Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Silos Should Die

In modern times, the battle of soul often features manufactured creations formed through adversity, change and reactions to them. For example, when life alters course, many build walls out of preset responses to uncertainty, while for others, construction occurs out of philanthropy...with foundation cemented in yielded faith. Yet, for those who coin barricades to preserve justice through the lens of self, walls can be converted into something far more dangerous, something with far greater destructive potential.

What I’m talking about are silos, fully functional walls that encompass the maker and turn him into captive - prisoners blind to blindness, dwelling in shadows, not realizing that in the fortress of autonomy, no hope exists apart from divine inspiration.

What exactly are silos, you say? Well, that is an appropriate question, in case you’re unsure. But before I dive in, let me just say though not all silos are alike, most silos have several common denominators.

For instance, silos often structure themselves in cliques that either a) partition passivity, b) shield one from relational responsibility and/or c) attest to a compartmentalized culture that counters unity in community. Essentially, silos hinder one’s ability to discern the difference between alienable and inalienable, due in part, to mass manipulation of life and liberty.

According to Stephen Lucas, in his book, “Justifying America: The Declaration of Independence as a Rhetorical Document”, the Preamble contains one of the best-known sentences in English language with the most potent and consequential words in American history:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Note the “and” between liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This conjunction tells us that these three privileges (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) serve equally within a three part summation that point to a larger pursuit. Yet, many have capped the pursuit to be happiness itself, instead of the search for something infinitely larger. By stripping God of his “Omni” nature in our hearts, we not only skew the Preamble, but hypothetically label “loads of lassitude” over “pursuit of happiness”. What a miserable substitution! Digging deeper, perhaps this reveals an increasingly taboo struggle with young generations: the hunger-robbing headlock that coerces both immediate solution and satisfaction known as entitlement.

Think medically for a moment. Imagine you’ve endured a flesh-wound and you’re contemplating the best course of action. Rather than pour the Proxicide on the wound first, you prematurely apply the Band-Aid instead and carry on as if everything is cool, even if you feel far from it. Now think about the sensibility of the decision. What does this mentality speak to? For a desire to be healthy is only human, but to care about the intimate deals concerning how healing happens? That’s another story. Why is it we are so willing to sacrifice purity for less suffering and righteousness for a smile? Are we so desperate to move on from heartache, we’d be so willing to cast aside long-term benefits? Seriously, does anyone else muse over why an absent-minded culture can’t be absent to its double-minded ways?

Again, the pursuit of happiness, if not prioritized properly, can be a deceptive disruption as the lead driver in the entitlement enterprise. Why? Because entitlement undercuts holy motivation and discourages one to live in the fullness of Christ. It prevents us from understanding how a) achievement in the spiritual realm cannot occur when the shortcut to success is the road traveled by, b) the shortcut to success is affixed to a pursuit of happiness when idolatry and/or soul ties has manifested c) entitlement bound to any other stronghold sets the stage for consequential bridges to be burned in place of inconsequential silos.

At the core of mankind is a loving God, who provides every human being the privilege of pursuing His heart; however, humanity’s decision to individualize freedom has enhanced an egocentric mentality that makes life a treasure map, with happiness, the ‘X’ that marks the spot. When will we wake up and understand, like our Founding Fathers, that emotional conditions are always secondary to absolute rights, with which all human beings are endowed by their Creator. Happiness is the not the sum of life and liberty; it is a key ingredient in the equation that leads to an encounter with divine power, and in turn, a happy life and godliness, having been called to the knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3).

May we, as the body of Christ, not sleep on social division, as if turning rational issues into irrational hallucinations are 21st century fads. Instead, may we be a people who daily die to our assumptions and vain imaginations as we corporately chase after unbreakable unity, courageous vulnerability and instantaneous grace. Oh, valiant verisimilitude! How grateful we should be to know silos have no place, when Jesus is our fortress and strong tower.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Spring Up, Oh Well!

Every morning during the work week, I pace a seven-minute stretch between my downtown office and the parking lot off Charlotte and 10th Avenue. At the insane hour of 6:50 AM, with hands in pocket and face to the wind, I saunter upon cracked sidewalks as the shuffle pumps its auditory caffeine into awakening verve. Ascending the hill to 7th Avenue, the rising sun crafts my sidewalk silhouette with rays of hope that set my spirit dancing. And as the shadow greets a revived chi capering out of motions’ shell, life sings its happy song.

Every now and then, however, the hand meets the head scratch, when I realize how such inner festivals are occasionally submerged beneath the doldrums of routine. Despite the unsynchronized rapport between inner celebration and outer walls, my smile soon slants to a linear line at 45°, when conviction gently reminds me how a “Simply Jesus” mindset should and must be visible at all times. If that which is supposed to be transparent, is translucent, or even opaque, then something is off, and something must be done.

If life is all about Jesus, all for Jesus, and if the essence of existence is entirely God and His love for us, then why burry this truth within the confines of personal contentment? Clearly, the foolish tenant should have no place in any story. Unfortunately, many are hiding their most valuable possession under the sediments of self, neglecting the call to walk in God’s life and godliness and forsaking the privilege to invest abided motto into the hearts and souls of those assigned to them. Why are we so quick to forget God doesn’t take a break from us? Day by day, He fills the wells of our hearts with living water, and day by day, we are all faced with the choice to draw this divinely deposited water out so others may be exposed to the wonder of God. Yet, one must question if the church in America is bottling up the water and storing them in the darkness, instead of digging wells through a network of desperate communities, longing to taste the salt and light of God. Whatever happened to the river of life, clear as crystals, flowing from the throne of God? Whatever happened when “Simply Jesus” was simply enough?

Sometimes, it’s easier to put down the shield and chill out the way the world wants us to. But what happens over time is the chill numbs the spiritual essentials, whether it’s discernment, patience, compassion, joy, a faith that moves mountains or a conquering, selfless love, from being felt by a world who needs to experience these facets of God’s character in a functioning way. When the temptation to coast comes knocking, the voice of truth must have access to answer the door, opening our eyes to the fact that life is too precious of a gift to waste the excitement of holy walk on compartmentalized attempts to rise above blues, lethargies and dejections. No matter how high or low we feel, Jesus should not be exclusively condensed down to the one who helps us make it in life, get through life, etc. Yes, He sustains and maintains. Glory to God! But if we’re not thirsty enough for saturation, then an unauthorized go-between is absorbing delight out of what rightfully belongs to our Savior. Let us encourage one another to eradicate the leeches of misaligned affection.

If misaligned affection is permitted to run rampant, then transformation has no foundation to operate from. And if transformation has no foundation to operate from, then we, as believers, are the epitome of the walking crippled. Yes, God’s grace is mighty to save and is faithful to inspire a desire to conform to righteous standards, but if we are careless to address the cobwebs covering our mantle of genuine hunger, how can we expect freedom to be anything more than a sporadic episode? If love is chained to a comfortable place, then we set conformation to a timer, which in turn, limits both effectiveness and capacity to be the hands and feet of Christ. Regardless of shackle type, only God has the key to set us free from these chains.

Taking a bite out of my own life, I can succumb to the leech of false responsibility, inadvertently taking on tasks that solely belong to God. Although it’s not wrong to love others through responsibility, it is wrong if my love is dependent on responsibility. One could say this stumbling block falls under the mindset of “doing right” versus “being right”. Do I not trust that God will take care of my doing, if I simply submit, yield and take on the challenge of “being”? The truth is I never have an excuse to doubt God, and we never have a reason to question if He will come through for us. He is more than enough to handle every line of fine print of every appointed assignment. And whenever despair is provoked, we have to remember that God fills us with His vision in the same way He fills the wells of our hearts with living water. And vision is not meant to stand alone, but rather, be adjoined to and followed by the mission of the Gospel. Furthermore, by casting our cares upon the Lord, we are proclaiming our trust and hope in the heart of God – that He does care of for us (1 Peter 5:7) and we will find grace in times of need (Hebrews 4:15-16) that triumphs over weakness. The Bible is chalk full of uplifting support that encourage us to channel love to the surface of our lives, so that others can see, feel and sense the presence of God, which can lead to understanding, belief and surrender.

In closing, I offer this charge to you: Sing this song to the Lord and soak in it to the best of your strength. Pray it through and specifically ask the Lord to reveal any obstacles that stand in the way of transparent love.

I've got a river of life flowin' out of me.

Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.

Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.

I've got a river of life flowin' out of me.

Spring up Oh Well.

Within my soul.

Spring up Oh Well

And make me whole.

Spring up Oh Well

And give to me

That life abundantly.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's a Girl to Do before 'I Do'

By: Lyssah Ferguson & Cameron Fry

When it comes to interactions between those of opposing sexes, it would be nice if there was a “Godly Pursuit and Response for Dummies” guide.  I mean, I’m not the biggest proponent of math, but some sort of tried and true formula would be nice.

Not too long ago, I read as Sammy laid his heart bear about the pursuit of his wife.  He made some great points.  Guys are up against a gamete of things when they seek to win the heart of a lady friend.  While reading, it hit me.

If it is the guys responsibility to pursue, what is the gals part in the dance we call love?  Are we supposed to be carding wool by a fire somewhere waiting for a suitor to come and sit on the porch in the cool of the evening?  Or do we roll with women’s lib, batting the eyelashes, looking liking we’ve got something to sell and we’re ready to entertain bids?  Or should we just act like nothing’s going on until we get the note asking us to check yes or no to the second grade question of “will you be my girlfriend?”

Any of these options seem a little on the unfair.  One puts an awkward strain while the other results in men having to dig through the mess to find their treasure.  What is a lady to do? 

Ask God and maybe some Godly guys while I’m at, that’s what.

It stands to reason that if God is the author and finisher of our faith, he’s probably got a series of installments planned that encompass a few other things as well.  So the question becomes: does the bible give any examples of a woman’s role in pursuit? 

Rebekah (Genesis 24)

∙         Rebekah had her role (v. 15, 16).

o   She was part of a family, had a job and was faithful to do it.  She wasn’t sitting around waiting to be found or running around like a carnival barker.

o   When asked for a guys perspective, Cameron Fry (youth director at the Gate Church in Franklin, TN) responded:  “Guys can discern if a girl is being herself or not. Guys want the real deal to be transparent. A man and woman should find each other both in the context of being 'lost' in God. Like the Word says, we can only find ourselves if we first lose ourselves. I believe this is best template for a man to find a woman. They fall in love with each other because they already HAVE fallen in love ;) “

∙         Rebekah was cultivating the fruit of the Spirit (v. 17-25)               (Galatians 5:22)

o   “I’ll water your camels as well” and “There’s plenty of room at our house”. Hello kindness/gentleness.

o   “A woman can aspire towards wholeness, soaking in the rich fullness of sweet presence. And even if she doesn't feel entirely complete, this can still be a reality.”
∙         Rebekah was armed with modest allure (v. 64, 65)

o   She knew the man was her future

∙         Rebekah was ready for her life to change (v. 54-58)

o   A relationship was going to change the day to day of Rebekah’s life.  It required sacrifice and a willing heart.  She was ready to put her own comfort/way of doing things aside to make room for someone else.
o   She covered herself.  Rebekah was not scheming or looking to lure Isaac in.  She was confident in what was being worked on her behalf.  If she had that much confidence in a stranger she had just met, how much more can we have knowing God is orchestrating something beyond our imaginations capacity?
o   From the guy’s side, “Guys can tell if a woman is trying too hard. We look for a woman who isn't forcing on either side, whether fronting or hiding.”

There you have it…a small, yet helpful perspective on a gal’s guide to being pursued.  Oh, and Cameron had one last thing to add…that equation I was looking for.

“A woman must distinguish the difference between who she is and what she is called to do. A man should take part in his adventure with the Lord first. Mathematically, think 1 x 1 = 1. Then add some zeros to each 100% x 100% = 10,000% 10^(2) x 10^(2) = 10^(4) There's power in exponents.” 

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