Proverbial Life: A Quick Guide to Possessing Your Soul

Context: This post was inspired by a May 16 conversation with my dad prior to his Sunday AM message @ The Gate Community Church on May 19. Moving forward, any content centered on internal endurance (and/or a ‘Proverb outside of Proverbs’) will be categorized into this new series called ‘Proverbial Life’.

It’s a complicated theme in Scripture…

God, as love, authoring His will in the deepest still; the epitome of fellowship perfecting faith before it could create.

No question, the infinities of life are complex, sometimes intimidating; however, when we consider God at the beginning, we converge on a central truth:

We were made for connection (for love, with love, by love)…

…to pursue peace with all people1

…and to be unity in community.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done in a day when relationships are compromised by  busyness, striving, even insecurity. Perhaps you’ve encountered similar barriers wondering how to navigate around them.

If so, I want to encourage you with a Proverb that somehow found itself in Luke 21.

But before I dive in, allow me to uplift the down heart reading this…

  1. You are not alone. You are not here by accident. You are a treasure. You are an asset to an unshakable Kingdom. You are a chosen child of God. Just marinate in these identity statements a bit.
  2. If you’re not in the rhythm of daily dying2, staying the course in any situation will be challenging. An odd segue, I admit, but one I speak from wanting you, the reader, to surrender all trust in God knowing He understands your wants, needs, desires, and dreams better than you do.
  3. In writing this, I don’t want to downplay the struggle of connecting to those preserving their rhythms, content with you being on the outside looking in. I get it. If there’s one mountain in recent church testimony, it’s this. Still, even though the purest of intentions can become unyoked priorities, you can’t take on the wrong burdens even if you’re the only one who sees them.

Having said that, let’s dig into the Word…

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By your patience possess your souls.” ~ Luke 21:19 (NKJV)3 4

By your endurance you will gain your lives.” ~ Luke 21:19 (ESV)

By your [patient] endurance [empowered by the Holy Spirit] you will gain your souls.” ~ Luke 21:19 (AMP)

Stand firm, and you will win life.” ~ Luke 21:19 (NIV)

Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.” ~ Luke 21:19 (MSG)

As expected, wording varies upon translation, but the general concept is the same. When we reference this verse to Matthew 4 and note the heart of Jesus, we find the Son of Man walking in authority by the power of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere he went in this power, every time he returned in this power. Even when Jesus was tempted, Jesus was centered in his identity by…you guessed it…the power of the Holy Spirit.5

Often times, when we think power of the Holy Spirit, we think wonders and miracles, but for Jesus, the most frequent manifestation of the Spirit’s power in him was his reliance upon the Father to possess his emotions. A simple anecdote upon first glance, but one with significant applications when we consider Jesus was tempted in every way like we are today. This in mind, we can’t take lightly the vain thoughts we tolerate in place of deferred hope given the power of fear ultimately numbs us to the power of the Spirit.

Again, Jesus is the way we must model. To him, his ‘standing identity’ wasn’t mutually exclusive from his identity in God. He knew to walk in real authority, whether resisting the enemy or healing the sick, he had to possess his soul to keep it from ruling him. The more opportunities he had to cultivate endurance in this way, the more he walked confidently in his identity and the authority that overflowed.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting Jesus never asserted his authority as a self-evident right, but out of a posture of rest. This is key for us concerning spiritual warfare. To say Jesus asserted his authority out of rest means he didn’t contend for authority with the enemy; rather he exercised it knowing he was free from needing God to approve himself and defend his rights.

This, in turn, allowed his faith to flow from identity and empowered him not to be offended that his purpose was rooted in dying.

So in a weird sense, we should delight in the fact God tests us through relational voids6 given His heart is to refine our rest and trust in our ‘loved by God’ identity. Not to suggest every relational lack is a test from God. I’m just saying when we look at how Jesus lived and what He longs to develop within us, how can we not be grateful knowing our patience can mature as we master our inner man? How can we not be excited our ego-triggered fears can be subdued by the same power Jesus abided in?

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Bottom line: Every day is an opportunity to die to self, receive God’s life, and discover our purpose through our ‘loved by God’ identity.

Accordingly…

  • Next time, you’re alone, remember Jesus was often alone…yet relied on the Father in those moments.
  • Next time, you feel judged, remember Jesus was constantly misunderstood, even in praise…yet consistently ran to the source of his confidence.
  • Next time, you feel drained, remember Jesus was tired on many occasions…yet knew the fruit he bore strengthened his perseverance. 
  • Next time you feel disconnected or discouraged, remember to rejoice as you suffer in steadfastness!

After all, God is always up to something special, something incredible beyond your comprehension. Just keep your eyes centered on the perfecter of your faith, surrender what you think should be present in your life, and stand firm regardless of how you feel…

…knowing no matter what happens…

…the Creator of your soul will be there to gain your souls.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Hebrews 12:14 NKJV
  2. To the will of your flesh
  3. Putting NKJV first since I like the way this translation catches the Greek
  4. Patience in Hebrew refers to suffering in steadfastness
  5. So while there’s truth in viewing this verse as a bottom line for a well-disciplined life, the whole point is what connects standing firm to winning life…and that is the power of the Spirit.
  6. And conflicts
Cover photo creds: WallpaperUP

Saturday Night Life

Imagine being Rabbi Schacter moments after Patton’s army had liberated Buchenwald.

The first Jewish chaplain surveying the horror where hundreds of starving men piled in bunks from floor to ceiling. Though they had been freed, they remained in their barracks, numb to the sight of another uniform.

After all, new suits just meant new oppression and new abuse. Why leave camp to be battered and beaten again?

Then suddenly the silence breaks.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden, Ihr zint frei!” – “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!”

Slowly but surely, reality sets in…those sweet words of freedom spoken by one they now knew to be their own…

…the only one who could convince them they were truly free.

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For some of you reading this, like the prisoners, you’re desperate for release, you’re hungry for life, but past defeats and present turmoil have stalemated you. Like a car in neutral, you’re going somewhere, yet feel inert as life races on.

If you can relate, I want to encourage you to consider what today stands for.

For once upon a time, Jesus felt the same way you did…

…when nailed to a tree…

…he took every fear, hate, and dirty little secret upon himself…

 …and died for the redemption of man.

But that was ~2,000 years ago…yesterday.

As for today, its significance is often lost in the shadow of the cross. For while Jesus atoned our sins on Friday, it wasn’t until Saturday he ensured we could live free from them.

Granted, Jesus redeemed us from sin after judicially becoming it, but he knew sin had to go somewhere. Thus, with joy still set before him (Hebrews 12:2), he carried our sin to hell…so we could permanently be undefined by it.

Unfortunately, for many of us, like the Buchenwald captives, we base our identity in past and present circumstance. We know it’s for freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), but are still skeptical thinking it’s going to disappoint in the hell of the moment.

However, when we remember Saturday…the day Jesus ripped the gates off Hades’ hinges¹, deposited our sins (past, present, and future), and withdrew keys to our victory…we ultimately find freedom in full where sin is not only confessed and repented, but renounced so we can be free from its power.

For while we’re cleansed through confession and repositioned through repentance, it’s not until we renounce sin we begin walking in freedom’s direction.

Therefore, if you’re thirsty for breakthrough, remember Christ not only shed his blood² for you, but unlocked freedom’s door so your struggle, your shortcoming…would never define you. Yes, there may be times you feel like a hesitant hostage or a fighter with the wind knocked out; however, once you receive the power Christ bought you on Saturday, you’ll find the freedom and strength you need to renounce the bondage of sin’s baggage.

Regardless of where you’re at this Easter, remember freedom is more than cleansing term; it’s an identity term! Hence, why we have every reason to rest in Rabbi Schacter’s charge 73 years in the making…

   “Peace be upon you, all…you are free!

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Cover photo creds: Peg Pondering Again

Footnotes

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell
  2. As the final scapegoat

The True Meaning Behind ‘Spring Forward’ (Intro)

It’s a snowy night as I drive in a galaxy far, far away…

…a dusky night lit with flakes blasting the beams of my Millennial Falcon.

Low on tread, but high in spirit, my mind goes warp speed as I reset the clock.

Why do we spring forward on a Sunday morning, anyway? 

The seconds tick to the beat of the ‘shield.

And then it hits me…

…how we spring forward¹ on the day of rest…

…set apart so we can drink from whom springs up living waters within us (John 4:14).

Constantly flowing, always satisfying…even in the grayest doldrums.

For many of us, springing forward in spiritual terms is easier said than done. We crave the refreshment of God’s living water yet to a lesser extent what gets us there.

For instance, we may be thirsty for God’s grace, but not so much letting love spring from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5), faith from holy confidence (Romans 15:13, Hebrews 10:19) or cutting off springs of resentment (Hebrews 12:15).

However, when we consider God’s wells spring life for our wellsprings of life (i.e. heart; Proverbs 4:23), we ultimately find all his springs are in us (Psalm 87:7)². As a result, we can spring forward when we allow God to spring up.

Granted, this leveling up process takes time, discipline, and koinonia. Yet, even if you think you lack one of these elements or don’t have what it takes to ‘cross the river’, remember it’s not what you have, it’s what already dwelling inside you…

…the very reason Israel sang, “Spring up, O well” (Numbers 21:17).

Looking ahead, I want to unpack how we can better abide in these springs of life³ so we can spring from faith and lead in faith in a way that awakens more faith.” (Romans 1:17)

In the meantime, as we near Easter in this season of lent, let’s position ourselves for God to spring up new life so we can spring forward.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. And fall back
  2. Whether in mountain or valley (Psalm 104:10).
  3. God’s righteousness reveals

Photo cover creds: 4K Spring Field Flowers Image

3 Ways to Sharpen Your Sword

As I journey towards my 2018 resolutions, I’ve been increasingly reminded of last year’s renditions…

  • Lose 3-5 more pounds…check.
  • Talk more with extended family…check
  • Use social media less…check
  • Engage co-workers more…check
  • Read the Bible in a year…

…well, turns out I’ll need a few more months.

But that’s not the point.

The point is as I’ve pursued these quests, the drive to fine-tune the details within them has surged1 (more on this in a future post). Still, with the one goal outstanding, I believe it’s worth discussing how we, as Spirit and Truth believers, are to mature in our sword handling.

For as Paul explains in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Word of God is from the Holy Spirit and since every Christian is in a spiritual battle with the evil in this world, we need to know how to handle the Word properly.

Granted, much can be said about how we train offensively and defensively; for now, let’s narrow our focus on three practical ways we can sharpen our swords in 2018…

1. Know the Word

As one who’s never housed a protective firearm, it’s difficult relating to lethal proximity. Assuming I carried one, I imagine I’d be satisfied simply owning it early on.

But imagine I purchase a gun, hide it somewhere safe…and a week later an intruder invades. How would I respond?

Would my action not be dependent on preparation (i.e. how I studied the manual, familiarized myself with the handle, etc.), innate awareness, and calculated risk (i.e. what’s the quickest, most secure way out of the situation)? In what would be most beneficial to my family?

Unfortunately, when it comes to spiritual warfare, we often approach our swords of the Spirit like hypothetical ‘me’ with a gun. We know the Spirit lives in us, we know what the Spirit is capable of…yet are easily content in feeling secure within a covering we don’t know how to defend.

As Hebrews 4:12 states: God’s Word is His living, active, double-edged sword designed to illuminate our hearts and protect them from the enemy. The fact God would provide a penetrable weapon to reach the core of our hearts while destroying those with evil intent only confirms 2 Peter 1:3 (“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…”).

Therefore, if we want our swords to be effective offensive and defensive weapons, it’s critical we take them to the master whetstone that is Scripture.

Now I know this may sound confusing given Paul equates Word to sword whereas Hebrews associates through metaphor. Yet, if we apply John 1 to Ephesians 6 and accept the circular reference, we can better understand how a) our sword as armor is designed to be refined by sword as Scripture2 and b) the more we discover God and His ways, the better we’ll combat temptation and satanic schemes.

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2. Grow the Word

As mentioned, sharpening our swords requires the ultimate whetstone (i.e. the Word); however, if we want them to be maximally sharp, we must grow understanding in what it inspires.

Far too often, we cap our readership to God’s Word and pleasure material. We read our daily Scriptures, spend our fifteen minutes with God, only to fill our leisure with hobbies and extra-curricular pursuits. Yet, while rest certainly has its place, if we use it to shield ourselves from the divine inspiration in others…are we not lending God a partial ear?

For instance, my passion is to create content, but I know if I want to improve this skill while growing closer to God, I must invest time in revelations apart from my own. After all, if I forsake the inspired word given to a brother/sister in Christ, I not only risk limiting my understand of certain truth, but also locking God’s word in distraction rather than hiding His word for action.

Think of it this way…

…to read God’s Word is to exercise our spirit by truth; to discover God’s Word in authorized works is to exercise truth by His Spirit.

Yes, it’s true only the Scriptures are breathed out by God; however, if our aim is to be more like Christ, we must embrace how God is inspiring others through them.

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3. Show the Word

Imagine if I told my wife, “I love you. I may not show it, but I want you to know it.

That’s crazy, right?

Clearly, my love for her should be tangible, the evidence of promise as opposed to some platonic aphorism.

Of course, my wife knows I love her based on what I regularly sow; however, when it comes to living the Word, we must remember our mindset should be the same.

For as great as studying the Word and its inspiration is, it’s meaningless if our actions contrast our beliefs.

James 1:22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Romans 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

‘Cause truth is: we weren’t made to just read and believe, but lead and achieve so others can discover their Lover. That’s why you and me are here.

As for our swords, we weren’t made to simply know what can be done with them; rather we were made to use them for the sake of sharpening them time and time again.

Like light at the top of the hill, our swords must reflect a life on the frontlines…a life that reflects Jesus yet also allows iron to sharpen iron. Only then can we, by the Spirit’s power, use the Word to save souls and nourish them with spiritual strength.

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Footnotes

  1. For instance, don’t just lose 3-5 pounds; lose 3-5 net pounds with 1-2 more upper body muscle pounds factored in
  2. In shorter words, the sword is what refines it (i.e. the Word)

Cover photo creds: kevron2001 – Deviant Art