Repeat the Sounding Joy

So a few weeks ago I’m walkin’ to work basking in the joy of winter actually feeling like winter when out of the corner of my ear, I hear ‘Joy to the World’ playing from a nearby corner street music station. At first, I’m like, ‘December is over. No more Christmas music!’ But almost instantly I hear that still, small voice whispering…

…‘But Cam. Why not repeat the sounding joy?’

*Holy Spirit mic drop*

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Of course, what can I say, but admit the truth…

…that notes and lyrics that seem out of place by cultural timelines should always be in place by daily surrender.

Among all the reasons Isaac Watts wrote the song, perhaps this in light of the cross’ power is the greatest key to his interpretation of Genesis 3:17-18, Psalm 96:11-12, and Psalm 98¹.

Of course, I could dive into a deeper analysis of the carol’s Scriptural inspirations (I may come back to this Christmas 2019). For now, understand there’s a reason why certain Christmas songs like, ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘Joy to the World’ are the only ones that can cure my little Everly’s sadness. Seriously, Caeden (who just turned three) will start singing his ‘Fa, la, la, la’s’…and even if it’s a few minutes, all is calm, all is bright in the world.

*Note: You don’t need kids to extrapolate this example into your own life*

Bottom line: As you walk with God, receive the practical, prudent reminders of His goodness, peace, and joy even they momentarily disagree with the senses.

Footnotes

  1. Speaking of the latter, it’s interesting to note how he incorporated the passage into his song. As history shows, after Watt’s father challenged Isaac to write contrarian to his contemporaries, Watts started to pursue lyrics that not only exalted Christ, but also reminded Christians of their hope in his saving work on the cross. Clearly, this desire is evident in the way he wrote “Joy to the World” with Psalm 98:4 driving the song’s legacy home:

 

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” And this is exactly what Watts set out to do. Little did he know that this song would spark a joyful noise that would ring through the ages.”

 

3 More Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

If you’re like me, you like to reflect.

So much to say, so much to do…how can either happen when there’s so much to think.

Yet, as we journey another January, the heart behind this series, as made known last year, is still the same:

If we want to think right, then we must get right, if we want to get right, then we must get real…and if we want to get real, we must value cleanse before change.

Not to suggest such internal inventory is easy. Certainly putting all things on the table for examination requires courage, humility, vulnerability…among other things; however, since my goal with these posts is to help us embrace God’s ‘next’, it only makes sense to pray into the substitutions¹ God has for us.

That said, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the page to 2019…

1) Making sense of my surroundings

It’s remarkable the ways we justify our surroundings. I know for me, whenever I find myself in what I can’t explain, living in the moment can almost seem secondary to knowing why it has to exist. ‘If only I can solve the mystery, perhaps then I can find the satisfaction and peace I crave,’ I sometimes think.

But as we know, the journey of life is far from cut and dry. As much as we want to reconcile all our relationships and circumstances, we’ll never be able to given sin and free will’s response to it among other things.

Granted, God’s sovereignty isn’t confined by man’s weakness. But it’s also not restricted by our ability to ‘sherlock’ the past. And it’s this temptation I believe trips many of us up. We long to feel affirmed when we’re down. We yearn to feel validated when we smell injustice. We burn to make sense of our surroundings when they don’t make sense. Yet, in our quest to solve our voids, little do we realize the size of our ego and the numbing effect it has on our attitudes and heart postures.

It’s not always fun to accept, but the way I see it: Often the reason we are where we are is because God wants to help us find our kneel…to show us where our independencies have become idolatries…and to learn reliance within the unforced rhythms of grace. Perhaps you’ve struggled to grasp this feeling in seasons of idleness or stress…in settings where you felt more like a fish in an aquatic Pandora’s box.

If so, take a bite of my 2018 testimony. Our free will exists so we can choose Jesus to find freedom. No 12-step program full of striving. Just a simple decision to resist the fear of man and the impulse to make sense of our surroundings.

Accordingly, if you sense the temptation but not the exit, yield to surrender, voice the heartcry, and receive the serenity of stilled waters. God has not abandoned you, so don’t you abandon ship.

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2) The Nazareth complex

I suppose this could be a subset of point #1, but the nature of this conviction alone is worth emphasizing.

As alluded to in my 2018 Year in Review post, when last year started, going back to The Gate was far from an option. Having phased out of LEGACYouth weeks prior, my hope had clung to a sunset narrative where my last days of youth ministry would coincide with where it took place. While there were many reasons I emotionally did not want to return, the core of my withdrawal² centered on what I call the Nazareth complex.

The Nazareth complex is based out of Luke 4:14-30 when Jesus is driven out of his hometown (i.e. Nazareth) after revealing his true identity at the synagogue. While obviously I’m no Jesus, the personal correlation was this: Among whom whose eyes I had been under for years, there was no way for me to be known as God knew me. As such, what Nazareth was to Jesus, The Gate/local church was to me. To move on with my life, I had to leave the church to find anyone who not only would listen, but see me sans past and last name.

Of course, it’s safe to say Jesus never employed such a self-absorbed attitude. Still, it’s not hard to see why my deception took months to dissipate with resentment rooted in deception and victimization fixed in misapplied Scripture. To justify my isolated ego, I had to constantly cite the past, church gossip, unsurrendered soul/spirit hurts…even assumed vain assumptions (sounds confusing, but that’s unholy fear for you).

Yet, as the story goes, I eventually woke up, realizing if I truly wanted to move on and take hold of the new, I couldn’t keep holding on the way I had been. Six months later, the exchange is still ongoing…however, the door to freedom is much wider, in large part, to having repented of this complex.

tumblr_nikl8pxddz1tq4of6o1_5003) Financial fitness

For many couples, one spouse is the buyer, the other is the saver. In my relationship with Lyssah, the contrast is evident. While I’m a buyer who lives well within his means, Lys is much better at budgeting and sticking to it.

Ironically, you would never know by where our financial anxieties lie. As co-bread winners, to make ends meet, we both must work…whatever the cost with whatever time we can give. Unfortunately, the drive for excellence doesn’t always extinguish the entitlements and justifiers we use to buy (or even save for) momentary contentment/peace.

I know for me, I can only afford to invest so much as I near the end of paying off student loans. The white lie, then, is if I can’t currently invest as much as I want for my family, I should be frugal in my giving and employ generosity through alternative means. Yet, as I’ve been convicted, often my lack of giving ties to a lack of trust manifest as leverage against God for not opening certain doors. And I think for some of us, we forget withdrawing doesn’t just apply to our presence and/or banking transactions. It’s applies to trusting God with our finances…our energy…our time…not just what to sow, but where to sow and how much.

All that said, if you feel financial weak starting 2019, you’re not alone. Yeah, I’m an ex-Ramsey spouse. I have content, lessons, and principles I can pass down to future generations. But I also know…

  • If I’m not maturing my stewardship, those values can only go so far.

  • If’ I’m not maturing my stewardship, my intentionality in inviting God into my budget will be compromised.

As for 2019, no longer will I reduce God to an on-call financial counselor and over-rely on my wife’s strengths to make up the difference. Rather, I’m going to pursue financial fitness, embrace frugality under the context of stewardship, and flex into shape accordingly.

Think of it this way: Even though money isn’t the end-all, be-all of extending God’s providence, in no way should we want God’s faithfulness to be restricted by what we’re not trusting Him in.

Besides if you’re reading this, chances are you have enough and know God as more than enough. Not do you have what it takes…but you can do this. Why not do it together?

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Where I’m letting go of a stronghold, sin, negative thought pattern, etc. to replace it with something better
  2. Albeit an indefinite sabbatical was necessary
Photo creds: https://buzzerg.com

Intentional to Be Intentional

Intentional.

We like to throw the word around, don’t we?

Granted, not intentionally¹, but enough we risk growing desensitized, even numb, to its mention.

Perhaps you’re like me wondering how to take not only your goal-setting, but your intentionality to the next level in 2019. If so, consider the following question:

How do we  become more intentional in our intentionality?’

For while most understand intentionality implies an upgrade in dedication…as being more mindful more often…not nearly as many see the term as anything more than the sum of its google definitions…
…which leads me to my first point.

Point 1: To embrace intentionality we must first see its core as covenantal commitment. For all you resolution setters out there, this is imperative to keep in mind. To achieve any goal with purpose, you must not only count the cost, but weigh it against an appointed strategy (more on this in a moment).

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” ~ Luke 14:28 (ESV)

Furthermore, it’s worth noting whenever we appropriate a particular cost, we’re also considering the promises and blessings of God (see how God institutes his covenants with the patriachs in Genesis). As such, to be intentional is to examine the faithfulness of God in all three time dimensions (i.e. past, present, future).

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Point 2: To embrace intentionality, we must view it as a relational/communal experience as opposed to individual effort. Like point 1, this concept is necessary both for pursuing the dreams/visions God plants as well as the sustaining of them.

Note how the Psalmist discerns God as one who delegates and journeys with us through the obedience…

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear Him [and worship Him with awe-inspired reverence and obedience], On those who hope [confidently] in His compassion and lovingkindness.” ~ Psalm 33:18 (AMP)

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence? Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become restless and disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”” ~ Psalm 42:5,11 (AMP)

Put another way, whether God delegates an assignment or gives direction, He always offers the hope of experiencing Him in greater measure. Props to Webster, but unfortunately this something he missed in his dictionary.

Point 3: To embrace intentionality, we must understand our response to what God appoints and appropriates. For when God appoints, He is often granting fresh instruction and direction; however, when God appropriates, He is setting aside something for our possession that we already have.

Having said that, if you’re ever unsure what God is saying, always yield in surrender knowing God has anointed you to what He’s appointed you.

Ephesians 5:15-17 captures this beautifully in three simple words:  know His will.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” ~ Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)

A couple key nuggets from this passage…

1) Note how the context leading up to this passage centers on living on children of light and knowing what’s worth participating in. This is important to grasp as knowing our true identity (i.e. children of light) enables us to perceive our function/calling as an overflow/extension of that identity.

2) In verse 16, the Greek wording for ‘making the best’ means “buy up at the marketplace”, to see the opportunity as a commodity used by believers. This may sound strange at first; however, in the context of God’s evangelical economy, recognizing opportunity is crucial to valuing/seizing the time He’s given us.

With that in mind, we can better comprehend Paul’s charge at Ephesus, particularly the  transactional effects of Matthew 6:33 (which I submit is an underrated definition of intentionality)…

“But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.”

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Final Thoughts

  • While many of us like operating under the cover of ‘intentional’…in feeling secure in what we’re going after as opposed to being confident we’ll actually get there…true intentionality is never content on defining goals until it has established tactical strategies.
  • Intentionality is often received as a reactionary buzz word. If this truth resonates, we must re-evaluate our understanding of the term.
  • Often there’s a disconnect between what is good for us and what we want to be good for us. Accordingly, it should be no surprise if shallow convictions are met with shallow efforts. If we’re skeptical/indifferent concerning the sacrifice intentionality requires, we’ll be derailed by the facets of life that don’t cooperate amidst our pursuits.
  • Referencing the Lord with our intentions helps us know if God is in them. When we seek the Lord, not only must we seek with expectancy knowing He will answer, but also inquire how to integrate that answer into the priorities and commitments He’s already established/will continue to establish (see 2 Samuel 5 when David repeatedly references God in his tactical analysis). Remember in the realm of grace, there’s a natural rhythm embedded in the natural order of these priorities and commitments. Thus, by keeping God first, foremost, and center, we can know a higher level of intentionality with what He’s given us.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. See what I did there? 😉
Cover photo creds: billiemakesahome.info