I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about learning what it means to live locally. This followed after I began to read Zack Eswine’s book, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being. Eswine writes, that we are “merely human and only local.” We forget that only “Jesus is human, but not merely. Jesus is local, but not only” What then are the implications for me (us) if we admit that we are merely human?
This requires a choice. To be merely human means, in contrast to Jesus, that we are not God. Most, if not all of us know this theologically but many of us resist this practically. To be human means that we accept that we have limits. It means we cannot do it all, we cannot know it all and we cannot be everywhere. Eswine’s writing should liberate us, “Being human does not mar greatness; it informs it and sets its noble boundaries.” 351
Sadly for ourselves and for those we live with and minister to, our refusal to accept and live within these limits only creates insurmountable problems, “Trying to be an exception to the human race encourages arrogance among most of us and burnout among many of us.” 246 We have bought into the serpent’s lie in the Garden, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). Our grasp for attributes that only belong to God gets us into trouble and in the end prevents us from loving others. Again Eswine nails it, “As ministry leaders we endeavor to give of our lives in such a way that every neighbor we minister to will know that we are not God. The Serpent’s invitation to celebrity, immediate gratification, and using people to advance ourselves as if we are God poisons the air.” 652
We can only be at one place at one time. “We will resist and want to act like we are omnipresent. But he will patiently teach us that as human beings we cannot be, and this admission will glorify God. Others will likewise resist Jesus and want you to be omnipresent. They will use his name to praise or critique you accordingly, but they too will have to learn that only Jesus can be with them wherever they are at all times. This fact is actually good news for them and for us.” 766
We cannot do everything that needs to be done. “Jesus will teach us to live with the things that we can neither control nor fix. We will want to resist Jesus and act as if we are omnipotent, but we will harm others and ourselves when we try. Others will also resist Jesus. Using his name, they will praise or critique us according to their desire that we fix everything for them and that we do it immediately. But they will have to learn too that only Jesus can fix everything and that there are some things Jesus leaves unfixed for his glory.” 771
We are unable to know everyone or everything. “Jesus will teach us to live with ignorance, our own and others’. In other words, we are not omniscient. Jesus will require us to stop pretending that we are. Others will resist Jesus and in his name praise us or critique us on the basis of their estimation of what we should know. They will have to learn that only Jesus knows everything they need; his invitation to faith and to trust in his knowing is a good one.” 777
In what way are you most tempted? Thinking you can do it all? Thinking you can know it all? Thinking you can be everywhere? Eswine asks us, “What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus?” 782
Many of you out there may know about the recent melt-down of Jason Russell. Apparently, Jason is a Christian activist who produced the viral Kony 2012 and co-led the group Invisible Children. Julie Barrios has written a powerful blog post about what Russell’s breakdown can teach all of us who are driven to succeed. A couple of quotes from her post follow.
When our varied kinds of deep disorientation and insecurity go unprocessed, it becomes an energy in the soul that is so strong that it can accomplish tremendous things, for better or worse. The need to repress the pain and reorient oneself becomes the driving force of life.
Consider Russell’s breakdown an invitation. It is an invitation to all of you, to all of us, to explore the internal minefield in which our ministries are tangled. It is the minefield of our childhood traumas, our need for approval, and our attachment to our own perceived goodness. As we explore this minefield, bombs go off, but may we not lose heart, for our explosions are no more than jarring, forthright, and insistent invitations to experience the prevailing and preeminent power of Christ and His cross.
Indeed, when we are feeling pain and disappointment, we have an opportunity to process those desires deep within. May God give us all grace in this journey.
I guess it was one of those cracked pot days. (2 Cor 4:7)
Someone recently told me, “David you have a need to be wanted.” A friend helped me to process the conversation and said to me, “In the context of that conversation, that was a vicious attack.” He encouraged me to see the hand of God in the wound. Not that God is viscious or mean but even in the hurtful words, God was present with me.
My questions: Why? To what end? For what purpose? Now those are questions that can’t be answered at this stage of my journey or maybe not ever.
Perhaps the most hurtful part of the discussion was the following comment, “David, you have a need to be wanted. And so I am not going to tell you that I want you.” Ouch!
A word given to me was, “Assyria is a rod in my hand.” To punish/discipline but also as a reminder that God has not abandoned. In the middle of the pain, God is there—what a challenge for me to see that—to believe that—to love that.
Back to needing to be wanted. Actually, I acknowledged that I do need to be wanted. Just as I need to be loved. David Benner says our longings, our desires are pathways for our journey with God. He think he would say that intimacy with God is impossible without desire being present.
Here is a quote from Benner’s Soulful Spirituality,
Despite how it is sometimes presented, desire is right at the center of the spiritual life. A sense of obligation may sometimes be enough to keep you going to church, but only desire will keep you open to God and still seeking when your experience in church is filled with frustration and is irrelevant to your deepest spiritual longings. Guilt may be strong enough to motivate religious behavior, but only desire can lead you ahead on the spiritual journey. The absence of desire means the absence of spiritual life. 335
At age 56, I am much more aware of my own neediness than I was at age 23 or 32! For that I am grateful. I recognize the truth of 2 Cor 3:5, “who of us is capable of such things?” Not me, that is for sure. Not by my own strength and power. My sufficiency is only found in the Lord Jesus! I possess a neediness, a longing for more that will not be totally fulfilled until I see the Lord Jesus face to face—the transformation that is currently in process will one day be complete (2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2).
I am aware that much damage has been done in the name of ministry by people who are needy—who need to be wanted, liked and loved. But I suspect the damage is done more by people who are unaware of their neediness or deny it. I wonder if more damage has been done by those in ministry when they think that they have no needs! So for today, gratefully I accept that yes, I am David, a man before God who needs to be wanted and loved and I am thankful that God wants me, loves me, has chosen me to be his beloved and has brought many people into my life who walk with me and are courageous enough to love me and walk with me on this faith journey. Thank you God.
Here is a song that seems to express well my heart tonight.
Amazing how suffering and glory run together as I read 1 Peter 5:1-10. Some thoughts that fit well with life right now.
Love the juxtaposition of the words, “witness of the sufferings” and “partaker in the glory.” How closely suffering and glory seem to be related in Scripture–for the Lord Jesus and for me as His follower and as one of the leaders in his church. Shepherding–willingly, not because I have to or should do so, not domineering but being an example, with humility not with pride. Surely there is suffering in the midst of the shepherding–my experience teaches me this and because when my shepherd appears he comes in glory and with glory for me, glory that comes after the suffering. Taking advantage of the suffering, my enemy wants to devour me with discouragement and despair, yet I have one who cares for me in the midst of the struggle and promises me after the suffering, eternal glory will come—He himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, establish–words that give me life, hope and reassurance I am not alone in the battle. Thank you Lord.
- You are sick and in the hospital
- You are sad after facing a disappointment
- You are rejoicing after celebrating a graduation/engagement/acceptance
- You are afraid because of you have been attacked/threatened
What does a ministry of presence in the following job description mean?
“Provide a regular ministry of presence by timely visits to all areas of the field in coordination with respective Ministry Leaders.”
In what way do the following people experience the presence of God?
- Gen 26:3 Abraham “Live in the land”
- Gen 31:3 Jacob “Return to the land”
- Exodus 3:12 Moses Lead the people, I will bring you out
- Joshua 1:5 Joshua “No man shall be able to stand before you
- Judges 6:16 Gideon “Strike the Midianites”
- Others: Exodus 29:45-46; Isaiah 43:2; Heb 13:8; John 1John 14-16
Reflect on the ways God is present with his people in Psalm 46.
What is NOT necessary in a ministry of presence?
What are the barriers to having a ministry of presence?
What is necessary in a ministry of presence?
In what way or area of your life do you need to know the presence of God?
In what way can you offer a ministry of presence to others you serve?
“God’s presence sends us into the heights of joy and sensing his absence is unbearable.” Mike Wilkerson Redemption
For more information you might want to look at this free edition of Brother Lawrence’s classic Practicing the Presence of God