Naked

“Who told you that you are naked?”

It was unnatural. The knowledge. Whatever it was that caused Adam and Eve to feel shame. Something beyond what they were designed to know.

That question speaks to the heart of God.

I can only imagine the sorrow overwhelming Him behind those tear filled eyes. The awful realization that His children have crossed into evil and it has educated them far more then He wished.

We’ve all experienced that, have we not? That feeling of sickness and gall.

The loss of innocence. This painfully sincere nostalgia wells up for a time when we did not know as much, we did not understand as much, we did not find ourselves bearing the weight of shame.

Be it when the first kiss bled into doing more then you ever had thought you would. Or the time that you just felt so much anger you walked away from a friendship. Realizing mom and dad are fighting and that isn’t normal. Shame. Pain. Loss of innocence.

We all lose innocence. Or the world rips it away from us. It matters not, at some point, the coldness of the world bleeds into the sunshiny skies of childhood youth.

Life seems so much simpler before the loss.

Monday I went to the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing fields.

My generation is too young to recall the time that Pol Pot murdered millions of the innocent people of Cambodia. Even if they had been alive, I don’t know if we’d understand.

Genocide.

In 1975 Pol Pot began rounding up thousands. Families, children, diplomats, intellectuals, political rivals. Anyone with a hint of education and unwillingness to commit atrocities bore the full brunt of the Khmer Rouge.

As I walked through the grim remains of S-21, a former high school, turned into a torture camp, vivid scenes from the past played in my mind.

The floors have seen more blood then most hospitals. The abuse, torture, and systematic elimination of thousands eerily hung in the air.

It was here that so many Cambodians were dragged to a dark room, chained to the floor, and tortured for months.
Unspeakable horrors committed to them. Children. Women. Men. Piles of clothing and dingy floors caked in stagnant blood.

How could the world watch this happen?

Eventually I saw one of the seven survivors, he sold paintings of the pain he experienced. Vivid paintings of his back being split open. Artistic showings of an agony few have ever know.

One painting stood out among them all. Tragic and haunting. It was of a woman getting her throat slit by soldiers.

His wife.

I was angry. I was heartbroken.

I was indignant.

I saw graffiti on the wall. Obscenities directed at God. People offended and angry at God for the randomly senseless violence.

Angry at Him for not stopping the hellish atrocities that happened in those dark cells.

In the end, God became the target of hate for so many. Bearing once more the brunt of wrath from His very own children and creation.

That snake. Crafty. Pisses me off how crafty he is to be frank.

Nobody ever blames the snake.

I often hear the argument that Adam was standing by Eve in the garden, and failed, a passive male destined to further spread his passivity down a line of descendants. This is of course, in defense of Eve, the original eater of the apple. I don’t know who is more at fault between them.

But nobody blames the snake.

My heart breaks for great grandpa Adam and great grandma Eve.

Child-like innocence ripped away. True fellowship with God lost. The coldness of life is made all the icier by the warmth we once experienced. They may’ve felt the deepest loss the universe has ever known. A fall from perfection, to death. Can we even imagine the introduction of shame? We know shame, we know hurt, but we grow up adapting to it. Imagine shame when you are perfect.

I looked at old photographs. Faces of children. Lost to genocide.

I went to the killing fields, where literally millions of people headed to death. Driven through the night, separated from family, stripped, and then bludgeoned to death. A tower of skulls rises up into the sky. When it rains, bones come up out of the soil.

It is unreal how much death occurred in those fields.

Deaths of excruciating pain. Bullets were too expensive back then, and to the Khmer regime, far more valuable than the cost of a decent death. Hammer, sickle, hatchet. Worst of all a tree sat growing amidst the graves, a tree dedicated to smashing infants against.

It is all so evil.

Unspeakable what happened here.

And inside I shuddered and just wondered…

Who taught you this?

Who told you how to do this???

How could someone made in the very image of God be so evil, so violent, so base and primal? How could injustice well up so intensely from these people as to murder the innocent? The children? There is something so beyond our design and nature. Something utterly dark and demonic about this. There is something unsettling and corrupt in all of us, a whispering snake that hisses behind the scenes and tells humanity to fall.

“Who told you that you are naked?”

Maybe no one told Adam and Eve. Maybe they figured it out themselves. That’s not really the point.

The fact is, God was getting at something deeper.

“Adam this isn’t you. Eve this isn’t the way it should be.”

I started to think of how lost we are. How deluded humanity is by this hellish creature and his host of demons.

As I left the Killing Fields. I was angry at Satan. I was angry that he marred the name of my God, that my God had to come down and wear all of our sin. I began to think about it, how unnatural all this is. People don’t just kill. They were taught to kill. John 8:44 refers to Satan as the father of lies, the murderer from the beginning. Since the dawn of time his whispering into our ears has caused so many people to neglect the image of God in us. To neglect our very nature. To cling to sin and evil.

I started to think about how much that must have hurt God. He had to bear the wrath for the justice of this. He had to feel the hot anger of God over this darkness.

Then it all came full circle.

http://presonphillips.bandcamp.com/track/there-is-a-god
(Listen to the song there)

Jesus came to this earth and walked among us. He felt real pain and sweat. He was indignant at death, watching people whom He created and loves lose innocence. Seeing the decay and stench of charnel houses on this Earth. He came clothed in humility yet filled with majesty.

All around Him stood people living out evil. It’s simple really. The snake tricked us. And we still live out his lies.

How often He must have looked upon the very image of God in someone, only to ask Himself, “Who taught you this? Why are you so far removed from who I created you to be? Who told you that you are naked? I remember when I wove your heart in the depths of the earth and placed wonder and awe into it. Now it is cold, dark, hateful, grim. Oh beloved! How did you get so far away from who you really are?”

And so we crucified Him.

We dragged Him to a hill and stripped Him down. And instead of fighting us, instead of pressing back with the force of a God. He humbly submitted.

And clothed Himself with our shame.

This, this is where the entire world is turned upside down. Where we shake and shudder at encountering a living God.

God Himself, decided to pay for this. For our genocide. For our corruption. Behind that simple question in the garden, thousands of years ago, God knew the cost of that apple. He knew it would cost Him everything. That He would bear more pain than we can imagine.

He would go from being fully innocent to covered in the shame and wrath of the worlds sins. Rejected by the whole of His very creation. Mocked and spit upon by those He came to save. Genocide was paid for on the cross. And I can only ache inside and fill with wonder at what great depth of suffering that would be to endure all of that.

In His humanity. He didn’t go to the cross with the fullness of God, He went emptied of it, to bear the brunt of the wrath of God.

We who once stood as kings and queens of promise find ourselves on this dusty earth, aching for just a little bit of value. The eternal glory robbed from us by the deceiver.

Sometimes people get mad at God. But is not He the most innocent of all of us? Isn’t He the one who had His creation spoiled? And then paid the most awful of prices to buy back what He rightly deserved?

I think we often wrestle with the question of “Why is there evil in the world?” and misunderstand that we are not designed for this. It is so unnatural. Something happened and messed us all up. We know that. Our flesh longs for rest, our dimly lit mirror longs for full vision.

So here I am, laboring with my friends to change this world. One child at a time. Yesterday we walked through villages and prayed for the sick, taught children the bible and English, and showed love to the outcast. Where so many people have failed to be the image of God on Earth, we are learning to finally look a little bit like Him to other people. I am learning to walk once again in innocence and find joy in life. Joy where I once felt so robbed.

Maybe you need to apologize to God, to say sorry for how you blame Him instead of the snake. Maybe you need to forgive yourself, for beloved of God, this was not your design. You never should’ve felt that shame. That hurt. That loss of innocence. Maybe you need to be more like His image on earth.

All I know is that I don’t want to be unclothed anymore. I want to be clothed in Christ.

(The scandal of Grace is astounding to me)

(This song gets me pumped, to change the world)

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Pruning my Identity

“They make you shave?”

I looked back a little embarrassed, unsure of how I could defend this position.

“Uh yeah, I have to shave.”

“You are an adult. What harm is there in facial hair?”

And to be honest I really didn’t have an answer.

………..

This blog is about beards.

Yes. Beards, the furry things that grow on people if they produce testosterone and are not prone to a clean and smooth sleek face. Even girls can grow beards. This has happened before. I think that is terrifying. You can probably find a cheap Red Box movie on the concept or a Sci-Fi channel original if you look hard enough.

Ocean – Hillsong United

I’ll just say it.

My beard is a huge part of my identity.

I know. That’s a little weird, maybe even crazy. I noticed it years ago when after shaving I stopped looking in the mirror for a couple weeks. I showered less. I just lost a sense of who I was because for some reason, I found my identity in the beard. I mean you’d think I had an emotional crisis or a traumatic event. I wasn’t upset, I just found… I didn’t feel like taking care of who I was mattered anymore when the ol’ facial hair had been pruned.

To be honest I guess I don’t always like the face God gave me. Ironically he gave me a face with a beard so that argument for identity does stand on unsteady ground. I mean my face does naturally grow a covering for it. Yet, that would mean one day I’ll have to fall in love with the baldness that God also is gifting me with.

(FYI: I’m not actually going bald, my hair is slowly ascending to heaven in a progressive rapture. Some days I almost hear the wind whisper, “Jacob’s hair dwelt on Earth 25 years and then it walked with God.”)

I wondered for a long time. Why does shaving mess me up so bad? I mean life goes on. I’m not like “Wrecked” or anything after shaving. I just know that for some reason my facial hair holds a huge part in my identity. In who I really think I am…

And it shocked me. It did. I never was one to wake up and primp and croon in the mirror singing, “Jacob how you get so fly, said Jacob how you get so flyyyyyy-e-aiiii.” Why would a beard matter to me? I was perplexed.

Until I started thinking about how it’s really not unique. I mean, maybe the beard part, but losing our identity the moment we lose something we like or value? That’s not unique.

We all do the same thing in many ways. Girls wear makeup and often focus on hair and clothes.

It’s not uncommon for me to inevitably hear from a girl “Tomorrow I won’t be wearing makeup when I look up. It’s not pretty. I look like a train wreck. Prepare for the accident. PREPARE!”

Admittedly if she did look like a train wreck I’d probably be more inclined to stare. Rubbernecking as they say, most accidents don’t turn away viewers anymore.

Yet more often then not, they are gorgeous and just trying to justify something that doesn’t need to be justified.

Is makeup really that important? Does not the beauty of the image of God stand on its own? Yet we are prone to try and change it so much. Some of us try to change the image of God until we get surgery and a new identity.

We wear things that say, “I’m a hipster. I’m a Rock-A-Billy. I’m artsy. I play sports. I love the Gators. I hate injustice. I’m smart. I’m dumb.”

We dress and put our hair into complex artistic patterns. Most men just wake up and shower and junk. But as a society we’ve shifted from trim hair to extreme hair, the punk rock scene with hair-straighteners and mad splashes of color. An insane pinterest of fashion and ideas being played out just to belong.

Ride a motorcycle? Leather jacket. Use a skateboard? Vans and skinny jeans. Play video games? Thinkgeek.com. Travel and do Missions work? Facebook profile shot with an orphan or an African on you as you grin.

These are tangible things. Sometimes identity is in the back-patting a pastor receives after knocking a sermon out of the park. Sometimes it is in being told a talent such as singing is good and unique. Sometimes just being told we have value and worth is a part of our identity. Sometimes even pain holds us and says…

I am you. I am all you ever will be.

It’s amazing to me though, the different things we place identity in.

This is NOT an American trait too. It’s a human trait. All cultures have had a mingling and desire for affirmation, to look respected or beautiful, to be different and unique, or to be the same and non-conformist.

They’ve all searched and adventured and experimented to find a place, a definition of style and beauty. From tribal people with tattoos and piercings to teenagers with tattoos and piercings.

The whole sum of us is bursting with a desire to make and create. We are after all made in the image of God. Just open your eyes and look out the window for five minutes. Birds, cars, rain, trees. Our universe is GORGEOUS. Artistic. This is because our God is that way and then… He made us in his image. We should expect to be overwhelmingly passionate about creation. From art to style, it is within us to explore new creative depths.

Look at the universe, the stars, the mountains, humanity. Everyone so unique and so different. It’s strange how we are hardwired to look for and search for our identity in things that make us different or set apart.

Yet it sets in slowly. An obsession to make that creative art measure up to some unknown standard. To be the best. Sometimes to best what God has declared good. To sing on American Idol. To speak in front of millions. These overwhelming urges for affirmation and purpose start to come from flawed broken sources. Cursed frail humans, images of God that are marred with sin. So then we cling to what can most easily define us. The affirmation we can seek. Some find identity in failure, sin, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, success, riches. Then…

We cling to that. It’s who we are. It’s what we think we need to live and breath and survive.

And when that identity gets messed with. We flip. Like silverback gorillas around poachers. We violently clench our teeth and get fierce. We feel as if our very humanity is assaulted. As if someone painted over our already used and beloved canvas.

Caution – Sons of God

Ouch.

“You will not tell me who I am. You will not change what I am.”

I look at the things that we believe define us and think, “Is that really a secure identity at all?”

Is that really who we are?

Is it fair to place identity in hair if male pattern baldness, cancer, or a knife can deftly take it away? Even so for the Christian we will one day have new bodies. Is it fair to put that weight upon fragile uncontrollable biological forces?

On fashion that changes so much that sources of pride in 1990’s clothing now seem trite embarrassments. More than once have I worn something only to find years later I didn’t like it anymore. I had gone from loving what I wore to being actually ashamed.

This summer I work at a camp I love. I adore the place. And when I first worked here years ago the rules were a little stricter than these days and a little confusing to someone from the non-conservative West Coast culture. A.K.A. In Seattle people paint themselves blue and ride naked on bicycles through the streets every year. It’s not a land of strict standards by any means.

So I was a little shocked years ago to see the South and the different ways that people lived. Back then I didn’t really have long hair, a long beard, or care too much about how I dressed. Folding into a system with standards and rules was very easy. I had to shave since I was fifteen and I worked for a police station.

Yet as the years have gone on I’ve found myself liking certain things. Be it tattoos and beards or just lumberjack shirts. And I am cooler than James Dean in Lambda Lambda Lambda. Maybe you won’t get that unless you were born in the 1970’s.

I have developed an identity and more independence. I have become more of who I believe I am.

Independence. I really have always loved that one.

For this place to run though, sometimes we are asked to lay down a little bit our independence. To adhere to a stricter life-style and be a great testimony. I honestly believe this to be an incredible opportunity to unite as a body of Christ. To partner together and say that Jesus is valuable enough for us to give up anything.

What is funny to me is that living by standards…

This one thing upsets people almost more than anything else I know.

I have heard people rattle off angrily about having to shave. I have heard people frustrated over having to wear clothing that may be less revealing. Not drinking. Not smoking.

Little things like that make people fiercely opposed to a place that faithfully shares the gospel day after day and has a ton of life change. And that’s… sad.

To miss that because of something as silly as my own self-reliant nature of loving individuality.

“You make me shave, therefore I am angry.”

That view is so shortsighted!

Why aren’t we angry at the pornography industry? Why aren’t we angry at the drugs sold on street corners? Why do we laugh at films that demean woman, marriage, and godly standards? Why aren’t we upset at all these other vices and problems?

Yet when a God-Honoring group of people rises up and commits to living out a lifestyle of love and sacrifice they get the most flack from the very brothers who are supposed to stand with them?

I’m not saying we need more legalism. I declare war on it often, I watch horror movies, and get a lot of trouble for making too many jokes. But we need to honestly evaluate…

Who are we even fighting anymore? When we attack our brothers does it help anything? Isn’t the gospel the unifying factor? Didn’t Paul become all things to all men? Didn’t Paul change his hair and dress and even diet to bring people to Christ?

I think people feel as if rules are a “Judgment on spirituality.”

Nope. That’s all wrong. How we follow them can be though. Not always too. Life isn’t about rules. But we have to live by principles. Sometimes people don’t get that. But that’s on them, right?

Join the military and you have to shave and wear special clothing. You get a new identity with a military branch.

Join the police. Same thing.

Politics. Law. Science. All the things we do come with clothing and rules and parts of our identity. Yet for some reason when I talk to people its accepted everywhere else, but if a group of Christians all agree to abide by certain standards it’s like Satan decided to have a revival crusade and punched a baby.

Mixing the spiritual with standards and rules for some is a place of past hurt and shame and I can understand why some get frustrated. There is truth to that. There really is. I grew up with less rules than many. I needed them to grow. Every case is different.

Identity Lecrae

Should we not consider ourselves blessed and lucky? I can get an education, I want not for food. In most cultures for thousands of years life wasn’t about identity. It was about survival! Drafted into the military. Dragged to different countries. Some live as slaves. Even in Taiwan, every person had mandatory military time which including shaving the head and giving up time with the high school sweetheart.

I am so blessed to be part of anything in life more than survival. To thrive and watch souls get saved and changed.

I love the perspective of a good man I met recently, Barry Russell, he leads a church with his brother in Titusville called the grove. They are pro-beard and that is glorious. But he was talking about his days in college and how he had rules and needed to abide by them at Bible College. Some people would and some wouldn’t. Yet Barry decided to seriously strive to fit the dress code, to do what was asked and then he dropped one of those wisdom bombs…

“How could I ever expect to be a Pastor of a church if I can’t even follow the little rules and requirements of a college?”

Barry was practicing discipline when he was at Bible College. That’s a man who has a perspective on why we do funny things like wear dress shirts and shave sometimes.
I can flip-flop sometimes and struggle in following rules. I’m a rebel at heart. I need to practice self-discipline like Peter said. I need to actually practice it. Maybe some people are born able to look at a calendar and wear a tie. Me though? I literally have to wake up and act like I’m training for the Olympics. Taking my calendar seriously is an act of endurance. Taking schedules as more than ideas is similar to sprinting during a marathon to me. It’s exhausting and I struggle to grasp how practical it is. I struggle to think I will ever do well, let alone finish. That’s who I am. I need to practice that.

Sometimes we don’t practice discipline. We practice angry inner rebellion and frustration.

I’m guilty of wasting many a good moment in life over something so temporary and fragile as hair or curfew instead of seeing the beautiful way God is moving and running with these people. Instead of seeing how tons of lives walk away from camp and everything changed. I’m guilty of being a source of grief some days instead of rest for people because I was bitter and angry at rules. I really had to learn to get past that. To get over myself.

So today I had to shave my precious facial hair.

It all boils down to this.

Who I am is not what my hair says. The brand of my shoes. Nor whether or not I can or am allowed to drain a cold one.

Who I am is found in Christ, a man who was fully God and came and died to pay for our evil, rose afterwards and then declared me not only forgiven. But a Son of God. A child of the Lord. He declared me righteous. Justified. He likes me. Loves me. And earnestly desires me. He wants me to grow though and part of that is practicing a life of self-discipline. Learning to grow-up. Learning to find hope and joy and see the good things in life.

I mean really is the image of the eternal God placed on your life and the declaration that you are His child enough for you? Is that identity cool enough? One that transcends so much. Nothing can change the image of God in us even if we try. Isn’t that a beautiful enough place to find worth and value and strength in? That God has declared that He adores and loves us? Can you believe that?

How He Loves Us – David Crowder

I mean shaving is a small thing. It really is.

Don’t minimize my pain though, my beard is fierce. Make fun of it and I will scratch you. With my beard. It’s sandpapery.

What harm is there in beards? Nothing. But… there is so much harm in being unable to submit and change. So much harm in idolizing my individuality when I may need to sacrifice it for the kingdom of God. Making idols out of the most stupid and simple things. Making entitlement our god.

It really is so small compared to the great glorious things I see in joining alongside other Christians. So I joyfully am submitting to many different things today and for the rest of my life in order to see God work. Submission can be a beautiful thing.

Maybe you’re angry at rules. At a job. Maybe you have lost your identity and don’t know who you are anymore. Rest in Jesus. Rest in His love and affirmation. That someone would love us enough to let us be children of God. There is so much joy and wonder to life. Don’t miss it.

I’m so stoked for this summer and rejoice knowing I can step in unity with other brothers who have an identity so much deeper than what we wear or how we look. I am so excited to go on the Race next year and fight my notions of entitlement. To cleanse myself from selfish ambition. To practice self-discipline. To come back different.

SovereignChris Tomlin

Why the good ARE dying young

I heard of another “Moral Failure.”

The inevitable surge of rumors welled up into a cacophony of accusations. A hero of the faith that I looked up too was seen last entering rehab. As Facebook, twitter, and social media screamed of another broken life. Another fallen warrior. I stood stunned. This wasn’t the first. This wasn’t the second. I’ve lost count at this point. Brothers who had stood with me deep in the trenches, men who for years I looked up at, people of God who seemed out of my league…

They’ve fallen. One by one they had fallen. My stomach filled with gall at every lost soul. Would I be next? If these men of God couldn’t make it could I EVER hope to maintain a life honoring God in such an overwhelming culture of apathy and darkness? If first world problems and American life could kill the soul of men who seemed so tall do I have any hope against the onslaught of this world? With the great testing of my faith being proctored in a life of luxury and health, could I ever hope to stand?

This Is HomeJon Foreman

I mean… I looked up to these people so much.

When I get to heaven I fear the only one who will greet me is the Box Turtle I sharpied the gospel on in Florida while thousands cheer for these men and the wonderful way they changed lives. The turtle is named Sebastian Herbacious Clump by the way.

#AnimalfelonyFTW!

As the numbers piled higher and higher I began to see symptoms. Similarities.

“He left to live back home and work a job while he paid off school debt. Old friends, old habits.”

“She decided to pursue a degree and fell in with the wrong crowd.”

“He couldn’t get back into church.”

“He tried to save his family.”

“He just took a year off to work a job and live a normal life.”

Slowly it dawned on me.

This was deeper than chance. Crueler than fate. Too planned. Too common.

There has to be a cause. A reason for Satan to be absolutely devouring these warriors of the faith. So I hit the books. I studied and studied and read and read and came upon a book that illuminates Jewish Culture.

I felt consumed with a madness to know. If this was any other century I would be grizzled and cold, greeting each dawn with dusty tomes and falling asleep after hours of research.

I liken it to Gandalf wondering why the heck that whole ring thing was important at all. Locks himself in a tower. I uh, did the same.

Through my research I came to this startling conclusion. I found the missing ingredient. I found the golden ticket.

I began to see what was missing in our church, our lives, our day and age. An ancient concept that was relied upon for years but destroyed by our westernized ideals of independent thinking.

Community…

Jewish people thought that we met God in the home with other believers. We met God in community. We prayed in such a way that sometimes you only prayed in groups of ten or more men. The culture was so obsessed with community, synagogue was the local coffee shop, and instead of watching the Bachelor people went and studied Jesus together. Rarely did they live alone. They always thought about the group. The family. The town. The city. The nation.

The good that died young…

All these men and woman… these heroes of the faith… they came from intense community.

A place where everybody everyday was up in each other’s business.

A place where you couldn’t crop dust an elevator without hearing about it later from some random acquaintance. The most common complaint was gossip. Which usually meant “Bob told us he masturbates last week and then Steve found out and told him he is a pervert.” or “Jenny likes Will! I knew it! I called it! They’ll be so cute together!”

FYI for those who don’t know, exposing feelings of other people without them knowing is usually not a good idea if they are introverts.

People got pissed off at the concept of having no privacy. At having the more intimate American boundaries being exposed. Yet…

How freaking refreshing to have the worst thing people do to us for once in our life be gossip and petty crimes. There were very few deep trauma knife in the back “I just did cocaine and derailed my life for the third time, hurting everyone I know and love, again.” moments. I didn’t ever come home to a snide remark and anger. It was never a “Beat our chest and just discourage each other” group.

Instead I heard my name yelled. First and last. Because you do that with some people. And they would hug me and say it’s so good to see me. Community was coated in love and so different from much of the life we know in America.

America hates community. They really do.

Tell me, do you know your neighbors? No? Wait, yes?

Then you probably live on a farm in the Midwest or have been in the same place for thirty years if you can name everyone on the whole block. Otherwise…

I exit the door to my house and might as well be in any other unfamiliar land.

Sometimes I see my neighbor. I sigh and think “Man, we’re going to have to talk about something shallow and pretend we care while secretly feeling guilty for not having a deeper relationship again.”

I don’t think I even know his name. I do know his daughter is a Bronie. She has a my little Pony tent.

We live in the most bizarre moment in human history I can really think of.

Praying For YouLecrae

That is saying a lot.

I mean we have any flavor of crazy, from “Khali Ma pull the heart out” Mayans to “worship cat gods” Egypt.

The Facebook groups must have been weird back then.

Those are bizarre. I mean, they don’t make sense to us. Yet, when in human history has life been near constant communication without any community? Family is a mere inconvenience instead of a priority to many people.

We no longer work to survive. We work to live. We no longer are bound to a nation and a community. We are independent. Our own gods and kings. Told we can be anything and save the world.

How many of us will rise up towards the sun on wax wings only to burn out and plummet towards a much colder grave? A generation of lonely Icarus, we leave the only thing that will help us rise, each other.

Proverbs 18… the Whole chapter kicks my independence in the teeth.

Proverbs 18:1 A Man who isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Ok so sometimes studies say dumb things like “No one reads more than 7 italicized words.” If that’s you go back. Then for penance, crack open the bible.

Drop the iPhone. You need paper.

Crack open the bible and read Proverbs 18. Powerful. Because it’s the word of God. We need this stuff. It’s full of anti-oughtasins.

Sorry, sometimes I think I’m witty.

I went through a dark night of the soul a couple months ago when I heard my heroes being murdered in the faith. It was as if they were systematically being hunted down and slain. I realized I was close to that too. I was so isolated.

So this book on Judaism started to tell me about old school synagogues. How Jewish people were such a group culture. I’mma get to that someday, you are possibly bored already and if you have read this far, good for you. They tell me not to write more than 500 words for this twitter suckling generation.

Can’t do that. I refuse to coddle illiteracy.

All I want to say is I KNOW why the good are dying young.

I grew up thinking that my christianity was about me being a “Good enough” christian to bring something to the table.

I needed to read my bible, memorize a verse, kiss a baby, hug a stranger, give some money to a down on his luck guy in a parking lot.

Since they are always in parking lots at 2 A.M. and obviously giving money to someone who managed to get stuck in the wrong town and is smoking is a wise decision. I’m SURE he won’t use it facilitate bad habits.

Then, if I hadn’t struggled with purity that day and was good enough I could bring something to the church. I would volunteer for every position. I could volunteer for prayer if I had been good enough. God would bless me if I was nice. And the Holy Spirit would slowly warm up to me until the next time I grieved Him. Then, we would restart the cycle.

I found myself failing.

Not normal failing. I’m talking about… the last time I cracked open a bible was long enough to be ashamed. The last time I felt God was so long ago that I should probably ask myself if I’m in this thing for real. The last time I wanted to know Jesus deeper was so long ago it was like pulling duct tape off my hairy chest to think of Him.

No need to know why I taped my chest.

Seriously though, I fell into this stupid western theological mind-set that is KILLING our generation. You know why I failed?

I didn’t have community. The answer is in the bible. Paul was obsessed with it. He kept talking about how some dudes an eyeball, the other is a foot, and I’m sure someone is a nebulous trash chute. I’ve met them before.

We all have a role in the body of Christ. If the cliche’ meter is beeping right now, bear with me. If you don’t, well your loss. I mean this is good stuff right now. It can pretty much get you out of the metaphorical burn out place that we can get to sometimes.

I always come back to this thought about my bible. It is the crux of my faith yet to get me to open it is so hard. I know it really well but even the first week after bible college I didn’t touch the guy. I LOVE the bible. If it was cookie dough, I’d be all up on it. I love the bible more then cookie dough though. So it throws my mind for a loop why I can’t open it up.

Then I realized…

Maybe, as heretical as this might sound to the KJV only crowd… it’s not in my design. Maybe I will never wake up in the morning and just grin like an idiot saying “The book of John is my bowl of cereal and I am going to devour it!”

But I have a friend. He is like that. I can’t spend more then three minutes around him without being shotgunned in the face with scripture and the book of John. After I talk to him too… for a brief time… I love reading my bible. I naturally start to open it up. I wake up and do a quiet time. And the bible starts becoming a joy to me. Yet when I stop being with that friend, eventually like glow in the dark stars, my glow fades. I lose the source of light.

Why is he so important? He’s an exhorter. Straight up. The Holy Spirit is in this dude and makes him just word vomit spiritual things and encouragement that pierces the soul. I, I am one of those discerning mystical guys who is like…

“Hey this is crazy, and I just met you, but you are addicted to failure, sexually abused as a child, and love unicorns. If you need help, call me maybe?”

Discerning spirit. I can’t explain it.

Others can serve so well. Some can do many things. But few if ANY can do ALL things.

So then I went back to this verse, the one that men here at every bible study about temptation but usually only memorize half of…

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man, but the whole spirit will make a way out of it so that you may bear up under the pressure.

That’s kind of paraphrased from memory. So look it up if need be.

If I jump off a cliff… there is probably not a way out. Let’s be honest. I don’t die when I hit the ground. I die the moment I choose to jump. The cliff is just the journey to that death.

Cry Out To Jesus – Third Day 

That verse is hard to understand because sometimes sin isn’t a point, it’s a pathway. I looked back and had this palm in my face epiphany in Taiwan…

The moment I fail to live in community. I have failed the first step to living a good christian life and have already resigned myself to failure.

Let me say that again. Because I have a copy and paste function when I type and it’s easy to use.

The moment I fail to live in community. I have failed the first step to living a good christian life and have already resigned myself to failure.

Maybe that’s an uncomfortable thought. To be fair it is not even iron clad. Some punk will probably private message me and try to shoot holes in it. He better live in community though. Otherwise he is just being a punk.

I will say this though… we need other people.

We need friends to keep us from being lonely, we need others to exhort us to read the bible, we need servants to help us, we need givers to bless us. Stop being prideful and thinking you can be all of those things.

Seriously. If you are struggling… maybe you aren’t good enough. Maybe you can’t overcome all of your sin.

Until you humble yourself and say… I’m isolated.

My life drastically changed the day I stopped saying “I need to be good enough to do everything,” and I said “I need to surround myself with a beautiful group of believers who will amplify, exhort, and empower me to just adore Jesus.”

I stopped looking for books on discipline and purity. I started looking for godly men who just make me feel like Jesus is in the room. I stopped looking for strategies to be the most effective. I started hanging out with administratively gifted people and found they actually help me like calendars. Doing things alone isn’t bad. But doing everything alone is.

I used to believe to experience God I should go into the woods and get alone. Now I think to experience God I should get close to people who have the same spirit in them. Goodness knows they are more interesting then trees.

It’s time we stop idolizing missionaries who run into jungles, drag the wife through hell, and destroy themselves through lacking community but do something “Crazy” for God. It’s time we stop idolizing monks in monasteries who know how to really live alone and in silence. I have so much to say about the power of others, the love and truth, and beauty that knowing community brings. I’ll share the Jewish roots someday for why I believe this, but for the subject at hand.

The good are dying young because we believe our privacy is more important than our intimacy. We have shallow friendships with the people who share the most in common with us. We don’t connect and look for ways to build teamwork and community. We instead get on Facebook, do Sunday and Wednesday, and ask ourselves why we fail…

Maybe we fail because 40-60 hours a week we are at a secular job, school, or whatnot. The rest of the time we watch Dr. Who and do random things. And maybe 4 hours a week we are surrounded by other believers. Maybe that’s it.

Maybe pouring a bunch of mud into a big pot of stew will eventually turn it from stew into mud with a little bit of stew mixed in.

How much salt and freshwater can co-exist before one is ultimately the prevailing factor?

Middle of JuneNoah Gundersen

Maybe pouring the world and all it’s assaulting evil filth into our lives for the sake of whatever is replacing our Jesus so slowly that we wake up and realize one day… I am more world then Jesus. I used to be the other way around.

So what we need? To call up a friend and say, “Help me.”

To start that conversation with the roommate that should be happening but doesn’t.

To seek christians that help us and grow us. The body of Christ is for ministering to each other. Not just the world. We need it.We desperately need it.

So many good men and woman run off like Rambo to change the world and die inside. Instead of becoming a city on a hill they become a torch in a cave, destined to burn out.

I’ve seen a lot of good men and women fall. I’ve been heart-broken. I’ve been near it myself. It humbles me to realize I cannot isolate myself.

So Oswald Chambers once said, a quote. I’ll paraphrase. I hate citing sources. Oswald is lucky enough he got his name here. He said if God ever moves us, by blood or by ink, write the movement in action.

Pretty much, if you hear a sermon and think “Yeah, yeah! That’s it!”

Do more. Don’t just think. Do. If just writing it down is what you do or taking an action… seal it. Make that feeling of connection matter. Live it out.

This world, brother and sister, wants to immolate you. Destroy you. It will take everything you have. It will try to steal your hope, your joy, your peace. It will tell the young girl she is not beautiful, the old man he is a useless drain on society, the lonely that he is a reproach. IT is a tough, sick, hard world. It will wound us.

We cannot ask for it to stop hurting us. This is war. It is brutal and ugly. It is vile. When the bullets won’t stop firing and we are stuck in war, we need not peace.

It’s foolish to ask for that. No we need the strength to get through this world and this time. We need the encouragement to fight for life and righteousness.

Jesus is here. But Jesus wants us to work together. He wants us to just drop our silly walls and share every filthy detail of life. He wants us to be annoyed at lacking privacy far before we are content in isolation. To live in homes together, share meals, and dare I say, talk about more then the trivial.

He wants us to love each other so much that we cry when we are apart.

Friendships so intense, so real, that leaving them is tantamount to divorce of the heart.

Do you love community? do you miss it when you are gone? Are you desperate for the friends you see on Sunday and Wednesday and hopefully more than that? I’m so blessed by a good community in Seattle, Dallas, Florida, New York, Taiwan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania. I shudder to think of life without them.

Hopefully you are finding it too. If not, pursue it, make it, BUILD IT!

Honest SongsNoah Gundersen

Those next two songs are like… rock songs. I just like the lyrics. Stick to Noah if you like acoustic. But look em up if you like that jones.

Paperthin HymnsAnberlin

“These thoughts run through my head
Over and over
Complaints of violins become my only friends

August evenings
Bring solemn warnings
To remember to kiss the ones you love goodnight

You never know what temporal days may bring
Laugh, love, live free and sing
When life is in discord
Praise ye the lord

Who’s gonna call on Sunday morning?
Who’s gonna drive you home?
I just want one more chance
To put my arms in fragile hands”

GodspeedAnberlin

Holy -ship! Batman!

About five years ago I stood in an auditorium hall preparing for a part in a play. I was to play a mock-write up of one of those demons from the Screwtape Letters. As I prepared and practiced my lines the assistant drama coach came up to me and said something shocking…

“Jacob, lift your shoulders up. You are worthy of walking with your shoulders tall.”

I immediately burst into tears.

Well not really. I was too walled up to let my tears immediately burst out.

Instead those words slugged me in the gut like Mike Tyson with roid rage. I was hit. Deep.

Inside I was sobbing.

Embracing AccusationsShane and Shane

(This song is so powerful, especially at the end)

Nobody had ever called me worthy.

My face got warm, reddening as my eyes burned and I did one of those slurpy gulp noises we make when we try to hang onto any shred of dignity possible during emotional facial purges.

It doesn’t work.

Then tears finally began to break free. Screaming, jumping, and clawing down my face towards the earth.

Why would something as silly as calling me worthy of not walking like I’m shattered cut me so deep?

I think in our culture this is hitting upon something widespread. Something bigger.

Why is it that some of the greatest artists feel they merely create bland amateur work? Why is it the kindest soul is afraid to be bold enough to show his love? Why is it that so many of us walk around with our heads down, our hearts sunken, and our collective gifts and abilities hidden?

Should we not expect it? Life is brutal. It is war. Bullets firing left and right at our very souls. The enemy seeks to not only destroy us but shatter our confidence. The wounds are too calculated. The words too cutting.

Think about all of our modern singing television shows where hundreds of people who love to sing stand in front of judges and are told frankly that they sound “Awful” or aren’t “Good enough.” And I’m not talking about the collective pampering of the soul here either, people can be good or bad at something. Yet we challenge authentic ability with cultural standards and values in something as subjective as music.

We demand more than good in our society, we demand perfection. People who really love something, little girls who spin, twirl, and sing… are told that they are awful. That they are born unable to perform well. Stinging wounds from school yard bullies and lethargic fathers have peppered our generation with deep-seated self-loathing.

Through years of trauma and abuse the enemy convinces us that our very strengths are weakness. Eventually the bard stops singing. The artist stops painting. The joyful stop living. We begin to believe our hearts to be an awful thing. A totally corrupted piece of rubbish. A trash heap of badness that Oscar the Grouch would not dare to nest in.

Worse yet this AWFUL doctrine of anything aesthetic or enjoyable being driven by sin or pride had woven its way into my life. I felt if admitted I was good at anything it was pride so I had to beat myself up about the natural gifts and talents God had given me. Conversations speckled with religious talk would often shut me down.

“Do you like acting?”

“Yeah, I’m actually pretty good at it.”

“Only God is good bro, stop being prideful.”

I make a pretty decent stage Jew...

I make a pretty decent stage Jew…

I began to see any form of “Self-love” as prideful arrogance. Words like “Love your neighbor as yourself.” always rung hollow in my ears because I could not for the life of me fathom why I should love anyone the way I love myself. Yet for some reason I never caught onto the contradiction.

We associate our sinful nature with a general deserved punishment on this earth. Moments of injustice towards us from broken people are seen not as evil but as moments of justice deserved towards another dirty filthy human being. Never are we told God is angry at this hurt. He is indignant. That it not only breaks His heart but He sees it as wrong.

I began to see wounds inflicted upon me as deserved. It never occurred to me God was angry at what people did to me. That the injustice I had experienced was seen as unjust in His eyes too. That He sat there watching the dark moments in my life knowing it hurt me, wanting me desperately to know His love.

No apathy, No “You deserve this Jake.” Rather even in the heart of my own injustice He still saw the wounds inflicted on me as dead wrong.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus

I was so decimated by the accumulated accusations of Satan that by the time someone told me I had any worth or value at all I wept.

I just wept.

The very notion that I was not dirt in the eyes of another human being could move me to tears. That I had any value or worth was mind-blowing and shocking to me.

The sad part is… I know I’m not alone.

I know some us are walking around with our heads down, tail between our legs, captive to the war this world has waged for our souls.

What makes this so upsetting to me is that it is NOT how God sees us. It is a lie that has been fed to us through life again and again.

Some of us need a healthy dose of sonship or daughter-ship for that matter. I honestly didn’t live out my place as a child of God until way after that sad moment in the theater.

This last year I was struck by an incredibly deep wound by the people closest to me when I needed most of all someone to come alongside me and be a faithful rock.

The lies I was told through this wound were unbelievable. Just absolutely destructive.

“God is fiercely committed to you, to the restoration and release of your masculine [Or Feminine] heart. But a wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you’ve embraced is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you think you deserved is a wound that cannot heal.” -Eldredge, John

We begin to believe these lies. We begin to think “I deserved all the hurt and lies that happened.”

It was then that I began to study the heart, depravity, how does God see us? I began to look for answers because I couldn’t fathom how I could feel so terrible about my very existence and yet worship such a loving, powerful, wonderful God.

I honestly came away shocked. I started to see that in the bible we are made in the image of God. The very picture of who God is resides in everyone of the people on earth. Yet still those who have accepted Him have become sons and daughters. Sons and daughters!

Holy -ship! Batman.

Sonship gets me excited.

Sonship gets me excited.

Sonship… Daughtership…

How He Loves – David Crowder

(This is a good song to close your eyes and listen too)

We have in us the very same spirit of God. That same God who created the whole universe, stars, the sky, omelets, cats, everything. A God who stoops down to see the universe because He is so beyond it that He has to humble Himself just to see the very galaxy we reside in.

This is the very same God who created us. Then when we became believers He adopted us and put the very same spirit into us.

I always knew those funky scriptures that talked about our birth. Psalm 139 talks about us being formed and woven in the womb by God. Him intimately knowing our heart, organs, soul, fingers. It states that we are no mere accident. We are not lacking. That God crafted us and called us good.

Not only does God see the inherent value of us, He sees the redeemed value. When we look at ourselves with nasty hateful eyes, we are not being faithful to believe what God has said about us. That He loves us. We are saying “God, your wrong, I should be condemned.”

It’s time we stopped as a church putting ourselves through our own purgatory. That has been paid for.

He more than loves us. God likes us!

Corinthians says that we are now a new creation in Christ. We have good hearts. Good hearts!

Think about that? Do you believe your heart to be good? Is it true? Even possible… that through Christ your very heart is good? I wept when I read that. The thought that God would take this wicked sinner. This wretched being and then choose to cover me in love. Wash me clean. Then create in me a new man.

So often we live out that old man. The problem is God the father no longer sees us as that old man!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

You are Loved – Building 429

We did not receive a spirit of slavery. We received one of freedom.

We received a love from God that says “You know that beautiful voice you are afraid to sing with? I created that, I LOVE IT!”

We received a love from God that says “You know how you have always felt like your body was flawed? That’s not true! It is such a wonderful creation of mine! It is unique, precious, a glorious!”

We received a love from God that says “I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, My child.”

A love that grabs us tight, holds us close, whispers into our ears that we are a creation of God. That you are lovely, wonderful, beyond just another human. You are a child of God.

He doesn’t have to sift through dirt and filth to see our good because He through the redemptive blood of Christ no longer sees our dirt and filth as us!

Don’t miss this. If there is one thing that we all need to know and hear today in this culture. It is that…

God doesn’t just love us. He LIKES us.

He adores the way we worship Him. He has a good sense of humor. He invented humor. He loves us so much that it is incomprehensible. Yet He also likes us.

Why is that important?

Because truth be told a lot of people walk around feeling as if they are the mere dirty cigarette butts that will make it into heaven someday. They believe God is looking down with a furrowed brow saying “Ok ok, I promised you can get in, but that’s it.”

They believe that God is angry, vengeful, sad, or worse then anything disappointed with our very existence. We feel as if our worth is nothing more then a side affect of a loving God who seeks His own glory.

Yet, Yahweh see us so different from that. He is eagerly awaiting with joy the moments we crawl up into His lap and pray. He wrote this massive and beautiful love letter for us that is a wonderful story of unconditional love. He is awaiting the day we will all walk together in the light of the son and laugh and spin. He adores you. He adores me. That is sonship. That is daughtership.

We are not mere peasants. We are children of God. Children of the King. Next year as we bring the kingdom to the hurt and dying. The lost and the lonely. The tired and the weary… we are bearers of light, joy, peace and hope. We walk with a Holy inheritance and princes and princesses of a God that has built the whole universe. What a difference it makes when we can walk with that power and authority! When we know God not only loves us but is seeking this deep relationship because He sincerely enjoys us! That our whole life is a moment of blessing after blessing, even if it is in the form of a trial. That we are basked in the love and the glory of the very God of the universe! That is what it means to be His child. What a difference it makes that we are not merely walking to see people come to know an old Jewish hippy.

By no means. We are walking the earth seeking people to be adopted into the greatest family ever conceived. The very family of God.

So when you look in the mirror today, you should not see flaws, nor scars, nor darkness. You should see the master strokes of a painter far beyond description. When you walk today, you should not feel the heavy burden of this world and our aching muscles, but the glory of a God good enough to create such incredible creations as human beings. That we can laugh and jump and show wonder.

It is so wonderful to be His son. To be His daughter. Truth is it’s a journey and I am just now beginning to walk in sonship. To feel the great power of being loved and honored by God. To feel as if I am more than dirt. I have just began to start experiencing all of this. I encourage anyone else who has experienced these same feelings or wants to really know Christ more to start this journey

Sovereign – Chris Tomlin

If you want to know some books or resources that really impacted me and got me started on this journey, shoot me a message.

In the words of Lecrae…

I can’t offer you nothin, but your care and kindness keep comin
And your love is so unconditional, I get butterflies in my stomach
I got the old me in the rearview, gotta new me, gotta clear view
I was so dead, I couldn’t hear you
Too deep in sin to come near you
But you drew me in, and cleaned me up
And take me home and beamed me up
Before you do, just let me tell the truth
And let these folks know that I done seeing your love
And it’s everlastin, infinite
It goes on and on, you can’t measure it
Can’t quench your love, they can’t separate us from the love of God
It’s no estimate
My face look the same, my frame done rearranged
But I changed, I promise I aint the same
Your love is so deep, you suffered and took pain
And died on the cross to gimme a new name
Aint nothin like I seen before
I gotta beam to glow
Was low, down, and dirty but you cleaned me Lord
You looked after me, you keep rockin me
Imma tell the world and aint nobody stoppin me

Slick black slimy fears…

Fears… Slick black slimy fears. They haunt and creep around my head in the midnight hours. Seeking to devour my peace and bring distrust into my relationship with God.

In November our staff went to a Taiwanese amusement park in the mountains. It was a silly sort of place with giant Japanese anime characters and men in loincloths pretending to be aboriginal. As we walked up the hill towards the rides we came upon a little friendly creature that looked innocent enough.

It was one of those strange rides that spun around in a circle while your recent meals attempted to detach from the vessel and drift back to Earth.

The foreign pole was towering above me like a missile silo.

The foreign pole was towering above me like a missile silo.

I realized far too late that this wasn't going to be an enjoyable experience...

I realized far too late that this wasn’t going to be an enjoyable experience…

Or so I thought…

A nice Taiwanese lady strapped me into the sheer hulking monstrosity of metal and I waited for the spin to begin. Only instead of spinning we started to ascend into the heavens.

I looked to the left and right and noticed several Buddhists and I immediately knew this probably was not the rapture.

I am terrified of heights and I had gotten on the wrong ride! Or rather I had drastically misinterpreted the purpose of this diabolical horror machine.

Knowing from youtube videos such as this…

and this…

Taiwanese construction can be awful. I mean just awful. They do so many things well but I rarely trust in the structural integrity of Taiwanese buildings.

I trust Taiwanese amusement park rides less than the shanty machinations welded together by carnies at local fairs.

Higher – Lecrae

As I flew into the air I began to feel an unnerving fear. Extreme fear. My stomach welled into knots and I found myself what felt like a hundred feet in the air looking out towards the horizon. It was beautiful. I looked at Dale and we both made eye contact.

Then it dropped.

As our screams filled the air I felt for the first time in a long time that helpless feeling of being unnaturally propelled towards Earth at a rate of speed bound to result in death. I thought about death. God. Life. Would I survive? Does my future wife even know I’m dying right now? Will she miss me even though we probably have never met?

Then it began to slow. A gentle slow. A reassuring slow. As I eventually made my way down to the ground below.

I was so happy to not be dead.

I was so happy to not be dead.

That was so Dr. Seuss of me to say.

In the end even though I had fallen a significant distance at a high velocity…

I suppose I was relatively safe. Yet the harness, the list of people who had gone before me and had not died, the obvious smiles on the faces of employees… did not assuage my fears in the least bit.

It brings up an interesting thought. Fear.

I’m not really one to be afraid before something happens. Only a few things really connect with my soul in a way that brings fear.

Things I Fear…

Phone Calls.
Driving.
Starting conversations with new people in an uncomfortable environment.
A 9 to 5 job where I come home to a white picket fence and watch a little football, tell the wife I’ll take out the trash later, and repeat.
Holding a loaded AR15 while I protect someone in a shady backdoor gun deal. (Just kidding! Like that’d ever happen…)

In general living out of a tent in the middle of the jungle holds NO FEAR for me. Yet the funny thing about fear is that we often can’t predict the sheer overpowering force behind it. For instance if I had known that I was riding a failed rocket experiment in Taiwan I may have never gotten on the ride or I may have merely assumed fear wouldn’t seize me. Yet in the moment.

I was fears little punching bag as he held me down and told me to “Scream Uncle!”

This brings up a very serious question… the power of fear in the life of a christian.

What if I had a gun to my head? Logically I would hope and believe that I would have the courage to never deny Christ, yet untested in that manner, it is quite the unnerving thought… is my faith stronger than my fears? I think about it and I get so excited. The concept of being sold out enough to die for my faith… yet… is that realistic? In the moment would I feel that bravery?

Fear is sometimes overpowering. A strong man who comes and binds you. It is controlling. The body sweats, shakes, and becomes prone to poor decisions.

I’ll just be real. I’m afraid. Not always but sometimes I really am. Rather than dwell in that fear alone though I thought I would share my fears. These are things you can pray for.

So here is a list of a few fears that I have about the race from time to time… Some are real and rational… some are irrational. It is by no means exhaustive.

Newly Found World Race Fears…

Being caught in a situation where someone’s life is in my hands
Having people close to me die or fall away in the U.S. when I could be there
Raising only enough money to go for a few months and having to leave during the most incredible journey I can imagine
Calling people to raise support
Seeing someone die and being unable to help
Things that sting. I really hate poison.
Eating things that make my gag reflex activate. Dry Heave.
Foreign bathrooms. I’m not a fan.
Am I being a fool by going? Am I too old, too irresponsible, too unestablished to keep traveling? Will I ever get married if I live like this?
Unnatural unpredictable changes. In Taiwan you hardly see the stars. I never would’ve expected that nor how much it did effect me.
Leaving again

The last time I left the country it cost me so much. Yet in the end it was so worth it.

Whom Shall I Fear? Chris Tomlin

Fear is interesting. Sometimes it is rooted in our attempt to control things and even the uncontrollable. Sometimes it is rooted in the unhealed moments of our past. It is so easy to let those things dictate what we do. To stop because of fear. To never go on a world changing adventure because of fear.

Fear is part of life. For one person a car ride is terrifying and for another it is not. For one person being a father is the scariest thing imaginable and for another it is a blessing to look forward too. Perhaps it is our perception. Perhaps our own doubts and insecurities.

So I am at a strange place here. I am at the pre-race. The moment where you look ahead at insurmountable obstacles and ask yourself,

“Do I have what it takes?”

It reminds me of this phrase God uses so often in the bible.

Fear not.

It’s repeated in the bible time and time again. It is the call of God towards His people in times of need. He really stands with us and by us. He calls us not to fear but acts of bravery and courage. I love that.

I keep coming back to that moment where the Israelites stood at the banks of the Nile. That moment where they had no hope. God is such a G. Psalm 77:19 says that God’s way lead through the sea… His footprints where already in the water.

Holy Free Pancakes. Like seriously… think about that for a moment. God knew that they would walk through the river. He had already walked the path ahead of them. He knew they would need to stand at a river until the very waters parted. In no way could the Israelites have known God would have done that. They had to stand by faith and either accept death or the word of God that He WOULD deliver them.

Today one of my teammates Brian posted this beautiful verse out of 2 Kings 6:17.

That verse talks about how the servant of Elisha was looking around and saw this massive army of enemy soldiers ready to kill. So Elisha tells him that God has this massive army of angels around him and opens the servants eyes so that he can see them.

It’s crazy the stronghold we let fear have in our life when God is so powerful! He is standing around us ready to part the Nile river! Ready to unleash angel armies! To make the entire sun stand still! Who is like our God?

If you are a father with a bad relationship with your son He is there waiting to walk you through tough conversations. If you are a wife with a rocky marriage He is ready to help you regain that foothold in your relationship and push through to a beautiful redemptive story of love. If you have cancer He is waiting to give strength and in His grace sometimes healing. If you have an unsaved family He is ready to go with you towards them and proclaim love and truth. He can redeem broken relationships. Clothe the poor. Give a place of rest to the homeless.

Fear may be a strong man. Yet inside of us is a stronger man! Jesus Christ will walk with us through every trial, temptation, problem, and path.

What do you fear? Is God stronger than that?

This God who does miracles and destroys enemies. Heals the sick and holds the orphan.

Do you REALLY believe God can stop the sun, part the seas, surround the enemy with angel armies? This is the same God who created the universe. He is on our side and He says “Fear not!”

He must really mean that.

Who knew Taiwan would have such crazy theme parks.

Who knew Taiwan would have such crazy theme parks.

Great Expectations…

I have learned that every time I build expectations I am normally caught off guard by reality. I don’t like to puff up my imagination and think of my ethnocentric American ideas beforehand. I probably view Africa as a land of lions, hippos, tribal people, and spears. Or worse, a feudal land of drug dealers and war lords. Perhaps it is the American media. Perhaps it is my own ignorance.

Awake My Soul – Chris Tomlin

I am heading to eleven different countries. Some are closer to my culture than others. Some are so far removed I have stupid ideas. I know it’s wrong but deep down inside I believe everyone in Australia rides kangaroos. I think it is because of the television. Honestly, the Simpsons formulated so much of my worldview I find myself seeing in Willy Wonka Vision™

So when asked to levy my expectations for The World Race I am at a loss. I am well-traveled, having been to many countries and lived abroad for two years. Yet, I find that even after months of study and book after book of reading, a mere day in a country will explode so many of my assumptions and retcon my foolish presuppositions. On the outside looking in I think it is easy to think some pretty simple things such as “I probably need to buy some Toms, a bandana, and roll with hipsters if I’m going to even make it on the race.”

Granted I probably will buy Toms. I just want to fit in. Regardless, as I have looked at The Race, one thing I have seen is that the people on the Race are…

PASSIONATE…

There is this line by Lecrae in the song Fuego that gets me every stinking time…

“Ever seen a child ain’t eat for days, Promise you ain’t ever go’n leave the same”

Last year I lived in Taiwan and in the last couple of months God graced me with the opportunity to work at an AIDS orphanage in Taipei. My heart was SHATTERED.

I think that in some ways is what I expect. I think the raw reality of this present earth and people suffering far beyond my first-world coffee laden Seattle culture will impact me in ways I cannot understand. I expect my soul to awaken to the beauty of the gospel and the sheer life offered through Christ. I expect to feel these dry dusty bones and this heart that is so coated in apathy to more and more break free of myself and beat vibrantly for Christ.

Sometimes I ask God, “Can you really make me like Elijah? Can my heart really sing praises to You and refuse to be silent? Can I be so moved as to forsake anything and everything to serve You?”

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our LORD Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Galatians 6:14

I want the cross to move me. I want to follow God to the ends of the Earth and boast in Him alone.

I want to never be the same. I want to be filled with the spirit. I want to fervently run headfirst into the very gates of hell and rescue those who have been wounded and caught captive by this world.

I expect to leave my old life.

I expect to return a different man.

P.S. A blogging tips site said that I SHOULD always have a photo in my posts… so here is a photo of me ripping the heart out of a Taiwanese man…

KALEEE MAAAAAA!!!

KALEEE MAAAAAA!!!

Bethany and Noah

Last night I learned that I am like a cat with terminal velocity.

Higher – Lecrae

The last few years have been years of change for everyone. I feel revival springing up in the hearts and lives of my closest friends. It was so wonderful yesterday. I met Noah and Bethany Goodson for the first time. I did know a Bethany Brown once. They are probably related. Travis and I went to an Irish Pub and sat outside with them in light humid Florida weather. It is so nice to not need eight jackets and snow boots.

Our waitress came to us with an Irish accent and asked if I am doing ok.

I said “Emotionally I am doing fine.”

Something told me she was more interested in food and drink then my emotive state, but I suppose that is the price of talking to the Irish.

Noah is this muscular man with many epic tattoos. He looks like a surfer hipster with a hint of old fashioned pirate. Not the pirate from a salty sea ship mind you. More the cultured pirate with an imperial mustache and a soul patch, although he was missing these items. In pirate terms, he looked like the bardic pirate from the princess bride. Noah had a strong witty sarcasm to him that rivaled the biting words of a man from Seattle. I remember hearing of Noah from a mutual friend in Hong Kong. Her name is Iris, she has a heart for Japan, stop and pray for her.

NOW!!!!

Bethany is an Asian American girl who has traveled the world. Seasoned and extremely godly, she sat drinking a fine shanty ale. She had enough tattoos to challenge Noah and fine thick black glasses. Obviously intelligent, cultured, and outgoing. Yet Bethany was uninhibited by the cultural shackles of both contemporary christianity and intellectual society. Free spirited and engaged. A rare combination.

We sat and talked about life, the holy spirit, God, community, marriage, for quite a bit. We ate good food, including seafood.

“I expected more mussels” said Bethany

“That’s what girls say about me.” I responded

As the conversation moved on we learned much about life. Travis is thinking about the big events in life and needed wisdom. Noah and  Bethany have been married for about half a year and shared some of the wonderful insight into a young marriage. Intimate and rewarding, Travis and I soaked up as much as we could from the heart of a young godly man and a young godly girl. One day we might find ourselves with the need to apply these lessons.

As the dinner of mussels and Irish fair was hastily consumed we all decided to move towards the beach.

I stopped at the restroom on the way to the sandy shore and found an occult pentagram scribbled above a dirty urinal. I could only shake my head at how widespread the demonic influence in this world has become.

This is where the night became beautiful.

Tonight the Stars Speak – The Glorious Unseen

In Taiwan I couldn’t see the stars. Be it pollution or mans need to blot out anything that reminds him of the God of this universe, it is immeasurably hard to find the beautiful reminders the Lord of Heaven and Earth. As I walked toward the beach, the light of the city behind me began to dim and lessen. By the time I reached the shore, white foamy waves glistened in the moonlight and the stars burst above us. Florida has the most beautiful skies.

I stood and gawked. Bethany, Noah, and Travis ran into the surf like gleeful children but I could only look above and stare at the glory of God in the heavens. It declared that God exists. I had missed this. Few know the pain of having lost the stars, having oct nature. Our identity is so wrapped up in understanding the sky. As Noah said, no one looks up and think, “Man, I am big.”

We are dwarfed by the little lights above us. Noah himself is one of the few that really understands having lived in China. The overwhelming feeling of having nothing but a cloud barrier was gone.

Eventually Bethany motioned them to come towards the towering man I am, standing like an awkward social outcast. They all gathered around and then Bethany and Noah began to sing and croon. Travis joined in. I started to sing.

Rags To Robes – Caleb and Sol

It is so embarrassing to sing out loud in America. Our culture does not support it. Yet the raw intimacy of having no restraint was wonderful. With cracking voices and sometimes beautiful harmonies we sang hymns, songs, and just verses of scripture or spiritual thoughts.

Afterwards we began to pray, lay hands on each other, speak truth and love. Bethany shared visions and Noah did too. It was beautiful. To see the body of Christ work in such a spirit lead, intimate, yet wholly different way… Bethany spoke truth into my life and told me that I have a unique nature like a cat falling from an immeasurable height. I dig into God with the force of the impact better than people who merely stay on the ground. She told Travis he is washed in the word of God like waves. I told Travis God doesn’t just love him but He likes him. Noah told Travis about the deep love of God.

It was such a wonderful moment. Filled with love. God honoring true love. We walked away filled with the spirit.

As we all headed back towards our houses I stopped in at the restroom and found that dirty pentagram. Hastily scrawling above the pentagram I wrote “This has nothing on my Jesus.”

My God is so much more powerful than this world. Than the ideas and thoughts and cultural notions. Than the foolish movement toward silencing our singing voices.

I am so excited for what God is doing in my generation. It is a generation that is moving toward a spirit filled walk with Christ. Unashamed of the most intimate forms of godliness. Unashamed of public worship and and prayer.

It’s wonderful.

I think sometimes we forget to speak truth into the lives of people around us. Like Ephesians 4:29 says, we need to build each other up yet I know in my life I get so afraid to say what I think, feel, or believe. I sometimes think the truth I have to offer is stupid or inferior. I neglect to share the words that God has put on my heart. It’s so cool though, sometimes God is giving us the words to say. The right thing to change a heart. To fix a wound. Heal a soul. So I learned to speak up. Even if it is hard or awkward. I was afraid to speak truth into Travis life. Yet when I did it was so rewarding. That’s so important to remember. Being faithful to the truth is so important.

TONIGHT

Tonight a man told Travis and I that “I planned to $%# kick your #$@% but I am so glad we didn’t fight”

Then he hugged us and we laughed. It was kind of hilarious. We also fed two homeless men and prayed with them. It was a good day of victory. A good time. God is moving.

God is such a mega-beast. Every moment with Him is life-changing and defining. I am so stoked for missions conference tomorrow.