Descent #17

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November 21, 2021

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

CONSIDER THIS

I say Para-Klasis. You say Hoop-O-Money.

Welcome back to, “Encourage one another daily as long as it is called TODAY,” and I’ve got good news for you. It’s today again!

It was the summer of 2019 and my life was in free fall in the throes of “Descent #17.” You may be wondering where this strange nomenclature came from. Every summer for the past several summers, my friend, Mark Swayze, brings a group of student worship leaders to Nashville for a retreat. He always invites me to spend a couple of hours with them. It has become my practice with this group (and with most others I am with) to ask them to share the Word from God they are presently standing on. It usually evokes an immediate response of, “Oh snap! I’m not sure,” and then a quick flipping through the pages of Scripture in search of one’s life-verse. 

Strategic pause: How would you respond to that question? What Word of God are you standing on right now? It is that one that would be written on the marquee sign of your heart and mind, your “go-to word” for the present season of faith. 

As the sharing moved around the circle and all the familiar and predictable texts came to the fore of the sharing, it came to Jonah. I will forever remember his text. He closed his eyes as he quietly spoke the words:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Never had anyone brought this text in response to the exercise—and rememberized, no less. As he spoke the words, the Spirit of God began to etch them like ink on my heart. Whatever word I thought I was standing on at the moment, it was clear Jesus was giving me a new word. 

Verse 17 describes the stripping, strafing way down, hence the designation, Descent #17. On that non-descript summer day I was 19 years into a descent approaching its third decade. It began as a slow stripping away of an impressive false self forged over the first thirty-ish years of my life. I built an identity centered around high performance, achievement, and accolades—forged on the fragile scaffolding of how well I did plus what others thought of me. There is a Bible word for such a condition of soul: slavery. My entire economy of self worth was chained to maintaining that false identity. No matter how much good I did, (and I did a lot of good), it was really at the core about myself. 

At the tender age of 33, the year Jesus died—I like to remind myself, a cross was planted in my life in a most surprising way. I was recruited into a very prestigious (and thankfully fairly obscure) ministry role (for which I did not apply, nor was I qualified for). The unlikely conditions of the cross were set, as I walked out of a life where I was loved and could do no wrong into a place where I would be despised and could do no right; a place of jaded jealousy and torturous transformation. It became my decade of detoxing from the nascent narcissism of a performance based identity. 

Kiekergard said something to the effect of, “Life must be lived forward but it can only be understood backward.” Jesus took that decade and turned my life from a false-self-actualizing ascent into Descent #17. All the things I relied on to prop me up in my own eyes and the eyes of others was stripped away. As I fought and resisted this testing of my faith, he slowly taught me to, “Let perseverance finish its work so that I might become mature and complete, lacking nothing.” 

On that summer day in 2019, I happened on a defining word that continues to happen in me today. Thanks Jonah. 

To be continued. . . 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

THE PRAYER

Father, thank you for the stripping way of Descent #17. I confess I would never choose that way. That way had to choose me. That way is Jesus, the one “who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing.” Thank you Jesus for choosing Descent #17 and showing us the royal way of the glorious cross, where everything the world, the flesh and the Satan intends for evil you turn to good. Holy Spirit, help me let perseverance finish its work. Lead me into the rejoicing of Valley #19, not because everything has worked out but simply because of who you are. For your namesake, Jesus, Amen.  

THE QUESTION

Ok, circling back, what Word of God are you standing on today? What Word is making its way off of the page and into the lining of your heart. 

P.S. FRIENDS, OUR PASTORS ARE IN DESCENT #17 MORE THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME IN OUR LIFETIME. IT HAS REACHED CRISIS LEVELS.  

Pastors and Leaders of Churches, will you let us serve you in the season ahead? Players (aka laity) will you consider getting involved to help sponsor this work?*

Please click on one (or both) options to register interest:

I AM AN INTERESTED PASTOR/LEADER (full time or bi-vocational).

I WANT TO EXPLORE SPONSORING A PASTOR(S). 

*We are hearing from Jesus a long game calling to encourage, build-up, and deeply invest in the Shepherds of the Kingdom—our local church pastors. The global pandemic has challenged us all, but it has uniquely challenged our shepherds. In 2022 we will begin a multi-year campaign to renew the heart and restore the awakening calling of these leaders.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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