Embrace and Pursue Life to the Full

Just returned a few days ago from backpacking in the Red River Gorge which is nestled in the Daniel Boon National Forest. Our expedition team composed of four solid dudes from various colleges…and even an international student from Hong Kong.   The trail was incredible and offered a diversity of huge rock walls, quick up and downs and changed with almost every step.  The guys I spent time with were great!  The laughter was often, the conversations were encouraging and the time together will be one of my life memories.  Thanks guys! The video below is a small attempt to capture the experience with a few pictures from the trail.

The series continues…My last few posts are letters e-mailed to me from college age students describing the status of their relationship with God.

God and I are in a special place. He just knows me so well, and more than ever I feel the pursuit of His heart in my life – to have all of me. I feel His movements in my arrogance, in my selfishness, in my disobedience, in my relationships, in my success. He is relentless. He is completely unsatisfied with any part of my heart being captive to lies. Even when I am growing, I sense His desire to take me even further… to a place I do not know. I do not feel pressured by Him, but I feel energized by Him. I really feel He’s leading me (in each situation) to a place of freedom and wholeness!

 I feel like I am in a place with God where I feel if I am not walking with Him, I am missing out. Seriously missing out. I feel like God is teaching me I can trust Him. That’s radical you know! To really trust and rely on this unseen God whom I seemingly have a relationship with! But I do. I have a relationship with the unseen God.  And that unseen God is teaching me to trust Him.

 Sometimes I think walking away and living my own life could be better, more fun. A lot more fun to be honest. Sometimes I feel like I get bored. And truth be told I have even tested those waters this semester. It’s hard- this whole relationship thing. It takes a lot of work sometimes. It takes a lot of me working to keep my heart open, and asking for His help (which I really don’t feel like doing a lot of the time). It takes a lot of community and digesting truth. To be honest, I really don’t know too much about this unseen God. I read about Him and I talk about Him a lot. But the one thing I do know: I have never been more satisfied or more whole than when I am walking with Him. So, I am going to keep walking with Him and asking for His help to do so. Because I really believe He’s worth it. His freedom, His wholeness, His love – He’s worth it.

 

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?