The Illusion of Expertise

There’s an old saying: “Fake it, until you make it.” And I truly believe there’s a whole lot of faking going on—at least a measure of it. Certainly there are experts… but probably not as many as it seems. And there are certainly people further down the path than you or I on any given topic… but probably not as far as it seems.

What I’m beginning to believe is that what mostly separates the so-called “experts” (and by “so-called”, I mean those that might not be quite the experts they appear to be) from the mainstream is confidence, and the assertiveness that comes with it.

Why Hope Can Be Your Perspective in Every Situation

Why Hope Can Be Your Perspective in Every Situation

Back in April, I was asked for the first time to give a message at MountainSong Church – the church Heather and I moved to Montana to be a part of. I had briefly shared a few times at MountainSong, but never had I given a full message. A communion reflection, a post-worship transition time, a closing reflection and prayer, a testimony or two… those were about it. Needless to say, I was honored and excited about the opportunity.

I knew God wanted me to discuss three of the major works of Christ – His death, resurrection and ascension – and what it looks like to realize the power of each of those works in our lives. What I didn’t know was the incredible well of living water He was going to break open in the hearts of Heather and I as a result and the profound impact it was going to have on our future!

What started as an Easter- and Pentecost-season message on Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, ended as a call-to-arms of sorts to carry unwavering HOPE into and throughout each and every situation we encounter. As Christ’s ambassadors and as ones presently seated with Him in heavenly places, we can boldly live out and exert the hope of our salvation in all of our experiences. This is our inheritance as His sons and daughters!

So, let me share with you a few of the main points and then leave you with a parting reflection.

Jacob or Israel

It seems fairly evident from scripture that there isn’t a particular rhyme or reason concerning which name Jacob/Israel goes by after his official name-change. God says to Jacob in Gen. 35:10: “’Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel.” Yet, as soon as God and Israel part ways, verse 14 starts out with “So Jacob…” and verse 15 repeats “And Jacob…” It seems God wasn’t following His own protocol.

Regardless, I was struck when reviewing Gen. 45 recently, where we find Jacob’s sons returning to him with news that Joseph is still alive and quite well, residing as governor over all the land of Egypt. Verses 25-26 state, “So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them.”

What I felt God highlighting to me in this case was that Jacob, the old man version of this new creation, had a hard time receiving the message of hope.

He’s Digging a New Well

Around a year ago the Lord told me He was digging a new well in my life. Or, I suppose more accurately, He showed me this is what He was doing. The encouraging picture came to me at the tail end of a session of ministry I was receiving from a couple that moves powerfully in deliverance. It was an important revelation for me, because the ministry time ended with me more in frustration than freedom. Nothing at all against the couple, because I know they are servants of the Lord and are heavily anointed to set captives free. But things just didn’t work out the way I envisioned and I think issues arose from my overbearing expectations.

So, this idea of a new well being dug in my inner man has been an anchor I’ve clung to on more than one occasion this past year when I’ve found myself longing for a new level of inner freedom. The Lord has cultivated great fruit in my life these past six or seven years; ask many of my college friends how different I am and they will tell you the transformation has been significant. But I know my inheritance in Christ is an even fuller freedom. And I desire it.

Warning Shot

America:

“If you had known personally, even at least in this your day, the things that make for peace (for freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin and upon which your peace–your security, safety, prosperity, and happiness–depends)! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

“For a time is coming upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank about you and surround you and shut you in on every side. And they will dash you down to the ground… [all] because you did not come progressively to recognize and know and understand [from observation and experience] the time of your visitation [that is, when God was visiting you, the time in which God showed Himself gracious toward you and offered you salvation through Christ].

“For it is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a cave of robbers.'”

— Luke 19:42-46 AMP, edited a bit by me

Days of Noah

A while ago I was reading the story of the crucifixion and I was struck by the words spoken by Christ as He made his way towards Golgotha (Luke 23:27-31). The multitude was following Him and as He heard some of the women mourning and lamenting, He asked them to divert their tears and sorrows to a future generation who would have it far worse off than they.

For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’

He then spoke the words that really gripped me: “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

Or in other words, if man crucifies the very Son of God when it is actually quite hard to do so (ever try starting a fire with green wood?), what evil will man be capable of when it is quite easy to be so (ever try starting a fire with dry wood? It’s simple!).

Rizzo’s “Found Faithful”

I’m being so blessed by Justin Rizzo’s Found Faithful album right now. It ministers the Word of God so powerfully and with such density. Nearly every word sung is scripture; the presence of God is just all over it.

In a major diversion from my comfort zone of writing very methodically and deliberately, I’m just going to blog my stream of consciousness as I listen to the album, much like someone would blog a political debate with on-the-fly commentary. Only this will be much more edifying.

So, hopefully you’ll be blessed by what the Spirit stirs in me as we fellowship.

“The Lord reigns; He is clothed in majesty… He’s mightier than the thunder, mightier than the waters of the sea. The Lord on high is mighty.” (Ps. 93)

If anyone has witnessed the sheer power of a stormy sea, or even water in general (check out the Grand Canyon!), this is quite the comparison. I was able to see some of Katrina’s damage first hand and it was quite sobering. Isn’t it comforting to know that if He is for us, nothing can be against us?!

“Your glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea…” (Hab. 2:14)

This is our hope. This is what we hang our hat on. Christ is returning and with Him a wave of glory will crash upon the earth like the world has never before witnessed. The early believers were constantly exhorted to not lose hope because of this promise: Jesus is returning and will set everything in order.

“This is reality: You’re coming to reign on the earth. And the increase of your government will know no end.”

I love these lines. We need to constantly remind ourselves of what is true reality. It’s not our faltering economy; it’s not the AIDS epidemic; it’s not poverty and hunger. Yes, these are real problems that require real resources and real attention. But they aren’t our most core reality. What is unseen is more real than what is seen. And reality is that the kingdom of God, which will manifest fully when Christ returns, is already within us and the hope and blessing of His kingdom can be released here and now. Our reality as sons and daughters of the King can override present, temporary circumstances we encounter.

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Rev. 19:6)

I’m so stirred with hope when I read passages like these from the book of Revelation. My love and passion for Revelation continues to grow as I realize what a story of overcoming it is. Jesus reigns! He’s the victor and we are His people! We will not be overcome but we will triumph and join in the celebration of the ages as we the Bride are betrothed to the Lamb. The reality of this still feels distant and a little out of my reach at this point, but the excitement and anticipation of it is there nonetheless.

“I want to be unmovable and unshakeable. So let my roots go down deep. And I will be like a tree planted by streams of living water.” (Ps. 1:3)

I remember New Year’s Day several years ago reading Psalm 1 and being transformed by it as 2 & 3 became my verses for the year. It became probably the most meaningful declaration over my life as I entered a whole new season of growth with the Lord. He’s been so faithful to do His part and birth the reality of these verses in my life as I’ve sought to honor Him and His Word

“As I see the height from which you reign and the depth to which you came. And as I see the height to which you brought me and the depth to which you save. I will praise you. I will love You with all of my heart. And I will thank you forever and ever.”

Profound. If I had just a thread more revelation about what Christ gave up to become the suffering servant and our savior, I’d never live the same.

“I want to be found faithful. I want to be found steady. I want to be found faithful to the end. I want to live before your eyes. I want to stay before your gaze. Just keep me steady.”

My heart’s cry. My longing. I’ve shared with a few people recently that the greatest fear I hold in life is not reaching my full potential in the Lord. In many ways this fear is rooted in pride, because I have the wrong perspective and think it’s mostly on me to walk this out. Thankfully it’s not all on me. It’s all about having our focus set upon Jesus.

“Indwelling spirit; I’m not alone. Indwelling spirit; I’m not my own… You have not left me here alone. But what you’ve done is given me the ability to choose you.”

I simply love this song. It’s wrecking me and is the reason I’ve gotten so hooked on this album.

“Come and strengthen us in righteousness. Come strengthen us with Christ within. Come, conform me, come transform me to the image of You.”

Christ in us, the hope of glory. We’re lost and hopeless without Him. We need him so bad. My heart just breaks for those who struggle to make it each day without Christ and His Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Break me more, Lord! Work in me the ability to will and do according to your purpose. Make me a living testimony of your faithfulness and goodness. Awaken in me more fully that I’ve found the pearl of great price and that you’re worth selling all for!

“If I try and save my life I will lose it but if I lose my life for Your sake I’ll find it in the end. (This is true life.)”

The day of our wedding, I gave Heather a custom engagement photo book that I made. On the cover, I had titled the book “I will waste my life.” Some found the title curious, because it could imply that I thought I was surrendering to a lesser life by marrying her. Though that book wasn’t inspired by this song (it was inspired by a similar Misty Edwards song), I’m finding Rizzo’s “This is True Life” relevant as well. When we willfully give up and lose (or waste) our lives for sake of Christ… that’s when we really experience the good life. Marrying Heather cost me a little (the freedom and autonomy of bachelorhood) but it was a very small surrender for all the goodness I get to experience doing life with her. And so too are the surrenders Christ asks of us. There really are no “sacrifices” when it comes to the Kingdom because it is impossible to out-give God.

“Eternally I’ve been bought with blood. There will never be another sacrifice.”

A good reality to meditate on. Sometimes, we try in vain to add to Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice by beating ourselves up over sins, feeling like we should suffer and wallow in our fallenness. But that attitude implies that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough and that he hasn’t truly suffered enough for our sins—that we need to add a little more. And that’s wrong.

“I will not despise the sowing of seeds. For I know in due time, I will see the fruit of my labors for all eternity…  Nothing in this life will every truly satisfy the desires of your heart… See the weight, see the glory of what you’re doing. It is affecting you forever.”

That last stanza has really been going through my head these last few days. Like I said last week, we really, truly will sow what we reap, good and bad. We need to live soberly. As Maximus tells his soldiers in Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

“I set my eyes on what I can not see. I set my eyes on the eternal. You are my great reward. Forever I will be with You. This momentary light affliction is working me an eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4)

My late friend Brian embraced these verses from 2 Cor. as he was dying of cancer. As his body was being ravaged by that fierce evil, he embraced eternity. He looked into his hopeful future and saw white shores Gandalf recalls in The Return of the King. Brian looked upon death and saw the victory that Christ had secured over it. Life would go one. He was just passing into a new dimension.

As Maximus says in Gladiator: “Death smiles upon us all. All a man can do is smile back.” It HAS NO VICTORY OVER US! IT HAS NO STING! We need to grow in revelation about death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed Brian, as well as two other friends (Tim and Randy) were taken from us very prematurely. That’s wrong and it was completely from the devil. But still… we don’t have to carry prolonged sorrow over someone passing into the presence of the Lord. My friend Scott told me of a funeral he attended where his wife’s Godmother rebuked people for crying when they should be celebrating someone going to heaven. That might be a little strong, but it makes the point that we all lack revelation on what life is all about. Our life is but a vapor or a mist that disappears in a moment. Eternity is what we need to be living for. God, please work in me this truth! You hold the words of eternal life!

Sowing and reaping

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.
You have plowed wickedness;
You have reaped iniquity.
You have eaten the fruit of lies,
Because you trusted in your own way,
In the multitude of your mighty men.

— Hosea 10:12-13

Let’s clear the air about something: sowing and reaping is a major principle of God’s Word and one we must still recognize and live by. Just as Hosea warned Israel in the passage above, if we sow wickedness with our thoughts and actions, we’re going to reap iniquity—or the willful injustice of oppressors, as the Amplified Bible puts it. We won’t just reap an icky feeling of having lived wrongly; we’ll actually attract injustice and oppression from others.

Conversely, if we sow righteousness—or uprightness and right standing with God, as the Amplified translates—we’ll reap mercy and loving-kindness. When we break up our fallow ground, we are able to receive the soaking rain of God’s blessings. God can rain down righteousness all He wants, but if our hearts are hard, His rain will splash off us like flash floods upon Utah slickrock and not bring lasting change.

In this season where the love and affections of the Father are being reintroduced to the Church in new and powerful ways, it’s easy to lean too heavily upon God’s mercy and forget that our wrong actions still carry heavy consequences.

Paul warned the Galatians (6:7-8):

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

It’s a stern warning: Do not be deceived! Paul would only say that if there were legitimate reason to be concerned about deception. How are we living our lives? Do our actions reflect that we take this spiritual truth seriously? It’s a question I need to ask myself more often. For if I truly lived like this was absolute reality, I’d certainly live differently. And when we don’t live this way, we’re falling into the very deception that Paul warns against. And we’re (yikes!) mocking God—the pure opposite of living in the fear of the Lord. That is not where we want to be.

The Amplified paints a more complete picture of what this ugly, dismissive attitude look like to God:

Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.)

We probably tell ourselves, “Lord, I would never scorn, disdain or mock you!” just as Peter told Jesus he would never betray Him. Yet, days, if not hours later, when we live as though we won’t reap what we sow, we’re doing it. God sees it as mockery.

When were stingy with our tithes and offerings and wonder why the budget never works out, we’re mocking God. When we consider God’s commandments to be trivial and wonder why things just don’t seem to be going our way, we’re mocking God. When we’re rare with complements and words of encouragement and wonder why people seldom notice or praise us, we’re mocking God. When we’re tight with tips at the restaurant or salon and wonder why people aren’t more generous with us, we’re mocking God. I could go on forever.

What it comes down to is this: Yes, God loves us all more than we can imagine. Yes, God is quick to show mercy and extend forgiveness. Yes, God works together all things for our good. But, yes, you will still reap what you sow. If you want the blessings of God to flow through your life like a mighty river, you have to commit to sowing into that stream of blessing with your thoughts, meditations, words and actions. God will not be mocked.