Saturday, January 30, 2016

3 Resolutions Everyone Should Put at the Top of Their List in 2016


Ever feel like January is a bunch of Groundhog Day’s stitched together…like an iPod stuck on replay? Perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder why so many are still hopping on and off the resolution bandwagon, scrambling to find the right short-term fix for their long-term “needs”. If you can relate, then hear me out. ‘Cause today we’re going to talk about how we can better fine-tune our resolutions1 by focusing on three practical “heart goals” we can all aspire to in 2016.

1) Pray…more. Okay, okay…I know this is a “chalk” point2; however, it’s still worth mentioning considering it’s the most powerful form of communication we can experience.

Think about it: God loves us so much…He gave us a limitless lifeline (i.e. prayer) so we can dial into Him at any time...and join Him in making a difference. I don’t know about you, but I find this [very] encouraging…knowing we can pursue God through prayer and partner with Him in His work no matter where we are or what we’re going through. Granted, as bivocational believers, there will be times the enemy tempts us into thinking our prayers are less effective (compared to full-time ministers)…and distracts us into less frequent, circumstance-driven prayer.

However, the truth is: we can pray boldly and effectively because we’re made righteous through Christ (James 5:16)…and are equipped with a purpose and a plan that no one can strip away. Thus, it’s important we take time to consider how God wants to use us through the power of prayer in 2016, whether it involves healing the brokenhearted…opening closed doors to advance the mystery of God…and/or shedding light on the truth of who God is (Colossians 4:3, Ephesians 5:13).

2) Memorize…more. To be honest...I'm not the biggest fan of memorization; not because it's a waste of time3, but because I'm simply not that good at it...it's somewhat rudimentary (as a learning technique)...plus I'm perfectly content being familiar with as many things as I can. So it should be no surprise when I say I rarely involve memorization when studying the Word, considering I'd rather get the concept than the verbatim.  However…this doesn't mean memorization doesn't have a place in our spiritual walk...or that I'm even correct in my overall assessment. In fact, I'd submit it's one of the most underrated forms of spiritual preparation (abiding + equipping). 
IMG_5667

Consider 1 Peter 3:15: "...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..." At the sake of sounding cheesy, whenever I hear "being prepared to make a defense", I immediately imagine a 19th century cowboy minister being able "draw" the words of God on demand...like John Wayne, except instead of a Winchester Model, you have powerful words of two-edged truth. But though Peter isn't emphasizing a particular apologetic discipline here, it can be said memorization is a worthy component to any readiness strategy, given its tendency to root head faith deeper into heart faith.

My advice? Don't hesitate to memorize more...and take advantage of the fact there's an app for that (See "Fighter Verses" app (left screenshot); Jeff Ling’s post for more insight here).

3) Reach out…more. Whenever we hear “reach out”, it’s easy to think go on more mission trips or go to the soup kitchen every weekend. But in this case, when I say “reach out”, I’m talking about confidently pursuing life-on-life opportunities…in the flesh. Person-to-person…face-to-face. Yes, there is a place for online community and virtual relationship (as I wrote about a few weeks ago); however, with more of our social interaction taking place by “i-Products” these days, it’s important we commune intentionally, especially if leaving a Kingdom legacy matters to us.

Case and point: A couple years back, my wife and I talked about this issue…and at the end of our conversation, she challenged me to initiate three hangouts/phone-calls (outside my normal routine) a month for three months. At first, I had my reservations…especially since we were in the middle of a relationally dry season. But as I started to carry out the charge, it wasn’t long before I realized this is what I was made for; this is what I should be doing more often! I’m telling you…simply putting myself out there was a game-changer. In fact, had I not gone into “challenge accepted” mode, I wouldn’t have been able to listen, encourage, and pray God’s will/best into action the way God had for me. You see…often times, we think we have something to lose being vulnerable and available, but once we realize this kind of withdrawal mentality doesn’t come from God, we can take it captive and ultimately discover the pure thrill of reaching out on purpose. In light of this, my encouragement to you, friends, is to keep the foot on the gas pedal this year…to keep doing the good things you’ve been doing…just more of it. Seriously, just imagine if we all got in on this…how many more lives would be impacted…

Footnotes

1. As January fades into February…I find the transition to be a great time to reevaluate my resolutions. After all, when we aim to cling to what is good, we should also want to cling to what is necessary…and appointed for such a time as this…so at the end of the day, we may reach the prize to which we’re running towards
2. “Chalk” point = an obvious statement worthy of mention
3. Though I'd say otherwise if it's used as a primary means of retaining knowledge

Photo credits: themogulmom.com

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Hard Truth about Online "Community"

Ever wonder what life would be like if social media didn't exist...or how people (particularly post-millennials) would respond if life suddenly reverted back to how it was in the '90's (i.e. the last decade when face-to-face interaction was still the dominant form of communication)?

It's crazy to consider, right? The idea of people living veilless without their lazy, electronic luxuries in their self-preserved anonymity...

Granted, there are clear benefits to living in a more technically savvy world...I get that.

However, I also know...as a culture, we've become so accustomed to online interaction, so used to anti-social means of socializing...we've forgotten what it's like to relate...what it means to care...

...not to mention what real1, genuine community looks like.

With that said, perhaps one day we’ll recognize the contrast between brotherly and self-seeking affection...between connecting and relating...

…but 'til then, as long as we can showcase our thoughts, our views...and participate in something that edifies our "right" to be heard, all is going to be well in the world...

...even when it isn't.

Not to suggest one's relational needs can't be temporarily satisfied2...that virtual camaraderie can't spiral into something more3…or that all4 online community is counterfeit. 

I'm just saying when we start equating and substituting electronic relationships for the real thing...when we spend too much time trying to forge social value and meaning through dead-end means, we only deprive ourselves from being the outwardly-focused, others-centered difference-makers we were created to be.

So how then are we to engage those who’ve settled into the shallow end of the relational pool 5…hidden within their hollow chargeable world?

I submit: if we really want to find the truth, at some point, we must be willing to get real with ourselves, confront our fear of loving on purpose, and dare to live unconditionally

'Cause at the end of the day, if we're living our lives more concerned about our passion having a pedestal than our fellow man…then clearly we’re doing it wrong6

As for me, I just can’t sit on the sidelines…going through the same ol’ idle motions when there’s a whole new world of opportunity to bless, encourage, to do something meaningful.

Thus, as a personal resolution for 2016, I'm declaring this year to one of purified priorities, a year of closing the door on all futile efforts seeking empty admission, a year of saying "yes" to coffees and lunches...and "no" to superficial community.

After all, what sense does it make to attempt (or reattempt) connection with those so easily content in judging a book by its cover...an iceberg by its tip...and a man by his (unseen) outward appearance?

Footnotes

1) Key word here
2) i.e. a "finger-in-the-dike" fix
3) Case and point: I have an aunt who met her future husband through e-harmony
4) Again, key word; also, with respect to online community, it's important not to assume each forum/group is as open as it appears. 'Cause truth is: online "communities" are, in most cases, cliques in disguise with partisan treatment toward outsiders. 
5) It’s no wonder we’ve grown numb to basic human strongholds (i.e. pride, prejudice, self-love, manipulation, gossip, etc.) and needs (i.e. belonging, esteem, respect, compassion, etc.) considering this lifestyle strips one of being able to believe the best/give the benefit of the doubt…
6) Matthew 5:9 - You are in the right place when relationships are more valuable to you than your own interests.

Photo creds: ct-social.com, http://4.bp.blogspot.com
Thanks to tennesseewx.com for this post's inspiration

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Purifying our Priorities (Part 1)

Well, folks...it's that time of year again.
  • HR Block is heating up its campaign...
  • Companies are sending out their W-2/1099's...
  • TV's are going on sale1
  • ...and New Year resolutions are officially underway2.
After all, 'tis the season to be better, right? To start afresh and anew...and to grab change by the horns...

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder how many really know how to do this…or maybe you’re hesitant…afraid of prematurely falling off the resolution bandwagon.

Whatever the case, it’s important we get real about the type of world we live in. ‘Cause when we take a good, hard look into the deep, dark crevices of our culture, we find we've grown too content taking matters into our own hands...yet too passive in carrying them out...

...a paradoxical attribute of a society that constantly suggests having a heartfelt desire is "good enough".
Not that "heartfelt desires" are bad; by all means, we were created to have them.

I'm just saying if we truly want to reach the next level (in any phase of life), it doesn't make sense to be self-reliant, given the human tendency to fall short and mishandle change. Conversely, if we want to see growth become a permanent reality in our life, we not only have to accept the existence of a higher alternative, but we must be willing to depend on it as a supreme solution that exists (and only exists) in God Himself.

All that said... How do we turn our heartfelt desires, the seeds God's plants within us, into lasting realities? How do we change from the inside out in a way that takes deep root within?

Before we can answer these questions with a customized five-point self-improvement series3, I submit we must first be willing to purify our priorities...

...which can only happen when we become intentional in spending time with God.

But first..what exactly is a "priority"?

According to the Random House Websters Dictionary...

  • priority is something that's regarded as more important...a right to precede above in rank, privilege, etc. ...
  • ...and "to prioritize" is a process by which we arrange, particularly in order of importance, relevance, value, etc.
Thus, when we consider what a priority is...and apply it to morality...our faith, we ultimately discover the importance of recognizing God's priorities for our life.
br /> Take Philippians 1, for instance, where in verses 9-10, Paul prays for the Philippians' love to abound all the more so they could better discern and approve the things that are excellent4.


Essentially, Paul is saying: if you're feeling overcommitted, overloaded, overwhelmed...if you're mired in apathy, confusion, striving...or simply trying to decide what is best, what's best for your spiritual well-being...and those around you...the answer is simple: love at all costs!

'Cause at the end of the day, we all need Jesus in the middle of our everything...not only so we can conquer the burdens of life...but so we can love better in every circumstance (hence Paul's use of the word "abound").

My thought is: let’s be unified in seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) together...in being fervent in loving one another (1 Peter 4:8; Colossians 3:14)...so we may...

  • Better identify what’s most important in our own life…
  • Better concentrate on the relationships God has called us to…
  • Be quicker in our humble obedience...
  • Be more available to God, our family, those God has called us to be around…
  • Use time more effectively, including family and ministry time (and not sacrificing one for the other)...
…all the while being Spirit-led everywhere in between.

Stay tuned next time for "part 2" of this series, where I'll discuss a couple practical pointers on how we can better engage God in our midst and live transformationally in 2016.

Footnotes

1) In prep for the Super Bowl
2) Take a good, hard look at gym attendance...and you'll see what I mean 
3) Granted, this is a popular trend this time of year
4) I don't know about you, but I  this association, specifically how Paul links "the greatest gift of all" (i.e. "love") to our call to judge righteously.

Photo creds: lightwork.typepad.com, quotesgram.com

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, Lyssah & I sit down and reflect on the year that was...

When you think back on 2015, what immediately comes to mind?


CF: Honestly, I’d have to say the view from our Amicalola Falls State Park lodge luncheon (see 1:22 in our 'Year in Review' video below). The way I see it...that breathtaking visual really captures our journey through 2015. 'Cause though there were many ups and downs and plenty of action going on...there was still much to behold.

LF: I agree. There was lots of BIG change. 2015 has really felt like a runway preparing us for a new season we can't even begin to fathom.


What were some of the highlights/defining moments?


CF: Without question, the highlight of the year for me was the pregnancy reveal at Logan’s. I mean…you can’t top that. As far as “runner ups” go, I’d say the Dave Ramsey Christmas party, our icy February adventures, the Messenger Fellowship ordination ceremony, the day we found Selah, our gender reveal, both Georgia trips, helping lead LEGACYouth into a new level of ministry...and watching certain family members leave the past behind/step into a better place in life. So even though we didn’t get away as much this year, there were still many highlights/defining moments to go around.

LF: Yeah, our "family growing" was an obvious highlight...from adopting little Selah to building baby. The funny thing is...I didn't expect them to happen so close to each other, but nevertheless it has been wonderful. Being given a car...that was incredible. So much this year has just shouted out God's faithfulness in huge ways. Losing my grandfather was also a defining moment.


How would you compare the third year of marriage to the first two?


CF: Despite a more amplified year, I'd say our junior camp again of marriage was [far and away] the best yet. We know each other more intimately. We're more demonstrative in our appreciation for each other. Plus, we're more confident and secure in who we are as individuals and as a couple. No doubt, God tightened up our relationship and illuminated our unity along the way.

LF: Wow! Has it been three years already? I think this year has been full of greater synergy and working together. Year one was about two individuals becoming one. Year two was about figuring out dreams and visions and shared goals. Year three has really been about starting to work towards those things together. Cam has had to carry a lot of that while I've been baking a baby, but it has still been awesome to build towards those goals and dreams together.


What lesson from 2015 are you eager to apply in 2016?


CF: For me, seeing the connection between Jehovah-Sabaoth (God our protector) and Jehovah-Jireh (God our provider...who knows what we need exactly when we need it) has been an incredible experience this year. 


Looking back, there were a couple close calls/near-opportunities where we could have transitioned into [our idea of] a better place, but thankfully, the Lord protected us and kept us from getting ahead of His plan; however, there were also times when God totally blew us away with an unexpected (and very timely) gift (*Cough, new van, cough*).

So I'd have to say: watching God's providence work in both the open and closed-door moments of life has been a highlight this year.

LF: God is faithful. He is enough. I don't need to wait until it's the last option to remember that.

My circumstances are not bigger than my God. If I am going through it, it is subject to Him and the more I press in to him during the circumstance, the more profitable it will be going through it.

I am stronger than I think and I don't need to have that validated by anyone other than my God. He has written and wired me for the things I encounter, whether or not others see it right away.

It's better to try and miss than fear and never try.

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


CF: "Lyssah, we're home."..."Happy Birthday, CJ!"..."Say, 'Daddy', CJ!"...


Seriously, the possibilities are endless.

Oh...and it'd be awesome for 2016 to be the year we finally do our debt-free scream. Eh, Lyssah?

LF: "We're debt free!" (Probably not this time next year, but I can certainly hope).

Also..."Have you read my husband's book?" or "I have a book deal!" 

Better yet..."What a peaceful first Christmas for baby." 
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2015 - By the Numbers

7 – Pounds lost
450.63 – Miles run
375.76 – Miles walked during work hours
Estimated miles driven: 18, 457 
Deep Fry blog posts: 41
His Girl Fryday blog posts: 24
Snowchased Snow Amounts: 18.2"
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