World

Dual Citizenship Dilemma?

Image source:  Preacher Study Blog

Image source: Preacher Study Blog

Despite that I devote little attention to news and political matters, I’ve ventured into a few social media exchanges during the just-concluded presidential campaign and since President Trump took office. I’ve also deleted or edited some comments here and there that didn’t feel right later on.

Immigration is one of those issues on everyone’s radar.  For all the problems in America, plenty of people desire to live in the freedom that United States citizenship affords.

Freedom of speech may be one of the most valued freedom American citizens enjoy.  While America allows expression with minimal risk of repercussion, freedom of speech can easily get us into serious trouble with anyone in the range of our voice especially when our speaking platform is social media.

As someone who writes into this media, I know firsthand that some of the views expressed here have riled up a few people.  My intention with Road Report is draw from personal experiences to share what I hear God is saying in and through me.

I am grateful to be able to share my perspective this way thanks to the freedom afforded me as a citizen of the United States of America. However, by drawing God into the center of these messages, my citizenship in his kingdom is also very much in play.  Lately I notice more contention between these kingdoms of my dual citizenship.

Perhaps the dilemma is due to that the manner and conduct of the kingdom of God is often not in concert with the manner and conduct of the kingdom of America that is part of the greater kingdom of the world. Read Jesus’ beatitudes to see how people of God’s kingdom are.

Besides the beatitudes, the Bible has much to say about this dual citizenship believers in God and Christ.  Here’s how St. Peter frames this dilemma believers face:

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.
— 1 Peter 2: 11, NLT

Jesus claimed to be king of a kingdom not of this world. (see John 18:36, NIV).  People gain citizenship in the kingdom of God when they are “born again” – adopted into a new family and citizenship that is ruled by God.

It sounds simple enough but unlike towns and neighborhoods where we live out our mortal lives, God’s kingdom is invisible and we Christians have no visual features or language that readily identifies us as “temporary residents and foreigners.” So how should Christians approach this dual citizenship?

Peter continues with some practical guidance: Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2: 11b-12, NLT)

  1. keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very soul (v11b)
  2. live properly among unbelieving neighbors (v12a)
  3. behavior honorably (v12b)
  4. don’t judge (v12c)

The big question regards whether our citizenship in God’s kingdom is as noticeable as (say) an immigrant’s native accent reflects his/her Spanish-ness or Middle Eastern-ness or Asian-ness? What should an accent resonating the kingdom of God sound like?


Notes

  1. Referring to believers as “temporary residents” is noted elsewhere in Scripture (such as Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20 and Hebrews 11:13).  (Biblegateway link in NIV)
  2. What does ‘Born Again Christian’ mean?

Trust in the Lord — 2015 Ornament

After my dad’s death in December 2014, I received some items of his – shirts, a jacket, shoes, boots, and a walking stick. While these items were welcome replacements for a tired wardrobe sparingly maintained through years of variable employment, wearing them often caused me to muse how I was literally ‘walking in dad’s shoes’ during this year after his departure from us to be at last “face to face” with our Lord. (1 Cor 13:12)

Keeping his walking stick and boots near our back door often reminds me of dad and figuratively of life as a journey in need of sturdy shoes and a stout walking stick. A photo I took of them there adorns my 2015 journal cover and inspired this ornament design and message – offering context for situations that arose this year. It regards shoes, a walking stick and Proverbs 3, about what we “Trust in” and “lean not on…” in our journey along life’s roads.

“Trust in (the Lord) … and lean not on (your own understanding)” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

2015 Trust in the Lord Ornament

Figuratively, we each have a walking stick for our life journey – a belief system or constitution that casually guides us during normal times and that we lean more heavily on when the road gets a little rough or treacherous. God’s message to believers in Proverbs 3:5-8 is essentially, “Make me your walking stick.”

The Hebrew verb “batach,” translated “trust” in verse 5 occurs 118 times in the Old Testament. In the literal, physical sense, it means to lean on something for support. While the verb often depicts people trusting in things that prove to be unreliable, here the object of trust is the LORD. Trust in (lean on) me with all your heart. In all your ways submit to me.

Not only does the LORD insist he is always reliable for trusting in and leaning on, our own understanding is not so reliable. Adding “lean not on your own understanding” renders this as a “both/and” proposition – to both “trust in” the LORD and to “lean not on” our own understanding.

Even though Proverbs 3 is God inviting ancient Israel in the older testament to “Trust in me,” the principle follows all through the Christmas story that launches the newer testament. After Israel vacillated wildly between the blessings of trusting in the Lord and the repercussions of failing to do so, along comes Jesus. The long-awaited Messiah not only modeled how to walk out life trusting in God, he audaciously presented himself as the way to do so. (John 14:6)

That Jesus’ beginnings didn’t follow a Messiah-like script should prepare us for the unusual form of “understanding” that trusting the LORD requires. A sampling from Jesus’ messages: “To be rich, become poor …

to be comforted, mourn…. to be satisfied, hunger for righteousness… to receive mercy, humble yourself…. to save your life, die…the first are last… to be found, become lost… love your enemies….”

To both trust in the Lord AND lean not on your own understanding is to affirm that God has the “why” fully covered because he is also the way. Mind you, dulling followers’ minds is not the LORD’s goal here. The exact opposite in fact, “life to the full” – to flourish in the freedom of grace found only in Christ! (John 10:10)

Also in Proverbs 3, God offers some great benefits to those who accept the both/and proposition: 1) crooked paths made straight (v6); and, deep, “bone-felt” well-being (v8).

How does God deliver such lofty claims? Follow the story that unfolds all through Scripture. “What he desires, that he does,” proclaimed Job (23:13b). “Our God … does all that he pleases,“ said David (Psalm 115:3). “As I have planned, so shall it be,” wrote Isaiah (14:24). Christmas is the unveiling of God’s ultimate stroke – Jesus Christ who said of himself, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18).

All this year, I repeated this verse over and over to counter unsettling thoughts, situations and developments – “Trust in” and “lean not on…” When what life brings seems vexing, insurmountable or both, be assured that God is trustworthy beyond your understanding. True well-being comes when we take him at his word and live accordingly. (see John 16:33).

“Trust me on this,” says the LORD, “and lean not on your own understanding.”  


Notes:

1. COMMENTS WELCOME and ENCOURAGED here about how the ornament and/or message struck you ESPECIALLY from ornament recipients. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE a 2015 “Trust in the Lord” ornament, simply request one by emailing me at FarmingtonGlenn@gmail.com.  No guarantees but if I can get one to you, I will.  If shipping is required, I may ask you to cover those costs.

2. Acknowledgements:

  • Was thrilled to find this great Ken doll “shoe store” at AliExpress.
  • These instructions helped me achieve an authentic driftwood look for the walking stick –  although the instructions made this look easier than it turned out to be.

3. Ornament Scriptures:

The anchor scripture is Proverbs 3: 5-6 but for context read Proverbs 3: 5-8

Supporting scriptures and resources:

UP SIDE DOWN — 2013 Ornament

2013 "UP SIDE DOWN" Ornament

2013 "UP SIDE DOWN" Ornament

Life has not unfolded as I envisioned it as a young dreamer many years ago. Similarly Christmas 2013 bears little resemblance to its “year zero” original. However, in the words of author Dallas Willard, we live in a “God-breathed world*.” There is nothing humanity can make or unmake, do or undo with Christmas or anything else that God did not create, permit or control.

God breathed new life into me 30 years ago and as I’ve walked on in faith since then, I seek God’s context in every moment and to “lean not on my own understanding.” Through God’s eyes, UPs emerge in the mundane and amazingly from the deepest of DOWNs.

So, this UP SIDE DOWN ornament is available this year by request AND your pledge to think about and comment how its message strikes you.

Enjoy!


Christmas celebrates the birth of a child said to fulfill ancient Jewish prophecies about a Messiah King like their great King David (1050 BC) who would vanquish their enemies and establish an everlasting reign of peace. (Isaiah 9:6).

While Jewish scholars today discount prophecies Christians claim are messianic, the fanfare of Christmas 2013 would have suited their UP expectations for Messiah more than Christmas “year zero” did. In looking for an UP king like David they were caught looking in the wrong direction. Here are a few points of confusion.

DOWN #1 – How Jesus arrived – born to a mom who insisted she conceived while still an unmarried virgin. Really?

DOWN #2 – Birthplace. Although Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David, in “year zero” it was little more than a backwoods town located literally in the shadow of the local king’s fortress at Herodium that towered 2,487 feet in elevation over Bethlehem (elevation 775) just 3.1 miles down the road. God could pick anywhere. Why Bethlehem?

DOWN # 3 – Convoluted birth story. He wasn’t born at home surrounded by a royal family but in an animal stall in a distant city. His only visitors were shepherds who say they were summoned by an angelic host and the mysterious magi from who knows where who followed a star.

A stall? Shepherds and Magi?  Angels and a star? Could the Messiah King’s entrance be any less credible or more confusing?

After the shepherds departed, it was noted that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

What things did she ponder? . . . (Was anything about Jesus’ birth NOT ponderable?)

DOWN # 4 – Jesus’ compelling manner but counterintuitive message first wowed the crowds but ultimately confounded them.

Scripture offers clues for understanding:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
— Isaiah 55: 8-9

AND

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
— Proverbs 3: 5-7

Hint! Hint! Relationship with God requires both heart and brain. Jesus would affirm and reinforce that idea. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34)

The verses quoted on the ornament’s pages are just a small sampling of Jesus’ UP SIDE DOWN-ness . Others include: bless your enemies (Rom 12:14), value godliness over wealth (1 Tim 6: 6-9), take joy in hardship (James 1:2), God sets himself against worldly wisdom and strength (1 Cor 1:27), and “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “ (Matt 16: 25).

Christianity today presents the birth of Christ as a holy and magical event – God touching down on planet earth. But as a stand-alone event in history, it wasn’t that at all.  It is only so in context to the greater story of God’s efforts to connect with humanity and that story didn’t begin in Bethlehem but in Eden.  Christmas is really part of that greater story and Jesus has a significant role in it.

Which is why Christians believe that Christ is the answer to why we are. Arriving as he did, odd as it seems, went EXACTLY as planned. But to truly hear and see and know him “breathing life” into us and the chaos around us, we need to completely INVERT our perspective – UP SIDE DOWN!


  1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
    • To SeaLemonDIY on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/user/SeaLemonDIY) for the lesson on how to make my little book with real pages.  She has many other DIY “How Tos” there as well. Check it out.
    • To my friend and Pastor, Doug Walker for yet another lesson to build a Christmas ornament around. If you read back through prior ornament messages, you’ll note that I attribute many of my ornament lessons to Doug’s teaching. Doug is pastor of the church we attend, Grace Chapel in Farmington Hills, MI (www.graceepc.org). The “counterintuitive, upside down gospel” is a predominant theme in his messages.
    • To my new colleague, Sister Joyce Van de Vyver who encouraged me not to abandon my ornament project this year when I was thinking of doing so.  Thanks!
       
  2. TEXT of UP SIDE DOWN  Ornament

    FRONT COVER: UP SIDE DOWN (upside down)
    INSIDE FRONT COVER: THE GOOD NEWS?
    1st page: lean not on your own understanding… (Proverbs 3: 5-7)
    2nd page: The virgin will conceive and give birth (Isaiah 7:14)
    3rd page: I came (not) to bring peace… but division (even within families) (Luke 12: 51-53, paraphrase)
    4th page: He was despised and rejected…Like one from whom people hide their faces (Isaiah 53:3)
    INSIDE BACK COVER: By Glenn Trevisan, Christmas 2013
     
  3. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE a 2013 “UP SIDE DOWN,” simply request one by emailing me at FarmingtonGlenn@gmail.com.  If you receive one,  I respectfully ask that you offer a comment about the message by email, Facebook (if we’re already “friends”) or here on at RoadReportJournal.com. I’m not fishing for “likes” but how the message struck you.
     
  4. Dallas Willard quote from his book, “The Divine Conspiracy”
     
  5. BIBLE READING: If you are serious about answering why you are, grab a bible, start with prayer to ask God to reveal himself to you and give you understanding. For a great Bible reading program, check out the Bible Reading System on my blog. I’d be happy to walk you through it.
  6. About Glenn’s Ornaments: See the pictures and stories of all the ornaments under category Creations.

Blessed Are the … Yeast? — 2012 Ornament

Glenn's 2012 Ornament (13th Annual): Blessed Are the…Yeast?

I was struck one day in my Bible reading with what Jesus said about the Kingdom of God. His audience did not have 2000+ years of Christianity behind them heralding him as God incarnate. But they had an idea about the kind of kingdom God’s would be. If it was truly God’s, it would certainly dominate any earthly rival.

But domination was not among the ideas Jesus shared about the Kingdom of God nor were might, majesty or power. Rather, ordinary and even lowly fit better for this kingdom Jesus claimed was home to him and “at hand” and accessible to all present.

Jesus depicted Kingdom people as poor in spirit and meek, mournful, merciful, peacemakers (Matthew 5: 1-10). And then he drew upon common, every day items to describe how Kingdom “subjects” were, like salty salt (v13), light-giving lamps (v14) and in another lesson, seeds that grow into giant trees, and a small portion of yeast that leavens a large batch of dough (Luke 13: 18-21).

Yeast. That one struck me. You can’t get more ordinary than yeast.

In 2012 after four plus years of career search posturing, I failed to secure any of the positions I sought despite making “the finals” on several occasions. But as I searched, I kept God in clear view and trusted that the doors that opened were either opened by Him or allowable by Him for me to pursue. This I did with every one. And here I stand, where I now am.

While I can’t see how my present fits with the balance of my life, I trust I am where God wants me right now. I am not in a career but I have a job with a good company. I don’t have impact like I would as an organizational manager but I can certainly be Kingdom yeast in my workplace.

The lesson of yeast and all Jesus’ kingdom analogies is that attaining the manner of God’s kingdom does not require any measure of success or status in this kingdom, the kingdom of the world, life now. In fact, success in this world may jeopardize our ability to truly see or at least dim our view of the Kingdom of God. (I need to keep that in mind if I should ever find my way back into whatever it is I think I’m looking for!)

Another realization from further study on this topic: virtually every Biblical character experienced this wandering into seemingly wayward places while being attentive to God, including Jesus himself. Think of his beginning, our Christmas: The scandal of his apparent illegitimacy seemed to cling to him even into adulthood – John 8:41?

When in this life, you feel helpless or impotent or left by the wayside, be alert to God slipping in under the radar to win you back to himself or re-establish your relationship with him. Christmas is about that.

If you should be so fortunate to join or rejoin the Kingdom procession, take heart when (not if!) you wander into some places and situations that are not what you had in mind. Where you find yourself will be where He is accomplishing His purposes in and through you.

…In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33b

Notes:

  1. ORNAMENT TEXT:
    FRONT: Fleshman’s (Blessed Are the…) YEAST; All Natural
    BACK: BLESSED ARE THE … YEAST?; (Jesus) asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to”  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”  (Luke 13: 20-21, NIV84)
  2. PERSONAL NOTE: This year’s ornament title melds words from three of Jesus’ teachings:

    1) Borrowing a “Blessed are…” from his “Beatitudes” – how God’s Kingdom is (Matthew 5: 1-16)
    2) A missing word, “Least.” How God is “in” our care of the least among us.  (Matthew 25: 40)
    3) And, “Yeast” – Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to an ordinary staple of life that  everyone could relate to. (Luke 13:21)

    All of the above describes the year of 2012 for me – The sense of not hitting the mark (Least) and being merely ordinary (Yeast) in a world attentive to everything but.  But, all the while, “Blessed…” by people in my life lifting me up and, every step of the way, God!
  3. DESIGN INSPIRATION: came from the Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast package (http://www.fleischmannsyeast.com/landing.html). I presume their yeast is great but their package had perfect ornament appeal!