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helping students, youth workers, volunteers and parents embrace and pursue Christ for a lifetime.

A few weeks ago I sent out an e-mail to some former students.  I asked them if they would be willing to share about where they  are in their journey…post high school  The response has been wonderful.  So welcome to this new series of blogs!
When one often defines the status of a relationship with God, we are often caught up in the whimsical do’s and don’ts of traditional religion. Because of this, we often measure the dynamics of the relationship by the appearance of Christianity in our lives and not by the heart.
 
Over the last several months, I have wrestled with many aspects of Christianity. I’d often ask, why do Christians hate? Why are so many of my unsaved friends “better” people than many Christians that I interact with. Looking over these questions, I see now why so many people are scarred by the church. 
 
The last year of my life has been the most hectic, crazed, and bizarre experience that I have had to date. Throughout the time of dealing between my doubts in christian life and staying alive in the other areas of my life, I was out of hours in the day. However, one thing that I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt is that when we are our weakest, God is his strongest. One day at 2 o’clock in the morning God opened my eyes to a long hidden truth: “You are Mine”
 
It was this truth that revolutionized my walk with Christ. Yes, I was saved beforehand, read my bible all the time, and yet still struggled with doubts. However, this truth opened my eyes to fact that I was living two lives. Not in an intentional or Pharisaical way but I was not giving every aspect of my life to Christ. When he saved me on the cross, I gave him my life, but too often I wanted to hold some back. Now I felt as though he was asking me, to dare to live a moment entirely dedicated to him……and so I did.
 

I did what most secular people would consider going off the spiritual deep end. I cast all my fears, troubles, and my daily life at his feet. Ever since that night, it has been amazing watching what God has done. God has worked in ways that I never would have expected. Let me be clear, not what I have done, but what God has done through me. That is the key, absolute surrender is the only way to allow the holy spirit to work in your life. Jesus can not be the co-pilot fighting for air time, he needs to be the sole reason that we breathe. In short, we need to incorporate him into everything including our sins, families, jobs, hobbies, and anything else that takes our time in a day. 

Now a walk is a walk. A journey wouldn’t be a hard thing if everyday was same without challenge. Over the last several months, I have failed many times. I still struggle with doubts here and there and am at the bottom of the list for perfection. The good news is that for Christ, it isn’t about our failures but it is about us allowing him to pick us back up and striving not to make the same mistake. This is how we grow. 
 
That is why Christians and especially myself often get it wrong. We like to check of the list: read my bible, said a prayer, and we forget that we are trying to dictate our daily life. Those elements are key to a relationship with Christ but they have to be a part of our lives not just a check box. Learning to give up control is a daily struggle. I have to remind myself every day that I am not in control. When we do that, God shines his light through us. He allows us to love others with a love that we don’t have on our own because he fills our heart with his unfailing kindness. That is why Christians should look different. Showing the love of Christ to others, now that is the measure of a Christian walk with Christ.
 
 A few weeks ago I sent out an e-mail to some former students.  I asked them if they would be willing to share about where they  are in their journey…post high school  The response has been wonderful.  So welcome to this new series of blogs!

Well, it’s been interesting. I definitely rely on God for everything  from energy to study really late to finances and most importantly my identity.  Sometimes I feel extremely close to God and have had some amazing experiences with him. From prayer times while walking to class to sharing Christ with friends I feel like God is using me here at school and I am becoming more confident that he has a great plan for my life. However there are also times when I feel very far away from the Lord. I know this has to do with seasons or times when I have been walking in sin, or haven’t made God a priority, other times it may just be part of having a relationship with him…no relationship can be exhilarating all the time.  However no matter how I feel, I know that God is working in my life.  I love him, trust him and desire him more today than I did when I graduated high school. With this said, I have made many mistakes in college and have not always honored the Lord through my actions or attitudes, but I am realizing that my relationship with the Lord is not defined by how well I “perform” but it’s defined by His grace.

I also feel like God has used this time to break me down. He has shown me more of my sin and my heart in the last year than I ever thought possible. However, it hasn’t been in a condemning way, but as God reveals more of himself to me, he also has shown me how prideful I am and how He should be praised and not me. My greatest struggle right now is pride… I want to change, but part of me doesn’t. I guess that’s part of following Christ –He reveals himself to us and as we struggle and wrestle with him He forms us into his likeness so that He receives all the glory.

It is a new year with a great number…2013…orange13… This year I am working on answering some questions connected to my story that will lead me into my future. Huge events, changes in life rhythm and transition times are natural times to reflect on the past. The new year is one of those opportunities to look back as you venture forward.

For me to move forward involves honestly answering the following 4 questions:

  1. Where am I called ?(place)
  2. What brokenness am I called to confront? (problem)
  3. Who am I called to? (population)
  4. How am I to do this? (process)

These are not new questions, but are new to the place I find myself in life. Take time over the next few days…pause and think about these questions.

–What comes to mind as you think about these questions?
–Do these questions encourage you, frustrate you or are you numb?
–Do you see Gods calling clearly or is it a blur?

Maybe its time to look in and discover the story of you? The key to moving forward and answering these questions is heavily influenced on your ability to look in and back.

In– are your passions, hopes dreams and fears.
Back– is the story that has been told about you. What has happened in your life? Great things, hard thing, horrific things, sad things…and how have you worked through these experiences…how have you seen God or not seen God during these times.

Take a look in and back over the next few months and then keep doing it as you live your story today.

There are some issues in life that you know eventually you will have to sit down with your kids and explain.  You know at some point their going to ask questions like where do babies come from, why does daddy look different than mommy or what are cus words.  These are examples of normal an dhealthy development in kids and questions parents are somewhat prepared.

“Why did that man kill all those kids?, is a question that falls way beyond what any of us should ever have to answer.  That question cause dissonance in our minds as adults…how can we possibly help our kids grasp and deal with such a horrific tragedy.  I hated that we had to go and share the news with my baby girls!

My wife and I gathered up our kids and explained what had happened; while they were safe at school.  We didn’t provide many details.  We knew they would hear things from their school mates eventually and wanted to make sure they heard truth before exaggerations or false stories filled their ears.  We were not overly emotional, but calmly explained what occurred. They were sad.  They were not sure how to process the information and it was visibly apparent in my oldest who is entering the stages of abstract thought development.

They had one main question.  Did they capture the man who did this?  We explained he had been killed and is not a threat to them. But the questions was interesting.  It seems deep within my oldest that there is a sense that when something bad happens the person who did it needs to be captured, or disciplined.  But it was also a question behind a question…can he hurt me?  My oldest was concerned because if it happened at that school maybe he would come to hers.  I assured her the man could not hurt them and he was no longer a danger.

But as a father  I cannot ignore the fact that there are others out there who will do harm.  There is evil in our world and it is in all places, towns, and communities.  That is simply the reality of a fallen world.  I hate it!

So we all huddled together to pray.  My prayer was for the families, and that community and our nation.  My prayer then focused on our most powerful weapon against evil, our trust in a God who we know is good.  Our trust in a God who said He is there.  Our trust in a God is our best ally when we have no way of expelling the horrible evil in our world.  Our trust in what we know about God will get us through the things we don’t know about God.  I hope my girls learn this kind of trust.  I hope I can too.

Many of you are staying up late cramming for finals, rushing to complete projects, and turning in that last paper of the semester…that is due by 5 o’clock. Rush.  Hurry.  Stress.  Crazy.  Busy.  These are words that describe your last few days before break.  Speaking with many of you in this time of crazy I try to reduce the 1000 tasks that must be completed to focus on one thing at a time.

When the wheel begins to crank and time begins to bleed together into one giant monotonous blur we can feel stuck, This can effects us relationally, spiritually and physically.  Friendships seem stale, spiritually we feel distant, and physically we are drained.   In most of these areas we usually feel like we need to be doing more or doing better.  We think in our heads or even say out loud, “I need to hang out with so and so more”;   “I need to pray more”; “I  need to go work out more…”.  More this and more that in a life that is already taxed with tests, papers and projects.

There were some religious leaders back in the day who added a lot of “do mores” to an already intense list of do’s.  The number is estimated to be 613 do’s by the time Jesus arrives on scene.  It is normal for people to add rules to established rules to add clarity, but not Jesus.  Jesus was given a pop quiz, which of the do’s is most important?  Jesus revealed to the world the relational core of God when he answered the question: love God and  love others.  Love. Just Love.

Instead of viewing your faith as a bunch of do’s…view it as a life of Love.

If faith becomes a list you are missing it.  If faith and how we measure growth is ran through a grid of, “are you’s” we are of course.  If we begin with questions, then we better know the goal or the desired picture were are working towards.  Many times after students leave high school, church attendance drops, reading the scriptures slacks and many of the “to do’s” get jostled and end up on the back shelf. (This is true for adults… when life just gets busy…we are all in this when it comes to faith)  If our question is, “are you going to Church” and the answer is no…then we assume their not growing…we assume they just are not doing very well…or they are really not taking their faith seriously.  If questions like, bible reading, prayer and church attendance are the metric then its game over for Christianity.  People miss Church! People may not read everyday!  My friend says, “I read my Bible everyday..except the days I miss”

The practices of the faith are not the end game!  They are important and matter, but they do not complete the final picture.  Whats is the picture?  What was Jesus all about?  “The Kingdom of God is near…there are so many stories that Jesus told about the Kingdom.  He uses farmers, seeds, plants, animals, business men, and the lowly things of the world.  It seems like we don’t know what a “christian is.  Many times we will define it with a, “to do list” that includes, bible. prayer, going to Church..and then we add a bunch of “do not do’s”  Don’t do bad stuff  and you are good…

Does that seem shallow?  Did Jesus die so that we could read our Bibles and go to Church?  Don’t you think His dream was bigger?

Have we been following the wrong stoires…or the wrong dream/vision?  Maybe? Probably.  If our faith is get saved and then go to church read the Bible…etc..then yeah thats probably the wrong dream.   Jesus came to the planet to awaken the people of his day and those to come…  A song that I enjoy listening to while I read/ study is Awake My Soul by Mumford and Son’s.  So I am listing to that song and reading some of the stories Jesus told about the Kingdom.  When Jesus began telling stories(preaching) some of the very first words of Jesus were:

The Time has Come

The Kingdom of God has come near

Repent and Believe he good news! (Mark1:15)

 

Then Jesus begins telling all kinds of stories about this kingdom…The kingdom of God is like, a field, a rich man a poor man…all kinds of images that are simple yet profound.  In one story jesus says,  26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

The people hewing this story would have known this story.  Everyone knew about planting a seed and it growing and then harvesting.  So common.  So recognizable by all. So ordinary…

Scott Mcknight writes in his book One.LIfe,  that  Jesus imagines a world where God is at work in the ordinary?   When you sit and drink coffee at Starbucks, when you walk to class, when take a test and pass…or fail.  God is at work.  He is working all the time in the most ordinary happenings of your day.

Do you see it?  Do you see Him in the ordinary rhythm of your day?  Maybe its time I started looking…maybe we can begin looking together…

More later…

We search for God in order to find him with greater joy, And we find him in order to keep searching with greater love -Augustine De Trinitate 15.2

Many faith journeys revolve around 2 stories:  One,when I was seven years old I accepted Christ.  This story revolves around when one gets saved. There is nothing wrong with this story and for most Churches and Christian groups this is the goal…get-em saved.  Not a bad goal, but I think it produces saved Christians, but not followers of Jesus.  We have believers who are shallow, superficial or fake. It can produce those who are “born again:, but that is it…

Part two tells the story of what to do now that you are, “saved”  It is a list of activities like, read your Bible, pray, go to Church(every Sunday) and make sure you witness to people.  Part two also leads the “saved” to define themselves by the things they do and things they don’t do…All of these practices are good and valuable, but have unintended side effects.  When these practices become disconnected from the larger picture of God we tend to loose Jesus and we discover legalism.  We begin to find our faith, or place our trust in these practices and not in the life giving message of Jesus.

If the call of our lives is to matter, then our faith must matter.  If the way we are livng out our faith is leading us to fake faith wrapped in legalism, it sure seems meaningless…like it doesn’t matter.   This is when we see people begin to search for significance in other areas like unhealthy  relationships, the party scene or the American dream…because it feels like  the dream of Christ is leaving us empty…

Hang on for a while longer..We have been feed to wrong dream!  Get saved, read your bible and be a “good” Christian is bull crap…(I would use a much more powerful word, but I am not sure who is reading my blog…)

Think…is this the version of faith you have been living?  You may not even realize it…I’ll add more to this thought soon…because Jesus has way more to say