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

 

 

 

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

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)

Corona Fight: Why We’re to Be Unshaken, Not Stirred

So recently, I was reading a blog post about how God is using this COVID-19 crisis to help believers see what is still shakable in their own lives (Haggai 2:5-7, Hebrews 12:22-29).

And by all means, my heart resonates with this truth.

Until something is unshakable, there’s always room for greater stability and strength.

Yet, while much focus is on how God is shaking out our co-dependencies¹ (and rightfully so), I can’t help but wonder if we’re forgetting the grander scheme unfolding.

‘Cause truth is: Yes, God wants to prune our dependencies and purify our securities. But I also believe He wants to use this time to train the body to be hope in the face of age-defining uncertainty.

Not to suggest we be insensitive to personal conviction or how God is shaking the nations. Certainly, now is a perfect time to take inventory and ask the Lord to awaken us in this season of chaos.

However, in our quests for enlightenment, let’s not forget the bigger picture either – specifically, how the church must show the way amidst the dismay through love-distance (a.k.a. long-distance) relationship².

As for the days ahead, I wish I knew more. For now, what I can say is a super creative God is illuminating new creative outlets for those He loves. And as the evidence pours in, let’s keep one thing in mind:

The same God who is shaking global foundations is the same God fixing your eyes on what He intends to remain unshaken.

Even though there’s much change to behold, there’s still plenty of life in you purposed for consistency (be it joy, faithfulness, endurance, etc). Accordingly, let’s not lose sight of what God has done as we lean into what He’s about to do.

As for any of you feeling displaced or out of rhythm, be encouraged: God is not one to run out of ideas. If anything, He’s working out a temporary solution with lasting repercussions you can’t see yet.

As for you with spiritual gifts centered on direct services, like giving, compassion or hospitality, be discerning and disciplined, but don’t vacation from your calling either. Rather, research, network, build your technological awareness (To be fair, this goes for all of us 😉)…and dare to see where God’s bridges of benevolence take you.

In closing, I charge you, my friends, to calibrate to God’s character/Word (see verses below) and consider what He’s anchored within you. After all, even when life seems to fall apart, He never stops refining your part in helping others find Jesus.

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll finally unveil ‘part 2’ to my ‘4 convictions for 2020‘ series. Until then, may God’s hedge of protection cover and calm you in these turbulent days.

“Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you.” ~ Exodus 23:25 (NIV)

“For the LORD protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”  ~ Psalm 34:20 (NIV)

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good thing, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” ~ Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  ~ Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

Footnotes

  1. For some, you may feel God is sifting your heart Amos 9 style as opposed to shaking it (see video above).
  2. More on this term in a future post; for now, view it as a love that stays in bounds because it knows no bounds.

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Cover photo creds: Action News Now

Kingdom Agents: The Difference Between Gifts, Functions, and Vocations (Part 2)

So last week, we laid some groundwork on spiritual gifts and vocations, examining our priesthood in a professional light. As for today, I want to apply some gridwork with respect to our influencing identity. 

To do this, we need to accept a few core truths about God and how He’s created us:

  1. We are all designers, developers, and/or managers¹ (grid #1).
  2. The reason for this validates the existence of the Trinity (grid #2).
  3. The reason for this confirms our receipt of ascension (i.e. apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, elder, deacon) gifts.
  4. Each ascension gift (Ephesians 4) has a corollary designer/developer/manager counterpart.

Let’s break this down further by matching Grid 1 to points 3-4…

Grid 1

  • Designer (God the Father)
  • Designer/Developer
  • Developer/Designer
  • Developer (God the Son)
  • Developer/Manager
  • Manager/Developer
  • Manager (God the Holy Spirit)

Combined with Ephesians 4…

  • Designer – __Apostle__
  • Designer/Developer – __Prophet__
  • Developer/Designer – __Evangelist__
  • Developer – __Teacher__
  • Developer/Manager – __Pastor__
  • Manager/Developer – __Elder__
  • Manager – __Deacon__

A few quick points/reminders before I continue…

  1. The goal of this series is to help you discover your unique intelligence and giftings within your vocation.
  2. These lists apply to everyone, not just the ‘spiritually elite’.
  3. To simply comparisons, we are going to add ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’ to the ascension gift pastoral cluster so we can match 7 gifts with 7 functions.
  4. While Grid 1 represents the three principle leadership styles, no question there are many more subcomponents worthy of discussion. Perhaps I’ll unpack some of them later on; for now, let’s focus on these filters and proceed.
  5. Concerning the Trinity, the designer, developer, and manager roles imply core function, not sole function. While each member has a primary role (be it governing, stewarding or convicting), this doesn’t mean secondary modes of service are neglected.

Having said all that…let’s take our accountant friend from ‘part 1‘. While he may equip through an apostolic anointing particularly in his vocation, there may be times he imparts as a prophet and/or evangelist¹. Why? Because while the core of his apostolic function is to bring vision and direction to people², the purpose of his function is to call forth destiny.

As such, it’s important we make a critical distinction before digging deeper…

While your leadership profile may default to a particular ranking, your leadership isn’t contained to it.

Like many behavior assessments, one’s approach to giftings and function should not be fixed within a vacuum but should be fluid within an established rhythm. After all, God creates order but isn’t subjected to it.

 
For instance, as we’ll go through in ‘part 3’, you may possess an elder/deacon or deacon/pastor vocational profile but may find yourself in a prophetic moment during a counseling session. In this situation, you may feel uncomfortable operating outside your ‘gift wheelhouse’; however, ask yourself what’s more important: Being Spirit-led or strength-driven? 

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As Scripture confirms, whatever your strengths are, they should never be what leads you or what you rely on.

“The Lord is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” ~ Exodus 15:2 (ESV)

“The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11 (ESV)

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Whoever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.”  ~ 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 (MSG)

As the Psalmist declares, God gives strength for strength…because He is our strength. Accordingly, we can be certain what He provides whether gift, function or vocation follows a similar line. Like strength, the reason we don’t have to worry about work being our identity is because the Lord is our source of identity. From the beginning of time, we were called with a progression to profession, with an occupational heritage by which to bless people. Why not accept the fact God is not only in what He appoints but is what He appoints as well?

As you journey this week, remember you are part of a royal priesthood maturing towards a promised land. Even if you feel you’re working in a desert or wilderness, remember you can embrace strength and intimacy with God through weakness. You can take hold of His sustenance through the marketplace manna He provides. And you can press on as walls of territorialism dissolve into radical equality…all because you know a) You’re loved by God and b) The reason we’re diverse in function/co-equal in value is so we can participate in God’s goodness while uniquely showcasing His glory throughout the earth.

Selah.

Looking ahead to next time, I’ll finally debut the 7 vocational profiles (apostle, evangelist, prophet, pastor, teacher, elder, deacon). ‘Til then, you got this and we’re here for you rooting you on.

Peace…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Among other ascension gift possibilities
  2. Especially in his place of profession
Cover photo creds: GOBankingRates