanser of a series. In essence, Christ is the supreme relator to what we’re going through (Hebrews 4:16) and can be trusted in times of suffering since He set the ultimate precedent through the Cross. As long as we’re working as blameless ambassadors, there’s no shame to those in Christ and are rejected accordingly. Yes, mistakes will happen and yes, these miscues aren’t necessarily safeguarded by your ‘loved by Christ’ identity. Even outside matters of morality, we are a people who have fallen short; however, this doesn’t have to a source of disappointment. If anything, this should be the opposite, specifically an invitation to see the Rock of offense as the reason we forsake offense.

Again, this goes back to the turned cheek principle. When you consider how Jesus kept the Cross before Him, we can sympathize, empathize, and most importantly, pray for those who hurt, slander, even persecute us. Granted, this doesn’t save us from bad days when we’re wrestling to cope. It just means when we lack the strength to stand, we can rest in the arms of God, our living stone, the epitome of steadiness and steadfastness who happens to be the reason we live.

After all, we’re not only called as a royal priesthood but as fellow constants and faithful stewards declaring light in a darkening world. If we want to make a difference, why not start by extending grace and understanding to those craving refuge…and don’t even realize they do?

Cover photo creds: Scottsbluff Bible Church