September, 2011


26
Sep 11

Letter to the President

This is a series that is focusing on the question, “Am I willing to take God fully at His Word, especially in what He has revealed in Scripture?” In 1 Peter 2:17 we read, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” This is my best attempt in response.

 

Mr. President:

I write you this letter, knowing full well you will probably never read it, but that’s not important to me.  The words I have to write must be written whether you read them or not.

I am writing to honor you as the President of the United States of America.

As the President of this nation, your presence carries an air that no one can replicate. You represent a very powerful, very wealthy nation. The distance that separates you and I is vast, and I do not begrudge it at all. That distance simply demonstrates the honor that is due you. The distance between us makes it difficult to know how to honor you, and this may seem shallow because of it, but it is my best effort. You are a man who has been granted an extraordinary privilege, and I want to honor you as my President.

My honor begins with commitment. Your followers may be some of the most fickle critics, and their praise and devotion is almost impossible to keep. However, I want to be different. I want to the man who honors you regardless of your decisions, no matter of your successes or mistakes. I want to be the man who honors you, no matter how deep our disagreements run. I choose to honor you, because no matter what you do, you cannot escape who you are. The truth is that you are my President, and that truth is the driving force behind my honor.

Because I honor you, I choose not to devalue you. Your critics know your worst weaknesses, and I refuse to join them. Just as I cannot turn a blind eye to your weaknesses, I refuse to turn a blind eye to your strengths. I choose to remain completely honest about your strengths and weaknesses, but I refuse to allow them to define my honor for you. God raises up whom He chooses, and neither you nor I can change that.

I choose to honor you by expecting more of myself than of you. Your job as a leader is hard. I am only one of millions, but I choose today to do my part in contributing to society, carrying my share of the load, and encouraging others to do so as well. While I can honor you with my words, I believe the greatest honor is met with action. When I pay my taxes next spring, I choose to maintain a positive attitude, freely and willing giving the taxes that are due, just as Jesus taught. I choose to invest in those around me, helping them become better citizens. When I recognize the God-given potential within another person, I choose to step aside to encourage them in their potential, knowing that through their gifts they will make the biggest contribution. I cannot solve all issues–poverty and crime are prevalent, and the needs are staggering. Many others are doing more than I can every hope or imagine, and I wish at times I could do more. But I will not let the seeming insignificance of my contribution keep me from doing my part.

I have one more commitment I must make, but it is a greater commitment than I can honestly make. My desire is not merely to honor you, but to encourage others, especially those of my faith who dishonor you, to bestow on you the honor that is yours. This letter is the first step, but it is the cowardly first step. The true test will come in the unexpected conversations that will catch me off guard. I choose to make a commitment that I can keep–that no matter how often I fail, I will fail forward. No matter how often I shrink back, I will continue pressing on to becoming the man of courage who is willing to be unswayed by the opinions of the crowd.

I realize this letter is only meaningless words if it is not followed by action. I realize that this is a decision I must make, that no matter what course is easy, I must choose the course that is right. Though I’ve often said it with words, today I choose to learn to say it with my life: I honor you.

And according the power of Christ who lives within me, I will.

Regards,

Matthias Miller


23
Sep 11

Sola Scriptura: Delegated Authority (Part 3 of 3)

This is a series that is focusing on the question, “Am I willing to take God fully at His Word, especially in what He has revealed in Scripture?”

This week has passed by very quickly! I hope you all enjoyed a break from my writings. 🙂 This is the third part of a series exploring the authority we have in Christ. To recap:

Part 1: God gave dominion of the earth to man, and man surrendered it.

Part 2: Jesus came not only to take our punishment, but also to reclaim the enemy’s dominion.

And now we move on to the final part:

Part 3: Christ has granted us as believers delegated authority and has seated us with Him in heavenly places to reign with Him.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). That authority was the basis from which He sent out His disciples. However, Jesus did not just send them out as mere reporters or messengers. He sent them out as representatives or ambassadors. Paul explains the authority that was given to the apostles:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

This authority isn’t merely something for the apostles, but it’s something for all believers. Paul also writes, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7). This verse is not a promise but a statement of fact. If you are a believer, you are seated with Christ. This is a position of rulership and authority. Christ has invited you, through faith, to enter His divine rule. It means becoming part of His invisible kingdom, or rulership.

Even though this is a reality, why don’t more believers live in this reality? Once again, we see Paul encouraging the Colossians, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). Even though our lives are hidden in Christ and we are seated with Him in heavenly places, it’s up to us to turn our focus on that fact. As we set our focus on Christ’s rulership and identify ourselves with Christ, we begin to live out of that reality.

Do you remember how I demonstrated from Scripture that Adam’s sin allowed death to reign? Here’s the good news! As Paul explains this, He continues by saying, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17).

The simple question I have for you is this, “Are you reigning in life?” Are you reigning in your relationships with other people, in your job, in your private life, and in your relationship with God? Or are you merely surviving? From Scripture, we see that God has given you authority, but are you living in it? I invite you to ask this simple question, “In light of your current situation, how does God want to reveal His authority to you, so that you might reign in life?”

If you don’t feel like you understand or “get it”, don’t despair! The most incredible part of this is that it is available to every believer through faith. It is nothing that we have done; it is only because of Christ. He is the center of our lives, He is the one who receives our focus and devotion, and He is the one who receives the glory as we allow His life to flow through us.

May God reveal to you the depth of the mysteries of Christ, and may He write it deep on your heart, that you may point others to the glory of Christ!


19
Sep 11

Sola Scriptura: Authority Reclaimed (Part 2 of 3)

This is a series that is focusing on the question, “Am I willing to take God fully at His Word, especially in what He has revealed in Scripture?”

Last week I explored the authority that had been given to Adam, which he surrendered when he disobeyed God. Today we will explore God’s solution!

Part 1: God gave dominion of the earth to man, and man surrendered it.

Part 2: Jesus came not only to take our punishment, but also to reclaim the enemy’s dominion.

Jesus’ mission on the earth was to break the dominion of sin and restore man to God.

Last week I mentioned Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Satan tempted Jesus by saying, “I will give you all their authority and splendor [referring to the kingdoms of the world]; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.” I used to think Satan was bluffing, but from what I read in the Scriptures, because of the fall, I believe that these indeed were the devil’s to give away. The devil tempted Jesus with a shortcut to fulfilling His call on this earth. However, the offer included Jesus surrendering himself to the devil’s kingdom by bowing down and worshiping the devil. Either way, Jesus would gain authority over these kingdom, but He only had one path to restore them to God.

Jesus also reflected this in the Lord’s prayer when He prayed, “Your kingdom come.” God’s plan in bringing the kingdom to earth was to break the dominion of the kingdom of darkness and to establish His rulership (kingdom) on the earth.

How was this dominion broken?

Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He was fully man, but because He was the son of God, He was not subject to Adam’s curse. He was tempted in every way, but He was without sin. Jesus, though perfectly blameless, took the curse of Adam’s sin upon himself, and broke the power of sin and death. In rising from the dead, He was the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. He became the first of those who would be part of the kingdom of light, who would reign in life (Romans 5).

Through this, God has given Jesus authority. In Philippians 2, we read, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ” This is big authority!

After His resurrection, Jesus Himself said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). That’s also big authority!

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the question, “If Jesus has all authority and broke the dominion of sin, why does so much of it still exist?”


16
Sep 11

Sola Scriptura: Authority Lost (Part 1 of 3)

This is a series that is focusing on the question, “Am I willing to take God fully at His Word, especially in what He has revealed in Scripture?”

I would like to take some time to focus on our concept of authority. This will take several posts to plumb the depths. I hope it’s not too deep, and I hope it’s worth sticking it out to the end! As always, your feedback is welcome!

Part 1: God gave dominion of the earth to man, and man surrendered it.

Even before He created man, God’s plan was to create someone in His own image to rule over all the creatures of the earth. He acted on this desire before He created woman, when He put Adam in the Garden of Eden and commanded him to work it and care for it. By doing this, He was placing Adam in authority over the garden. (See Gen 1:26, 1:28, 2:15.)

When Adam was tempted, He was confronted with a choice. God had told him not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve had given ear to the serpent and told Adam to eat of the fruit. Scripture makes it clear that Adam’s choice was not only a choice of obedience. It was a choice between two kingdoms. Adam’s choice would surrender his domain to the devil’s power.

For much of my life, I saw the fall as sin and death entering the world, and only recently have been realizing that sin and death reigned in the world. Sin and death and more than mere ideas to explain human psychology; they are part of the devil’s kingdom and rulership. Because of Adam’s choice, the devil was given a place of authority in the world.

I see this confirmed in several places.

First of all, when Satan tempts Jesus with the kingdoms of the world, he says, “I will give you all their authority and splendor [referring to the kingdoms of the world]; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.” We know that Satan is the father of lies, and somehow I had assumed he was lying when he made this statement. However, based on what I read elsewhere in Scripture, I now believe Satan was speaking the truth, that indeed Adam had surrendered the kingdoms of the world to the devil. (Of course, there’s more going on here, but that comes next week!)

Second, when Paul talks about Adam’s sin in Romans 5, he mentions death having been given authority, or reigning. “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” He reinforces this concept later in the chapter when he says that just as death once reigned, so we would reign in life. (Yes, more on that later!)

Third, Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 6:12 that we are wrestling against spiritual authorities. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

To summarize, one of my core beliefs on authority is this:

  1. God gave authority to man.
  2. Man surrendered his authority to the devil.
  3. The devil was given authority on the earth.

Join me next week as we explore God’s solution and our response! Meanwhile, have a refreshing weekend!


15
Sep 11

Sola Scriptura: Master or Student?

This is a series that is focusing on the question, “Am I willing to take God fully at His Word, especially in what He has revealed in Scripture?”

Before I continue further on this series, I want to articulate some ways that God is changing my perspective of Scripture.

I have to confess that at times, I have picked up my Bible and felt overwhelmed because I wasn’t sure where to start. I feel like I know so little, and I want to know so much, and the difference between what I know and want to know sometimes discourages me.

I’ve tried to be a master of the Bible. My goal has been to become the expert, to know it inside and out. Ironically, my goal was so intimidating that it discouraged me from productively pursuing that goal!

God is changing my perspective from master to student. I am moving my focus from becoming the expert and understanding the full mysteries, to becoming a student of the Bible. My goal is to have a teachable attitude that allows Scripture to inform my life.

Becoming a master of Scripture is a Herculean task, but becoming a student is a role that I can assume today, tomorrow, and the next day. We align ourselves with Scripture by making small changes every day, and those changes add up to significant life change.

May every one of us approach the Word of God with humility and teachability, that we may walk in the fullness of what God has revealed!


14
Sep 11

Molecular Leadership: Healing a Broken Organization

Yesterday I shared the simple concept molecular leadership, which models an organization less by hierarchy and more by circles of influence. For example, a simple software company may be modeled like this:

The entire structure relies on each of the leads being both teachable and influential within their team. However, what happens if the Development Lead does not carry influence with his team? In the best case, he has simply lost touch and needs simple coaching to get back in place. In the worst case, it may be necessary to completely disregard the company structure and map the more organic circles of influence.

For example, you might find that because the development and QA teams work closely together (and have a surprisingly good relationship), the men take a regular golfing trip together. Draw a circle on your organizational map and label it “Golfers from Dev/QA”.

You might find that the young mothers in the sales and support team interact a lot because of their common challenges in their personal lives. Draw another circle on your organizational map and label it “Young Mothers in Sales and Support”.

As you draw the circles of influence that exist in your organization, pick the circles of influence that are most effective. Find the people who are the influencers within those groups, and find ways to get them under your influence or under the influence of someone close to you.

As you do that, you may find a structure emerge that does not match your org chart, but it will provide an effective strategy for improving the organization. This map becomes the blueprint by which you place people into positions of authority.

Once you have drafted the circles of influence, look for people who are missing from these circles of influence, or who possibly show up only once on the map. These are your islands, and you want to plug them in. Look for ways to get them into a circle of influence.

The same principle can be used with your church. As you map out the circles of influence, look for people who are noticeably absent. These are people who are getting lost in the shuffle. They are not engaged in your church, and they are not contributing to the church’s vision. Worst of all, they are probably not getting the support and encouragement that they personally need to maintain a vibrant walk with the Lord.

When we look to restructure organizations, it is easy to immediately change structure and assume that change will resolve issues. However, this change cannot happen without reestablishing healthy circles of influence that allow life to flow from the heart of the organization to the outer fringes.

Most times, I try to wrap up my posts with a challenge, but this time, I’ll just let you take it and run with it in whatever manner you please! 🙂


13
Sep 11

Molecular Leadership: Circles of Influence

Over the past year, I’ve come to adopt the basic premise that leadership is influence. Leaders, by definition, lead. People follow when they align themselves with a common vision and common values.

Each person is limited in the number of people they can influence, and each person has different circles of influence. The circles of influence vary for many reasons–sometimes because of shared interests, physical proximity, work, or age. You have a unique set of people with whom you can interact and reach. I cannot reach your people, and you cannot reach my people. However, I can reach you, and you can reach your people. And you can reach me, and I can reach my people.

This is the same model that Jesus used with His disciples. He had twelve close disciples, three of whom were very close. He entrusted those disciples to spread His teaching and message. While Jesus spent time interacting with the crowds, I believe His greater work was developing His twelve disciples.

To demonstrate this model in the context of an organization, I would like to illustrate a simple software company. A company like this may have four main divisions:

  1. Sales — doing market research, making sales, etc.
  2. Development — building the software
  3. Quality Assurance — making sure software meets quality requirements
  4. Support — relating with clients and ensuring customer satisfaction

The CEO does not interact with everyone in the company. Rather, he relates with key people from each department, and he relies on them to spread his vision, ideology, and values to their own teams.

To illustrate this graphically, the organization may look like this:

Note that this structure doesn’t carry hierarchy as much as circles of influence. The CEO focuses on influencing and developing his team leads, and they focus on spreading his work to their own teams.

This is a model that can scale, as long as each link is willing to be influenced and is able to spread that influence. However, it requires a large amount of trust, because as soon as a link is broken, it isolates an entire team from the rest of the organization. The closer the link is to the core of the organization, the greater the impact and fallout.

In a healthy organization, position will match influence. The people with the most teachability and influence in the team will be the ones entrusted to carry that vision. They will be given positions to reflect that.

However, leadership positions do not guarantee influence, nor does influence require a leadership position. How can we close that gap when position and influence have completely drifted apart? Tomorrow we will look at ways to heal a broken organization.


12
Sep 11

Clay and the Potter

I am already interrupting my series because I have some things I want to share first! This past weekend I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 45. The chapter opens with an incredible promise:

I will go before you and will level the mountains. I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.

I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.

I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.

I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

The Lord continues by saying:

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground.

Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?

Throughout this promise, it is clear that this is only because it is the Lord’s desire for this to happen. It is not by the choice of man, and it is even in spite of man’s choices that He makes it happen!

Here’s what this means for me.

I believe God wants to move us into His favor through the work of His son Jesus. God’s favor rests upon Jesus, and through faith we enter into that favor. As we let go of our own fleshly efforts, we are able to go forth in faith.

Through faith we enter in His favor, and this favor turns the tables.

In His favor, we no longer pursue God. Rather, God pursues us. In His favor, we find ourselves asking, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presences?” Why? It is because this brings much glory to God, because our relationship with God is no longer a work of man but of God! Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

Our generation has heard so much about pursuing our dreams, but we have rarely heard about our dreams pursuing us. It is true that many of us have lived selfish lives in our flesh, and we have run after those dreams. However, as we move into God’s realm and align ourselves with Him, we enter a new world with new rules. As we surrender ourselves to God, we discover God-breathed dreams that are on His heart and that He wants to release and fulfill. As we walk in that place of favor, we move from our self-effort of fulfilling our dreams into the place of surrender to God that allows His dreams to pursue us.

The past several months, God has been revealing things about myself that I have found difficult to accept, not because these things were so evil but because these things were so good. I found myself asking God, “Why me? I am only a clay pot! I don’t deserve to walk in the things you have called me to!”

As I was reading this morning, I was convicted by God’s reprimand. Who am I to argue with the Maker of the clay pot? Is He not God? Can He not do what He wills? Just as I am willing to embrace the fire, am I not willing to embrace the resulting gold, knowing that I am nothing of myself and that the Lord will do as He pleases?

I am reminded of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Is it not through jars of clay that God’s power is manifested most clearly?

My prayer for you is simple.

May God take you into that place of favor in His son Jesus. May His presence pursue you, may His love engulf you, and may His dreams chase after you. May you come to know your God not as a slave but as a friend, and may you be unable to escape His relentless lovingkindness on your life.


9
Sep 11

Sola Scriptura: Power

This is a series that is focusing on the question, “Am I willing to take God fully at His Word, especially in what He has revealed in Scripture?”

Paul says the kingdom of God does not consist of words but of power. However, as I press in to understand more of God’s power, the more I realize how much of my life has relied on words. I’ve told people the right thing, and I’ve given the right answers, but they haven’t changed. Many times I have prayed for healing for people, but my prayers were mere words and carried no power. Could it be that I, with all the teaching and understanding I had, have been living as a powerless Christian?

The more I learn about power, the more I see the incredible blessing of power! Can it be abused? Absolutely! Can it be a huge weapon against the enemy? Absolutely! Can you imagine a church where God’s power was present to heal, not only physically but also emotionally? Can you imagine the relationships that would be healed if God’s power was present to restore people? Is there any possibility that the enormous church growth in the early church was related to a church that was walking in the power of God?

It is easy to excuse ourselves by saying that this power was only for the early church. But imagine the outcry that would arise if we began to teach that the cross was only for the early church! We must take care when we willfully exclude parts of the gospel!

Jesus said that the signs would follow those who believe, not that the signs would follow the apostles until they could be written down in the Bible. After all, if the apostles had all the testimonies of Jesus’ healings, why did they themselves have to heal people? Could they not have referred back to the testimony of Jesus and inspire people to believe?

I fully believe that we are called to be like Jesus, that Jesus taught His disciples to be like Him, and that Jesus’ intent in our making disciples was primarily to replicate Himself, not us. Jesus walked with incredible power and authority on the earth, and as His disciples, I believe our lives should model that. In fact, Jesus said that signs would follow those who believe, and we would do greater works than even He!

We sometimes fear power because we have seen its excesses where character was nowhere to be found. Let us remain strong in character! And let us be like Jesus, not only in His character and attitude, but let us be like Him in our dependence on the Holy Spirit to walk in power.


8
Sep 11

Sola Scriptura: Introduction

This is a new series that I’m launching into. I don’t know how long it will go, but we’ll give it a shot, and hopefully it will get you thinking!

The past several years, but especially the past several months and weeks, I’ve been confronted by the Bible. I have read things in the Bible that I haven’t been taught in church, and I am recognizing things that I have been taught in church that aren’t specifically taught in the Bible.

I have met no Christian who says the Bible shouldn’t be the ultimate authority. In fact, I myself have often affirmed the authority of Scripture. Nonetheless, I am continually faced with choices. Am I really going to make the Bible the ultimate authority?

I have to confess that this is an uncomfortable question; it even makes me uncomfortable sometimes! I believe many people are scared of facing this question because they fear losing valuable teaching. Please understand–we must not neglect any Biblical teaching or practice that we already hold! We must hold fast to that which is good! However, we must continue letting the Word of God be our measuring stick, and we must measure all things by the Word of God.

Because of this, I have been forced to ask myself this question: Am I content with just the truth that I have embraced, or am I willing to press in to embrace the full gospel?

In this upcoming series, I would like to share with you some of these questions I’ve wrestled with. My prayer is simple–that we may align ourselves with God and that our lives would be characterized by a passion and desire for truth, and nothing but the truth!