The Water Bowl: Why Pilate Washed His Hands

Written on 4/16/2017; revised 4/25/2020

Bible Passage: Matthew 27:11-26

Imagine being Pontius Pilate torn between conviction and affliction, the weight of the world in human flesh standing before you (Matthew 27:23).

No question, it’s a compelling scene: A headstrong Roman official desperate to spare a man he deemed innocent versus a bloodthirsty mob ignorant to Jesus’ Messiahship.

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Who knows what Pilate must have been thinking? What convictions were racing through his mind as he procrastinated the inevitable? If only we could jump inside his head into the tug-of-war, perhaps we could make better sense of such pivotal pressure.

For now, what we can discern is realizing the mob was threatening to riot…

“…he took water and washed his hands before the crowd…” ~ Matthew 27:24 (ESV)

Now, if you think is verse is random, I get it. Without context, this is simply an anecdotal observation; however, in context, this moment carries powerful significance.

For starters, the washing of Pilate’s hands not only symbolized his personal verdict but embodied what Jesus came to do in the first place – to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7) and free mankind from captivity (Luke 4:18). In addition, it gave future humanity the opportunity to identify with Barrabas. Like the notorious prisoner, we who deserve death have been given a second chance at life to know what real death is. Accordingly, the prisoner exchange (Luke 4:15-23) can be seen not only as foreshadowing but also as a microcosm of the Cross: Jesus, the son of God, taking the punishment that Barabbas, the anonymous everyman, rightfully deserved – a man guilty of murderous rebellion offset by the one murdered for every rebellion.

Reading on, note the verbal exchange between Pilate and the crowd (v. 24-25):

I am innocent of this man’s blood¹; see to it yourselves. 

His blood be on us and on our children!”

Again, it’s hard to ignore the irony of the situation considering these people, only a week removed from waving palm branches, were declaring judgment on the one who would soon take away their judgment. In a sense, those who knew not what they did were prophecying into those who know not what they do. Though the condemners didn’t understand the power in the blood at the time, they were essentially declaring what we understand today…

Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover the sins of mankind.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but marvel at this passage’s symmetry.

‘Cause truth is: While Pilate would ultimately relent to the unrelenting on the ground (v. 26), it was God’s unrelenting from on high that used all things to fulfill the completion of his Word.

And it’s here I want to zero in on since it’s this truth, this past/present/future reality that exemplifies why we celebrate Easter.

For God so loved the world, He had the Cross in mind before he created it. For God so loved us, he was making a way before we even needed it. How sweet it is to know the same God is still unrelentingly reconciling us to himself!

My prayer for you is that as you meditate on Christ’s death and resurrection, you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do but what he wants to do in you.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:1-2 (ESV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 (ESV)

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” ~ Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

And as you seek Him, I encourage you to pray the blood over your house and the generations to come knowing you can now receive it in joy. Unlike those pleading, ‘Give us Barrabas‘, we can now cry, ‘Give me Jesus‘.

What a way to live the new life we have.

Selah.

Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful Easter full of peace, rest, and grace.

He is Risen…

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Footnotes 

1) Some manuscripts say ‘righteous blood’

Photo creds: Pinterest, Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri & jasongoronocy.com

A New Thing: 4 Easter Insights You May Have Forgotten

So recently I was thinking…

For the past two Easters, I’ve taken an exegetical approach to my content, dissecting familiar topics from unfamiliar angles.

Why the Torn Veil and Split Rocks Matter: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2019/04/19/rolling-stones-why-the-torn-veil-split-rocks-matter/

Saturday Night Lifehttps://hisgirlfryday.com/2018/03/31/saturday-night-life/

However, this year, I’d like to take a different approach. Rather than forge a new facet, I want to read the Easter story from the Message translation for each Gospel…and from there, reveal four underrated Easter passages before lending my commentary.

Sound good?

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All right! Let’s go…

1. “When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.” ~ Luke 22:14-16

It’s interesting to note Jesus’ demeanor here. In past readings, I’ve often assumed Jesus’ mien at Gethansemne as the same during the Good Supper. But to consider the magnitude of His such enthusiasm, His anticipation…it adds a new dimension to the Passover passage. From the beginning, Christ never lost sight of this moment, but He also never lost the desire to be in community. And now here He was…the Son of Man pouring into man in the most literal way with the Cross, the climax of His mission, in clear view. I don’t know about you, but to know the gladness of Jesus never detached from the glory of His Father is truly inspiring…not to mention one of the more underrated parts of the Easter story. Despite the pain and betrayal before Him, the Cross was all the more. Even in the pre-Passover hour, the tone of Jesus’ final breathes was being set.

As for us, a body of vocationals, let’s remember the model behind this historic screenshot. If Jesus can joyfully partake in a preview of His own death, then we, with Christ in us, can do the same regardless of cost and circumstance. However, in the crossing of troubled waters, remember the bridges involved are not only paved in delight but with people in proximity. Accordingly, let’s not neglect community in our communion with God. Instead, trust God to anchor your relational intentionality within the context of sharing goodness and Good news.

2. “Jesus told them, “You’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault. There’s a Scripture that says, ‘I will strike the shepherd; The sheep will go helter-skelter.’ But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you…” ~ Mark 14:27-28

Here’s a reason why reading the Minor Prophets can prove fruitful during Easter. Remember in Zechariah 13 when Zechariah prophecies about a fountain opening for the house of David to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness? And then in v. 7, he mentions, “‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones‘”?

If not, don’t worry. I had to look it up to be reminded as well. The key takeaway here is the alpha and omega of the passage itself. Having been buried and resurrected with Christ (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4), we can know full well any time our world seems to crumble and crack, Jesus is there because He has gone before us. Even when we feel like the one sheep going helter-skelter, astray within our own vanity, we can know Christ will go after us. He took the nails to set us free, but also to pursue us by His Spirit and assure us of His continual Immanuel presence.

BONUS: The last ten seconds of this clip give me goosebumps. Not only did Jesus prophesy Peter’s denial but also his recovery into restoration. No question, the Cross was at the core of everything He spoke into existence.

3. “If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they’ll do with deadwood?” ~ Luke 23:31

If you’ve ever had to recite the Easter story, chances are you didn’t quote this line. After all, it’s a tough verse to understand without context. Yes, we can deduce Jesus is the green tree and the deadwood as the ‘builders rejected’ (Psalm 118:22, Acts 4:11), but why would He bring this up in the midst of a death march? As research has shown, there’s plenty of room for debate; however, while some suggest Jesus was hinting at a specific eschatological event (i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), I’m just impressed He was prophesying at all at this point. Even with Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross, Jesus still had enough selfless awareness to redirect sorrow to its proper source and purify emotions in the light of His suffering. In a sense, not only was Jesus foreshadowing His request for God to forgive the ‘deadwood’, but also sowing truth (John 14:6) in His final moments.

4. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” ~ Luke 24:45

After Jesus’ resurrection, we tend to paraphrase the pre-ascension as ‘Christ making himself known’. And by all accounts, this is true. Before Jesus could ascend, he first needed to ‘show and tell’ before Operation: Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) could begin. However, to stop here would be to stop short. For if we look at this verse in context, we find Jesus was active in awakening faith in the faint of heart. From Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary (v. 10) to Cleopas, his wife (v. 31) and the 11…clearly, Jesus had more instruction and blessing to impart. But what ultimately makes these nine words stand out is the demographics behind them. In a poetic and somewhat symmetrical way, Jesus was tying a bow on what He started and cutting a ribbon on what He was about to start. At last the era of the synagogue was transitioning into the dawn of His bride, the church. And who would be in the middle of it but Jesus, the peace-making bridge-builder Himself? I know when we think Jesus as Savior, we think pre-Cross, but the post-Cross sequence, to me, is just as significant in affirming the nature of His love.

Selah.

So there you have it, my friends: Four insights among the thousands currently illuminating around the world.

As you approach tomorrow, my prayer for you is that as you come into a fresh understanding not only of what Christ came to do, but what He longs to do in and through you in the days to come.

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter weekend full of peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.

~ Cameron Fry

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Cover photo creds: Unsplash

Kingdom Agents: The Difference Between Gifts, Functions and Vocations (Part 1)

When I say ‘vocation’, what immediately comes to mind?

The 9-5 grind, the hustle and bustle, doing anything and everything to make ends meet?

If so, you’re not alone. After all, the world loves to condition us to view work as a ‘got to’, not a ‘get to’.

Yet, as I was reminded over the weekend, our marketplace vocation goes far beyond immediacy, intellect, and [our sense of] importance. Even though the nature of our jobs may require these elements, the aim of our jobs…the aim of our calling…is to serve as a royal priesthood, as Kingdom agents functioning in personal commission.

The question is: What does this look like and how does this happen?

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For starters, it’s imperative we understand the difference not only between call and vocation but gifts and function.

To do this, let’s recap the spiritual gifts as outlined in the New Testament:

*Jesus gifts (Ephesians 4:1-3) – These are part of our vocation and include ascension and equipping gifts as well as the fivefold spiritual gifts (i.e. apostle, pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet).

Note: While all are wired to shape influence, not all are wired to employ these gifts in the church/in these specific occupations. More on this in a sec.

*Spirit’s gifts (1 Corinthians 12) – These belong to the Spirit and are gifts in a gathering. Some examples include administration, discernment, wisdom, healing, and miracles.

* Community gifts (Romans 4:4, 12:4-8) – These help us function in a local body. Some examples including leadership, encouragement, service, and mercy.

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Due to word count, I’ll link these passages rather than copy/paste; however, after you read them, consider their Greek roots:

1. Romans 12:4-5 – The word for function is the Greek word ‘praxis’ meaning “practice function” and signifies continual activity.

2. Romans 12:6-8 – The word for gifts is the Greek word ‘charismata’ meaning “grace function” and signifies communal activity. In the workplace, we can know these functions as influencing functions.

In both these cases, it’s important to note the origin of gifts point to corporate functions created for unity, not individual skills and talents.

3. Ephesians 4:1-3 – The word for vocation is the Greek word ‘klesis’ meaning “calling function” and signifies the work in which a person is employed. This not only references our occupation but our acceptance of it as a divine call to a particular pathway/course of action.

In this case, it’s critical we know how vocation and calling work together. As Martin Luther once said, “Every person is capable of having a vocation”; however, our universal calling is to be a royal priesthood.

Accordingly, we can break this down as follows:

Our universal calling: Priest (1 Peter 2:9)
Our gifts and functions: Romans 12:4-8
Our vocation: Romans 12 filtered through Ephesians 4


I like how Timothy Williams, author of The Spiritual Gifts, captures the vocational aspect of our spiritual gifts: While we know there are 5 ascension gifts and 7 community gifts,  it’s important to note “each ascension gift has a corresponding functional gift.” For instance, a certain accountant may not be called to serve as a prophet in a ministry setting (i.e. a liturgically designed ascension gift); however, he can still employ prophetic insight through encouragement and counsel in financial arenas (i.e. a vocationally designed ascension gift with specific communal functions). Of course, there may be times the accountant imparts guidance for church staff in critical situations. But the bottom line is: The man of God is at peace serving the body as a financial advisor with a prophetic anointing as opposed to a prophet with financial skills. 

Before I continue, I want to share a couple quick points on ‘vocation’ and how we’re to perceive it in light of our identity:

1. Gifts and vocations are NOT meant to soothe your ego or confirm your identity. If you base ‘who you are’ by ‘what you’ve been given’, you’ll reinforce territorialism in place of influence. Don’t do it!

2. Gifts and vocations are meant to enhance a sense of intimacy. If you base ‘what you’ve been given’ by ‘who you are’, you’ll reinforce a radical dependence on God and radical equality in how you view authority and hierarchy.

3. If we see ourselves as ‘Kingdom agents’, then we’ll a) desire to use our vocation to emphasize the work cultures that already point to Jesus (i.e. redeem our work environment) and b) seek to give clients and colleagues a taste of God by ‘calling forth their destinies’ (i.e. restore people).

4. If we don’t see ourselves as ‘Kingdom agents’, not only will we risk compartmentalizing our sacred and secular lives, but we will also miss opportunities to help people discern spiritual things with their natural minds.

5. Remember we’re all co-equal in value, diverse in function. Therefore, let’s engage our vocation as a holy partnership in influencing people to discover the fruit of their work/organization and in speaking restoration to people without agenda.

Looking ahead to ‘part 2’, I want to revisit William’s quote to help bridge the gap between Ephesians 4 and Romans 12.

‘Cause truth is: If we’re to better understand the relationship between gift and function within our vocation, we’ll need to apply additional grids and principles.

*Cough, Jethro. Cough, perichoresis. Cough*

Additionally, we’ll also need to add ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’ to the pastoral cluster so we can match 7 gifts with 7 functions. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, I hope you were able to glean something out of this introduction. If you have any thoughts or questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me at your convenience.

Until then, God speed on your week. May His sweet presence be fresh wind in your sails as you press into His goodness.

You got this!

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Fast Company; body graphic creds: Msinop; content written by Cameron & Steve Fry; audio voiced by Steve Fry at the 2020 Commission U Leadership Retreat on February 29, 2020

The Road Less Traveled: 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

 

High Priest in a Manger: The Nativity As Seen Through Hebrews 4

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so they say.

To exalt why we exist, to know freedom abundantly…

…yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.

But if you’re like me these days…drained, disoriented…wondering when and where you are…unsure of most things status and standing…lend an ear.

‘Cause while I don’t have all the answers, I’m also not one to hide what I find. Even if it means going back to certain wells time and time again.

That said, a few weeks ago, I was glancing through Hebrews 4 when it hit me: While verses 14-16 are often attributed to genealogy and lordship, they also hold value in light of Christmas.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s read together…

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Upon first look, it’s fair to say there’s not much Bethlehem and Messianic prophesy referenced in this passage. Granted, one could say the “great high priest” achieves the latter, but either way, odds are you’re not thinking Luke 2 when reading Hebrews 4.

However, when we take a deeper dive, we begin to see the significance of what “great high priest” means for us today. For instance, after emphasizing Christ as Word and the trust/rest dynamic in v. 14, note the critical turn in v. 15. As the Message translates, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.” Rather, He is able to understand our weaknesses and temptations because He not only conquered them but experienced them!

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From here, we begin to see how this passage pertains to Christmas. Before the Son of God could bear our sin in His body, the Son of Man had to be born into it. Before He could redeem us from the curse of the law, He had to establish His plan of grace. Before He could save us through the Cross, He had to love us through the manger. You get the picture.

Yet, even before the manger, Christ had to be our high priest relating to us before the beginning of time. In this way, His sovereign authority could craft a divine pathway for our eternal relationship and our fearless approach beforehand. After all, nothing takes God by surprise.

Of course, the theological layers run deeper, but for now, consider this. When we celebrate Christmas each year, we’re essentially saying…

… “Lord, I’m taking hold of your mercy, I’m entering your rest, I’m accepting your help, I’m renewing my mind…all because you loved us to know our flesh as flesh. And from that relatability, I can receive you in confidence as the center of my ability, humility, stability, tranquility, etc.

I love how the Amplified breaks this down…

Therefore, let us with privilege approach the throne of God’s gracious favor with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy AND find His amazing grace to help in time of need…an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment.”

Ahhh, at the right moment. Isn’t that what we’re always searching for? The right time, a right moment, the right one, even? And yet, so often we miss the fact Jesus is all these things. A perpetual reality punctuated by the incarnation, Jesus was our hope as a high priest before He became hope as a baby. Now we can live with Him in heaven forever all because once upon a time, a hope once deferred became the hope we cling to today.

Accordingly, for all you in despair, in a rut…a funk, whatever it may be, know this: Jesus came at the right moment so He could intervene for you at the right moments. Past, present, future…He never stops being a shining light of David directing our hearts to where His rest lies. As Paul states in Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” All the more so, His light could enter, penetrate the darkness, and shatter the mold.

And so…as we wrap up another year, my prayer is that you’ll embrace this season and boldly enter into God’s best, His rest, and His next. For when you see the Cross behind the manger, you understand Christmas; however, when you see the priest in the manger, you’ll know the courage that can be yours as you invite into your weakness. How awesome it is to know Christ made Himself vulnerable so we could be vulnerable back? Not to mention with each other as we share the good news of His love in all we say and do.

Selah.

‘Til next time, may you know the hope that is yours and the breakthrough that will be yours this Christmas season.

Love you guys…

~ Cameron

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Cover photo creds: Renovare