Speaking From Authority

We all want to be a little authoritative don’t we? We like when we say something and it sticks, when people pay attention or when our particular expertise is recognized, taken into account and decisions are made from whatever we have to say. It’s an ego thing, right? We all like to feel good about ourselves and to know that we are ‘right’ in any particular situation.

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When you start a new job or position, and you suddenly find yourself in charge of people who used to be your peers, it can feel a little odd to become that voice of authority. You might feel like they’re looking at you and thinking “Who does they think they are now? One day they’re joking around in the break room with us, and today they’re giving us orders and polishing their new name tag.” There can be that dose of intimidation that comes from people that you’re now supposed to lead. This can lead to frustration on both sides and even conflict.

This is human nature, right? We see it over and over again throughout human history. We see it in our workplaces. We see it at home. Oddly enough, we see it in our church families, too. There are occasions where people get ‘too big for their britches’ and the swagger kicks in with an attitude to match. That’s not cool, and everybody knows it. Even if you’ve worked hard and earned the position fairly, people still expect you to be…well…you. They may fight against the ‘authoritative you.’

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul begins his letter (a letter of correction, mind you) to the church that gathers there. They know him well. He helped plant the church, trained the leaders, discipled the first gatherings and then left them to go and do it again elsewhere. But now he’s having to come back with his ‘dad’ hat on, to speak in a very fatherly/authoritative way. He has always held this position with them, but even then, we can come to resent those in authority over us if our attitudes are wrong.

In the first three verses, we see this coming through pretty strong, but laced with love and concern from the onset: (emphasis mine)

Paul, called / by the will of God / tobe an apostleof Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus,/ called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace / from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you see & hear these different references to authority? Paul points out calling, Lordship, Whose they are and that there are things that flow from God to them as gifts, not as privilege or from demand. They are owned more than they might claim ownership or to be in the lead position. Paul wants to establish the hierarchy here, not to promote himself above what was right, but to speak into the role that God had called him to in Christ. More importantly, he wants them to recognize and remember the authority & supremacy of God.

When we speak truth in love to our friends, family, coworkers and neighbors, we need to follow Paul’s lead. In our world today, we are likely overly cautious, almost fearful of speaking from a perceived point of authority. That is part of our culture today, everyone has their truth that they own, and voices of external authority can be perceived as oppressive or even cruel. This relativistic mindset makes us hesitant to speak with the authority that Jesus has given to us (Matthew 28:18-20) in the Great Commission and that we see Paul moving in here in 1 Corinthians 1.

Speaking from authority is a gift. It is a point of peace for us. It’s not meant to stroke our ego or to inflate a false self-importance. It is meant to give us confidence to bring people into an understanding of the things of God and His true authority over us and in every aspect of our lives.

The danger here, with speaking in relativistic terms, is that we wind up creating God as a god in our own image. And that’s what Paul is going to have to talk about with the church in Corinth. We need authority, as Christians, we should be open about the benefits of authority. And when rightly used, authority is meant to benefit those it is held over. It is not a tool for manipulation or pressure, but for freedom and life. Paul is getting ready to walk through a letter, in love, that is meant to point the church in this crazy city back toward freedom and away from the oppression of sin & human vice. He means to reissue what he originally laid out for them in the Gospel.

So, when we speak from our God-given authority in Christ, we need to keep that same mindset. We speak from love, we speak from concern and we do not speak to lift ourselves up. The only one lifted up is God Himself, this was the way & attitude of Jesus, too. So may it be with us.

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Day Three – The Daily Lapse into Sin

Come along on the journey as Ben reads from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditations on Divine Mercy.” This is Day Three, “The Daily Lapse into Sin.” In today’s devotion, Johann reminds us how daily struggles result in our daily need for God’s great mercy. All scripture read comes from the ESV.

Let’s turn our hearts toward God together:

Saturday Something – Ep 10 – Failure Happens

Just as an example…today was supposed to be a live stream event. It didn’t work when I went to start it up. Oh well! Life goes on.

Nothing is perfect. Just keep trying! Set yourself up to do well, and then work through it. Don’t let fear keep you from trying.

What a Good Memory

What’s your favorite memory?
Do have a place or time that you enjoy thinking about, mentally revisiting? What is the first Christmas you remember? What’s the earliest birthday party that you can recall the in detail? Who has moved away or passed on and you find comfort in revisiting memories from your time with them? What memories bring you the deepest joy or stir your heart the most? Whether it’s your wedding day, the day you child was born, or the day you discovered the grace that God has for you, there are so many good memories that God has provided for us.

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Listen to David, stirred to remember the goodness of God, and put yourself in his shoes. Let your heart remember with his.

Psalm 105
1Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

God is good all the time. Remember that, okay? Whatever happened today, whoever gave you that sideways ‘complement’ the other day, whoever let you down…no matter what came about, God is good. That never changes. People can make dumb choices, have bad attitudes or completely forgot that they promised you they would do something…and that doesn’t change the fact that God has you, loves you and is providing for your tomorrow.

Human circumstances have nothing to do with how good God is, how consistent He is, how loving He is or how awesome He is…and He loves you.

Saturday Something – Ep 2: Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is nice when it’s for us.
Forgiveness is hard when we have to give it.

 

Build Where No-one Has

Have you ever started something brand new? There’s a lot of work that begins that process. There are resources to gather, people to inform, learning to do…the list goes on and on. That’s the road that God started laying on my heart in the Summer of 2016. You see, my wife and I had been working with a church for about 7 years at that point and it was in deep and desperate need of revitalization. If you’ve never looked into what is required for church revitalization, it’s a long, difficult process At the best, people are inspired, a vision is grasped and a new community emerges from the old. Beauty springs from ashes. At the worst, the doors close, the body disperses, and hearts are broken.

IMG_0573 We wound up somewhere in between, but much closer toward the latter than the former. Visions were cast and disparaged in the same day, frustrations were building, betrayals were taking place, woven in lies through the congregation by a single staff member. The enemy was having a heyday with us. Leadership balked at every step, kowtowed to fear and essential conversations were refused. That’s about as deep as I want to get into it, but suffice it to say, it was unhealthy & bad. This post isn’t about them, or meant to point fingers. It was simply the reality at the time. The church still exists, I pray she advances almost daily.

In the midst of that hurt and hopelessness, God began to persistently whisper something to my heart and He would not stop. “Go build. Lay a foundation where no one has.” Over and over again. “Go build. Lay a foundation where no one has.” He put this singular message on repeat in my head. I knew the context, and I was coming to the end of my fight where I was. I knew the context. I really did. I knew it, those words were Paul’s and they were missionary words. But my mind and heart were still clinging to our current location. I don’t give up. I can be stubborn to a fault. I’m not noisy, but I’m tenacious, and I only had one finger left clinging to that ledge.

I was ready to fall into something different. And God rescued us from ourselves.

My wife and I had engaged in a conversation where she was trying to hype me back up and letting me know that she was ready to fight and keep pressing, but that next day, the other shoe dropped. Decisions were pressed and forced. They were not handled well, and I was caught off guard. In my heart, I quit that day. In my head, I knew the timing was terrible for my departure, so I dug that final finger into the cliff face for a 6 month press. My wife and I began to pray a new prayer. “Lord, we are ready, we know you are calling us out. We are ready for an adventure.”

That’s a scary prayer, but it was also a prayer of freedom.

To say it was rough was a massive understatement. But God kept whispering into my heart. “Go build,” “Lay a new foundation,” and “Lay one where no one has.” He was putting direction into our future, guiding us toward something different, something new, something that would utilize our passions, the vision He had placed on our hearts, and open us up to true, intentional multi-ethnic ministry.

So, for 6 months I began internally saying goodbye to people I had spent the better part of a decade with, served alongside of and still held a deep love for. I knew I was leaving, being called out, and I needed these last months to know that I wasn’t running away. Even in that time I knew that God had something for me to learn. And He taught me in that painful, desert place. They were tough lessons. They were internally focused, and there was a lot of discussion about my doubts and fears. The hurts would be handled later…

For now, there was something coming, something new. Looking back, there was a lot more I should have done in regards to soul care, in seeking counsel. I did seek people out, people I respected, people who knew our situation, and the godly counsel I received from every side was. “Yes. Leave. Leave quickly. Don’t make yourself a martyr. You are meant for more than this.” and so the call out was confirmed over and over again. It was just a matter of where. I knew the when. And then God started laying bread crumbs out in front of us…but that’s another post.

If you are a minister struggling where you are, this is not a confirmation for you to leave where you are. God may have a very different course and plan for you than He has for me and my family. Odds are, He probably does. But if you are suffering harm, if you are being hurt, then you need to begin having those tough conversations with people who have the luxury of outside eyes. Seek God-honoring counsel. And understand your family comes first. If harm is coming to them, then you fight for your family. I did my best to protect mine, but I know that’s not always possible.

Notes on leaving from : Ron Edmonson,  Carey Nieuwhof, Mark Dance, Sherry Surratt
Notes on longevity from: Curtis Thomas, Charles Arn, Joe Buchanan,  Ron Cook

I have the advantage of time right now. This struggle was 18 months ago as of the date of this writing. A lot of healing has taken place. Relationships have been restored. God has spoken beauty into our ashes, and He’s still moving, changing, healing. I’m no where near done. But I am where that foundation will be laid, and there’s a lot of good that has come from our movement in Him.

If you’re still reading. Seek Him in your pain. Seek Him in your hurt. He is faithful. He does see you. He knows what you’re struggling with in His Name and for His bride. He may steel your reserve, telling you to stay and outlive & outlast those whose hearts are no longer Gospel-centered and who simply want their own way. He may call you to the furthest reaches of the earth. I certainly don’t know. But know that He knows. You are loved. Your hurts are known, and He wants to carry them for you. You are loved, you precious child of the King. You are loved, and if you are loved by Him, then you are certainly worthwhile and worth more than you understand.

Be at peace in Him.

Integrity Defines Us

“The righteous who walks in his integrity –
blessed are his children after him!”
Proverbs 20:7

I was reading through the account of Jacob’s encounter and decades spent working for his uncle Laban. These two men seemingly deserved each other. Jacob had stolen his brother’s inheritance and his blessing from their father, Isaac. This was essentially an irrevocable identity theft. The family name and fortune now belonged solely to him, and there was no way to break that spoken contract.

In today’s culture, much of what causes the struggle between Jacob and Esau would be ‘solved’ by simply stating ‘Well, I didn’t mean it like that.” or “I didn’t say that.” or there would be a claim made about fake news & false reporting. Even when the situation was disastrous for them, they maintained their integrity when it came to their spoken word and commitments.

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Esau is devastated when he finds out Jacob has tricked their blind, aged father out of his blessing. But one Isaac had spoken the words, there was no way to withdraw them. Once Esau had committed his portion of the inheritance to his brother for a bowl of soup, the deal was done and the words had sealed it. What you say matters. Your word is your bond.

Today, though, words are treated like they are cheap. You can say something and act like it was never said. You can write something, or be recorded saying it and claim you never said or did that thing. And this is absolutely insane! There is no call for integrity unless someone vulnerable or oppressed has been harmed. When children are abused and mistreated, we speak up and expect hard lines. But when two adults interact with each other, like Jacob and Laban did, then we allow for all sorts of gray space that is open for interpretation. And you can’t have it both ways.

Jacob finds this out when Laban pulls the old switcheroo on him on his wedding night, subbing in his older daughter Leah. Both of them are harmed in this interaction, Leah is now committed to a man that she does not love and who does not love her, and Jacob has been cheated out of the relationship he had worked so hard to provide. This was a seven year build up & Laban swapped his daughters like they were a pair of socks. He had no personal integrity. And now Jacob gets to see what it’s like to be mistreated.

It’s a bad situation all the way around. Now Leah and Rachel will spend the next decades fighting over the affections and attention of one man who really isn’t all that different from dear old dad. At least we are given an insight into Leah’s plight and her building relationship and dependence on God. There is some good that comes from her pain…a pain that shouldn’t have occurred if integrity was a priority.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us very plainly to let our ‘Yes’ be a yes and our ‘No’ really be a no (Matthew 5:37.) Anything else, He says, filters down from evil and the evil one. What we say matters. Sticking with our commitment matters. How we treat our fellow human beings matters. And when our integrity is all that we have left, it is still worth fighting for…every single time.

When Integrity is compromised everyone gets hurt. When it is fought for, human dignity, our own reputations, and our walk with Jesus will win the day.