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

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template (2nd Ed.)

As shared at the Transmission 2019 conference on May 3, 2019

Original: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2018/04/24/integrating-ministry-marketplace-temple-template/

Today I want to talk about why Jesus’ temple entrance post-triumphal entry is significant for us as leaders.

But before I dive in, let me just say one of my favorite things to talk about is leadership identity. As vocationals, it’s important to believe what God says about us and how He’s made us to be. In Colossians 2 and Ephesians 2, Paul talks about how we’re called to be effective influencers and reconcilers; in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about how we’re to be Kingdom ambassadors, in 1 Peter 2, Peter talks about how we’re a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation.

But to be all these things, we must walk in three strengths: courage, boldness, and confidence.

Interestingly, one of the places Jesus demonstrates all three of these qualities is the temple. So if you have your Bibles/Bible apps, turn to Matthew 21:12-17

As mentioned, after Jesus finishes the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he goes to (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why he went there (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known…that speaks to me. While we tend to focus on Jesus’ frustration in this passage, the key is Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional with the truth, and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

When we talk about our identity as leaders, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective leader, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with our spiritual gifts; yes, we can be articulate and persuasive, but if what we’ve given from God is used with limited integrity, if we’re tolerating fear in any way, we won’t be able to walk in our leadership identity fully.

Secondly, when we consider Jesus calls the temple “my house” (v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find God’s view of leadership as an extension of our priesthood and a place He intended for our good where we can be influencers, reconcilers and ambassadors.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal its purpose (i.e. a place where the Holy Spirit could dwell, of influence and vertical communication), but to inspire the sick, the poor and downcast to better know that purpose (v. 14).

Accordingly, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus leaves in v. 17. Jesus didn’t come to assert his identity, but re-establish an identity his Father intended. This is a big part of why those who weren’t offended were drawn to him…because he had something in him bigger than himself…something that pointed to being loved by God.

At this time, I want to introduce a fairly new concept inspired by Benji Block.

Going back to our aforementioned three strengths (i.e. courage, boldness, and strength), it’s important we understand them as separate yet linked entities. While a future post will be written on their relationship, here’s what I will say for now:

  1. Courage is yielded trust, relying on God’s strength in the moment.

  2. Boldness is matured courage (courage in rhythm).

  3. Confidence is matured boldness (boldness in rhythm).

Using a race analogy, courage gets us to the starting line regardless of fear. While choosing courage doesn’t automatically remove the fear, it ultimately positions us to see the value in running the race.

Put another way, if courage says ‘yes’ to run the race, boldness says ‘yes’ to keep running once the gun goes off.  Granted, you may still have doubts and cramps, but nothing can change the fact your commitment is etched in action. Once established in pace, boldness can then yield to confidence, which in this case, manifests as an unshakable belief in finishing the race. Once you’re running with confidence, the fear of pain and other obstacles pales in comparison to the joy set before you.

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Step by step, the fear diminishes as what your reliance has now peaked in full. You cross the finish line and marvel not only in the fact you’ve died to your flesh, but also in the reality of having relied on a confidence not your own.¹

Again, I’ll unpack these concepts down the road, but for now, we can apply them to Matthew 21.

Bottom line: When we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts in the temple, we see…

1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts). This represents courage.

2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict (some translations reference how Jesus drove out what needed to be driven out with force). This represents courage and boldness

3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple (in doing this his true identity became apparent to those who would ultimately flock to him; he didn’t come to the temple looking to assert his identity). This represents courage, boldness, and confidence

4. Jesus loved at every opportunity (his reputation in many ways preceded him which is part of the reason so many came to him). This represents courage, boldness, and confidence

I submit if we’re going to thrive in our areas of influence, we must choose courage through obedience and prayer, be bold with the truth even in conflict, and walk in confidence as we enter the places and purposes God has appointed for us.

In summary…we choose courage to lead in boldness to walk in confidence.

When we pursue these strengths, that’s how we know we’re living our identity as leaders.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Original illustration built on Benji’s ‘matured’ comparison
Cover photo creds: Free Great Picture

7 Ways to Be Alive in Christ at Work

Scratch notes/commentary from my latest run through Ephesians 2

1. v. 1-4 – We have every reason to be humble given we’re all blind/once blind as students of worldly systems (hence, ‘course’ in v. 2). As Paul suggests in Colossians 2, these systems operate out of fear and independence, not disobedience. Therefore, it’s worth noting many who are lost won’t immediately see the rebellion of what they’re doing. For those who are saved and now see, we need to focus on what the lost may be able to see first and fears are things all of us can relate to.

2. v. 5 – We’ve been made alive together with Christ so we could ultimately experience life in Christ. We should want to be like Christ not only to model our faith, but so those around us can get as close to a ‘with Christ‘ experience as possible. Our job isn’t to get people in Christ; rather, as we’ll see later in this passage, we’ve been saved by grace to be Christ to people. The joys of fellowship, intimacy, stewardship, compassion we experience in community…this is part of the ‘with Christ’ experience we’re to engage. Put another way, our part in making Christ’s nature known is to be alive with the Christ in each other. In this way, the spirit of authentic community and non-worldly systems can be mutually embraced.

3. v. 10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…that we should walk in them. It’s not by good works, but for good works. By grace, we have been redeemed not only from desires of the flesh, but also to reveal why good works exist to those who do them.

4. v. 13 – Those who are in nearness with Christ should bridge nearness for others. Not only does this reference the Cross, but it’s also another way of rethinking the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5).

5. v. 14-15 – Are we breaking down hostilities in our peace-making efforts? Are we allowing Christ to be our peace in the first place? If not, our desire to see unity in community will be hindered. Sometimes, to be a peacemaker we have to focus not only on the internal compromises (i.e. the excuses we make for not doing good), but also the things that keep us from being consistent…from being courageous…from walking in victory in uncharted territory. As Paul often notes in his letters, the law/ordinances not only represented an old way of doing things, but epitomized religion in a new age. Applied to our present, it’s worth asking, ‘Are we tolerating old ways in our life, even if they were once good, by resisting the new way…the new thing…the new work God wants to do?” Post Cross, Christ’s ministry of reconciliation manifests when community intersects sanctification (becoming more like Christ, walking in greater righteousness, holiness made contagious and experienced in koinonia, etc.). As such, both elements should be constantly maturing in our lives.

6. v. 19 – As saints, let the rights of our citizenship not only be self-evident, but contagious and attractive to others. By rights, I’m not suggesting we be entitled, but that we realize we’re no longer foreigners. We are all designed to be a part of God’s family. Accordingly, we should see all people as potential family members in faith.

7. v. 20-22 – It’s easy for those in Christ to accept their corporate identity as the collective body of Christ. But we are also the body in Christ and because of this we shouldn’t see ourselves as individual temples only, but as part of one sacred, sanctified structure coming together, continuing to grow as more come into fellowship…into the presence of God. Put another way, being built up in Christ, with Christ should not be individualized with eternity in mind. Yes, there’s an individual component, but its part in the grand scheme unfolding should not be ignored.

Bottom line: We are made alive in Christ to live life with Christ. His will at the core of our being, let what we believe translate into what we do so the way to God for others can be direct and perceived as good.

Cover photo creds: Cross Life Church

Messiah’s Misfits: Why The Name Says It All

So recently I’m reading 1 Corinthians 4 when suddenly it hits me…

…of all the chapters in all of Paul’s letters, arguably the greatest content on vocational perseverance can be found in v. 9-13 when Paul discusses the nature of true apostleship.

 Let’s check it out…

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (ESV)

It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.” (MSG)

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles at the end of the line, like men sentenced to death [and paraded as prisoners in a procession], because we have become a spectacle to the world [a show in the world’s amphitheater], both to angels and to men. We are [regarded as] fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are highly esteemed, but we are dishonored. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are continually poorly dressed, and we are roughly treated, and wander homeless. We work [for our living], working hard with our own hands. When we are reviled and verbally abused, we bless. When we are persecuted, we take it patiently and endure. When we are slandered, we try to be conciliatory and answer softly. We have become like the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” (AMP)

Now, before we dive in, we must understand the broader context.

First, what is the nature of true apostleship? Going back to 4:1, we find the answer: Those who minister Gospel hope as servants/stewards/ambassadors of Christ no matter the cost. The Amplified breaks it down further describing these servants as those who are certain in adoration more than they are uncertain in anything else. Essentially, apostleship goes beyond the office of apostle and involves anyone who is willing to be salt, light, and life in places where there is none. If you are being a faithful steward of God’s call on your life, you’re engaging your apostolic anointing! Whether or not you have a mobile ministry is moot compared to God’s faithfulness being reflected in what you say and do as you draw people to Christ (Colossians 3:17).

Second, how do we abide in the nature of true apostleship? Verses 7-8 give us a hint when paraphrased: We have not only been given everything for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but every reason to trust the Lord as our portion (Psalm 73:26)¹. Accordingly, as we reference God in reverence², to live as Christ (Philippians 1:21) becomes the foundation to our perseverance and influence regardless of setting and trial. After all, “there are different kinds of [work], but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (1 Corinthians 12:6).

Finally, we arrive at v. 9 where Paul employs some serious poetic license. Messiah’s misfits (MSG), prisoners of spectacle (AMP, ESV), an accident in the street everyone stands around and stares at…these are all powerful metaphors and similes reminding us there is no earthly honor in apostleship. If, by chance, we are pursuing any glory apart from what is rightfully God’s, our endurance will not stand, but if our satisfaction is rooted in being complete with Christ (Colossians 2:10), if our contentment is secure to His sufficiency, only then will we be victorious as dregs. It’s a paradox to the flesh, but one necessary for our dependence. When we are thirsty, we’ll see the need as being filled as opposed to satisfying a lack. When we are persecuted, we’ll know God is with us as one who relates as opposed to withdrawn as one who can’t. And when we’re struggling to make ends meet, we’ll rest in the mysteries of what God has and hasn’t revealed since our reliance is not contingent on self.

For some of us, it’s hard to accept what doesn’t make sense. It’s like we’re okay being misfits to sin, but not to the minds/culture tolerating it. I know for me, I’d rather be criticized for what I do wrong than be judged for what I do right. At least, with the former I can apply the correction and move on! However, I also know whenever I crave my work to be affirmed and my love to be reciprocated, I can declare God’s grace as sufficient, the fact I can joyfully boast in His power made perfect in my frailty (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). And suddenly those ‘weak as I eke‘ moments fade in something infinitely more…

…the sweet reality that I need JESUS! What a beautiful place to be!

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Bottom line: If you’re a vocational leader, dare to see the identity of what you do through the lens of apostleship, through the lens of being a servant taking light into dark places. And if hard times come, don’t be surprised; rather view them as a sign you’re doing things right³. When you bless others in the face of voids and discouragement, remember the same Christ you ask to bless others is the same Christ who will honor your obedience. If you don’t fit in, remember you were never called to in the first place. Stand out, take what comes, and know the power of you standing through adversity will assuredly have a positive ripple-effect on those around you even if you don’t see it right away.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Note how strength in this verse has Hebrew roots to ‘rock’
  2. This form of dependence opens up the Romans 5:1-5 road (more on this in a future post)
  3. Assuming the hard times aren’t consequences of sin, shortcuts, etc.
Cover photo creds: Medium

Love Reminders: Why Voids Are Not To Be Avoided

I got a random question for you…

Have you ever wondered why it’s easier to accept your flaws as opposed to your voids?

Flaws = Weaknesses, imperfections, what you can control and change

Voids = Lacking a necessary good, what you can’t control and change

If so, I want to encourage you: No matter how vast, no matter how voluminous the void, God’s sovereignty is always greater to not only fill it, but overflow it.

Granted, this truth is clearer conceptually than applicably, not to mention I’m sure there are some who struggle less with voids than flaws; however, in case you’re sittin’ there thinking I get all this, I just don’t know how to get there, consider this post a joint dive in discovering fresh purpose in places you never thought possible.

‘Cause truth is, for many of us (myself included), we prefer bridging our voids than exploring them in depth. Even when we do take the plunge, we’re often not ready for what we may find be it ego, fears, and/or our infatuation with the past. As Richard Rohr states in his book, Immortal Diamond

Whether humans admit to or not, we’re all in love with the status quo and the past, even when it’s killing us. [For most], it’s easier to gather energy around death, pain and problems than joy. For some sad reason, it’s joy we hold lightly and victimhood we hold on to.”

This in mind, let’s go back to the initial question and rephrase it: When it comes to the holes in our lives, have you ever wondered why we put God behind the telescope and our voids under the microscope?

Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Or are we so content in idolizing what’s not working in our life, so content in finding identity in ego¹, we fail to see our voids as God’s love reminder. To quote Jamie George, senior pastor at Journey Church in Franklin, Tennessee, “The thing that’s not working [in your life] is your opportunity for salvation to be saved from your ego and remember who you are.”

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Accordingly, the reason we wrestle with our voids often ties to not knowing what God wants to reveal through them. On the surface, we admit God wants us to know the highest heights of His love in the darkest depths of our despair. Yet, deeper down, we fade God in light of false hopes telling our trust what to do. Before we know it, we’re lost in a search for meaning outside the only place we can find it desperate for breakthrough, but not necessarily for freedom.

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Perhaps this is why Jesus taught love as an invitation first (Psalm 91:14, Matthew 11:28-30, John 3:16, John 15:15, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:38-39, Revelation 3:20) and as an instruction second (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 22:37-40)…so we could see awe in the awful and life as not only richer than temporary troubles, but richer because of them! The inevitable hurdles we encounter, they are more than opportunities to be humbled, but lifelines we’re passionately loved and rescued through. Therefore, we must accept the fact voids are imperative in the narrative of our lives as they offer a chance to centralize Christ as our security, the redeemer of all things who takes our time traveling tendencies and morphs them into a desire to know God as perpetual presence.

Think of it this way: In this life, on this side of heaven, there are many people living apart from God. To them, fear in the face of chaos makes perfect sense. After all, they have nothing to rely on other than themselves, their hope a mere flatline on the cardiogram of circumstance. But to those who trust in God, they can fear² Him in disarray knowing the chasms created in trial also create the heart space we need to receive those aforementioned love reminders³. As I told a colleague at work today, an empty container is better than no container at all since only the former can be opened and poured into.

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Bottom line:  Whatever you did…whatever you’re going through…those experiences are never worth the fear we preserve keeping them close at heart. Remember your battle scars are more than checkpoints signifying where you got it right; they are altars pointing people in the direction of wonder and reference…the veins by which people can know God longs to commune with them. Ultimately, our voids help us adore God, abide in gratitude, and die to our need to make sense of it all.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. The sum of self-reliance/independence (i.e. prioritizing reason over faith); sentence shout-out to Jamie George and his Awakening series
  2. Fear as in awe/adoration
  3. See Psalm 23:1-4
Cover photo creds: medium.com