Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Anointment Appointment

Well, folks, it's that time of year again.

Easter. A chance to buy some chocolate bunnies, meet new faces making their annual liturgical appearance...and experience the wonder that is the 'spring Thanksgiving' equinox.

Okay, okay...so I'm being sarcastic. 

I guess in short, I just can't help help but wonder why Easter is so culturally abused, let alone how it keeps sneaking up on me. I mean...one minute I'm taking my wife out for a nice, romantic Valentine's Day dinner; the next, it's Daylight Savings...Palm Sunday...Good Friday. Sheesh...by the time I arrive at Easter, it's like I'm already out of breath! 

Thankfully, I've lived long enough to recognize both the trend...and the need to soak in specific Easter Bible passages during Holy Week...the most recent being John 12.

In this passage, Jesus is chilling and dining with Mary, Martha and Lazarus(having recently been raised from the dead), when in vs. 3, we find Mary pouring out a pound of premium ointment made from pure nard and anointing Jesus' feet with her hair and tears.

Now, there are a couple things that stand out to me as I dive into this.

First off, pure nard was freakin' expensive back then...which makes sense considering it was an aromatic essential oil derived from flowering plants found in Nepal, China, and India.

Secondly, Mary anointed Jesus' feet with almost a whole pound of perfume (~11.5 ounces to be exact)...pretty voluminous for one occasion/for the time. I mean...it's not like Mary got a can of Axe, bent over, and shot out two little squirts at Jesus' phalanges. Instead, she deluges Jesus feet with an amount equivalent to roughly 300 days of wages (v. 5)...an offensive amount had it not been anyone other than Jesus' feet. 

Thirdly, Mary understood Jesus' identity as well as the time she was in. In her mind, she wasn't simply a friend of the Messiah; she was at the feet of the lamb to be slain! Her act of submission wasn't simply motivated by the proximity of Passover. Rather, she realized Jesus' hour (vs. 1) was at hand. See the difference?

So while some may think the anointing was nothing more than a kind gesture - a sort of 'thank you' for reviving Lazarus + 'oh yeah, his tomb still stinks', the fact is Mary purchased the perfume with the intent of anointing his body at his burial (v. 7). Thus, it's very likely Mary knew full well what was about to happen...hence her decision to 'pre-anoint' while he was still alive in her midst3..even if she didn't understand the full scale of what was to come.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the wiping of Jesus' feet foreshadowed the time when he would wipe the feet of his disciples (v. 5), a model reflective of his command and expressive of our unity with him.4

Honestly, I can't help but get giddy here. Mary's posture alone resonates profound intimacy, but to trace his feet with fragrance long enough for it to permeate the entire house at the risk of raised eyebrows? I mean...you gotta give Mary props for catching the significance of what she was doing.

'Cause truth is: All that mattered to Mary was 'simply Jesus'...her identity as being loved by him...and her devotion sealed through extreme extravagance. 

I don't know about you, but I want to be more like Mary in the sense I live an intentional and consecrated life passionately on my knees...always wanting more of him (and want to want more of him) regardless of the cost or how it looks...with the cross firmly in mind.

After all, when we celebrate Easter, we're not only celebrating the cross + grave conquered, but also the everlasting life we have through/with Christ which daily empowers us to victory over sin and the things in this world that try to keep us from living a godly life (Romans 8:37).

So as you engage your Easter festivities this year, I encourage you to reflect on Mary's attitude and heart posture in light of Jesus' descent unto the cross...and to take internal inventory of anything that may be hindering you from walking in your anointing as one anointed by the Anointer. 

‘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) An important observation to behold considering Lazarus' presence symbolizes/emphasizes life in Christ being triumphant over death
2) If my geology is correct, Bethany would be...what...like 3,000-4,000 miles away? That's a lot of camelback hours
3) Again, we see another episode of Mary living out her own anointing by consecrating  at the feet of Jesus...and being ready (a posture I'm sure gave Jesus great comfort at this point in time)
4) Commentary by Matt Skinner

Photo creds: Pinterest; modesheart.blogspot 

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Monday, March 21, 2016

One Voice '16 Reflections



Written: Saturday, March 19

So there I was…Monday morning, 8:30 am…snaking my way through the chaotic labyrinth that is BNA security…when I suddenly heard a still, small voice gently whisper…

‘Listen first, speak second.’

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think.

Are you talking about One Voice?’ I replied.
‘Yes.’
Ahhh, well then, okay, God...



Granted, I had no idea how hard this would be at the time, but considering…

a) I knew God was up to something and...
b) ...I wanted to be ready..

… I figured sparking my expectancy with an unhesitant ‘Yes’ made perfect sense.

Well, as it turned out, such a response would not only align my focus in the moment, but also prep my heart for one of the most memorable1 summits in Messenger's tenure.

But before I continue…for those who couldn’t attend…while I’m still in a posture of processing, what I can say is God not only unified hearts through encounter, but also strengthened them through a stronger, more intimate understanding of what “remaining in God’s love” looks like.

Thus, if I had to use a word picture, I’d say Messenger 2016 was like a ‘renewal firehose’. Yes, things got messy; yes, things got intense, but by the end, you could sense a more reformed awareness of priority and strategy being activated…along with a sweeter sharpening of timely truth.

So if you were lookin’ for One Voice 2016 in a nutshell…there ya go.

Yet, as I ponder further, I can’t help but return to that still, small voice at the airport calling me to yield through surrendered voice.

You’re time will come,’ he said. For now, soak in what I’m about to do.

Okay, God,’ I replied. ‘You’ve given me every reason to trust you. I will follow.’

And with that…a three-day stretch of ‘Yes’s’ to God…and ‘No’s’ to intimidation began…with each session an opportunity to obey (rest in fresh perspective) and withstand (resisting the urge to withdraw)…
…obey and withstand…
…obey and withstand.

But here’s where this blog gets real.

‘Cause once upon a time, I used to struggle standing strong during Messenger events. I’d show up out of a desire to gain insight…out of obligation, but would often shrink back into inferiority and self-doubt.

Thoughts of…

’I’m too small, I’m too weak, I’m too uneducated. I’m overlooked, I’m an underachiever’

…would overwhelm me like a flood you could see coming but couldn’t avoid.

So I’d put on a mask, flash a smirk or two, and small talk my hurt away…until all that was left were the seconds on my wristwatch ticking away to freedom.

After all, I only needed to get through three days. Piece of cake, right?

However, this year …I just couldn’t get myself to wash, rinse, and repeat. Simply put…God wouldn’t let me. And by his grace, he would not only help me change my approach on the front end, but also help me live it out fearlessly through the back end.

Flash-forward to the closing ceremony…and I’m at a crossroads. I had passed my tests up to that point, but couldn’t elude the waves of affirmation passing over me2. Tempted by jealousy, I questioned if those around me could be so shallow as to limit their encouragement to only those who’d been given a podium invitation.

Thankfully, I knew what I needed to do to conquer the hurdle. I just had to suck up my pride and do it.

“Before you leave, Cameron, encourage the encouraged.”

Again, not exactly what the flesh had in mind3, but I had come too far this time to turn around.

So I obeyed…one more time. One more ‘Yes’.

And then, it started to rain, not so much precipitation as much as clear, inner revelations to certain ‘who, what, when, how’ questions4 I’ve long asked within.

The answers, you say?

Trust me: I’m tempted to divulge…but for now, let’s just say God revealed the ‘who’ and ‘what’…which may or may not have provoked the biggest internal happy dance in ‘Sunshine State’ history.





So while I can’t disclose specifics yet (considering it’s important I continue to pray into the discovery and seek counsel from mentors first), what I can tell you is: had I not consecrated my attitude and covered my heart before and during the summit, I would’ve risked missing out on such divine epiphany.

Yet, thanks to God’s ‘Emmanuel’5 presence and encouragement, I did it…and the reward is an unshakable confidence knowing the trifold audience God has for me and Lyssah moving forward in our ministry.

All that to say…stay tuned next time when I’ll unveil the download in greater depth.

‘Til then, the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you…and give you peace.6

Footnotes

1. Not to mention balanced in a Spirit/Truth sense
2. Case and point: a stranger passed me in the bathroom during the final night, his only words to me (for the entire event): ‘You’re so blessed to know so-and-so. Isn’t so-and-so so great?’
3. Considering I'd just be repeating the same ol' beat
4. An extreme paraphrase, but you get the picture
5. God with us
6. Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

LEGACYouth: SOAP Troubleshooting (Part 1)

It’s often said in everyday Christianity how we’re to test all things carefully to the Word of God…to the authority of Christ.

But perhaps you’re like me and have wondered: what about the times when Scripture rubs off the wrong way?

First off, if you’ve ever arrived at such a roadblock, congratulations. Whatever the context, chances are you’re searching for something rooted to God’s heart. Keep going.

Secondly, while I subscribe to the concept of Biblical infallibility, I do believe mortal interpretations are vulnerable to the contrary.
Thus, when we place a translation like ‘The Message1 under the microscope, we find there’s a genuine probability of finding misunderstood phrases.

Now, I know different denominations have different takes on how this translation is used; I’m not here to get into a hermeneutical debate.

I’m just sayin’ reading the Word is just as much Spirit-reliance as much as it is a pursuit of Truth…a fair point considering…
  • …man’s inability to comprehend every biblical concept by his own strength and...
  • …the fact we must rely on the Spirit to gain understanding is evidence itself that the Scriptures are indeed infallibly authored by an omniscient Creator.
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Case and point: as I delved into 1 Corinthians 13 (MSG) with LEGACYouth during a recent SOAP Bible study, I couldn't help but feel the breeze of multiple yellow flags going up once we arrived at verse 7 - “[love] puts up with anything”.

Granted, the verse is followed by an absolute in, “[love] trusts God always”; however, as we shared our observations, we simply couldn’t shake those four words prior that seemed to advocate love tolerates.

‘Cause truth is: while love "tolerates" difficult people and shortcomings under the covering of grace, this doesn't mean love simply tolerates anything. After all, love implies a moral demand which can only advocate for what is good.

Thus, we concluded since love is a constant communicator of truth (rather than a means to subjective relativism), love can’t possibly “put up with anything” if by “put up”, the translation suggests anything can be so conditionally trusted.

Now I know some of you may be thinking: you guys are just forming your own interpretations from a paraphrase. What good does that do?

Well, again, that's part of the point I'm making here.

Yes, interpretations are fallible, but this doesn’t mean the Spirit can't open our eyes2 to realize what a biblical text means and how to apply it in our every day life.

In our case, we were able to identify a questionable phrase and test it through Spirit-led discussion to conclude while some may misinterpret 1 Corinthians 13:7 (MSG) as “love tolerates”, a more accurate assessment proposes love hopes the best, expects the best…and never gives up on people even in the most darkest of times.

Moral of the story: If you’re ever reading a paraphrased translation of Scripture and hit a mental guardrail, stay the course, sound it out, submit your question to God…and seek outside counsel if necessary.

Footnotes

1. Personally, I don't have an issue with the 'The Message'...as long as it's stacked against an ESV/ASV blend...or something along those lines
2. Especially through the community of the saints (see  Colossians 1:27).

Photo creds: ellenlandreth.wordpress.com


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