Saturday, January 31, 2015

LEGACYouth: A Concentration on Consecration

I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the word, "consecration", I tend to let it wash over me.

Not like I have anything against the word; I suppose I just grew up not finding it to be very relatable.

Something about altars, memorials...ehhh. I'll be honest. I never gave it much thought when I was younger.

But as I've found in recent years, consecration packs a pretty powerful punch!*

'Cause when we talk about consecration, what we're actually talking about is dedication...a celebration, if you will, of our sanctification...and the privilege we have in coming clean.

But before you get all Hillary Duff on me, "selah" on this quick-hitter from Joshua 3:5:

Consecrate yourselves, for [this year] the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Whoa! That's pretty awesome stuff, isn't it? Knowing we can make an action a lifestyle...and in doing so, experience restoration and transformation through Christ.

Let's see what else the Bible has to say about consecration...
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to [consecrate] your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:1-2

I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once [consecrated yourselves] as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” ~ Romans 6:19

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:20-21
So basically, when we take a mean pulse of these Scriptures, we find to "consecrate" is to make straight the way of the Lord in our lives. 

It's drawing a line in the sand with the intent to relentlessly follow Jesus, embrace what is holy (consecration literally means "association with the sacred"), and let the past be past.

And I know it can be easy to get the Mufasa tingles when the word "covenant" comes up. 

But that's exactly what consecration is all about: establishing a convenant between you and God and separating yourselves from anything that contradicts the word and character of God...while being faithful to let Him replace what you're leaving behind with greater faith in His promises.

But while we can sit here and chit chat about definitions and metaphors, at the end of the day, I believe it's imperative we make "consecrate" an active verb in 2015, as opposed to a passive one. 

No, I'm not suggesting some awkward bathing ritual or tearing of clothes as a symbolic act of cleansing. Contrarily, I'm suggesting we hammer stakes into the ground, stakes that represent the very things we desire God to accomplish and increase in us this year**.

So I encourage you, my friends, to be the holy nation He's called us to be, "a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

[For] once you were not a people, but now you are God's people." ~ 1 Peter 2:9-10

What better way to celebrate this by a concentration on consecration. 

* How's that for a late night shot of alliteration?

** Whether this represents things we want to be set free from, things we want to claim as our inheritance...anything we want to commit to the Lord for the sake of being more like Him.

Image by Conversant Faith

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LEGACYouth: Visioncasting 2015

When we backtrack to Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (Luke 1:28-38), we find a fascinating dialogue between the two. After Gabriel’s incarnational announcement to Mary, note her response in v. 34:

"How will this be…?" talk about radical faith!

I mean…Mary could have easily said, “Why me” or “How can this be”.

But what does she do? She puts the emphasis on “will” over “can”…and I’m telling you, friends…the ramifications of what may appear to be a subtle variance is HUGE!

For her response revealed a strong, anchored faith rooted in a God whom she trusted. Thus, by confessing, “How will this be”, she was essentially saying: “I know this will happen. I just want to know how it will happen. ‘Cause all I know is what God says, goes…and I want to go with it!”

So I believe this year needs to start and center on this heartcry (i.e. God is telling us: “I have great things in store for you in 2015.” We need to response: “How will this be?”
So after praying into this new year over the Christmas break, here are some key words and prayer points God placed in my heart. 

1) Resurrect & restore - I believe God wants to resurrect life within, whether it's undeveloped or lost through compromise and/or circumstances. One of the definitions of "resurrect" is: to bring back into practice. So I think this is a key time to ponder what we need to weave back into our daily walk with the Lord. For me, I've decided to read the entire Bible in a year. While this may sound religious, it's not. Why? Because it's a simple yet genuine response to God wanting to resurrect life in me through greater understanding of His Word and how it's pieced together systematically. When Jesus came to earth, He came to give life...and in some cases, literally raise it from dead or dormant places.

However, this is only the beginning. For when God brings something or someone to life, there's a restoration process needed to sustain that life. So when we talk about restoration, we're not talking so much about reinvention, but reinstatement (see John 21:15-19). In other words, God wants to restore His people to their original condition. Perhaps some of you are just now starting to understand what God has intended for you, as an individual among creation. Regardless of where you're at in the journey, I believe this needs to be a year where we run after this place in God's heart in greater measure. Just remember God doesn't resurrect something He doesn't intend to restore. Whether this means contending for more hope, faith courage, joy, patience, compassion, love for one another, reaching the lost...let's believe and be proactive in asking God for what we need brought to life within us.

2) Godliness & power - In a time when it's easy to try and woo men with power, I believe God wants us to pursue His presence with greater passion in 2015. Why? Because we must be satisfied being in the presence of God before we can encounter His power. As we talked about last summer, the idea of presence is based on being filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, for many Christians, there's a temptation to not only prematurely pursue power before presence, but also pursue our purpose before power and/or presence. If we want our purpose first, we have it backwards. The rightful order is: presence, power & purpose. So I believe God wants us to do everything with this order in mind. And I believe if we do this part right, then we'll be successfully in lovingly living counter-culturally (i.e. living contrarily to the ways of the world and of the flesh). After all, the Gospel was never meant to be culturally relevant.

3) Proactive praise - I think worship has become a relative term in the mind of many people. Yet, when we see every aspect of our lives as expressions of worship, we can draw excitement in knowing God delights in us glorifying Him in the simple things, as much as the profound. Yet, for some, this doesn't change the fact praise is often a reactive reflex, as opposed to a proactive heartcry. Thus, I believe part of cultivating a heart for God's presence lies in proactive praise. Are we declaring the greatness and faithfulness of God when we read, when we pray, when we enjoy right relationships with people? Are we actually voicing praise to God or keeping it locked up within? Are we hungry to hear God? To give our “ear as we fear”?

‘Cause bottom line: I strongly believe this is important for us to focus on this year...because the world needs to see a people who are hungry and ready for whatever, whenever. They need to see a people who know God and His ways. They need to see love without compromise, without borders and without agenda.

And if you there’s one thing you get out of reading this, then God wants to unlock something awesome within you...He wants to take you to the next level in 2015...but that will only happen if you truly desire and are willing to make His love known wherever, whenever He takes you.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Beauty of God's Wrath

Recently, during a sit-down discussion with my senior pastor, the following question came up: How would you explain God's anger and jealousy to a junior high student?

A fair point, since for many youth pastors, teaching these attributes of God’s character can feel like threading a needle at times. Fortunately, there are practical truths and illustrations ministers can use to teach these qualities.

For instance, before tackling God’s wrath and jealousy head on, it’s important to define love and God’s identity as love (1 John 4:8). When one does this, it not only establishes the fact we were made to worship God since He values us and knows we would die otherwise, but it also allows the young person to realize love and wrath are not emotions as much as they are choices! 

Thus, when God gets angry, He gets angry for us, not at us. And since anger and jealousy are choices, then other difficult topics like hell and eternal separation can be linked to God’s respect for human freedom.

So ultimately, explaining anger and jealousy is ideally explained in the context of knowing love by knowing God and our destiny as being conquered by love. Because when youth understand they are objects of God’s love, then they’ll better understand the difference between the “self-ed” individual and the “loved” person. Once a young person discerns the variance, then they’ll further see:
  • The connection between freedom and relationships
  • The connection between freedom and God’s authority
  • How God’s authority is another word for His love
  • The danger of independence
  • The insanity of sin
  • The importance of the cross
  • And how there can be no love without justice since justice validates love

Furthermore, it’s imperative to emphasize the discrepancy between the wrath of God and the wrath of man. Man’s wrath is emotional, but God’s wrath is holy and justifiable. Often times, when men get angry and want justice, it’s because they want to right an offense; however, when God gets angry, it’s because He wants an offense to be righted...and for creation to see existence as an expression of His love. In fact, it could be said that within His wrath, He wants us to be free from His wrath

So for those who don’t know Him, for those who give glory and honor to ‘other gods’, the Bible says He gets jealous for them (2 Corinthians 11:2). Why? Because a) all glory and honor rightfully belongs to God (and God alone) and b) jealousy is sinful when it involves a desire for something that doesn’t belong to you.

Biblical example: Exodus 11 (Moses & the burning bush – when God says, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I?”

Real-life example: A God who is rightfully angry can be compared to an athletic coach who is leading a struggling team loaded with potential. A good coach doesn’t get angry at the players for losing the game. He is jealous for them because he knows they are better than the outcome – that their talent level is better than what’s being realized. Thus, he doesn’t give up on his players, but rather pushes them harder and keeps working with them on an individual/team basis.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2014

When you think back on 2014, what immediately comes to mind?

LF: I really think 2014 was marked by clearing hurdles. The theme of mountains and valleys was huge. There were highs and lows, but the amazing thing is that every low was immediately followed by an awesome high. Overall, it was a good year with its fair share of challenges.

CF:  I agree. To me, it was a “back to the drawing board” kind of year. Plenty of fine-tuning. If I had to sum the year up in two words, I’d go with “successfully conquered”.

What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

LF: The first thing that comes to mind is getting published on ‘Darling’ magazine's website. It was a poem I wrote for my mom for Mother's Day and it was exciting to share that. Also, seeing the youth engage in worship and leading by example, especially during November’s Wednesday Worship Experience, was amazing. Oh, and our one-year anniversary trip to Chicago... 

CF: Yeah, our travels to Chicago and St. Louis were pretty epic. I’d say graduating with my Master’s in Education a couple weeks ago was a highlight, though if I had to choose one in particular, I’d go with LEGACYouth reaching a new level in its ministry this summer. It’s been exciting to lead such an awesome group of students during a watershed year. No doubt, it's going to be even more amazing in 2015 as God continues to lead us in developing the worship culture.

How would you compare the sophomore and freshman years of marriage?

LF: I feel like we hit a pretty good groove this year...much more in balance. The first year featured a lot of learning. I feel like we click more. We laugh more. We cry more…but it’s with each other rather than ‘because of each other’. I also feel like we have become better friends and as a result, better partners. We anchor and support each other and it is a joy to operate that way.

CF: Amen. I feel like our emotional unity has helped us press through some hard times. Overall, I think we understand and compliment each other more. We’re not as afraid to be vulnerable and transparent…and that, in turn, has enhanced our relationship. Everything feels more settled now. The honeymoon year was pretty sweet, but I think the second year has been even sweeter!

What lesson from 2014 are you eager to apply in 2015?

LF: There’s a difference between motivation and determination. You can be determined to complete something or apply yourself even when you don’t have the motivation. All too often this year, I held back because I didn't "feel" like doing something. But that is not a scalable philosophy. Determination and dedication will take us so much farther than "feeling motivated" ever will. I feel like this applies to multiple areas in my life right now.

CF: Word. I’ve felt this on the work front a couple times this year. Even when you feel out of place…and your drive is splintered, you can thrive by allowing God to breathe faithfulness into your pursuit of excellence. On a more personal note, I’ve learned, at least to a higher degree, the positive consequences of trusting God while feeling alone/disconnected (relationally outside of marriage)...when wrestling with fading strongholds...and when setting boundaries, whether in ministry or with finances and time management.

What do you hope you’ll be saying at this time next year?

LF: The dedication is paying off. The query letters have been sent. Only three months to go until we’re debt-free. We’re expecting.  I think those are the big ones.

CF: I second these. I’ll also add: What a successful first year of His Girl Fryday (cough, cough), what an effective year serving The Gate Community Church as a new Messenger Fellowship associate...and what a thrilling year seeking fresh leads on a new career pathway. Oh...and I'm hungrier for God and His ways like never before and thus, ending my third decade of living on the highest possible note.

2014 - By the Numbers

Estimated miles driven: 27,586 
Deep Fry blog posts: 52
His Girl Fryday blog posts: 16
Fall 2014 GPA: 4.0 (clinching Magna Cum Laude Honors)
Snowchased Snow Amounts: 17.4"
Miles run (Cameron): 674

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