The word “failure” is failing us.

So many times I think, and say to God, “I have failed You.”

Yet this doesn’t encapsulate the grace God gives!

HE HAS ALREADY FIXED OUR FAILURE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS SON!

Yet we still constantly disobey, and sabotage our own pursuit towards God.

So what shall we say when we have these moments?

I think if we look deep enough, our sabotage is always a direct response to our pride. We either think we know better than God, think we can hide from God, or think we’re not ready for God and what He has called us to.

So we put up a road block.

So, next time you sabotage the pursuit, quit telling God you failed. That only tells Him you think you aren’t doing good enough. Instead, confess to Him that you have fled, repent for your constant attempts to run from His glory, and turn back towards Him, remembering that His glory is always chasing you.

Are you running towards it?

ROOTS.

 

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive though hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world rather than Christ.”    – Colossians 2:6-8

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Can a tree live without roots? Can it continually grow stronger, prevailing against the winds, if the roots aren’t there?

Of course not!

No plant can go strong without it’s roots finding water, and in the same way, no Christian can grow strong without their roots being in Christ! Without Him, you can grow tall, but it is all based on pride and selfishness, and you will soon fall at the first true storm. But only when you realize continued growth and provision is found deep below, and you seek out to find it as a root does water, can you grow through a humble spirit and in the knowledge that it is only through Christ’s provision which you have been made strong. And then, when all roots are firmly gripped and entangled in Christ’s deep love and wisdom, can you withstand any storm the world may produce.

Are your roots shallow, while you take pride in your knowledge of Christ, or are they deep seated in the wisdom that only through Christ can such knowledge – and ability to love – truly exist?

SNAKES, CLIFFS, AND BEARS: THE UNCERTAIN TERROR OF FOLLOWING CHRIST

The fear of Christianity is a peculiar thing.

Lately I’ve been in an incredible state of recognition – recognizing the odd nature of God’s requests in my life. I’ve recognized that, quite obviously, He has continuously, without fail, called me to do the things that have always terrified me. My original goal was to tithe regularly. Now I’m asking people to support me so I can help college students realize the potential in Christ which I took so long to realize myself.

If you haven’t experienced it, asking people for financial support is a terrifying endeavor.

Yet God has changed me through the years.

The things I once feared are now the things I couldn’t imagine being torn away from. The things I once vowed never to do in my life (i.e. preach) are now the things I see in my future. The things I always wanted to do, and had planned as my stability in life (i.e. architecture) has become an afterthought, and frightening in its own right.

So maybe God will call me to do that eventually. Once it becomes a more terrifying thought.

I guess the point is, God has completely changed my motivations. Architecture, in my life, represents the path on the safe side of the river – the path towards self-glory. It represents the path towards worldly success and recognition. It represents the path I chose for myself when I was seven years old.

Yet God has brought me to the other side of the river. And it is terrifyingly wonderful.

Ministry, and serving the world for the sake of the Gospel and Christ’s love which must be felt by everyone on this rotating sphere we inhabit, is the path of complete self-denial – the path full of snakes, and 100 foot drops, limited visibility, and bears. What’s more terrifying than bears, right? Yet it is the path towards the greater reward. It is the path of unexpectedness. It is the path that keeps me wondering what will come next. It is the path with an always moving and adapting storyline. It isn’t the path of least resistance, but it is the path of most interest.

It is the path that seeks to expose my potential. And that can only be found by fighting off a bear in the fog every once in a while.

Looking back, it’s kind of funny that I just used a bear analogy. In high school, whenever me and my friends would go camping, I was known as a sort of bear whisperer. I’d make up stories of times where a bear would come up to me, and instead of attacking me, I’d just talk to it like it was a human. I’d just talk to it as if we’d been friends for years, asking him about how his family was and that sort of thing.manbear1

Of course this was just for laughs. I’ve never come across an actual bear, despite living in Wyoming, and I’ve certainly never had a friendly chat with one. Yet in my current stage of life, and the stages yet to come, I must respond to the bears along the path in the same manner as I joked in high school. I must treat them as old friends, pushing me to embrace that which terrifies me. Because if there’s one thing God has taught me other than that He is full of grace and love, it is that the sooner we embrace the terrifying task He has put before us, the sooner we will see the good that comes from it. The sooner we talk to the bear as an old friend, the sooner we won’t be able to imagine our lives without that bear.

What is the bear standing in your path that you must face? Have you embraced the fear and confronted it as an old friend? Or have you decided to avoid it and cut back across to your old path from before Christ changed your course?

If you’ve cut back across, there’s good news: His path is always just across the river. All you need is a bridge – and God has provided us with a carpenter.

WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE (WELL, YOU MIGHT BE) – CHRISTIAN COP-OUTS AND DRIVING AHEAD TOWARDS GOD’S CALL

God has it under control. Don’t worry, because His will is unstoppable.

How many times have you heard this? I know, as a Christian afraid of a lot of things that largely have to do with what God is calling me towards, I have said this a lot – and with the best of intentions, but the worst of reasons.

The Christian subculture is a funny thing to me. We talk about how much we trust God all the time, and when He tells us to actually trust Him with something big, we find ourselves saying, “I’m good” and acting content. We’re a culture who really loves saying certain Put-Off-Something-ExtraordinaryFINALthings – certain “Christian-isms,”without having the slightest idea what any of them mean., and most of these are said as excuses with good intentions,as if we believe if we say something that sounds Christian enough, God will overlook our failure to do what He has called us to. We’ve never even taken the time to notice God above us shaking His head, wondering when we’re going to finally get it – when we’re going to realize we’re just tricking ourselves.

My favorite Christian cop-out, and most used in my own life, is the Christian saying that goes something like, “Either way, God is in control.” Our intentions, through saying this, is to tell our Christian friends all about God’s power and uncontrollable plans for our world, while our reasons for saying it  are often completely different.

Our reasons are saying something like, “Boy I’m glad God’s will is done regardless, because I’m way too (insert cowardly adjective here) to try and do that, and I’m not sure God is big enough to come through on that!”

And by living out of our cowardice and faithlessness rather than our intentions, our lives are stalling at far less than the potential God sees in us. We’re ending our road trip to the Rocky Mountains by cornfield camping in Kansas, deciding the field next to us is good enough because we’re too afraid we’re not in good enough shape to walk up hills – let alone mountains that start a mile above sea level.

So why are we so seemingly content with our inaction and worldly potential when God has given us a preview of what we’re capable of with Him? The truth is, we’re not. We’re just tricking ourselves because our main motivator is fear. We’ve tricked ourselves into believing we aren’t necessary or capable of doing what we’ve felt called to do because we’re too afraid we don’t have the right hiking shoes, and surely God would only ask someone with sufficient hiking shoes. We’re too afraid because we can see how long we’ll be hiking uphill as soon as we begin the climb, so we decide we’d rather just keep hiking along in Kansas. But the problem with Kansas is there’s never a view from the top. Sure, you’re living safely and without sore legs (or pride) or empty lungs (or fallbacks), but you’re also living life without ever knowing what it feels like to reach the top and look out over hundreds of miles of Kansas, taking a million pictures of where God has taken you (If you’re from Kansas, by the way, I’m not mocking your state. I’m just recognizing the comfortable walking conditions which exist there).

You’re probably saying about now, “Oh chase your dreams. Never heard that before. The only problem is, they never tell me how.” Well, no need to worry. Because I’m going to tell you.

Step 1: Recognize something you feel called to do, and pray about it. A lot. But don’t use prayer as an excuse for inaction. If God’s asked you to do it, you don’t need to pray for Him to nag you about it for the next two months.

Step 2: Read the background of Amos, and then read the book of Amos itself. If God can use Him, He can use you. Realize you’re completely qualified, and start confidently. (You can really read the story of almost anyone who was known to do great things in the bible. I just like Amos because it’s one we don’t often think of.)

Step 3: Tell people about it, ask people to pray about it, and see if anyone wants to join you (assuming it’s something big and seemingly insurmountable without God’s help. If it’s something small, just do it. You’re probably only reading this to keep putting it off).

Step 4: Tell more people about it. (Basically never stop telling people about it.) Figure out a game-plan. It might start with “tell people about it,” but it should move along to something like, “write a  mission statement,” or, “apply for a non-profit ID number” or “buy plane tickets,” or “write a support letter.” Just make some basic steps like that. After you have a blueprint, tell more people about it with your new clarity and vision for God’s plan.

Step 5: Do the first thing on your blueprint. And after you do that, do the second thing. And then keep doing. Eventually, you’ll be able to recognize that you’re moving uphill.

Step 6: If you put your all into it, and it doesn’t work, don’t get mad at God. Instead, thank Him. Pray about it. Write down things you may have learned along the way, realize it wasn’t that scary, and get ready for whatever’s next. God will probably use something you learned in the future.

The truth is, we’re all afraid of the majority of things God will tell us to do, but it’s usually easier than you’d think to start doing them (which is something I’ve realized in my head, but still struggle to apply). I was talking with my bible study the other day, and mentioned how my life is completely different than I expected. They asked me how, and my response was, “Well, I’m basically doing all of things I was afraid of trying four years ago. And now I never want to do the things I thought I’d be doing, because this plan is so much better than the one I had for myself.” God is continually challenging me, and I’m continually hesitating, making excuses, and making slow progress towards where He’s leading me. But I am making progress, and the quicker I can build up steam, the quicker things will move forward.

Remember that if you are moving forward, God is patient. He won’t abandon you just because of your pace. Just don’t stop in Kansas – be sure to drive straight through with the vision of the view ahead.

TRUTH.

Our world is defined by this one word. This one pursuit. This one unknown.

We chase it, we deny it, we hide from it. Many of us come to the conclusion that the only bit of it that truly exists, is the truth that it doesn’t exist. We are skeptics by nature.

As a Christian, I claim to have access to Truth. I claim to know and be known by, and in communication with, the One who is truth. Yet even His truth can only be found in the entire story.

“I am the way, the Truth, and the life.” – John 14:6

This was said by Jesus, who was soon after martyred for stating that He is truth. He was seen as simply a man with powerful words, who wandered around the middle east with a group of men for three years preaching, revealing His truth to the world.

Yet the world didn’t recognize it. His disciples, largely, didn’t recognize it. They recognized something different about him, yet didn’t recognize him as the lone truth in a world of lies until His story on earth as a man concluded.

This is a man who had been prophesied about thousands of years before He arrived, living among a people expected to be extremely disciplined and knowledgeable of Jewish tradition and writing, and He wasn’t recognized until His return. In fact, His fiercest opposition came from the men most educated about the prophesies about Him – the Pharisees. Because in this story, as in all stories, truth can only be seen in hindsight, from a distanced perspective of the entire timeline.

And now, we can look back. And because we can look back, truth can be recognized.

An example can be found in the life of a student. What have you learned? Long division, multiplication, and addition, certainly. These are wonderful examples. We can’t be sure of the truth of multiplication without first being sure of the truth of addition. We can’t be sure of division, or the credentials of exponents until seeing the truth found in multiplication. We can’t understand the truth of a current operation without first seeing the truth found in that which was learned in the past. If we could, one wouldn’t need to take basic math before algebra, or algebra before calculus, or calculus before differential equations. If we were able to inherently know mathematical truths without a prerequisite, we could all have degrees in mathematics. But we can’t. And the rest of the world, and life, is the same.

The word “truth” is used 44 times in the New Testament. Seventeen of these times, it is used in John, and in nearly all of these examples, Jesus is claiming He himself is truth – and nothing else is.

Yet no one believed him. Even the twelve men who followed Him everywhere were uncertain of His claim, as evidenced by their actions following His death, hiding in the upper room in a moment of doubt, seeing this man die who was expected to overthrow the Roman government. Seeing this man’s time cut short before He could achieve the goal they believe was the truth and reason for his visit. They were with Him nearly every day, yet they still didn’t recognize Truth in the moment when it was standing before them. It was only recognized after it had been fulfilled. And we are lucky enough to have the entire story sitting before us in one thousand pages, like a connect-the-dots puzzle from the Old Testament to the New, slowly drawing a portrait of Jesus, and the revelation that He is Truth.

The beauty of the Bible is found in the story it tells over its entire duration. The story it tells, which although seemingly disconnected when reading only sections, can be seen as fluent and entangling in its whole. The story which starts in Genesis, and points to the One single Truth in this world all the way through.

Yet until we reach the resolution of the Story, we cannot see its relevance. Until we hear of God’s Son rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, every prophesy and abstract story  of Jesus and His ultimate plan can be seen as a different truth altogether – can be seen as the same truth the disciples and multitudes of people to which Jesus spoke had believed. Without a resolution in the story, Jesus was simply a man who made bold claims, taught many to love, and died as all men before him had – permanently. Yet only God knew actual truth at the point of His death. And it was only to be seen by the world until after its completion.

For the same reason as this, look at Revelation – the book speaking on the end times. While being a powerful book, it is also the most misunderstood. It is full of parables and symbolism which can be interpreted in so many different ways that it has been completely muddled, despite our theologian’s desperate pursuit of understanding it, when in reality, it cannot and will not be truly understood until it is completed. It cannot truly be understood as certain truth until it is past, and God’s glory is found in the story which all of our searching and attempts at understanding will be shattered or confirmed, and concluded by an oh-so-profound “Aha!” moment.

This is the beauty of our God – that He cannot be understood in process, but only in completion. It brings me great comfort to know I serve a god who is too profound to expose the big picture as the brush is put to canvas. It brings me great comfort to know that the God I serve only exposes the true extent of His work by placing the finished product on the wall, enabling us to step towards or away from it, inspecting the beauty found in detail while also stepping back to witness it’s elements work together, creating the beauty found in the art as a whole – stepping back to see the Truth found in the intertwining brushstrokes of individual stories which He has created merging into the greater story of His grace.

It brings me great pleasure to serve a God whose plan for me I cannot understand at the moment, and it brings me great joy that He has already exposed His greatest truth to us through His Word. It brings me great pleasure to be a single brushstroke in the plan of His unknown – knowing He hasn’t yet lifted the brush from the canvas to complete my story. And I can only go about life wondering what I’ll learn when I look back on this moment, because some truths are revealed in minutes, and some are not fully understood until the painting is hung on the wall and viewed from a different perspective.