Friday, February 17, 2017

LEGACYouth Special: Distress & Declare

Inspired by John Piper's John 3:30 series
What does it mean to 'distress'?

When we drill down in Hebrew and in Scripture, we find ‘to distress’ is to be tightly bound (Hebrew – “metsar”) in godly sorrow particularly to those being persecuted in Jesus' name. So it's important we note ‘distress’ not only as an emotional reaction, but a call to action...a means to proactively extend the hope of the Gospel.

Sometimes, we think: Well, the Bible says, 'Blessed are the persecuted for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven'...so what' s the point of feeling sorrow if they have a guaranteed reward? To me, this comes down to how we perceive sorrow in the context of distress. When we ponder the Beatitude, Jesus is not suggesting the persecuted don't need support. Rather, he's saying blessed are those who have the Kingdom of Heaven to bring to the dark and desolate places...who've been given the call to set people free from the prison of sin at the cost of being thrown in one themselves. Thus, we can deduce not only is there is a reward in heaven to those who bear the Gospel and are persecuted for Christ's name sake, but to those who commit themselves to distress on their behalf.

Perhaps you're sittin' there thinking this particular 'D' is one big 'Catch 22'. While I don't blame you if you think this, truth is: the Bible says the more we approach the end times, the more persecution there will be; however, with more persecution comes more opportunities to increase in distress, more specifically, to remember in sorrow, to wrestle in anguish, and to pray unceasingly for suffering saints. That, to me, is what 'distress' is all about: it’s not just lamentation; it’s determination.





What does it mean to 'declare'?

First off, it’s interesting this ‘D’ has an opening ‘decrease’ in its statement. You’d think ‘distress’ would have the ‘decrease’ with ‘declare’ having the ‘increase’; however, when we talk about declaring as God intends, it’s important we create room for boldness first – an idea the early Christians understood well in their approach to community and evangelism. While God’s grace is certainly more than the sum of our weakness, in most cases, the more fear we bear, the less boldness we declare. On the flip side, when we increase in boldness, we also increase as effective communicators of the Gospel.

Note how in Acts 28, declare is emphasized both in a proclaiming context, but also in a teaching and hospitality context. This not only reminds me how the Spirit gives different gifts for the sake of helping one another (1 Cor. 12), but also why our motto is “your life speaks” as it ties into our lives are always worshipping and declaring something as God intended. What we believe and how we live it? Again, we have that free will. All I know is that I want my free will to free others by His will. I don’t want to tolerate fear and be complacent towards boldness. I don’t want to risk my ‘distress’ being compromised with subjective faith and blinded eyes as opposed to objective faith with Christ as the prize. You following me?

My encouragement to you: use ‘distress’ to broaden your prayer horizon, then use ‘declare’ to speak into that horizon. At the same time, don’t forget to dis-stress and to surrender your fears allowing God to free you as you free others. Remember if we’re trying to advance the ball down the field, we must be willing to put our faith in motion.'

Down. Set. Hut.



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Monday, February 6, 2017

Fermented Goodness: The Truth Behind Genuine Kindness

So today, I stop by my favorite hole-in-the-wall sub shop to get my favorite hole-in-the-wall sandwich only to find my order is completely ready to go BEFORE I request it. At first, I'm confused thinking the bagged contents I'm receiving belong to someone else. But after an initial balk, the lady behind the cashier assures me, 'No, no. It's for you. I saw you through the window before you came in the door.'

As wink provoked smirk, I couldn't help but ponder the moment as I walked out. If we want to mature in our kindness, it's worth noting as spontaneous as it may occasionally seem, true generosity/compassion not only recognizes the needs of others, but anticipates the needs of others...pointing people in the direction of God who knows what we need even before we ask for it.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." ~ Matthew 6:7-8 (ESV)

Digging deeper, when we consider how kindness is addressed in Paul's letters, we can deduce inspiration from its Greek etymology, which in this case means 'choice, aged wine'.

Check out Ephesians 2:4-7...

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Note the extravagant language Paul uses to color mercy and grace in the context of kindness rooted in Christ. Basically, Paul is saying kindness...

a) as fermented goodness must be a constant rhythm in our life that gets better the more we engage it and...
b) as an extension of love must also stir up a desire for giver and receiver to go and do likewise.

Pretty cool, eh?

So next time you're tempted to view benevolence as a random act of kindness, dare instead to see it as partnering in Christ's ministry of knowing what others need before they can ask for it. Not only will such perspective help you better anticipate the needs of others, but it'll also enlarge your capacity to show the immeasurable riches of grace as you serve in love.

Selah.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Burn the Boats: The Secret to Letting Go



Have you ever been sucker punched in the gut when you’ve least expected…like a ship with the wind knocked out of its sails?

If so, then know that’s where I am as I write this. But before I continue, let me just say this is not going to be a shared post so if you’re reading this, then a) pardon the processing and b) you’re not here by accident.

That said, I think it’s important we come to terms with a key reality of life: as fallen people, we carry fallen perspective…and as much as we’d like everyone to appreciate us, truth is: that’s never going to happen.

Sure, we’d like to assume people of similar belief and faith would be immune. Sure, we’d hope people who receive grace would certainly extend it. But at the end of the day, unless we’re deliberate in responding to conviction, chances are we’ll believe whatever we please to feel like a triumphant hero vindicated against our greatest disappointment.

And I know it’s unfortunate…the idea someone, especially one who meant a lot at one point, could be so content to preserve you in the worst light…to judge you through a rusty pinhole1. But at some point we have to accept the fact in this life we’re going to be someone’s enemy no matter how much we change, no matter how well our intentions are to reconcile. Why? ‘Cause more often than not, people are going to reject what they should accept on account they want to remain a victimized protagonist cozy in their own comfort or buried underneath their shame.

Now I admit: I’m not the best at interpreting the unspoken rules of interpersonal communication. Many times I’ve gotten in trouble by believing and hoping for the best, forgetting to be human is to believe it’s too late, it’s not worth it, there’s no way…I could go on.

*Sigh*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: we may sincerely desire something good, something along the lines of Philippians 4:8-9; however, just because our hope may be pure in intention doesn’t mean it will be felt or received the way it should from one person to the next. So if you ever land on a higher plane of thought, don’t stress if you’re the only one who’s benefiting. Just surrender all trust to God who works his will outside our terms and timeline.

Bottom line: If you ever encounter someone who refuses the honor of meeting you on the viaduct of reconciliation2, don’t just burn the bridge, burn the boats as well. Sure, setting a torch to broken dreams and expectations may hurt at first; however, if you’re willing to lay the watered rag down and be at peace knowing you were ready, you can rejoice when people shun your humility…you can find rest when people label you as nothing more than a sorry footnote in their life…and you can find victory knowing their flawed opinion doesn’t define or disqualify you.

All you have to do is let go (of the good) and let God (take hold of the better). Again, not saying the transaction won’t feel awkward at first, but I guarantee you, the more you embrace this as a rhythmic reality, the stronger you allow yourself to become.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, know the best is yet to come…and you will get there.

Don’t look back now.
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Footnotes

1) Or outdated filter…take your pick
2) Speaking more so from a forgiveness standpoint than relational restoration

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Purifying the Soapbox: A Note to My Nation


I admit: I’m not the most politically savvy person in the world.


I don’t binge on Fox News, I don’t stalk Twitter feeds, I don’t anatomize GOP columns, and barring an iPhone hijacking, I don’t have a national monument set as my wallpaper; like many, I’m simply an average-Joe partisan trying to surf the media wave without wiping out.


Not to suggest I’m apathetic to recent presidential headlines; I guess I'm just burnt out with all the press-driven drama and negativity surrounding Trump and his inauguration.





Perhaps you’re sittin' there taking in all the buzz feed wondering why we as a culture take justice so personally when we were meant to make it corporately...why we say we want fairness, equality, and representation, when what we really want is our voice being exalted heard. 


If so, I submit there's a pathway non-contingent on entitled opinion bordering on grumbling, complaining, and defamation.


But before we can discuss the straight and narrow, we must first understand though what we believe matters, if we only address governing issues as individuals as opposed to a community...as one nation under God, then ultimately all we’re doing is splitting the curtain between social justice and unity. Thus, how we shape and share our voice regarding authority in a time when self-expression is constantly at our fingertips is worth discussion.


Now I'll be honest: while I agree with some of Trump’s moral political stances, there are plenty of policies and idiosyncrasies I disagree with. Still, it’s because I know what I stand for1 that keeps me on my knees for both president and country. Sure, my beliefs may not completely line up, but as I learned through the Obama administration, if I'm not grateful for the opportunity to sharpen my heart posture, then from a spiritual perspective, I'm taking my freedom for granted.


And for those who think Trump is making America hate again, ask yourself this: with so many weapons in the world already, what sense does it make to add our voice to the list? Sure, we may not agree on every issue, but we can certainly be unified in our attitude towards authority in a way that promotes  hope, accountability, and righteous activism over prejudice and jaundiced judgment, right?


All I know is: whether or not Trump can bring the 80's back, as far as what I choose my attitude to be, I’m content to root for Trump these next four years in the same way I learned to do so for Obama.


After all, if we really want to see America great again, it's not going to happen unless we abide in why we're called the "United" States of America.

Selah.

Footnotes


1) And stand on...


Photo creds: Rolling Stone, eTalk

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

LEGACYouth Special: The "Fast" Track

Recently, I had a conviction: I may be leading youth to truth, but am I leading them to awe of who God is? I may be giving factual, credible evidence as to why reading the Word, praying, to having quiet time with God will benefit your relationship with God, but am I passionately modeling a life prostrate before him?

As I considered the answers to these questions, I couldn't help but return to what we’ve been discussing this month on spiritual hunger. But before I continue, let me just say there are a lot of personal definitions of spiritual hunger out there. While many do a great job of capturing the beauty of desire, not as many capture how blessed we are to confront and rise above our depravity. Why? I’m not sure. All I know is that a genuine hunger for God cannot be separated from a purified fear of him (i.e. loving what God loves, hating what God hates) which, in turn, cannot be separated from how we were divinely created. Oh, how awesome it is knowing we were made to spiritually crave our Creator. It is indeed a wonder in and of itself.

Now, as mentioned two weeks ago, when we spiritually hunger, it means our appetite is centered on God and his righteousness (see fourth Beatitude). While an awareness of our sin is often enhanced to the extent we pursue God, so is an awareness of how we walk in freedom from it. So it’s worth noting how hunger’s design for fallen man is to, in part, help him receive grace as he ‘goes and sin no more’.

Still, when it comes to righteousness, there are many full of complacency with respect to it and many full of distraction surrounding it (see parable of the ten virgins). For others, they are full of their own righteousness (self-righteousness - a deception that says, ‘I’m not hungry…I’m not thirsty’ when deep down you are those things).

Yet, with spiritual hunger, we can be consumed by God’s love, we can enjoy a hearty appetite for more of him (his goodness and godliness), and we can delight in learning the right time for anything and everything. Why? Because again…spiritual hunger leads us to places where the light can come on in our heart. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be an on fire, illuminated believer of truth than one who’s content on being faint, who has to pretend to come across as more hopeless than he actually is.

Seriously guys, I want to lit for Jesus! And you can quote me on that, tweet it out, put it on a t-shirt…whatever. I want to be lit for my maker...to be more in awe of him than I already am. Yeah, I know it may be easy to feel intimated whenever you sense this welling up within you, but I'm here to tell you today there is no shame or condemnation in confessing you need more of Jesus because every day we live we need more of Jesus. It's how and why we were made!

Still, some of you may be sittin’ there feeling down. Ah, but Cam, my hunger after righteousness is so weak; I don’t think it’s legit.

My answer:  Even if a pulse is weak, it shows there is still life. So if one’s spiritual hunger is also weak, it should not be ignored. Why? Because unlike a Bethlehem Motel 6 on the night of Christ’s birth, there’s room waiting to be filled…for space to be occupied…an opportunity for that weak pulse to get stronger.

Thus, I submit if you’re empty in any form right now, that’s a good place to be ‘cause that means God has something to pour into you; however, at the end of the day, you still gotta make the call if and how much you accept from him.

Think of it this way: if God is a God of mercy, if he’s truly able to put up with our crap on a daily basis, why not turn it all over to him? If he can take it, if he can handle it, why disallow him to do that which only he can do? If you're sitting here today wanting to be more in awe of Christ and point people in that direction, does it not make sense to trust the fact our God is a good, good Father who will always provide for us even in the times we’re lost, parched, and desperate for living water (see 6:30 in clip below)?

For some of you, you may have empty containers this morning. For others, you may have dirty ones not only in need of filling, but cleaning as well. Still for some, you may be overflowing and thus have more to give. Wherever you find yourself, I want to encourage you as we enter in this time of fasting as a church.

No matter how full or how empty you are, God wants to reveal more of his awesomeness to you in this season. He wants to fill you with awe as deep cries out to deep. He wants to empower and encourage you to know his fullest even if you’re hesitant, if you doubt you can handle it.

Remember: it’s not about you being able to handle it, but relying on God to expand the tent pegs of your appetite. So as you fast this week, you may hunger physically (or emotionally), but know in those moments, God is giving you an opportunity to know him deeper still. So whatever you choose to sacrifice, know it infinitely pales to the joy of discovering the one who made the ultimate sacrifice. That, my friends, is what spiritual hunger is all about.
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pursuing the Pylon: Why Good Goals Start at 1st & 10

Have you ever wondered why it’s easier to set goals than it is to reach them? Why it’s less difficult making resolutions than being resolute about them?

If so, then congratulations; not only is self-improvement important to you, but you understand the value in pursuing 'next level' goals as opposed to run-of-the-mill resolutions.

Granted, this doesn’t automatically simplify the walk-it-out process.

Yet, as discussed during last weekend’s LEGACYouth leadership retreat, when we talk about refining our aim, the hardest part isn't so much listing our goals; it's living them out in full together1. So how we grow as target-trainers and develop as goal-keepers in the context of community is worth discussion.

For starters, we must understand the difference and progression among plans, steps, and goals. In terms of pathway, before a goal can be achieved, it must be realized through a plan and executed by its steps (plans -> steps -> goals). A quick drill-down on Proverbs 16:9 confirms this: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Framing this in the context of goal-setting, we find…
  1. A goal without a plan is unachievable…
  2. A plan without steps is unbelievable …
  3. A step without the Lord’s establishment is inconceivable…
  4. As a result, a goal cannot be fully accomplished if God is not allowed to do that which only he can do.
Fair enough. Still for many, while identifying goals comes naturally, it’s important we allow God establish his steps individually and corporately in every walk and pursuit of life.

‘Cause truth is: the biggest reason goals fail isn’t a matter of not trying, but of not relying.

As crazy as it sounds, God may not always give us clear game-plans; in fact, there will be times his strats2 seem incomplete as his grace keeps us in the dark; however, if we’re faithful to seek him at all costs, he will surely give us clear, complete, and concise understanding as to the next steps we’re to take (Job 32:8, 2 Timothy 2:7, Psalm 119:100, Psalm 119:130, James 1:5). All we have to do is journey in trust (i.e. depend on what he’s called us to and abide in it with joyful obedience) knowing to the extent we lean on God to that extent we’re supported in rest (see application of Hebrew word “shaan” in Genesis 18:4, 2 Chronicles 13:18, 2 Chronicles 14:11).

Will the road be tough at times? Absolutely. Will the light at the end of the tunnel seem dim on occasion? Of course. Again, I’m not saying leaning on God is always going to make sense; however, I am saying if we truly desire to hit the bullseye of our goals and for God to establish the bridge between them and our plans, relying on God is the best approach.

Think of this way: If living our goals is a game of football, then the process is like a quarterback advancing the ball down the field. For the offense, the ultimate goal is to score a touchdown; however, in the heat of the moment, the team isn’t as focused on six points as it is keeping the drive alive…in going for the first down. Can any one play produce a touchdown? Absolutely. But to the quarterback, the objective isn’t so much to score on one throw as it to anticipate the defense and execute on a play-to-play basis in hope to renew a fresh set of downs. So if we apply the goal pathway as mentioned above, we can see how…
  1. The goal is to score a touchdown.
  2. The plan is the offense scheme employed by the coach and driven by the quarterback.
  3. The steps are the single plays of the drive seeking to sustain momentum through the first down.
Thus, I submit if we want to mature our goal-setting into goal-keeping, better to go for the first down until the time comes to go for the touchdown. See the difference?



My encouragement to you, friends, is to remember since plans represent the steps needed to achieve the goals God has placed in your heart, they’re ultimately appointed to Christ. So whatever you commit to, stay ready to surrender, ask the Lord to fill you with his vision…to align his priorities within you, and then follow through by staying tethered to trust.

Cam out.

Footnotes

  1. Or living them out in full together in a teaming context
  2. Short abbreviation for “strategies”
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Making H1s7tory: 3 Big Life Goals for 2017





This may sound passé, but I don’t get why New Year’s resolutions are as big a deal as they are. Yes, I’m all about life change and terminating undesired behavior; however, when it comes to one’s resolve to #levelup, I guess I’m a tad skeptical. Perhaps it’s the sugarcoated tradition we, as a culture, have placed on taking spiritual inventory or the ghost of New Year’s past reminding me of the times I missed targets once aimed for. Either way, I feel like a fish out of water writing about goals in a time when it’s so cliché.

Still, I can’t deny the wisdom in writing down the vision (Habakkuk 2:2) of Spirit-led aspirations. Thus, without further ado, here are my top three goals for 2017…  

      1. Make like a proton & stay positive.

Ok, so I know this sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating: positivity is a choice and a fruit of the voice. Granted, I’m not saying anything new; however, speaking from conviction, while I don’t struggle with hope, I do struggle in consistently guarding it with joy. As a result, my positivity can find itself restricted to change on the horizon as opposed to living fully in the moment. If you’re like me in the sense your positivity and present aren’t always aligned, I encourage you: consider how you want your life to speak and set your mind for positivity.

‘Cause truth is: you cannot have a positive life and a negative mind. You cannot use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, and your heart for love if you’re not consistently believing the best for you and those around you. Yeah, I know it’s easy to let the downers of life, whether people or circumstances, set the tone. Yet, when I consider how I want to grow in 2017, no question, I want to be more positive; hence, why I’m goin’ to make like a proton and stay positive no matter how ‘neutron’ or ‘electron’ life gets.



2. Capitalize on opportunity.

It’s been said nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. In terms of cost, I agree. Certainly there’s a correlation between seizing the day and staying alert…between staying alert and challenging oneself.

The question is: How do we actually stay alert?

For starters, we must stand firm in prayer and faith (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). In my experience, I've found it easier to desire a challenge than what sets us up to overcome it. We want the thrill, we want the strength, just not the silence or the persistence. Yet, while wanting to better steward the assignments of God is entirely good, we can only get there if we allow our prayer life to be more purposeful and perpetual. After all, given prayer is a cyclical process, we can’t hear if we don’t listen and we can’t be more sensitive if we’re not intentional.

I believe for many of us, 2017 is going to be a year when our minds are renewed through the refreshing of our listening…a season in which we’ll hear God’s voice more clearly through deliberate prayer and furthermore by the divine appointments he arranges.

My advice: If you’re faithful in the quiet spaces (seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness), God will ensure his confidence and influence through you in the public places...as you serve in love (and all these things will be given to you; (Psalm 118:5; Matthew 6:33).



3. Pursue freedom.

Freedom can be a tricky word in our spiritual vocabulary. On one hand, we know it’s for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1) and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17); on the other, we might think: “If I’ve been purchased at a price, why do I still feel anything but free?

Honestly, I think part of the reason is our tendency to equate freedom with victory. Yes, Jesus took away our chains at Calvary. Yet, while victory was attained at the cross, we still have the choice (free will) to walk in the freedom that victory produced. So while some may view freedom through a ‘have it or you don’t’ mentality, I contend it’s grace in motion…a pursuable, tangible reality we can know and walk in.

Interestingly, if we dig a little deeper,  we find freedom, as described by Paul's  verb selection in his letters, as obtainable in the desert places and fillable in the empty places. Therefore, I submit: if we’re struggling with shame yet are aiming for freedom, we shouldn't be afraid to lay it all on the altar before God considering a) his compassion...his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and b) his freedom is always on the move.

As Davey Blackburn once stated: “God wants to use [us] in [our] weakness far better than [we] can use [our] talent.” So why not allow the freeing work of God in Christ through his Spirit consume places where sin and its rubble once dwelt as we humbly boast in God's ability to use our weakness as opposed to exalting it ourselves?

Selah.

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