The Timely Lincoln

“There is not one piece of cosmic dust that is outside the scope of God’s sovereign providence.” ~ R.C. Sproul

Written 4/5/17; revised 6/30/20

So yesterday I’m walking in the rain to work when suddenly I notice a five-dollar bill lying in a puddle. Seizing the serendipity, I approach the curb, check both ways, and cross the street before grabbing the Lincoln. Not a bad start to a soggy Monday, I think to myself.

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Hours later, I’m working on a spreadsheet when this damp, dreary bill begins to beg.

Spend me! Use me! Exchange me for coins!

At first, I consider. After all, a brewed boost on an overcast Monday makes as much sense as the cents it costs. Yet, after weighing my Starbucks balance and an empty lunch box, I decide to pass. Who needs a bland blonde when you have cash in your wallet anyway?

Fast-forward to today and the temptation is real. Like yesterday, I have no lunch as my weekly tradition of forgetting it is now an epidemic. Granted, when you’re spending the night at your in-laws and have to switch cars with your wife so you can pick up your son and dog after work, it makes sense lunch would be an afterthought. Whatever the case, I give into my Jimmy John’s craving and order a sub online.

Problem solved. Appetite quenched. My little Lincoln still snug in its billfold.

Hours later, I’m on course to pick up Caeden from daycare when suddenly a sinister light appears out of the corner of my eye.

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Alas, the gaslight is not only illuminating but flashing to the tune of 12 miles to spare. Consequently, like any rational person on his last half-gallon, I channel my inner Kim Walker:

Fuel me up, God. Fuel me up, God!

And wouldn’t you know it? The traffic cooperates, an exit opens up, and the situation makes like Desperation Band finding me at Shell with six miles left. For the second time today, crisis averted.

Admiring the relief, I park at a stall and head to the cashier – the tune of Taylor Swift‘s “Out of the Woods” ringing in my head. Unfortunately, it’s at this moment when I make another startling revelation. Reaching into my coat pocket, I sense a painful lack of presence, a void that could only mean one thing:

My wallet was in my car which wasn’t my car because my wife had my car since her car is the van and the van has Caeden’s seat and it was my day to pick him up.

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So now I’m stranded, inches from fuel and salt & vinegar potato chips but hours away from the nearest family member. Seriously, it’s almost as if someone had graffitied a target on my back. What next, I wonder. This day is clearly out to get me.

But then it hits me. Before I left for the day, I had switched the $5 into my pant pocket which meant though my wallet was missing, I had just enough cash to buy enough gas to get to Kingston Springs. Once there, I could then rendezvous with Lyssah’s mom, pick up a check, and convert into the $20 I needed for the 45-minute trek home to Spring Hill. For the third time in one day, sovereignty had smiled down. After a long and weary day, I was finally headed home.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Of everything going on in the world today, this minor tale of fortunate happenings is hardly worth mentioning. And to that, I would completely understand…

…but ultimately disagree.

You see, as in any story, there are morals – themes of truth woven into the fabric of what it stands for. And while my case may have been a matter of convenience, the way I see it, when God does a good, great, or epic thing, who I am to stay silent?

Even if the good “pales” in comparison to what we deem a supernatural wonder, the truth is God is always looking out for us in the big and small, from destiny to daily bread. Hence, why I keep coming back to this phrase:

God knows exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

To accept this reality is not to over-spiritualize, but to realize God’s compassion as versatile and not entitled to a master plan. Sometimes, God just wants to help because that’s who He is and for some of you, He’s wanting you to be okay with that. Given He’s given you everything for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), why not affirm the faithfulness and providence of God? Why not rest in the One who not only helps in the grander schemes unfolding but the meager stresses of life as well?

Selah.

Perhaps some of you reading this have encountered similar situations. If so, the stage is yours to share your story. If not, I bid you farewell and pray God’s richest be your highest.

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~ Cameron
Photo creds: best-wallpaper.net

3 Ways to Elevate Others at Work

I don’t know about you, but I find the ironies of Scripture fascinating.

Weakness as strength, the overturning of human wisdom, redemptive reversals…there are many to choose from.

But I suppose the one gripping me most intensely right now is delayed revelation – how one can read the same verse ninety-nine times, but on the hundredth one, the light bulb goes off…as if you’re reading the verse for the first time. Call it God’s faithfulness. Call it maturity meeting an inspired moment. Whatever the reason, I believe it justifies our call to continually renew our minds in the Word. After all, in the space between passage exposure, who says God can’t work new grids and frameworks into the mix?

Prelude aside, I want to share a recent instance during which I was studying Philippians 2 when all of a sudden, I hit an accelerant taking me deeper into new territory. A familiar read, now a profound resonance. Let’s dive into v. 3

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (NIV)

“When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves.” (NCV)

 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (NKJV)

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (NLT)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV)

Now, before I continue, permit me to share some context.

A couple of weeks ago, during a Foundation Group team meeting,  a colleague mentioned how we should honor one another by assuming other’s loads as “crazier” than our own – an agreeable notion given our corporate desire to serve. While I couldn’t remember the Scriptural reference offhand, I knew it took residence in one of Paul’s first imprisonment letters (i.e. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians). Accordingly, I couldn’t help feeling satisfied having found the source a week later.

As I drilled down, it made sense why this colleague would allude to Philippians 2:3. For starters, the verse captures how corporate love looks in a team construct, particularly in vocational settings. To respect colleagues and clients alike, it’s essential we surrender pride, embrace selfless motives, and integrate humility into everything we do. The reasons this constitutes wisdom are many:

  1. It yields no breathing room to arrogance or self-righteousness.

  2. It emphasizes and prioritizes advancing the needs of others.

  3. It inspires a place for the radical middle to thrive. Spiritually, we know this as living in Spirit and Truth, but vocationally, this often manifests as finding common ground to agree upon.

  4. It creates a spirit of safety and enhances camaraderie/team unity.

  5. It converts corporate ladders from vertical hierarchies into horizontal matrices where all roles are equally valuable (though diverse in function).

However, there are deeper layers to be discovered as we consider occupational application.

Case and point: The allegory of the long spoons –  a regarded illustration, but one seldom tied to marketplace principles.

For those unaware of this illustration, the allegory of the long spoons is a parable that shows the difference between heaven and hell wherein each location,  inhabitants are given food with oversized utensils incapable of self-service. In hell, the people cannot cooperate and wail in torment. In heaven, the diners use the spoons to serve food across the table where all are satisfied.

This in mind, we can ‘carpe diem’ the application. If our mission is to maximally serve one another, then self-seeking ambitions will fade as humility builds in places they once occupied. As Romans 12:1-2 states, when we present ourselves as living sacrifices, we position ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to discern the will of God. Yet, to do this, we must also be committed to living securely in our ‘loved by God’ identity.

‘Cause truth is: If we know who we are, not only will compassion be the hallmark of our efforts, but the overflow to how we shepherd relationships. In a sense, we won’t have room to compare or prove our worth because we know we are loved by God; therefore, we have nothing to lose valuing others above ourselves, in pursuing others’ needs ahead of our own.

As for how this looks in the business world, these truths often reflect in collaboration, communication, and correction:

With collaboration, any time a team comes together to fine-tune or streamline a process, the goal is to make critical functions more efficient…for the sake of service. While economical outcomes are practical, it’s the customer bond, not the bottom line, where equity accrues over time. Consequently, if leadership is intentional in anchoring pursuits to critical needs over critical mass, odds are the organization will validate its authenticity and purpose.

Likewise, with communications, a team is reinforced when ideas and individual strengths are integrated into its corporate dynamic. Once in rhythm, a leader can then create environments of safety where those will more experience can speak life into those with less. And though the balance may require calibrating with new hires, as long as space is giving to professional and personal growth, the ‘unity in community’ element will flourish. Again, the goal of workplace communication should be to elevate the ministry of servanthood in advance of performance metrics; however, if verbal success is to be realized, a leader must differentiate their aim and the overflow to come.

Lastly, with correction, a team leader should always employ honesty with understanding and prudence with patience. Here the principle is straightforward: If a leader is to speak discipline effectively, he/she must exercise transparency constructively. For example, if a leader/supervisor rushes to grace without understanding, then cultures of security may be compromised as opposed to strengthened. Granted, this can be a fine line to walk; then again, that’s the beauty of Philippians 2:3 – One doesn’t have to try to be right, but aim to do right in tending the good in others…

…which brings me to my last point…

If we’re to use our spoons to serve others, we must be intentional to clean them regularly.

Think of it this way: You may love pot roast and mashed potatoes, but if the utensils are dirty, you’re going to hesitate to eat them. Most likely you’re going to wash the serving spoon or request a different side item. Unless you’re really, really hungry.

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In theory,  the same concept applies to ministry, work, and all points in between. While what you serve is important, how you serve is all the more. For instance, not only does ‘how you serve’ shape your influence but answers the question as literally considering Jesus.

As such, if you ever wonder how to serve with clean spoons…lock on to Jesus. Specifically, look to Him as your example in selfless humility (v. 5), empty yourselves as servants of all (v. 7; Mark 9:35), and honor each other with enthusiasm (v. 12). Dare to work in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1), in a way that points to Christ’s sovereignty. And from there, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, and actively pursue spiritual maturity (v. 12) in community, in unity…with humility.

You got this, my friend.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Terryberry.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise and Shine: The Secret to Giving Your Best

Inspired by vintage Keith Green…

Many of us have heard the phrase, ‘Do your best and let God do the rest’.

But lately, I’ve been wondering how well I truly understand this.

I mean I ‘get’ the Bible verses…

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” ~ Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” ~ Galatians 6:5 (MSG)

…yet somehow in the application, I’ve been missing something. And I think I’m starting to see what it is.

You see, we often approach work as a derivative of ‘doing’ be it a project we initiate or a means to manage. Define the goal and pursue it. Clarify the objective and go for it. In a way, this makes sense given we’re all hard-wired to perform with excellence for excellence.

However, while execution and effort have their place, it’s important, dare I say critical we ask ourselves: At what point are we allowing God into the picture? Into the frame-work of our work if you will?

At the point we’re exhausted? At the point we’re confused? At the point we’re doubting?

Or are we making way His way from the very beginning?

As one who has failed time and time again with this, trust me when I say…

1. If you want to do your best, let God get in front of it.
2. If you want God to do the rest, let Him get behind it.

Don’t wait until you’re burnt out. Don’t wait until you’re stuck. Rather before you clock in each day, consecrate your effort, receive His faithfulness, and know He will accomplish His purposes in you. Even if He’s guiding you into turbulence, into danger, know He’s calling you to see Him in the midst of it in a fresh way. Accordingly, don’t be discouraged by growing pains when in reality He’s sowing gains you can’t yet see.

In closing, I encourage you, friends…

1. Let God be in the midst of your best and rest, not the middle.

2. Examine any place you may be relegating God to an on-call substitute, any place where ‘doing the rest’ has become a request to autocorrect above anything else.

Let Him be more and go before!

Selah.

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Cover creds: The Youthing Magazine

 

Kingdom Agents: The Difference Between Gifts, Functions and Vocations (Part 2)

So last week, we laid some groundwork on spiritual gifts and vocations, examining our priesthood in a professional light. As for today, I want to apply some gridwork with respect to our influencing identity. 

To do this, we need to accept a few core truths about God and how He’s created us:

  1. We are all designers, developers, and/or managers¹ (grid #1).
  2. The reason for this validates the existence of the Trinity (grid #2).
  3. The reason for this confirms our receipt of ascension (i.e. apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, elder, deacon) gifts.
  4. Each ascension gift (Ephesians 4) has a corollary designer/developer/manager counterpart.

Let’s break this down further by matching Grid 1 to points 3-4…

Grid 1

  • Designer (God the Father)
  • Designer/Developer
  • Developer/Designer
  • Developer (God the Son)
  • Developer/Manager
  • Manager/Developer
  • Manager (God the Holy Spirit)

Combined with Ephesians 4…

  • Designer – __Apostle__
  • Designer/Developer – __Prophet__
  • Developer/Designer – __Evangelist__
  • Developer – __Teacher__
  • Developer/Manager – __Pastor__
  • Manager/Developer – __Elder__
  • Manager – __Deacon__

A few quick points/reminders before I continue…

  1. The goal of this series is to help you discover your unique intelligence and giftings within your vocation.
  2. These lists apply to everyone, not just the ‘spiritually elite’.
  3. To simply comparisons, we are going to add ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’ to the ascension gift pastoral cluster so we can match 7 gifts with 7 functions.
  4. While Grid 1 represents the three principle leadership styles, no question there are many more subcomponents worthy of discussion. Perhaps I’ll unpack some of them later on; for now, let’s focus on these filters and proceed.
  5. Concerning the Trinity, the designer, developer, and manager roles imply core function, not sole function. While each member has a primary role (be it governing, stewarding or convicting), this doesn’t mean secondary modes of service are neglected.

Having said all that…let’s take our accountant friend from ‘part 1‘. While he may equip through an apostolic anointing particularly in his vocation, there may be times he imparts as a prophet and/or evangelist¹. Why? Because while the core of his apostolic function is to bring vision and direction to people², the purpose of his function is to call forth destiny.

As such, it’s important we make a critical distinction before digging deeper…

While your leadership profile may default to a particular ranking, your leadership isn’t contained to it.

Like many behavior assessments, one’s approach to giftings and function should not be fixed within a vacuum but should be fluid within an established rhythm. After all, God creates order but isn’t subjected to it.

For instance, as we’ll go through in ‘part 3’, you may possess an elder/deacon or deacon/pastor vocational profile but may find yourself in a prophetic moment during a counseling session. In this situation, you may feel uncomfortable operating outside your ‘gift wheelhouse’; however, ask yourself what’s more important: Being Spirit-led or strength-driven? 

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As Scripture confirms, whatever your strengths are, they should never be what leads you or what you rely on.

“The Lord is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” ~ Exodus 15:2 (ESV)

“The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11 (ESV)

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Whoever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.”  ~ 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 (MSG)

As the Psalmist declares, God gives strength for strength…because He is our strength. Accordingly, we can be certain what He provides whether gift, function or vocation follows a similar line. Like strength, the reason we don’t have to worry about work being our identity is because the Lord is our source of identity. From the beginning of time, we were called with a progression to profession, with an occupational heritage by which to bless people. Why not accept the fact God is not only in what He appoints but is what He appoints as well?

As you journey this week, remember you are part of a royal priesthood maturing towards a promised land. Even if you feel you’re working in a desert or wilderness, remember you can embrace strength and intimacy with God through weakness. You can take hold of His sustenance through the marketplace manna He provides. And you can press on as walls of territorialism dissolve into radical equality…all because you know a) You’re loved by God and b) The reason we’re diverse in function/co-equal in value is so we can participate in God’s goodness while uniquely showcasing His glory throughout the earth.

Selah.

Looking ahead to next time, I’ll finally debut the 7 vocational profiles (apostle, evangelist, prophet, pastor, teacher, elder, deacon). ‘Til then, you got this and we’re here for you rooting you on.

Peace…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Among other ascension gift possibilities
  2. Especially in his place of profession
Cover photo creds: GOBankingRates

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