My first high ropes experience

high ropes

Anytime I get to have an experience with heights, a blog post will come out of it. I’m still not terribly fond of heights so they help me to pursue Jesus with more vigor!

The other day my brother-in-law, Nate Davis, asked me if I would do a high ropes course with him. Against my better judgment, I consented. Nate and I ended up doing half of the course and it was quite challenging for both of us, but we both also walked away with a couple of important insights.

There were about 6 of us harnessed into these wires and we were also only standing on a wire with a decent fall underneath us. There were 2 challenges that our little group needed to make it through and the first one was the toughest. At one point I was standing on 2 wires at the same time and I had to take my foot off one to get both my feet on the other one. I didn’t want to do it. The only thing that I had to balance myself was a rope that was shaking because a bunch of guys were also hanging onto that rope.

Every time I went to move my foot to get to the other wire I started shaking and was just certain I was going to fall. I just had to trust that everything would be fine and if I fell, I fell. I was harnessed in, but I couldn’t seem to shut off that “what if” part of my brain. What if the harness isn’t secured right? What if the hooks keeping me attached to it give way somehow? Even though I was perfectly safe up there, my brain wasn’t relaying that message properly.

I had to step off one wire and move to the other. I just had to commit. In fact, the slower and less decisively that I made the move, the more likely that I would fall. The X factor that really helped me to complete the challenge was the guys around me. There was one dude in particular, Robert Knight, who is just a rock star in my opinion. He was the first guy to go across and I was the second. Robert was completely confident and just kept encouraging me to take the step that I needed to take. I don’t know that I would’ve finished successfully had he not done that. He kept saying things like….

“I got you.” “You’ve got this.” “You’re completely fine dude.”

It helped to shut off the other voices in my head that were saying…

“You’re gonna fall.” “The harness won’t catch you.” “You could really get hurt doing this.” “What are you even doing up here anyway?” “This was a bad idea.” Etc….

I ended up having a blast! I would do it again and I know I would do it with way more confidence. That was my first time on a high ropes course and it was sweet!

I learned something about trust, perseverance and community. In life we all have to take various leaps. Decisions we must make if we are going to pursue the plan that God has for our lives. Some of those decisions will be extremely difficult. We will have plenty of internal and external voices calling to us to just turn back. That it’s not worth the pain and that life would just be easier if we just settled.

The problem is, those voices will completely destroy our existence if we let them. The natural ebb and flow of our nature will not challenge us to make the necessary and difficult decisions that we need to make. That means that we need a battle plan. We need to equip ourselves in advance for the moments when we’ll want to turn back.

One of the primary ways that we do this is with solid community. I say solid because not all people are the right people for this. This is not an elitist thing. This just means that we have to be very intentional about the men and women that we allow in our corner when our decision to quit or persevere is on the line. We need people who will echo back to us the courage that we have deep down inside. Men and women who know the call that God has on our lives and refuse to let us settle for less than that. Guys like Robert.

Do you have people like that in your life? If not, what are you going to do to change that? If you do, let them know. Let them know how much they mean to you and that you’re thankful for the role they play in your life.

Stepping out of the boat

out of the boat

In Philippians 3:13-14 Paul said,

But one thing I do: Forgetting  what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I love the focus here. To be perfectly honest however, I must say that sometimes I don’t want to press on. I recognize that between me and the future that God has for me are fights that I have to win. There are giants that must be slain. Sometimes I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to just stay comfortable in the little boat of false securities, half answers and unanswered questions. I want to stay in the little boat of mediocrity and cheap thrills. But deep inside I feel the call….the call from Jesus to step out of the boat and onto the crashing waves. I love that call and I hate that call.

Sometimes I want to do everything I can to silence it and pretend it’s not there….but I can’t. A ship wasn’t meant to stay in the harbor and our hearts weren’t designed to stay in the boat. We are meant to walk on water as Jesus did. We are meant to step out of our little boats of insecurities and fears. Of lusts and greed and temporal pleasures that don’t last beyond this life. We are called to live as princes and princesses of the King and dine at the table of abundant life. A table overflowing with true joys, lasting peace, supernatural power and life. We grow comfortable though don’t we? Too comfortable.

Paul had achieved a lot. He had seen heaven move on his behalf. He could have just cashed in his chips and spent the rest of his life collecting seashells on the shore of the Mediterranean. But no…. he heard the voice…calling him…beckoning him…..Paul, don’t stop. Don’t settle. I have more for you. Press on. Forget your past failures and shortcomings. Step out of the boat. Embrace the fear and seize the abundant life I’ve created you for.

That same voice is now speaking to us. The question is….how will we respond?

The importance of malleability

gumby

One of the most important qualities that I’ve sought after in my spiritual journey is malleability. In Isaiah 55:9, we are told that God’s ways are much higher than ours. This means that if we are going to become more like him, change and transformation will be the new norm. We have to become really friendly with the idea that we are not the finished product.

This is much easier said than done. It’s one thing to acknowledge that our behavior needs to shift in some ways, but it’s much more difficult to embrace the necessity for paradigm shifts and assumption changes. When we start to realize that the very lens we look through is skewed, the extent to which we’re willing to change will be put to the test.

This is why it’s so important to be malleable. The definition of malleable is…

capable of being extended or shaped by hammering or by pressure from rollers.

Can God stretch you? Are you aware of your own need for transformation? How much do you try to convince yourself and others that you are the finished product? The extent of your malleability will directly impact the extent of your growth this day, and every day that follows.

Firing a flare up to heaven

RUSSIA-HISTORY-WWII

I remember a while back, my Senior Pastor at Seacoast taught the congregation a one word prayer and it stuck with me. The prayer was…..(drum roll)…..HELP. Pretty simple, huh?

Help.

Sometimes you get to a point where you’re beyond words with a particular struggle. It’s emotional. It hurts. You feel overwhelmed and even trying to find the words to pray feels like too much to handle.

I’ve prayed this prayer before. It feels like shooting a flare to heaven. Almost like you’re saying with one word…“If anybody up there can hear me and do something, please come now.” Now I know that doesn’t sound like the most faith-filled or inspiring prayer ever…but sometimes that’s just all you got.

I believe God hears this prayer. There have been times when my lifeline to heaven was encapsulated in that one word….help.

I heard a wise man say not too long ago that prayer, by it’s very essence, is saying to God, “I can’t do this without you.” To be perfectly transparent, this is why my prayer life suffers so much at times…because I believe I can do it without him. I just haven’t fully learned that lesson yet.

Maybe there’s an area in your life right now where you need a one word prayer. Try, “Help.” Sometimes we feel like we’re alone on a boat in the middle of a huge ocean. We feel like our only option left is to fire a flare up to heaven and hope to God that he sees it.

The apple of His eye

For most of my life, I’ve worked for acceptance. It may have been from a particular person or a group of people. Even though I know that I haven’t had to, I’ve even tried to work for the acceptance of God. Through Pastor Naeem’s message at Seacoast yesterday, I was reminded that complete acceptance has already been achieved on my behalf. My job now is simply to be thankful.

In Matthew 3:17, the Father spoke to Jesus before his ministry had even begun. He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” When we surrender our lives to Christ, we receive the same standing with God that Jesus had. This isn’t because of our own merits or holiness, this is simply the gift that Jesus paid for with his life.

This means that for those of us who follow Jesus, this is how God feels about you. You’re the apple of his eye. No matter what you’re going through right now. No matter what sin you may be struggling with. This is what God thinks of you. He sees you in the same way that he saw his perfect Son on that day.

I don’t know about you, but this seems crazy to me. I feel consistently like I don’t measure up. I feel like I need to be on my best behavior to get that type of acceptance. The point however, is that there is no way we ever could have earned it. Because of that, Jesus achieved on our behalf what we could never achieve on our own.

You are precious and honored in God’s sight. He is as pleased with you now as he’ll ever be. How do you respond to that? How does that make you feel? To me, it seems too good to be true. But then…isn’t that why they call it the gospel or good news?

Why I love being a pastor

pastor

I love being a pastor. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I truly love it. One of the reasons I love it so much is because of divine moments. I think we all probably intuitively realize that there is a portion of our time that we spend on things that don’t really matter…things that we do in this life that probably don’t have much eternal significance. Now, I do think we need to be careful in this respect. There are a lot of things that seem mundane that may be extremely important. There also may be a number of things that we do that seem really important that are actually rather insignificant. That however, is a different blog post for another time.

I love divine moments. The moments that you get to be a part of that you know have eternal significance. Where the veil that separates heaven and earth seems to be a little bit thinner. I get to have a lot of these. Moments like…

Praying for a single mom who is going through a hard time.

Counselling a couple whose marriage is on the ropes and is looking for a reason not to quit.

Officiating a wedding where the sense of love and God’s presence could be cut with a knife.

Facilitating a church service that ushers hope into a weary soul.

The list could go on and on. I love that I have a job that encourages me to focus on and pray for moments like these. In Luke 10:27, Jesus summed up the purpose of our existence: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” He said that this is the summation of God’s will for our lives. Love God. Love people.

These are the guardrails for our lives and between them we find the divine moments I’m talking about.

There is nothing as beautiful as someone experiencing the love of God for the first time. Or someone who has never had love or acceptance finding true community and friendship for the first time ever. Divine moments.

There is a lot about being a pastor that is extremely challenging. That is a post for another day as well. What keeps me going though–what fires me up more than anything else–are the divine moments.

I fight for them. I pray for them. I savor each and every one because I know they will reverberate through eternity. Someday this life will be over, even though sometimes we don’t want to admit it. I believe we’ll find out that there were things that we spent our time on that really mattered, and that there were other things we spent our time on that didn’t matter at all. I want to be as regret-free as possible on that day. I want to have led a life full of divine moments.

One of the deepest regrets I could possibly imagine is the regret of a wasted life. A life spent on things that really didn’t matter all that much. I can’t imagine the weight of knowing that the majority of my time was spent in vain. Some will feel that weight unfortunately, but I certainly don’t want to be one of them.

You certainly don’t have to work as a pastor to have a life full of divine moments, but you should be focused on them. So what about you? What was the last divine moment that you had? What can you do to create more of them today?

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