Wading for God: A SOAP Study on Romans 15:1-7

Note: Usually I separate the observations and applications when writing these SOAP Bible studies; however, I believe the following observations are better attached to their respective applications in light of the content. While normally I  flesh out marketplace implications, due to word count, I’m allowing the pod above (and future pods) to cover this piece.

Scripture: Romans 15:1-7 (MSG)

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’ That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

Observations/Applications:

1. I like how the Message captures Paul’s heart in v. 1:Strength is for service, not status.” For one thing, it quickly defines what strength is designed for while contrasting it to the contrary. I might even add ‘skill’ to the ‘not list’ given our culture’s way of synonymizing strength to societal contributions. Still, it’s imperative we grasp what Paul is stating: We are strong in Christ meaning we’re strong in faith and in our conviction to persevere in weakness. Internally, this can mean accepting God’s grace without debate; externally, this can mean patiently enduring with shortcomings outside of our control. Regardless of how this looks, we must be thorough in translating faith to action since many practice truth in theory without it correlating to tangible care. For instance, some forgive without saying the words while others are easily content being willing to help without actually helping. Perhaps this is why in v. 2, Paul is straight-up straightforward: “Let each one of us [make it a practice to] please his neighbor for his good, to build him up spiritually.”

2. If there’s one main concern I have about the church (and the Christians in them), it’s how we have programs to reach people, yet avoid people’s troubles in fear of not being able to handle them. One could say we want to win souls for the Kingdom without having to address their warts and worries along the way.

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Yet, as Paul emphatically states, in v. 3, “That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” Put another way, He took on the troubles of the troubled and that in a nutshell is how we should approach the communal aspect of our evangelism and discipleship.

Galatians 6:1-3 (MSG) captures this beautifully:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

3. The dance between the Message and Amplified translations in v. 4 is fascinating:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.”

For starters, we don’t just endure through the Word; we encourage through it. Likewise, we don’t just read the Word to stay alert; we study the Word to inspire diligence and vigilance. After all, for counsel to exist, there must be a community of ‘two or more’ gathered (Matthew 18:20) where confidence and trust can be shared maturing in God’s promises. Furthermore, while it’s important to be ready for the ‘next’, we can’t get there if we’re not loving in the now with apparent hope. This is why trust isn’t an individual exercise, but a corporate pursuit. To be on mission with Christ is to co-mission with each other. All the more reason we should embrace weakness as our endurance, encouragement, and counsel strengthen and builds up the body.

4. Finally, in v. 5-7, we see the purpose of endurance and encouragement captured in one word: Harmony. To have harmony is to have unity. And like the early church in Acts, God desires these gifts to help us be of one mind and one heart…according to Christ Jesus. But how do we achieve this in a way the words resonate at our core? In short, Paul gives us a template in these verses:

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as  Jesus gets along with us all…so reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.” 

Again, it’s interesting to note how many facets of God’s nature can’t exist in a vacuum or isolation. Case and point: “glory” – the very last word of this passage reminding us why all of this matters. As for how we experience glory, many would say righteousness, walking the walk, living out the truth we declare and believe, etc. But honestly, this is more how we posture ourselves to glory. To encounter it, we must seek the Lord as we reach out and welcome one another to where He is. Doing this implies love and as we know from 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins and seeks the best for others. Accordingly, as we’re inviting people to glory one step at a time, let’s embrace weakness as pressing into Jesus regardless of our circumstances. If we’re actively pursuing freedom and healing from strongholds and helping others do the same, no question we’ll inspire Scripture to come alive in people.

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Prayer:

Lord, we thank you for your goodness, your grace, your capacity to redeem and restore. We thank you for the golden opportunities and divine appointments you’ve been setting up around the world in recent months. We declare our joy and satisfaction in your ways and purposes. But now, Lord, we ask you to forgive us for not taking our faith seriously, specifically in the areas of relying on your strength and for helping others as we see fit, not as you see fit. We say it is you, God, who makes us fit, who equips us for good works and establishes our steps for them to happen. I know in my case I have hidden behind the quarantine at times and avoided being available to lick wounds from past resentments. I admit there have been times I’ve prioritized my perception of healing, basing it in distance from people and the absence of personal errors and wrongdoings toward me. But I’m gripped, oh God, by how you pursue us regardless of the trouble we’re in. I’m amazed how you’ve orchestrated the Scriptures through the passage of time for our benefit. As such, we choose to wait for you as you wade in for us and choose to lean on you as the rock of ages who never forsakes us. Even though we may not see the evidence of maturity and growth in every place in our lives, we ask God you help us rely on your steady counsel as our source, our refuge, and our strength. We choose to make peace with our brothers and sisters, with those who disagree with your ways and who criticize without compassion. We choose to not be disheartened by the evidence of disunity. Instead, show us the way to harmony and maturity in dealing with those who are lost, whether by faith, in character or in their understanding of you. After all, at every point in our lives, we are lost without you one way or another. Why not be warm in our correspondences with one another as we humbly seek your heart, your strategies, and your invitations? Why not say ‘yes’ to your unfathomable joy as we hand out those invitations to those who really need them for such a time as this? Be with us as we go forth from this moment and this place. To yours be all the glory, forever and always. Amen.”

Selah.

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Cover photos creds: wallpapercrafter.com

 

 

 

Do You Elihu? (Part 1)

Before reading this post, I suggest you check out Pastor Paul LeBoutillier’s (Calvary Chapel – Ontario, Oregon) message on Job 32-42 for context. The clip below contains Pastor Paul’s commentary for Job 32 only…

 

Have you ever had to “get real” with a friend or colleague in distress? Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where saying what needed to be said felt like threading a needle…or a roundhouse kick to the trachea.

If so, rest assured: You’re not alone. We’ve all been there at one point or another.

Yet, while stirring a storm in tranquil seas is never fun, there’s something to be said about the willing word spoken at the perfect time, in the face of the opposite spirit.

‘Cause truth is: When verbal courage is expressed through perseverance, vulnerability, and fearless articulacy, it carries the power to inspire change.

Enter Elihu, the unsung hero in arguably the most underrated book in the Old Testament – Job.

For those unaware, the book details the life of Job, a righteous man who honors God despite immense suffering. Not only is Job the first poetic book in the Bible, but also the first to address themes of theodicy, the vindication of God’s justice in the light of humanity’s suffering. After losing his children, servants, wealth and health, Job’s wife and closest friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) tempt Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9); however, after multiple arguments between Job and his opponents concerning the source of his suffering (chapters 4-31), we finally find Elihu making his debut (32:6-22):

Then Elihu…burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

And Elihu…said, “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.

Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’ Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words. Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a man.’ He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches. They are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say.

And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there and answer no more. I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words;  the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.”

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I mean….you talk about a ‘confrontation clinic’! Clearly, Elihu’s charge is one of the most comprehensive and honest critiques in all of Scripture…and he’s just getting started.

Let’s break the next few chapters down…

  • In Job 33, Elihu calls out Job for saying he was without any sin and that God would not answer. Elihu says, “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal.” (v. 12)
  • In Job 34, Elihu pivots off his rebuke to emphasize God’s justice: “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” (v. 12)
  • In Job 35, Elihu again censures Job: “Indeed, God does not listen to [the arrogant person’s] empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it. How much less, then, will he listen, when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and you must wait for him.” (v. 13-14)
  • In Job 36, shifts to highlighting God’s greatness: “How great is God, beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” Elihu rightly points Job to God’s might, saying, “Listen to this, Job; / stop and consider God’s wonders.” (v. 26)
  • Finally, in Job 37, Elihu drops the mic (v. 23-24), emphatically bringing Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to their figurative knees. As for Job, not only does he break his silence, but acknowledges Elihu’s criticism and in response, his own godly sorry (42:1-6). At last, Elihu’s persistence as a timely mouthpiece had come full circle.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what’s my point in bringing up Elihu, in summarizing these random passages.

To be fair, I could settle for…

  • Truth spoken in love leads to understanding/repentance.
  • Truth stands firm and perseveres through weakness.
  • God speaks to and through man for His highest good.
  • We are vessels of clay, anointed and appointed as His Godsend.

…however, what really grips me is God’s faithfulness to provide what we need to hear His voice and know He’s greater than our circumstances.

Yes, we can be correct in our theology and speak it coherently, but if it’s detached from God’s fatherheart of mercy, if it fails to lead one towards grace and discernment…can we honestly say we’re living as Kingdom influencers?

Granted, I know courage doesn’t necessarily imply perfect execution of proactive action. After all, the truth can get messy. But I guess this is why I love the story of Elihu so much.

For starters, Elihu doesn’t look for the platform; the platform finds him. He doesn’t speak when he feels like it but waits until ignorance and/or arrogance compels him (34:18-20). And before he even utters a word, he calibrates his thoughts to God’s perspective, allowing humility and confidence to saturate his speech. Perhaps this is why he refers to Job and his companions as “wise men” (34:2) in spite of their pride and valued his role as God’s embouchure more than his right to be right. Whatever the case, Elihu burned for God’s Word to be known (chapter 38), ultimately making a way for repentance to be realized.

May we all seize the opportunity to go and do likewise within our arenas of influence.

Selah.

Looking ahead, I’ll aim to write a sequel post on how we can be modern-day Elihu’s in today’s marketplace. For now, my encouragement to you is to consider how Elihu beheld the truth and his assignment to speak it. Then dare to apply it in your own life, regardless of whose (i.e. Job or Elihu) shoes you’re in, and live the question…

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‘Cause frankly whatever sole your soul is in, if you walk in humble obedience and the firm belief that God will use it to reflect His very best, then He’ll undoubtedly guide you whenever you have to speak the whole truth…and nothing but the truth.

You got this.

Cover creds: JW.org

What Keeps Us From Being Addicted to Jesus?

Shout-out to my colleague, Karen Hall, for bringing this question up during our latest Messenger Fellowship Zoom call…

What keeps us from being addicted to Jesus?

Scripture references: Ephesians 1:19-20; Colossians 3:1

In fewer words, not living the full Gospel…in the fullness of hope. One could say the answer to what compromises our hope is also the answer to this question.

Yet, digging deeper, I believe a good chunk of this comes down to entitled expectations concerning the new life we have. For some of us, we think like Martha through the lens of ‘becoming’, not ‘it is finished’; for others, the concept of a ‘new thing’ may be a ‘new way’ tied to an ‘old thing’ in disguise.

Whatever the case, to be addicted to Jesus, it’s important we give into God as our default, not just as a ‘go-to’ option. For instance, we may want to help more people in more situations ‘Christ in us’; however, if we deny our help as anything without helplessness, are we really capturing the love and life of Jesus? Are we really capturing the power of Cross in our arenas of influence? Or are we content letting worldly systems (and our proximity to them) get in the way?

I know for me, independence has a way of exposing my attitude towards Jesus. To the extent I shy away from weakness, to that extent I yield to self-preservation and self-effort. At times, it’s almost as I’d rather embrace defeats I can understand than total sufficiency I can’t. Perhaps some are like me wondering what might happen if they have too much of Jesus? As if there’s an imaginary cutoff…or overdose limit?

Either way, the problems with independence are many, but if I had to pick some common themes, I’d say…

1. It hinders daily abiding.
2. It chains us to ‘old creation’ thinking/keeps us from celebrating our 100% helplessness in light of God’s 100% sufficiency
3. It distracts us from Jesus/wanting to be like him.
4. It separates Christ and Cross as the source of our new creation.

No wonder so many feel dead where they’re alive, alive where they’re dead, and thirsty to cope to bridge the divide.

Selah.

Looking ahead, if there is a follow-up to this bonus post, I’ll look to discuss the following…

  1. How we, as business leaders, can rest in victory and be released in confidence knowing our future is guaranteed.
  2. How intercession is an expression of our certainty in Christ’s power to save.
  3. How God guarantees outcomes is core to his sovereignty.

Stay blessed and healthy, my friends…

~ Cameron

Cover photo creds: HipWallpaper

The Water Bowl: Why Pilate Washed His Hands

Written on 4/16/2017; revised 4/25/2020

Bible Passage: Matthew 27:11-26

Imagine being Pontius Pilate torn between conviction and affliction, the weight of the world in human flesh standing before you (Matthew 27:23).

No question, it’s a compelling scene: A headstrong Roman official desperate to spare a man he deemed innocent versus a bloodthirsty mob ignorant to Jesus’ Messiahship.

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Who knows what Pilate must have been thinking? What convictions were racing through his mind as he procrastinated the inevitable? If only we could jump inside his head into the tug-of-war, perhaps we could make better sense of such pivotal pressure.

For now, what we can discern is realizing the mob was threatening to riot…

“…he took water and washed his hands before the crowd…” ~ Matthew 27:24 (ESV)

Now, if you think is verse is random, I get it. Without context, this is simply an anecdotal observation; however, in context, this moment carries powerful significance.

For starters, the washing of Pilate’s hands not only symbolized his personal verdict but embodied what Jesus came to do in the first place – to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7) and free mankind from captivity (Luke 4:18). In addition, it gave future humanity the opportunity to identify with Barrabas. Like the notorious prisoner, we who deserve death have been given a second chance at life to know what real death is. Accordingly, the prisoner exchange (Luke 4:15-23) can be seen not only as foreshadowing but also as a microcosm of the Cross: Jesus, the son of God, taking the punishment that Barabbas, the anonymous everyman, rightfully deserved – a man guilty of murderous rebellion offset by the one murdered for every rebellion.

Reading on, note the verbal exchange between Pilate and the crowd (v. 24-25):

I am innocent of this man’s blood¹; see to it yourselves. 

His blood be on us and on our children!”

Again, it’s hard to ignore the irony of the situation considering these people, only a week removed from waving palm branches, were declaring judgment on the one who would soon take away their judgment. In a sense, those who knew not what they did were prophecying into those who know not what they do. Though the condemners didn’t understand the power in the blood at the time, they were essentially declaring what we understand today…

Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover the sins of mankind.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but marvel at this passage’s symmetry.

‘Cause truth is: While Pilate would ultimately relent to the unrelenting on the ground (v. 26), it was God’s unrelenting from on high that used all things to fulfill the completion of his Word.

And it’s here I want to zero in on since it’s this truth, this past/present/future reality that exemplifies why we celebrate Easter.

For God so loved the world, He had the Cross in mind before he created it. For God so loved us, he was making a way before we even needed it. How sweet it is to know the same God is still unrelentingly reconciling us to himself!

My prayer for you is that as you meditate on Christ’s death and resurrection, you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do but what he wants to do in you.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:1-2 (ESV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 (ESV)

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” ~ Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

And as you seek Him, I encourage you to pray the blood over your house and the generations to come knowing you can now receive it in joy. Unlike those pleading, ‘Give us Barrabas‘, we can now cry, ‘Give me Jesus‘.

What a way to live the new life we have.

Selah.

Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful Easter full of peace, rest, and grace.

He is Risen…

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Footnotes 

1) Some manuscripts say ‘righteous blood’

Photo creds: Pinterest, Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri & jasongoronocy.com

Jethro Principles: Structures for Organized Relationship (Part 1)

Central Thought: The Lord provides a structure in which intimacy with God is nurtured through a system of organized relationships.

Central Theme: The practice of multiple shepherds; the concept of communal shepherding.

Central Culture: A sense of ‘connection’ among members of the Body.
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When I say ‘Jethro’ what immediately comes to mind? A husky high priest embracing Moses, guiding him from fugitive to family? A fatherly shepherd in the middle of nowhere?

Perhaps you recall that ‘Prince of Egypt‘ scene when a jovial Jethro leads the Midianites in a festive (“you must learn to join the”) dance around the campfire.

To be honest, I imagine most first impressions of Jethro involves at least one of these things.

But what if I told you Jethro wasn’t just a hospitable father-in-law but a strategic advisor with a depth of business savvy? Would the idea of him being more than a pastoral shepherd cross your mind?

If not, dare to consider Exodus 18 where Jethro advises Moses how to manage two million people, essentially giving him a promised way to the Promised Land.

Let’s set the stage:

After wondering to the wilderness, Jethro finds a swamped Moses settling disputes among the thousands of freshly delivered Israelites. Cloaked in experience, Jethro asks Moses what he’s doing knowing full well what is going on. Moses then replies he’s judging the people as they come to him inquiring God’s will. Immediately, Jethro responds by giving Moses a system and structure for accountable relationship:

Look for able men…who fear God, who are trustworthy…and place them over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So, it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” ~ Exodus 18:21-22 (ESV)

Heeding Jethro’s advice, Moses appoints a team of elders for each group size in v. 24-26. From there, a relieved Moses finds the flexibility and mobility he needs to meet God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) and receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: But Cam, I’m low on the totem pole in my not-so-large company. How can this possibly apply to me?

Good news! These Jethro principles, while ancient, are timelessly paramount to the foundations of leadership and character. For starters, not only do they serve as a template for stewarding organized relationships, but also reveal how we, as Kingdom influencers, are to preserve our margins to experience and facilitate intimacy with God. In Moses’ case, he knew God was with him; he just didn’t know how this intimacy needed to be fostered. And I think for many of us, that’s the hardest part: While we may have the discernment, we can’t steer into the unforced rhythms of grace until we embrace our limitations (Matthew 11:20-24) and trust God’s entrusted.

As for Jethro, it’s interesting to note how his counsel reflects the Trinity in an organized relational context where each role is co-equal in value, diverse in function. One could say because of the Godhead, there’s always been a template on how responsibility, accountability, and stewardship operate since one can’t exist without the other. Either way…

…for God so loved the world, He gave us communal systems to be institutionalized so His mission could be realized.

Knowing this, we can see the heart of Jethro more clearly. While delegating authority was crucial in the moment, the intent of his objective wasn’t to establish hierarchy, but to help people discover God and to…

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Selah.

Study Questions

  1. As Jethro modeled, we serve community as we provide others what they need to receive life and godliness. While the church is a primary outlet, for most, our jobs are the hubs for our social interaction. That said, do you see Jethro principles at work? If so, how are they succeeding and/or where can they improve?
  2. How can one’s concept of authority benefit from the Jethro principles? How can one’s concept of hierarchy benefit from the Jethro principles?
  3. How to Jethro principles help us deal with conflict management and resolution?
Cover photos creds: Simplify the Message; written as mini-devotional for The Gate Community Church (request at or under 500 words)