Monday, April 27, 2015

Flash Weather: Remembering the 4.27.11 Tuscaloosa Tornado

Four years ago today, the worst recorded tornado outbreak in U.S. history struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia & east Tennessee. For Nashville area residents, it's easy to forget how powerful the storm was having been spared the worst of the system's intensity (sound familiar?).

Unfortunately, communities just 50-125 miles south of us would experience catastrophic loss on what is now heralded as a 1 in 100 year storm.
Years later, the day still fascinates/haunts me...mainly because of what could have been.

People occasionally ask me if I stormchased that day. The answer is no, but I gotta tell ya...I was pretty darn close. For days, I waffled back and forth on the idea; however, something in me told me to stay home and upon further review, I'm very glad I did.


On one end, I would have likely seen my first tornado had I made the trip down to my intended destination outside Huntsville. On the flip side, I may not have lived to tell the tale about it. That's just how completely insane the day was.


So for those in the middle Tennessee viewing area...while storms continue to tease us...remember we've been very close to taking some direct hits over the years (i.e. remember the tornado that jumped over Davidson county back on 2/5/2008?). I know days like Saturday are somewhat cringeworthy in the 'cry wolf' sort of way, despite the fact most meteorologists made it clear the setup was far from perfect.


However, on anniversary days like today, it's important to remember those perfect setups can happen. Granted, they are extremely rare (hence why they're referred to as "generational events") as it takes the perfect ingredients coming together in perfect timing to produce something of epic proportions (see Nashville May 2010 flood). 


Yet, regardless of how this event impacted us, it's important to let it refresh our perspective. 'Cause at the end of the day, life is a gift; hope is a light. And when the two come together, the only sensible thing we can do is thank God where we're at.


So to my dear friends, Michael Murphy & Allie Murphy, I echo this truth by remembering you today...and celebrating the fact God has made all things new for you. The beats my heart skipped while I watched that tornado take out Tuscaloosa now find themselves skipping to the tune of deep gratitude knowing you're alive and well...


...and that God's plans will always endure regardless of what the atmosphere does. May He who uses the nature He holds together as part of our witness bless and encourage you abundantly today.


Photo: A scene from Harvest, Alabama (not far from my intended stormchasing destination) as see. during The Gate's tornado recovery outreach on July 26, 2011.


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

LEGACYouth: "Who are You?"

Remember the 'Squashed Banana' scene in "The Lion King" when Rafiki confirms Simba's identity just moments before his radical encounter with Mufasa?

I don’t know about you, but this part always gives me chills...

...perhaps since I can relate to Simba in knowing what it’s like to lose sight of who am I.1

Truth is: There's something innate about our need to discover who we are, a reality we find not only within ourselves, but also reflected in culture, media...even in our relationships.



Yet, regardless of where we are in life, it’s important to address/readdress the question of “Who am I?

True, it may seem trivial, but you’d be surprised how thwarted and twisted our answers become if we don’t constantly connect them to God's Word. ‘Cause the fact of the matter is, if we don’t base what's true to us with what’s true to God, it’s like we’re intentionally fogging up the lens through which we see. If you can see, why the shrek would you want to go blind?

Speaking of blind, there’s an ancient Indian story that tells of six blind men who attempted to describe an elephant based on what part of the elephant they were examining with their hands. Because of their blindness, they drew some pretty comical conclusions. One felt the leg and decided the elephant was a pillar. Another touched the tusk and determined it was a solid pipe. Still another grabbed the tail and proclaimed it to be nothing more than rope. The story goes on and in the end a man blessed with sight enters and sees the whole picture, that it was, in fact, an elephant.

Now...while this story is used by world religions to describe what they incorrectly believe to be the different paths to God, I want to use it to illustrate how incomplete our view and understanding is of ourselves. Often, we make the mistake of finding our identity without realizing that in our blindness we have seen only a tiny part of the big picture. For example, a guy may play a sport really well so he finds his identity in the fact that he is an athlete. A girl might be really pretty and therefore she’s finds her identity in her external appearance. The problem is...this is such an incomplete picture. Why? Because Jesus sees so much more when He looks at us.2
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Before I jump into our Scripture reading for the day, I want to stress some mind-blowing statistics3 :
  • From the 266 days from your conception to your birth, one single fertilized call became a staggeringly complex organism of some 200 million cells.
  • Your growth rate was such that if you had continued to grow from birth at the same rate, then you would be 75 feet tall and weigh several tons by the age of 16.
  • Each cell as it divided exactly copied your unique genetic code, so that each cell would now be uniquely you.
  • To view the code from just one cell would require watching 5 million frames of a TV.
  • Each one of us has between 10 and 15 billion brain cells. If each cell were a person, then they would populate two planets the size of earth.
  • Your heart began beating after about 21 days when you were only 3mm long.
  • You could hear your mother’s voice after 16 weeks and also had your own unique fingerprints.
Isn't that incredible?

And to think some say there’s no God...no creator of the universe...that somehow there can be a dividing line between science and faith.


 

Seriously…YOU ARE SO FREAKIN’ SPECIAL! There is no one else in the world like you.

If you can’t take my word for it, then take it from God…who not only made us in His image (Genesis 1:27) but loved us enough to rescue us (John 3:16) so we could gain a new spiritual identity through His Son.
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Concerning the compilation video above, did anyone catch the exchange between Adam Sandler & Jack Nicholson? I honestly never thought I’d reference a spiritual concept based on a clip starring those two.

But what Jack’s character is telling Adam’s character is actually quite profound.

The danger in basing your identity in the things that you do, the way you look, the friends you hang out with, and so on…lies in misplaced value. When you put your worth in things that constantly change…in things that can be taken away…you place your value in things that can be stripped away.

However, when we ‘selah’ on the fact man’s ways are variable, but God’s ways are everlasting (Habakkuk 3:6), we find our actual identity (i.e. the part of you that truly and accurately describes who you are at the core of your being), does not change. Thus, if we think our identity is based on performance, then we not only risk misunderstanding God in the fullness of His grace, but we also  flirt with the idea our identity is synonymous with our past...that somehow we're the sum of our past mistakes.

But this couldn't be further from the truth.

Sure, you may no longer be the athlete you once were, what you see as “good looks” may change; however, how God designed you…His intentions for you will never change.  

For example...let’s say you’re training for a big race or sporting event. Obviously, you work out to build muscle, stamina, endurance; however, your identity is not a fit, sexy lookin’ athlete. Rather, your identity is determined, devoted, willed, etc.

See the difference?

Even though the byproduct of your identity (i.e. what you do) is apparent, what exists at your core (“who you are”) cannot be measured or quantified.

This is why we preach the 3/4B principle: We belong to God…and having received the unconditional love of God, we can believe in Him and adapt how we behave accordingly. This ultimately allows us to become more like Christ.

Note: If you swap ‘behave’ and ‘belong’, then chances are you’re abiding by a performance mentality and have a skewed grasp on grace & who you are in Christ.
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Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:9-10

“…for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (NLT)

Let’s look at a few of the things that are mentioned in those verses.

Chosen/God's People

§  God, in all His amazing power and wisdom, has looked at you and said, “This is a person that I love. I want to know this person better. I chose you.” Because you belong to God, you have the ability to change the world with His love and grace.

Royal Priest

§  You are “royalty”, which means that you are an adopted child of the Creator of the Universe. He loves you, not as a friend or a follower, but as a son or a daughter.

You are a priest. That carries so many meanings. You have the ability to help lead others to that same incredible love that God has for you.

Of course, these are just a few of the things that the Bible says are your true identity. The best part is that no one can take that away from you. Nothing you do, no matter what life throws at you, your identity in Jesus Christ cannot be shaken or destroyed. Jesus sees the full picture of who you are.2

Footnotes
1) Thankfully, like Rafiki, the Holy Spirit is faithful to whack me into a better place (#likeagoodneighbor) and set me back on track.
2) Story retrieved from http://ministrytoyouth.com/youth-group-lessons-on-identity/
3) Stats retrieved from http://insight.typepad.co.uk/insight/2008/09/who-am-i.html

Video compiled by Cameron Fry

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Why Part-Time & Bivocational Aren’t the Same Thing

Have you ever wondered why some people associate bivocational with “part-time” or why others relate time to effort to begin with?

I know for me, it’s easy to perceive the answers through a marketplace lens; however, when we talk about bivocational ministers, we ultimately discover a new lens altogether.

First off, when I say “part-time” in a ministerial context, I’m referring to pastors who balance multiple “full-time” loads inside and outside the church. The specifics may differ, but in general, a part-time pastor is a bivocational pastor who has accepted two or more vocations.

With that said, I strongly believe pastors should never be labeled “part-time” since it’s not possible to limit pastoral responsibilities to 20 hours a week…not to mention the term is widely misunderstood.

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Cause truth is: Regardless if a pastor is bivocational or not, every pastor is (or should be) on call 24/7.

True, it may be hard for some to be “on call” depending on their job’s requirements; however, just because a pastor may juggle multiple jobs doesn’t mean he lacks the time or energy to put in a full-time effort at church. Rather, it simply means he has to be resourceful in how he stewards his time, whether investing in rest and family at designated intervals or temporarily sacrificing personal conveniences to develop people and new skill sets.

At the end of the day, whether a minister is bivocational by choice or necessity (i.e. financial limitations and/or a specific seasonal call of God), the point is “part-time” pastors still carry full-time responsibilities.

And in a time when living costs are increasing and church membership is decreasing, the reality is bivocational ministers are becoming more essential in leading the church while modeling its purpose outside of it.

No wonder many bivocational pastors consider their greatest call to be on call regardless of where they’re at.

Stay tuned next time when we’ll dive into a brand new series on bivocational profiles.

Cover photo from www.bivocationalpastor.com and www.sojo.net

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

LEGACYouth: "It is Done" // Spoken Word

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I am one voice, crying out in the dark
Make straight my ways; let light leave its mark
For I am the maker of all things new
What I speak is faithful; my words always true.

I am the good shepherd; I came to give life
So all men could have it…and have it in rife

I am the grave conquered; a tomb left abandoned
A deep love ascended for hope one can stand in

I am the way; I came to set free
The broken and blind who lacked eyes to see

I am the good news, truth spoken in awe
A grace to replace the chains of the law

I am the keymaster; I came in meek splendor
So I could teach men the way to surrender

I am the gatekeeper who authored redemption
The Passover lamb who made no exception

And all so your stripes could be healed, not afflicted
For mercy to mend the divide once inflicted

So as you reflect on true freedom’s cause
A bridge to the kingdom, forgiveness of flaws

Remember the voice who took nails to flesh
So you could abide in His life afresh

And cherish the triumph so graciously won
The Savior, our King, who declared:

“It is done.”

 Lyrics by: Cameron J. Fry

Photo by: youthareawesome.com

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

"The New Cup"

Imagine if you could teleport back to Gethesame and engage a deeply distressed Jesus hours before his arrest.

What would you do? What would you say?

Pretty hard to fathom, right...

...to be a part of the most epic Thursday night in history…to be with Jesus at the Last Supper and the garden knowing what we know today.

Indeed, there are many ways to reflect on the Easter story this time of year. But perhaps one of the best entry points we can tap into is “the new cup”.

Let’s dive into Mark 14 starting in v. 32:

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” ~ Mark 14:32-33

So right away, we see a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity. Clearly, Jesus is aware of what's about to happen and is starting to feel more weight on his shoulders.

Let’s read on.

“And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” ~ Mark 14:34-36

Again, we see evidence not only of Jesus’ agony…but also his desire to stay tethered to the will of his Father. So while this passage may seem like Jesus is desperate for a last minute detour from having to endure the cross, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

First off, when the text says “if it were possible, the hour might pass from him”, Jesus is asking God for continued strength to persevere…not for a supernatural fast-forwarding. He’s not confessing, “Okay, God. Let’s get this over with.

Rather what Jesus is desperate for is a filled cup of strength to stay the course and finish well. This is why Jesus is steadfast in prayer during this three-hour stretch because he realizes the importance of staying connected to the Father...a desire further confirmed by his want for the disciples to be in prayer with him*.

Moments later, Jesus asks God to remove this cup from him. Again, it’s imperative to know Jesus isn’t asking for an alternative option. Many people assume Jesus’ agony is relative to the physical suffering he is about to endure.

But think about it: Jesus was fully aware of what was to happen over the next three days. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to think Jesus was fearful of death when you consider Jesus lived with the cross in mind his entire life. Surely, his agony had to be over something else.

This ultimately begs the question: What is the cup Jesus is referring to?

In the Old Testament, we’re given hints as to what this is:

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” ~ Psalm 75:8

Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” ~ Isaiah 51:17

Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.’” ~ Jeremiah 25:15

When we apply these Scriptures to the context of Mark 14:32-42, we realize “Jesus is not flinching at pain and death, but in fact, he’s shuddering before the cup of God’s wrath upon sin”1.

In other words, Jesus is beginning to taste death in all its bitterness “from a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types (i.e. heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring & deceptive thoughts)”2…and it’s this cup that Jesus ultimately drinks on the cross.

Think of this way: When Jesus died on the cross, God’s cup of burning anger was drained down to the dregs, the fullness of His wrath poured out onto His Son in our place (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Once Jesus consumed the cup of God’s wrath, it allowed a new cup to emerge: the cup of God’s fellowship!

Now we can celebrate this new cup by remembering the price Christ paid on the cross…and the “sweet, satisfying reality of God’s eternal fellowship in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit”2.

But perhaps the best part of this cup is the privilege we have to offer it to those who don’t know Jesus…to tell the lost and the broken: Come, drink this cup with us because Jesus drank that cup for us.

I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to be a believer who says these words often.

‘Til then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter…and encourage you to find peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.

He is Risen!


Footnotes

1)      McGuire, B. (2007, May 1). Christless Christianity. Vol. 16 No. 3 Page number(s): 21-24. Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=4
2)      Lee, Steven. The Cup Consumed for Us. (2014, April 7). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-cup-consumed-for-us

*Jesus' desire for the disciples to participate in prayer had just as much (if not, more so) to do with their spiritual development as it did with their present intercession (props to my awesome wife for catching this ;)

Photo by jasongoronocy.com
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