The Trail We Blaze: 4 Convictions for 2020 (Part 1)

They say life’s a highway…

… like a road you travel on where one day’s here and the next day gone.

But for me, I side with the converse…

…that the highway of life is life-inducing…where one day’s here and the next undone.

At least, that’s the thought as I drive this prairie paradise, my road, my view covered in white. The bleak mid-winter suddenly a meek lid-printer inking this retreat from reality. If only the weather could be as cold as the past three months, maybe then I wouldn’t need an escape to nowhere to tell me what’s up.

But I supposed this is why I’m writing this. Because somehow, someway…I needed to get away to look that direction. Hopefully next time, I can be less spontaneous and more strategic. For now, I want to share four convictions (over two posts) from the past three days that will hopefully change the narrative for me and you in 2020.


On your mark, get set, let’s go…

  1. Rethink ‘More’

If I’ve done anything right in 2020, revisiting ‘The Prayer of Jabez’ (both the verse and Bruce Wilkinson’s book) tops the list. In case you need the refresher…

Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” ~ 1 Chronicles 4:10

Upon first glance, it’s easy to assume ‘enlarge my territory’ is the patented phrase of this passage; granted, for many, these three words can be the critical takeaway at a given point. However, it’s crucial we see a different three-word set as more significant overall.

‘Cause truth is: While asking God to enlarge the territory of our influence has its place, it’s the Immanuel essence of ‘God with us’ – in Jabez’s case, the ‘be with me’ – that’s the core blessing.

Consider this: Jabez could have easily paused after ‘enlarge my territory’ and ended with ‘that I may not cause pain’. But he didn’t. Why? Because he knew the bedrock of what he was asking, specifically that the ‘enlarge my territory’ was dependent on what came next, ‘that Your hand would be with me’. Accordingly, I submit the ‘bless me’ is the ‘be with me’ more than the ‘enlarge my territory’.

Now, before you all get your briefs twisted, understand I’m not trying to smite the Prosperity Gospel though I vehemently disagree with it. If anything, I just want to caution us as vocationals to examine what is driving our requests to God. For many a new year starts and we’re off the races urging God to give us more leadership, more opportunities, and more favor. As if our concept of ‘more’ is perpetually rooted in ‘me’.

But what if I told you we can submit these supplications (Philippians 4:6-7) in a way our intentionality flows from humility, not the other way around?

Would not our initial approach to God’s sovereignty be based in what we’re continually receiving as opposed to what we hope to employ?

Bottom line: While God is certainly for us, this is already established by the fact He is with us. As such, when we ask God for the tent pegs to expand (Isaiah 54:2), remember the point of what you’re asking is “for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15)

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  1. Burn for Longing

We all know time is precious…that every thought, every word, every action has a beginning and an end. Yet, while we know for everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), we also know for anything we may not have a reason. And if you’re like me, this can be an intimidating prospect.

Sure, we can tell ourselves there’s a time for every purpose under heaven, but let’s be real: How often do we think that ‘time’ is never near…or fear His hand is idle when we need it?

Whatever the case, it’s fair to say…

  1. Anxiety is everywhere with many bogged down by worry, doubt, and uncertainty.
  2. The core of such angst is not only a misuse of trust but a lust for control1.
  3. Such lust often elevates contingency plans above courageous risks.
  4. Consequentially, more people would rather have a reason for everything than a season for anything.

Think of this way: Whenever we yield to anxiety, we’re essentially wanting something right the wrong way. For instance, we may desire what is good, what is true, what is healthy…yet at the end of the day, what’s fuels the desire is a fear of lacking, not a burn for longing. If that’s the case, should it really surprise us when we catch ourselves preempting the possibility of failure for false contentment and security? Or are we so numb by way of self-preservation, we no longer see our ego cheating us from the fill we crave?

If only people knew the pursuit of promise starts with still and ends with will, maybe then we’d be more motivated by longing than lacking.

For now, let’s consider this scriptural rundown of what it means to long and go from there…

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” ~ Psalm 107:9 (ESV)

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” ~ Romans 8:19 (ESV)

I’m homesick—longing for your salvation; I’m waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post. How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court? The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and his ways. Everything you command is a sure thing, but they harass me with lies. Help! They’ve ­­­pushed and pushed—they never let up— but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel. In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word.  ~ Psalm 119:81-88 (MSG)

I don’t know about you but give me a burn for longing over a fear of lacking any day! As the Psalmist declares, even when we’re tormented and humiliated, we can yearn to know God…to see His glory permeate the darkness and decay around us. Given God has granted us grace and an abundance of life, take heart: Not only do we have His mind to abide in greater fullness, but also His heart to long for more longing.

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Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll unveil ‘part 2’ to this conviction series (by Valentine’s Day *fingers crossed*).

‘Til then, be blessed and be a blessing.

You got this!

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Evidence of contract thinking (more on this in a future post)
Cover photo creds: Subham Dash; loop time-lapse footage by Cameron Fry

 

Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 2)

After starting a new series on hearts of flesh last week, I want to spend this post extending the theme into the workplace.

‘Cause truth is: While discussing theological intricacies has its place, if a Gospel principle isn’t tangible…if it’s ambiguous in application…one must wonder if we’re fully taking it to heart.

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Thankfully, we’re believers in ‘part 2’s here at His Girl Fryday. As such, the goal of this post is to discuss what hearts of flesh look like in the marketplace using the three core concepts of ‘part 1’ as a foundation.

Without further ado, let’s dive in…

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No question, we live in a complicated world addicted to hurry, prosperity, and high expectation. We want well, we mean well, we work well…but by day’s end, there always seems to more weighing us down than lifting us up. Ever wish you could fix just one issue knowing the ripple effect it could have? I know I do.

However, I also know at the core of many prevalent issues are hearts of stone burdened by systems of performance and self-effort. This arguably is no more evident than our cultural idolization of individual accomplishment over collective partnership. As a society, we say we value the idea of collaboration; we preach the principles of teamwork and leadership. But in an ‘I must get this done’ age, can we honestly say our bottom line emphasis is more ‘done’ than ‘I’? Or are we so caught up in progress and status, we’ve lost the point of why we work all together?

Regardless of where we’re at, as mentioned in ‘part 1’, there’s a common thread we can adhere to: By aligning ourselves to God, we can know not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny, and our future as well.

This has massive implications in the marketplace.

For starters, we can enjoy our work free from offense, agenda, and anxiety since our idea of success is rooted in worship and completion, not affirmation and accomplishment. Ever worry about your voice being heard or if ‘x’ project will get done? Perhaps you feel trapped knowing advancement can only happen is certain metrics outside your reach are met.

If so, dare to rely on God as your higher power in those moments. Put into practice, you’ll find this posture will not only free you from insecurity, but also redirect a fear of man/failure to a fear of the Lord.

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:11,13 (ESV):

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Remember when we surrender our anxieties, when we cast our cares upon the Lord, we create space God can invade.

Note how 2 Peter 3:8-9 literally captures this in the Message translation:

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness…He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

Unfortunately, for many of us, this reality falls flat before we recognize it. We pray before each day, we ingest truth through the Word, and yet somehow the emotional gravity in conflict remains unchanged. Why is that?

I know for me after I graduated college, I’d feel guilty if I had time to kill or margins to clear. I’d think to myself I must be doing something wrong if I’m not productive or ‘on the go’ all the time. But looking back, I realize this burden was self-inflicted having believed no mountain to conquer was a sign of faithlessness. As I now know…

…voids created through surrender is an apex of spiritual maturity.

More specifically, to create voids righteously, one must repent and acknowledge God as the provider of opportunity, the way to resolution, and sustenance when either is lacking. True, our margins and capacities may vary (see parables of the talents), but it’s ultimately God who entrusts us with them. Knowing this, we can experience work as freedom by viewing business ethics, accountability, communication, and motivation as ‘fragrant offerings’ to God.

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Furthermore, if we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined, then we can view our work as done since our purpose is already secure. Granted, this idea may be hard to grasp at first. I’m not suggesting you approach responsibility with a cavalier attitude; however, I am encouraging you to see aligning to God as a way we engage His fullness, faithfulness, and the belief that what good can be donewill be done.

If it helps, consider this: You are made a new creation. To be made is to have an identity. What you do is not your identity. Accordingly, what you make, what you earn is not your identity. So what is your identity? It’s who you are. God…God made you who you are. However, He also made work. Why? So people can know Him and discover their purpose. Hence, why work isn’t your identity, but working unto the Lord is.

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Knowing God is why we work means He’s the subject of our work. Our co-workers and supervisors? They are not the subject. They are the object…equal in value, diverse in function…just like you. Even the confusing characters, those who think success is all profit, position, and power, God sees the ‘finished them’…not only what they could be, but what they will be.

In light of this, we can embrace helplessness and accept weakness knowing we’re a new creation continually transformed as we receive from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Even when others condescend on weakness, we can take heart knowing the Cross has meaning and power because of it. Oh, how sweet it is to know this same wonder-working power can be alive in and through us…even as we work.

All that said, next time you’re on the clock, delight in the fact you can be open to constructive criticism since work is more than learning; it’s freedom. When you’re micromanaged, manipulated, or indirectly communicated to, rejoice. God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear on what your boss or colleagues can do to you, but of love, power, and a sound mind in what you can give back. Again, if you align to Christ, the reproach, the dying to self…it all takes care of itself. Besides, you can’t control what others do or think, but you can trust in God who works all things for good and is progressively transforming us into His image.

Cause to God, it’s not about the bottom line…or even the finish line; it’s about the finished line…

…a reality we can know as Christ’s finished work alive in us.

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In closing, I bid adieu with one last verse from 2 Peter…

With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.  So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:8-11 (MSG)

Stay tuned next time when we’ll discuss how merging bottom lines with finish-ed lines ultimately sets the stage for cultural transformation in our arenas of influence. In addition, we’ll contract intimacy versus independence before relating each reality view to weakness (as Paul describes throughout 2 Corinthians 12).

‘Til then, be blessed and stay refreshed…

Selah.

 Cover photo creds: Steemit

 

3 Marks of Spiritual Maturity

It’s been said spiritual maturity is not just what you believe, but how you behave.

But let’s be honest: marrying the two in every situation isn’t always easy.

Granted, we have this side of heaven to learn, grow and discover; still, if you’re like me in the sense you’re looking to embrace spiritual maturity without despising the growing pains, here are three marks of spiritual maturity to aim for…

1. Dying to offense

Have you ever dealt with someone who lacked the same care you had for an ideal outcome?

Probably multiple times, right? I know when I was younger, anytime I found myself in a similar boat, I would withdraw into discouragement, ignorant to the offense (specifically my attitude towards unmet expectations and what I perceived to be indifference) I was taking; however, as I now know, not only is this a recipe for cynicism, but a contradiction to our call to love at all costs.

So I got to thinking: if everyday presents a temptation to be offended…why not die to our offense in the moments we catch ourselves alive in it?

‘Cause truth is: while we’re all hardwired to passionately pursue people with the passions we pursue, that doesn’t guarantee mutual understanding or aligned priorities. Obviously what matters most to me won’t always matter as much to you or someone else, but this doesn’t mean we have to take it personally.

Rather, whenever we feel others aren’t heeding what we value, let’s consider confronting offense in the moment with the intent to make truth known at the right time (using the in-between time to process, pray, talk to mentors/confidants, etc.)

Bottom line: If you want to mature as a believer, start by viewing every day as an opportunity to love heart to heart (accept people as they are) even if you don’t see eye to eye.

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2. Praying in detail

 If you’re reading this, chances are you know the idiom, ‘the devil is in the details’ is often used to imply an effort that seems simple at first, but takes longer than expected. What you may not know is the phrase actually derives from ‘God is in the details’, expressing the idea whatever one does should be done thoroughly (see 2 Timothy 3:17).

What does this have to do with prayer, you say?

Again, note the origin of the idiom. Sometimes when we pray, it’s based on condition, setting…a criteria of life surrounding us; however, when we pray in the Spirit, we’re praying in detail…we’re praying on terms outside our own. And that, to me, is what prayer is all about: delighting in His nearness and inquiring the specifics of God to better know His will.

Bottom line: Don’t just be intentional in prayer, be aggressive. Have Word exposure (Side note: you can’t mature without it), have a list of requests in front you, have people in mind you can speak out by name, and know what you want to take captive/what you want to take their place. You’ll find the more you pray in detail, the more you’ll discover fresh perspectives you couldn’t have known otherwise.

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3. Fruits in fullness

If you know me, you know one of my favorite topics centers on an issue I haven’t always been great at: living fully/unconditionally; however, to be fair, this is a life-long tug-and-pull for all of us.

As I’ve been teaching my students the past few months in our ‘Fruits in Fullness’ series, fullness and spiritual maturity go hand in hand. The more we pursue fullness with the spiritual fruit we carry, the more others are able to taste and see that it’s good.

That said, we must understand one of the ways the devil prowls after us, especially in a compartmentalizing world, is conditioning our fruit to be conditional.

Check out Genesis 2:16 (AMP): “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely (unconditionally) eat [the fruit] from every tree of the garden.

Note the freely/unconditionally correlation and how this ties into fruit (albeit, the edible kind), God’s original design for man’s function…not to mention our place in Ephesians 3:19: “and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].”

Again, how awesome is it whatever talk about on here…it all comes back to God’s surpassing love and desire for our highest…our best with Him through Him by Him.

Mufasa tingles, anyone? 😉

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Bottom line: Staying with the Ephesians theme…

“…until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity]. ~ Ephesians 4:13

Selah.

Cover photos creds: http://julielopes.com/category/spiritual-maturity

3 Ways to Overcome Loneliness

Have you ever felt ‘home’ locationally yet far from it relationally…

…secure in the journey, but perhaps insecure in community?

No question, it’s an awkward emotional dichotomy…to feel in love where you’re at yet estranged at the same time.

Perhaps you’ve wondered what do when you feel like you’re not connecting or what to do when you feel God isn’t honoring your obedience with the right relationships.

If that’s you, then heed my words…

…’cause truth is: I’ve been there…

…and in some ways, I’m still there.

And I’m sure for many of you reading this…you can say the same.

With that said, here are three ways to rightfully cope with the contradiction.

1)      Live and breathe God’s wholeness. 

No doubt, God is enough. The question is: do you honestly believe it?

Consider Jeremiah…a prophet whose calling meant to be alone, as evidenced by his directive not to marry, go to weddings or funerals, be in the presence of feasters and merrymakers, etc.

When we study Jeremiah’s narrative, it shouldn’t surprise us to find him often discouraged and depressed. After all, Jeremiah was entirely human…and to be without friends is one of life’s greatest challenges. But though Jeremiah carried certain “love deficits”, this didn’t keep him from finding satisfaction in God, as noted by his tendency to open prayer with “sovereign Lord” and conclude it with a reference to His steadfast love and/or power. Though Jeremiah lived without companionship, God was able to use his singleness and isolation to fulfill His purposes1 through him in ways that couldn’t have happened had he shared dependence.

1352897081As for us, there may be seasons when God temporarily detaches us to cultivate greater dependence on Him, as He did with Jeremiah. But while these seasons may be arduous, we can still find contentment in knowing God always has our best in mind and always sees the beginning from the end.

Hence, it makes perfect sense to receive God’s wholeness since it not only helps us cope with our deficiencies, but provides spiritual nourishment to keep going…all the while, renewing our trust in His providence.

2)      Pray the Word over your location. 

Let’s be honest: It’s easier to pray for people you know than those you don’t, right?

…especially considering we live in a compartmentalized culture where our concept of the world is essentially our concept of ‘our world’.

However, let’s say God repositions you in a foreign place or season. Would the change be enough to diminish your prayer life or would you stay persistent regardless?

While prayer can certainly benefit from sound company, truth is: the tempo of our prayer life should not be dictated by our social life2 or lack thereof.

Why? ‘Cause at the end of the day, it’s God who orchestrates our connectedness!

Thus, if we’re feeling dissatisfied or desolate, we should feel compelled to turn to God without hesitation and seek his direction, considering if anything is in the way, it’s likely a stronghold of man.

So next time you find yourself disappointed by the hardness of your heart and/or surroundings, pray the Word over your location…and choose to make intercession your default as opposed to withdrawal.

Again, it may not be easy, but you can, at least, bank on finding fuel even when you’re running on empty.

3)      Focus on opportunities to serve.

As mentioned before, we all want to belong…and find our place.

However, though the desire itself makes sense, the problem is often how and where it’s prioritized.

For instance, if the desire is overly prioritized, then we risk engaging community as a means to an end, where on the flip side, if the desire is not prioritized enough, we risk relationship being a nonchalant concept, dependent on chance rather than intention.

But if we truly want to bridge relationships organically, why not focus on opportunities to serve and invite God into the process?

Seriously…it’s not like we have anything to lose yielding to the Spirit’s leading.

And if you think you got to have friends before you can find your “place,” consider how God prepared the way in Scripture time and time again (i.e. God frequently prepped the territory before tending the inhabitants; see Deuteronomy 1-16, John 14:3).

In short, when it comes to seeking connection, the best approach is to let God be God by consecrating our relationships (present and future; real and hopeful), staying rooted in prayer, and seeking His desire to plant us in the best place possible…in the best way possible.

Footnotes

1) To fulfill his purpose, it was essential Jeremiah relied entirely on God, considering he may have a) integrated a fear of man into his prophecies or b) fallen away completely had he placed his own needs above God’s wants.

2) Or how we feel our social life is

Photo credits: https://blog.febc.org
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