Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Weather Special: Preliminary 2016-17 Winter Weather Forecast

Well, folks. We’re two weeks past the autumnal equinox…and I think we all know what that means…

…break out the fall décor, have yourself a very merry pumpkin-space latte, and check Cameron’s blog for yet another preliminary winter weather forecast.

Now, I’m not gonna lie: my forecast last year held up on snow, but not so much on temps, granted my overall pattern prediction was correct. If you recall, we absolutely torched in December with + ~13.0° positive temp anomalies (obliterating my December 2015 predictions) before a major pattern flip set the stage for Nashville’s most epic snowstorm in 13 years. By season end’s, most middle Tennessee locations had experienced a top 10 warmest winter, yet with more snow than the previous three winters combined.

Case and point: for Nashville, the winter of 2015-16 finished a full 7.0° warmer than 2014-15 mean temperature-wise, but with 5.2” more snow. I mean…you talk about defying some serious odds. I don’t know what’s more unusual: last winter or two winters prior (i.e. 2013-14) where we had 10” less snow despite the average mean temp being 7.2° colder.

While it’s hard to imagine us having a more improbable winter this season, after three wacky winters in a row, it’s only fair to wonder what to expect in the months ahead, specifically between Thanksgiving and the start of spring 2017.

Thus, as I always do this wonderful time of year, I present you my preliminary teleconnection grades for winter 2016-17...
ENSO – We start off by checking the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean where things have really cooled down since last winter. Note the decrease of red colors on the animation below:

After an unprecedented 2015-16 El Niño event, it’s impressive to see how much equatorial Pacific waters have cooled this summer. But perhaps what stands out more is the large warmer SST anomaly pool sandwiched between 10°N and 20°N.  Is this a leftover consequence of last year’s super El Niño? I tend to think ‘yes’; however, I expect more shades of blue to emerge in coming weeks on ENSO monitor maps as neutral conditions (typically defined by NOAA as sea surface temperature anomalies less than -0.5° C for the NINO 3.4 region of the east/central equatorial Pacific).

Worthy of note: As of September 8, 2016, CPC (Climate Prediction Center) has canceled the La Niña watch and has since not issued an ENSO alert system status. Remember last year at this time, confidence was unusually high concerning the impending super El Niño as evident by the El Niño advisory issued three months in advance.

This year, there’s no question Mother Nature has reshuffled her deck with “neutral” holding the slight advantage over La Niña for most likely ENSO outcome of winter 2016-17.

Before we continue, let’s recap our four primary ENSO regions (Niño 1+2, Niño 3, Niño 3.4 and Niño 4) as the magnitude of SST anomalies in these zones can influence winter weather outcomes. 

Overlapping SST anomalies over these regions, we find Niño 3.4 to contain the greater negative SST departures with minor departures in Niño 1+2. With the greatest concentration of negative SST anomalies in the central Pacific, could this be evidence of a La Niña modoki1 in the making? Perhaps. Either way, given the presence of above average anomalies in the low latitudes and a limited cooler pool along the equatorial Pacific, it’s fair to assume classic La Niña conditions will not be in play this winter given ENSO will likely remain locked in neutral through next spring.

My prediction: A return to “La [Nada]” (see 2013-14 & 2014-15 winters)
Grade: B
PDO/PNA – I’m linking these two telecoms together due to their interconnectedness in this setup. While ENSO and the AO/NAO hog the winter weather headlines this time of year, perhaps the most under-appreciated telecoms are the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and the PNA (Pacific North American).

For those keeping score at home, the PDO has been quite positive the past couple winters after spending the majority of the 90’s and 00’s in negative territory. With the new regime in its fourth years, odds are, the positive trend will continue, considering the PDO shifts in decadal oscillations, as opposed to the PNA, which operates on a more mesoscale level.

At any rate, the ramifications of an established +PDO/+PNA are huge for our part of the world as they can boost our snow chances, even when the Atlantic telecoms (like the AMO) are unfavorable.
Take the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15, for example, when a generous +PDO/+PNA combo and a  favorable Northern Pacific Mode helped offset the lack of Greenland/Arctic blocking, as well as the brisk nature of the long-wave pattern.

In both cases, western ridging fueled by positive SST anomaly pools in the northern Pacific promoted eastern troughing, including a few polar plunges into our neck of the woods. Yet, despite the arctic intrusions, the lack of Atlantic blocking ultimately kept the cold air in check by allowing it to propagate quickly off the east coast without much resistance.

Last year increased warming near the Gulf of Alaska and off the California coast (above average SST pools referred to as ‘blobs’) merged with heating equatorial Pacific waters to form an unprecedented super El Niño event, resulting in persistently mild conditions across much of the country.

This year, with ‘super’ out of the ENSO vocabulary, we note the potential of the north Pacific SST blob regaining greater control over ENSO and delivering more frequent cold shots to the eastern 2/3rd's of the conus. In other words, I expect winter 2016-17 to have more features in common with 2013-14 and/or 2014-15 than 2015-16.   

Yes, I know I missed the mark last year by underestimating the magnitude of the anomalous warmth in our area; however, I am confident if we are to see a second straight year of significant above average temperatures, it won’t be because the  +PDO isn’t doing its job. And yes, I realize the PDO is decreasing as we speak; however, I am projecting the PDO to stay weakly positive, perhaps leveling off at the neutral/positive borderline. We'll see.

Prediction: Decreasing positive PDO (decreasing +EPO; will this go -?) leveling off by DJF
Grade: B+ (B- if neutral by start of meteorological winter)
AMO – The AMO (Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation) is basically the cousin of the PDO with positive (warm) and negative (cool) phases occurring every couple decades or so. While the main drivers of the AMO aren’t entirely known, the thought is the AMO is a major influence on the behavior of northern blocking.

With a positive AMO, the tendency for blocking lessens as areas of low heights set up south of Greenland; contrarily, in a negative regime, high heights build in, which can ignite the blocking needed for cold and snowy weather in the east.

Although the transition between phases can occur rapidly, the direction of the AMO has trended in a negative direction, which means an enhanced chance of blocking this winter. Now, as we’ve learned the past few winters, you can experience a colder-than-normal winter without high latitude blocking; however, if anyone remembers the brutal winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11, northern blocking can trap cold shots over the same area for an extended period of time. If you prefer mild winters, then you’ll want to hope the AMO reverses course soon.

Given most seasonal models agree on the oscillation state in both Pacific and Atlantic, I don’t see any reason to contradict them here.

Prediction: Negative AMO to hold serve in 2016-17
Grade: A-
QBO – Like the PDO and AMO, the QBO (Quasi-Biennial Oscillation), the mean zonal winds of equatorial stratosphere, has a positive phase and a negative phase, with a positive phase favoring the progression of westerly winds and a negative phase favoring easterly winds. Since a -QBO typically weakens the polar vortex with easterly winds promoting a -NAO setup with high latitude blocking, it’s no surprise a -QBO is often linked to cold, snowier winters in the US.

Last year at this point, the QBO was trending positive, which lined up well with the developing strong El Niño.

This year, the QBO is trending negative, a favorable signal for those hoping for a cold, snowy winter since it triggers a decrease in westerly winds and helps weaken the polar vortex (i.e. promotes a more ‘mobile’ vortex and conditions suitable for cold air intrusions, especially when merged with a –NAO).

As some of you may recall, back in January 2014, a -QBO helped unleash the polar vortex southward into the Great Lakes region, which drove multiple arctic shots into in the eastern 2/3rd's of the conus, resulting in many states experiencing a "Top 10 coldest January".

Will this happen in 2016-17? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.  But while my expertise with respect to this telecom is limited, I will say I expect the QBO to fluctuate throughout the winter, especially if the developing La Niña remains in ‘weak’ territory.

Prediction: QBO flips, becomes factor in mid-winter pattern change
Grade: A-
AO/NAO – I know I said I wouldn't dive heavily into definitions, but due to the importance of the AO/NAO with respect to winter weather forecasting, I'll make an exception. Just to review, the NAO, as defined by NOAA, is defined as a “large-scale fluctuation in atmospheric pressure between the subtropical high pressure system located near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean and the sub-polar low pressure system near Iceland...where the surface pressure drives surface winds and wintertime storms from west to east across the North Atlantic affecting climate from New England to western Europe as far eastward as central Siberia and eastern Mediterranean and southward to West Africa.”

In large part, the NAO is tethered to the AO, “a pattern in which atmospheric pressure at polar and middle latitudes fluctuates between negative and positive phases. The negative phase brings higher-than-normal pressure over the polar region and lower-than-normal pressure at about 45 degrees north latitude. The negative phase allows cold air to plunge into the Midwestern United States and Western Europe [often helped by some measure of high latitude blocking], and storms bring rain to the Mediterranean. The positive phase brings the opposite conditions, steering ocean storms farther north and bringing wetter weather to Alaska, Scotland and Scandinavia and drier conditions to areas such as California, Spain and the Middle East.”

So how does this apply to the upcoming winter? Honestly, we won’t really know until November. ‘Cause generally speaking, while AO/NAO trends are beneficial when determining temperature pattern potential in the 8-14 day range, forecasters can only know how the AO/NAO will behave a few weeks in advance.

Still, my gut suggests we’ll have longer periods of mid-latitude blocking than last year, just not sustained blocking like we saw during the 2010-11 winter. If we do see a –NAO setup, we may see it occur during winter’s first half before flipping positive in February, but honestly, there’s not much skill in trying to ballpark the AO/NAO this far out.

I will say I am curious to see if the northern Atlantic SST’s stay warmer than average heading into the winter. In general, colder SST anomalies in this region favor an enhanced longitudinal temperature gradient, a stronger jet stream, and +NAO; however, with warmer SST’s, opposite conditions tend to abound. Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to monitor this piece of the forecast as we inch closer to December.

Prediction: East based slightly +NAO on average (with longer -NAO episodes in December/January)
Grade: C+
The Intangibles (Polar snow pack, solar activity, MJO, TNH, etc.)

As far as intangibles go, I’m not sure what to think about the experts who suggest post- El Niño warmth will dominate the winter months. What I will say for now is, as usual, I’ll be carefully monitoring the October Siberian snowpack to see if it maintains an above-average course. While Siberian snowpack isn’t a primary driver of winter weather in the US, it can enhance the intensity of any arctic air that decides to move our way (Think of it as a cool filter when air masses interact with the landmass).

Concerning solar activity, there’s still evidence of a decline this winter; however, this doesn’t mean a flare is out of the question. Granted, I don't have much knowledge in the area of solar activity forecasting. Yet, with below normal solar activity on the docket, I'm not concerned about a brief spike affecting the trajectory of the upcoming winter weather pattern as a whole. Again, we simply note trends and see how they correlate to the present state of other telecoms, such as the easterly QBO’s mergence with a potentially -NAO.

Another enhancer I forgot to note last year, but will feature this year is the MJO (the Madden-Julian Oscillation), a mode of atmospheric variability marked by the behavior of convection and Rossby wave propagation from Indian to Pacific oceans. While precipitation anomalies on the opposite side of the globe may seem like a non-factor, meteorologists now have a better understanding of the correlation between Kelvin waves and areas of up/downwelling, which as mentioned earlier, are indicative of where negative and positive SST anomalies setup. And since Pacific and north/west Atlantic SST anomalies, in addition to AO development/high latitude blocking, are fundamental drivers in establishing a given winter weather pattern, you can bet there’s good reason meteorologists pay attention to the MJO this time of year.

Real quick, let me say a few things about the TNH pattern. After one of the strongest +TNH patterns on record helping to magnify the arctic outbreaks of 2013-14, the TNH was basically a non-factor last winter; however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it return as a prominent feature this winter. Remember earlier when I mentioned how a +PNA helps promote ridging in the west, troughing in the east?  Well, with a +TNH, the axis of ridges and troughs shifts westward, which results in a ridge peak in the eastern Pacific (not the west coast), a mean trough over the plains/Midwest (not the east), and a parked southeast ridge east of Florida (which keeps the southeast rather mild). While it’s impossible to forecast amplitudes and placement of troughs this far out, I will say it’s quite possible we see some textbook +TNH this winter in regions that saw the greatest plus temperature departments last winter.

All that to say, with La Nada in play as well as the high latitude blocking potential (thanks to noticeably warmer north Atlantic SST’s and –NAO potential), I believe we’ll see enough in the way of favorable ridge/trough axises set up for middle Tennessee (especially west/northwest/middle) to capitalize on some midwinter snow.

Prediction: Stronger MJO activity camping out in mild phases (i.e. 4-6) ~50-60% of time; limited effects from southeast ridging; minor benefits from favorable solar/snowpack activity
Grade: B-
First Call: In light of my analysis above, I believe this winter will go down as the fourth coldest and sixth snowiest since 2000, with Nashville seeing more “pure” snow opportunities than last winter (hopefully less ice…fingers crossed); however, as we’ve seen in recent winters, hope must be tempered given each storm is unique and carries the potential to whiff at the last minute.
Still, I'm still confident we'll see our fair share of cold and snow this winter, given the decent blocking potential and an amplified longwave pattern driven by warmer than average central/eastern Pacific +northern Atlantic waters.

For a month-by-month breakdown, please check out my YouTube winter weatherforecast video.
Overall Grade: B

1)    “Modoki” meaning anomalies in the central Pacific that have not engaged the class Peruvian upwelling regions, which in turn, limit the trade winds’ effect on SST anomalies; see winters 1998-99, 2008-09, 2010-11
  • National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Climatic Data Center
  • Climate Prediction Center
  • Bureau of Meteorology Research Division 
  • Oregon State Climate Office 
  • North Carolina State Climate Office
  • James Spann, ABC 33/40
  • Chris Bailey, WKYT
  • AmericanWx Forum
  • DT WxRisk
Cover photo creds: deviantart.net

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dissecting Divorce: 3 Truths on Breaking Covenant

So today…I’m going to tackle a new subject after an impromptu discussion on it Wednesday night during youth group.

The subject? Divorce.
Duh, duh, duhhh…

Now, before you panic and exit [p]age left, let me offer a few disclaimers:

1By no means do I consider myself a marriage counseling expert; I’m simply a youth pastor who knows what a happy marriage tastes like and what the Word says about it.

2) By no means do I want to come across as insensitive to what some readers may be going through. So please understand it’s my earnest desire to broach this post with utmost humility.

‘Cause truth is: there’s much for me to learn on the matter; however, I hope the little I do know can be effective, insightful and…dare I say enlightening.

With that said, as many of us are aware: divorce is both a relevant and prevalent issue in society today. And as a pastor of students, a quarter of whom are struggling/have struggled with divorce in the family, it’s an especial concern. Yes, I know it can be "taboo" to talk about divorce outside of closed doors (trust me…I balked initially at writing this); then again, I’m not one to feel ashamed of affirming God’s purposes. After all, how can the truth speak if it’s not heard?


Moving on…if someone came up to you and asked why divorce is such an epidemic…what would you say?
  • Financial stress?
  • Unmet expectations?
  • Lost sense of meaning/identity? 
I mean…if you were to start there, I’d certainly see why.

But I guess for me…I’d have to start with man’s dissatisfaction with what God has appointed him (i.e. everything we need for goodness/godliness, which for many of us, includes marriage at some point in our lives)...and his satisfaction in making conditional aspects of God’s nature we’re called to emulate.

To put it simply: I believe we, as a culture, have long lost sight of what covenant is. Even in the church, many have bought into the idea marriage is more about compatibility than companionship. Granted, there’s nothing wrong about compatibility. I just think if we’re quick to [ab]use a perceived lack of it as a means to separate ‘lifetime’ from ‘commitment’, then we’re flirting with unholy prioritization1.

Still, for those who’ve ever waked through marital turbulence, you know the tension is an entirely different animal in it than outside it. Thus, how we cope when the temptation to divorce knocks and how we encourage those holding onto their marriage for dear life are worthy discussions.

But before we dive in, we must first consider what God thinks...which leads me to my first truth:

1) God absolutely hates divorce.

Consider Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.”

Pretty strong language, right? Then again, this makes perfect sense. After all, God is love and by nature contests his antithesis. Whatever the case, whenever we hear 'God' and ‘hate’ in the same sentence, it should arrest our attention, especially since fearing God means to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

2) God's intends our vows to be unbreakable.

Consider Proverbs 20:25:“It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows.”

After further review, I think it’s fair to say many of us don’t always weigh the weighty obligations of life before committing to them...and I submit part of the reason is our penchant to sub in our [largely subjective] conviction for God’s [absolute] conviction.

The crux here is: if we know the love/fallenness combo platter is a messy one, why then do we only consider the consecration of our vows after-the-fact when truth is: a) God has given us the commitment blueprint outline2 (i.e. consider your ways first and then hold true to them second) and b)  God's faithfulness and good intentions never waver. 


Note: For some of you reading this, it’s not a matter of not considering your vows first before making them as much as it is you’ve grown numb to the magnitude of them. If that’s the case, then I encourage you: ask the Lord for fresh love for your spouse. Again, since God is love, the receiving is only contingent on your choice to accept it. Even the strongest couples in the world reach points when they must ask God for renewed devotion/passion for each other.

3) Apart from certain exceptions, divorce isn't an option3.

Consider Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9.

“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Note how both passages raise up an exception clause (i.e. “marital unfaithfulness”) and subsequently the million-dollar question: Is it okay to divorce under the grounds of sexual immorality? Well, given such sin is an egregious breaking of marital covenant, I’d have to say ‘yes’; however, we must remember...

1) God is a God of grace who makes walking in repentance and restoration possible…
2) In God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as “irreconcilable differences”…
3) A one-time act of sexual immorality versus a pattern of sexual immorality are two [very] different things…
4) In the same way we’re called to be slow to anger, we must be [very] slow to divorce (hence the word “quickly” in Ecclesiastes 4:12). Regardless of the situation, divorce must be seen as a "no resort" before it's treated as a "last resort"...
5) Achieving reconciliation is only possible if it’s pursued first; if the pursuit is one-sided, pray, seek counsel…and pray some more. Even if you feel alone, don't ever underestimate the power of prayer...
6) Requesting help isn’t a sign of weakness…
7) As long as two people are married, they’re called to multiple a godly legacy. Sure, it may not be easy, but couples who fight the good fight together in sun and storm not only are more likely to stick together, but are more likely to inspire other couples to do the same.

But Cam, what about couples mired in verbal/physical/child abuse? 

In these situations, I contend some form of separation is often a smart move if one side is unwilling to cooperate; however, if the abuser is willing to receive help, then it’s best both spouses walk in reconciliation hand-in-hand. ‘Cause again, the main objective is finding freedom from sin/strongholds together. Yes, be Spirit-led in setting boundaries and expectations; yes, do what’s best to preserve health and safety. Just remember to do these things a) trusting/relying on God every step of the way and b) resisting the urge to make self-preservation your default response to fear.

Anywho, I could say more, but given I’ve breached the 1,000 word barrier, I’m going to peace out and leave some questions for thought (see below). As always, feel free to comment or shoot a PM my way if any of this hits home. 

‘Til then…have a blessed weekend and I’ll catch ya on the fry…

~ Cameron

Reflection Questions
  • What’s been your experience with divorce?
  • Why do you think so many couples split?
  • How has your concept of covenant changed after reading this?
  • What truths do you abide by when it comes to being faithful in relationships (to friends, spouse, etc.)?What would you say is the best way to save a marriage? What are the absolute ‘musts’ when it comes to reconciliation? 

1) Which in general hurts Christian community in many other ways…more on this in future posts…
2Note: By ‘hold true’, I’m including prayer, verbal/behavioral expressions of commitment, setting goals, choosing joy, and integrating accountability into the mix.
3) i.e. There are no valid grounds for divorce.

Photo creds: theodysseyonline.com 
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rethinking Community: 3 Truths on What It Is & What It's Not

I’ll be honest: sometimes, I don’t [fully] understand “community”.

I mean…I know we were made for it. I know God ultimately is it.

But I guess I just don’t know how to [entirely] live it the way we were intended.

Granted my perspective is a tad crusty…dare I say, cynical…on account of more friends fading away in recent years, not to mention the demographical disadvantages in places where connection should be happening.

But skepticism aside, I do wonder if part of the confusion is tied to the increasingly blurred line between perceived “community” and proximity.

For instance, with proximity, you’re generally around people who are apathetic in knowing you (classic ‘don’t know, don’t care’). I see this at my work all the time. If you’re ‘different’1 , then people are indifferent. As a result, cliquey cultures abound and those on the outskirts are treated as outcasts.

Contrarily, with community, you’re around people who are, at least, open to the idea of actively seeking relationship/koinonia. I see this at my church most the time. If a new person walks in the door, he/she’s not only taken in, but intimately walked with until they’re communally integrated (or at least have a clearer understanding on direction).

So however we define the contrast, it’s fair to say proximity and community are nowhere close to synonymous.

But perhaps you’re like me considering your depression/discouragement…trying to make sense of why so many people are content in being proximal, but not close.

If that’s you, understand I can’t speak for everyone, but based on what I do know…

1) If we desire community, then it must be a priority in our lives.

There’s no such thing as ‘secondhand’ community. Either you’re relationally intentional or you’re not.

2) Community isn’t just a good idea, it’s also one of the greatest mandates we’re given in Scripture.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts…” ~ Acts 2:42-47

So random question: How many of you like chocolate milk? I imagine most of you. Well, as you likely know then, chocolate milk isn’t really chocolate milk unless the chocolate is stirred in. Have you ever tasted unstirred chocolate milk? No bueno, right? Basically just milk with a subtle hint of cocoa residue.

With that said, think of community like a cold glass of chocolate milk2. If we don’t allow the Spirit to stir us through genuine relationship, if we’re so easily satisfied by fenced-off fellowship, then the flavor of whatever community we’re experiencing is going to be compromised. Therefore, I submit if we truly want to live out Hebrews 10, we must be willing to allow the Spirit to stir us up so people can taste the sweetness of God's presence through our interaction.

3) Like proximity, community and cliques aren’t compatible.

My thought here is: if there are walls or barbed wires involved, it’s not real community. Sure, there can be camaraderie behind closed doors, but when we talk about authentic community, it can only be experienced by a group of people who are open to love and encourage anyone and everyone. Thus, if we’re content on not loving past our current relational defaults, then our community is nothing more than a shadow of what God intended. 

Of course, there’s much more I could say about community, but for now, I’ll park it here…just because I can’t help but feel many out there are feeling battered and bruised not only by what they’re experiencing in social circles, but what they should be experiencing. I know for me, I’ve found myself in this boat in recent years.

Yet, it’s in the moments I’m wrestling with community when I’m reminded to allow the Holy Spirit to stir me up with a desire to love and encourage anyone and everyone with the good news that Jesus is not only near, but eager in wanting to abide with us.

So when you feel shut out, ask the Lord to open you up. ‘Cause truth is: Love is not contingent on inclusion (given inclusion implies boundaries), but is calibrated by humility seeking the interest of others, making brotherly affection evident, contributing to the needs of the saints, all the while proclaiming the excellencies of him who ordained the beauty of fellowship to begin with (Philippians 2:4 + Romans 12:10 + 1 Peter 2:9).


1) By ‘different’, I mean anything from calling and character profile to age and race

2) Props to Steve Garrett for the inspiration given during the August 28 Pursuit Service @ The Gate Community Church

Photo Creds: a2ua.com

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

LEGACYouth Special: Savor the Labor

Sunday Messages Notes - September 4, 2016

Well, guys, tomorrow is the first Monday of September and you know what that means...


A time when white clothes go out, sales come in, summer holidays are over, and classes begin (at least for our west coast friends ;) For most, it’s a welcome day off of work or school, ahead of what is likely to be a busier month than the last.

Yet, while we recognize Labor Day as an annual holiday courtesy of the labor movement, dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, for many it's still a mystery why we celebrate it.

Let's see if we figure anything out from these clips...

So based on these clips (and a little side research), we celebrate Labor Day to honor those who strove for fair compensation, safe working conditions, a valued labor force protected from exploitation...and the weekend.

But perhaps you're still , 'How does this apply to me as a Christian?'

For starters, I submit we honor Labor Day similarly to how we honor the Sabbath - esteeming the fact God has blessed us both with work and with rest

You see...during the core of the Industrial period in our nation's history, work was strongly emphasized to a fault as there wasn't a fair system of checks and balances in play. But eventually, there was an uprising from those who understood work as being better executed with boundaries/strategic rest in play.

So when I think about how this pertains to us as believers, I can't help but consider these verses...

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation~ Gen. 2:2-3

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. ~ Psalm 74:12

You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. ~  Psalm 77:14

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. ~ Psalm 90:17

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… Col. 3:23

Note when we survey the common denominators of these passages, we find...
  • Work and rest are both best understood as God-established institutions (as evident in Creation) operating in tandem with each other.
  • Honest hard work is something God seeks from all of us.
  • God's Word tells us that working hard, with faith and rest in mind, can lead to the great things he has planned for us.
Perhaps you think this doesn't apply to you because you're young...

But I encourage you: as students...

1) Don't underestimate the call you have to expand your understanding. Rather than view learningas a necessary evil, dare to view study as work and rest unto the Lord (knowing you can discover more of him through both).

2) Dare to be a laborer of Christ.

What is a laborer of Christ?

It's being an ambassador of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) who not only pursues understanding...but seeks to make that understanding known to the world (see Great Commission), who applies balances and boundaries to work and rest, all the while seeking God's approval above anyone else's.2

So again, when it comes to why we celebrate Labor Day and how we're to perceive it as believers, know we're not just celebrating a day off from school/work, but also the opportunity we have to rejoice in what God has done, to partner in what he is doing, and to bless him through faithful effort in reaching people (i.e. tending the harvest).  

How awesome it is knowing we can savor the labor and help lead people to the God whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).



1) If think about it, the opportunity to grow in study is a HUGE blessing from God.
2) Note: If the aim of your effort is rooted in self/other's approval, you won't find the satisfaction you crave (as the A+, the compliment becomes the reward in and of itself). After all, God has something special to those who pursue him with a pure heart and a steadfast spirit. 


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Friday, August 26, 2016

August Rush: Cruisin' with the Musin'

A few journal excerpts from the past few weeks...

August 16 

So during my workout today, I was thinkin'...

We live in the past so the past won't repeat itself. The problem is through the self-preservation we prevent ourselves not only from believing we can change/have changed, but that we can live the change among what God has entrusted us with. In many situations, we elevate our fear of the past repeating itself over our desire for/pursuit of community. Yet, what sense does it make to idolize a sin and its consequences, especially at the cost of something God-ordained...something that was meant to be near and dear to our hearts? Are we not then abiding in an infinite loop, recycling our fear of anything and everything apart from God?

I think for many of us the step of faith we need to take in this season is two-fold:

Yes, we need to be more intentional in ministering life to anyone God puts in our path, but we also need to be willing to lose ourselves as we receive from Christian community. Don't hide behind a give-only approach or worse, through withdrawal. If you want to be the change you desire, it can only happen in the context of community. Don't focus on people who've moved on or slammed the door in your face. Instead, focus on how God wants to grow you as he guides you to relational wellsprings of life. After all, He's given us every reason to trust in His faithfulness.


August 25

The other day I was pondering the struggle in relating to those (in close proximity) who keep us outside their arena of care. And as the musing unfolded, I couldn’t help but wonder if what really bothers us in these situations has more to do with the absence of good than the presence of ‘no good'.

For starters, we are called to “not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). But perhaps you’re like me having wondered, ‘What do I do when I feel attacked more by a lack of good than an act of evil?’

To be honest, I’m no expert on the matter; however, I do believe it’s worth discussion given so many people are longing to apply hope in places where their souls are being sucked dry. Granted, there’s much in this life we can’t control; however, this doesn’t mean how we control what we can is justified. 

For instance, I think for many of us, we have adapted to doing whatever is necessary to keep our heads above water. We’ll scrap, we’ll claw…basically whatever we have to do to feel alive and appreciated.

The problem is when we live this way, we ultimately deprive ourselves of the strength we need to be the change we crave. As a result, we grow hollow by way of prioritizing our need to ‘get by’ over our need to ‘get filled’ by what only God can provide.

Thus, I submit the only way we can troubleshoot the issue…the only way we can triumph through adversity is to sync with God’s love with the intention of blessing anyone with it. And by ‘anyone’, I don’t mean your inner core, those you feel comfortable with, those you agree with, etc. Contrarily, I’m talking about those outside your inner core, those you don’t click with, even your enemies and those content in not giving you any indication your life matters.

See…I think far too often, we want to feel right about the life we’re living; hence, why many, including Christians, manufacture boundaries for their “good deeds”. Of course, when we realize this goes on all around us all the time, it makes perfect sense why voids of goodness and godliness exist. 

My advice: Don’t give in to the voids! Rather stand strong, let God fix/adjust your boundaries, and allow Christ to dictate your thoughts, attitudes, and actions. For when we do this, we position ourselves to be empowered by God’s Spirit (as opposed to what can’t be control)…and to be unconditional in pointing people to perfect love and truth.

So if you feel far from victory today, know full well God wants to be your champion. Even if you feel surrounded by ‘no good’, there’s always a ‘good’ to fall back on.

And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating with the 'anyone's' God puts in our path.

Photo creds: fineartamerica.com

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