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

ThanksLiving Right

It’s easy to love this time of year.

The smoky smells of autumn, the traces of fall color, the countdown to Christmas…

…the thought of a better year beyond the horizon.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense the third of week of November has become this pre-holiday rush pedestal, a calm before the storm we all know as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

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If so, consider this post a take among many seeking to re-establish Thanksgiving as its own sacred entity.

For while most grasp the importance of giving thanks, not all see it as an unconditional reality as the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18) where gratitude is contagious, sacrifice a cheerful obedience metric, and thanksgiving a light share as opposed to a light switch (see Isaiah 58:8, Matthew 5:15-16; more on this in a moment).

The question is: If thanksgiving is more than periodical expressions of vertical delight, what’s stopping us from employing it horizontally?

Consider the following verses…

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.” ~ Nehemiah 12:27 (ESV)

I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” Psalm 26:6-8 (ESV)

Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:22-23 (ESV)

But I am afflicted and in pain;let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song;I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” ~ Psalm 69:29-30 (ESV)

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” ~ Psalm 107:21-22 (ESV)

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (ESV)

Note when we drill down systematically, we find thanksgiving to be far more than temporary appreciation, but a call to invite people to taste and see that the Lord and His provisions are good (Psalm 34:8, Psalm 107:9,  Philippians 4:19). Applicably, this has profound implications.

For starters, while thanksgiving is often confined to altar calls, staged responses, and special events, when we recognize its pre-Mayflower, pre-creation context, we find sanctified space celebrating what has always been…perpetual love in continuous offering…giving and receiving simultaneously.

Unfortunately, for many of us, when it comes to thanksgiving, it’s easy to compartmentalize giving and receiving. I know for me, ego, independence, entitlement, and agenda can compromise my benevolence and negotiate my generosity if I’m not careful; however, I also know by dying to these rights, I expand the room God has to reveal Himself1

…which brings me the reason I’m writing this.

If we desire the lost and broken to see Jesus, not only must we be intentional in declaring thanksgiving, but sharing it as well. For when we engage thanksgiving as celebratory and communal worship, we inevitably position ourselves to glorify God as fresh revelations of His providence abound. Granted, this doesn’t mean we dial up the decibels of our praise to prove the goodness within. Clearly, our hearts would be misaligned if the visibility of our virtue preceded the availability of God’s power to provide it.

That said, by understanding thanksgiving as an outpouring of interdependent love and vulnerable relationship, we ultimately discover how our loved-by-God identity can extend God’s Kingdom through perfect other-centeredness.

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Think of it this way: When I praise God for who He is and what He has done, while the point of my adoration is to love Jesus first and foremost, the posture of my adoration opens me to overflow the love I receive in return. Accordingly, to the extent I abide in this rhythm, to that extent God’s heart (i.e. His love, goodness, kindness, compassion, faithfulness, etc.) inundates the people and places I encounter. Perhaps this is what the author of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Bottom line: Thanksgiving, at its core, celebrates the Trinitarian nature of God. While Pilgrims and Indians are worthy of mention, their actions in 1621 merely reflected a divine dance that has and will continue on into eternity.

As such, why not extend tomorrow (i.e. Thanksgiving) into each day? Why not [literally] give thanks as opposed to voicing it in isolation? Why not receive from the Lord as you inquire direction on what you have to offer?

After all, not only do you have something to offer, but a specific reason why. And that, my friends, is worth being thankfull for.

From my house to yours, have a Happy Thanks Giving…and don’t forget to look up as you reach out.

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Footnotes

  1. Also, the room is created for godly fear – not only loving what God loves and hating what God hates, but hearing what God says and seeing what He sees.
Cover photo creds: stmed.net

 

Setting Boundaries in Bivocational Ministry: Part 1

As young pastors in bivocational ministry, we’ve had to learn many things on the fly.

From working with volunteers and engaging with older staff to developing curriculum and teaching the Gospel to diverse audiences.

But perhaps the hardest element we’ve had to adjust to is boundary setting.

bible_hammer_web‘Cause truth is: with limited time and relational opportunities, providing pastoral care while faithfully holding down multiple day jobs can be challenging.

Knowing when to sacrifice, when to engage, when to say ‘yes‘, when to say ‘no‘ …

…I mean, let’s face it: it can be doggone hard discerning the right move at the right time, especially without a solid game plan.

Yet, we don’t have to feel helpless or lost in the dark.

‘Cause when we look at Scripture, we find that game plan in Christ and his ministry.

Now, for many, when we think of Jesus, we think about the cross, a parable he taught or one of his many miracles. But perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of his ministry was how he shepherded his own heart by setting boundaries and accepting the limitations of his humanity.

Could Jesus have done more on certain days?

Absolutely.

Yet, could he have also overstepped the boundary of authority given to him?

You bet.

After all, it’s not like Jesus forsook his divinity when he took on human flesh.

However…even though Jesus fully knew his identity as the Son of God, he never abused this by trying to bite off more than he could chew. Why? Because Jesus…

  1. Understood the importance of rest…
  2. Understood how rest encouraged a lifestyle of obedience…and…
  3. Understood how rest maintained a posture of yieldedness, anchoring his priorities and needs to the will of God.

Thus, Jesus never flirted with the temptation to overextend himself, since he knew the right time to speak the truth in love, knew the right time to withdraw or redirect authority, knew when to call out unholy behavior and knew when to engage the expectations he had for people.

Bottom line: Jesus knew if people were to step into his yoke, then he had to have one to begin with. And he knew in order to cultivate the yoke, he had to rely on God so his allegiance, hunger and drive could be refreshed.

However, just because Jesus was driven, didn’t mean he was hauling 60, 70+ hours a week…as hard as that is to believe.

Rather, Jesus could have cared less about how busy life got because he knew he could rely on what God provided…and knew he could know God’s heart if he daily postured himself.

You see, Jesus’ ministry didn’t end with rest, it started with rest* . Jesus didn’t spend quiet time with God when he had the time. He made it his priority before anything else happened. Thus, when the time came for action, for teaching, for healing, for loving the outcasts, Jesus had the capacity to fully execute because his pace was still rooted in obedience to God’s will.

And for 21st century ministers, caught up in a “work hard to reap the rest” mindset, it’s easy to forget what Jesus did behind the scenes. But it’s here where we must redirect our focus and realize it’s not about how many hours we put in during the week, but what we do with those hours that counts.

Stay tuned for next time, when we’ll talk about the difference between walls and boundaries…and how pastors can effectively establish these boundaries (whether personal, ethical or relational) while also making time for rest, family and quality time with God.

Footnotes

* Gaultiere, B. (n.d.). Ministry Begins with Rest – Soul Shepherding. Retrieved September 9, 2014.