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

 

Staying Strong in the Void of Calm (October Recap Ed.)

I admit: I have not been in a writing mood this month.

Baby Milo, new job prospects, freelancing gigs, totaled car, family health issues…no question, there’s been much to handle in recent weeks. But amidst the turbulence, there have been silver linings – rays of strength in voids of calm. And while there’s much I don’t know in this state of processing, what I do know is we often discover new levels of courage during life’s greatest challenges.

So for today, I want to get real, raw, and a little freestyled about what the past month has been for me and family.

‘Cause truth is: Our response to crisis and unforeseen trauma is crucial; yet, it’s our heart towards God in the midst of chaos that defines whether we see Him as a momentary provider or persistent sustainer.

Real quick, before I forget: If you’re reading this and feel outside your comfort zone, rejoice! You’re probably doing something right or better put, right where you need to be. Be at peace, receive the calming of the seas within, and don’t look back.

That said, let’s dig in…

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As mentioned, October was a roller coaster month with memorable highs and freaky lows. The fun and games started back on October 7 when Lyssah was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. Coming off this appointment, we were only mildly concerned knowing we were close to Milo’s due date, not to mention we now had a valid reason to designate ministerial assignments. What we weren’t ready for was the nasty stomach virus spreading through our family starting with Everly then me, Caeden, and Lyssah respectively. While the bug left me quickly and unscathed, the same could not be said for Lyssah.

I’ll let my October 10th post do the talking…

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As you can see, the episode ran a gauntlet of fear, mainly preeclampsia and early induction. Thankfully, while our collective nerves had been rattled, none of these issues verified. Despite the modest scare, the event was now mellowing to background prologue. Surely Milo’s labor and delivery would be uphill in comparison…

Birth story recap: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2019/10/25/birth-story-staying-strong-in-the-void-of-calm/

Long story short, strength had gained momentum heading into Milo’s birth weekend thanks, in large part, to our surprise emergency excursion; however, this impetus could not have happened without deferred fear and supernatural strength adrenaline. For instance, throughout the Dickson Tristar ordeal, I’d often catch myself wondering, “How am I doing so well amidst this turmoil? I should be freakin’ out right now. This is unchartered territory. I don’t how to handle all this!” Yet, time and time again, I’d land on a familiar tune, beating into heart as if it had been on loop for days…

Don’t just ‘not stop’ and keep going, but stop making sense of my strength…and just receive it.

Ahhh, just receive it. Sounds easier said than done, right? Like fortune-cookie wisdom disguised as solicited sarcasm or oversimplified commentary on complex theology. But as the ‘tune’ advised, when ‘try’ and ‘do’ become excluded, the right option becomes an effortless decision, and perseverance is made practical, who’s to say receiving divine strength has to be challenging?

As Lys and I discussed with our doula, sometimes abiding in Christ is simply allowing God to prop us up when falling seems like the only option. Even as waves of crap are hitting the fan, by recognizing the proximity and sovereignty of God, we can experience a higher confidence never thought possible. Granted, it may seem counter-intuitive at first; however, as embracing God’s strength in weakness becomes rhythm, it’s not long until we find rest and rise to our aim.

For example, when I crashed my car in a four-vehicle accident a few Friday’s ago, I could have easily catered to disappointment wondering ‘why me‘ or ‘why God‘; however, having exercised my focus to ‘help me‘ and ‘help God‘ in prior troubles, my dependence was locked into gratitude.

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Of course, sitting in a totaled car on an interstate median is never fun. But again, as the Spirit reminded me, it can be when you count your blessings and declare praise knowing you and God’s best are still alive. Come to think of it, I wonder why we often say, ‘it could have been worse‘ when to use it implies a contrast of an inferior outcome to the worst possible one. Shouldn’t we go the other way and gauge reality through the ‘new’ that is to come?

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Whatever the case, whether you’re walking through hell or a level of purgatory, what ultimately matters is knowing a) you’re perpetually loved by One who has your front and your back and b) even in your darkest hours, you can worship through staccato cries for help.

As for how one stays strong in the void of calm? Frankly, there are many ways, but perhaps the shortest and sweetest one is this: Draw near, surrender fear, pray on the fly, don’t wonder why…just rely. Again, this takes years to learn and is handily theorized outside moments of stress; however, by committing to these steps ahead of the heat, you’ll be primed for God’s power during it. Like conquering any temptation, the winning move doesn’t start at the point of testing, but well before it (more on this in a later post).

For now, I’ll conclude with this: Though this breakthrough may sound basic to some, for the first time in forever, I’m pressing through pain without making sense of it, content in knowing what I don’t immediately understand will eventually be understood. And while I get the value in devotionals and specialized guides on handling conflict, there’s something to be said when God shows up in a fresh way, does an expanding work in your heart, and it’s not contingent on whether or not you ask for it.

He just shows up and pours in…because that’s who He is.

Selah.

As mentioned in my last pod, Lys and I will try (key word) to air a new pod on all this before 2020. Until then, feast on these verses (ESV/AMV), receive them whether or not you’re in a storm, and know if all you got is, ‘Help me, God‘, ‘Hallelujah‘ or ‘I need you, Jesus‘, God considers it a fragrant offering.

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Psalm 107:29-30 – “He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.”

John 14:27Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-9 – “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 46:10 – Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.

3 Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

For many, it’s the same thing every January…

                   …we forget all acquaintance, inflate our morale…

…only to tease ourselves with premature quests founded on prayer-less resolution.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you prefer cleanse before change…in getting real before getting right.

If so, trust me when I say these days in early January can seem just as blue as they are buoyant.

Still, while taking internal inventory may seem less ‘fun’ compared to making resolutions, when we fearlessly explore what we need to be free from, we ultimately position ourselves to embrace the ‘next’ God has for us.

Thus, in the spirit of going under the knife, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the clock to 2018…

1) Making culture the enemy

I’ve learned many lessons as a state employee from persevering when treated like a number to managing challenging subordinates, but arguably none has gripped me so intensely as knowing your enemy in the face of conflict.

Growing up, like many, I learned Ephesians 6:12: “…we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities…and spiritual forces of evil”; however, while I understood this truth conceptually, I lacked awareness contextually. For instance, at work whenever I felt belittled or neglected, I used to justify resentment by redirecting my disappointment from colleague to culture. I’d think to myself, ‘As long as what I hate isn’t breathing, I’m good.’

The problem was: my offense wasn’t going anywhere. If anything, I had taken cynicism with respect to ‘person’ and extrapolated it over ‘many persons’ all the while exchanging discouragement for a false comfort I could easily hide behind.

Yet, as I’ve now learned, when it comes to not making culture the enemy, we must be willing to assign our offenses and align our defenses in the heat of battle. Far too often, we want to make sense of our surroundings; we want to feel secure about who is for us, who isn’t for us, who is pouring into us, who isn’t, etc.

However, if our filing system defaults culture to enemy while compartmentalizing those we assume aren’t for us as products of that culture…are we not recasting the same judgment we fear?

And yeah, I know it’s easy to appoint anger and bitterness onto what we think can’t be seen; however, I encourage you…

…if your idea of enemy is the deceived, not the deceiver, then not only are you misappropriating identity, but you’re removing yourself from an opportunity to love and judge righteously.

Think of it this way: if you’re struggling to see the finger-pointing, never wrong colleagues as anything but enemies, try focusing on encouraging them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 4:32) and watch as God transforms how you see them. That way you’re at least in position to shift the enemy from instigated to instigator.

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2) Hiding behind proximity

As an introvert, I love my solitude…that still calm in the middle of productivity and a dwindling ‘to do’ list.

But lately I’ve been thinking: Why is privacy perceived as such a luxury when we were created for proximity (i.e. engaged connection with those around us…not just closeness in space)?

I mean…if you’re reading this, odds are you’re close1 to someone, right? From neighbors to co-workers to immediate family and friends, it’s no question proximity is both prominent and prevalent. Why is it then if we were to describe our ideal escape, it’d often involve seclusion or separation?

Is it because we think harmony and proximity are mutually exclusive…that rest can only happen in a vacuum?

If so, I submit we get back to valuing those in our midst regardless if they treat us like strangers or outcasts.

‘Cause truth is: if how we engage people is conditioned on what we can’t control, it’s going to compromise our conviction in acting on what we can.

That said, it’s worth noting the false security in minimizing proximity.

Case and point: for years at my job I used to think to myself, ‘Just because so-and-so lives two cubicles down doesn’t mean I’m entitled to be close…’ or ‘I’ve tried talking with so-and-so, but after all these years, they’ve never tried to talking to me. Might as well as be strangers.’

However, once I realized these thoughts were only de-salting my witness, I knew my approach had to change. Like my heart towards culture, I had to stop  compartmentalizing people to make sense of my surroundings. Somehow, someway…I had to open myself back up so anyone and everyone could be a potential target for love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement.2

‘Cause like many, I can love on certain people well…plugging into their life…even giving gifts (which for me, is far down the love language list), but when I consider how Jesus broached proximity, no one was outside his periphery to love or his reach to heal.

Thus, I think it’s important we all examine ourselves and explore where good intentions may be linked to our own terms. Perhaps then we can find those secret places we may be hiding behind.

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3) Marginalizingmy bandwidth

Left unguarded, my mind can easily drift into personal narrative. How will what’s left untold…unfold based on the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday?

Yet, as mentioned in prior posts, it’s hard to invest external margin (i.e. loving one another) in the present when you’re overly vesting it in the past. Therefore, if we’re wanting to be more selfless in venturing our margin John 3:30 style, then clearly we must be willing to examine our perception of relationship before transferring it.

Granted, easier said than done; however, as long as we’re intentional in asking God to breathe width into our bandwidth (i.e. capacity/strength to love on purpose), who’s to say we can’t change?

And hear me: I get how tempting it can be to assume other people’s perception of you is less than what it should; however, I also know if you cement your mind in thinking people won’t believe the best, you will do the same as well. Why not then trust God to move, convict, and transform others the same way He’s moving, convicting, and transforming you?

If it helps, if you want to de-marginalize your bandwidth, go back to your narrative…but this time, consider what you learn at 35 or 45 may be what someone else learns at 25 or 55. After all, who are we to judge when truth clicks for someone else? I mean…if we truly want to be heaven on earth, then we should want to root each other on regardless if our maturity curves line up (see Matthew 7:5).

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Literally and figuratively
  2. A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
  3. To treat as insignificant

Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper

Bye, [Bye]Vocational

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not easy marrying marketplace and ministry.

After all, when you consider secular expectations, the challenge of availability matching flexibility, how most church leadership models are structured…it can be tough-sleddin’.

Now, I’m not a church consultant or ministry life coach; however, in my brief ministerial experience, I’ve come to realize while tent-making is often praised behind the pulpit in an evangelism context, it’s rarely incorporated to the fullest in a leadership context.

Case and point: I work full-time hours (7:00-3:30 pm) for TDOT Monday through Friday, where at the start of each day, I take the day’s game script, stack it against my church load, and do what I can accordingly for both. For instance, on slower days I create youth discipleship content, plan events, design social media promotions, and field church-related correspondence on my breaks, whereas on busier days, I keep a running ‘to-do’ list to better tackle my gameplan after hours.

The problem is: whether or not my day at work is busy/productive, I still miss out on the life that happens at church (i.e. staff meetings, luncheons, offsite special events, etc.) during my shift.

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Granted, I do have supervisors who meet with me on a quarterly basis to catch me up to speed with important information. Yet, while the communicational challenges can be frustrating, it’s the communal setbacks that offer the greatest potential for discouragement.

So while having flex or contractual hours would be ideal, I know in seasons like the one I’m in, I can only abide in what I can control, confront what I can’t, and trust God in both. Still…this doesn’t mean the divide is easy.

On one hand, I’m proud to represent the Gospel in a taxing work environment, to mature in my reliance upon God when I find my own strength to be nothing but weakness. On the other, I’m often downcast considering a) it’s hard to justify why I work where I do1  and b) to not experience deeper community due to a job I can’t stand on my own strength is a bitter pill to swallow.

So when it comes to the idea of a bye-vocational (i.e. leaving one job to fully pursue the other) life in place of a bivocational one, I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t intrigued considering the struggle to put forth full-time effort in part-time hours is [super] real…not to mention I’m the first Fry male in three generations to not know what full-time ministry life tastes like.

*Sigh*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s hard being bivocational when the call itself seems to rob you of relationship. ‘Cause while many think bivocational ministry is all about tackling two different jobs, truth is: it’s just as much about influencing community and inspiring culture change as it is achieving excellence. Thus, how we cope when we feel our ‘spread out’ lifestyle is diluting our impact is worth discussion.

Of course, you can count on me to drill down on this in future posts, but for now, let me just say: for those of you working multiple gigs striving to keep joy afloat, understand you carry difference-making potential inside you…and that potential is not only going to come to fruition in the territory God has given you to tend, but is also never contingent on what you can’t control. Again, that’s the beauty of trusting God. Whenever we reach an end of the line, God grants us the slack to press on. Whenever we reach an unscalable wall, God equips us to ascend it. And whenever we’re overcome by a particular lacking, God meets us in our midst, fills us, and goes before us to make a way (Isaiah 43:16-19).

Yeah, I get how hard it can be craving community and passion outlets in the arid seasons of life, but remember God specializes in showing His power in hopeless situations. So if you’re reading this today wishing you could swap out a bye-vocational life in place of a bivocational one, I encourage you: allow God to fill up your empty canteen with encouragement and fresh perspective. ‘Cause I submit: where you are now is not by mistake, but by design and by grace.

Think of it this way: If you’re thirsty, what sense does it make to cut your water bottle in half when you could simply remove the cap and fill it to the brim?

Pretty obvious, right?

Yet, how many of you reading this are essentially doing the same thing by denying yourself full-fillment as a result of wanting the ‘bye’, not the ‘bi’?

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If you can relate, I encourage you: stop overfocusing on what you wish could be different in your life and embrace the fact God has you just where He wants you. Don’t fantasize about what it’d be like to customize your life. Instead, take joy in trusting the Lord’s lead and take courage in pushing through to the good stuff that’s coming (see Isaiah 58:11).

While I’m tempted to go on, I’m goin’ to push ‘pause’ for now and instead bid adieu with some parting questions:

1) What do you need to be filled with today?
2) What is capping the ‘containers’ God has placed you in?
3) Will you remove those caps and allow God to fill you up?

I’ll just let the mic drop there…

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Footnotes

  1. in light of how I was created

Cover photo creds: ThomRainer.com 

Rousing Resilience (Part 1)

We all have heroes.

Whether they’re family members or historical/cultural icons…we all have figures we look up to1.

Of course, not all protagonists and champions are alike; however, when we consider their innate qualities, it’d be hard to find any who lacked some form of resilience.

What is resilience, you ask?

Well, for starters, it’s the theme of this year’s Acquire the Fire event (hence, the topic’s prevalence).

Yet, as far as definition goes, resilience bears rich substance2. In fact, when we dig into Scripture3, we find resilience to be a number of things. Among them…

  • A refusal to quit…
  • A pledge to stand firm…
  • Courage maintained…
  • Boldness with honor…
  • …and a fearlessness rooted in two instinct-defying words…

“I can’t.”4

Now, I know it sounds weird, but when we confess this itty-bitty sentence to God, it not only offers Him great delight, but it also allows us to see just how much “He can.

Why? Because owning our weakness is the first step to being set free from it!

In other words, when we admit and release our crap to God, He doesn’t just listen – He intervenes, He intercedes…all the while, showing us the pathway to real, radical heart change.

Pretty cool, eh?

But resilience doesn’t stop there.

‘Cause when we drill a little deeper, we find resilience also enables us to know how…

  • …our helplessness can be expressed as acceptable worship and reference (Hebrews 12:27-29).
  • …our weakness can be flipped into God’s strength filling in the holes of our efforts (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • …and our problems can (and will) be fixed simply by fixing our eyes on the One who ultimately is in control (Psalm 16:8, Hebrews 12:2).

Honestly, when you think about, this can be especially encouraging, considering we will encounter adverse circumstances at some point, whether it’s an abusive relationship, financial and/or occupational turbulence, past woundedness, and/or the stubble of our sin. But even when life seems stuck on cruise-control and hope is nothing but a fleeting fairytale, we can still know “no fear5.

Cause truth is: all it takes is one simple shout of surrender to bounce back…

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…one victorious “Yes” to God in the face of apparent defeat…

…and one resolute declaration of “God is enough”…

even if 6 we’re walking through hell, unsure of what’s to come (see Daniel 3).

And I’m sorry, Captain Nesmith, but the phrase, “Never give up. Never surrender” doesn’t fully capture the essence of true resilience. Because the only way to “never give up” is to surrender…abandoning any independent pursuit that suggests we’re strong enough to adjust our course.

At the end of the day, the only means of courage is to admit we must be filled with it to live it.

And that, my friends, is what real resilience is all about it.

Next time, we’ll examine some practical points on how to live resilience out in a transformational way.

In the meantime, I leave with some passages from Isaiah & one from Habakkuk:

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In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength~ Isaiah 30:15

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” ~ Isaiah 40:29

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

You wearied yourself by such going about, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.” ~ Isaiah 57:10

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” ~ Habakkuk 3:19

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Footnotes

1) Which is how we’re designed

2) And is arguably one of the most overlooked faith terms in Scripture.

3) Especially Joshua, 2 Timothy, Philippians and Romans

4) Point inspired by Christ Is Life Ministries

5) The fact this sentence contains a “triple-negative” doesn’t devoid it of truth.

6) The story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego really centers on these two words (Thanks to Kemtal Glasgow for the inspiration)

 
Cover photo from thefeministwire.com