My New Identity

This is a story about how deciding to answer the call of Jesus Christ lead to a transformation I never imagined.

The digital numbers climbed in milliseconds, and as quick as I stood on the scale they came to rest at 324 pounds. I wish it were winter and I had a coat on so I could try to claim a few lbs less, but the light business shirt and slacks I was wearing didn’t justify a subtraction. I knew I’d been over 300 pounds for a while, but I stopped getting on the scale to find out. It was too depressing. It was unsettling that I was already closer to 400 lbs than the 210 I weighed in high school. The nurse noted the weight and they had me sit back down in the wheel chair and wheeled me to my room. My blood pressure had made it so that they didn’t want me doing any more physical activity than I had to. “How on earth did you drive yourself here?” I remember one of the nurses asking me.

I had woken up in a fog that morning. I just felt off, and I had a splitting headache on the left side of my head. I hadn’t had anything to drink the night before so I knew it wasn’t a hang over. I passed it off as dehydration, and got ready for work. I started getting dizzy while driving, but – being the tough man that I was – I just fought through it. Then I missed my turn to work. I don’t even know how. It’s not one of those turns that you can just drive by. So I made a u-turn and made my way back to the intersection. Then when I got into work I turned into the customer parking instead of heading back to the employee parking. At the time I was working at a car dealership, so there would have never been a time for me to drive to the customer parking area. I started to think something might be wrong. When I got into work a coworker tried to talk to me and I couldn’t even mumble out the words that were on my mind. They just wouldn’t come out. I started to do the math of all of the things I was experiencing, and I thought I was surely having an aneurysm.

Now as far as my fear of doctors had been at the time, I did the mental checklist and determined I could possibly die (the only reason I’d go) if I don’t go and its an aneurysm. So I went to my manager and told them I needed to go to the hospital because something felt very wrong with me. I took off and that leads me to where this story started.

Now, for someone who is terrified of doctors, and who had never been to an ER before. This was trial by fire. I got poked and prodded more than I ever had with all of the physicals growing up combined. I got an IV, multiple blood tests, and all kinds of weird contraptions plugged into me. If I had an 11th finger they probably would have had a machine to attach that to. It turns out when you get to the hospital and your blood pressure is 190/120 they go into critical mode trying to figure out whats going on with you. The doctor confirmed that they were indeed looking for an aneurysm, and they needed to do one more test to make sure. A spinal tap. Did I mention this was my first ER visit?! They had a specialist doctor come in. Clearly someone who was a master at operation (you know, the buzzer game), because he told me I am not allowed to flinch no matter how much it hurts. He explained to me that a few millimeters one way or the other with the little drilling needle could be disastrous. Let me tell you, no matter how much they tell you not to flinch, you do. Of course I was all numbed up, so I just felt the pressure. I don’t care what anyone says though, that doesn’t make the thought of what is happening to your spine anymore pleasant. I will spare you the gross details. I’ll just tell you it isn’t fun.

As they finished up with the procedure the original doctor who had been working with me the whole time came in, and told me they figured out what was wrong. Now, a normal blood sugar count is somewhere between 80-100(ish.) Mine was 350. Essentially I was on the brink of a diabetic coma. It wasn’t an aneurysm at all, but they were glad that I got there when I did. (I didn’t mention the doughnut I took from my managers desk before I left.) I had let myself go to the point that I was now dealing with type 2 diabetes. My numbers dropped enough that they released me finally, but I was not okay. I knew my life had to change. I knew my life depended on it.

Just before this story started, in mid September 2018.

I needed to get my life in order, but I didn’t know how. I started working out, and I resolved to quit smoking. Obviously, now that I was diabetic that meant a whole shift in my diet. Do you have any idea how hard it is to figure out how to only eat 60g of carbs in a day? In 3 months the first 40 pounds dropped pretty fast, but if you are following along in my blogs then you already know something else was about to happen. I got fired from the dealership, because as it turns out I am just too kindhearted to be a car sales man. Not to say all car salesmen are evil. I just didn’t have that flare to spin that an effective car salesman needs.

My first “gym selfie

In an effort to not repeat myself twice in the two blogs I would direct you to my last post, My Imperfect Faith, to get caught up on what happens next. I had spent the past 10 years trying my best, in different careers, to be a “sales professional.” I sold everything. Furniture, chips, wine, cars. I tried my hand at so many things convinced that I could make it (key word, “I”). I had to face the reality with the loss of the car sales job that indeed, I was not a sales professional. So I picked up ten years of my life and started over. I became a server again. There was something that hit hard as old co-workers from previous sales jobs came in and sat down at the restaurant. “Oh, you’re here now. Well at least you found work,” I remember one of them saying. Others you could just see by the looks on their faces that they indeed felt sorry for me. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me. It hurt more seeing people feel sorry for me because I knew that they were casting me in a lower light than them. What I didn’t know though, was that God had placed me there to humble me for what was to come. My loss in identity, as it turns out, was completely intentional, and it was only the first of many identities I was about to lose. I lost relational identity, identity of my past, and pretty much every other identity I really ever knew to exist, and a lot of those happened after the musings of my last post.

As I started serving I realized there was a double bonus to it. I started to appreciate humbly serving others. I started to appreciate being able to share a smile with people who, clearly, were not in a good mood before they got there. I realized God was putting me to work to, at the very least, cheer people up. As I cheered them up, It also made me feel better about the whirlwind of a storm going on in my life. The double bonus, however, was that I was now walking (sometimes professional speed walker speeds) roughly 4-10 miles a day (depending on single shifts or doubles) so I was getting a killer workout each day. Things were starting to shape up for me, literally.

After starting as a server pounds just started to fall off.

Now I wish I could say this was all healthy. Most of it was, but there were times during this that I was so depressed that I just couldn’t stomach food. There were also times that I chose to fast for a day to practice a little spiritual self discipline with God. Before I knew it though I was 265, then 255, then 245. I couldn’t believe it. I had made a promise to myself, when I left the hospital, that I would lose 100 lbs. I was almost there, and I was blown away. I was regularly at the gym at this point, sometimes for an hour and a half; even two hours when I had nothing better to do. I’ll be honest, this was the first major goal I had ever really set for myself, and I couldn’t believe how close I was! As I built up my identity in Christ, He was also helping me clean up His temple and make it a place fit for the Holy Spirit! Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you cant be heavy and filled with the Holy Spirit, but I know that when God decided to strip my identities down, one of them was my fat guy identity.

I think that at this point it is fair to note that somewhere around the 265-255 range I noticed that the diabetes seemed to correct itself on its own. Thank you Jesus!

I was starting to actually love myself because I loved the transfiguration on the inside that God was performing in me. Like a master surgeon, He continued to remove cancers from my life, and replace them with the wisdom I was begging for. He wasn’t just watching me from afar, He took my hand and said, “Here is where we are going.” As I followed Him closely I couldn’t help but want to improve the outside appearance of myself as well. Something else was in the works though. In following him, I ended up leaving the service industry (hopefully for the last time,) and going to work for my church as the “lead custodian.” (I am the only custodian, but it sounds cooler.)

Lets take a moment to step back here. Remember when I said I was starting to realize that God had placed me as a server again for a reason? This is what I am talking about. Had this position at the church come up a few months earlier, my pride would have never allowed me to be a, gasp, janitor. The audacity of someone even mentioning such a thing to me would have been an unacceptable slap in the face, but here I was. A server, newly humbled by Christ, and listening closely to where he wanted me to go next. I accepted the job and I could not be happier.

I was (and still am) loving my job because as a person cleaning a church all day, you get all day to spend with God. Talk about a huge perk! If it weren’t for all of the other storms going on in my life I would say that life was good, but that was exactly what I was doing there. When you work for a church, not only do you spend time with God all day (if you choose to, because I could also have just listened to heavy metal instead), but you also have emotional and spiritual support, the likes you cant find in any corporate job. When I needed a day to clear my head, my pastor had no problem letting me do it. When I needed someone to pray for me I was surrounded with options to go to. I was (and still am) in the best possible place for the season of my life. I needed to be there and God knew that.

In the beginning of August I was down to 235, and had just a month before I could claim that I had lost 100 pounds in a year. I can’t even begin to describe the push I made. If I wasn’t working, I was working out. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I pushed myself so hard that it didn’t take a month. On the 16th of August I got on the scale and the bright red numbers read:

To say I was jumping for joy was an understatement. I couldn’t believe it. Tears were streaming down my face! I had actually achieved a goal in my life. God had lead me on a path, gave me the strength, and molded my identity so that I could love myself enough to want to make a drastic difference in my life. And here was the result! I had never felt more accomplished in my life! I can’t even begin to explain the feelings of joy in that moment. I was proud, but I know I had nothing to do with it. I’ll be honest. When people ask me how I did it. I wish I had a sound answer. There was a perfect blend of trauma, self love, eating properly (not necessarily even always healthy; just the right portions) and heavy exercise. Through that perfect mixology God performed what I can only describe as a real life transmogrification in me. Don’t get me wrong. I took it one step at a time, made the right choices, and did all the necessary things to achieve it. When people ask me how, though, I don’t know because it was the first time for me, and I forgot to take notes.

The same shirt as the first picture, a year later.

As my walk with Christ continues, I am not done yet. Now that the junk has been cleaned out of the temple, now I am working on the fine details. I continue to strive to make the outside match the inside. I am honored that God resides in me, just as he resides in so many, through the Holy Spirit. I have made a personal choice to honor that faithfulness by being the best version of me I can inside and out! As I write this I am actually sitting comfortably at somewhere between 215-220 pounds. I don’t see myself getting much smaller than that to be honest. I am truly thankful that God showed me how to love myself enough, and how to love His love for me. I really hope to be an inspiration to anyone who felt like me. People who have been stuck at an unhealthy weight need to know that it is possible. It takes hard work, it takes a change of perspective. It takes a belief that it can be done, but you can absolutely do it! As I share the love of Jesus one blog at a time I am determined to tell people that I know God loves me, and if he loves me, I can guarantee he loves them too! In this journey of weight loss it is also in the same category of the unrealistic happening. If I could set my focus on this, I believe that anyone who wants it bad enough can also!

Me trying to look like a tough guy, eh.

I would love to hear your stories. I would love to talk to you about your journey. I would love to know who you are, and where you want to be. I would love to help you get there! Reach out to me and I will be there. Thank you so much for reading this!

My Imperfect Faith

Let me just start out by saying. This is going to be a tough one to write, but I think that it is important. It is important for people who are turned off by the church. It is important for people who are turned off by Christians who pretend they have all of their ducks in a row. It is important for men to hear who think that being tough is all there is in life. It is important for Christians to hear who think they have to be perfect.

Let’s cut to the chase. I am not perfect. My walk with God has always been anything but perfect. There were times that I didn’t walk with God at all. There were times where I thought I could just claim Christianity, and still be “myself,” and that would be good enough. There have been times where I cried for people who didn’t know who Christ was, but wanted to know more. There were times when I felt the holy spirit, only to be out drunk the following night.(drinking and getting wasted are not the same thing by the way.) I have been part of a small worship team, and I have cringed at the sounds of worship. I have preached the word, and been annoyed at the words from the pulpit. There is no chronological order to any of this. It is literally as chaotic as it sounds.

Now I won’t start writing my autobiography here, but if you’ve got a good 2 hours and like coffee I’d be happy to sit down with you and tell you the full walk. My point in all of that though is that my walk with Christ looks a lot like those “Family Values” cartoons where the parents say come inside, and you see the dotted line of the little guy going everywhere but inside right away. If there was such a thing as sin bingo, I’d almost have blackout victory, and then almost a year ago something drastic happened.

I had come to the point where I looked myself in the mirror and I didn’t just not like who I saw; I despised who I saw. I hated the person staring back at me. I had lost my way, and I had no more identity left to fall back on. I realized that things might just improve for the ones around me if I just made an exit from life. I hated myself so much that I didn’t even want anyone to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want it to look like a suicide. I was going to have an accident on the highway. I planned to collide with a barrier as fast as my car would go. I got in my car and left. As I turned the corner and started to make my way towards the highway, I heard a booming voice. “Turn left, don’t turn right.” It was so startling that it literally shook me out of my trance, and I decided to listen. As I listened, God directed me to my old sanctuary with him. A little pond with a walk way around it. As I walked around the pond I listened. I asked God to take my life. I didn’t want it anymore, and everyone would be better off without me, and he did. He washed me, he blessed me, and he filled me with the holy spirit. I made my way back home that night, and went to sleep.

I survived myself, but not exactly. To me that was the moment God took my life. He let the old me die so that the new me could come alive. Now, let me be clear. I am not some divine saint now, nor would I ever want anyone to think that. In fact in the quiet moments I still hear the whispers of the enemy that I should just end it. I still feel the guilt of who I was. I still feel the shame of the life I lived the wrong way. I still have struggles with sin that I have to sit down with God and handle. If anything, since that time I’ve experienced emotions on a higher level that I ever allowed myself before. I’ve been faced with situations that did not pan out in a way that would make God smile. I’ve handled conversations inappropriately, and I’ve handled experiences without wisdom. When I say God is creating a new me, however, I mean that I am now listening.

I made a promise that night, to give my life to Christ, fully. What that means is I am still bound to mess up, but I spend each day giving it back to God. When God calls me to do something, I don’t grumble (okay maybe a little…okay a lot.) but I do it, because God asked me to. Where I wasn’t listening to guidance before, now I am seeking guidance. Whereas before I wouldn’t give God the time of day, now I feel incomplete if I am not focused on God throughout my day. He saved my life, and to Him I owe my life. I could never deny knowing God because God made himself known to me. It is now my mission in life to let people know, God wants you, too. Believe me. If he saw me. The broken sinner, who had no real compass in life. No college education, a bump with the law, no respectable trade skill, and no respectable social status. If He saw me, ME, and said, “I choose you,” then there is no one he won’t choose if they are willing to listen.

I like to put it this way. God spent my whole life saving me from myself, in so many different situations, just enough, so that I could judge no one else for their walk before or with Christ. You will see a lot, in the things that I write, that I am very committed to making sure that my message is about the love of Jesus Christ. My message is about how much God loves you! That being said, it doesn’t come without hard work. It doesn’t come without tearing off the layers you buried yourself in. It doesn’t come without consequences. Here’s the thing. God loves you. No matter what, He loves you, but when you choose to give your life to him, he’s going to break all of the mud off of you so that you can shine for Him. Be prepared for that to come with a few bruises. My pastor Jonny said it best, “If you aren’t ready for a radical transformation, then this Christ stuff may not be for you.”

Anyway, I was feeling a moment of vulnerability was in order tonight. So instead of Bible verses, I just wanted to share with you that no matter how messed up you think your life is, God still loves you, and He wants to use you in particular to show other messed up people that He loves them too!

How 5000 becomes 12

“you can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

Let’s be honest with ourselves. This is a terrifying statement by Jesus. Especially when the verse we are all taught as children, or in general as one of our first Jesus quotes is:

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, So that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

John 3:16-17

That really sounds like quite a contrast, doesn’t it? One makes it sound like an impossible feat; the other sells really well inside of mega churches. One sounds like you’re not good enough; the other sounds like you just need a stamp on your hand to get in. This is something that I have struggled with personally. Which one is it? All come in or few come in? Does this mean that Jesus doesn’t love us? Are we suppose to jockey for position to get to the pearly gates? Then why does he say we just have to believe in him? There has got to be something we are missing, right?

I think the answer lies in the feeding of the five thousand and what comes to pass after. Jesus had become quite popular. He was starting to get some serious clout around town because he was doing some serious miracle work. My guess is that a lot of these people were selfishly following Him around because they had some aliment that they were hoping to get cured. That is just an assumption though. Anyway, the people are all following him from place to place. Jesus had managed to make a break for it for some much needed time to Himself up on a hill. I can only imagine that it looked like an army marching towards him when He looked out and saw all of the people who had been following Him coming in search for Him.

Jesus starts the discussion up about feeding these people and coyly asks Philip where they would possibly get enough food for all of these people. I like to imagine Jesus had just a hint of sarcasm in his voice when he asked him, “Where can we buy bread for all of these people.” Jesus knew exactly how, but he wanted to see if Philip had caught onto who he was following around yet. Of course, as the disciples often did, he failed the test. (thankfully Jesus is full of grace.) Now the heading of this story in the Bible is very humble, and as the story goes on it states that actually the declared number of five thousand was just men alone. There were a lot of people who wanted to see what Jesus could do for them. Of course most of us are familiar with how this story plays out. Five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, not just feeds, but fills everyone, and 12 baskets of leftovers are brought back.

At this point everyone around him is ready to drop tent right there and declare him their King. They are so stoked that this Jesus guy is feeding them and healing them, that they don’t want Him to leave their side ever. I mean imagine it. A kingdom where the king can produce enough food for everyone every day, and he can heal everyone? I mean who wouldn’t want to lounge around all day and have the king swing by to feed you and heal your bed sores? Talk about a win for them! However Jesus wasn’t interested in just working for them. He needed to know that they wanted to pay their dues also.

I want to take a moment here to point out that this is the way many of us live. We are all about Jesus when he is working miracles in our lives. We are all about watching Jesus perform his super-human tricks to better our lives. We all give thanks when the cancer is healed, when the relationship is brought back together, when the money for rent magically shows up. We are so thankful when Jesus feeds us like the five thousand, but lets get back to the story.

Jesus bows out and heads stage left. He goes out to the hills for some much needed alone time and r&r. His disciples are also ready to go, so much so that they wait for Jesus until dark and then decide to go on and skip town without Him. I’m not sure what that was all about, but I do find it interesting that in John’s rendition of this they decided to make their way without Jesus and a storm hits them. Sound familiar? But I digress. He assures them, and then gets in the boat and its smooth sailing from there.

Meanwhile, everyone finally wakes up from their food coma, and realizes that Jesus has skipped out on them. They quickly confiscate a few boats and make way across the sea. Obviously someone sold him out! I imagine them running up to him thinking, Oh man, just in time for breakfast! “Rabbi, when did you get here?” they say as they unfold their napkins. (If you haven’t noticed by now I am using a lot of narrative liberties, Hollywood call me.) Jesus has had enough of the me, me, me, and decides to hit them with a cold hard truth. (He wasn’t always tender.)

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

John 6:26-27

Kind of a gut punch huh? Of course, being that they are hungry, they are willing to say whatever they need to to get their next meal. “We want to perform Gods works, too. What should we do?” Roughly translated into, “Hey man, sounds good, sure we will do whatever you ask, just keep feeding us!”

To this, Jesus replies, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he as sent.” (29)

Stop the tape. Okay, here we go! Two votes for just believe, right? Man, I am feeling really good about this now! I just have to believe. I don’t know though, this is starting to hit me a little differently the second time through. Anyone else feel that way? I mean clearly they believe in Him. They’ve just witnessed miracles, and He is feeding them. Whats not to believe in right? Almost sounds redundant if we are to just take it as believe. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus has something else in mind when he says believe. Roll tape!

At this point their mouths are salivating. They are hungry and this man has food for them at His fingertips, literally. Why does he keep holding out with all of this believe mumbo jumbo? “Yes we believe! We saw it with our own eyes! We believe, just feed us already. “Moses gave our ancestors bread, why are you holding out?”” (look up 30-31 for context)

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to this world.”

John 6:32-33

To which it seems to imply they say, “Thank you! You get it! Feed us every day and we will be happy!”

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life I will raise them up on the last day.”

John 6:35-40

I can see the confused wheels start trying to spin. What on earth is this guy talking about? Were asking for bread and he is saying He is bread. He’s doing a lot of talking and not a lot of bread breaking. Is he going to feed us or what already? As Jesus can see everyone starting to lose focus he decides it is time to try and perform professional career suicide as a rabbi.

“Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bred, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.

John 6:48-51

“Woah, did this guy just tell us to eat him? I mean, listen, Jesus, we are all about eternal life and all, but we don’t think cannibalism is the way. Plus, that’s in direct violation of our rule books. If we eat you, how are you going to keep feeding us?” At this point the confusion is just overwhelming. The crowd is getting grumpy because they are hungry and Jesus is telling them to bite him. (I believe Jesus can appreciate that pun.) He repeats himself (I’ll spare you another quote), and everyone is just purely lost in what he is saying. They aren’t comprehending what it is he is talking about, and they decide its time to get off the train and head home. It was a fun ride while they were getting fed, but now he’s just starting to ask strange things of them, and they just thought this was a free buffet. Even most of his disciples jumped ship, but the 12 stayed. Here Peter, whom I like to pick so much on, gives us a little nugget of wisdom. The path got too hard, the message became unclear, and the rest of the flock abandoned Jesus, but Peter says, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe , and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (68-69)

I don’t know about you, but the word belief seems to have become a whole lot more complex to me. What sounds like a friendly catch phrase to draw people in on Sunday, suddenly takes a deep, dark, twist. To believe doesn’t just mean you just raise your hand when the preacher says, “Who here wants to follow Jesus.” It’s not about raising your hands when the worship song hits the right note. Its not about lifting your hands when God is raining down blessings on you. Belief is a rumbling stomach that turns to God and says, “you are enough.” Belief is losing your job and saying, “You are enough, God.” Belief is standing alone with Jesus and saying, “I know it’s just you and me now, and I couldn’t imagine better company.” It is so easy to say we believe, the word has lost its meaning to us just like its lost its meaning to the crowd. The fact of the matter though, is that the two quotes I posted at the beginning of this writing are not contradictory. As I have stated before, the contrast is in our human loss of meaning in the word belief, and the definition that God gives for belief that never loses meaning.

When Jesus says the road is narrow, it’s the truth. The road is narrow and if you’ve walked it for a while you’ve seen people fall off of it. You’ve seen people put their first foot in the grass and before they know it they are somehow walking the other way. We have this very feel good sense that if you said you “believed” once then you are golden. You’ve covered your basis and whatever happens after that you are good. Just make sure you come to church every Sunday, and you get to ride the gravy train. It just doesn’t work that way. Belief in Jesus is a commitment to love Him and follow Him. Will we fail? Will we have moments where we lose our faith? Absolutely. Jesus calls out his disciples all the time in the New Testament for not having enough faith. He didn’t fire them, though. He didn’t tell him that they failed the test, so they needed to go back to being fishermen. He scolded, but he also had grace. He understands humanity, but what He is asking of us is to love and trust Him even when our humanity gets the best of us. He is asking us to reach out for Him when we fall. He is asking us to always know that He is the way to salvation, and that you are going to have to work, but not in good deeds. You are going to have to work on your relationship with Him as though you are married to Him. You commit your life to Him. That is belief. That is faithfulness. That is the narrow path leading to the narrow gate.

Walk on Water

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27

There comes a time in all of our spiritual walks where we begin to feel like Peter did while on his walk with Jesus. We get so pumped up with our faith that we can’t help but say, “I would never deny you, Lord,” or, “Yes, Jesus, I believe I could walk on water because you are here!” Our pride in our faith becomes so immense that we want to prove to Jesus that we are his best disciple. So often though, we also follow suit with Peter, who was known for sticking his foot in his mouth. I sometimes get a chuckle out of the confidence that Peter possessed in himself, but then I am quickly snapped back to reality remembering how many times I’ve been there. How easy it is to let our pride in our faith get in the way of our faith.

While I was flipping through the Bible I found myself in pause with the story of Peter attempting to walk on water. It struck me, as most things have been lately, as having a deeper meaning than just Peter loosing faith in the fact that Jesus was allowing him to walk on water. I love how the Bible can create books worth of meaning within a handful of verses. I am not going to write a book today, but the verses that stood out in particular were:

“Yes come,” Jesus said. So peter went over the side of the boat and walked on water towards Jesus. But when he saw the strong winds and waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. -Matthew 14: 29:30

I think this small section has a way of capturing most of our seasons of faith perfectly within its few select words. I wish I didn’t have to use the concept of seasons to describe our faith, but as any of us know who have been believers for a while – no matter how much we are committed to Jesus – we tend to wax and wane just as much as the moon. Let’s take a moment to break these verses down nearly word for word as each one has more meaning than the next.

“Yes come.”

If you are a follower of Christ, you’ve had this moment in your life. Maybe it was at church, maybe it was in a time of prayer, maybe you were on a walk. You hear it or feel it. Jesus is alive and He is asking you to seek him! You hear the call and your faith shoots through the roof. The creator of all things has beckoned you and you cant help but to feel all of your fear melt away. In that moment you feel the warmth, you feel the fire of the holy spirit lit, and you are ready to come to wherever Jesus is leading you to.

So peter went over to the side of the boat...

You start signing up for food drives, soup kitchens, helping with your churches nursery. You don’t know what, but you are wanting to do whatever you think you can do to show that you are a follower of Jesus. You heard the call to come, and you are going. You’re not sure what to expect when you get there, but you are stepping up and stepping forward. You are showing that you will be obedient.

…and walked on the water towards Jesus

Put up or shut up. Jesus calls you out of your comfort zone, and you are so lit up in your faith that you go for it even if you don’t want to. You have spent enough time feeling the spiritual blessings of doing good works for Jesus that you trust that the Lord will protect you no matter what he asks you to do! It may be sharing your testimony to a congregation, or helping start a new church. It may be going on a mission trip half way across the globe, or walking into a prison to minister. It’s going to be risky, and its up to your faith in Jesus alone to give you the courage to say yes! You do and it works! You are doing what you never thought possible of yourself!

But when he saw the strong winds and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.

It doesn’t matter what miracles you’ve seen in your life. It doesn’t matter how many times God reveals Himself to you. This world is full of evil, and it has always been there. Just like the storm was still going when Peter chose to jump off the boat. He was already committed to his decision to follow Jesus out on the water, knowing that the storm was all around him. Even in our highest moments of faith – sometimes especially – the storm can catch our eye. A loved one dies unexpectedly, a job is lost, a diagnosis of cancer is revealed. There are any number of things, but never-the-less we catch a glimpse of the evil around us and we start to lose faith that Jesus is there leading us to him. Some just lose faith in the goodness of God, some lose faith in God all together. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, don’t hold your spiritual nose high up in the air. I hate to burst your bubble, but it will happen to you.

“Save me, Lord!” He shouted.

For some of us this is the beginning of our seasonal cycle, for others of us this comes after we start to sink. We’ve sunk. We fell short, we ended up in the pit. (A short story I wrote about this season.) We aren’t even sure how we went from walking on water to sinking, but we can feel our head fall below the water. We have forgotten how to swim and we start to flail. The waves begin to crash over us as we try to breath and we don’t know what else to do. In desperation we cry out, “Lord, save me!” and what comes next is my favorite part!

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.

Yes, that’s right. Jesus didn’t wait. He didn’t decide to weigh out if Peter had learned his lesson. He didn’t question if Peters faith would be restored if he saved him. He just reached out and saved him. No questions asked. Before anything else could happen Jesus plucked him from the water the moment Peter asked. This is the moment that creates so many powerful testimonies. This is the addict that got clean. This is the convict that found Jesus in prison. This is the suicide survivor who lived so that they could serve. In these moments we truly understand who Jesus is. Jesus is our savior. He loves us and He is extending his hand out as soon as we ask.

I know, it is a hard reality to face, and like Peter we all want to think that our love for Jesus, our faith in his power, is absolute and on a cruise control. We don’t want to admit that we have moments where our faith begins to fade. We don’t want to admit that we have times where we forget to put full trust in the Lord. We do this because pride tells us that we fail if we admit that we fall. The thing is though that Jesus knows us as well as he knew Peter. He knows we are going to sink in the water. He knows that we will deny him at some point. He knows that while we want to strive to stand out above and beyond the other disciples we are only human. I think the important thing to understand though is that these seasons are like a wheel, and even though sometimes the spokes seem to be going backwards, as long as the wheel is still moving forward, that is what matters.

Apathy of Cain

Most of us are familiar with the story of Cain and Able. If you’ve ever opened the Bible with the intent to read the whole thing cover to cover you’ve at least made it that far without giving up. You maybe sat through Sunday school class and learned about “the evil Cain.” We have been ingrained that Cain was just the evil, no good, son of Adam who killed his brother, but there is so much more that can be pulled out of this short story outside of the first major crime scene to ever happen. Lets see if we cant pull out a few gems of knowledge, together, that maybe we never took into consideration.

Love vs Apathy

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Able also brought a gift – the best portion of the firstborn lambs from his flock… – Genesis 4:3-4

Lets be honest. Cain probably didn’t think he was doing anything wrong here, and really had it not have been for the 4th verse we wouldn’t have either. If we took out the fact that Able brought his best, and we skipped to God rejecting Cain’s gift we probably would have been thinking, “seriously God? That’s messed up.” In fact some of us may still feel that way. I mean, at least he was doing what he was suppose to right? At least he was giving a gift to God, right? Let me give you a pop quiz:

You walk past a homeless man sitting outside of a cafe begging for a few bucks. Do you:

  • A. Yell at the man to get a job.
  • B. Walk past and not make eye contact.
  • C. Throw the man a dollar bill.
  • D. Take a video of yourself handing him a $100 bill.
  • E. Go into the cafe and buy him a sandwich.

So which one would you do? Be honest with yourself. Take a moment and really think about the last time you saw a homeless person, what did you do? Now, what if I told you that there is a proverbial verse 4 that I left out. I know, I tricked you, but here is the verse 4 of this questionnaire.

-Take the man into the cafe, not being concerned with who sees you with him. Offer the man to order anything he wants. Whatever, he orders get it doubled, in case he’s just being humble. Sit down with the man and have a conversation letting him talk about himself.

I already heard you before you thought to yourself.

That’s just unreasonable.

I don’t have time for that.

How do I even know the man would want that.

Congratulations, you’ve just experienced the same level of apathy that Cain exhibited in his gift giving. We’ve all done it, and we will all continue to do it. I doubt anyone reading this will forever invite every homeless person they meet out to lunch. I know that is unreasonable. We’d all go broke if we did that. It is just an example, but maybe something to consider doing from time to time. I can see that I’m slightly veering from the topic so let me straiten the wheel again.

but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. (5)

I find it very interesting that carelessly gift giving is suddenly turned to anger when it is rejected. We’ve all been there. We forgot to get someone a gift, and at last second we end up at a drug store trying to find something to seem somewhat unique. Something that looks like we put a little thought into it, when really the only thought we put into it was our own selfish attempt to save face with a last second gift.

“Oh, a summer sausage, and some fancy chocolate. 90% cacao? You shouldn’t have.” we hear from the receiver of the gift through a photo fake smile.

We smile and sigh with relief that they reacted kindly to the gift, but then your other friend shows up. Where as your gift was thrown in a cheap gift bag (gray, because it was the only color that was left), their’s is in a shiny wrapping paper. It is clear that they even took time in the wrapping because the folds are perfect. The receiver open it, carefully, respecting the beautiful wrapping job. Their eyes light up with joy as they see the amazingly thoughtful gift that your friend had given them. A tear even rolls down their cheek because they are so happy. They run over and give your other friend a huge hug and repeat, “thank you so much,” half a dozen times. You can’t help but feel a little annoyed that your gift sits back in the same bag it was pulled out of, barely even touched. You are angry, because your scheme got ruined by someone who actually took the effort to show that they care. Your apathy was exposed by someone else’s love.

Teachable Moment

Of course God sees that Cain is upset and knows that this is a path down a slippery slope, so he decides to use this teachable moment.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (6-7)

I wonder how much time has been spent contemplating the gravity of these verses. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil things weren’t so complicated. Sin had not been introduced to the world before, so the command was easy. Just don’t do it. Should have been easy enough to follow through with, but as we found out, they didn’t choose to listen. Now, Cain, who is facing a crisis of identity is starting to feel like he is inferior. He is starting to feel jealousy. He is starting to feel contempt. All of these new feelings that his parents had cursed him with the ability to feel, and he doesn’t know what to do with them. God, seeing this torment, knows that all of these feelings are what lead to sin. Like a good parent God sits down with Cain to have a heart to heart. He wants Cain to understand that he isn’t hopeless. He wants Cain to know that he can still do good. He wants Cain to know that there is a choice to act out of love or act with sin. He is trying to convince Cain to resist sin.

There is something else going on here. God knows what’s to come. He knows the decision that is about to happen, but he doesn’t want to directly control it. He doesn’t want to tell Cain. “Listen, I know you are about to kill your brother, so don’t.” It is the first time in history we could ask ourselves why God lets bad things happen. Right? He may encourage against, they might break His heart, but He still allows them to happen. It would be fair, under our own human understanding, to ask why God would let the son who is falling into sin kill the son that he favored. The excuse of “too many people in the world” gets ruled out pretty quickly. There were 4. I am sure God had no trouble keeping tabs on them. Obviously there isn’t a sound answer to this within these verses, but I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that this is where we originally see that there are times that God will not directly intervene. So what does happen? What does Cain decide?

Anger to Murder

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” and while they were in the fields, Cain attacked his brother, Able, and killed him. (8)

At this point it’s not clear how much consideration Cain gave to God’s heart to heart. Some people hear the words of God and listen; others do not. In a horrific example of free will we find that Cain does not listen. He instead allows sin to overcome him. He lets what started out as apathy, turn to anger, and then turn into jealousy towards his brother. In his jealousy he figured if you can’t beat him…beat him to death. I am sure we all think we are better than Cain. How could you kill your brother? The judgement just starts rolling in doesn’t it.

But this isn’t just a story about an evil murderer. This is a story of a man who started out by apathetically giving gifts to God. A man just like you or me. A man who knows God; who even thinks he’s doing a good enough job at giving thanks to God. He didn’t start out evil, he just started out careless. This is a story about how quick we can succumb to sin if we are not ever-vigilant with our worship and praise to the Lord. This is a story that we can all relate to because we have all fallen from grace. This is a story we should all take warning in because maybe the sin you live in isn’t murder. Maybe its lust, pride, or greed. It starts with a suggestive glance. It starts with a simple victory we claim as our own. It starts with a few well placed dollars into a flourishing investment. All sin starts out seemingly insignificant, and that is why the enemy loves to whisper. It is sometimes easier to start an avalanche with the vibrations of a whisper than it is with a handful of explosives. Do your part, listen to God, and do what is right, so that when sin comes creeping in you can nip it in the bud before it grows out of control.

Judgement

So I need to admit something. There was a time in my life – not really all that long ago – where I thought it was okay to judge people for all different kinds of things. I thought it was not okay for illegal immigrants to cross the boarder. I thought it was not okay for people suffering from drug addictions to collect food stamps. I thought it was not okay for people to have abortions. I was conflicted with my acceptance of the LGBT community and what “religion” tells me about them. I know each one of those strikes a nerve one way or the other with people, but I’ve come to realize something all together different about the perspective Jesus is asking us to have.

More than likely you have your own opinion on each one of those topics. I know that if you’ve made it this far you are waiting for what I say next to determine if you are going to shoot me an angry, scathing, email, or one to pat me on my back. Here is the thing though. As I slowly start to understand just how much Jesus loves each and every one of us I am constantly drawn back to scripture.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.” -Matthew 7:1-3

“…Let any one of you without sin cast the first stone.” -John 8:7

“There is only one lawgiver and judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” -James 4:12

As I focus on these words more and more I continue to feel God expand, in my mind and in my heart, the understanding of what this means. We end up, ingrained by the world, with this idea that at least someone is not savable. It can come from parents, experiences, fear of difference, and any other number of things. We find someone we can point at and say, “Well at least I am better than them.” We all do it, and I have been guilty far beyond others. I even did it while I still held true to my understanding that “I don’t judge” as I saw it in my own perspective. The fact of the matter is I still did. Surely Jesus didn’t love everyone right? Wrong!

Jesus strolls through the entire series of gospels showing just how much he did not condemn the sinner. In fact the only people who he condemned were the ones who believed their lives were without sin, or that their sins were not as bad as others. He condemned people like me. So why is that? Well to know Jesus is to know love, and the only way to understand the level of love Jesus had is to understand that it was for every sinner on earth. That’s who he came to save. If you think your sins are better than others, or you are lying to yourself and think that you are living a sinless life, Jesus can’t help you until you realize that just isn’t true. If you hold your nose up to others, if you wear your fancy Sunday best, trying to cover your sin in fancy garments, or if you think that you are doing any good telling others how bad they are; then you are exactly who needs to step back and let Jesus wash you clean.

If Jesus were walking the earth today he would be the first one in our churches shaming us for trying to push away people who are part of the LGBT community.

if Jesus were walking the earth today he would be standing in between the angry mob outside of the abortion clinics and the scared young women trying to make one of the most difficult and scaring decisions they will have to make in their lives.

If Jesus were walking the earth today he would be at the boarder shepherding people across; all the while sending angry glares at the sneering boarder patrol who think they are entitled to a better life because of where they were born.

If Jesus were walking the earth today he would be the in the prisons finding disciples to minister to the others in the prison.

If Jesus were walking the earth he would be wittily battling against his own church because of their snide misunderstanding of His love.

The thing is that Jesus may be up in heaven, but he sent the Holy Spirit to be his likeness for us to inherit. We must ask, daily, for ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit so that we do not fall to our own understanding. We must be the example that Jesus intended when he offered up the Holy Spirit in his place while he is gone. He asked us to mentally understand what He meant by love, and let the Holy Spirit lead us where we must go share it. It isn’t just a full reliance on the Holy Spirit either. It is also us continuing to better our own minds and purging out the wrong thinking this world has taught us.

Do not judge. Not ever. because it is not our place. It is exactly what Jesus told us NOT to do. Show everyone love so that they can find their way to Jesus.

Why Doesn’t God Answer Prayers?

Why? Why doesn’t God answer prayers? Why didn’t God give you that promotion you deserved? Why did God let you get fired? Why did God let your relationship break apart? Why did God let him die? There are so many why’s to be had in this world. Why are there so many of the why’s that have no answers? I am not at all going to try to answer any of those questions, but maybe we can find some understanding together as to why it is that God doesn’t always do the things we want him to do.

Before we get into anything though I think the first thing we have to understand is that God did not create the why’s. From the very beginning he intended for us to live without ‘why’ in our lives. When we ask ‘why,’ what we are really seeking is a justification of good vs evil. We desperately want to ask, “well I am good so why did evil happen to me?” We don’t ask too many questions when a person we have deemed a bad person meets an untimely demise. We don’t ask why a gang member gets shot. We don’t ask why a shooter going on a killing spree turns the gun on themselves. In our limited understanding of good and evil we are so quick to say evil for evil; good for good. When the tables get turned on what our perspective of good and evil is, and good is met with evil and evil is met with good our world is turned upside down. Our ancestors, Adam and Eve, chose this finite knowledge over a permanent relationship with God. They chose having any comprehension of this paradox over knowing only the love of God their creator. As a result we are all stuck facing this paradox of a concept that we were never meant to understand. You see it was not called the tree of wisdom of good and evil. It was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge as God will tell us throughout the Bible is a far cry from wisdom. Knowledge leaves us questioning because all knowledge on a human level is horribly flawed, and up for questioning. That being said I believe that our knowledge of good and evil is a far cry from what the wisdom God holds in those same categories. Now that I got that out of the way let me move on.

There are many prayers that go unanswered every day, but if we really want to look at the kicker of all unanswered prayers we can turn to Jesus, himself. He had just given the horrible news to his disciples, and I can only imagine the amount of dread that was washing over Him. Yes, even Jesus felt dread. He knew his time was coming. He knew the moment that would matter for the rest of existence was at hand, and He did not want to face it. He may not have even really known the level of abuse that was about to come his way, but I’m sure he googled crucifixion and saw that even if that were the only thing to happen to him, it was going to hurt like nothing anyone would want to experience. As he went up to Gethsemane to pray it is quite clear; He wanted out. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42) In a very, very human moment Jesus expresses that what is about to happen is anything but his will. He doesn’t want anything to do with it, and according to Mark, he begged three times with this same prayer. Luke even goes so far to say that he was “…in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44) As a side note, if you don’t think that’s possible our beloved science has proven that that actually can happen, but only in the most extreme of circumstances. So here we are, Jesus – who, by the way, could make all of this go away with wink of his eye – is so distraught that he is sweating blood and begging God to allow this to pass over him.

I can only imagine the sobbing that God was doing at this time. Here he is, the God who promises good gifts to his children, is unable to give this gift to his own Son. More than anything I can only imagine the heartbreak he felt that he had to smack the big ol’ deny stamp on this prayer. He had to reject his only son’s prayer – who loved Him more than anyone else ever had – so that an eternity of people who would come to reject Him, kind of love Him, or have this roller coaster ride of in love, out of love with Him would have the ability to be saved from their sins. This was the one prayer that I am sure God desperately wanted to grant, but He knew that it was the one prayer that could not be answered the way someone wanted it to be.

Jesus knew this though and as a good and faithful servant he prayed the way we should all pray when we ask God for anything. “…Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” This is the part that Jesus knew mattered, and it is often the part of the prayer we want to skip. We want God to justify our knowledge of good and evil. We want God to give us what we ask for because we asked, but we leave out the most important part. “…Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” We want to tell God that if he doesn’t adhere to our concept of good and evil, if he doesn’t play by our rules; then we don’t know if we can believe in Him. We want to use our prayers and the way He answers them as an ultimatum for our faith, but let me go back and reiterate what I said in the beginning. The tree of knowledge of good and evil left us with a flawed concept of good and evil. It left us with a bitter taste in our mouth that we never fully understood.

I know, that if you are going through a hard time right now, and you have been asking the same prayer over and over again this can come off as painful, or harsh. It may sound like I am coming down on you, but I can only say that as I write this I am also battling one of the hardest times of my life. These words, this conviction, that I am sharing with you hits me just as hard as it hits you. It is reasonable to dread. It is only human to question when things don’t go the way we expect. I think its perfectly acceptable to lament to God and share with him your frustrations with Him, but if you are holding our understanding of good and evil over God’s head as an ultimatum I am sure you are going to be very disappointed with the outcome. Have faith that even when the prayer isn’t answered the way you want it to. Even if the prayer warriors prayers are ineffective, and your loved one dies. Even if you prayed and prayed for the promotion, only to be fired and struggling to figure out how to make ends meet. Have faith that God is good. Be mad, be angry, but in the end know that God is good. Again, I apologize if this comes off harsh or abrupt, but I guarantee you that you never prayed like Jesus prayed to not have to hang on that cross. If you are going through a hard time, know that if God would have let our understanding of good for good and evil for evil stand. Jesus would have lived a lot longer, and we would all be without salvation today. Take a honest moment to let that sink in.

God in a Box

Who is God? If we really thought long and hard about this seemingly simple question we would find that those 3 words have actually been the cause for much division and violence in this world. Wars have been fought, with countless lives lost, as both sides believed they were doing the bidding of God. Whole generations have been wiped out because of their definition of who God is. People have been murdered by their peers because their definition of God did not align with others (even if the persecutors and the victim were both of the same religion.) People have full blown left church, left faith, and left any belief that God could exist because Christians have told them that God would not approve of them. People have been told to leave their churches, leave their communities, and even leave their countries all because their version of God is different. It is no wonder there are not many people lined up to jump on the Jesus Christ band wagon. I mean, who could blame them? We have as many versions of Christianity as we have counties in a state. So why does this happen? Why do we put God in a box that we design and try to sell him as “ours?”

When it comes to God this becomes very tricky. If we as Christians are honest with ourselves we really have no idea why God does the things he does. We find ourselves asking, “why does God…” knowing that there is no real answer. We think that God should have to answer to us, but He doesn’t. He’s God. I know that answer is extremely unsettling to people, and I think therein lies the problem. We start trying to use our own judgement and our own finite wisdom to define God into a box. No matter how much we try to conjure that box, though, it doesn’t actually exist. Each denomination and reformation has their version of God that they can’t wait for you to meet (and is the real version if you ask them) but again, it is just an imaginary box that doesn’t actually exist. You see, we don’t define God, God defines us. I’ve gone off on a tangent though and still haven’t really answered the question.

What is it that makes us want to wrap God in a pretty little package and say, “this is God all else is not.” I think for that we can really look at ourselves. If you took 10 of your closest friends, and asked them who they thought you were; they would all probably have their own version of you in their mind. Even if they all knew exactly the same amount about you they would have their own general understanding of who you are, and even still none of them would really know. Why? We base our understanding of others from what we have gathered by observation of people we have met in our past. People who hold more weight in our memory tend to shape out what we see in people in the future. If you’ve spent your whole life very well sheltered you would tend to believe in the decency of people. You would believe that everyone has your best interest at heart. On the other side if you were abused growing up, or you have been in an abusive relationship that rocked you to your core; you will tend to start to believe that people don’t care about you. Even worse you may have a horribly skewed version of what love looks like. The fact of the matter is that those 10 close friends are taking what they know about you and then projecting all of the things they have learned about people to fill in the blanks. So even in their best knowledge of who you are, they still don’t know who you are because they aren’t you. Just like you aren’t God.

We do the exact same thing when it comes to God. We take what we know about God and we project what the world has shown us to fill in the blanks. Here is the thing though. God doesn’t want us filling in the blanks. He doesn’t want us to try to figure it all out. Now, yes, there is a lot of information about who God is in the Bible. When he speaks to his prophets. When he speaks to Abraham or Moses. When he speaks to Adam and Eve. We certainly know enough about who God is throughout the Bible to, at the very least, know who God isn’t. We know that whatever he does is out of love. We may not always understand it, but whatever he chooses to do He does it because He is passionate about his people. At one point his people were only the Israelite people, but then God gave us a living breathing version of himself to exemplify for the world (his new people) who he is.

Anything that we need to know about God we can look to in Jesus Christ. 4 gospels all dedicated to telling us what God was like as He walked the Earth showing us how to love like He loves. He was not picky about who he loved. He didn’t tell people to leave his sight because they had sinned. He welcomed all who believed in Him, and His only guideline was to love him, love our peers, and love even our enemies. I am getting ahead of myself though and about to end up way off topic here.

At the end of the day, if people are trying to fill in blanks about who God is with anything other than clear scriptural reference (and I don’t mean what they think of it, but what it actually says) then I would really stop listening to them. If I have done this, and I am sure I have before (and will do in the future), I would ask you to take it with a grain of salt. We all do it. We all project our understanding of God a little differently, and it isn’t because God is different to each of us. Just like those 10 close friends. You aren’t different to each of them. We just all see things a little differently. We all have an understanding of everything that is a little different than everyone else. We have all put God in a box to help us understand where we are going.

I would encourage you to do your best to stop doing that though. Why? I know I just said its only natural. Here is the thing, when we put God into a box, and then something happens in our lives that doesn’t seem to fit in the box; it blows up in our face. We question why God isn’t fitting in the box. Again, because He is God, and there was never an actual box to begin with. If you’ve taken time to make a box to put God in I guarantee you will open that box to find it empty. Learn to accept that there are things that we know about God and there are things that we don’t. God will spend the rest of your life revealing Himself to you. As your relationship grows with Him, He will show you parts of Him that you need to see. He may even show you things, specifically meant for you, that wont make sense to anyone else. As I say that I feel compelled to follow that up with a caution though. I would encourage you to read my other post, Unreasonable, if you have any questions about things that God may be revealing to you.

God will never fit into your box, and if you are using your little shiny box to beat others with they will never see God themselves, at least not through you. The thing about these boxes is we often start filling them with things that God specifically asked us not to fill them with also. We fill them with contempt. We fill them with judgement. We fill them with rules that God never actually gave us. We start to put these things into the box that we created in order to justify treating people exactly opposite of the way that Jesus asked us to treat them. We try to tell them what God thinks of them. We try to tell others that God will only accept them if they make their box exactly like ours, and this isn’t true either. We weren’t called to be judges of the world. Stop selling your box to others. Introduce them to the things you know about God and don’t be afraid to tell them when you don’t have the answers. It is okay to not always have the answer to a question about who God is, because (as I already said) you are not God so how could you possibly know everything about him? Throw away your box.

Wandering in the Wasteland

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plains of Sharon. There the LORD will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.

Isaiah 35:1-4

The first time I came across this verse was a time where I was in somewhat of a mental distress. You see, life in the past 10 months has been a period of growth for me that started by a shattering of my old self to rebuild a new self. It was my shattering, but God is the one who has taken over the restoration. To be perfectly honest, there have been times that have felt amazing, and times that I have felt the shroud of sin try to take me down. There have been times where the path seemed clear, and other times where I had to check my feet to see if the path was still under them. There have been times where I have felt so close to God that I felt his arms around me, and other times where I felt like He was holding onto me by a fingertip.

In all of this time (over these past 10 months of restoration) I have known a promise that God had given me that my life would be restored more than I could ever imagine. I didn’t just hear it once. I watched as over and over as God made sure that I knew this promise is true. When I would doubt it, He would send a message loud and clear that He promised it and it will happen. I in no way shape or form can say that I have walked this path of restoration in full faith that Gods promise will come true. I have had so many times where it didn’t seem possible. I have had so many times where either things turned bad, or even worse, seemed to be going nowhere at all. In the waiting and in the struggle God would continually encourage me that HIS promise is a guarantee. He did not look down on me in my doubting and say, “Fine! Don’t believe me, never mind then.” He would look down on me with love and understanding, probably crying the tears along with me, and with His hand on my back He would encourage me to keep walking.

One night only about a month and a half ago, God decided to take another approach to convincing me. I was in a moment of doubt again, and I simply prayed that God would make the path known, so that I could see where I am walking. I walked over to my Bible and did something that I absolutely hate. I played “Bible magic 8 ball.” Essentially what that is, is just opening up the Bible and reading whatever page it lands on. Something happened though. Isaiah 35 landed in my lap. “Hope for restoration.” To say I bawled a little is an understatement. Tears of joy absolutely filled me, but as I am a person who likes to consider myself reasonable (sometimes) I stepped back and figured, “Nah, that just sounded really good because I wanted to hear it.” I passed it off until 3 days later I was in another moment of doubt (like I said, I don’t remotely claim to be perfect at this) and my pastor noticed and asked me what was going on. I told her and she told me she felt like I was meant to read…you guessed it….Isaiah 35. BOOM! My mind was instantly blown. God, through my pastor, decided to tell me clearly, “No, that was meant for you to read.” Then last week, just to make sure I was still paying attention. I went to close my Bible. As I was going to close it my fingers slipped off the pages and it fell back open…to Isaiah 35. This time I was able to smile, and just say, “Yes, God, thank you for your promise to me.”

I tell you all of that to tell you this. Today as I just decided to listen through all of Isaiah while I worked something finally clicked in my mind. We always are told to rejoice in the waiting. Now if you’ve ever been through a season like I have been through in these past 10 months and someone tries to tell you that; you have every right to feel the urge to punch them. It just doesn’t make sense! How can you rejoice!? It turns out I am finally starting to realize you can. You see, when God makes a promise. One thing is for certain. It is not up to you to fulfill it. If God makes a promise it means that He has looked into the future, seen every variable, and knows exactly how He is going to make it happen. Your emotions will not change the outcome better or worse. He will make it happen. What really comes into question is what can you control then? Oh, shoot I already gave it away. That’s right. Your emotions.

There is another catch to this. In these times of waiting the enemy loves to mess with you. He will find ways to dig at you, and let your mind do the rest. If he can get to your mind, then he can get to your emotions. I can’t tell you how many times I had to ask God to remove negative thoughts in my mind, or ask Him to fill me so full of the Holy Spirit in my heart that there was no dark cavern that a negative thought could hide in. Over and over I have had to pray that prayer, and each time I did the Holy Spirit was there.

So what I am getting at is this. The promise has already been made, the destination has already been set. It is up to you how you emotionally get from point A to point B, however. You can choose to grumble and doubt through it (which as I have said, I have experienced my fair share of that in the past 10 months), or you can embrace every hardship along the way with a sense of rejoicing. In fact if you tune your emotions right, the worst parts of the journey can become the most encouraging, because you can know in your heart that God is about to do something really cool -that only God can do – to take you from the depths into the promise He gave. I spent so many hours questioning how it is that Joseph could have possibly been okay when the direction his life was going was exactly opposite of the promise that God had given him. I finally figured it out. He was so full of faith in the outcome of God’s promise that he knew all the way down, it was going to be a sweet ride back up when it happened. I am sure he had his moments, but he had faith in the promise of God. If God has spoken a promise to you rejoice! Nothing can be done to take that promise away! As I still sit in waiting, I have a new understanding of how to look – with joy – towards the promise of the future. I know that I can be glad even when the way up may have a few drops down to go. I will rejoice so that when the promise is fulfilled I can receive it gladly knowing that I kept faith in the promise.

Unreasonable

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Matthew 19:26

When is the last time you did something unreasonable? Common sense said it was a terrible idea, but you threw logic to the wind and just went with it. How did that work out for you? My guess is if you were doing it through your own means, about as terribly as everyone expected, right? Maybe you won your own personal lottery, but more than likely the underdog in the story stayed the underdog. We have grown the philosophy of “the bigger the risk the bigger the reward,” to become something to strive for for anyone trying to make it in the financial world. “Yolo,” which from what I can tell died in 2018 was another term to mean: hey reason be darned, just do whatever your heart desires because you only live once. We are excited by this idea of the unreasonable becoming a reality so much so that it permeates every aspect of media, and its not new to us. Throughout the millennia and before the underdog stories always sell the best. How is your own underdog story working out for you though? Why is it your story never gets written about? I would say its because you are trying to make it your story. I know because that has always been my story too. Trying to risk big, only to fall further than where I started. I know all too well about trying to live the unreasonable life, and exactly the consequences.

At this point I’m sure I’ve offended someone and lost them. Maybe everyone, but let me continue. How could I be a Christian blogger talking about not having faith in unreasonable situations? Ah, good you are paying attention.

You’re right, the Bible is filled, Genesis to Revelations, with underdog stories. So why is it that I am saying unreasonable isn’t likely to become reality. There is a really good reason actually. You see, when God calls us to something or promises us something – no matter how unreasonable – we do not have to fear how unreasonable it may sound. Whereas a human story of an unreasonable situation becoming favorable is a lottery chance of luck. A God story of a seemingly unreasonable situation is already secured as certain. No matter what it is God called the people, in the Bible, to do it was absolutely certain that if they listened to Him, it would happen. Look at the list:

  • Noah builds an arc to survive a flood and continue life on Earth.
  • Abraham wife conceives a son when she is 91.
  • Joseph, the youngest child, is sold as a slave, becomes a prisoner, and then second in command of Egypt.
  • Moses, a murderer who flees out of Egypt and is a self proclaimed non-speaker, is chosen to confront the Pharaoh and lead God’s people out of slavery.
  • A small army of unarmed men walk around the walls of Jericho for a week and then shout on command and the walls all fall down.
  • David, a young shepherd boy, slays the greatest warrior Philistine has to offer. Oh, and he’s a giant too. Also becomes king of all of Israel (just a small side note)
  • Jesus is born of a virgin
  • Not one of the disciples were “upstanding” citizens before they met Jesus, in fact the worst of them ended up writing the New Testament.
  • Saul went from a man who was enraged even by the word “Christ,” to Paul, a chosen apostle of Christ.
  • and more….

That is a small list of the most well known stories, but almost every story you find is about the most unreasonable sounding people and situations becoming a true moment in history. Why? Because it was God’s story. It was already written and all He needed was for the people he chose to say, yes. When god makes the call the unreasonable becomes a guarantee. Why is it, then, that we have such a hard time having a faith that believes in the seemingly unreasonable requests of God? Why, when God calls someone to action we are quick to say, “eh, that sounds pretty unreasonable.” We are quick to hear that and take that stance ourselves. We are afraid of facing the unreasonable even when it is a God given guarantee of success. There is a reason that God calls us to be fearless of all else besides Him. If we can learn to not fear the unreasonable then God can utilize us more than we could ever imagine.

Obviously there is a big aspect to this that I am leaving out, and also another tool that fear uses to make us not carry out what God is asking of us sometimes:

How do I know if God is actually calling me to do this?

First. If you feel like God is calling you to action the first step is to start listening, looking, searching. If God has called you to action you will know because He wont just say it once. He will make it known that it is a calling or a promise because He doesn’t want you to have any doubt that He is the one telling you to do it. At no point in the Bible did God say something once and people just jumped to their feet. No, everyone takes a little coaxing and convincing even when its God making the calls.

Second. Have some friends, who are also followers of Christ, that you can trust to help you discern. I know for certain their natural instinct to protect their friend will kick in, and they will begin questioning. I’d hope so, because that’s how you discern. Tell your friends about it, pray about it together. Again, if it is a calling from God he will make it known for certain.

Third. Do some personal questioning. Is this something that shows the love of Jesus Christ to others? Is this something that you are seeking for personal gain? Can what you think God is calling you to do be used for the Kingdom of Heaven, or is there really only personal success out of this? This can be difficult because we are so quick to stamp the God seal of approval on it because it will be satisfying to our-self, but in general God is not looking to do things for your personal fulfillment. He is looking to use you as a tool to help grow the body of Christ.

Fourth. Is there anything in the Bible you can turn to to make sense of what God is asking of you? The great thing about the Bible is it is full of scripture God uses to reveal Himself to us; so utilize it to see if God has something to say about what he is calling you to do.

Five. Worst case scenario, give it a shot. If it is indeed a calling from God then his will will be done. As a side note, if you feel like God is asking you to do something harmful to yourself or others, DO NOT give it a try. It IS NOT from God.

The fact of the matter is when God speaks there is no such thing as unreasonable. There is no such thing as impossible. With God all things are possible. It may be time to pick up your personal anchor and let God send you out to the sea he is calling you to. Have faith and the only unreasonable outcome will be it not succeeding.