Imagine This…

Imagine you are a warrior that sneaks your way into a rival Kingdom. A Kingdom that you despise. Loath. Hate. You are praised by your people for infiltrating the Kingdom, and you are glorified for mocking the rulers of that nation.

While in the realms of the Kingdom, you make it a point to break every rule, resist all authority, and destroy all you can.  You degrade the people, you rob and destroy and disrespect. You murder all who try to stand up to you.  You take great joy in ruining all that you can find within the Kingdom; disgracing the authority and criticizing the nation. The longer you terrorize the nation, the more you are praised by your people.

After years of evading capture, antagonizing the locals and degrading all authority, you are finally caught red-handed. You are seized by authority and brought before the rulers of the land.  You are soaked in the blood of those you have murdered and robed in the garments you stole and the jewels you confiscated. You are guilty, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the penalty for your crimes is death.

Not a simple and swift death. A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death.  A death that kills you before your life is taken–a death that degrades you, pains you, rapes your dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is your penalty. This is how you will die.

But as you kneel before the rulers of the nation, head hung in shame, awaiting your gruesome verdict, you feel a hand rest on your shoulder. When you look up you see the Prince of the Kingdom has risen from his throne and stands in front of you before the King. Before your fate can be sealed, the Prince takes a stance in your favor.

“Take my life, instead,” you hear the Prince say. “I will die in his place.”

You are stunned. Confused. Speechless. You had never met the Prince before this moment. You had never spoken with him or done anything for him or done anything for his people. Choking back tears and stumbling to catch your breath, you ask a humbled ‘why’?

The Prince simply replies, “Because I love you.”

Though you can see the King’s heart is broken, he nods in approval and your life is spared.

The Prince dies in your place.

A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death.  A death that kills him before his life is taken–a death that degrades him, pains him, rapes his dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is YOUR penalty. Yet this is how HE dies–even though He did nothing wrong. He simply offered to save you.

After the Prince’s death, you stand face-to-face with the King again.  Your clothes are no longer blood-stained. You have been bathed, fed, cared for and groomed. You stand in front of the King–a King who has just watched his own son die in your place–free of all charges. You are found innocent. Acquitted on all counts.

Then, something unique happens. Rather than being escorted from the Kingdom and taken back to your people, you are welcomed to stay. Not simply to stay in the land–you are welcomed into the Royal Family. Your life is not only spared, you are invited into the castle and crowned as royalty.

After everything you did to their Kingdom and their people, they forgive you. They call you one of their own. You sit in the Highest Court.

Humbly, you hang your head in shame and again ask why…

“Because we love you,” the King replies.

“What did I do to deserve this freedom? What did I do to earn it?” you ask.

Nothing.

“…then why?”

“Because we love you.”

*****

Did you enjoy that story?

Does it sound familiar?

That is love.

That is salvation.

THAT IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

*****

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

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Fearless Failure

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” –2 Timothy 1:7

What is your biggest fear?

Think about it…what scares you?

Are you scared of snakes? Spiders? Heights? Are you scared you won’t be able to provide for your family? Job instability? Financial insecurity? Are you scared of the bullies that degrade you? The men that hurt you? The tears you may cry? Are you scared of injury…what about death?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Everyone is fearful of something. No matter if you are a 300 lb. lineman, a 3rd grade ballerina, a 57-year-old business man–or anyone in between–we all face fear. When I sit back and think about the things that have scared me over the years, I can’t help but notice a pattern. Whether directly or indirectly, all of my personal fears are linked to one topic: failure.I think the majority of our fears are rooted in the same thing–the fear of failure.  The fear that we will let down the people around us, the fear that the people around us will let us down, the fear that we will let down ourselves.  So many things are so very scary…

When I was very young, I was haunted by the fear that I would be kidnapped and hurt. Granted, I grew up in the early 90’s, an era when child abductions hit the media like a firestorm. To make matters worse, my parents went to church with John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. For those of you who don’t know, the JonBenet Ramsey murder was one of the most publicized unsolved murders of our time. JonBenet was 6 years old. I was 7 years old. When a 7 year-old hears things on the news and sees her parents so emotionally invested in the tragedy, it is hard to wrap your head around the complexity of the situation. So, my mind only went one place–I am next. The “bad guys” are coming for me. Almost nightly I would have nightmares that I would be taken and that nobody would help me or find me—that my parents would fail at protecting me.

Through my young schooling, I was fearful of getting bad grades.  I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be, and I wanted to make my parents as proud as possible.  I have always been a perfectionist, and I have always been competitive.  I was reared under a sister who was brilliant–literally, a borderline genius. (This is a girl who was kicked out of her second grade class for arguing with her teacher that negative numbers did, in fact, mathematically exist and that the teacher was incorrect in teaching the other students that 5 could not be subtracted from 3. Seriously? I was the kid that was kicked out of my second grade class for sniffing glue, getting dizzy, falling backwards out of my chair and hitting my head on the whiteboard. Haha. This is also the girl who would play “the classroom game”  with me when we were little and try desperately to teach me about exponents and exponential factors…I was 6. She couldn’t understand why all I wanted to do was dance to Spice Girls when there were derivatives to learn!) To say the least, we were very different, but growing amidst her brains and my competitive spirit, it fostered a desire in me to be better, to be smarter, to be the best. And, later in life, any time I failed and didn’t do as well as I know I could have on a school assignment—I failed myself. And, in my eyes, I failed my parents.

Fast-forward through a decade or so of fears and failures. To list all the times I’ve failed would take another decade, so I will simplify by saying that I’m a failure. Aren’t we all? And while my fears and failures molded and shaped me, the worst was yet to come. For the sake of saving time and space, I will not rewrite my testimony (you can read back in the “My Story” portion for details) but I will share with you my most epic fails.

In high school, I feared non-conformity. I feared a lack of control, and I feared judgement. I feared food. I fell into an eating disorder that crippled me, consumed me, defined me. In highschool, I failed myself.

In college, my father failed me. My hero, my best friend, my everything. He feared…he failed…and he fled. On January 3rd, he put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. In college, my father failed me.

That year, I feared the pain I felt. I tried everything I could to fill it. I drank, I partied, I lost myself. I feared the darkness and I feared the weakness. I failed to hold my own head high. That year, I failed my innocence.

Later on, I feared for my own life. I failed at driving. I wrapped my Jeep around a tree and feared I would never be saved. I choked on blood and hung broken and battered. On that drive, I failed myself.

Between those points and since that time, I’ve failed and failed and failed.

How do you recover from a life defined in failure? How do you emerge from a life constrained by fear?

We will FAIL constantly. Others will constantly fail us. We will fail others, and we will fail ourselves.  The people around us will fail, circumstances will fail, expectations will fail. You will fail at reaching goals, your friend will fail at supporting you when you need it most. Marriages will fail. Job opportunities will fall through and fail. The stock market will fail, the government will fail. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will fail to provide you with the love you need. You will fail at filling your emptiness with drugs and sex. You will fail tests, fail deadlines, fail budgets. We will slip, and we will fail.

BUT GOD NEVER FAILS.

In the days of my youth, God comforted my worries.  He worked through my parents and protected my heart. God Never Failed.

He calmed my worries over grades and school. He blessed me with the desire to persist and to learn. God Never Failed.

As I battled with bulimia, He clung tight to my body. He protected my health, and nourished my soul. God Never Failed.

As I stared at my daddy’s lifeless body, He wept alongside me and lifted me up. God Never Failed.

As I battled depression in a drunken stupor,  I gave pieces of myself away to boys. But God fought for my purity like a relentless warrior, and though I was battered and broken, He held my virginity with poise. God Never Failed.

As I hung upside down and choked on my blood, He appeared to my heart and found His way in. God Never Failed.

I tell you all this to inspire your hearts! Life is hard. So hard. And we’re really bad at it. We are fallible humans and we mess up constantly. We fail and we fear. We fear and we fail. But as it says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus Christ DID IT! He came and He lived so perfectly. He never failed. And He never will fail. He died for you. He died so that you can ALWAYS be given new life! So that you can ALWAYS start fresh, clean the slate, and turn a new page.  As he hung on the cross, your fears and your failures were nailed to the cross alongside Him! When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, we accept a spirit of POWER and LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE! We welcome a spirit of forgiveness and grace and second chances!

We serve a God of second chances…we serve a God of LIFE! Alone, we are nothing. We are failures and we are bound by fear. But in CHRIST, we are infinitely strong! We are indestructible! We are SAVED!

What is there to fear?!

At the end of my days, I don’t want people to say that I lived a fearful, timid life. I want them to say that my spirit was POWERFUL in Christ, that I LOVED like Christ, and that I was SELF-DISCIPLINED through Christ.

How will you be remembered…?

What Is Salvation? (part 1–the original sin)

We have talked all about our position in Christ and our condition in Christ. We have looked at a graph that depicts these two things, and we have talked about how we can grow in our conditions.  We have defined what righteousness is and we have found countless scriptures that illustrate this very topic. We have learned about the change that takes place within us when we believe in Jesus Christ, and we have studied why it is so very important that Christians strive to grow and to teach. But all the while, we have danced around the topic of salvation. What IS salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What does it look like? What is the significance of believing in Jesus Christ? What does His life even represent?

There are so so so many questions that surround the idea of salvation.  There is so much confusion and misrepresentation in our world today, as well. So I want to start at the beginning and break it down, piece by piece.  To reintroduce topics that are overlooked and to clarify points that are often left in the shadows.  Ah! I LOVE this topic!! The salvation that is offered to EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet is so unbelievably beautiful, and SO unbelievably humbling.  This is the bread and butter…this is the mac-daddy…this is the grand prize! Let’s take a look.

Okay, in order to understand why it is even necessary to care about what Jesus Christ did, we have to rewind allllllllll the way back to Adam and Eve.  I am going to explain all of this in the simplest way possible, because I don’t want to throw anything over anybody’s head or drown this awesome message in excessive detail and historical overflow. (Plus, I am still learning about it all, as well!) But here is the deal…after God created the heavens and the Earth and all that is encompassed within that perfection, He created man. He created Adam, and eventually Eve, in His image.  At this point, there was already an existence of evil.  Satan had already defied God and descended to hell, so God had already acknowledged the right of free will. (That is, the ability for man to choose between right and wrong.)  The book of Genesis describes of the perfection of this garden. Adam and Eve had all they could ever want and need there, and there was no existence of sin. They were simply instructed not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Essentially, they were commanded not to disobey and sin against God.  However, Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and tempted Eve to eat from the tree.  In the truest and simplest of terms, this was the first presentation of evil. And temptation. And deceit.  Eve was drawn to sin through Satan and she then led Adam to eat from the tree and sin, as well.

BAM. There it was. In the instant that Adam, the FIRST man on this planet, sinned again God, everything changed.  Sin was born in man. You see, every single person on this planet is a descendant from Adam and Eve. So think about it…Adam committed the first sin. Adam and Eve screwed up from the get-go and, therefore, every single person born from that line is embodied in sin.  We are born into a world of sin and we are prone, as humans…as descendants from the very first sinner…to sin.  We are all sinners because we are all human.  Because of this original sin, every person born from that point on was doomed.

Well, crap…thanks a lot Adam.  Thank a lot Eve.  So now we stand no chance.  Now we are all screwed because of that one man’s decision.  An interesting concept, huh? That ANOTHER person’s sin could affect OUR salvation…(we will look at this in more detail later, and I will share with you the most earth-shaking realization I came to in my personal life with regards to this subject.) So there we were, a bunch of humans being bred from sin. A bunch of humans whose souls were fair game to Satan. Just imagine how upset God must have been…these beautiful humans he created hardly lasted a blip in time before they sinned! So what now? This is where the Old Testament takes shape.  God understood that man had sinned. And that now, every man was born from that original sinner.  So, he worked with us a little bit.  Rather than damning every sinner to hell, He began to establish rules.  This is what the Old Testament is full of…God set forth rules, communicated through divinely inspired prophets and other individuals, for the people of the Earth.  He basically said, Okay, everybody, if you want to stand a chance to spend eternity with me, you have to follow these rules.  Though you will never be completely pure, if you follow these rules, I’ll cut you some slack and you can strive to purify yourselves. (Those weren’t His exact words, haha, but work with me here. I’m trying to keep it simple :). )

The Old Testament of the Bible lays out what these rules were.  If you read throughout the Old Testament, the rules were insanely difficult for any human being to obey.  They were extensive and specific and very challenging.  And basically what the entire Old Testament explains is that nobody could do it. Every single person failed. Every single human being was incapable of following all of these rules and living a perfect life. So every single human being born as a descendent from Adam, a descendent of the original sin, was imperfect and sinful and flawed.

This is when God sat back and was like, Alright, time for plan B. Haha. There was a clear recognition that none of these people stood a chance.  Because of this one man’s original sin, humans had wound themselves into a web of tangled sin and greed and lust and deceit and all that is unrighteous.  Human beings were caught in Satan’s snare and stood absolutely no chance of achieving salvation.  They all stood no chance of spending eternity with God.  So what did God do?….Enter, Jesus.

(to be continued…this next part is great!)

Redefining Our Reflection…(part 1)

Step back. Take a look in the mirror. Take a very long look at yourself.

Do you find yourself beautiful?

I don’t mean “beautiful” in the same sense that this world defines beauty. I am not talking about how groomed your hair is, how tan your skin is, how white your teeth are. I’m not talking about whether you are a size 2 or whether or not your clothes are expensive and new.  I’m not talking about your body type or even your smile. I’m talking about true beauty.

I am talking about the only type of beauty that God sees when He looks at us.  I’m talking about the most magnificent beauty–the beauty of our hearts and the beauty of our condition in Christ.  I am talking about the beauty of your soul as a true man or woman of God.  I’m talking about the type of beauty that this world is blind to, because it is not simply visible on the surface.  I’m talking about the type of beauty that people so easily disregard now-a-days. REAL beauty.

Before we can even begin to look at love and relationships, we have to redefine our own reflections in the mirror.  How can we be anything for anyone else, if we aren’t even aware of who we are for our King?  How can we enter into friendships, fellowship, and romantic relationships, if we don’t know our own identities? Too many people get lost that way. Lost and never found. We can’t be defined by any other identity than our identity in God.  Meaning, we aren’t defined by our athletics, we aren’t defined by our careers, we aren’t defined by our husbands or our wives or our children. We aren’t defined by our “roles”. We aren’t defined by our hardships, nor are we defined by our successes. Our identity is defined in Christ.

What, then, does that look like? What does our beauty look like to Him?  What does it look like to be a man or woman in Christ? That answer lies, most clearly, in the gospel.  In understanding our salvation, we can understand our beauty.

We discussed earlier that the way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. Plain and simple.  The belief in Him and the belief in the truth of His life, His death, and His resurrection.  The Bible clearly tells us that when we are truly saved–meaning, when we TRULY accept Jesus Christ into our hearts–then we are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  THAT is the true definition of the grace God shows us.  The Bible tells us that the moment we accept Christ into our lives, Christ literally lives inside of us.

Woah…take a moment to let that sink in.  Because that’s incredible.  You may be sitting there, staring at the computer screen, totally confused right now–so let me explain in the most basic of terms.  The book of John does a fantastic job of teaching us about our beauty because it teaches us about the Holy Spirit.

Imagine waking up every single day and not worrying about a single thing.  Not analyzing what you were going to be doing that day. Not living by a schedule or a plan–but simply waking up and following one man.  That is what Jesus’ disciples did for years.  They followed Jesus, with complete trust, through every step of every moment of every day.  Throughout His life, Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that He would die one day.  The disciples were really upset because they didn’t want Him to leave them. They didn’t want to be abandoned.  They placed so much dependency and faith in Him, that they didn’t know what they were going to do without Him. But Jesus was prepared for their reactions, and He made a promise to them (and to all of us).  He told them that, though His body would be gone, He would still be with them.  His spirit would live in them.  He may not PHYSICALLY be there with them any more, but He would never abandon them.  They believed in Him so, therefore, He would always dwell in them. THAT is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is Christ’s spirit inside of us……..wow. (I just did a fist pump thinking about how amazing He is! haha) Therefore, when we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, it is not a one-sided deal.  We aren’t just making a sacrifice and giving, giving, giving…it’s an exchange.  In giving control to Him, He fills us with His spirit!

Can you even imagine? Can you even wrap your head around that? Incredible! When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are completely filled by the Holy Spirit. We are drowned in Him.  Once we have accepted Christ into our lives, we are emptied of ourselves.  When God looks at you, He does not see YOU anymore. He sees Jesus Christ. He sees His son. What an unbelievably humbling concept. Can you believe you even have the honor of hosting such a spirit? But that is what He tells us.  That we are no longer ourselves. Rather, we carry Christ in us. Ah! No wonder it always feels so amazing! 🙂

To tie all of this back toward the beginning, ask yourself again what God sees when He looks at you.  Ask yourself again how beautiful you are. If you believe in Him, the answer is simple…He sees His Son! He sees the beauty of Jesus Christ! And THAT is the truest, most overwhelming, most humbling beauty that exists. You are SO beautiful. You are SO BEAUTIFUL. You have to believe that fact.  If He is living in you, you are SO unbelievably beautiful.  No matter your past, no matter your flaws, no matter your sins, you are beautiful in His eyes.

Now how does that beauty define us?…

(to be continued)

“His Mosaic”

I fancy myself a mosaic,

a mosaic constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed,

beautifully humble, yet odd.

 

For I once was I clean sheet of glass,

free from blemish or flaw.

I was polished and buffed, fragile but tough,

pure and simple, yet raw.

 

What you must understand, is a clean pane of glass

reflects light with splendor and awe.

But it lacks dimension, lacks retention

and only shines on an area, small.

 

But God took notice of my flawless pane

and saw potential for greatness and use.

He knew it would sting, He knew I would scream,

but He knew I could withstand abuse.

 

So He sat down, alone, on His sturdy workbench

and slid my heart into a darkened sack.

Though it hurt Him to do, He knew what was True,

so He swung a hammer and felt me crack.

 

The first blow of the hammer, I lost control

and was broken by an evil disease.

It consumed my thoughts, consumed my body,

but His hand still held me with ease.

 

The next blow of the hammer, my father was gone

and the pain split through to my core.

My breaks turned to shatters, my heart was left tattered,

but He knew I could withstand more.

 

The final swing of the hammer and everything stopped,

I stared death in its formidable eyes.

My body was broken, the pain left a token,

but my spirit was ever alive.

 

The King then sat back, with the sack in His hand,

filled with my broken self.

He then gently restored me, gently He poured me

onto a magnificent, heavenly shelf.

 

With much care and patience, God pulled on His gloves

and began to sift through my remains.

He took His sweet time with a vision, divine,

and pulled pieces of virtue and pain.

 

One-by-one He gently placed the fractures He pulled

into an empty and pure frame.

While I struggled and grew, a battle ensued,

and He humbly took all the blame.

 

But He never stopped working, rebuilding my heart,

He toiled throughout many years.

He so often showed grace, loved me through my disgrace,

and in time, He banished my fears.

 

An artist of power and an artist of Truth,

He carefully re-sculpted my heart.

With much concentration and much designation,

the beauty shone through from the start.

 

When His work was complete, He welcomed me back

and led my soul to His humble workbench.

With the pride of a Father in love with His daughter,

He held tight to my hands as they clenched.

 

He pulled back the canvas that shielded His art

and revealed to me His masterpiece.

I was blinded by beauty, in awe of it truly,

and humbly, I fell to His feet.

 

You see His light that shined, through my restructured heart,

shone with glory and refracted abound.

It danced to the ceiling, sparkled with feeling,

and touched all that rested around.

 

Before my adversity, before all the trials,

I was a pane of unweathered glass.

His light could shine through me, but though there was beauty,

it had no opportunity to refract.

 

In breaking me down and building me up,

He had very clever intent.

For now when His light shone with delight,

it was scattered, refracted, and bent.

 

It could reach every corner and touch every heart

that came within its new bounds.

I could now shine His light, with power and might,

to all who yearned to be found.

 

I was humbled in thought that He cared for my heart

with such personal, attentive grace.

It was then that I learned, it was simply my turn,

and that others filled infinite space.

 

You see He works on us all, every single heart,

for we are all His children anew.

He loves us so deeply, and spends time with us neatly,

rebuilding even YOU.

 

I fancy our hearts as mosaics,

mosaics constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed

Beautifully humble, yet odd.

“Back to the Basics” (part 3 of 3)

Pillar #3–the proof.  One of the three most important foundations of our faith that we must believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. #1–Jesus Christ was a real man. #2–Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died and rose again. And #3–The Bible is the Word of God.

This is yet another topic that I feel like people are quick to say, Duh, obviously. Of course it’s the Word of God. But, again, there are a number of elements that go into this belief. A number of elements that are really helpful to be reminded of frequently.

You see, the Bible is obviously the first thing that people associate with Christianity.  Just as the Torah is associated with the practice of Judaism,  the Quran with the practice of Islam, and so on. But what IS the Bible? What all does it represent? Why should we just believe everything it says? Who wrote it? Why are there so many different translations and versions? And can’t I just search for verses when I need them for motivation or inspiration?

I’ll explain, in brevity, an overview of this fantastic book.  The Bible is composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament, which is also recognized by the Jewish faith, was written by divinely inspired prophets. Don’t let that term intimidate you–essentially, the Old Testament was written by individuals who were spoken to by God long before Jesus was ever born. Individuals who recognized that there was a greater power at work and were communicated with by our King.  They were able to communicate their understandings in writing and document historical information from as far back as the creation of the universe.  Fantastically, all of their stories and translations lined up perfectly with one another’s AND came to fruition in the future and the New Testament–giving validity and evidentiary support to all of their prophecies.

The New Testament, on the other hand, picks up at the birth of Jesus, and serves as historical documentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–written by Jesus’ disciples and well as other individuals involved with Jesus throughout His life. Essentially, it is a documentation of all that this fantastic man taught, all of the miracles He performed, and all that “proves” the magnificence of God.

Since the Old Testament was written by prophets inspired by God, and the New Testament was written about the Son of God, we MUST believe that the Bible, as a whole, is the living, breathing Word of God.  You may be wondering what I mean when I say the “living, breathing” Word of God. But the words in the Bible are exactly that. There are individuals who have read the Bible cover to cover, memorized the pages, and teach of its magnitude. Those individuals, who seemingly should know all there is to know about the Word, STILL read through it and find new meanings to new applications, daily. You see, there are no defined meanings for the words of the book.  It was not God’s intent to give us a history book to study. It was His intent to give us a reference that human beings could open until the end of time, and constantly learn and grow from.  It was His intent to provide us with a means of communication directly to Him. That’s not meant to sound mystical or eerie, it is simple fact. The Bible is a book of beauty that opens a door to His Kingdom.

Recognizing that it is, in fact, the Word of God, we can’t allow ourselves to be “cultural Christians”. We can’t just open the Bible when we need a motivational quote or a neat scripture. We can’t just pull out the pieces we want to believe. If we are going to believe one single word in the Bible, we HAVE to believe every single word. It is not our right to pick and choose what we think is true.  As Christians, we have to recognize that it is the Word of God, and challenge ourselves to live by it. To apply it. To work, daily, to obey it. We have to study it and to challenge ourselves and the people around us, constantly, to grow in our relationship with our King.

Being a Christian is not easy–especially in the world we live in today. It is not glamorous or comfortable or simple.  Being a Christian is not just being a good person.  It is hard, it is challenging, and it is humbling.  It requires us to be MEN and WOMEN. Real men and women of God.  It requires us to have integrity and humility and understanding.  It requires us to set aside our egos and our desires and our dominance. It requires us to humble ourselves, daily, and realize that our world and our lives are not just about US. It requires us to give up control and to be different. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to love Him like He, unconditionally, loves us. Do you believe? Are you up for the challenge?

“Back to the Basics” (part 2 of 3)

I want to keep the explanation of these three pillars as simple as possible.  There are countless scriptures and historical principles I could throw at you, but the belief of those scriptures touches on the third point, and that is something we have yet to cover, so I will write with simplicity and generalization for this segment.

The second pillar of our foundations is, easily, the most important.  It is the pillar that leads to our salvation and a principle that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we choose to call ourselves Christians.  We discussed that pillar #1 is the recognition that Jesus Christ was a real human being. We also discussed that He was exceptional, different, and lived for a purpose. How was He capable of living so perfectly? How was He capable of performing miracles and walking with such guidance? That is explained in pillar #2…we MUST believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. The Son of God who died and rose again for US.

Now, this principle seems basic, but there is an incredible amount of information encompassed in that understanding.  It’s not enough to say, Okay, yes, I believe He was the son of God...and check that off the list. There is much to be understood if you recognize that truth. I will try to summarize:

First and foremost, this encompasses the belief that there is a God. A God so fantastic, it is impossible to explain His magnitude. A Creator of the heavens and the earth.  The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End.  A God that cannot be described in earthly terms, because the human mind is incapable of understanding “Him”. (We only refer to God as “He” and “Him” because that is a simple way of wrapping the human mind around the concept.) God is not human, and is not one thing. God is an entity.

Secondly, this pillar encompasses the belief that, in order for God to “prove” to us, essentially, that He exists, He sent a portion of Himself in the form of a human being–Jesus Christ. A Son. This man of earthly flesh and blood was sent to teach. Sent to spread the Truth. Sent to show grace and mercy and forgiveness. Sent to tell all who would listen that God existed. He was sent to lead by example and to inspire. He was sent to share the Word of God. Sent to enlighten generations, for the remainder of time, that God was True and real and good. And He did so magnificently. He proved himself time and time again. He was also sent to die…which leads us to the next point.

The third belief that this pillar encompasses is that this man died for us. Throughout His life on earth, He made clear that He would eventually be crucified. He would eventually be killed. But He promised, to all who believed and to all who still refused to believe, that He would come back to life.  As the ultimate “proof” to everyone that He was, in fact, the son of God. Jesus Christ promised all that He would rise. And in His death, and His rebirth, we would be forever forgiven of our sins and capable of receiving salvation.  All we had to do was believe in Him. Let me emphasize the most incredible point here…in order for us to FOREVER be forgiven and to be SAVED and spend eternity in heaven, He asks us to BELIEVE in Him and to believe in God. To pursue Him and to live for Him. This man DIED for us, in the most brutal and shameful way possible, so that WE could be saved. In order for even the men who were murdering Him to be saved. I tremble at the thought. What an incredible King.

That leads us to the real zinger! 🙂 The best and most beautiful belief that this pillar encompasses…..HE DID IT! He was murdered. Crucified on the cross. And this man, this earthly man, “STUCK IT TO THE MAN!” haha. He rose! He came back to life, just as He said He would!! There are countless historical proofs of this. Countless documentations of this Truth. The man ROSE! The Son of God rose! He proved it to everyone! Incredible. In Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, it made all that He taught, and all that He shared in His life, completely valid. What is there to argue here? Jesus did it!

So we have now touched on the first and second pillars of our foundation as Christians. #1. The recognition that Jesus Christ was a real man. #2. The recognition that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that He died and rose again. As I said before, all three elements of our foundation are interconnected, so that leads us to pillar #3…the proof. Everybody seems to want the proof.  Now a days, to simply have faith that something happened seems like an impossibility to people. Everyone wants MORE proof. Fortunately, God planned on that. And He left us the greatest proof of all…

(to be continued)

“Back to the Basics” (part 1 of 3)

So, now that I have finished sharing my personal testimony with you, it’s time to embark on this incredible journey together and grow closer to our King! Before I begin, I really want to thank you for following up to this point. Can you believe it has already been a month? I hope you are as excited as I am for what this year has in store. It’s my belief that, no matter age, race, gender, social class, or any other “category” this world may label each of us in, we are all beautifully equal and we ALL have the ability to learn from one another and be inspired by one another.  It has been such a blessing hearing from SO many; I hope you understand how much you play a role in this challenge. You are the one encouraging me and keeping me focused. So let’s get started!

I find that in sports, as well as in school and relationships and work, it is unbelievably beneficial to go “back to the basics” and periodically re-visit the fundamentals of what we do.  At times, we get so comfortable in our successes, that we have the tendency to unknowingly become stagnant in our progress and growth. But, if we take a little time to humble ourselves and study the core principles of our activities, it’s often refreshing and beneficial.  With that being said, what are the core principles of our faith? If somebody walked up to you today and asked you what it is you believe, what would you say? How would you summarize all that Christianity entails quickly enough to keep their attention? And would you truly believe your own words? What are the foundations of your life?

It’s easiest for me to break it into 3 points. Three core, elementary principles that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Three fundamentals that are all interconnected and are the basis of our Christian walks.  It is not up to us to pick and choose which one we like best, we must be convicted in all three, wholeheartedly.

First, and most simply, we have to believe that Jesus Christ was a real man.  A human being that walked this earth and was bound by all of the same temptations, tendencies, desires, and abilities as you and I. He was real. He is a historical figure.  There is little that can really even be debated about this point because it is simply historical knowledge. He was a human being that existed.

It’s a bummer for Jesus that there wasn’t internet or twitter or cameras back then, because it seems like, now-a-days, the only content people will believe is the content the pops up on their iPhones.  The content they can physically see.  But all it takes to prove this human being’s existence is a trip to the library. Christianity is not the only religion that recognizes that this man was very real.  He was a magnificent man and a true leader.  He was a man who lived with purpose and a man who lived PERFECTLY.

That’s the one factor that boggles my mind the most.  This man lived in a way that no other man had lived before Him and that no other man has lived since Him.  He lived PERFECTLY! He was bound by all of the same human limitations we are bound by, and He STILL lived without flaw.  He was never afraid to live completely differently than every single person around Him.  He was never afraid to defy the kings and leaders of the land in order to stand strong by what He believed. Can you even imagine? It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around sometimes. And it gets me SO fired up.  This man was exceptional! He was 100% convicted in His purpose and He never faltered.  He never stumbled.  Good grief, I stumble daily. I stumble hourly. Yet this man lived His entire life and never lost His footing.  He was completely obedient, no matter the sacrifice or suffering He had to endure. And He taught, passionately.

Whether or not you choose to recognize this man as the son of God, which is a point we will look at tomorrow, you cannot deny that this man was exceptional.  He was real and He was fantastic.  He was a genuine leader and He stood strong on the principles of everything we should strive towards.  He must be respected.  He was a human being that must be respected.  It drives me crazy to sit through history class and leadership class and listen to all of these other individuals addressed (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Hitler, George Washington, etc.) for their exceptional leadership and sacrifice, yet modern culture refuses to print and teach content about Jesus Christ. HELLO! He was the greatest leader that ever walked the face of this earth.  He set the example for every single individual that has followed Him.  He, single-handedly, built the framework for what leadership is and how we should strive to live our lives!

I could ramble on for hours about this first point, but the basics of this first fundamental are simple.  We must recognize and give validity to the man, Jesus Christ.  He was a human being that deserves every single person on this earth’s respect. All spiritual and religious components aside, He was a human being that must be celebrated. Because He did it all correctly. And He never failed.

How, then…you may be wondering…was this human being capable of such perfection? How was He able to perform all of the acts that He did and resist all of the temptations? How was this man capable of living so flawlessly? Well, that leads us to the second pillar of our foundation…

(to be continued)

My Story (part 19)

“That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
Colossians 2:2

I likened my mind, at the time, to a large craft table with puzzle pieces scattered on top.  One piece being the concept of a fast. Another piece being His desire for me to be public with my journey. Another piece being His desire for more control. Another piece being my self-confidence. Another being my platform. Another, my vulnerability. And so on. It was a massive puzzle that would have been impossible for me to assemble on my own. It was a puzzle, when assembled completely, that showed a much bigger picture of all that was on my heart. A much bigger picture that was impossible to see by just studying one piece at a time.  A picture of His purpose.

As quickly as I had offered up myself to Him and accepted His calling, the puzzle pieces began sliding into place and assembling themselves.  It was surreal, feeling Him stringing together each piece–allowing me to see portions of His plan. The portions were beautiful.  They were intricate. Little by little, everything began to make so much sense.  I have never experienced anything of that magnitude before. I have never had God, so clearly, reveal to me His purpose.  I was overwhelmed by His fantastic mercy and grace. Though I knew He was just giving me the tiniest taste, I was savoring the flavor–in awe of His grandeur.

He made it very clear to me that, as I told you earlier, He wanted me to give Him the next level of control.  He desired a year-long intimacy fast, and He desired I make every single step of it very public.  He inspired me to name my mission, and inspired me to spread His word as quickly and as passionately as I could.  He purged me of my fear–every trace of hesitation, He eliminated.  He assured me that, if I came to Him in prayer before writing or speaking, it would be He who wrote and spoke through me.  He challenged me to be His vessel. Challenged me to be stronger than I had ever been before, and assured me He would bless me with that strength.  I could go on and on about all that He revealed to me for this year, but that would take countless more blog posts and pages.  The point of my ramblings is to express to you, first-hand, the unbelievable works that I have seen.  By putting aside my own feelings and opinions and, instead, allowing Him to drive my course, I was purged of my fear and apprehension. I was freed from the chains of my desires and rejuvenated in His purpose. It was spectacular!

Where that leaves us, now, at the end of this LONG story, is at the beginning of a new journey.  A journey that will undoubtedly be challenging. Exhausting. Emotional.  But a journey to draw nearer to our King. The bright side? You all won’t have to feel all of the struggles and challenges of the mission, you all will just get to see the beautiful results each day :). But in order to inspire you and teach you of His grace, I will gladly take on those burdens.  I can admit that I will not always have the right answers. I am young in my journey, just as you may be, and I am bound by human tendency as well. I will likely make mistakes and stumble through. However, I WILL achieve His calling and I will always, first and foremost, be pure in my intentions.  I will express nothing to you without first taking it to prayer, studying it passionately, and consulting the spiritual leaders in my life.  But I want to take this walk together, and I am so grateful you have followed up to this point. I hope you will check in throughout the year and maybe learn a thing or two along-side me.

Let’s be exceptional! Let’s be different. Different from everything this world tells us to be. Let’s not just be “cultural Christians”, let’s pursue Him. Pursue His word, pursue His truth, and pursue His kingdom! Let’s give Him control!