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

 

Purifying our Priorities (Part 1)

Well, folks…it’s that time of year again.

  • HR Block is heating up its campaign…
  • Companies are sending out their W-2/1099’s…
  • TV’s are going on sale’
  • …and New Year resolutions are officially underway2.

After all, ’tis the season to be better, right? To start afresh and anew…and to grab change by the horns…

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder how many really know how to do this…or maybe you’re hesitant…afraid of prematurely falling off the resolution bandwagon.

Whatever the case, it’s important we get real about the type of world we live in. ‘Cause when we take a good, hard look into the deep, dark crevices of our culture, we find we’ve grown too content taking matters into our own hands…yet too passive in carrying them out…

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…a paradoxical attribute of a society that constantly suggests having a heartfelt desire is “good enough”.

Not that “heartfelt desires” are bad; by all means, we were created to have them.

I’m just saying if we truly want to reach the next level (in any phase of life), it doesn’t make sense to be self-reliant, given the human tendency to fall short and mishandle change. Conversely, if we want to see growth become a permanent reality in our life, we not only have to accept the existence of a higher alternative, but we must be willing to depend on it as a supreme solution that exists (and only exists) in God Himself.

All that said… How do we turn our heartfelt desires, the seeds God’s plants within us, into lasting realities? How do we change from the inside out in a way that takes deep root within?

Before we can answer these questions with a customized five-point self-improvement series3, I submit we must first be willing to purify our priorities…

…which can only happen when we become intentional in spending time with God.

But first..what exactly is a “priority”?

According to the Random House Websters Dictionary...

  • priority is “something that’s regarded as more important…a right to precede above in rank, privilege, etc. …
  • …and “to prioritize” is a process by which we arrange, particularly in order of importance, relevance, value, etc.

Thus, when we consider what a priority is…and apply it to morality…our faith, we ultimately discover the importance of recognizing God’s priorities for our life.

Take Philippians 1, for instance, where in verses 9-10, Paul prays for the Philippians’ love to abound all the more so they could better discern and approve the things that are excellent4.

Essentially, Paul is saying: if you’re feeling overcommitted, overloaded, overwhelmed…if you’re mired in apathy, confusion, striving…or simply trying to decide what is best, what’s best for your spiritual well-being…and those around you…the answer is simple: love at all costs!

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‘Cause at the end of the day, we all need Jesus in the middle of our everything…not only so we can conquer the burdens of life…but so we can love better in every circumstance (hence Paul’s use of the word “abound”).

My thought is: let’s be unified in seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) together…in being fervent in loving one another (1 Peter 4:8; Colossians 3:14)…so we may…

  • Better identify what’s most important in our own life…
  • Better concentrate on the relationships God has called us to…
  • Be quicker in our humble obedience…
  • Be more available to God, our family, those God has called us to be around…
  • Use time more effectively, including family and ministry time (and not sacrificing one for the other)…

…all the while being Spirit-led everywhere in between.

Stay tuned next time for “part 2” of this series, where I’ll discuss a couple practical pointers on how we can better engage God in our midst and live transformationally in 2016.

Footnotes

1) In prep for the Super Bowl

2) Take a good, hard look at gym attendance…and you’ll see what I mean

3) Granted, this is a popular trend this time of year

4) I don’t know about you, but I love this association, specifically how Paul links “the greatest gift of all” (i.e. “love”) to our call to judge righteously.

Photo creds: lightwork.typepad.com, quotesgram.com, indy.shine.fm