A Moment Of Inspiration

“I’m going to write a book,” one of my friends said. “Oh yeah – why?” I asked. “Writing is one of my biggest opportunities, so I figured, why not write a book?” The individual I speak of is someone who puts his mind to something and goes after it without over-analyzing everything. Sure – it can have its setbacks and disadvantages but I admire the tenacity and the faith in oneself to get the job done, learn well from mistakes, and develop into a more holistic individual over time.

I found myself inspired by the courage and thought that it was worth sharing with the world. Because my initial impulse was, “Well then, I guess I could too!”

I struggle with sharing moments of inspiration or declaring that I will do something because then I know there is a chance that I may not. I may not make it to the gym; I may not write the book; I may not read the twenty books I’d like to read in 2020. It’s true, I may not. But then…I also might.

To paraphrase one of my favorite authors Bob Goff, “Quit waiting around for a plan (vision, purpose, details sent down from a stork from the Lord as to how to do the very best thing with your life) and start loving everybody, always.” (Everybody, Always is a ridiculously well-written, thoughtful and thought-provoking book by the way, and I strongly recommend adding it to this year’s reading list.) What is it about us that deems we must have everything mapped out by the time we are 25? Enough money in the bank to retire by 35? And what makes us believe we can do all of these things without a big, powerful, incredible God?

We refuse to rest, sleep, and eat healthy, balanced meals with our families for the sake of hustling hard to earn a good living to not really live at all. As Jefferson Bethke writes in “To Hell With The Hustle” – #TeamNoSleep is not for me. Cultivating a life that has a steady, purposeful rhythm that dances to the beat of rest and sabbath is not something easily acquired. And yet it’s from that spirit of steady, slow, patient, relationship that Jesus walks. I’m betting it’s at that pace that we will hear his voice as well.

And if Jesus always walks, then what makes us think that we have to run everywhere and do everything and accomplish it all before we go to bed tonight? “If I leave that one thing unfinished today, then that’s the end of my success. I didn’t follow-through with my goals today, so I guess I will never accomplish them.” What a twisted sort of thing to prophecy over oneself. Yet our words do truly display our hearts, don’t they? O the doubt, the cynicism, skepticism, and inner battling that must occur in the heart to make progress.

How can God accomplish His great resurrecting work within our hearts if we cannot sit still long enough for him to operate? Just as quickly as we’ve been “put under” (think anesthesiologist) by the spirit of worship in Church, we return to the cauldron of entertainment in the living-room or the many tasks to be accomplished at home. Rarely allowing the time necessary for the truth to sink deep; for the silence to shake us up a bit. To hear the voice of God again.

Hiding behind the curtain of evening’s out, movies, video-games, workaholic natures, and perfectionism, we evade the Lord’s call. To go out and love everybody, always. Everybody…including ourselves. Whom we could love all the more if we believed in the power of Christ long enough to admit that we have dreams, goals, aspirations, and inspirations.

Today, I’m inspired. Tomorrow, I may not be. And that doesn’t make me any less human. In fact, I’ll be stronger, better, faster for wrestling and resting with those moments of inspiration than if I had just let them pass by in a wave of apathy and I guess I’ll catch-on to that lesson next time.

So if you’re taking the time to read this today, you have time to love someone. That’s the plan. Go and do it. Be encouraging. Shine a light. Give them a hug. And be inspired.

And then chase after your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Don’t be afraid of them. God placed the fire in your heart for a reason. The world needs the light and warmth within.

I See Greatness In You

I asked God to speak to me today. In prayer, out loud – I said, “Lord, I want to hear your voice – to feel your presence and to know that you are for me.” And I waited on the Lord; I waited for Him to come. And He didn’t…Not right away, anyways.

But somehow, going through the motions of the day, Allie and I began to open up – sharing deeper and deeper longings and dreams in our hearts and taking the time to intentionally ask questions and seek out more intimate truths. Walking further into the caverns of each other and finding precious rubies in each others hearts.

Vulnerable moments. The kind that make you hesitate before you share. The impulse comes and you begin to speak but doubt clouds your judgment and stills your tongue – wait a couple moments longer and you’ll be silenced – and then again the words come to your lips, you take a leap of faith and let them escape, exposing yourself to the other’s impact.

In that moment, you’ve chosen to be known.

And insecure fear can race into your mind, forcing you to wonder whether or not you should have shared that intimate part of yourself.

And in those moments today, we both found Jesus looking back at us – the other listened, asked questions, and went to the King as their mediator, gently refusing to pass judgment or throw the first stone.

“I see greatness in you.”

“I see greatness in you,” my wife said as we paused and reflected on the wonderful day of sharing that we had experienced together. “It’s the moments you’ve taken in your life to be vulnerable with others and listened to their counsel that have led to your greatness today, and more greatness to come.” (Slightly paraphrasing. But the message was clear, straight from the Lord. Two separate messages. First – a playful, “I heard your prayer and answered it. Didn’t I?” Because He spoke to me, clearly, plainly, and beautifully – just in a different way than I had expected. The second message became clearer the more I meditated on the words my wife had spoken. “I’m proud of you, son.”)

“I’m proud of you, son.”

Unashamed. The Lord, my King and Father, is unashamed of me. He isn’t passing judgement on my weight or lack of income recently due to poor sales or my insecure worrying and constant pleas for others to pray for me, because of my disbelief in the effectiveness of my own prayers. He isn’t saying, “Go read one more chapter of the Bible and then I’ll pour out my love and affection upon you.”

The story of the prodigal son is true. It’s my story and it can be yours true. A ragamuffin, troubled by the thorn in Paul’s side, recovering from addiction to counterfeit affections by God’s grace. Every memory of hurt and torment, every word of abuse, every fragile friendship that experienced abandonment, Jesus has offered to take those from me and to replace them with His love. All I had to do was let Him in. Never once after letting Him in has He cursed me with residency in my past, dooming me to a life of shame. Rather, He’s freed me from my shackles and shown me His powerful mercy and grace. To the point that my beautiful, outstanding, strong, faithful, kind, merciful, Christ-like wife said, “I see greatness in you.”

Words that melted my heart, softened me to His Love. Tonight, I’m Embracing God’s Grace. I’m accepting myself because He accepts me – not as an acquaintance and not even as a distance friend, but as a son – a son that He is proud of.

vulnerability

LEGACY: Living Toward A Better Death

Death is real. It’s not something we typically enjoy talking about, but much to our dismay, it does not appear to be leaving humanity alone anytime soon. So, as much as we would all like to avoid such a topic, it is appropriate to consider its’ implications to some degree or another.

Carol Walker, co-pastor of REACH Manhattan, challenged the body of believers at Ichthus to “live toward a better death…”, which I now have written in the back of my study-journal as a constant reminder to live in such a way. What does he mean, though? To “live toward a better death”? Well, I’m certainly not Mr. Walker, so consider the following to be a summation of my thoughts over the last 24-hours as I’ve chewed on this challenge given by him…

One’s legacy is essentially what they, themselves, leave behind for others. What assets, ideologies, practices, and the like will one have passed on to their peers, and those they potentially mentored throughout the course of life? These various items combine together to form an individual’s legacy. And, while it is typical of American pastors to give extremely beautiful eulogies in which they highlight all good aspects of a man’s life, the bad will not be easily forgotten, even if hidden beneath sugar-coated summations of one’s life. Therefore, who are we really? What have we sought to teach our families, peers, and strangers through our words and actions?

Consider the following question then…What do you want your legacy to be?

Now, if you were to die tonight, would that legacy you just dreamed of be true of you? Mine wouldn’t. It is something that I should choose to live more towards every day now. The legacy I wish to leave behind is one of selfless and sacrificial love for others, considering the least of these to be far more important than myself; to live and serve as Christ did for His Church.

A Christ-like legacy is the only one I personally deem worth living for. The only way to even come close to such a legacy is to authentically love God more than anything else. What is it that you pursue in life? To what extent do you expend yourself and your resources to obtain/sustain it? You have discovered what you love and just how much you love it. Is what you love most your LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ and His Father, God? I’m praying that is the case, or soon becomes the reality of your heart’s condition.

As I have studied the Gospels over the course of my nearly 23 years of life, I’ve come to notice that one of the greatest elements of Christ’s legacy, and those who live life in such a way, is unconditional love.

Unconditional love overcomes the human-condition to only give of ourselves into something that benefits; sometimes even loving in situations where there is no love in return. Consider the example set by Christ, as he pleaded for the forgiveness of those that put him to death on the rugged cross; no persons’ faults can tame such a violently courageous love. To exhibit such love to another, one must empty oneself of self entirely and now, selfless, give all that they are/have to others. Sounds taxing, right? While it may be in some situations, there is truly no greater source of joy in the end. Why? Because when unconditional love is brilliantly displayed, then witnessed by another, it rocks their foundations, as it shatters their preconceived expectations! No one expects to be unconditionally loved–the reality is quite the opposite, with a majority of young men and women openly admitting that they expect to be let down by those they love on a frequent basis. So, when you have chosen to die to yourself and love others unconditionally (whether they ‘deserve’ it or not, because let’s be honest, you and I do not ‘deserve’ unconditional love either…), you have become a beautiful display of Christ’s love to them, and the opportunity for crazy, culture-defying relationships to form is present.

Have you ever had the pleasure of witnessing the love that brothers in Christ may have amongst each other? If you have ever had the opportunity to witness me among my brothers in Christ within the house-church of Rev79, then you have witnessed this deep, culture-defying love, that places each other above ourselves. It is ridiculously beautiful, and it often makes others uncomfortable, because they do not have a clue how to react to grown men hugging and encouraging each other so much; their cultural expectation for us to be violent, narcissistic, and self-focused, only loving one another when it is convenient, is blown to pieces.

I love it.

Why?

It brings people to a point of questioning why one would be capable of this culture-defying, unconditional love… Any guesses at what the answer is? A life died to, that has embraced God’s grace, and decided to live selflessly, unconditionally loving others to the end of their days.

Consider their brains blown…

Even better…

They want in.

Yes, they want in. Who would choose to not be loved in such a way? What better thing is worth living for than a God that has come after us relentlessly with a love and grace that defies all human-logic? I wouldn’t. Would you?

In summation, I challenge every man and woman to consider their legacy; what will it be, how will you live it out, what are you willing to sacrifice to make it become a reality? If you consider yourself a disciple of Christ, then I strongly encourage you to join me in pursuing a legacy of unconditional love and to ‘live toward a better death’. If you do not yet consider yourself to be among the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters, then I challenge you to witness the love that authentic believers have for one another and total strangers, and then explore how they could possibly love to such a degree if God were not their real King and source of strength and grace? They couldn’t.

Shock and Awe

Dear Friends,

I’ve debated whether or not I should share a story with you, as I didn’t want to do so with wrong intentions, however I believe this could be beneficial to all of you to hear as you may be encouraged and find love and truth within it. Therefore, walk with me on a journey to the local Starbucks…

This weekend my brother traveled the 2 hours from KC to Manhattan and spent the weekend with me for my 22nd birthday! So, what do brothers do that haven’t had any deep conversations in a long time? Well, if they’re me and my bro, they grab a cup of coffee (or a Frappucino in J’s case; he can’t handle the manlier stuff yet, haha, just messin’), sit down at a table and dig into one another’s lives!

On that note, I must let all of you know that I’m blessed with brothers like Jordan (20) and Tyler (18) who love me as much as they do. It’s a huge responsibility to attempt to encourage and lead these men as they have entered adulthood. Growing up, I despised the extra responsibility of “being the leader” and “setting the example” as my mother would say. Now, I realize that it was a gift; something that the Lord has invested in me and is continually growing as I develop more in my faith. Which brings us back to Starbucks…

We walked in…and to our dismay…EVERY TABLE WAS TAKEN. Little did I know my childish frustration over such a temporal and futile thing would be replaced with a ridiculous amount of joy and sense of God’s power minutes later…

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an elderly gentlemen getting up from his table…my brother and I rushed to it as if we wouldn’t get to sit ever again in our lives if we didn’t plant out butts in the wooden chairs! As Jordan went up to the counter to order his favorite Java Chip Frappuccino…I felt a wave of guilt rush over me as I realized we had likely rudely taken the man’s table before he was through….

I stood up, apologized, and asked if he was finished. “Oh yeah, I was done. Sorry if I was in your way…” Now I felt bad, as he was obviously a sweet guy. “Well sir, I’m truly sorry…” I was attempting to complete my sentence and make a move back for the table where my brother was now waiting when I felt a nudge on my heart to continue talking. The Holy Spirit revealed to me the sadness in the 60-something year old’s eyes and instructed me to not ignore it.

The small talk ensued…”How are you?…”, “What do you think of this weather?…”, I gathered that his name was Eugene, he’d had better days, and that he worked for K-State as a custodian in Cardwell, etc. Now if you know me…you know that small talk doesn’t last long and I’m one to ask deeper questions, so out popped, “So you have family in town?”

This is where God takes over…

Eugene tells me that he divorced 30 years ago, has children but hasn’t seen them since, and is here by himself for the most part…Before I can figure out what to say to such heartbreaking news, he informs me that recently he’s been diagnosed with a type of cancer and that parts of his organs had to be removed that were cancerous, etc. Eugene was scared, alone, and quite frankly needed something…something he didn’t have. He needed love. He needs Jesus.

Me: “Wow man, I’m so sorry. That is a lot for a guy to go through by themselves. I will definitely be praying for you. Do you come here often? If so, the next time you see me stop by and let me know how you’re doing, even if I’m doing homework, etc…it can wait.”

Eugene: “I’m here on the weekends sometimes. It varies due to work and treatments but I’ll definitely say hi next time….Yes, please pray for me.”

*God whispers in my ear, “What are you doing? Don’t wait…he wants me now. Pray with him now.* (My thoughts were…”God are you sure?” “How about next time?” But something entirely different came out of my mouth…)

Me: “Would you mind if I prayed over you right now?”

Eugene grabbed my arm, pulled me into a corner of Starbucks and said, “Yes! Please pray for me right now.” This man was hungry; very hungry for God. Earlier he had told me that he’d taken to praying recently, even though he wasn’t ‘religious’, because he figured it couldn’t hurt. I told him he was right and placed my hand on his shoulder and proceeded to pray over him. I asked the Lord to bring healing into every aspect of Eugene’s life; not just the immediate physical needs, but also healing for his broken heart, and fractured relationships. Then, I asked God to reveal Himself to Eugene and that he’d realize the joy and overwhelming flood of unconditional love that could be found in Christ Jesus.

I looked up after praying and saw tears streaming down his cheeks…he was in a daze…shell-shocked. God had just sent a tidal-wave of love into this man’s life and he didn’t know what to do…staggering away, muttering, “thank you. thank you. I’ll see you again, I hope…” He was lost in his thoughts….and then, was out the door.

The Main Point:

How many times has God called me to do something similar and be bold in sharing the love of Christ with someone? Many!!! How many times have I been obedient? Very few. There is no greater adrenaline rush, no greater adventure or thrill, no greater challenge than stepping out in faith into something that you, yourself, are incapable of doing. Without the grace of God, I wouldn’t have been capable of taking the conversation to a spiritual level. In fact, that was ENTIRELY God’s doing. I just had to submit to His will in this situation and willingly share my faith…this time in the form of prayer. Hopefully next time, in the form of some sort of solid Gospel presentation. All of which can plant seeds to the transformation of one’s life into the image of Christ, that they may inherit the Kingdom of God and begin multiplying in number as well!!!

There are so many others that you and I see each day that are desperately hurting…desperately in need of unconditional love, peace, and the immeasurable grace that God has to offer them. We are His ambassadors. We are His servants. We are His people. Will we submit? Will we serve? Will we love?

Take courage family of Believers and remember Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Our God is WITH YOU wherever you go.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Be willing to shock others with the Good News; with the fact that God loves them deeply and desires a relationship with them! And then pray….pray fervently that they would come to stand in awe of their Savior and King, Jesus Christ!!!