TRUST BEATS TALENT (and what that means)

“… Bring down Your warriors, O Lord!”

                                                         – Joel 3:11

This passage in context can tell us a lot. It serves as a rally cry to Judah to prepare for battle, telling the people to “beat your plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears,” and “the weakling to declare strength” in anticipation of battle. (Joel 3:10). Yet after telling the people and nations to assemble and prepare, he finishes by turning to God and declaring to God that it is time for Him to send His warriors.

Do you do all you can and come to God prepared and at the end of your strength when you cry out for His help? Or do you sit idly by and expect God to do all of the work?

I, personally, am mostly guilty of the second.

I’m a huge phrase nerd. A huge part of my walk with God is to take a passage, or a verse, and condense it down into a phrase. This is a practice that not only helps me dwell on what I read throughout the day, but also helps me memorize scripture and find encouragement later when I’m feeling discouraged or overwhelmed.

One of my favorite phrases I’ve come up with is “Trust Beats Talent.” In the bible it’s very clear that God prefers your trust over what you feel you’re talented in (Moses, for one, is a good example of this, as is 2 Corinthians 12:9, John 14:1, and basically the backstory of every major character in the Bible). But often we find ourselves either too afraid or too lazy to realize that trusting God often looks like work, and that in order for God to work through you, you must be working. One step at a time, despite how qualified or unqualified you feel, and when you have done all you can through God’s strength and allowance, then it’s time to declare that God brings His warriors.

I guess I can now say there’s a second part to my saying.

Trust beats talent, but trust usually involves movement.

God has made us capable. He has given us His strength (Ephesians 1:19). Are you willing to use it? What is God asking you to trust Him in? And what is He telling you to do in order to put that trust into action? Remember God loves to encourage His children, and He has filled us with His spirit and strength so we can be warriors for the things He has put on our hearts to accomplish. Are we really putting our strength in Him if we’re never willing to flex our muscles?

“Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, but You have given me an open ear.”    – Psalm 40:6

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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.

UNCLENCH YOUR FIST

“Our hearts ache, yet we always have joy. We are poor, yet we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, yet we have everything.”            – 2 Corinthians 6:10

Oh, how counter-cultural this verse is to the Christianity I see today. The Christians I see today don’t display these traits, and that includes myself. I look around the room I’m in and see things I don’t need. I see excess, waste, and resources that could be better used, and this is evidence that I am not so detached from my belongings to the point of them being worthless to me. I am not at a level where I can proclaim that I have “nothing, yet everything.”

I am at a place where I could only proclaim that I have some things, and have some better things. I have possessions, and I have God. I have the things I cling to, and I have the things He’s given me thus far. I know that what He gives are the better things – much better in fact – yet the things I cling to are not the things I hold together with God, but the things I only hold myself. I am not yet at the point of possessing His entire character and letting go of my own insecurities, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be there before I leave this earth.

I still have me – some flawed parts of me – and until I lose those parts which He wants to take, I cannot have everything He wants to give me. Until I vanquish those parts of me, I only have most everything in Him – and the rest, which He wants to give, is only potential.

Yet in order to reach that potential, I must act! I must give! I must ask Him to point out those things I am clinging to and unclench my fist from the, letting Him take them. When He takes all is when 2 Corinthians 6:10 can be made true in my life and yours. It may be uncomfortable, terrifying, and uncertain, but it will also be full of comfort, peace, and certainty because we have let the One who knows better take control! We have let Him take everything, leaving us everything in return.

Give it all, and be given it all. This is the outcome of total surrender. Unclench your fist and let whatever you’re grasping fall to the ground.

WORRY, FAITH, AND PRAYER

“Resting in the Lord is not dependent on you external circumstances at all, but on you relationship with God himself. . . Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are. Fretting arises in our determination to have our own way. Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish his own plans, but to fulfill God’s plans. Fretting is wickedness for a child of God.”  – Oswald Chambers

“Do not fret – it only causes harm.”         – Psalm 37:8

I read this today, and I needed it. It basically describes my life lately, in that it has been filled with worry. Worry that I won’t be fully supported by the time the semester starts, which leads to worrying if I’m in the right place, and all it leads back to, as Oswald Chambers has wisely pointed out, is me not putting all trust in God.

It’s a scary thing not to know where or what you’ll be doing a few months from now. Trust me. But it is a lot scarier to imagine going through the experience without God. Because of that, I’m making a declaration. No worrying. Just prayer, and the prayer isn’t asking God to solve the things I worry about, but rather to help me abide completely in Him and know that if one thing doesn’t work, He has something better for me.

Join me in my prayer to abide and trust, rather than worry and wonder.

O Lord, send me on my way.

That way may not be visible, but I trust that it is good,

Because it has been planned in advance by  You.

If I am on an undesired trail in your eyes, give me a detour and set me right.

And if my trail is true,

 I trust that You will keep building it ahead of me and the details will fall into place.

For You know where I’m headed, and You know where I’ve been.

You’ve prepared me and trained me, and You will put me on the course.

Thank you for guiding my steps. Amen.