God’s not in your box

If you’re anything like me, even as we get older, you’re still trying to “figure out” life, “figure out” yourself, and as Christians in that same way we’re constantly trying to “figure out” more about the God we serve. It’s great to seek to know more about God, but there’s a fine line between seeking knowledge about God and limiting God to something we understand. I think anytime we start to put God in a box, we are swimming in dangerous waters. We must constantly stave off serving a “god” that we’ve formed in our minds. God is not defined by us. God defines us. God is who He tells us He is nothing less. He’s the same no matter what we think or feel. He’s the same at the beginning and the end. God exists outside of the human perception of time. God exists whether we believe or not. He will ultimately be exalted & glorified, by us or despite us, but we’ve been given the opportunity to participate. We exist because God breathed us into existence. We continue to breathe because He allows it. God is not a spectator but instead He is intimately involved w/ His creation. God already paved the way for our salvation & that of all those who came before us, but accepting it and following him is up to us. I don’t understand the balance of free will vs. predestination & I don’t think we’re meant to, like God Himself, His plans don’t always make sense to us. Full knowledge of God is not attainable, He is deeper & wider & greater than our perception or even our imagination. As for ourselves we don’t define ourselves either. Our past does not define us. Our pain doesn’t define us. Other’s don’t define us. Only God does that. Don’t get me wrong circumstances and pain shapes us, it’s part of our story, a part of our story that isn’t to be ignored, but as My pastor stated in his sermon on sunday, there must be a reality higher than our feelings, higher than our circumstances and that reality is that we are redeemed, we are God’s, we are loved. We are broken & fallen in ourselves, but whole in Christ. We are righteous in Christ, we are strong in Christ, we are worthwhile, we are God-breathed, we are useful, we are wanted.

Value, cost and the cause of Christ.

I haven’t blogged on here in a while, but here are some thoughts I had while doing a devotional at lunch today that I thought I’d share.

We strive for security, for comfort, for wisdom, for joy & love, but to what end? What shall we gain from our own toiling outside of the will of God? Nothing, our towers crumble, our beauty fades, our cities fall, our temporarily joyous hearts empty again and again. At what cost? As we work from our own power and wisdom, we run the risk of spending our most valuable asset, our life, on things that are “good”. Many of them are righteous pursuits but if it’s not done for God’s glory it’s all a waste. But if our toil is in Christ, then our toil is for the greatest good, for spreading God’s glory to the ends of the earth. Then our joy is real, our hearts are full, our dry cracked soil is quenched, Our joy is in Christ, our joy is through Christ, our joy is Christ. We catch fractured glimpses of the fullness of Heaven.

But what’s the cost, what does it God require from us. The cost is simple & complex - everything. God won’t settle for scraps, He doesn’t want to be an item on your to-do-list, He doesn’t want you to set aside a little time for Him daily, He doesn’t want your Sundays, He wants the whole week, He doesn’t want Easter & Christmas, He wants the whole year and the year after that and the year after that. God is jealous, righteously, wholeheartedly fiery jealously that knows no end.

We look at costs everyday, we’re bombarded with prices everywhere. We’re used to looking at things and determining if their value is greater than their cost. We determine if people and actions are worth our time and effort. But are we including God in our thinking, are we constantly showing God that he’s not worth it through our thought processes and actions. He doesn’t want to be included in our day out of obligation, but instead wants to bring us to a place of relationship with Him where we begin to truly understand & accept the cost and consistently show our priorities are Him. The cost is everything we have to offer, but the value is unfathomable. The value is not just some great personal reward we seek, the value is not even just our personal salvation from eternal death, it’s also communal, about seeing others saved and its completely about bringing Glory to the Father. The thought of it should determine our every step. The cost is us, the value is Him.

25 Desires for My Life at 25 and Beyond

1) I want to continually realize my brokenness and how much I need God.

2)I want to live out God’s complete direction for me and not my own iteration of it.

3)I don’t want to waste any more time on things of no eternal significance.

4) I want to be a better husband, to love better, serve better, repent better, forgive better and worship better.

5) I want my wife to know she’s my number 1 ministry.

6) I want to learn new languages and experience and embrace other cultures.

7) I want to read more and watch tv less.

8) I want to hold myself to God’s standard for my life and not the worlds.

9) I don’t want to be consumed with anything but Christ and his mission for the world.

10) I want to make time to rest, to recharge, to soak in God and in Godly community.

11)I want to be a defender of the weak and poor.

12)I don’t want to work for the acceptance of others, but instead to work from the acceptance I have in Christ.

13)I want to spend more time out in nature, taking in God’s creation.

14)I want to embrace discipline, patience and discomfort.

15)I want to speak less and listen more.

16)I don’t want to be held back by fear or laziness.

17)I want to develop a sabbatical rhythm.

18)I want to hone my talents and skills and make the most of them.

19)I want to be humble and honest.

20)I want to be supporting, uplifting and trustworthy.

21)I want to live missionally in word and deed.

22)I want to push back consumerism in my heart.

23)I don’t want to become stagnant.

24)I want to be willing to give up everything if that’s what I’m called to.

25)I don’t want to find security in anything but Christ.

Here’s a video that one of the missionaries made for us of our trip to Haiti.

Haiti Day 8 “Goodbye for Now”

Raw emotions abounded as we woke up early, packed and spent our last few moments in our little family. You could tell everyone was soaking up every last moment, sight, smell and sound. It was hard leaving but made easier by the fact that I know I’ll come back someday. So many new friends, new experiences and a new liveliness to my heart. I feel alive in ways I haven’t before, like this trip was me. Like it’s what I was made for. I thank God for every mosquito bite, every inch of sunburn, every scrape, and every sore muscle but most of all for the opportunity to carry His love to others in His name. The flight home feels different, we all know each other now, our quirks and our talents. We worked about as complimentary to each other as any group could hope to be. This trip will live on in my heart. I am forever changed.

Haiti Day 7 “New Home”

We got up early and headed to the compound to get it ready for the kids to move in. We got a call at 7:15 AM saying they had already packed everything up form the old orphanage and were asking if they could go ahead and bring the stuff over. They could hardly wait. We made them wait a while though, so that it would be more complete and more of a surprise to them. We hung nameplates on lockers, sorted shoes, swept, put together bunkbeds, put on new sheets, ect. Then the kids finally showed up and they were flipping out. We had a warrior party for the boys and a princess party for the girls. The warrior party included sword fights, facepainting and music. They each loved seeing their own locker with their own name on it. Something completely their own, just theirs. It was our most hot and draining day yet, but worth every minute. It was probably one of the hardest days because we had to say goodbye to the kids. We left snacks and hugs and notes. Tears were shed but it turned out just fine. I will always hold them in a special place in my heart. We went back to the house and had my favorite haitian dish - rice, beans, red sauce and fried potato cakes. Then we rested, fellowshipped and shared. After dark 7 of us climbed onto the roof of a suburban and stared at the stars. We saw a few small shooting stars and one large amazing one. Couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.

Haiti Day 6 “Beyond Explanation”

We had breakfast and then loaded up to head to the beach. The drive was fun with all the kids packed in, they were so excited. They had gotten dressed up in all their new clothes. I rode in a seat with 4 kids, one on my lap & three in the seat. Michaelson quickly becoming my buddy, fell asleep on my lap for almost the entire ride. I had to keep rotating the kids so they weren’t getting overheated because we were so packed in. Some of the kids hadn’t ever seen this area of the island. We arrived and waited on the leaders to negotiate the price for the group to get into the resort. They gave us each 5 drink tickets and a wristband for the lunch buffet. Then the kids switched into what they were going to swim in. Most of them didn’t have trunks so they just saw in their underwear or whatever they had. They dove straight into the pool, with so much excitement in their eyes. We were having a blast but I think most of us were looking longingly at the beach as we swam in the pool with the kids, but we eventually took the kids down to the ocean for a while. We each had to pick a kids to be responsible for and I chose Michaelson, although we all ended up watching different kids at different times. The ocean was breathtaking, surrounded by exotic trees and plants, all in the shadow of the majestic green mountains. The beach used to be sand but a storm had replaced the sand with a variety of unique rocks. The water was so clear you could see little brightly colored fish swimming around our feet. The kids didn’t like going deep into the ocean at all. They were fine with being in the ocean but clung to us like monkeys. We eventually took them back to the pool and the fun continued. When we stopped for lunch it was all you can eat, and the kids took full advantage. Some of them had up to three heaping plates. Their stomachs were rock hard after lunch from the amount of food they packed in. We had Haitian salad, something like goat, fish, and chicken casserole. After lunch the missionaries had ordered some lobster which we all shared including the kids. One of the kids stuck hers away in a pringles can for later. I also played soccer on the beach with some guys my age. We finally loaded up and headed home. I’ve never seen so many tired kids. They were passed out everywhere you looked, one even fell asleep standing against the bus window. We rested, ate Goulash and talked for hours. I love this group. I fall asleep to the loud drums and chanting from the voodoo temple next door, a good reminder of where we are and what kind of darkness we’re dealing with.

Haiti Day 5 “Labor of Love”

Today was a work day. We worked on getting the new compound ready for the kids & we got to play with the kids in between jobs. I shoveled, sifted and mixed concrete, painted and tried unsuccessfully to learn how to sling concrete properly onto walls. There’s something satisfying about physical labor, getting your hands dirty, sweating. We had already been getting to pour our love out to the kids, but this felt like our chance to help provide them with something tactile and physical. We helped create the places where they’ll be sleeping, living, eating and playing for the foreseeable future and in that I found satisfaction. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to participate in this new chapter of the children’s lives. As I think back on sifting rocks for hours, I realize that we all must be refined to become the most useful versions of ourselves. The way were are refined matters and you have to let the work be done. We all sometimes need continued refinements in our lives. God has already searched for us & picked us out. He breaks us away from our bondage to do His work, to use us to fulfill His plan and extend His Glory.

Haiti Day 4 “Beautiful Depravity”

We drove into the mountains, visited two prisons. The conditions were beyond anything you could imagine. up to 85 people in a cell smaller than most living rooms, no way to get comfortable or rest. At least one of the prisons didn’t even feed the prisoners unless their families or mission groups brought them food. I shared the Gospel as simply and effectively as I could with the prisoners. I was hesitant, but as I started it came easily. After we finished praying for their salvation and healing, we gave toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap to the cell boss to pass to the rest of the cell. The drive back was long, stuffy and tiring but we got to stop at an absolutely beautiful lake in the mountains. At one point when the bus was having issues, it started pouring and I stood out in the crisp refreshing mountain rain.  The mountains were so completely different from Port-au-Prince, the houses were still small shacks but they were spread out and there was a beauty to everything. My heart broke for the prisoners and their seemingly hopeless situation. It was hard to imagine having to live in the prison under any circumstance. Preaching the gospel to people who are truly desperate, who know their sin and are constantly reminded of it, who have no earthly distractions to numb their mind, there’s a raw simplicity to it that is so different than sharing your faith in the overchurched bible belt where everyone thinks they’re okay and sins are so easily hidden and overlooked. We were all so physically and emotionally tired after the prisons everyone slept on and off the whole way home. With each passing day I get more used to the more relaxed schedule, rising early, going to bed early, the lack of A/C, the food, it’s starting to be my normal.

Haiti Day 3 “Hope and Hurting”

Today we had pancakes for breakfast. We started off the morning by going to one of the Haitian churches. Despite the language and cultural barrier, God’s presence was obvious in the service and I left feeling filled. I got to pray with a lady for her family to come to Christ. Later we drove through downtown Port-au-Prince, the center of the earthquakes’s devastation. Such desolation and need. The smell of burning trash was the only thing covering the stench of humanity. Our bus barely fit down the crowded, uneven streets. People, busy markets, and unfinished or destroyed buildings were everywhere. But through it all people were there, living there lives, making the best of what they had, many probably more satisfied with their life than americans at home sitting on their cushy sofas. We stopped at a local shop and ate ice-cream and a grocery store where I bought an energy drink. Armed guards are a normalcy here. Two girls asked to go to the bathroom at the grocery store and were walked there by a uniformed man with a tactical shotgun. Surprisingly enough it wasn’t that weird. Some of us even introduced ourselves and stood and talked with the guards(My friend Hailey had a successful French conversation with them.) Then were just hung around the house for the rest of the night, learned 4 colors in creole playing UNO.