The Feel Deal: Why ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ Isn’t That Romantic

Sooo…I wasn’t initially going to write anything on this, but after cutting a pod earlier this week, I’m calling an audible.

‘Cause truth is: I’m surprised how much a feel good movie in ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ has me feeling, well, not that good.

While the film, in itself, is charming full of laugh out loud moments and clever wit, to say the film lacks irony would be an understatement.

*Spoiler alert*

For instance, when contrasting real life to rom coms, our protagonist is clear she hates happy endings since they hinge on plot convenience more than anything else.

The funny thing: This is exactly what ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ does on the issue of self-love which begs the question…

Does self-love actually exist?

To be fair, the answer can’t be addressed in a vacuum since real love can’t be compartmentalized. That said, while secular voices can only go so far in their quest not to offend, one must wonder if we, as a culture, are synonymizing love and esteem as much as we are love and tolerance.

This in mind, I want to tackle the question by un-blurring the lines between self-love/love and self-esteem/esteem. As for love versus tolerance, don’t worry. I’ll come back and do a ‘part 2’ once the right movie comes along.

Before we define any contrasts, let’s define some terms.

First, what is love?

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For starters, the most central answer can be found in 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [a]love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body [b]to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].

Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. 10 But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 13 And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.”

Granted, most are familiar with this passage; however, what’s often missed is the reason why we struggle grasping it.

Consider this great DC Talk chorus

Hey, tell me haven’t ya heard? Love is a serious word. Hey, I think it’s time ya learned. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care care what ya heard. The word love, love is a verb.

…and while we’re at it, let’s hit the bridge as well…

Back in the day there was a man who stepped out of Heaven and he walked the land. He delivered to the people an eternal choice with a heart full of love and the truth in His voice. Gave up His life so that we may live. How much more love could the Son of God give? Here is the example that we oughta be matchin’ ‘cause love is a word that requires some action.

Yeah, yeah…I’m starting this exegesis with the most popular ‘love Scripture’ and one of the most iconic 90’s Christian rap songs ever. Nevertheless, the content is 100% certified truth; specifically, love isn’t love without action…without a transitive nature.

Speaking of which, allow me to get nerdy for just a second…

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In math, the transitive property is expressed as the successive members of a sequence of at least three, where if A is larger than B, and B is larger than C, then A is larger than C. Interestingly, from a theological perspective, this confirms the existence of the Trinity (more on this in a future post).

In this case, let’s use the metaphor to compare us to ‘B’ with the people we love as ‘C’. If ‘B’ (love median) and ‘C’ (love recipient) are given, then who represents A?

In fewer words, God (i.e. love giver). But the big picture point is this: The reason love exists is because there has always been a giver and receiver for all of eternity. Thus, whenever we talk about self-love, it’s only fair to reference the concept as intransitive since the act is not only internal, but immobile.

But Cam…Matthew 22:39 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Certainly, self-love isn’t a bad thing?

And to that, I’d have to agree…wait for it…in a vacuum. But as mentioned, we can’t address this topic in a vacuum so let’s zoom out further and ask another question…

Is the self-love culture conveys the same as what Scripture describes?

‘Cause when we reference the Word, we find love, in every use, to be a direct response to receiving love. For example, before we can confess God as love (1 John 4:8), we must first believe the preceding verse: “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:19 paraphrases this in fewer words:

We love because He first loved us.”

Therefore, the difference between self-love (culture) and loving yourself (Scripture) is one is contained and the other can’t be. One is restricted, the other depicted. One is incomplete, the other complete. One is achieved, the other received. One looks to preserve, the other looks to subserve. I could go on.

For now, let’s discuss esteem.

As Webster defines, esteem is a regard involving an admiration, adulation, and/or appreciation of another. A derivative of gratitude, esteem molds an ‘I respect you’ statement into an ‘I value you’ declaration.

Unfortunately, most learn esteem as self-esteem, taking that ‘I value you’ and reforming it into ‘I value me’. Again, this is appropriate in moderation; however, we must be careful not to abuse the practice as how we love. Reason being: like self-love/love, for self-esteem to exist, there must first be esteem and for esteem to exist, not only must there be a giving entity, but authentic community surrounding it. Put another way, the necessity of esteem isn’t rooted in feeling valuable, but in sharing praise.

As Hebrews 13:15 and Psalm 66:4 capture…

“Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.” (AMP)

“All the earth will [bow down to] worship You [in submissive wonder],
And will sing praises to You; they will praise Your name in song.” (AMP)

…for praise to have any purpose, it must be expressed as unrequited adoration. For if the affirmation of self is what focuses our esteem, then what we think is love is pride in disguise…or as I like to say, a vehicle for validation.

And it’s here where self-esteem goes off the rail for many people. Yes, self-esteem has a place, but can we say it has purpose when it’s narcissistically misappropriated? For example, we see in entertainment, politics, even health, the cultural message of self-esteem being a barometer to success and worth. Ironically, the same voices are also surprised when such pathways are met by insecurity, stress, and burnout. Keep going, they say. Don’t give up, they say.

Of course, Christ in us, we see how this is done the right way. In context, we tie esteem to love through the nature of God which then allows us to see anxiety as the bypassing of holy residence to feel significant. Sadly, for most, self-esteem is and will forever be detached from its Creator, leading many to strive for desirability through skillsets, passions, even status.  How sad is it that many discover strengths without wondering or questioning how they got there in the first place? No wonder so many struggle with voids given they’re pursuing meaning without reason!

But getting back to the movie…

After our protagonist’s comatose catharsis, she finally comes to the pay off: While love is not a fairytale, it doesn’t mean you can’t love yourself.  True, the happy ending might not exist, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. As long as you’re not depending on others for acceptance, you can love yourself to determine your destiny…and at least come close to a happy ever after.

Now…*cracks knuckles*…I have much to say to this moral discount morale boost.

But being I’m already near 1300 words, I’ll be short. The problem I have with this movie (and others like it) is how it conveys love as being stronger when it’s independent.

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While I agree that our sense of value should be detached from what others think, if we’re constantly generating love out of self-preservation (i.e. an egotistic approach to void filling), there’s no way we can sustain love in any capacity.

Essentially, the movie’s tagline fits the “moral” of the story.

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To love yourself, complete yourself. Don’t possess your emotions, numb them! To feel esteem, don’t rely on others to affirm it, provide it for yourself. Don’t just be indifferent to what others think, but be different to what others do. That way you can love you without the sensitivity to others’ needs getting in the way. After all, love isn’t given; it’s a personal choice.

*Sighs*                                                                                                                                  *Sarcasm subsides*

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

  1. The reason we love is because it has always existed.

  2. The reason love has always existed not only points to the existence of God, but to the reality of a Godhead.

By this, we can accept the truth that though we were made for love, we weren’t made to ignite and sustain it by ourselves¹. Accordingly, as the object of love and not the subject, let’s be careful with any cultural messaging suggesting the contrary. In the same way we create because we’ve been created and design because we’ve been designed, we love because we were and are forever loved.

Again, God didn’t generate us; rather He formed and fashioned us uniquely with delicate precision before the beginning of time (see Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 49:15, Psalm 71:6, Jeremiah 1:5, Galatians 1:15). And while we can’t possibly fathom the eternity of such love, we can accept its presence as constant sovereignty living and breathing outside ourselves.

How sweet is it to know we can experience the Gospel as the greatest romance in history:

We love because we were first loved and we love because it was first given.

Finally, we can answer our original question, ‘Does self-love exist?’

In short, outside of God, loving anyone or anything is impossible. Sure, we can admire, cherish, and enjoy the people in our path and the companies we keep. But if ‘our way’ is more important than any other, we can’t possibly know the origin and intricate delicacies that make love what it is. This doesn’t mean a lost concept of love and/or esteem can’t be based in self; it just means if what’s good for us is the gravity, the epicenter of perception and paradigm, the idea of crazy, crave-able love is a mirage via the transitive property.

If a) God is love, but b) God isn’t a part of our love, then c) is what we think is love really love at all?

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Okay…enough preaching already; time for one last thought…

Next time you’re discouraged about a situation with no happy ending in sight, remember…

  1. You’re not alone…
  2. You’re not your own…
  3. Because of a + b, you don’t have to express how you feel to know your love is real.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. By our own means and terms
Photo creds: What’s on Netflix

Two Way Street: The Next for Next Gen (Part 1)

I got to get something off my chest.

As a Millennial, I’m starting to wonder if the church is exhausting the ‘next’ in ‘next generation’…if what she considers ‘next’ is ‘new’ and what she considers ‘new’ is ‘more’1.

‘Cause truth is: While I’m all about the emerging generation being poured into, I can’t help but think we, as the body, need to re-evaluate ‘next’ relative to God’s discipleship intent. Granted, I’m a part of the rising leadership community and have much to learn; still, the splinter lingers in the back of my mind:

Should the church replace, ‘The future of church leadership is the next generation‘ with ‘The future of church leadership is discovering the next for each generation‘ in its ‘life on life’ vernacular?

If ‘yes’, then I believe the Lord wants to unveil specific strategies on how we’re to walk this out. But before we can dive into application, we must first bask our context in the Word.

As always, let’s dig in…

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Starting in Psalm 1452:4

 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” (ESV)
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty and remarkable acts.” (AMP)
Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts.” (MSG)
One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts.” (HCSB)
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” (NLT)

Right away, we see why contrasting different translations is important when studying Scripture. For instance, if you read the ESV, HCSB, AMP, or a similar translation, you might interpret ‘one generation’ to literally mean one generation; however, in context, this is not what David is implying. Rather, David is stating how worship should be a successive and progressive tradition – a two-way street from which one generation can learn from another. Had David been posed with the idea praise3 could only be experienced from top to bottom, it would have been a compromise to adoration in his mind.

As such, the key takeaway here is delighting in God is not only at the core of who we are, but also the core of our unity…which cannot be reduced to a unidirectional expression.

Now, let’s collate this with the parable of the wineskins:

“’No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” ~ Luke 5:36-39 (ESV)

Exegesis applied, Luke is illustrating the fact no one can mix legalism with new faith or religious tradition with divine grace; however, in this case, let’s assume old wineskins apply to older generations and new wineskins apply to rising generations. When Luke suggests the old is good4, he’s not saying aged is better in all regards (though with wine, this is certainly the case) as much as he’s emphasizing the Ecclesiastes 3 reality that for each option, there is a season, a time, and a place.

In other words, what’s new and what’s established are not only meant to co-exist, but partake under the heading of ‘fresh’ or as Hebrew translates it, ‘mechudash’ meaning ‘renewed’. Accordingly, while the literal pouring of wine from new skin to old skin doesn’t make sense, when we consider ‘fresh’ relationally from God’s perspective, we can know God as faithful to renew fresh works in all men for cross-generational education and exultation.

Think of it this way: As disciple-making Christ followers, we can be like wine poured out as drink offerings (Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6) upon the sacrificial offering of faith; however, unlike wine, we can serve free from the yoke of wineskins seeking to compartmentalize how that faith operates in action! For example, if you’re an elderly leader, you don’t have to feel your place in church is limited to on-call mentoring and if you’re a teenager, you don’t have to feel disqualified due to youth. Christ in you…if anything is possible, who says you can’t team and serve alongside those twice or half your age? If God has called you, then go for it!

As the Spirit impressed upon me before writing this…

…how sweet it is knowing each generation has the capacity to pour into another? That no matter who is involved, as long as God is being praised and exalted, there is a place for His fresh work in all modes and peoples of life.

To tie this up, I’m all for Millennials, Post-Millennials/Zennials having their opportunity and time to step up. But I also don’t believe the retired generation has to be retired from leadership roles if they’re called and appointed in that season. History has constantly shown the emerging generation to approach the older ones with a ‘what about me‘ mentality. And don’t get me wrong. I get my peers looking around wondering who is willing to pour into them. But the flip side is also true. We can’t neglect pursuing places for those who naturally have more insight or pigeon-hole them where they’re not called as a plug-in for program.

After all, leadership is not a function of age, but a) a way the God can be glorified and b) an outlet for the fear of the Lord to be known. If the body wants to know the fullness of ministry as God intended, age can’t be a primary (key word) filter in finding the balance between giving/receiving…pouring in/pouring out. As long as you have breath, you not only have a purpose, but a place for that purpose to manifest.

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Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive deeper into the ‘next’ vs. ‘new’ vs. ‘more’ dichotomy as alluded to in my opening. Until then, be blessed and refreshed even when pressed and don’t forget to rest in His best.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Or visa-versa
  2. One of David’s favorite psalms
  3. In any form, be it discipleship/mentoring, teaching, prophesying, pastoring, etc.
  4. Or ‘better’ in some translations
Cover photo creds: The Beck Group

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

Rolling Stones: Why The Torn Veil & Split Rocks Matter

It’s the most pivotal moment in history…

…Jesus…on the cross…

…a joy once set before him, now the weight of the world.

Battered and bruised, he waits; the darkness of sin in foreign space. The epitome of innocence now weeping for his father…

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

One can only imagine what it must have been like to be a bystander watching this wonder working power helpless on a tree…to stand amidst this moment in time as it became a moment for eternity.

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Would you agree?

If not, permit me to explain through the lens of some rocks, a veil and why it tore immediately after Jesus’ last breath.

During Jesus’ ministry, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the hub of Jewish religious life, a place where animal sacrifices and scroll readings were carried out according to the Law of Moses. In this temple, a veil separated the Holy of Holies from the outer court for three reasons:

  1. The Holy of Holies was a landing spot for God’s presence
  2. The Holy of Holies was a place of consecrated communion between God and the high priest.
  3. The Holy of Holies signified man’s separation from God by sin foreshadowing sanctification through atonement.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (ESV) and Hebrews 9:6-9 (AMP) capture this in tandem:

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

“…the priests continually enter the outer [or first section of the] tabernacle [that is, the Holy Place] performing [their ritual acts of] the divine worship, but into the second [inner tabernacle, the Holy of Holies], only the high priest enters [and then only] once a year, and never without [bringing a sacrifice of] blood, which he offers [as a substitutionary atonement] for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. By this the Holy Spirit signifies that the way into the Holy Place [the true Holy of Holies and the presence of God] has not yet been disclosed as long as the first or outer tabernacle is still standing [that is, as long as the Levitical system of worship remains a recognized institution], for this [first or outer tabernacle] is a symbol [that is, an archetype or paradigm] for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which are incapable of perfecting the conscience and renewing the [inner self of the] worshiper.”

To recap, that’s over a millennium of one high priest making one annual visit to encounter God under first covenant law. That’s intense. I can only imagine if memes existed back then, how many would hinge on ‘no pressure’ taglines.  Not to mention if John 3:16 was extrapolated back to Exodus:

Before God could send His one and only Son, He had one and only day to meet one and only mediator1, a high priest oblivious to how the blood of his lambs bode the blood of the Lamb.”

Of course, I’m being jocose in my paraphrasing. But perhaps you’re still wondering, ‘What does any of this have to do with Jesus dying on the cross?

To answer this, let’s compare Matthew 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-39, Luke 23:44-47 respectively:

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’”

Now, before we pursue our bottom line, let’s note some contrasts:

  1. In Matthew, we see the veil tearing and rocks splitting; no mention of the centurion.
  2. In Mark, we don’t have rocks splitting, but the centurion is introduced confessing Christ as the Son of God.
  3. In Luke, we have time stamps and are re-introduced to the centurion who this time confesses Christ as innocent. Unlike Matthew and Mark, the veil is said to have been torn prior to Jesus’ death.
  4. Interestingly, the common denominator in all accounts is the torn veil. While not mathematically confirmed by Scripture, Exodus suggests this veil was likely near 60 feet high and four inches thick meaning not even Samson could not tear this thing.

Merging the differences, the moment fleshes out…

 “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ Having breathed his last, the earth shook, the rocks were split, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was the Son of God!’”

From here, we can now grasp the magnitude of the moment.

Once Jesus surrenders his spirit, it’s at this point the veil tears; however, the orientation of the tear is significant as it didn’t occur randomly, but from top to bottom. The commentary on this can be simplified as follows:

  1. The significance of the torn veil was the consummation of Christ’s sacrifice and atonement.
  2. The significance of the torn veil splitting top to bottom was the Holy Holies now being open to all people for all times.

Put another way, the veil tearing top to bottom not only captured the movement of God’s holy temple from manmade structure to internal dwelling, but also foreshadowed the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  No longer was the Old Covenant relevant where high priests represented the masses; rather, Christ could now be both our High Priest and the way to get to Him.

Hebrews 8-10 breaks this down beautifully, specifically when 8:13, 9:8-9, and 10:19-20 (ESV) are linked together:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” 2

To quote Michael Houdmann, “The things of the temple were shadows of things to come, and they all ultimately point to Jesus Christ. He was the veil to the Holy of Holies, and through His death the faithful now have free access to God.

As for the rocks splitting, though often lost in context, this, too, is a meaningful anecdote. While the torn veil signified the tearing of Jesus’ flesh, reconciliation between God and man, and Christ’s post-salvation residence, the split rocks captured the effects these had on the physical world. A preview of the tomb, the split rocks were more than a consequence of the earthquake following Jesus’ final breath, but rather a permanent reminder for humanity that death is the ground of resurrection…that what happens in the spiritual can’t be excluded from the physical.

The rocks, in a way, also signaled the resurrection of our earthly bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54) and a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:18-29). Granted, theologies vary enough to warrant a second post for a different day; the bottom line is the rocks were both imagery and analogy to God’s sovereignty in creation, His power in death, and His intent for new life.

I love how John Piper paints this in Desiring God:  “The earth was shaken and rocks split by a sovereign earth-controller and a powerful rock-ruler. Human deaths don’t shake the earth and split rocks. God does. Rocks don’t have a mind of their own. They do what God bids them do. And they shook and split.”

Come to think of it, what a visual the rocks are to Christ’s identity as our everlasting rock (Isaiah 26:3-5), our fortress in whom we take refuge (Psalm 144:1-2). True, the veil reminds us the barriers once between God and man are now a pathway to walk in boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16), but the rocks remind us that pathway is also one we can walk in confidence.3

And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Easter: To commemorate Christ as our greatest anchor amidst a shaking world and our greatest security amidst a collapsing one. When life is unstable, He is able. How sweet it is to know the power of the Cross will always be enough to crack the rocks of life…

…that at the mention of His name, mountains bow down and the seas roar…

…the work of His hand having taken the nails for us

As we approach Easter, my prayer for you is that as you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do, but what He longs to do in and through you in the days to come.

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter full of peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.

1-1-1-1-He-is-Risen

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Already the math gives me tingles
  2. Pretty remarkable how fluid those passages run when put together
  3. Courage is for today; boldness is courage matured; confidence is boldness matured. Shout-out to Benji Block for the breakdown. (Edited by Cameron Fry via Canva)
Cover photo creds: newagechristianity.org (Edited by Cameron Fry via Canva)