Tears into Wine: The Reason We’re All Cupbearers

If someone came up to you and asked, ‘What does my priesthood at work look like’, what would you say?

To lead like Jesus? To influence in confidence? To extend Kingdom authority?

Granted, the question is loaded and can’t possibly be unpacked in one post; that said, when we  examine our priestly influence through our “cupbearer identity”, we can, at least, begin to build a response.

To start, let’s explore “cupbearer” in Scripture beginning with Genesis 40:1-2 (AMP)…

Now some time later, the cupbearer (butler) and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, Egypt’s king. Pharaoh was extremely angry with his two officials, the chief of the cupbearers and the chief of the bakers.”

Note how the Hebrew translation for cupbearer, “butler” and “chief of the cupbearers” capture the office’s rank. While it’s true most cupbearers were slaves or servants, clearly they were more than wine-tasters on standby as we’ll see in a second.

Flash-forward to 2 Chronicles 9:3-7 and again we find cupbearer immersed in royal splendor…

So when the queen of Sheba saw the [depth of] Solomon’s wisdom, and the house which he had built, and the food of his table, the [vast] seating order of his officials, the attendance and service of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, she was breathless. She said to the king, “The report which I heard in my own land regarding your [accomplishments and your] words and your wisdom was true, but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw it with my own eyes. Behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told to me; you have surpassed the report that I heard. Blessed and fortunate are your people, how blessed and fortunate are these servants of yours who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom!

In this case, ‘cupbearer’ is not only set apart among the other officials (like Genesis 40), but declared blessed as serving in the presence of wisdom. Thus, we can infer cupbearers were not only regarded as trustworthy, but esteemed in knowledge and skill as well.

Lastly, in Nehemiah, we see cupbearer represented through the protagonist’s voice and position to King Artaxerxes. According to canon, after Nehemiah realizes the Jews in Jerusalem are struggling with the broken walls, Artaxerxes not only grants his request to rebuild them, but appoints him as governor to assure his authority. By book’s end, Nehemiah finishes the walls in 52 days thanks to his sound management and determination in the face of adversary1.

nehemiah

Now, I know what you’re thinking…why take this systematic Old Testament aerial view?

Honestly, there are several reasons.

First off, understanding how cupbearers conducted their business can help us, as marketplace ministers, approach our work. For instance, in the same way cupbearers protected the king at all costs, we can establish a safe and healthy working environment through integrity, consistent reliability, and quality support.

Granted, cupbearers, being the ancient  bodyguards they were, lived with their lives constantly on the line; however, even when we’re working outside our comfort zones, even when we’re wrestling with distrust, cynicism, or self-perservation, when we yield judgement to empathy, not only will we influence more effectively, but enhance a team dynamic driven towards collaborative solutions (more on this in our next post).

Secondly, when we apply the heart of a cupbearer, we can find inspiration in not only protecting our work environment, but purifying it as well. Remember cupbearers, while fragile in job security, perceived themselves as guardians could save a kingdom with one bite2. Consequently, they never hesitated to put their mortality at risk knowing what their sacrifice would mean long-term.

As for us, we may not have to down poison, but we can certainly purify the toxins within our arenas of influence (i.e. antagonism, condemnation, libel, slander, subordination, etc.).  ‘Cause truth is

…while we may not be able to change what people believe, as spiritual cupbearers, we can extend positive resilience into our company’s immune system through unceasing prayer, biblical confrontation, and 1 Corinthians 16:13/Colossians 3:23 determination.

Finally, when we consider Old Testament cupbearers served as agents of healing and restoration³, we can better recognize their foreshadowing to the preeminent cupbearer…Jesus Christ. Of course, Christ lived (and lives) as cupbearer and King simultaneously; however, by noting the parallels – the fact each cupbearer in Scripture abided sacrificially and submitted to a higher authority at his right hand- we can glean inspiration concerning our workplace identity. For as we celebrate Christ’s atonement in taking communion, we commemorate in our daily life knowing our influence is maximized when we live as Christ and take up our cross (Philippians 1:21; Luke 9:23). Ultimately, the key to thriving as present day cupbearers is recognizing our destiny and fulfilling our call…in remembrance of him.

Bread-and-Wine-03

In closing, I encourage you, friends, to live as the cupbearers of old and the Cupbearer of today. Regardless of the broken walls in your midst, regardless of what you have to lose, in the end, it’s all about being grateful as we’re faithful with what Christ has entrusted us. Even when you feel lost or anxious, remember you were made to pour out abundant life (John 10:10) as a drink offering (Philippians 2:17) to bear fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10) lifting up the cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13)…

…just like a cupbearer.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Mostly false accusers and backslidden captives
  2. Or swig
  3. Mainly in what they prevented

Cover photo creds: Preachit.org

 

The Naked Truth: Why Church Needs a Sex Talk

Since its inception, His Girl Fryday has served as a resource helping bivocational and marketplace leaders mature their influence. Yet, while our mission has always been to bridge sacred and secular, when it comes to absolute truth, ultimately we’re just as passionate outside our niche as within it.

Thus, as we tackle a hot topic in sexuality, understand this message has not only been internally simmering for years (having been ignited during last week’s Messenger Fellowship summit), but also represents one of my deepest pastoral regrets having rarely addressed it1 during my youth ministry tenure. Of course, much could be said in a testimonial setting; for now, let’s focus on how sexuality has been and should be addressed to effectively equip the emerging generation.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

When it comes to modern day sexuality, no question we live in a unique time caught up in the crossfire of change. On one hand, we have church and culture experiencing seismic shifts in how intimacy and its abuse are perceived. On the other, we have integrity and cross-generational tension in how the Word is interpreted and behaviorally applied².

Yet, while the divide may seem like a slippery slope, how we close the gap is worth discussion given we all struggle (or have struggled) with sexual identity, temptation, compromise, or at the very least, our identity in Christ.

Take my case for example…

As a child of the ’90’s, I grew up in a time when intimacy was seen as forbidden fruit. Not only was sex not talked about outside ‘the birds and the bees’, but hardly anyone wanted to…apart from a few exceptions.

I remember during one 8th grade chapel, my school brought in a young Christian couple to share their “love story”, a PG-13 account of why they waited. Unfortunately, while their testimony captured the wonder of affection, it failed to connect sex to Scripture leaving many peers in a wake of armor-less intrigue.

A few months later, I invited a friend to summer camp during which the last guest speaker defined purity as avoiding promiscuity. But again, like the married couple, though the message conveyed the mystique of sex, the big picture only grew more convoluted, especially for those like me who had become skilled in evading Cosmopolitan without knowing why.

Enter the day my sophomore year when I discovered Victoria Secret in my parent’s mailbox.

Yes, I had learned not to go looking for lust; however, I hadn’t learned what to do when lust came looking for me. Factor in a freshman year marred by peer rejection and bullying and suddenly those scantily clad women were more than just tempting…they were void-filling.

And so began a decadal stretch where self-gratification and fantasy lust not only became on-and-off defaults to loneliness and self-loathing, but self-seeking manifests in romantic relationships3 (more on this in a future post). Thankfully, after years of denial and compromise, the Spirit would meet me in a point of surrender and reset my course.

qtq80-CYVMS1

But by then, the damage had been done. Despite the fact I was a new creation relearning grace, forgiveness, and perseverance in the midst of shame, insecurity, and depression, the weight of deferred awareness -what could have been had I just trashed the lingerie clippings instead of stashing them ten years earlier – bore heavily on my mind.

Not to mention all the ‘what if’s’…

…like what if someone had taught me the wrongs of self-gratification?

…what if someone had taught me the boundaries of intimacy in dating relationships?

…what if I had a mentor who connected taking thoughts captive to pornographic temptation?

…what if the message of sexuality in my youth had involved discovering God’s intent as opposed to guilting people from living outside it?

Maybe then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But the reality is we are…because I believe God not only wants to reshape and ‘de-grey’ the way we teach sex, but purge our family lines of where it’s been abused.  Like me, you may have wrestled with a checkered past, but this doesn’t mean God can’t use your fearless voice to stir implicit trust in places of explicit exposure.

The question is: are we willing to be entirely honest and sensitive when we need to?

For as long as sex is minimally approached and swept under the rug, we set our children up to learn the hard way; however, if we truly desire our youth to see sex through the fear of the Lord/their identity in Christ, if we truly long for them to be content in their singleness, and to understand the positives of purity, the rewards of repentance, and the repercussions of sexual sin4, only then will we set a foundation on which they can stand firm.

‘Til then, I submit the church refreshens her approach on teaching intimacy. To paraphrase John Piper…

the problem with the church’s guide to sex education isn’t her instruction on walking in light, but her negligence in modeling a hatred of darkness.

As a result, youth are growing up aware sex has a time and place, like fire in a fireplace, but are far less aware of what to do when the chimney starts to crack or when the fire breaches the home. At some point, we must be willing to convey the fire of intimacy not only through the fatherheart of God, but in eager fashion as people unashamed of the Gospel and our testimony (Romans 1:15-16 AMP). Perhaps then will today’s young people know how to ‘house’ their sexuality where the fireplace was designed to be.

tenor

As for me, all I know is far too long I’ve been on my knees crying for help, but now that help has come…and in its wake…my heart yearns to see future generations know the warning signs that flare in the night and proceed against greed in light of the stronger, holy fire burning within5.

In closing, I encourage you, my friends, let’s be unified in advancing a more vulnerable talk on sex while praying generational healing into the roots of our family trees. After all, as great as the struggle or freedom we’re walking in, how much more glorious the triumph when we embrace the legacy of God’s highest?

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Granted, the effort was made multiple times; at least we got this far
  2. Hence, why sexuality is such a challenging subject given its taboo label and sandpapery effect on identity/ego/security
  3. Specifically, the lie of ‘as long as it’s not intercourse, it’s okay’
  4. Including the various forms of pornography and self-gratification
  5. Yes, I have DC Talk’s ‘The Hardway’ in my head now; again, I’m a child of the ‘90’s 😉

Cover photo creds: Pond5, Called to be Free

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template

No question, the vocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear many hats and juggle multiple responsibilities…you know the drill.

Yet, as tempting survival/‘just get ‘er done’ mode may be, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yes, strategic compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus and break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments; however, when we consider our identity as effective influencers in light of Jesus’ ministry,  we ultimately find…

a) Work (what we commit our hands and minds to) and faith (what we commit our beliefs to) were never meant to be mutually exclusive.

b) The marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Take Matthew 21:12-17 for instance…

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he targets (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why (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 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 quicksand.

Secondly, when we consider what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the providence of God (i.e. 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 the a) confirmation of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication), but to set the stage for the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

I-Was-There-at-the-Temple-Image

Hence, 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

One Voice Q&A’s with Cameron & Steve Fry

Cameron & Steve Fry talk Commission U and marketplace/bivocational ministry @ Messenger Fellowship‘s annual summit

Note: Apologies on the audio (especially the first minute); will aim to obtain higher quality when available.

1. Why is focusing on equipping people in the marketplace so vital for the church?

I believe if the church wants to equip people in the marketplace, it must embrace its transitive nature. The marketplace ministry problem, particularly in the western church, isn’t so much a function of not discipling saints to be like Jesus as much as it is not discipling saints to be like Jesus…within their respective spheres of influence. Considering 90-95% of congregations work in secular settings, we must bridge the disconnect and target these settings if we want to better reach the lost.

2. What is ‘bi-vocational’ ministry?

Bivocational ministry is ministry that bridges the sacred and secular. Whether you’re versatile in the marketplace working multiple gigs or have a foot in both church/workplace arenas, bivocational ministry not only empowers people to be like Jesus at their desks, but also teaches them to make the best possible use with the margins and bandwidths they’ve been given.

3. What have you seen in Commission U that is so helpful to marketplace people?

One of the advantages of Commission U (and courses like it) is how it acknowledges the priesthood in all believers while shattering the mold of ‘pastors do this/non-pastors do that‘. There’s a false paradigm that suggests only those with liturgical callings can be ordained, but with Commission U, as we experienced last night…

…we recognize all as partners in God’s ministry of reconciliation…all as effective ministers and child-like ambassadors…co-equal in value and diverse in function with a unique set of spiritual gifts designed for deployment wherever we influence. Ultimately, the heart of Commission U is to decompartmentalize faith and work so it becomes faith at work…at our work.

Graphic per Vicki Wilstermann/Ryan Hall

Saturday Night Life

Imagine being Rabbi Schacter moments after Patton’s army had liberated Buchenwald.

The first Jewish chaplain surveying the horror where hundreds of starving men piled in bunks from floor to ceiling. Though they had been freed, they remained in their barracks, numb to the sight of another uniform.

After all, new suits just meant new oppression and new abuse. Why leave camp to be battered and beaten again?

Then suddenly the silence breaks.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden, Ihr zint frei!” – “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!”

Slowly but surely, reality sets in…those sweet words of freedom spoken by one they now knew to be their own…

…the only one who could convince them they were truly free.

World-Gates-of-the-camp-of-Buchenwald-78747408

For some of you reading this, like the prisoners, you’re desperate for release, you’re hungry for life, but past defeats and present turmoil have stalemated you. Like a car in neutral, you’re going somewhere, yet feel inert as life races on.

If you can relate, I want to encourage you to consider what today stands for.

For once upon a time, Jesus felt the same way you did…

…when nailed to a tree…

…he took every fear, hate, and dirty little secret upon himself…

 …and died for the redemption of man.

But that was ~2,000 years ago…yesterday.

As for today, its significance is often lost in the shadow of the cross. For while Jesus atoned our sins on Friday, it wasn’t until Saturday he ensured we could live free from them.

Granted, Jesus redeemed us from sin after judicially becoming it, but he knew sin had to go somewhere. Thus, with joy still set before him (Hebrews 12:2), he carried our sin to hell…so we could permanently be undefined by it.

Unfortunately, for many of us, like the Buchenwald captives, we base our identity in past and present circumstance. We know it’s for freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), but are still skeptical thinking it’s going to disappoint in the hell of the moment.

However, when we remember Saturday…the day Jesus ripped the gates off Hades’ hinges¹, deposited our sins (past, present, and future), and withdrew keys to our victory…we ultimately find freedom in full where sin is not only confessed and repented, but renounced so we can be free from its power.

For while we’re cleansed through confession and repositioned through repentance, it’s not until we renounce sin we begin walking in freedom’s direction.

Therefore, if you’re thirsty for breakthrough, remember Christ not only shed his blood² for you, but unlocked freedom’s door so your struggle, your shortcoming…would never define you. Yes, there may be times you feel like a hesitant hostage or a fighter with the wind knocked out; however, once you receive the power Christ bought you on Saturday, you’ll find the freedom and strength you need to renounce the bondage of sin’s baggage.

Regardless of where you’re at this Easter, remember freedom is more than cleansing term; it’s an identity term! Hence, why we have every reason to rest in Rabbi Schacter’s charge 73 years in the making…

   “Peace be upon you, all…you are free!

empty_tomb11

Cover photo creds: Peg Pondering Again

Footnotes

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell
  2. As the final scapegoat