Saturday Night Life

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

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

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

Then suddenly the silence breaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

…when nailed to a tree…

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

 …and died for the redemption of man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cover photo creds: Peg Pondering Again

Footnotes

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

The True Meaning Behind ‘Spring Forward’ (Part 1)

After last week’s intro on ‘springing forward’, I want to drill down and discuss how this looks when we love with a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5).

But before we dig in, let’s refresh ourselves on where we’re going. As previously defined, to ‘spring forward’ is to allow God’s wellsprings of life to spring up within; however, how this happens, as we’ll unpack in this series, depends on our surrender, or as Romans 1:17 puts it, “springing from faith in a way that awakens more faith“.

Granted, the subject lends to an array of starting points; thus, to simplify, let’s begin with the two greatest commandments as expressed through 1 Timothy 1.

First The Message (v. 5-7)

 “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into cul-de-sacs of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven’t the remotest idea of what they’re holding forth with such imposing eloquence.

Now The Amplified

But the goal of our instruction is love [which springs] from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some individuals have wandered away from these things into empty arguments and useless discussions, wanting to be teachers of the Law [of Moses], even though they do not understand the terms they use or the subjects about which they make [such] confident declarations.

Note Paul’s emphasis on love as life source reminiscent to 1 Corinthians 13:1:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 

Essentially, Paul is reminding us how the evidence of our faith must be rooted in selfless love and a life ready to receive it.

For if what we model springs only from good intention, then we risk insulating the sincerity of our faith and the purity of our heart from its overflow1.

Now consider 1 Timothy 1:13b-16

But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus…[who] came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost…I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Applying our premise to Paul’s testimony, we find if we want to love with a pure heart, we must surrender² with the intent to receive mercy and faith through grace. In this way, we posture ourselves not only to abide in humility, but also to embrace God’s joy as strength while persevering in unceasing prayer³ (see James 1:12).

From there, once repentance4 becomes rhythm, we can better live Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8-9 in the sense we’re…

  • Transformed by the renewing of our minds to better discern God’s will…
  • Equipped to know whatever is honorable, true, admirable…and yes, you guessed it…pure
  • Empowered to love and pray for/speak life to challenging, unreciprocating personalities.

Remember the ultimate goal is to allow God’s life to spring up within our wellsprings. Therefore, to purify our flow, we must purge the contaminants of insecurity, offense, fear, anxiety, and self-reliance while filtering in Psalm 51:10/Matthew 5:8 through the heart-cry of…

“Lord, create in me what will allow me to see AND reflect you!”

…a pure heart surrounded in steadfast spirit.

In closing, I encourage you…

  • Draw near to God with a true heart (Hebrews 10:22) in full assurance of faith…
  • Cleanse yourself from what is dishonorable…fleeing youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:21)…
  • Purify your wells by substituting any form of worldly reliance (performance, excellence, likability, even perceived integrity) for a Holy Spirit reliance through which you can discover what you were made to long for: love from a pure heart
  • Continue pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace…along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).

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Stay tuned next time when we’ll tackle part 2 in our ‘spring forward’ series: maturing faith from holy confidence. In the meantime, if you have any questions and/or need prayer concerning this issue, feel free to contact me or Lys at your convenience and we’d be delighted to offer our support.

Here’s to the journey…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. For which it was designed
  2. As “a life open to God”
  3. As a blessed (happy, spiritually prosperous, favored) man/woman of God
  4. Repentance = not only confessing our sin, but repenting and renouncing it

Cover photo creds: Yelp

3 Ways to Sharpen Your Sword

As I journey towards my 2018 resolutions, I’ve been increasingly reminded of last year’s renditions…

  • Lose 3-5 more pounds…check.
  • Talk more with extended family…check
  • Use social media less…check
  • Engage co-workers more…check
  • Read the Bible in a year…

…well, turns out I’ll need a few more months.

But that’s not the point.

The point is as I’ve pursued these quests, the drive to fine-tune the details within them has surged1 (more on this in a future post). Still, with the one goal outstanding, I believe it’s worth discussing how we, as Spirit and Truth believers, are to mature in our sword handling.

For as Paul explains in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Word of God is from the Holy Spirit and since every Christian is in a spiritual battle with the evil in this world, we need to know how to handle the Word properly.

Granted, much can be said about how we train offensively and defensively; for now, let’s narrow our focus on three practical ways we can sharpen our swords in 2018…

1. Know the Word

As one who’s never housed a protective firearm, it’s difficult relating to lethal proximity. Assuming I carried one, I imagine I’d be satisfied simply owning it early on.

But imagine I purchase a gun, hide it somewhere safe…and a week later an intruder invades. How would I respond?

Would my action not be dependent on preparation (i.e. how I studied the manual, familiarized myself with the handle, etc.), innate awareness, and calculated risk (i.e. what’s the quickest, most secure way out of the situation)? In what would be most beneficial to my family?

Unfortunately, when it comes to spiritual warfare, we often approach our swords of the Spirit like hypothetical ‘me’ with a gun. We know the Spirit lives in us, we know what the Spirit is capable of…yet are easily content in feeling secure within a covering we don’t know how to defend.

As Hebrews 4:12 states: God’s Word is His living, active, double-edged sword designed to illuminate our hearts and protect them from the enemy. The fact God would provide a penetrable weapon to reach the core of our hearts while destroying those with evil intent only confirms 2 Peter 1:3 (“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…”).

Therefore, if we want our swords to be effective offensive and defensive weapons, it’s critical we take them to the master whetstone that is Scripture.

Now I know this may sound confusing given Paul equates Word to sword whereas Hebrews associates through metaphor. Yet, if we apply John 1 to Ephesians 6 and accept the circular reference, we can better understand how a) our sword as armor is designed to be refined by sword as Scripture2 and b) the more we discover God and His ways, the better we’ll combat temptation and satanic schemes.

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2. Grow the Word

As mentioned, sharpening our swords requires the ultimate whetstone (i.e. the Word); however, if we want them to be maximally sharp, we must grow understanding in what it inspires.

Far too often, we cap our readership to God’s Word and pleasure material. We read our daily Scriptures, spend our fifteen minutes with God, only to fill our leisure with hobbies and extra-curricular pursuits. Yet, while rest certainly has its place, if we use it to shield ourselves from the divine inspiration in others…are we not lending God a partial ear?

For instance, my passion is to create content, but I know if I want to improve this skill while growing closer to God, I must invest time in revelations apart from my own. After all, if I forsake the inspired word given to a brother/sister in Christ, I not only risk limiting my understand of certain truth, but also locking God’s word in distraction rather than hiding His word for action.

Think of it this way…

…to read God’s Word is to exercise our spirit by truth; to discover God’s Word in authorized works is to exercise truth by His Spirit.

Yes, it’s true only the Scriptures are breathed out by God; however, if our aim is to be more like Christ, we must embrace how God is inspiring others through them.

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3. Show the Word

Imagine if I told my wife, “I love you. I may not show it, but I want you to know it.

That’s crazy, right?

Clearly, my love for her should be tangible, the evidence of promise as opposed to some platonic aphorism.

Of course, my wife knows I love her based on what I regularly sow; however, when it comes to living the Word, we must remember our mindset should be the same.

For as great as studying the Word and its inspiration is, it’s meaningless if our actions contrast our beliefs.

James 1:22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Romans 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

‘Cause truth is: we weren’t made to just read and believe, but lead and achieve so others can discover their Lover. That’s why you and me are here.

As for our swords, we weren’t made to simply know what can be done with them; rather we were made to use them for the sake of sharpening them time and time again.

Like light at the top of the hill, our swords must reflect a life on the frontlines…a life that reflects Jesus yet also allows iron to sharpen iron. Only then can we, by the Spirit’s power, use the Word to save souls and nourish them with spiritual strength.

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Footnotes

  1. For instance, don’t just lose 3-5 pounds; lose 3-5 net pounds with 1-2 more upper body muscle pounds factored in
  2. In shorter words, the sword is what refines it (i.e. the Word)

Cover photo creds: kevron2001 – Deviant Art

Dear Church: Get Real, Not Relevant.

I got something to say…

…and gotta get it straight before the sun goes down.

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If the church wants to be a city on a hill, then why is it trying so hard to be relevant?

Not to suggest the church should be indifferent towards evangelism or complacent in discipling; I’m just sayin’ since when did the church become ashamed of the Gospel? Since when did she start making it about you…and your receptivity to truth?

‘Cause truth is: the church was never meant to be culturally relevant or well-received, but contextually real and eagerly given.¹

For what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the wonderful things God has given us.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12 (AMP)

 “[So I have intended] to come to you, in order that I may reap harvest among you…both to the wise and to the foolish. I am eager to preach the gospel to you…for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” ~ Romans 1:13-16 (ESV)

Granted, most of you agree; however, in a time when church gets commission, but not Gospel…where truth is seen as content only worth its reach, it shouldn’t surprise us why many struggle to get God since what’s being modeled to them is more marketable than relatable.

Thus, it’s worth asking: How do we conquer the divide (be it deception, segregation, warped ecclesiology, etc.) in a way that gets us back to fishing for men without the bait? 

To answer this, we must accept…

  1. Relatability and relevancy are two completely different thing (more on this in a future post; ’til then, note Jesus’ interaction with outcasts (Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 21, Mark 5, John 4).
  2. The world isn’t looking for church to be relevant; it’s desperate for something real, radical and revolutionary.
  3. When we’re reaching out, embracing in, and loving like Jesus, we never have to attract people to the Kingdom because it’s already there in front of them.

Remember the church’s call is to draw near to the lost like God, not draw the lost to find God.

Sure, our church may be in the midst of a powerful sermon series with catchy taglines to promote. But at the end of the day, what the world really wants is the reality of grace abounding as people love the way they know how.

‘Til then, I charge the church to get real about her entitled expectations. ‘Cause honestly, whether or not we’re in favor of a church’s peripherals (worship style, tech incorporation, service flow) or demographics (diversity), shouldn’t distract us from what ultimately matters – people fearlessly living and loving like Jesus…who are willing to resonate truth rather than make it relevant.

Remember Jesus didn’t die for you so you could be you; He died so we could be of same mind and heart so those lost and afflicted could join in. He didn’t die so you could be convinced how special you are; He died so you could tell others why they are.  He didn’t die so you could be served; He died so you wouldn’t have to worry whether or not you are.

And that, my friends, is what the Gospel is all about:  serving those deserving, giving to the living, bringing unity to community, telling not selling…I could go on.

Maybe you’re sitting there discouraged wishing things could turn around. If so, I want to encourage you tonight: while it may seem you gotta get your life in order to make a difference, you can make a difference in order to make a life.

Yeah, you may think you have nothing to offer, you make think your faith isn’t ‘attractable’, but given the Word says it’s who you are over what you have (1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 3:27-28), you never have to worry about having something to lose and nothing to give.

As for the church, I also encourage you: whether you’re pitching a product, promoting a series, or marketing a vision, never forget…

  1. The ‘me’ in ‘follow me’ (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17) is not about you.
  2. We’re called to make disciple-makers, not gain followers.
  3. Millennials don’t want your relevancy; they want your authenticity.

After all, when we “present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God”, we not only capture their attention, but their hearts as well.²

tenor

Selah.



Footnotes

  1. Vaters, Karl (2016, March 30). “Forget Being Culturally Relevant.” Christianity Today.
  2. Dyck, Drew. (2017). “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God”). The Aquila Report.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest 

3 Ways to Better Love Your Enemies

Here’s a riddle for you: What’s something everyone has, the evidence of having stood up for something…yet also a byproduct of brokenness?

Give up? The answer…

…our enemies.

You know those people who curse you yet you’re supposed to bless…who hate you yet you’re supposed to love…

In many ways, we love to hate our enemies…to exact sweet revenge without the calories. But what if I told you while revenge is sweet, forgiveness is sweeter? What if I told you while enemies hurt, not loving them hurts even more?

Whatever the case, wherever you find yourself, if you want to better love your enemies, here are three truths to remember…

1. Understand who they are

When it comes to our enemies, it’s easy to hide behind the labels we place on them. Seriously, how many of you at one point had a sinking relationship you wanted to write off? Like mileage on taxes…or interest on a mortgage?

Granted, enemies come in many forms and yield to subjective definitions; still, if you’re like me, then chances are you know what it’s like standing on the mast of a shipwrecked relationship capsized by offense and insecurity. Perhaps now you’re drinking the bitter dregs of an expired friendship, a partner turned rival, or a severed family tie.

If so, I want to offer some hope: You don’t have to see your broken relationships as enemies!

But Cam, how is this even possible?

To be honest, I can’t say entirely. All I know is when it comes to better loving our enemies, the best place to start is choosing to see them how God sees them.

Now I know this is a sticky, tricky subject for some so with that, I want to tread this topic carefully. At the same time, I want to emphasize the importance of perceiving enemies as broken yet redeemable brothers and sisters in Christ.

‘Cause truth is

When we contend for reconciliation, we ultimately redirect ‘enemy’ off a person’s identity and onto the principalities in between.

Therefore, if you want to better love your enemies, the first step is to accept the fact who you think they are isn’t who they are…and instead reframe ‘enemy’ as lovable people who you’ve hurt, who’ve hurt you, who’ve cut you out, who’ve accused or slandered you, etc.

Bottom line: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.” Ephesians 6:12 (AMP)

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2. Consider your ways

Now that we’ve framed who our enemies are, we can better discuss how to bridge our divides with them.

But before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: Not all reconciliation stories are going to have happy endings. After all, when the lock is on the other side, obviously you’re not going to be able to unlock it.

That said, there’s no reason why you can’t knock at least once. The question is: How do we knock the right way at the right time?

For starters, it’s best to filter misunderstandings through vain imaginations before dashing to the doorstep. Ask yourself what is being assumed, what is the reason behind my suspicion, what signals and vibes am I giving off? Give yourself permission to self-examine.

Then after careful consideration, begin to rejoice and repent…

  • Ask the Lord to illuminate outstanding resentments, bitterness, and grudges.
  • Release to Him the burden of having to be the one to make things right.
  • Request of God a removal of fear, a prescription of peace, a path to follow, and a heart of humility.
  • Pray into what needs to be said and how it’s to be communicated.
  • Thank the Lord for all He’s done and what He’s going to do.

Remember these steps don’t entitle you to action, but rather position you to better know how to bridge the gap once given the green light. From there, it’s all downhill (i.e. embracing courage, walking in grace; see next point).

Bottom line: Before rushing to resolution, “humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)

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3. Make love known

For this point, we’re going to assume you have the peace to confront; or as I like to say, make love known (not an agenda).

While intentionally loving your enemies can be intimidating, it can be all the more freeing when we recognize what is starts with:

    • Love starts with courage. No question, loving in broken environments requires boldness; however, to be bold, we must choose courage from the onset. Accordingly, if you have faith in the source of love (i.e. God) and its message (i.e. the kingdom of God), then you have access with confidence and without hindrance into the places they’re needed the most (see Acts 28:31, Ephesians 3:12). Keep in mind you have what it takes so don’t be discouraged if it takes everything you’ve got.
    • Love continues by faith. If your decision to love is motivated by results, then newsflash: It’s not love since love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). For if genuine love is to continue by faith, then you must die to your desire for favorable outcomes and progress. That way, when your effort is refuted or ignored, your desire to ‘try again’ will be renewed and you won’t take the rejection personally.
    • Love advances with an invitation. When we boil it down, loving your enemies is God’s ministry of reconciliation in motion (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Still, how we reconcile is worth discussion since if we’re to be “out of our mind”, when must do so in way that tells our adversaries “it is for you” (2 Corinthians 5:13). Hence, why love starts with courage, continues by faith, but advances through invitations where encouragement can be expressed.

In my experiences with adversaries/frenemies, I’ve learned the best way to mend fences is to be sensitive to what they’re experiencing and processing. As the past has taught me, if I can offer hope in the moment, chances are I can further extend it through invitations to connect later on. Even if it’s just a short e-mail or text, the impact of those ‘little’ things can only help establish reconciliation.

Bottom line: Regardless of how you make love known, know the same Christ who is in you is in your midst working on your behalf. Remember there’s no need to fear when you have nothing to lose.

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (MSG)

Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Cave