Thursday, June 30, 2016

3 Takeaways from LEGACYouth's #LoveAkronTour

So last week, I took a team of LEGACYouth up to Akron, Ohio on our #LoveAkron tour (i.e. the second stage of #oneepicsummer). No question, the experience was a smashing success, especially considering we were blazing a new trail in our ministry.

However, after reconvening with the team last night during our weekly discipleship gathering, it became clear we needed illumination on how to live out and sustain acquired momentum. After all, sometimes it can be far too easy settling into counterfeit contentment in the aftermath of a 'spiritual high', freezing what God wants to do in the satisfaction of what He has already done. 

For me, I just can’t bear or dare to go there1. So instead, as an act of consecrated processing, I present you a reflection post outlining my top three ‘Love Akron Tour’ takeaways…

1. We knew why we were there before we got there

Two days before tour kickoff, I felt the Lord tell me, “Don’t go up to put on a show, but open the door for me to show up. For when I show up, something always happens…and that something can’t be separated from my glory being revealed.”

Well, as you can imagine, this went a long way not only in setting the tone for the trip, but also paving a foundation for the discussions we’d have along the way. Granted, I don’t have time to unload every revelational tidbit; however, I will say the more we soaked in the Gospel of John (before/during the trip), the more we were able to catch the heart of Jesus’ intentionality (see mini exegesis below)2...not to mention the reason why we were going to Akron in the first place.

Bottom line: We understood the John roadmap before the Ohio roadmap became necessary3…and as we’d soon find, this would pay off in a huge way.


2. Our fearlessness became effortlessness

Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint defining moments, since the entire trip was defining in itself; however, I will say, as tour director, it was incredible to watch my team lead with such 1 John 4:184 boldness, whether it involved sharing their faith in foreign territory, an impromptu post-performance testimony at church, or simply reaching out to River of Life/First Assembly of Akron youth.

At any rate, the more we got outside ourselves (through the unforced rhythms of grace5), the more ‘reaching out’ (VBS, Fairlawn Park, Highland Square, First Assembly, etc.) became like breathing as opposed to ‘service’.

As a result, God would routinely stretch our 20 seconds of insane courage into 20+ minutes of life-changing fearlessness, as if He was coaching alongside us saying, “Just watch what I can do in and through you guys now that you’ve stepped out.”

Bottom line: Of all the snapshots of heaven experienced on the trip, the one of God broadening our capacity to love others more…while simultaneously revealing more of Himself to us and the people we were witnessing to impacted me most profoundly.




3. We Merged Relatability with Intentionality

I abide by the philosophy that if you called yourself a Christ-follower, then your life should point people towards the well (see John 4) where living, unquenchable water can be found. Yet, as many of you reading this have found, often times the hardest part isn’t so much the showing up, but rather the listening and relating.

Such was the reminder I received when talking to four random street ballers at Fairlawn Park after they’d received an Evangecube salvation message from a local YWAM student. Having watched their reaction to the presentation, I could tell the soil was ripe within. Thus, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to use my passion for basketball and my heart for follow-up dialogue to meet them where they were at.

Now, did I have a secondary 'Hey, my youth group is performing a free musical down the street tonight…’ message in my pocket? Of course! However, I knew I couldn’t possibly promote a Gospel with any scent of agenda attached. So I simply began chatting about what they just heard. And long story short, after asking them what people in their demographic were looking for when it came to Christians in general…three of the four said they wanted to see more relatability. Yeah, meeting people where they’re at is nice and all (or so they said), but how it’s executed (mainly in the ‘are you willing to listen and relate to me first before mentioning God’?) …that’s what they’re really looking for.

Bottom line:  Intentionality can only reach as far as the authentic love we surround it with. ‘Cause truth is: When it comes to the lost, most want to see fearless God-fearers live what they preach and love well...before they want to see God. Yeah, it may not always be easy or convenient; yeah, we may not see the fruit of what we hope happens...

...but at the end of the day, reaching people is all about planting seeds, not force-feeding the Gospel. And when I look back on our #LoveAkronTour, there’s no doubt in my mind we did just that.


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Footnotes

1. Triple alliteration FTW

2. Check out this rundown... 

John 2 – Jesus’ ministry begins, wedding at Cana
John 3 – Encounter with Nicodemus
John 4 – Woman at the well
John 5 – Healing at the pool on the Sabbath
John 6 – Feeding of 5,000, walks on water
John 9 – Heals blind man
John 11 – Raises Lazarus
John 12 – The triumphal entry
John 20 – Resurrection and multiple reveals 

...I mean, clearly, Jesus didn’t stumble upon each of these situations as much as he went after them on purpose. You’d figure John is synonymous with “Jesus showing up” considering the narrative.

3. More specifically, we understood the importance of: letting our lives testify to what we celebrate, letting our lives speak hope into hopeless…belief into unbelief, letting our lives radiate the kind faith that walks on water, letting our lives heal, letting our lives be life in dead situations, letting our lives make love known at all costs, letting our lives carry the presence of Jesus in a way that puts joy in a person’s heart and makes our worship come alive, etc.

4. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…”

5.   Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace (Part 1)

As mentioned before, the bivocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear multiple hats and juggle multiple jobs, no question, you know the drill.

Yet, while it may be easy to fall into survival, ‘just get it done’ mode, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yeah, I get how compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus…and how a ‘one step at a time’ approach can break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments.

But as I wrote about a few months back, if everyone is worshipping something, then everyone is ministering something. Therefore, when we examine this truth in light of Jesus’ ministry, we find the marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Let’s look at Matthew 21:12-17

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he goes (i.e. the temple - v. 12) and the reason he goes there (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known to the marketplace leaders (as opposed to simply stopping for a cup of coffee and the ‘Daily Jerusalem’)…that speaks to me.

Granted, Jesus channels his inner Adele for time, turning tables and all (v. 12b), but the key here isn’t so much Jesus reacting in frustration as much as Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional in speaking truth and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

So while this passage reference may seem random, when we talk about what pastoral ministry in the marketplace looks like…and how to rightfully use our spiritual gifts in similar arenas, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective marketplace minister, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with the gifts God has given us; yes, we can be articulate, persuasive, and emit confidence, but if what we’re divinely given is utilized with limited integrity, it’s like trying to build a sturdy structure on sinkhole-prone soil.

Secondly, when we ‘selah’ on what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the difference between a love for money and a love for God who provides the money2 (more on this in future posts).

And finally, when we consider Jesus straight up calls the temple “my house(v. 13 - “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find a) confirmation of God’s view of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) the value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment He intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” so the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication) could be known…while setting the stage for his healing ministry by empowering the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

I-Was-There-at-the-Temple-ImageHence, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus peaces out in v. 17.

Bottom line: when we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts into the marketplace, we see…
  1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts)…
  2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict…
  3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple…
  4. Jesus loved at every opportunity…
Thus, I submit if we’re going to thrive in employing our spiritual gifts in our areas of business, we must be willing to live on purpose, be bold with the truth, pray without ceasing, be the change we long for…and most importantly…love at all cost, at all times.

Next time, I’ll look to build upon this foundation with more specifics, more real-life application, but for now, if any of this hits home with you (or if you want to add a point to the list above), feel free to comment below. And as always, if you have a prayer request/praise report, you’re more than welcome to drop us a line.

‘Til then, may you find peace and joy in abundance as you go about your week…

~ Cameron

Footnotes
  1. Sure, the church may be the heart of the operation, but what’s to say the marketplace can’t be the hands and feet?
  2. Seriously…how often are good leaders corrupted by sneaky, under-the-table, ‘will do anything to get an advantage’ maneuvers? More than we’d like to admit, right?
  3. As well as His authority
Photo creds: gospelmovements.org (edited by Cameron Fry) & lds.net

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Obey Your Thirst: Why We're Called to be Salt & Sprite

Not too long ago, I was navigating some country minimart in search for some open road sustenance when I came across a fit of nostalgia…a vintage Sprite vending machine (circa 1997-98) sporting a teal-jerseyed Grant Hill back in his prime Pistons days.



Now, I know for most of you, you’re probably thinkin’, “big deal”. It’s just a plus-sized coke dispenser with some washed-up basketball player on the cover.

Ok, well…maybe…

But to put this into context, this goes back to a pre-teen me in a time when my love for basketball was taking off…a time when buying a Sprite was the 12-year old NBA fan equivalent of a capital investment…something you just did if you ever passed a green soda machine with three quarters in your pocket.

Flash-forward eighteen years and I’m frozen in this lemon-lime moment, taking in this blast from the past as if I had descended into a warp zone in Super Mario Brothers

Yet, as I walk away, I note the familiar tagline: Obey…your…thirst.

And then it hits me…this slogan actually reflects the way we’re called to live as God intended! 



Think about it. Why did God create man?
I mean…it’s not like He really needed us, right?

Well, yeah…technically; however, when you consider the vastness of God’s great love operating within His eternal plan, we find a) we were created to thirst for that which only God can give and b) we are called as God’s refreshment to be ministers of His refreshment to those around us…to seek those in need and point them in the direction of the well1 (as described by Jesus in John 4).

Thus, I submit: to ‘obey your thirst’ is to guide people to where they can quench their own

ü  …telling the lost, ‘Come with me! I may not have all the answers…I may be feeling dry myself, but I’ll show you where to find help, where to find peace, where to find joy, where to find unconditional love’…

ü  …telling the hopeless, ‘Fear not. I know someone who can fill you up with the hope you crave’…and…

ü  …telling the afflicted, ‘Don’t be ashamed of your chains. The giver of everlasting life has what it takes to set you free’
… all the while living and speaking truth in love refreshingly.

As Thomas Buchanan once said, “…the goal of the serious Christian life [is] to develop an unquenchable thirst for God. To be so ablaze with love for Him that our cares for everything else pale in comparison…to feel an emptiness when we are distracted from praying throughout the day…to see His hand in everything we touch, His face in everyone we meet…[and] to develop such a desire for God that it cannot be completely satisfied in this life.”



So next time you approach a soda/water foundation, ask yourself, ‘Is there a fountain of living water coming out of me?’ Is what’s flowing out of my life an overflow of what God has poured into me…or am I content in quenching my thirsts my own way?

For everything apart from God is short-term; everything outside of Him has a beginning and an end. But when we allow ourselves to be refreshed by Jesus, we ultimately put ourselves in position to be salt and Sprite to the world…to live an ahhh-mazing life so that as we taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), those around us can be drawn to experience the wonder for themselves.2

In closing, I encourage you to keep obeying your thirst.

'Cause truth is:  Image is nothing, but Christ, our thirst, is everything.

So why not ask the Lord for a drink of living water...and while we're at it... keep pointing people to the wellwhere they can find the same.

Just sayin'...

Footnotes

1) Where they can find living, unquenchable water
2) i.e. taste and see that what we’re tasting and seeing is good as well
3) The more we do this, the more we experience God's ministry of refreshment powerfully inspiring people through us

Photo creds: beclutchsport.com 

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