Thursday, February 27, 2014

LEGACYouth: Acquire the Fire 2014 Prayer Points

After months of administrative and spiritual preparation, after hundreds of hours praying, planning and laying groundwork, Acquire the Fire has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Granted, whenever heaven and earth collide in this life, the experience always feels too short. But as the case with each Acquire the Fire event, its conclusion never fails to leave behind some notable takeaways.

But before I continue, what is Acquire the Fire exactly?

Well, for starters, it’s a life-transforming event centered on giving volume and clarity to God’s voice in the lives of young people. It’s an event marked by fearless evangelism and anointed worship. And it’s a time for youth to engage the power and presence of God amidst the silence of secular noise. In essence, Acquire the Fire is a dynamic, encounter-based experience, fixed on inspiring young hearts to Jesus.

This year, the theme of Acquire the Fire, “Epic Truth”, emphasized the importance of seeking truth amidst our daily deluge of distractions, and more specifically, how to press into the heart of God when hard questions are inevitably thrown our way. So after recent pondering, God has faithfully deposited some carryout charges and prayer points in the wake of the event.

Here are three to chew on…

1) Pray against the "spiritual high"

• A post-event “free fall” is inevitable. Yet despite its outer connotation, a “free fall” doesn’t have to be perceived in a negative light. The ultimate question boils down to heart and location. As people of God, it's imperative we stand in the gap and pray for all people who encountered the presence & power of God at ATF to fall into the deeper places of God's heart, not to man's idea of reality. For one thing, reality isn't confined to the tangible world we daily sense (Romans 8:14-16). Furthermore, the Spirit of God leads us to the heart of God, where our true identity can be found. So we can see why Satan would love to disrupt our understanding and reduce a powerful weekend to a mere internal buzz. Why give him such a footstool?

• When Moses went up the mountain, he went to encounter and experience God in a fresh, new way. And when he came down Mount Sinai, he carried something with him he hadn’t had before…whether it was the Ten Commandments, new revelation and/or a glowing countenance (Exodus 34). While Moses repeatedly returned to the same geographical level, his relationship with God never returned to the same level. Rather, his relationship with God kept escalating to the extent He encountered the glory of God and to the extent He gave glory to God. And this would end up leaving a transparent, inspiring mark for all to see.

2) Pray for new believers & recommitted Christians to stay the course

• Pray for love to respond to love as Christ establishes residence

"…because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction." ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5 (ESV)

• Pray for new believers/recommitted Christians to align themselves (desires, ambitions, perceptions of world & identity, etc.) to the good work & will of God

This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” ~ John 6:39-40 (MSG)

 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” ~ Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)

• Pray for new believers to learn how to pray, how to receive & allow the Spirit to guide them in their Bible reading & how to be empowered for ministry

3) Pray for ears to hear, hearts to receive 

• Pray for God's word (both written and verbal) to be a lamp unto each young person's feet and light unto their path (Psalm 119:105).

• Pray for youth to not be afraid to be still to sense the thoughts, impressions and visions of God

Whoever is of God listens to God. [Those who belong to God hear the words of God.] This is the reason that you do not listen [to those words, to Me]: because you do not belong to God and are not of God or in harmony with Him.” ~ John 8:47 (AMP)

• Pray for clear channels and intentional listening/seeking amidst the increased volume of worldly noise; pray for forward motion, not backwards motion

But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” ~ Jeremiah 7:23-24 (ESV)

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Flash Weather: The #Snowdome Winter

As an amateur "meteorologist", I take pride in being a diehard winter weather enthusiast. After all, it's, by far, the most erratic season, especially for sections of the midsouth. One week could be marked by unseasonably mild air and severe weather episodes, while the next features a freak icestorm or blizzard with record-breaking cold. But for a winter fan who enjoys his fair share of hometown snow, this winter has been one epic disappointment. So in my quest to put words to frustrations, I figured I would look back and briefly analyze a winter desperately needing to be put out of its misery. 
Granted, for hundreds of millions, winter 2013-14 will go down as a memorable, overachieving, blockbuster season. But for me, I can honestly say: I've never been so excited for spring this early in my life
For most, one would think such a statement would be indicative of a person fed up from the wintry elements. But not in this case. Truth be told: I've never seen such an incredible waste of arctic air, which mind you, proved remarkably consistency over an entire winter for much of the eastern conus. Thus, the brunt of frustration will forever lie in the vast volume of busted potential (lack of snow despite bountiful arctic air) amidst the greatest #winterfail in Nashville's recorded history. Simply put, storm track was not our friend this winter. And perhaps I jinxed this three weeks ago when I posted the following Facebook status (see image left) (
Mathematically, when one matches up mean temperatures to observed snowfall over a three-month span, it can be quickly determined how Nashville severely underachieved on snowfall this year (only 1.4" observed, nearly 5" below average despite December-February mean temperatures 3-4 degrees below average), while locations all around Nashville cashed in with much higher amounts (ex: Lee University, my alma mater, seeing 8-9" last Wednesday). Although my own location brought in twice as much snow (2.7") compared to the BNA official observation station, the 2013-14 winter, in my opinion, will be remembered for what it could have been, rather than what it was. 
However, on the snowchasing front, the 2013-14 winter weather season will go down as one of the most successful on record. This year's log featured two separate snowchases to rural Louisville (December 6 & January 22) combining for 9" of snow, and three other snowchases (Indianapolis on February 8; Ocoee, Tennessee on February 12; Clarksville, Tennessee on March 3), combining for almost 1.5' of snow/sleet. Thus, for the first time in my snowchasing career, I connected with each snowchase (100% accuracy), with each snowchase bringing in at least 3" of snow. However, this didn't fully ease the pain of the Nashville #snowdome (see below).

So without further ado, I present the sights and sounds of my 2013-14 winter retrospective:

What the winter will ultimately be remembered for in Nashville.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Road Less Traveled By

When reading the Word, it can be easy to downplay geographical and time-sensitive features as filler material. I know for me, it can be easy to accelerate my Bible reading by skimming over environmental details and cutting straight to the “heart” of the passage.

However, when we consider what the Scriptures has to say about Christ's ministry, we find every word, pronoun and article carrying strategic purpose and placement.

Take John 4 for example, where we find Christ intentionally reaching out to a woman at a well. Before the encounter takes place, we’re given comprehensive context with respect to setting, which connects back to John 3:

John 3:22-23 (ESV) – “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized.”

Now, let’s flash-forward to John 4:1-6:

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

In these two passages, we’re given three separate locations, which help decorate the backstory to John 4. Although “Judean countryside” may seem vague compared to John the Baptist's location, when given a map of ancient Israel, we can make some noteworthy deductions concerning the Samaritan town of Sychar.

In verse 2, we find Jesus leaving Judea for Galilee; however, we’re not given a specific departing point. If we assume Jesus started close to where John was baptizing (i.e. Aenon near Salim), then instead of a straight northwest track to Galilee, Jesus would have had to travel in a completely separate direction (i.e. southwest) in order to pass through Sychar. Either way, we can infer the likely possibility of Jesus going out of his way to pass straight through Sychar.  

Back then, it was culturally unacceptable for a Jew to pass through a Samaritan town, given Jews considered Samaritans to be half-breeds (half-Gentile, half-Jew). In fact, if a Jew was departing Jerusalem on route to Galilee, he would travel a longer distance to circumvent Samaria entirely (see map). Truly, if there was a way for Jews and Samaritans to avoid each other, they took it; however, Jesus could have cared less, as his message of hope knew no bias. What mattered most to him was fulfilling the day’s call, which involved the road less traveled by.

It’s also worth noting the exact time of day as mentioned in verse 6 (i.e. “sixth hour”). Now, the “sixth hour” did not mean Jesus was pulling into Sychar at 6:00 am, as we might assume. The sixth hour back then coincided with the heat of the day. So a weary, tired Jesus pausing at the well makes complete sense. The question is: Why would Jesus time his journey during such an inconvenient time of day? Truly, Jesus was up to something.

When we consider Jesus lived on purpose, then we can see how he had every intention of meeting the woman at the well exactly when he did. She wasn’t just a highly favored recipient of timely chance. Instead, Jesus pursued her with every intention of transforming her life through the revelation of his compassion, even at the cost of his reputation (i.e. It was also culturally unacceptable for Jewish men to speak to Samaritan women). Thus, Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well can be seen as an intentional maneuver, as opposed to a “right place, right time” happenstance.

But what makes John 4 so captivating is two-fold.

When we look at the internal evidence, we find Jesus' obedience developing into intentional evangelism. Hence, by passage’s end, we note the woman operating as a victorious vessel, not an ostracized outcast.

However, the external evidence, as previously mentioned, is equally striking. And when both sides are taken to heart, we understand, in greater measure, how the evangelically intentional life sets hope on fire and reveals truth in a contagious, enlightening way.

Ultimately, no matter what route is analyzed, we find Jesus deliberately pouring life into the cracks of a broken vagrant and replacing her shattered dreams with holy desires…all because Christ embraced the divine appointment with intentional evangelism. In the end, he simply wanted the truth to be known, which is why he wasn’t afraid to transform an adulteress with an errant history into a minster of hope to a despised community. Jesus perfectly knew when she spoke, people would listen. One simply does not rise from such ashes to fearlessly proclaim power without a Jesus encounter.

As a result of the woman's faith, many Samaritans ended up saved:

"Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.' After the two days he departed for Galilee." ~ John 4:39-43 (ESV)

See how geography and time play such a valuable role in the ministry of Christ? Even elements God transcends can help breathe life into desperate circumstances. So if we truly want our lives to speak, then we need to remember living intentionally intentionally changes.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to live with the light turned on.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Never Give Up, Never Surrender (Part 1)

I’m going to be quite frank: I’m not a fan of my day job.

I mean...don’t get me wrong. I take great pride in being bivocational, serving as a full-time volunteer youth pastor with a permanent governmental position on the side.

But on some days, I’m telling you…I seriously consider buying some “Just for Men” products just to combat premature greyness potential.

After all, it’s hard to stay engaged at work when you sense your passion bucket is drying up…when the only thing keeping your midday heart afloat is a splintered desire for excellence.

'Cause truth is: Sometimes, it’s easy to want to quit…to unplug and refresh, especially when you feel you’re heart and résumé are headed in opposite directions.

However, when we soak in the Word and rest in the arms of Christ, we can find value in steadfast persistence, even when our circumstances don’t make sense. Yes, we may be burning for a reset compass to the tune of 90°, maybe 180°, but this doesn’t have to compromise our faith in staying the course.

Think about the ministry of Christ…

Whenever Jesus encountered a difficult situation, what’s the first thing he did? He yielded. He relinquished his prerogative and instead, referenced the Father so he could be filled with wisdom and understanding.

In other words, Jesus lived what God said…because he saw his life as a pure reflection of the Father’s heart and continually established the hope of glory as his vanguard.

Thus, the more Jesus yielded, the more supernatural strength he received, which in turn, helped him not only stand firm in the midst of trials, but also live a lifestyle of perpetual obedience.

Essentially, when we discern the ministry of Jesus, we see how holy surrender is the best way to never give up.

But maybe you’re still scratching your head, wondering how this relates to the humble workingman stuck in cubicle country. I’s not like these factoids can ease the burden of two rush hour commutes a day or the patronizing, unprofessionally filtered dialogue ponging up the airwaves and hallways…

or can it?

You see, studying the nature and ministry of Christ not only inspires us to live a life worthy of the calling set before us (Ephesians 4:1), but also compels us to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24-26). Without it, there’s no way we can expect our natural perspective to calibrate to where it needs to be.

And yet, on the flipside, I understand the profile of the unfulfilled employee whose frustration mounts whenever a co-worker is promoted out of bias or when another is  intentionally disregarded.

However, whenever I feel suffocated or ignored by a colleague, I remember the attitude Christ had whenever he encountered animosity.

And suddenly, my crap doesn’t feel so…crappy anymore.

True, I may be tempted to vent steam in the face of what feels like discriminate functionality. But glory to God if I’m hard-pressed. Glory to God if I feel abandoned…if I’m stuck in a jam and the only way out is reliance upon His unfailing masterheart.

Bottom line: You may find yourself in a bland situation, feeling like you’re filing your creativity away …or stuck between provisional responsibility and a dream pursuit.

But whether you feel pinned under overwhelming pressure or hardened by lifelessness, the point is: Don’t quit…but stay the course!

Remember each season of your life is a stepping stone in the direction of the unfathomable calling God has for you. So don’t believe the lie that God doesn’t care about the job you do…or that everything has to make sense in order to embrace the opportunity in front of you.

Instead, press in, press through and put yourself in a position to hear God’s heart and voice, so when you hear His call, you won’t hesitate to obey even if you don’t fully understand the answer. For God always sees the ultimate goal and nothing is impossible with him (Luke 1:37). After all, He not only sees the light at the end of the tunnel – He is the light.

Let's pray...

 “God, we want to be difference makers at our jobs, even though it may seem most of the people we work with tick the living shrek out of us. God, we want to love what’s hard, not just what’s easy. We don’t want to give up and surrender the chance we have to be light in the darkness. We may not be a fan of what we do. We may not see how this pertains to our calling. But by faith, we're going to believe there’s a purpose behind the position you’ve blessed us with. We don’t have to see it to believe it and we don’t have to like it to live it. At the end of the day, we're going to be obedient. And we trust that you’ll create and develop in us a stronger desire to selflessly serve while standing tall in adversity. It’s not about us. It’s all about you. So take this numb heart and breathe life back into it so we may be able to give life back to others. Amen!”

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