Monday, August 8, 2016

The Lockout @ the Lock[in]

So last night...I'm playin' some 'Communist Church' with LEGACYouth at our summer lock[in] event when one of our students notices this guy laying flat outside the main entrance.

At first, I'm thinkin' maybe we should let him be, but after a group huddle, it becomes clear we need to reach out instead.

Given we had ~30 youth downstairs, I decide to split them up into three groups: the bigger group would remain downstairs in the Youth Room, another would be upstairs in the main lobby praying/on standby, and the smallest group (four of my youth leaders) would join me in going out to talk/share some pizza with the man.

Upon approaching him, we note a portable radio plugged into an outdoor outlet blastin' some bluegrass, some beer, and some cigarettes. As for the guy himself...let's just say he was high as a kite and super inebriated...his first words upon seeing us: "Lord, thank you that you have sent your angels."

Now, I don't have a full transcript of our conversation; however, in my attempt to paraphrase, I'll just say he repeated: "Lord, thank you...but I can't take all this loving kindness. Please...please leave me alone" around five to six times (enough for me to wonder if we were dealing more with spirit than man).

Of course, we couldn't just 'leave him alone' having just arrived on the scene. We knew right then/right there we had to find the balance between letting God's love 'stay on the field', while not doing anything to overwhelm him. Knowing we had to stand strong and trust the Lord for strength/discernment, we continued renewing conversation in hope to learn his story, how we could help him, etc.

But as you can imagine, it wasn't easy. In fact, for the first ten-ish minutes, we hardly said anything as the guy begins to unload questions about what type of Christians we are...what type of church we are...all the while giving us his take on what's wrong with the world. During this time, he quotes multiple Scriptures with warped commentary, enough for us to realize he'd had some exposure to truth.

Yet, while this may sound like an easy open door, his hostility to any act of compassion made the situation more difficult. The more we tried to redirect dialogue to him, the more he'd change the subject or try to quiz us on what we knew. Eventually, after asking if we could pray with him, the guy just walked away in frustration leaving his personal belongings behind. At this point, the five of us circled up and begin to pray.

About three/four minutes later, we heard someone approaching us (Keep in mind: it's ~ 9:00 pm and completely dark at this point). To our surprise/delight, it's the same guy we'd been talking to...who not only came back, but joined our circle and received prayer! Talk about glorious whiplash! And while we didn't lead him to salvation or heal him of any physical ailments, we were able to find the words he needed to hear through God's favor/grace.

Leaving on peaceful terms, we went back inside, where I called my supervisor to inform him of the situation (We ultimately determined the best course of action was to make the Franklin police aware so they could establish a presence near site as we were only one hour away from parents arriving at The Gate to pick up their youth), before carrying on with the night.

Now, why do I share this story? Because I honestly believe the Lord is wanting to inconvenience His bride in greater measure in the days ahead. Think about it: God loves us so much, He's willing to let us grow more uncomfortable so we can have more opportunities to show His love to the brokenhearted...from the widow next door to the vagabond on the street desperate to find a home/any morsel of life.

In this case, God literally brought a homeless man to our doorstep! All we had to do was respond through obedience...take a step of faith...and find the open door in letting God's love through. Was it uncomfortable? Yeah. Was it inconvenient? Yeah. But we knew despite the fact this was interrupting our plans, we had to accept God's audible in that moment. And as I've processed the encounter today, I can't help but wonder if this episode was meant to be a microcosm of what God wants to do in/through the body at large...

Anywho...I'll have more thoughts on this in blogs to come. In the meantime, I just wanted to share this story, especially in light of today's messages @ The Gate...not to mention what God is corporately calling us to in the days we're living in...



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Thursday, August 4, 2016

3 Truths for When You Don't Get the Job

Have you ever been minutes away from a peaceful night sleep only to be shell shocked by a last second ‘bad news’ barrage?

If you answered, ‘yes’, welcome to the story of my life last Tuesday.

Before I continue, for those who’ve been following our story the past few years, you’ve probably noticed how ‘perseverance in challenging work environments’ has been a prevalent theme; however, today…I’m going to talk about the other side of the coin (i.e. the roller coaster ride that is “job hunting”).

Now, I’ll be honest: I’m not a renowned expert in “job hunting”. In fact, since I landed at TDOT in April 2012, I’ve only been able to engage the search for eight months with hiatuses attributable to Master’s work and recent life changes1.

But while I may not be the greatest career transition consultant, what I can say is: such a road, while disappointing at times, can be rewarding if we remain steadfast in patience and determination.
Yet, for many of us, it bears discussion how to cope with the discouragement that comes when denials and ‘no calls’ start to accumulate…
…which finally brings me to Tuesday night.

So there I am sitting in my bed when a mental alarm reminds me to check a certain well-known Christian company's ‘current openings’ page. By this point, it had been a little over two months since I applied to (what appeared to be) the most exciting position I’ve come across in a while. I’m talking about the prospect of working as a…

Youth. Ministry. Specialist.

Just let that sink in for a bit, consider my night gig, and then let it sink down even more.

‘Cause truth is: this had me written all over it…like ‘magnum 5.3 mm, chisel trip, permanent sharpie ink’ written.

I mean…the very thought of me not receiving a phone call, an e-mail…anything…didn’t even cross my mind back when I was carefully packaging my writing sample, résumé, references, and questionnaire.

But alas…’tis what happened.

 Thus, as you can imagine, my mind couldn’t help but wonder…

what did my references say…?
…what are my credentials lacking…?

…is it because I’m still involved in youth ministry…?

…is it because I’m not affiliated with sou…(cough)…a certain denomination2?

Seriously…I’ve been involved in youth ministry for eight years…pastoring the last five. Forget the fact I have the drive and required skills to succeed. I’m a young voice with fresh, ‘2016 perspective’ on where youth ministry is in America these days. Why not take a flyer on this alone?

Granted, I still have no clue how many applicants applied…or if the job simply went off the radar without any notification.

All I know is for a few dark moments, I felt ‘struck out’ knowing a golden opportunity was now nothing more than an expired dream of what could/should’ve been.

Nail in coffin, I softly whispered, ‘Lord, help me. This one is gonna hurt’ before graciously drifting off.

Flash forward to today…and I’m feelin’ better. A little sore…but at the same time, I know when you’re down, you can’t stay down. Fall down seven, get up eight. Such is the philosophy of our ‘carry on’ culture, right?

Yet I also know, with every hurt, there’s not only a way out, but a transition out. The difference being…a way implies direction, but transition implies process. Thus, it’s fair to ask ourselves, ‘How do we navigate the process of overcoming when the pain seems unbearable’?

CHn6z8T

Again, I don’t have all the answers. But based on recent experiences alone, I can confidently submit:

1. God's ways are always greater3.

Sure, we may not understand this in every situation. Yet, when we contrast our finitude in light of sweet sovereignty, we ultimately discover the refuge behind God knowing what is best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense. I’m not sayin’ you’ll never feel like a sinking sailor caught up in a sea of potential, but I am sayin’ this shouldn’t ever deter you from trusting your Captain.

2. We can’t assume how things would’ve panned out.

This one may seem obvious. Yet, how often do we assert the wrong declaration? For instance, I can tell myself, ‘Things would have been great there!’ Then again, I’m basing my rationale on a piece of paper…an image on a screen. Yeah…I might feel judged being judged by a piece of paper, but what’s the point in reciprocating by conjecturing?

Truth is: Only God knows the coulda/woulda/shoulda’s of life. Thus, why not proclaim the veracity of God’s faithfulness as it pertains to what he shields us from? Just sayin’…

3. At some point, we must embrace ‘careerealism’4.

Whenever we’re notified of not being the best fit, to be upset is only human. But to be professionalism in our attitude when no one is looking? That’s the kind of ‘wheat from chaff’ attitude we should aspire to.

If it helps, remember the four pro’s and three per’s:

Four pro’s: professional, proactive, productive, proficient

(i.e. to be professional is to be proactive in being proficiently productive)

Three per’s: perseverant, perceptive, persistent

(i.e. to be perseverant is to be persistent in being perceptive)

Combine these all together and you got a solid recipe of getting back on track the way God would have you.

Perhaps you’re wondering what your next move should be or are struggling to process work/job hunt-related disappointment. If you can relate, we want to encourage you today. So if you want to share your story in the comments below, feel free to do so…or if you’d rather shoot us a private message, that’s perfectly fine as well.

‘Til then, keep looking up and know the best is yet to come!

~ Cameron

THE_BEST_THINGAVAILABLE_1

Footnotes
  1. Highlighted by pregnancy, Caeden’s birth & new home
  2. What is the official “religion” of Tennessee, Alex…
  3. Isaiah 55:8-9
  4. Inspired by http://www.careerealism.com
Photo creds: careerfaqs.com & http://www.bpodiary.com

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

4 Takeaways from #LoveMexico

So last month, I had the privilege of co-leading a team of LEGACYouth down to YWAM Pachuca and Real del Monte on our #LoveMexico missions trip (i.e. the third stage of #oneepicsummer). Like #LoveAkron, the experience was a huge hit, granted in this case, we had a larger team returning for its sophomore campaign.

However, after reconvening with the youth during Facedown last week, we couldn’t help but wonder, ‘what now?’

After all, having taken an aerial view of the past two months, no question we’ve ‘leveled up’. We’re more tightly bonded, we’ve stepped further outside our comfort zone, we’ve ministered life to the broken, we’ve led people to Jesus…I could go on.

But as I mentioned last month, I’m not one to tempt any spirit of false accomplishment. ‘Cause truth is: what credit can we possibly claim? I mean….whatever good we do, we do it for Jesus…because of Jesus, right?

Thus, what better way to start walking this talk than with a #LoveMexico reflection post featuring a fresh set of trip takeaways...

1. We stayed alert

On mission trips, it’s easy to stay alert ‘when necessary’…when the opportunity knocks. But with our Gate crew…I believe part of the reason we enjoyed such an effective experience was due to people staying attentive in all situations.

Case and point: During our time at Teotihuacan, one of our team leaders started talking with some local tourists, one of whom had a fractured finger. After learning about the injury, this leader, without hesitation, started to pray…and instantly the fracture healed! What commenced as innocent conversation ended with an ex-broken finger operating with full range of motion.

The next night, after arriving in Real del Monte, our team participated in a ‘Bigger, Better’ ice breaker with some of the local youth. During our scavenger hunt, one of our youth encountered a vendor at a beverage stand. With the rest of the team moving on, I decided to join pursuit. Yet, after a few minutes, I noticed the youth was still absent, so I returned to the stand…only to find him praying healing over the family.

While I could share a boatload of similar stories, I submit these two given their microcosmic representation…not to mention they happened early in the week before our evangelism training1.

Bottom line: Not only were we ready, but we stayed alert and attentive to the Spirit by the Spirit at all times. As far as takeaways go, I’d be amiss if I didn’t start here…



2. Courage was constant 

Shortly after arriving at YWAM Pachuca, I spotted a notecard by my mattress with Ezra 10:4 scribed at the bottom. At first when I read it, I thought, ‘Ok. This is a nice little tidbit of truth’. But after returning to it a week later, I realized the passage not only proved prophetic personally, but also encapsulated the spirit of our team2.

‘Cause like point #1, we didn’t grow content in simply applying courage ‘when necessary’...we didn’t stop once our 20 insane seconds were up.  Instead, we intentionally took up our cross and came ready to share the love of our ‘strength provider’.

Did we pray for divine appointments? Absolutely! But the key here is: we didn’t rely on them to pop up before pursuing them. Rather we pursued the distribution of God’s love using courage as the vehicle. As a result, we were able to impact more people and see more lives changed.

Bottom line: Whatever success we experienced was directly tethered to God’s covering…as well as knowing why we had come…and being unwavering in strength/prayer.



3. We were united

As you can tell, #LoveMexico left lasting impressions on all of us. Yet, while I can certainly cite more moments when God showed up, I’d be leaving this list incomplete if I didn’t highlight God’s faithfulness in how it manifested relationally with YWAM staff and youth from other corners of the globe.

Similar to #LoveAkron, the fellowship with other believers not only exceeded expectations, but also served as a reminder of how the body of Christ is called to be (i.e. to be of one heart and one mind…united in goal, to have everything in common, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, etc.).

Bottom line: Despite the language barrier3, we were able to gel well with those God teamed us with and those He put in our path. And while I could credit “chemistry”, I believe favor + ‘being united under the canopy of great grace’ would be a more accurate commendation.



4. We stayed humble

During our nine days in Mexico, we saw many miracles and souls saved. Yet, as many outreach leaders know, sometimes pride can sneak into these moments bringing with it a sense of self-centered satisfaction. Seriously…how many of us have cleared the courage + obedience hurdles…only to falter into pride at the finish line?

In my experiences, I’ve found the best way to conclude any stretch of evangelism is through thanksgiving and humility. Yes, confidence is a wonderful thing; however, when it’s left unbridled, it can derail our attitude, our outlook…and a result, our response. Hence, when we consecrate our confidence having experienced the joy of team unity working together to save the lost and encourage the brokenhearted…we put ourselves in a better position to stay alert/take action as the Spirit leads (see point #1).

Bottom line: We ate our humble pie, rebuked pride when it crept in…and refocused our attention on loving those around us (which in turn…edified group accountability).

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Footnotes
  1. A nice, friendly reminder that God’s timing >>> our idea of ideal timing
  2. Or rather the Spirit of God within the spirit of our team
  3. And at least for me…not knowing anyone coming in…
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Rain" Discussion: Why a Loving God Allows Suffering

Takeaways from Rob Bell's NOOMA 001
Originally written: 9.22.09 (pre 'Love Wins'); updated 7.12.16
 
The BIG Question: Why does an all-loving God allow pain, suffering, and tribulation to exist in the world? Why does God let bad things happen to us...even for those who are committed in their walk with the Lord?
 
Answer: Because God loves. He's not only loving...He is love...unconditionally...every second, every day.
 
With that said, it's important we recognize God's love not only in light and calm, but also in dark and storm.


'Cause truth is: while it's easy to associate God's love to smooth sailing, sunny days, and the greeting of ocean sounds resonating with a noon snooze, we can't forget...

a) ...we live in a fallen world where people are more passionate about the consequences of sin compared to their tolerance and/or ignorance of it...and...
b) ...God is a God of grace who uses our brokenness to make his love and truth known...just as much as he's a God of peace and rest. Thus, it doesn't make any sense to challenge God's authority and/or judge him as passive in light of hardships he has no part in instigating.
 
Think of it this way: If God sought to eliminate suffering, would there not be a removal of revelations and manifestations where his love could be more transcendingly experienced as well?
 
Take Peter, for instance, as he's sinking into the Galilean waves. Did he not have the truth right in front of him when we started to sink...we he started to doubt and lose heart? How often is the answer  right in front of us in times we exalt the billowing waves of life!?!
 
See...I think it's imperative we understand how to bridge this gap. Granted, a mere blog post can only go so far, but at the same time, we gotta engage the discussion at some point...though perhaps you're like an older me wondering 'what's the use'? After all, our finite minds can't possibly comprehend all the reasons why God "allows" bad things to happen. We are not God; therefore, we are not all-knowing. I get that...
 
However, is not the existence of mystery indicative of a God who conceals for his glory as much as he reveals for his glory...who protects us by giving us room to pursue him in smooth and tough times? Maybe I'm off, but I gotta believe at least part of the answer to 'why a loving God allows suffering' exists here.
 
At any rate...as we will later discuss...
  • The presence of suffering can actually allow us to experience God's love more deeply (whether the suffering is rooted in sin/a byproduct of the fall...or an attack of the enemy).
  • Whatever batters our confidence, our hope, our joy is best seen as an invitation to desperately seek God for discernment while trusting in his ways.
For the grandest mysteries embedded in life's greatest disappointments can't always be captured and rationalized into a coherent, explicit statements that 'float our boat'. Instead, why not accept the good news...that God has achieved victory through Christ on the cross, is currently making countless situations right as we speak, and will ultimately redeem all pain and suffering in due time.

For "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28) for God "knows the plans [He] has for [us], plans to prosper [us] and not harm [us], to give [us] hope and a future..." (Jeremiah 29:11).
 
Photo creds: NOOMA 001; jenhatmaker.com

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

4 Secrets to Surviving Social Media (Part 1)

I’ll be straight-up honest: I haven’t been the best social media user in the history of social media.

Like many, I’ve abused it as a weapon, an unbridled mouthpiece, a tool to gauge my identity/worth, a means to self-preservation…I could go on.

Granted, much of this occurred during a prodigal, collegiate past, but even now, the struggle can be real from time to time.

So when I recently came across the following YouTube video (see below), I couldn’t help but laugh and cringe simultaneously…


I mean…you talk about hilariously painful relatability. Man…

But in all seriousness, I think the content here is worth discussion. ‘Cause when we consider the contrast between the virtual life and what is actual from God’s perspective, we find substantial divergence in what it means to really 'be’.

With that said, here are a couple of takeaways gained after watching the clip…

Conviction #1: Time to check my social media to see who loves me online. #blessedlife

Ok, so I could drill down on the “to see who loves me” line; however, I’m going to target #blessedlife since the answer here covers what leads up to it.

When I say “blessed”, what immediately pops into your head? Whether it’s a person, a possession, a right, or a job…chances are what instantly surfaces is a picture reflecting a pre-existing reality.

For instance, when I ask myself the question, my mind cuts straight away to my wife and son; however, as awesome as they are, I know the presence of them in my life isn’t what makes me blessed. Rather it’s the truth they have been planted in my life the same way I’ve been planted in God’s hands that makes me blessed. See the difference? For “to make” implies a creation I can’t take any credit for.



So when it comes to what it means to be blessed, the answer is: our lives have been planted in God’s hands and He is constantly making them fruitful, durable, and prosperous.

Think about it: When God blesses man, what happens? He’s helped, strengthened, renewed, and ultimately…made better, right? On the flip side, what happens when man blesses God? Well, we know God can’t be helped or strengthened given he’s perfect in all his ways; however, he can still be exalted and glorified through praise, thanksgiving, and admiration.

Therefore, I submit to be blessed is to bless God as he blesses us…knowing he delights in us as we delight in him.1

Conviction #2: Where’s my phone? It gives me life!

How many of you have forgotten to charge your cell phone overnight and woke up to a dead battery? As a result, you left for school/work late…all the while thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could reset my day and start over fully charged!

No doubt, we’ve all been in situations in which we were low on juice (whether it be joy, compassion, patience, lovingkindness, etc.)…and needed a recharge.





The problem is: we don’t always plug into what gives us life (i.e. the heart of God)... right away.

Sometimes, we forget to plug in completely, other times we plug into the outlet of self-gratification. Other times, we’re plugged into too many outlets…and as a result, we blow a fuse.

Yet, when we consider the summation of Genesis 2:7 + Job 33:4 + John 1:3-4 + Job 10:12, we find all the sense in the world to rely on God as our ultimate ‘life source’…

The Lord God formed man of dust…and breathed into him the breath of life. Yes, the Spirit of God has made us…the breath of the Almighty gives us life. Even now, His care preserves our spirit; He gives to all people life and lovingkindness…as all things that come into being…come through Him.

Bottom line: No matter where we are, what we’re doing, we should always be willing to ask ourselves, ‘who or what am I dialed into’?

‘Cause truth is: At the end of the day, a gadget with an Apple or Droid logo doesn’t give us life. Sure, phones can reveal where “life” is taking place…it can give temporary charge to our electronic products, but it certainly can’t charge the heart, the mind, the soul the way God (and God alone) can.

Thus, it makes no sense to waste energy (or go over our minutes) on what ultimately drains our charge.  Instead, why not realize the best life is the life in which God is the only source of anything and everything everlasting?

Selah.
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Looking ahead…stay tuned for a guest post from my wife, Lyssah, as she finishes out this mini-series with our next two conviction points:
  • We compare and scroll so we’ll measure up
  • My fomo leaves me with #nochill…the World Wide Web is #bae for real
‘Til then, if you have any comments/questions/prayer requests, etc., feel free to hit us up below.

Peace...

~ Cameron

Footnotes

1. See Psalm 1:1-3 – “Blessed is the onewho delights in the law of the Lord, mediates on it day and night…and becomes like a tree planted by streams of water which yield fruit…who leaf does not wither…”

Photo creds: reallifechurch.org & scaredpoet
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

3 Takeaways from LEGACYouth's #LoveAkronTour

So last week, I took a team of LEGACYouth up to Akron, Ohio on our #LoveAkron tour (i.e. the second stage of #oneepicsummer). No question, the experience was a smashing success, especially considering we were blazing a new trail in our ministry.

However, after reconvening with the team last night during our weekly discipleship gathering, it became clear we needed illumination on how to live out and sustain acquired momentum. After all, sometimes it can be far too easy settling into counterfeit contentment in the aftermath of a 'spiritual high', freezing what God wants to do in the satisfaction of what He has already done. 

For me, I just can’t bear or dare to go there1. So instead, as an act of consecrated processing, I present you a reflection post outlining my top three ‘Love Akron Tour’ takeaways…

1. We knew why we were there before we got there

Two days before tour kickoff, I felt the Lord tell me, “Don’t go up to put on a show, but open the door for me to show up. For when I show up, something always happens…and that something can’t be separated from my glory being revealed.”

Well, as you can imagine, this went a long way not only in setting the tone for the trip, but also paving a foundation for the discussions we’d have along the way. Granted, I don’t have time to unload every revelational tidbit; however, I will say the more we soaked in the Gospel of John (before/during the trip), the more we were able to catch the heart of Jesus’ intentionality (see mini exegesis below)2...not to mention the reason why we were going to Akron in the first place.

Bottom line: We understood the John roadmap before the Ohio roadmap became necessary3…and as we’d soon find, this would pay off in a huge way.


2. Our fearlessness became effortlessness

Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint defining moments, since the entire trip was defining in itself; however, I will say, as tour director, it was incredible to watch my team lead with such 1 John 4:184 boldness, whether it involved sharing their faith in foreign territory, an impromptu post-performance testimony at church, or simply reaching out to River of Life/First Assembly of Akron youth.

At any rate, the more we got outside ourselves (through the unforced rhythms of grace5), the more ‘reaching out’ (VBS, Fairlawn Park, Highland Square, First Assembly, etc.) became like breathing as opposed to ‘service’.

As a result, God would routinely stretch our 20 seconds of insane courage into 20+ minutes of life-changing fearlessness, as if He was coaching alongside us saying, “Just watch what I can do in and through you guys now that you’ve stepped out.”

Bottom line: Of all the snapshots of heaven experienced on the trip, the one of God broadening our capacity to love others more…while simultaneously revealing more of Himself to us and the people we were witnessing to impacted me most profoundly.




3. We Merged Relatability with Intentionality

I abide by the philosophy that if you called yourself a Christ-follower, then your life should point people towards the well (see John 4) where living, unquenchable water can be found. Yet, as many of you reading this have found, often times the hardest part isn’t so much the showing up, but rather the listening and relating.

Such was the reminder I received when talking to four random street ballers at Fairlawn Park after they’d received an Evangecube salvation message from a local YWAM student. Having watched their reaction to the presentation, I could tell the soil was ripe within. Thus, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to use my passion for basketball and my heart for follow-up dialogue to meet them where they were at.

Now, did I have a secondary 'Hey, my youth group is performing a free musical down the street tonight…’ message in my pocket? Of course! However, I knew I couldn’t possibly promote a Gospel with any scent of agenda attached. So I simply began chatting about what they just heard. And long story short, after asking them what people in their demographic were looking for when it came to Christians in general…three of the four said they wanted to see more relatability. Yeah, meeting people where they’re at is nice and all (or so they said), but how it’s executed (mainly in the ‘are you willing to listen and relate to me first before mentioning God’?) …that’s what they’re really looking for.

Bottom line:  Intentionality can only reach as far as the authentic love we surround it with. ‘Cause truth is: When it comes to the lost, most want to see fearless God-fearers live what they preach and love well...before they want to see God. Yeah, it may not always be easy or convenient; yeah, we may not see the fruit of what we hope happens...

...but at the end of the day, reaching people is all about planting seeds, not force-feeding the Gospel. And when I look back on our #LoveAkronTour, there’s no doubt in my mind we did just that.


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Footnotes

1. Triple alliteration FTW

2. Check out this rundown... 

John 2 – Jesus’ ministry begins, wedding at Cana
John 3 – Encounter with Nicodemus
John 4 – Woman at the well
John 5 – Healing at the pool on the Sabbath
John 6 – Feeding of 5,000, walks on water
John 9 – Heals blind man
John 11 – Raises Lazarus
John 12 – The triumphal entry
John 20 – Resurrection and multiple reveals 

...I mean, clearly, Jesus didn’t stumble upon each of these situations as much as he went after them on purpose. You’d figure John is synonymous with “Jesus showing up” considering the narrative.

3. More specifically, we understood the importance of: letting our lives testify to what we celebrate, letting our lives speak hope into hopeless…belief into unbelief, letting our lives radiate the kind faith that walks on water, letting our lives heal, letting our lives be life in dead situations, letting our lives make love known at all costs, letting our lives carry the presence of Jesus in a way that puts joy in a person’s heart and makes our worship come alive, etc.

4. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…”

5.   Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace (Part 1)

As mentioned before, the bivocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear multiple hats and juggle multiple jobs, no question, you know the drill.

Yet, while it may be easy to fall into survival, ‘just get it done’ mode, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yeah, I get how compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus…and how a ‘one step at a time’ approach can break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments.

But as I wrote about a few months back, if everyone is worshipping something, then everyone is ministering something. Therefore, when we examine this truth in light of Jesus’ ministry, we find the marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Let’s look at Matthew 21:12-17

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he goes (i.e. the temple - v. 12) and the reason he goes 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 to the marketplace leaders (as opposed to simply stopping for a cup of coffee and the ‘Daily Jerusalem’)…that speaks to me.

Granted, Jesus channels his inner Adele for time, turning tables and all (v. 12b), but the key here isn’t so much Jesus reacting in frustration as much as Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional in speaking truth and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

So while this passage reference may seem random, when we talk about what pastoral ministry in the marketplace looks like…and how to rightfully use our spiritual gifts in similar arenas, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective marketplace minister, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with the gifts God has given us; yes, we can be articulate, persuasive, and emit confidence, but if what we’re divinely given is utilized with limited integrity, it’s like trying to build a sturdy structure on sinkhole-prone soil.

Secondly, when we ‘selah’ on what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the difference between a love for money and a love for God who provides the money2 (more on this in future posts).

And finally, when we consider Jesus straight up calls the temple “my house(v. 13 - “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find a) confirmation of God’s view of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) the value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment He intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” so the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication) could be known…while setting the stage for his healing ministry by empowering the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

I-Was-There-at-the-Temple-ImageHence, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus peaces out in v. 17.

Bottom line: when we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts into the marketplace, we see…
  1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts)…
  2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict…
  3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple…
  4. Jesus loved at every opportunity…
Thus, I submit if we’re going to thrive in employing our spiritual gifts in our areas of business, we must be willing to live on purpose, be bold with the truth, pray without ceasing, be the change we long for…and most importantly…love at all cost, at all times.

Next time, I’ll look to build upon this foundation with more specifics, more real-life application, but for now, if any of this hits home with you (or if you want to add a point to the list above), feel free to comment below. And as always, if you have a prayer request/praise report, you’re more than welcome to drop us a line.

‘Til then, may you find peace and joy in abundance as you go about your week…

~ Cameron

Footnotes
  1. Sure, the church may be the heart of the operation, but what’s to say the marketplace can’t be the hands and feet?
  2. Seriously…how often are good leaders corrupted by sneaky, under-the-table, ‘will do anything to get an advantage’ maneuvers? More than we’d like to admit, right?
  3. As well as His authority
Photo creds: gospelmovements.org (edited by Cameron Fry) & lds.net

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