Friday, January 27, 2017

Purifying the Soapbox: A Note to My Nation


I admit: I’m not the most politically savvy person in the world.


I don’t binge on Fox News, I don’t stalk Twitter feeds, I don’t anatomize GOP columns, and barring an iPhone hijacking, I don’t have a national monument set as my wallpaper; like many, I’m simply an average-Joe partisan trying to surf the media wave without wiping out.


Not to suggest I’m apathetic to recent presidential headlines; I guess I'm just burnt out with all the press-driven drama and negativity surrounding Trump and his inauguration.





Perhaps you’re sittin' there taking in all the buzz feed wondering why we as a culture take justice so personally when we were meant to make it corporately...why we say we want fairness, equality, and representation, when what we really want is our voice being exalted heard. 


If so, I submit there's a pathway non-contingent on entitled opinion bordering on grumbling, complaining, and defamation.


But before we can discuss the straight and narrow, we must first understand though what we believe matters, if we only address governing issues as individuals as opposed to a community...as one nation under God, then ultimately all we’re doing is splitting the curtain between social justice and unity. Thus, how we shape and share our voice regarding authority in a time when self-expression is constantly at our fingertips is worth discussion.


Now I'll be honest: while I agree with some of Trump’s moral political stances, there are plenty of policies and idiosyncrasies I disagree with. Still, it’s because I know what I stand for1 that keeps me on my knees for both president and country. Sure, my beliefs may not completely line up, but as I learned through the Obama administration, if I'm not grateful for the opportunity to sharpen my heart posture, then from a spiritual perspective, I'm taking my freedom for granted.


And for those who think Trump is making America hate again, ask yourself this: with so many weapons in the world already, what sense does it make to add our voice to the list? Sure, we may not agree on every issue, but we can certainly be unified in our attitude towards authority in a way that promotes  hope, accountability, and righteous activism over prejudice and jaundiced judgment, right?


All I know is: whether or not Trump can bring the 80's back, as far as what I choose my attitude to be, I’m content to root for Trump these next four years in the same way I learned to do so for Obama.


After all, if we really want to see America great again, it's not going to happen unless we abide in why we're called the "United" States of America.

Selah.

Footnotes


1) And stand on...


Photo creds: Rolling Stone, eTalk

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

LEGACYouth: The "Fast" Track

Recently, I had a conviction: I may be leading youth to truth, but am I leading them to awe of who God is? I may be giving factual, credible evidence as to why reading the Word, praying, to having quiet time with God will benefit your relationship with God, but am I passionately modeling a life prostrate before him?

As I considered the answers to these questions, I couldn't help but return to what we’ve been discussing this month on spiritual hunger. But before I continue, let me just say there are a lot of personal definitions of spiritual hunger out there. While many do a great job of capturing the beauty of desire, not as many capture how blessed we are to confront and rise above our depravity. Why? I’m not sure. All I know is that a genuine hunger for God cannot be separated from a purified fear of him (i.e. loving what God loves, hating what God hates) which, in turn, cannot be separated from how we were divinely created. Oh, how awesome it is knowing we were made to spiritually crave our Creator. It is indeed a wonder in and of itself.

Now, as mentioned two weeks ago, when we spiritually hunger, it means our appetite is centered on God and his righteousness (see fourth Beatitude). While an awareness of our sin is often enhanced to the extent we pursue God, so is an awareness of how we walk in freedom from it. So it’s worth noting how hunger’s design for fallen man is to, in part, help him receive grace as he ‘goes and sin no more’.

Still, when it comes to righteousness, there are many full of complacency with respect to it and many full of distraction surrounding it (see parable of the ten virgins). For others, they are full of their own righteousness (self-righteousness - a deception that says, ‘I’m not hungry…I’m not thirsty’ when deep down you are those things).

Yet, with spiritual hunger, we can be consumed by God’s love, we can enjoy a hearty appetite for more of him (his goodness and godliness), and we can delight in learning the right time for anything and everything. Why? Because again…spiritual hunger leads us to places where the light can come on in our heart. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be an on fire, illuminated believer of truth than one who’s content on being faint, who has to pretend to come across as more hopeless than he actually is.

Seriously guys, I want to lit for Jesus! And you can quote me on that, tweet it out, put it on a t-shirt…whatever. I want to be lit for my maker...to be more in awe of him than I already am. Yeah, I know it may be easy to feel intimated whenever you sense this welling up within you, but I'm here to tell you today there is no shame or condemnation in confessing you need more of Jesus because every day we live we need more of Jesus. It's how and why we were made!

Still, some of you may be sittin’ there feeling down. Ah, but Cam, my hunger after righteousness is so weak; I don’t think it’s legit.

My answer:  Even if a pulse is weak, it shows there is still life. So if one’s spiritual hunger is also weak, it should not be ignored. Why? Because unlike a Bethlehem Motel 6 on the night of Christ’s birth, there’s room waiting to be filled…for space to be occupied…an opportunity for that weak pulse to get stronger.

Thus, I submit if you’re empty in any form right now, that’s a good place to be ‘cause that means God has something to pour into you; however, at the end of the day, you still gotta make the call if and how much you accept from him.

Think of it this way: if God is a God of mercy, if he’s truly able to put up with our crap on a daily basis, why not turn it all over to him? If he can take it, if he can handle it, why disallow him to do that which only he can do? If you're sitting here today wanting to be more in awe of Christ and point people in that direction, does it not make sense to trust the fact our God is a good, good Father who will always provide for us even in the times we’re lost, parched, and desperate for living water (see 6:30 in clip below)?

For some of you, you may have empty containers this morning. For others, you may have dirty ones not only in need of filling, but cleaning as well. Still for some, you may be overflowing and thus have more to give. Wherever you find yourself, I want to encourage you as we enter in this time of fasting as a church.

No matter how full or how empty you are, God wants to reveal more of his awesomeness to you in this season. He wants to fill you with awe as deep cries out to deep. He wants to empower and encourage you to know his fullest even if you’re hesitant, if you doubt you can handle it.

Remember: it’s not about you being able to handle it, but relying on God to expand the tent pegs of your appetite. So as you fast this week, you may hunger physically (or emotionally), but know in those moments, God is giving you an opportunity to know him deeper still. So whatever you choose to sacrifice, know it infinitely pales to the joy of discovering the one who made the ultimate sacrifice. That, my friends, is what spiritual hunger is all about.
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Photo creds: 2016.lcmsyracuse.org
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pursuing the Pylon: Why Good Goals Start at 1st & 10

Have you ever wondered why it’s easier to set goals than it is to reach them? Why it’s less difficult making resolutions than being resolute about them?

If so, then congratulations; not only is self-improvement important to you, but you understand the value in pursuing 'next level' goals as opposed to run-of-the-mill resolutions.

Granted, this doesn’t automatically simplify the walk-it-out process.

Yet, as discussed during last weekend’s LEGACYouth leadership retreat, when we talk about refining our aim, the hardest part isn't so much listing our goals; it's living them out in full together1. So how we grow as target-trainers and develop as goal-keepers in the context of community is worth discussion.

For starters, we must understand the difference and progression among plans, steps, and goals. In terms of pathway, before a goal can be achieved, it must be realized through a plan and executed by its steps (plans -> steps -> goals). A quick drill-down on Proverbs 16:9 confirms this: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Framing this in the context of goal-setting, we find…
  1. A goal without a plan is unachievable…
  2. A plan without steps is unbelievable …
  3. A step without the Lord’s establishment is inconceivable…
  4. As a result, a goal cannot be fully accomplished if God is not allowed to do that which only he can do.
Fair enough. Still for many, while identifying goals comes naturally, it’s important we allow God establish his steps individually and corporately in every walk and pursuit of life.

‘Cause truth is: the biggest reason goals fail isn’t a matter of not trying, but of not relying.

As crazy as it sounds, God may not always give us clear game-plans; in fact, there will be times his strats2 seem incomplete as his grace keeps us in the dark; however, if we’re faithful to seek him at all costs, he will surely give us clear, complete, and concise understanding as to the next steps we’re to take (Job 32:8, 2 Timothy 2:7, Psalm 119:100, Psalm 119:130, James 1:5). All we have to do is journey in trust (i.e. depend on what he’s called us to and abide in it with joyful obedience) knowing to the extent we lean on God to that extent we’re supported in rest (see application of Hebrew word “shaan” in Genesis 18:4, 2 Chronicles 13:18, 2 Chronicles 14:11).

Will the road be tough at times? Absolutely. Will the light at the end of the tunnel seem dim on occasion? Of course. Again, I’m not saying leaning on God is always going to make sense; however, I am saying if we truly desire to hit the bullseye of our goals and for God to establish the bridge between them and our plans, relying on God is the best approach.

Think of this way: If living our goals is a game of football, then the process is like a quarterback advancing the ball down the field. For the offense, the ultimate goal is to score a touchdown; however, in the heat of the moment, the team isn’t as focused on six points as it is keeping the drive alive…in going for the first down. Can any one play produce a touchdown? Absolutely. But to the quarterback, the objective isn’t so much to score on one throw as it to anticipate the defense and execute on a play-to-play basis in hope to renew a fresh set of downs. So if we apply the goal pathway as mentioned above, we can see how…
  1. The goal is to score a touchdown.
  2. The plan is the offense scheme employed by the coach and driven by the quarterback.
  3. The steps are the single plays of the drive seeking to sustain momentum through the first down.
Thus, I submit if we want to mature our goal-setting into goal-keeping, better to go for the first down until the time comes to go for the touchdown. See the difference?



My encouragement to you, friends, is to remember since plans represent the steps needed to achieve the goals God has placed in your heart, they’re ultimately appointed to Christ. So whatever you commit to, stay ready to surrender, ask the Lord to fill you with his vision…to align his priorities within you, and then follow through by staying tethered to trust.

Cam out.

Footnotes

  1. Or living them out in full together in a teaming context
  2. Short abbreviation for “strategies”
Photo creds: GettyImages
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Making H1s7tory: 3 Big Life Goals for 2017



This may sound passé, but I don’t get why New Year’s resolutions are as big a deal as they are. Yes, I’m all about life change and terminating undesired behavior; however, when it comes to one’s resolve to #levelup, I guess I’m a tad skeptical. Perhaps it’s the sugarcoated tradition we, as a culture, have placed on taking spiritual inventory or the ghost of New Year’s past reminding me of the times I missed targets once aimed for. Either way, I feel like a fish out of water writing about goals in a time when it’s so cliché.

Still, I can’t deny the wisdom in writing down the vision (Habakkuk 2:2) of Spirit-led aspirations. Thus, without further ado, here are my top three goals for 2017…  


      1.  Make like a proton & stay positive.

Ok, so I know this sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating: positivity is a choice and a fruit of the voice. Granted, I’m not saying anything new; however, speaking from conviction, while I don’t struggle with hope, I do struggle in consistently guarding it with joy. As a result, my positivity can find itself restricted to change on the horizon as opposed to living fully in the moment. If you’re like me in the sense your positivity and present aren’t always aligned, I encourage you: consider how you want your life to speak and set your mind for positivity.

‘Cause truth is: you cannot have a positive life and a negative mind. You cannot use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, and your heart for love if you’re not consistently believing the best for you and those around you. Yeah, I know it’s easy to let the downers of life, whether people or circumstances, set the tone. Yet, when I consider how I want to grow in 2017, no question, I want to be more positive; hence, why I’m goin’ to make like a proton and stay positive no matter how ‘neutron’ or ‘electron’ life gets.



2. Capitalize on opportunity.

It’s been said nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. In terms of cost, I agree. Certainly there’s a correlation between seizing the day and staying alert…between staying alert and challenging oneself.

The question is: How do we actually stay alert?

For starters, we must stand firm in prayer and faith (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). In my experience, I've found it easier to desire a challenge than what sets us up to overcome it. We want the thrill, we want the strength, just not the silence or the persistence. Yet, while wanting to better steward the assignments of God is entirely good, we can only get there if we allow our prayer life to be more purposeful and perpetual. After all, given prayer is a cyclical process, we can’t hear if we don’t listen and we can’t be more sensitive if we’re not intentional.

I believe for many of us, 2017 is going to be a year when our minds are renewed through the refreshing of our listening…a season in which we’ll hear God’s voice more clearly through deliberate prayer and furthermore by the divine appointments he arranges.

My advice: If you’re faithful in the quiet spaces (seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness), God will ensure his confidence and influence through you in the public places...as you serve in love (and all these things will be given to you; (Psalm 118:5; Matthew 6:33).



3. Pursue freedom.

Freedom can be a tricky word in our spiritual vocabulary. On one hand, we know it’s for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1) and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17); on the other, we might think: “If I’ve been purchased at a price, why do I still feel anything but free?

Honestly, I think part of the reason is our tendency to equate freedom with victory. Yes, Jesus took away our chains at Calvary. Yet, while victory was attained at the cross, we still have the choice (free will) to walk in the freedom that victory produced. So while some may view freedom through a ‘have it or you don’t’ mentality, I contend it’s grace in motion…a pursuable, tangible reality we can know and walk in.

Interestingly, if we dig a little deeper,  we find freedom, as described by Paul's  verb selection in his letters, as obtainable in the desert places and fillable in the empty places. Therefore, I submit: if we’re struggling with shame yet are aiming for freedom, we shouldn't be afraid to lay it all on the altar before God considering a) his compassion...his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and b) his freedom is always on the move.

As Davey Blackburn once stated: “God wants to use [us] in [our] weakness far better than [we] can use [our] talent.” So why not allow the freeing work of God in Christ through his Spirit consume places where sin and its rubble once dwelt as we humbly boast in God's ability to use our weakness as opposed to exalting it ourselves?

Selah.

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