Box & 1: How to Overcome Offense When You’re Labeled

Finally! 🎶 At last! 🎶 Meteorological fall is here.

We’ve flipped a page, we’ve turned a corner…🎶 the dog days are over 🎶 … even if it’s mental placebo.

As always, so many words, so little time…I don’t even know how to fit it all in a single post. I will say for all you prayer warriors out there, Juby continues to improve one step at a time. It’s crazy to think a month ago, we almost lost her…again…but now, she’s stumping the sharpest minds Vandy has to offer. No question, your support and encouragement has been profoundly appreciated and will be rewarded with a more thorough August recap later this month.

For now, I want to talk about the box – arguably, the worst metaphysical place to be in and a dimension that takes a word (or thought) curse and places bias-based boundaries to it.

The box is nothing new. We’ve all experienced it one way or another…whether we’ve created it, extended it, believed in it, or even subjected people to it.

Relationally speaking, when we build a box, we often set the edges during first impressions, connect the lines during observed moments of strength and/or weakness, and fortify them in times of transparency. In most cases, the sum of subconscious, past experiences, and worldview drives our perception of others for better or for worse. Given most paradigms are subject to partiality, preferences, even prejudices, the biblical mandate to not exalt the thoughts of man above what God has said and ordained before the creation of the world makes sense (Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 11:33, Ephesians 3:20-21).

Yet, as we all know, this is easier said than done…and after several difficult conversations this week, I can’t help but explore the topic.

‘Cause truth is: Not only do I feel boxed in right now, I feel convicted of my buy-in into it. Discussions rooted in burnout, confusion,and frustration yet fueled by a desire to do the right thing, to follow a Matthew 18 pathway…honestly, I don’t understand why they blow up sometimes especially when both sides involved are on the same team in more ways than one.

In recent days and weeks, I’ve heard my share of deception and bad takes…and they’ve reminded me of youthful days when I first discovered the box, the whispers and passive-aggressive jabs from high-school and collegiate peers. Of course, I also must admit, though seldom, I did the same mainly out of self-perseveration, false comfort, and at times, retaliation…all in the pathetic name of being able to sleep at night.

Whatever the case, I was just a kid then…but now as a professional adult, I’m dumbfounded to its continuation. When good people are committed to humbling you in wrong ways, leaking their insecurities through false narratives concocted just to ensure you don’t think highly of yourself…I’d be lyin’ if I said I understood the move, the angle, and the justification why anyone would think this is wise, let alone constructive.

Still, in this awareness, I recognize the humility requirement and how I must own my proneness to reciprocation. Even in my quest to understand feedback and diagnosis, to make peace, to live in harmony as far as it be with me, I must confess my imperfections.

I need Jesus just as much as someone who doesn’t yet know Him…because at the end of the day, I’m still a sinner in daily need of grace.

I don’t view myself or pursue excellence with a ‘greater than’ lens on account of faith. Rather, I submit myself to a calling of excellence rooted in faith…and commit my effort, service, and attitude accordingly. No ego, self-love or manipulation. Simply learning to be like Jesus learning the ropes of life in an evolving culture with evolving expectations.

My charges are simple:

1. Don’t put people or yourself in a box.
2. To those God has entrusted in your care, in your walks of life, make room to listen and understand.
3. Be proactive and ready to put your preconceived notions on pause.
4. Don’t go out of your way to passively subdue and/or withhold a good thing in the name of wanting to be right.
5. Communicate clearly the ‘why’ behind your ‘what’.
6. If you catch others not recognizing growth and maturity, don’t take offense. Rather take heart knowing God understands infinitely beyond the limitations of man.
7. As needed, in circumstances marked by misunderstanding, negligence, and insensitivity/ingratitude, pray God illuminates the blind spots on both sides, not just one.

By employing this list, you not only abide in humility and your true identity in Christ…but also posture your perspective to know what is of God and what isn’t.

Even if people inadvertently crack the foundation of your peace by not meeting you halfway on the road to reconciliation, don’t react, don’t manufacture a happy ending…just breathe, let go the offense, and keep going knowing you’re known.

The Father gets you, is there for you, and will never forsake you. ‘Tis all the more reason why you often hear me, ‘You got this…even when you think you don’t.’

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Civil Service World

Rock Solid: A SOAP Bible Study on Psalm 18

Written: July 4, 2022

Scripture: Psalm 18 (A Psalm of David)

I’m not going to lie: I’m not in the mood to write right now. So much going on; so little time to pause and ponder. 

However, on this Fourth of July, I’m kicking chaos (and the temptation for complacency) to the curb. For the first time in [almost] forever, it’s time for a SOAP Bible study. 

As for today’s Scripture, I call Psalm 18 to the stand. For without question, the passage has been a lampstand of late casting illuminance onto present day shadows. Hopefully, for you as the reader, you find similar vibes as we explore some of the most powerful poetic imagery in the Bible. 

So without further ado, let’s dive into Psalm 18 as we probe the stabilizing presence of the Almighty…

Observations/Applications:

Right off the bat, it’s interesting to note the double rock reference in v 2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Upon first glance, we may not think much of the repetition, if at all; however, as we dig (pun intended) into the metaphor, we find rich soil. Specifically, when ‘rock’ and ‘stone’ are used in Scripture, the surrounding descriptors often point to God’s sovereignty as the anchor to communal, emotional, and spiritual stability. This reference is additionally powerful when we consider God’s steadfastness. Just as the rock conveys unwavering durability, so too is our God during our trials and tribulations. For in this life, everything outside the divine has an expiration date and within the restraint, so great is our need to identify our rock be it of ages, salvation, righteousness or simply Jesus as cornerstone. To me, this is why the narrative of Psalm 18 sounds so extreme:

While the disappointments of life can seem intense, they should never be so great to minimize our view of our Creator nor crippling to the point we resist a call to Him. Again, we’re talking about God as our rock – the source of everlasting love, a stronghold against our strongholds, the refuge of all refuges, and the ultimate constant.

As we progress towards v. 6-7, we not only note a stark contrast between God as rock and the rocks upon which we tread, but also our vertical S.O.S in between.

“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled…”

This compels an ironic dichotomy: As God, in His mercy, answers our plea for intervention, He often allows a shaking of some kind, a holy dislodge in the direction of freedom where He and hope abound. Honestly, what better way to capture the scale of our deliverance request than to consider the physical and spiritual effects of an infinite God engaging our finiteness. Even if such poetic license is taken to its most literal, the sensory saturation is sensible. While God whispers to our hearts in a still voice, this in no way mitigates the seismic repercussions of when He moves, sets a new thing in motion, and ministers to our hearts. After all, to receive from God is to yield to His power as much as it is to trust His purposes against our perceptions of prosperity and pain. Hence, why we should consider how the potential discomfort of ‘God with us’ is far greater than the false comfort of ego, tolerance, even works mentalities.

Heading into v. 8-9, the Psalmist suggests an angry God true to context, but this doesn’t represent how God tends our brokenness every time. As many a Scripture testifies (see references below), when God addresses our distress, His heart is stirred by love and is executed through justice, compassion, patience, faithfulness, grace, wrath…usually a combo platter of attributes. Yet, though the nature of God’s dealings may vary, the large-scale reality is God never stops pursuing us through them. Given the darkening days and the absolute essence of God, the Psalmist makes a riveting case: Although crises may increase, from personal to global, we have every reason to believe God will in some way, at some point, draw near and provide what we need even if we don’t immediately understand it.

As Psalm 18:31-32 triumphantly declares:

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”

Shout-out to the hailstone usage in v. 12-13 and the humility/honoring layer in v. 16-30, I can’t help but relish the anti-relative exclamation here. Though Oprah would disagree, the truth is only God can give what we need for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Only God can straighten our paths and direct us to walk on them accordingly (Proverbs 4:26; Hebrews 12:13). Only God can shepherd our hearts when we feel lost, when we’re sinking in waters we were never meant to walk on alone.

Only God. Our rock…

I know He’s able

As for you, my friends, in the spirit of v. 2,  I raise you a double portion of rock and encourage you to delight in God as He delights in and rescues you from whatever pit of despair you’re in (v. 19). For it is He, our light and life giver, who brightens our darkness to see what He sees, who not only establishes our steps but also purifies them so we discover Him afresh and anew…each and every day. Blessed be our rock and exalted be the God of my salvation (v. 46)!

Selah. 

Prayer:

Father God,

We praise you for being our rock, our refuge, our fortress, our deliverer. We exalt you as the author of our support system. And we celebrate the fact you take joy in saving us. Truly, there is no one like you! As we digest today’s Word and return to our daily routines, we ask you lock these truths into the tapestry of our understanding. In a culture full of extremes, we remember you are a God who constructed the very things that make them possible. The difference is you intended them for our good, for the best possible outcome and we acknowledge our sin, our strongholds, our self-centered tendencies have collectively interfered with your highest callings on our lives. That said, we also remember the Cross, identify with your heart to reconcile and restore, and lean into you once more as our precious rock. Yes, we ask you protect and cover us, but we also ask you anoint, bless, and cover our steps not to preserve us from darkness but to empower us to live as salt and light in an increasingly fragile and morally decaying world. We choose to live from victory, not for victory today knowing the battle has been won. Accordingly, we choose to take up the Word and put on the armor as we recall our corporate identity as vocational priests and our individual identity as beloved warriors contending for your love to be known. Be with us as we go about our days and ways. May we be catalysts in our surroundings helping others taste and see that you are good. And may you be glorified as we surrender all knowing it’s by your Spirit we can resist fear and humbly call upon you to invade our space.

In this we pray, amen!

References:

Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” 

Psalm 62:7-8 – “My honor and salvation come from God. He is my mighty rock and my protection. People, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection.”

Psalm 144:1-3 – “Of David. Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?

Deuteronomy 32:4 – “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”

Isaiah 2:10 – “Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!” 

James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Cover photo creds: WallpaperBetter

You Got This: An Encouragement for Those in Client Care

As a client care professional, there’s much about the craft left to be discovered and desired.

While I love what I do, where I work, and the people I work with, the challenges of the role have sparked a unique brand of curiosity. 

For instance…

Why do many value customer service but underrate it as a skill? Why is the ability compartmentalized outside expertise in select arenas? Perhaps more egregiously, why is administration, hospitality, and helps viewed as low men on the spiritual gift totem pole?

Is it because we assume anyone can demonstrate them? Or because we think client care is less discipline than choice?

If so, I submit we reorient our perspective and adjust our approach on how we integrate client care specialists into our business models. Granted, I understand the bias potential; however, as one who went from avoiding customer service applications to relishing the call in recent years, there are scriptural confirmations as to why client care is essential in today’s marketplace. As such, I propose organizations and employees embrace the following five passages in their commitment to client service.

1 Corinthians 12:18 (AMP) – “But now [as things really are], God has placed and arranged the parts in the body, each one of them, just as He willed and saw fit [with the best balance of function].” 

For client success managers, the part can feel like a mixed bag. On one hand, they’re the face of the relationship experience; on the other, they can be perceived as dispensable simply on title alone. Yet, while the lack of ‘specialist’ tag can be a disadvantage, the opportunity is still laced with silver linings. For instance, not only can a customer service leader enhance efficiency across multiple processes and procedures but reflect the existential truth concerning our vocational purpose: 

We are all diverse in function, co-equal in value.

As Paul declares, God is intentional and strategic with what He assigns. Although hierarchical structures and parameters for governance are essential, they also do not define our contributions, attitude, and team value. By proxy, client care specialists, being the on-call troubleshooters they are, can take pride knowing their adaptability and problem-solving prowess can improve the balance of corporate load and execution.

Romans 12:3-5 (AMP) – “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service]. For just as in one [physical] body we have many parts, and these parts do not all have the same function or special use, so we, who are many, are [nevertheless just] one body in Christ, and individually [we are] parts one of another [mutually dependent on each other].”

Similar to 1 Corinthians 12:18, Paul applies a physical body analogy to emphasize why our perception of value and function should be rooted in holy dependence. Unlike worldly slants defining the purpose of our ability as prosperity, in God’s eyes, our gifts were intended and are continually renewed for interdependent service; hence, God’s heart for relationship. For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son and apportioned opportunities for faith, hope, and character to mature. Accordingly, may we appreciate the frontline administrators who exemplify work not only as a testament to God’s love but His desire to entrust us as faithful stewards of what He’s provided.

Philippians 2:2-3 (AMP) – “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love [toward one another], knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose [and living a life that reflects your faith and spreads the gospel—the good news regarding salvation through faith in Christ]. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.”

On a pragmatic level, this verse is a beautiful charge to client care specialists given its versatile initiative. While any position can achieve this calling, the level of opportunity for customer service managers to make joy complete is high in most cases. Consequently, anyone who serves as a relationship manager and fosters community through administration should embrace their wiring to influence through compassionate collaboration. Whatever we say, whatever we do, may we coat it in modesty and the good news we carry inside us. May our attitude represent our faith and our faith the believe that through Christ we can inspire humility and unity through timely words, constructive insight, even prophetic encouragement.

1 Peter 4:10 (AMP) – “Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor].”

A sum of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 reiterates the original design of God’s delegation. More specifically, while gifts and quantity of talents may vary, ultimately, we’re all meant to give pleasure to God as we employ them in meekness. While selfless service should be an aim of any organization, it should also recognize favor through stewardship. Remember to be a good steward by faith is to believe in God  and the infallibility of His assignments. As we worship through work with confidence, as we minister as marketplace leaders aware of God’s transcendent grace, let’s not forget our abilities are down payments of God’s continual help and sovereignty. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP) – “…and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.”

I love how ‘spur’, as seen in other translations, is spelled out in the AMP. Essentially, to spur one another in love is to consider how we’re to encourage our clients to do good. While moments of extemporaneous inspiration are inevitable, the focus of client care should always be to ignite courage and strength of purpose. Practically speaking, this could manifest many ways; however, as an example, consider how client care specialists can affect corporate synergy and voice from creating motivational system alerts/portal template language to incorporating client perspective into platform design. Whatever system you engage, make sure to sustain the intention of positive service with the intentionality of thoughtful encouragement.

Selah.

For those who’ve made it this far, stay tuned next time when I’ll break down another five-pack of client care Scriptures. Until then, I commend you, my fellow swiss-army knives and jack-of-all trades. You may not feel treasured or sense the evidence of appreciation but remember the God you ultimately work for is crazy over you and how He’s wired and appointed your giftings for such a time as this. Therefore, stay strong and courageous and go in peace for your journey has the Lord’s approval. 

~ Cameron

The Road Less Traveled By: A SOAP Study on John 4

Written 2/15/14; revised 6/1/20

Back when I was a young buck studying the Word, I had a bad habit of downplaying settings. Geography, time, historical backdrops…I figured by skimming the peripherals, I’d discern the passage more quickly without distraction.

However, as I now know, when we consider the Scriptures, we find every word, pronoun, and article carrying strategic purpose and placement.

Take John 4 for instance…

In this chapter, not only do we find Jesus ministering to a woman at a well but [literally] going the extra yard in finding her.

Jesus-Walking-Sand-2

Yet, before the encounter takes place, we’re given important context retroactive to John 3:22-23:

“After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized.” 

This in mind, let’s flash-forward to John 4:1-5:

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.”

In these two passages, we’re given three regions as backstory to John 4: Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. With Galilee and Samaria, we’re given specifics; with Judea, the reference is less clear. Still, we have enough detail to discern the relationship between the communities.

Note the maps below as they will come in handy in a minute…

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Going back to v. 2, we find Jesus leaving Judea for Galilee from a somewhat debatable departure point. Assuming Jesus started where John was baptizing, we can deduce Sychar not only as a sensible midpoint but a contrast to how Jews traveled given the cultural climate between them and the Samaritans (see black/white graphic above). While traveling through Sychar made sense in terms of mileage, it’s only fair to wonder:

Why Jesus did go there in the first place?

To answer this, we’ll need to examine two more components…

  1. Relational dynamics

  2. The timeline

Relational Dynamics: Back in Jesus’ time,  it was culturally unacceptable for a Jew to enter a Samaritan town. As we see in the Good Samaritan parable, Samaritans were widely considered half-breeds (half-Gentile, half-Jew). If a Jew was departing Jerusalem on route to Galilee, he likely would have traveled east of the Jordan to avert Samaria (a difference of a marathon give or take); however, in Jesus’ case, he took the road less traveled by for two reasons:

1) To shatter the mold of social norms through his message of unity.

2) To share the Good News and preview the Spirit as part of an emerging worship culture (more on this in a future post).

The Timeline: Additionally, we must consider the timing of this passage as v. 6 indicates:

 “Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

Again, it’s worth wondering why John would emphasize a topical detail like the “sixth hour”. At first glance, one would think the “sixth hour” to be 6:00 am; however, according to the Jewish clock, the “sixth hour” would have, in fact, been 12:00 pm. Like the location, the ramifications of this observation is significant. If Jesus arrived at noon, then he would have appeared during ‘peak heat’ – a time when many were indoors. With well activity peaking during dawn hours, had Jesus wanted to preach, he would have needed to arrive in the morning or evening. Accordingly, one must wonder: Did Jesus arrive at random or did he time his journey to Sychar? 

In short, ‘yes’, Jesus had every intention of meeting the woman exactly when he did; however, the longer answer integrates the ‘why‘, specifically why Jesus came to inspire this particular woman at this particular time in light of her history (v. 16-19).

Based on these verses, I submit the ‘why‘ is as follows…

Jesus came to change a woman’s life through the revelation of his divinity so she could inspire a town through the revelation of his compassion.

As the Spoken Word attests, Christ so loved this woman at the well, he couldn’t help but transform her from an ostracized outcast to a victorious vessel. From the very beginning, this woman had been tapped to speak life into a cultural revolution. And now here she was – once an adulteress, now a mouthpiece with testimony and a message to share. If that’s not the Kingdom, I don’t know what is.

maxresdefault

Bottom line 1: When we consider Christ’s intentionality, his strategy to free this woman from bondage and ignite her hope through his identity, how can we not get excited? Like Jesus, we should want to restore life amidst the broken hearts and dreams we encounter. We should want to ignite change in those who doubt their worth. But above all, we should want to accept the call to lead others to a greater understanding of who God is. Because at the end of the day, God’s love is contagious and captures why we’re here: To encourage the discouraged, to be salt and light, to be unity in community, and stir love as the root of faith.

As the story concludes, the woman accepts Christ, his prophetic declaration (v. 21-24), and fearlessly saves many Samaritans as a result:

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.‘ After the two days he departed for Galilee.” ~ John 4:39-43 (ESV)

Not bad for an ex-social leper who wasted years trying to find her identity in relationships and social status.

Bottom line 2: Scenic and demographic details are valuable in studying the ministry of Christ. As this chapter reminds us, God can use the lowliest of men to sow the highest good for His glory and in bringing communities closer to Jesus. As for being that catalyst of change in your arenas of influence/expertise, dare to seek God like no one else so you can live intentionally like no one else. By believing God has established your steps, you can trust him to help you get to where you need to be even if it’s mean a few extra minutes or miles along the way.

Selah.

Looking ahead, I will look to build upon this post by examining the worship culture aspect of John 4. I’ll also break down what the ‘radical middle’ (i.e. living in Spirit and in Truth) looks like as present-day Kingdom agents in the marketplace.

‘Til then, you got this.

~ Cameron

Cover photo creds: Million-Wallspaper.com

 

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.

tenor

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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