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In this episode of our quadcast we introduce one of our hosts, Shawn Lowry, to the listening audience. Shawn gives us some of his back story and testimony.

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Being busy, staying busy, focusing on my kids’ needs, or all the things around me is how I often avoid dealing with whatever it is I don’t want to face or think about. When my son was diagnosed with autism, life was already busy, but it got even busier. Suddenly I was busy with evaluations, doctors’ appointments, speech therapy, OT therapy, ABA therapy, IEP’s … I often thought about how I was almost in survival mode, just keep moving. I almost felt like I had a free ticket to not think about anything else, went into tunnel vision with blinders up.

For me, part of this was avoiding talking to God. I didn’t want to talk to Him. I wasn’t sure what else He could want from me at that time in my life. It was a relationship I didn’t have time for. It is actually funny for me to say this because on the other hand, I was in constant prayer. Prayer for my son, prayer for my family, I was completely dependent on God because I was completely spent. But, I didn’t want to receive anything back from Him. I didn’t have the emotional energy to do it. I knew God was still standing there knocking at my door, standing by my side, or those foot prints in the sand… But, I didn’t want to look up and make eye contact. Head down, keep moving.

I realized and was aware of what I was doing. Along the way, over these last six to seven years, I’ve had periods and moments when I intentionally paused, I’ve looked up, and re-embraced the relationship. But, more often, I thought that it was easier for me to just stay busy, even with church activities, than to face God and let Him love me. I think part of it is also avoiding my pain. God wants to come in and heal us, to heal the pain. But, facing the pain can be painful. I know that if I pause and listen to God, He is going to stir my heart. He is going to break down that wall, but sometimes I feel like I’m not ready to give up that wall and my defenses. I just don’t even want to go there. I’m definitely avoiding it as much as possible, so I just keep moving.

I still struggle with this. And those who know me know that I’m really good and keeping busy. But, knowing your tendencies is the first step to not getting stuck in them. Also, God has been showing me, in a language that I can understand, how He wants to move with me. The thing about “just keep moving” is that sometimes we do have to. In the case of my son, sometimes I do need to focus on him and his needs. But, what if I let God move with me, or better yet, what if I let God guide me and clear a path forward? I often think of when Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30). He isn’t trying to make things harder for us in this world. Jesus didn’t come to put rules and burdens upon us, but He actually took that burden with Him to the cross. So, why do we hold onto it like it is ours to overcome?

Another thing people may know about me is that I love to run. And, not just run, but race. There are lots of good life lessons and analogies that can come from racing. But one we often hear is to run your own race. Running your own race can be good, as to not compare to others, but sometimes I find that I also like the control I have in it. I run my race. I set the strategy, I set the pace. But, in this race of life, maybe that isn’t what God intends for us. I recently ran a marathon, and when running a marathon, the first half is all about just staying relaxed and getting the early miles in. So, I found myself in crowds of runners and I just fell in behind the largest man around me and tried to relax and just take advantage of him doing the work in front of me.

So, where am I going with this? About a month ago, I was standing in worship during church. I was actually present, I wasn’t keeping busy to avoid that conversation with God. As I stood there, He gave me an image of just falling in behind him. Let him lead, let Him set the pace, let Him do the work. I didn’t have to be out there just moving and clearing a path forward all on my own. I realized that when I fall in behind Him, He can take me down a course that I may not have seen, and is ultimately a much better route than the one I had planned. I just had to follow and trust his race plan. And, the other thing (side point, but very important too), I’m not the only person in this race. I’m on a team! The Church is a team, my Family is my team. How was I not seeing this? So funny what God shows us when we look up and have the courage to face Him. Yes, sometimes it stirs up stuff, and sometimes it is painful, and sometimes God will even ask us to do stuff we don’t want to do. But, this race is not mine alone, and I’m not leading it alone. Praise God for that!

Obviously this is something I’m still working through. I’m still figuring it out. But, I’m sure there are others out there, like me, who hide in their busy day to day. Others who don’t like to pause and listen, or let go of controlling the race. Sometimes life is hard, and we do press forward and just keep moving for survival. But, God is there to lighten our burden, to break the wind in front of us. Yes, I keep moving, keep running this race, but I can fall in behind my Savior and trust in His race plan.

Sally Perea ~

Sometimes it feels like life is all about control. How much control do you have? What do you control? What controls you? I become a Christian, and then it’s about surrender. Surrendering control of your life to God but then still having self-control. To someone like me, who tends to overthink these sorts of things it can feel like my brain is breaking when I really try to think this through. My mind starts going in circles of maintaining control vs. surrender to the point my thoughts become like a skipping record and this is my attempt to get through the song.

Before Christ, I looked at control like an accountant looks at someone’s finances. The control you had were your assets and the control people or things had over you were your liabilities. The more focused and disciplined you were (self-controlled) the more you could achieve and the more successful you would become. “Whatever you set your mind to you can achieve” sort of thing. Then there are the people in life who take control to a whole other level and want to control other people as well. Whether they do this because they feel out of control of their own life, in perfect control of everything around them, or are just self-centered narcissists the results are the same; they treat the people around them with no love and little to no respect.

Being under something or someone else’s control was a sign of weakness, and as a Christian in some ways it still is a negative type of weakness. Before I began living out a positive relationship with Christ, allowing anything or anyone to have control over me was like losing a part of myself. There were somethings that I was willing to allow to take pieces of me, cigarettes come to mind, but my pride was in the idea that it only had control over me because I allowed it. I still have some of this rebellious spirit in me and find that as long as I focus on the Gospel the rebelliousness within me does not win the day. Feeding my thoughts about others starves my selfishness.

Now, as a Christian, my views on control have shifted pretty drastically. I no longer see control over other people in a positive light and understand that true self control is achieved by surrender. Now I see that God is in control, but only if I allow Him to “take the wheel”. I have heard many people say they do not believe in God because if God was really in control He would never allow bad things like school shootings to happen. The truth is they are right. If God was in control of everything then those types of atrocities would not happen. The problem is mankind. If every adult and child in a school was living a selfless life and surrendered control of their life to God, lived out the gospel then that school would have no bullies, no sexual misconduct, and no shootings. The sad state of the world isn’t that we are not in the garden anymore it’s that we would now rather live outside of the garden, than take The Way back in.

Control should be in God’s hands but I am supposed to exercise self-control. Wait, what? The thing is that while we are creatures of free will, our scope of freedom is really pretty narrow. We can obey God, or obey self. That’s really it. We obey God by loving God and loving people who are the made image of God. Hear this: We are made in the image and we are the made image of God. The word used for “image” in the creation story is the same word used for idol. So, we can Obey, worship, and Love God, or we can obey, worship, and be self-focused. Love God, love people, or love self only, sometimes these two overlap but the motivation of your heart is always visible to God. That is where the scope of our free will ultimately ends. The struggle here is that to make your allegiance with God is to choose the gospel in every moment and every circumstance you face.

So now I live in the paradox of self-control being the by product (fruit) of the Holy Spirit living in me, working in me, and me surrendering control to God. Our life and relationship with God is like a dance. When we let God do the leading our movements become a thing of beauty. The problem is that we tend to tell God that we want to lead. God being the gentle spirit He is, allows it, and we go off. We wander, we stumble, we trip on our own well-intentioned feet and if not too hard headed we go back to God and ask Him to take the lead again. We all have done it. We will undoubtedly do it again; and if we realize it or not, when we do take the lead, we are literally living in sin. Someone once told me that spiritual maturity is not measured by sinning less and less. It is measured instead by how long it takes you to go from sin to repentance. As you become more mature in the Spirit, the time you spend between “taking the lead” and asking God to take back control will become shorter and shorter. Occasionally this process of growth will take one step forward and two steps back but don’t lose heart. God’s love is greater than any step our little feet can take.

I want to encourage you, brothers and sisters, to not be too concerned over control. The only real control and act of free will we have is to obey God or follow our own agenda. To give God control or to keep it for ourselves. What better gift could we give to the one who sacrificed Himself for us? Nothing but the one and only thing we can really try and hold on to, control of our lives. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and what others will see in your life will look like self-control but we now know it’s not self-control at all it is surrender to the Spirit of God.

Curits –

There is a lot of talk these days about political correctness. But what does it mean to be Kingdom Correct? It is disturbing to me how many Christian brothers and sisters seem bothered by the idea that they need to be politically correct and not say certain words anymore. When it comes right down to it, being politically correct doesn’t line up with the Kingdom of God. In fact, it falls way short. Political Correctness tells us we can’t say something that has been deemed hurtful or disrespectful. Kingdom Correctness only uses words that build people up and never tears them down. Kingdom Correctness has your heart far from even thinking of saying words that would hurt others.

Christians, we should not concern ourselves with what may or may not be politically correct. Instead, we should focus only on loving God and loving people which is the only way to live in line with the Gospel. It is the only way to be Kingdom Correct. It’s the only way to be sure our eyes are always looking at the Father, as to follow His lead. Our call is to the Gospel. This alone should be our main point of focus. Treat all people respectfully and with great dignity no matter their age, education, or financial status. This way, when you share the good news with them, they will be receptive to you and the message you bring. What good does it do to say the right words while your heart is grumbling that society is keeping you from using other, less uplifting, words?

It’s my opinion that political correctness could be broken down into a simple saying like, “hey, don’t be a jerk”. Political correctness is a secular way of trying to be like the Kingdom of God. It is the way mankind says, “Thanks anyway God. We don’t need you, your help, or your Kingship. We’ve got it from here.” I would suggest that the essence behind political correctness is in fact replacing God with the idol of self. When it comes to being “PC” there may be some genuine heart behind the idea but the human heart always falls short of the Spirit of God and of His Kingdom.

There are many ways in which humanity has tried to break away from the authority of God. Maybe it’s because authority is a bit of a dirty word. Most of us, to some degree, have problems with authority or authority figures. We don’t like to be told how to live, what to do, or how to act and God is often looked at as the upmost authority (which God is) except by people who do not believe God even exists (which He does). But what if God wasn’t looked at as an authority figure first? Instead, what if God was viewed as a parent who loves you unconditionally and would do anything for you? Now, what would it look like if we presented God as this unconditionally loving parent to the hurting people of this broken world? The impact the church could have for the Kingdom of God if we stopped worrying about political correctness and only concerned ourselves with Kingdom Correctness would be amazing. Truly amazing.

It is an uncomfortable experience to verbally hurt someone when there was no intent to offend. There is no doubt that I have done this and I will likely do it again. But my ignorance of why something is hurtful to another person is not an excuse to fail to learn and grow. It is an opportunity we should all be grateful for and one we should not allow to pass by because of our pride. Make no mistakes, it is pride that causes us to shift the blame of the hurt caused by our words onto the person who is wounded. I have heard people say that these other people are too easily offended. “They need to toughen up or the world is going to roll them.” But then the same people will agree that the world should be a kinder gentler place. The truth is, we can’t have it both ways.

Does the Kingdom of God demand people toughen up? Does the Kingdom of God tell people they are too sensitive? Love God. Love people. Now, you may say that love isn’t always unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes love calls people out on there shortcomings. Yes, however, you do not train or domesticate a wounded animal you first must aid in its healing. You must tend to the wounds first. Doing so will build relationship and trust laying the foundation for friendship and eventual discipleship. The Kingdom of God wants people to grow and become all they were created to be. The Kingdom of God wants its people to treat others in a way that does not require thick skin to be around.

The Kingdom of God is too big for world politics and American politics cannot contain, nor can one party lay claim to the Kingdom of God. We then should not put our politics before the Kingdom of God or the Gospel message we have been sent to proclaim. How can we proclaim the Gospel while we get defensive after saying words that others find offensive? Now, if people are offended by the Gospel you are preaching then double check that your message is not sullied and in need of correction. If it is, humble yourself, allow growth to happen, and try again. But, if the Gospel message you preach is pure and people take offense at the notion of loving God and loving people then you can try a different approach of sharing life, time, and building more of a relationship before representing the Gospel, or let them go. There is no rule, or law, or exact way of knowing which way to proceed, but the Spirit will guide you on individual cases.

So, love God, and love people. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Make amends when you hurt people and forgive people when they hurt you. If you do this, then being politically correct will be a moot point because you will be right in the eyes of God and man.

Curtis Perea-

Luke 17:20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Some translations read “within you” instead of “in your midst” but perhaps both are true. I would suggest to you that, like being equal to God, the Kingdom of God cannot be grasped.

As I have previously written, a kingdom is everything under a kings rule. All the land and inhabitants must obey the kings rules and are subject to the kings judgment.  In the beginning, before we took the fruit, we did not think of ourselves as being God’s equals. It was the moment  the temptation began in our hearts that we started to believe that equality with God was something we could obtain and we tried to grab that equality when we took a bite.  It was in that original state that we were in the domain of the His Kingdom because God dwelt with us.  Once we decided to partake of the fruit we were exiled from His very near presence and thus a gap was created between us and The Kingdom.

Now, although the gap existed, people were made in the image of God so carrying around God’s image has kept us connected with God’s Kingdom. So even if we are to rebel against God we would still be in His domain and remain subject to His authority and judgment . It is fortunate that we have a God who is so good, loving, and forgiving, that all we need to do is proclaim that Jesus is Lord and believe that He has conquered death and we shall have life.

Today, The Kingdom is within us because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. But Jesus at the time of saying this was speaking to people that had not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit. So, “the Kingdom of God is in your midst” translation makes a lot of sense.  Jesus, the King of kings and King of the Kingdom was indeed right there with them. He was literally in their midst. The Kingdom of God is not a place you can find on the map because it is spread out across and overlaps all lands so any place Jesus would have stepped would literally be the Kingdom of God.  We have been commissioned by God to be His ambassadors therefore everywhere we go turns into Kingdom ground because of the authority given to us by the nails in Jesus’ hands. Really absorb this part. When we walk in God’s will, where ever we go becomes territory of the Kingdom of God and thus we walk in authority and out of that Kingdom authority comes Kingdom Power. Power to heal, restore sight, to prophecy, even to raise the dead.  Now there is much more to teach on authority and power, but that’s not the subject at hand.

We should take a moment to think about, how Jesus here is telling us that the coming of God’s Kingdom cannot be observed. It is not something that we can watch as it approaches.  We cannot see it get closer with our eyes and comprehend its nearing with our mind yet Jesus tells us to pray for it’s coming in Matthew 6:10. In that verse Jesus connects God’s Kingdom with His Will and I would suggest that this connection is significant. Believers bring the kingdom with them as they remain in God’s will and when they do not remain in God’s will they fail to bring the Kingdom. So, let us keep ourselves focused on obeying the commands of Jesus which can be summed up with this: Love God, love people. If we keep this as our focus day in and day out we will not fail in doing our part in the Kingdom coming and interacting with it in our midst.

So, the Kingdom of God is here, it is near, and it is coming. This would be a ludicrous statement if it were not for the understanding that God’s spirit does not exist in the temporal constraints of our physical existence. It is here in the fact that God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us and among us. It is near in the sense that people who are not citizens of the Kingdom are all around us and it is near them as we are near them and find the opportunities to share the Gospel; as well and the commonly held Christian belief that Christ’s return could happen at any moment. And Finally, it is coming because we believe that what we have seen and experienced of The Kingdom of God in this life is only a blurry reflection of the crystal clear fullness that is God dwelling among us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

– Curtis J. Perea

It’s funny to me how we sometimes miss the connection between the Kingdom of God and the Garden of Eden. In the beginning of the Book, Adam and Eve were living in a very special relationship with God. They walked in the Garden with Him. I don’t know how long of a time was spent in the Garden before they were expelled, but really it doesn’t matter. The main point behind the story of the fall of man is the fact that people said, “God, I got this”.

God never wanted us to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but God loved us, and love shows vulnerability. Therefore, God had to give us the opportunity to trust Him. He made the tree available to us so that we could choose to allow Him to decide what is Good and Evil, thus giving Him our trust. It is significant that God made us naked and said that “it was good”.  It is significant because we say that our nakedness is something to be ashamed of, something that needs to be covered. Eating the fruit and our eyes being opened did not reveal to us that God made us in a shameful state. God already declared it to be good. We ate the fruit and declared it bad. This means that the eating the fruit from Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was in essence us telling God to get off of The Throne of Judgement because it was now our turn to judge what is right and wrong.

I got the quote I put on my senior portrait from a Calvin and Hobbs funny where Calvin was declaring himself dictator of the world. “I alone will choose the good, the evil, and the path to righteousness” shouted Calvin with his wooden sword in the air. I thought it was hilarious! As a child I always loved C&H and had rediscovered them in my senior year. It seemed like a real, “I’m a master of my own destiny” sort of quote, which was right up my ally. As an adult who now believes that Jesus came to be our reconciler, this quote is chilling to me because it speaks to the very heart of the world’s broken state. We have chosen that it is okay to be selfish to an objectively uncertain extent, and this drive for self is what pulls us farther from seeing the Kingdom at hand.

You see, the law came because we thought we knew best. God tried to show us that really, He knows best. The people of Israel asked for a king because they thought they knew what was best. It’s all a repetitive story of mankind believing they know best, while God loves them in their folly.  In comes Jesus, who did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill the law. Jesus is the reconciler who Adam and Eve hoped for at the beginning of the story. The one who would open up the gates and allow us back into the Garden for all who believe that that is what He came to do.

So what am I saying? Should Christians stop buying clothes, become nudists and be called garden dwellers? No! Please don’t do that. I would like to suggest to you today that you, the believer in Christ Jesus, are already back in the Garden. However, you now have a daily, hourly, minutely, opportunity to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and say “thanks God, I got this”; or to keep yourself off of His Judgement seat and trust Him to be the judge of everything.  The Kingdom of God is at hand, and it is coming still. This means we have access to it now and if we stay in it and invite others into it, it will grow.  I’m not talking about inviting people to a Sunday service. You should be doing that anyway. I’m talking about inviting people off of the Judgement seat and back into the Garden.

– Curtis J. Perea