The Kingdom-Driven Family

Building a Home That Serves Christ and His Kingdom

In 2013, my husband and I decided to get passports in case we wanted to travel outside the country, something we had never done before. As it turns out, between the two of us, circumstances were such (hip replacement for him and some health issues for me) that we didn’t think much about international travel. And then, of course, there was Covid. It dawned on me recently that the ten year lifespan of our passports was coming to an end.  So, I decided to be pro-active and get it renewed before expiration.

I did my online research and discovered that there were post office passport offices I could go to for renewal. The USPS website gave the locations, days, and times of service.  Today, I went to the nearest post office right when it was to open, only to find a couple waiting ahead of me.  At first, they thought I was the person who was going to open the office.  When they said they had been waiting and the office looked closed, I found someone in the back who was sorting mail to help us.

This slight, middle-aged man, with a heavy accent and wearing a mask, told us that we needed to go to the passport office on the other side.  We told him that there was no one there.  He said, he knew that because it is by appointment only.  I let him know that the website doesn’t say that.  He was firm.  An appointment was the requirement.  The couple told him that they had tried repeatedly to make an appointment.  He kept saying that they needed to make an appointment.  They repeated their claim.  I then asked to speak to the person in charge of passports.  That same postal worker told me that he was the Passport person. He offered to walk us to the computer terminal to make an appointment.  The man who had been waiting said, “I tried but it wouldn’t let me.”  Then the postal worker said, “That’s because there aren’t any appointments available and you can’t make one.”

Not sure I’ll ever get those brain cells back! But, not to be deterred, I travelled to a FedEx office because their website said you could renew there.  When I arrived and requested it, they said I had to go online to fill out and forms and then come back for a photo to be taken.  This was getting annoying.

Later on in the day, I found that the US government allows you (if you fulfill certain requirements) to renew online.  I did so, and then my husband and I had to take digital photos of each other with very specific requirements. For the better part of an hour, we repeatedly kept uploading photos only to have them rejected for one reason or another.  Finally, the photos proved acceptable and we were able to move on to the next step.   (I really didn’t like any of the photos of me, but as soon as one of them proved successful, I decided that I loved it.)

The website then instructed me to pay for this service and I thought I would use the Visa Card that arrived the other day from the State of California called “California Middle Class Tax Refund Card,” meant to offset inflation under the banner of the Benefit for Families Act.  Having researched that a bit, I discovered we were going to be taxed on this relief money, and I figured this was a good a place to spend it as anywhere.  Guess what?  The U.S. Government website wouldn’t accept that as payment!  Truly, I am not making this up. Money from California doesn’t cut the mustard, apparently.

Persistence did pay off and finally our applications were accepted, but with a caveat.  If our renewal is denied for some reason, they will not refund our money.

Is my passport saga over?  I haven’t a clue.  It will take 6-9 weeks for me to find out.

It would be a wonderful reality to never experience frustration. Think of it.  Everything you endeavor to do turns out well, people run on schedule, things don’t break, etc. What exactly is frustration?

To me it is similar to the feeling of walking into a very strong wind, or a jar that refuses to open, or being unable to express to yourself what is bothering you.  Another way of saying it is that we experience resistance.

A good procedure when experiencing frustration is to step back and identify who or what is stopping your forward progress in light of what you are attempting to do. Sometimes the correct conclusion is that your “endeavor” is faulty or problematic in some way.  In this case, the resistance proves beneficial.

Another step is to identify if your stated goal is within your jurisdiction and ability to achieve. Can you really do anything about the war between Ukraine and Russia? Are you in a position single-handedly to stop the corruption in government schools?  Quite possibly the frustration is a result of attempting to take too big a chunk of a task that goes beyond you.  A more realistic approach is to see what is within your purview and how to move in the correct direction, but on a smaller scale.

A subsequent step would be to determine if you are bothered by something entirely different than what you think is at issue. Has someone disappointed you? Are you upset with a lack of achievement in your own life that makes you bitter? Possibly, you need a better diagnosis of the problem, keeping in mind that often our own sinfulness brings about frustration.  You won’t fix the little things in other’s lives until you deal with the big ones in your own.

Prayer is the engine that will fuel all of these aforementioned steps. And in the process of communicating with God, along with the communication we receive back from Him with daily Bible reading, there can be relief in just being heard. Then the foundational doctrines of our faith (God’s sovereignty, His victory, His providential care) will “kick in” and help us patiently endure whatever is going on in the present.

Lastly, one thing I do in the midst of all these considerations is to go and tackle a project that has remained on the to-do list longer than it should. Whether it is cleaning out a drawer, closet, garage, or paperwork, as I focus on that particular task and see success, the frustration either is mitigated or disappears. And if nothing else, something has been removed from my to-do list.

What if frustration is one of the tools our Savior uses to draw us closer to Him and train ourselves to not rely on our own strength, but to rely on His?  I guess you could call that a win-win.

Jesus is called the Second Adam in Scripture. Why did we need a second one? Simply put, because the first one failed in his mission to take dominion in the name of God, to obey what he was told to do. The sin of the first Adam was to make himself God, determining his own definitions of right and wrong and then acting accordingly.

Why is the Incarnation the pivotal point in human history? Because to make up for one of God’s creatures asserting himself as capable of becoming God, God Himself took on flesh to become man in order to right the wrong of Adam’s usurpation.

Did Adam thwart God’s plans? Hardly. As difficult as it might be to fathom, the coming of our Savior was not a “plan B” regrouping to get the mission accomplished. It was the plan. If this proves difficult to receive rationally, it is because this can only be received by faith. Why would God set these things in motion with the knowledge that at one point, He would send His son to suffer and die? Without being able to give the definitive answer, what is obvious is that His ways are so far superior to ours, that this plan brings Him greater glory and blessing and honor.

Being human is not to be rejected or demeaned, as in “I’m only human.” No, being human is so glorious that the Second Person of the Trinity became like us. Our problem has never been our humanity. Our problem has always been sin. Celebrating the Incarnation of Jesus is rejoicing in the solution to our problem.

This in one of my favorite Christmas hymns:

1. Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

2. At His Word the worlds were framed;
He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

3. He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
Doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

4. O that birth forever blessed,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

5. This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!

6. O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
And extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

7. Righteous judge of souls departed,
Righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted
None in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive,
Evermore and evermore!

8. Thee let old men, thee let young men,
Thee let boys in [Chorus] sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring,
Evermore and evermore!

9. Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/christmascarols/o/ofthefatherslovebegottenlyrics.html

Covenant keeping is much more than giving assent to the things of God.  If we do not engage the claims of Christ in every area of our lives (including our thoughts), then we are being less than faithful.

Possibly because I grew up in the age of Rocky Balboa and the original Rocky movie and its sequels, that when I think of being a contender, I think of a fighter in the ring, not only willing to take punches, but to deliver as many back if not more.  Yet, it has now been deemed better (or more righteous) in some Christian circles to consider that our main role this side of heaven is to take punches, with little to no defensive actions to counter them, let alone exhibit offensive action.

While it is true that pressing the claims of Christ, turning the other cheek, and praying for our enemies can appear to be contradictory, the reality is that we are called to do all of these things.  How to sort them all out? It is the law of God which we have been given to help us through these maneuvers.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely a personal one, but one that encompasses our person and includes every square inch of the created realm. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom. If we are going to truly contend for the faith (see the epistle of Jude), which we are directed to do, then we must train and practice God’s Law on a daily basis, minute-by-minute.

Am I saying this is easy? It is enough to say that it is required.  Whether or not anyone finds it difficult is beside the point.  Since we have been called, we must proceed with the reality that in Christ we are equipped.  Should we feel insecure or without confidence in this, it means we must up our training schedule and continue to advance even in the reality of taking a punch now and again.

If we wish to do more than oppose this evil, we must be ready to confront those who consider the subject already settled in the minds of most people.

What if we said, “Sit and watch this with me and then tell me whether this subject should be settled?”

Might we lose some friends? I have. Yet, should I want a person as a friend, who when faced with the reality of abortion, still considers it unimportant?

Choose this day whom you will serve…..

Does the fish know he’s wet?  The question indicates that we are not always aware of the context in which we exist.  That is why a biblical world and life view is so important to learn and reinforce on a daily basis. Without immersion in the Scriptures, we are vulnerable to surrounding influences, often without even being aware of such.

An example:

A radio station was playing in the background and a “public service announcement” came on scripted as follows:

“Are you anxious, depressed, and dealing with unwanted emotions? This is perfectly normal, and we can help.” 

What follows is a telephone number and website address directing the listener to people who will help make this all better.  Did I check to see if these lead to pharmaceutical solutions?  No, but I am reasonably sure that will be the eventual destination after psychiatric help is given.  I submit, that making anxiety and depression normal, eliminates the abnormality of sin.

In the fourth chapter of Philippians, St. Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication to make our requests known to God.  Jesus, in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, instructed us to take His yoke upon us, in that He will bolster us up and carry our burdens.

These are not the solutions being offered by the world.  Moreover, even in Christian circles we hear of those “suffering” from depression rather than those abandoning God’s law-word and seeking sympathy and pity from those around them.

The greatest lie we have bought in to is ignoring Jesus telling us what should be ourmost important emphasis – the Kingdom of God and His righteousness/justice.  If we are focused on the Lord’s concerns, we may find little time for self-pity or a victimhood mentality. Every soldier faces the realities of injury, illness, or emotional distress.  However, if he abandons the mission and just focuses on what is going on with him, he pretty much misses the promised benefits of “all these things will be added unto you” (food, clothing, shelter of Matthew 6).  The war we are in is real, and raging. Don’t help the enemy sideline you or those you care about.

If you want to avoid being sucked into deceptions and false ideas, then stay in God’s Word and whenever you hear the enemy-driven lies which surround us, respond knowledgably with “Thus sayeth the Lord.” What’s more, you will be a true help to those who are being deceived and headed for more hurt than help.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (Eph. 5:11).

“If you do that again, there will be consequences.” — Is this statement a promise or a threat

Some might say, because it sounds “negative,” it is a threat.  Others might say that it constitutes a promise (whether negative or positive) that a particular action will lead to a subsequent action or series of actions.

Within evangelical Christian circles, the “promises of God” always seem to be assurances of positive blessing and congregants are encouraged to “claim” them. The negatives of disobedience are often missing from these sermons. Is this “half-truth” really masking an entire lie?  I believe it is.

Let’s go back to my question at the start of this essay. Doesn’t the context of the original statement have everything to do with whether we would want the outcome indicated? One would have to know what the “that” is in the statement to discern whether the result would be desired.

When you fail to look at the entire Bible as God’s revelation of His will to all men, it is easy to pick and choose from those things you prefer rather than hope to ignore. However, the Lord doesn’t waste a word anywhere in Scripture, and it is wise to pay attention all the time, lest we receive unwanted and unintended consequences.

Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are not “feel good” passages once you go beyond the 13th verse of the former and the 14th of the latter.  The rest of each of these chapters includes the promises of God, but ones few people would want to be on the receiving end of.  Read them and you will know what I mean.

So, the next time you hear a sermon or read a devotional that discusses the promises of God, it would be wise to evaluate whether or not you are only getting a partial view of the mind of God, and the pleasant aspects at that.

What’s more, reading through Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 begs the question: Do we have to “claim” these promises for them to go into effect?  Or, are we responsible to look to the commands of God in His law-word to recognize which consequences we will receive?

Next time you are encouraged to “claim the promises of God” remember that God’s law-word is not a potluck or smorgasbord of items you can accept or reject at your leisure. Rather than claiming them, recognize that they have a claim on you.

For many who have tried to be faithful and keep up with what I’m up to, I have not been very good at keeping this site up-to-date.

That said, it isn’t because I haven’t been busy. I’ve been hosting the Out of the Question Podcast now since early 2018 with 214 episodes completed. This podcast is a combination of interviews with people I believe are interesting and helpful in their views and activities. I also have a co-host who discusses relevant topics to help uncover a biblical perspective on these issues.

These episodes are available on most of the streaming services (Apple Podcast, Spotify, Alexa, etc.) and at chalcedon.edu/podcasts.

You can also access the recent episodes from the FB feed on the right.