Faith – Be Adventurous

Dad’s Word:

The pieces will never line up perfectly. You won’t ever be “ready.” You may not have the financial ability to do something. It may never look like things are going to work out, but sometimes we’ve got to step out in faith anyway. According to Scripture, we are saved by “grace” (God’s gift) through “Faith” (our trust).

God’s Word:

Ephesians 2:8a – For by grace you have been saved through faith.

Dad’s Word:

There will always be a “faith” factor. God is gracious, but He doesn’t take all of the doubt away. The stars will never align perfectly for you to make the decision. Sometimes the “faith factor” will be large and other times it won’t be as big, but there is always an element of faith involved in every decision we make. Even choosing which cereal to put in your bowl requires faith that your choice hasn’t gone stale. Choosing your spouse is a bigger one. You will never know perfectly if he/she is the right choice ’cause there is always a “faith factor.” In those situations, we look at fruit in their lives; we look for evidence of Godly decision-making and a lifestyle that reflects the character of Christ. The evidence will never be enough, but it gives us a solid place to stand when we ultimately put our faith in Christ. (By the way, having a strong marraige is more about “being” the right person than about “finding” the right person. Check the “Marriage” section of this book.)

One classic example that illustrates faith is that of a car driving down a dark road. The headlights won’t show you the whole road, but they will show you enough to drive the next few feet. Faith works like that sometimes. When we have been faithful for the first few steps, God will reveal the next few steps to us. He has a good reason for doing it this way. You see, if He told us the end, we’d look for ways to get there on our own, but doing it this way, we become dependent upon Him; Our relationship with Him grows and we begin to trust Him even more through the process.

God’s Word:

Genesis 12:1 – Now the Lord said the Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

Dad’s Word:

Abram left everything he knew without knowing where he was going to end up. He only knew that God would be with him because God has said that He would show him where his land would be. This is faith – traveling to a place you do not know simply ’cause you trust and love the One who travels with you.

God’s Word:

Luke 16:10 – One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Matthew 25:23 – His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.

Famous Words:

“Faith is jumping off the cliff and trusting that God will build more cliff.” – Dustan Thrift (friend, ex-student – not “famous” words)

“The steps of faith fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath.” – John Greenleaf Whittier

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Faith is not something that goes against the evidence, it goes beyond it.” – Alister McGrath

“Reason can only get you to probability, but only commitment can get you to certainty.” – Tim Keller

“Faith is like radar that sees through the fog – the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.” – Corrie Ten Boom

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” – Oswald Chambers

(When he didn’t have a job.) I’m excited! God has us in His hands & I’m imagining what He’s planning on doing w/us…well, I’m a bit anxious too. Faith & Fear together. – Steve Corn (not-so famous words)

“Unbelief = putting circumstances between you and God. Faith = putting God between you and circumstances.” – Mark Batterson

“Where reason cannot wade, there faith may swim.” – Thomas Watson

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” – Oswald Chambers

“We can pray for rain, but faith brings an umbrella.” – Unknown

Personal Story:

Before asking your mother to marry me (the greatest adventure of my life), I went to her parents to ask their permission; to get their blessing. I was working as a youth minister and didn’t have a college degree. I didn’t have much money and wasn’t sure how I would support her, but I knew that God was leading me to pursue her as my wife. Gigi and Papa were concerned about how I would support her. I remember telling them that I really didn’t know how it would all work out, but that I felt like if I listened to God as He led me to marry her, He would also lead us as we looked for a way to begin our family and relationship together. If I was faithful right now, I believed He’d be faithful to show us the future. If I was faithful in the first step, I knew I could trust Him with showing us the next step. Gigi and Papa gave me their blessing that night ’cause they recognized the very same thing – that God leads us one step at a time. We’ve got to have faith that He will lead us to the right place even though we may never know where that place actually is. Since that time God has taken us on an incredible journey with lots of ups and downs. We’ve had plenty of other opportunities to learn to trust Him. Each time, He has proven faithful.

Risk in the Blood

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a risk taker. I love adventure. I love the adrenaline of not knowing. I love exploring. I love whitewater rafting, snow skiing, scuba diving, etc. I love the top of the roller coaster where you’re about to experience something, but you’re not quite sure how it’s gonna turn out. It’s these moments, where I truly believe I’m exercising my faith the most.

When I first decided to leave home to start a youth ministry job…When I decided to try and raise $20,000 for a student mission trip…When I knelt down to ask Miranda to marry me…When I step into the unknown…I believe those are the moments where my faith is being stretched. And I also want my life to be an expression of my faith in Jesus Christ. Even in the most uncomfortable and insecure moments, I hope my life reflects the undercurrent of trust in Jesus that somehow (by His power and grace) courses through my veins. Because of Him, I enjoy risk. Even when I’m doubtful, I still feel more alive when I’m risking something. (That’s when I’ve got to walk more closely to Jesus.)

I have also always said that I want my kids to learn to take chances – not stupid risks of course. But I want them to know Jesus personally, and I know that the life He calls them to, is one of risk. If you read the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), it’s clear that Jesus Himself equates faithfulness with risk. I pray that my children will risk everything for the glory and name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I want to be an example to them. By the way, if Jesus motivates your risk, it’s no risk at all.

My in-laws, Mike and Patti Mathews, are a bit of a different story. I don’t really think of them as “risk-takers.” Mike plans everything. He actually puts “Brush my teeth” on a “to do” list. By making the list, he’s making sure that all his bases are covered. He’s “playing it safe” by trying to be prepared for everything. Mike and Patti have gone on vacation to the same beach for the last 20 years and Patti has never gotten wet above her knees. (Well, she probably has been rained on.) Patti talks about Kasen, our 2yr old, breaking his neck when he jumps off the couch. I don’t know the real answer to this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that Mike and Patti had never been on a roller coaster in their lives. These are all examples of a “play-it-safe” sort of outlook on life.

Mike Snorkeling

But wait. . . Mike and Patti ARE RISK-TAKERS!!! We just got back from a Hawaiian vacation. In spite of their fear, Mike and Patti both got in the water during our snorkeling excursion. Although he had never been in water deeper than 5ft, Mike jumped into a cove where the water was close to 40ft deep. The terror in his eyes was evident, but he actually ended up loving it. And check this out…Mike and Patti both went ziplining through the treetops of Hawaii! I’ll never forget the sound of Patti’s voice as she stood 70ft in the air at the edge of the first line contemplating whether she could do it or not. They both faced their fears.

Patti Ziplining

They were scared for sure. But COURAGE is NOT the ABSENCE of FEAR! It’s ACTION IN SPITE of FEAR!!

As I look a little closer at their lives, I realize they’ve been risk-takers all along. They both gave their lives to Christ. That’s not a risk, but it certainly feels like one when you’re taking that first step into a new life. They both gave up a “safe” career in order to go to seminary. And my experiences in watching how Mike leads/disciples people, it’s clear that he encourages and lovingly pushes people to take more risks as they follow Jesus. Who knew??? Mike, the play-it-safe list maker, is also a risk taker!!

GOOD NEWS!! I want my children to be risk-takers and now I realize they’ve got “RISK in the BLOOD” from both sides of the family!!

(PS – Mike and Patti, I’m sorry for misjudging you.)

Christian Gymnastics – The Balance Beam

Risk is essential if we are going to call ourselves Christians. In Psalm 127:4-5, God describes our children as “arrows” in our quiver. That means we’ve gotta be willing to send our children (and ourselves since we are God’s children – the arrows in His quiver.) out of the safety/comfort zones and into enemy territory to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes the greater risk is to risk nothing at all. Only in risk do we discover how great our own need for Jesus is and realize His power and love for us.

Here’s a great video I saw on Donald Miller’s blog from Francis Chan talking about risk.

Snowman

SnowmanLast Friday, it snowed here in Lake Jackson and even more in Pearland. We were up in Pearland (my in-laws house) preparing for our family pics at Penneys and so Kasen and I built a snowman. It was his first experience with snow. He was having tons of fun, but couldn’t enjoy it too much ’cause he was also so cold. (The snow was real wet.) One minute he’d be telling me he wanted to help build the snowman and then the next he was ready to go back inside – we’d head toward the door and then he’d want to go back and build the snowman again – just couldn’t make up his mind. He was torn between two worlds. The cold, fun, and passion of building the snowman on one hand and the warmth, safety, and security of the house on the other. I’m glad to say, that in the end he chose to stick it out and finish the snowman. If this is an indication of his life, he’ll be the guy taking all the risks – living life to the fullest. I pray he’ll grow up to be that kind of man – One who won’t be afraid to take a risk and dream big when it comes to expanding the Kingdom of God – an arrow in my quiver, (Ps 127:4-5) one which breaks through on enemy territory taking ground for God.

Risky Writing

adventureI think writing/blogging is a bit risky. Exposing your thoughts and commenting on the world around you opens yourself up to all kinds of criticism and other ideas. It’s like driving through uncharted territory with your friends/readers as backseat drivers trying to tell you which way to go or what to think or how you should react or. . . whatever. And yet. . .as the driver of your own thoughts and actions, you still get to drive. You’re the one in charge. You’re the one who is breaking new ground and going places – venturing off into new territories. Anyway, it’s a bit adventurous to charge the hill of opinion with nothing but another opinion and a dream that yours will somehow make a difference.

rabbisI’ve been reading the book “Meet the Rabbis” by Brad H. Young lately, and I’m learning a lot, but I just had to share one of the thoughts I had today as I read. He quotes Elie Wiesel as saying,

“To comment is to reclaim from exile a word or notion that has been patiently waiting outside the realm of time and inside the gates of memory. When you pray, said the late Louis Finkelstein, you speak to God; when you study, God speaks to you. If study is discovery, commentary is adventure.”

I had to read it a couple of times but I love it! Commentary is adventure!!!! I love the idea that study is discovery and as we comment or respond, we step into adventure! With blogging and the web, there have become more and more commentators – more and more critics – more and more voices – more and more words just to wade through in order to discover the things that move us and call us into deeper ways of living. But I’m one of those people who needs someone to bounce things off of – I need a sounding board. Blogging and writing helps me to work through the things I believe myself. It helps me to understand my own thoughts – to make sense out of life. It’s my way of venturing out into uncharted territory and exploring the ideas before making the mistakes that come to people who act without assessing the situation.

Louis Finkelstein agrees. My blogging/commenting on life is an adventure. Maybe that’s why I love doing it so much. There is a bit of that explorer in me. I really think it’s the adventurer entrepreneurial risk-taking voice inside of me that really enjoys writing. It allows me to stake my claim on an idea – to stand up and say “Here’s where I draw the line and I will defend it.” It also allows me to test the waters of those ideas that I’m a bit sketchy on.

Anyway, I guess these were just some random thoughts today. I probably haven’t organized them very well, but . . .well, I’ve stepped into the adventure.

New Terrain

No matter where you are in life, you can probably say, “Wow! I’ve never been here before. Life has thrown some things at me, but I’ve never felt like this before.” It seems that even in our “normal” everyday lives, there’s still always something new – something different that turns things at a new angle so it all seems new. Consequently, we’re always breaking new ground – walking into uncharted territory. New terrain is normal – it’s what we do, if we’re alive. This means we’ve gotta always be ready for the unexpected and it also means that life is truly an adventure.

During our time at my mom’s house for the hurricane evacuation, I was watching Kasen and learned something about new terrain. Let me explain: He has been walking for about a month, but he’s still working on it. He still stumbles around a bit when there’s an incline or a little step – or if he’s going from concrete to grass, etc. stepping-stones2My mom has a concrete porch in the back of her house with stepping stones in the grass leading to another bricked area with a porch swing. The weather was beautiful while we were there so we spent quite a bit of time outside. Kasen loved the stepping stones, but couldn’t navigate them very well. They were too far apart for him to use them properly, and so he would step into the grass and then up on a stone, then down into the grass again. . . .you get the picture. If I walked all the way out to the swing, he’d just stop and cry for me to pick him up and take him there, but if I went a couple steps ahead of him. . .he’d give it a shot and walk to me. He fell almost every time he went from the stone to the grass, but each time he got up again and would clap for himself and say “Yeah.” (That’s something else he’s learned recently.) Each time I’d join him in the applause and he’d continue. Whenever he made it without falling, he also clapped and I joined him then too. He needed the encouragement either way – besides that, the applause is what made the whole experience fun. As a father, I loved cheering for him when he’d get up after a fall and also when he made the step and kept his balance. I know he loved it too.

I wonder if this hurricane and the new terrain that we’re learning to navigate is similar? Do we have enough people around us who will cheer for us whether we succeed or fall? Are we being the kind of people who will cheer for others either way? As we enter into this new terrain, will we continue to walk – taking one step at a time, or will we be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task? Do we have people in our lives who will go with us through it all without getting too far out ahead? Will we go through it with others?

For that matter – isn’t this the case with anything new in our lives? Isn’t it better when we do it together? When there are people to encourage us and walk through it all with us?

Bucket List

Bucket I just saw the movie “The Bucket List” last night and thought I’d make my own list of things I wanna do before I “kick the bucket.” I’m sure this list will change over the years as different things become important for me, but I’m gonna at least get started with my list here.

I’ll mark those things I’ve completed in blue.

Follow Jesus – Live for Him
Be an awesome husband and father
Teach my children about Jesus with how I live
Live a risky life – take chances
Get in shape
Spend a week alone
Live in a real Biblical community
Get my Bachelor’s degree – Aug 2008 – Biblical Leadership from College of Biblical Studies
Help plant a church
Spend a month on the Mission Field with my family
Write a book
Skydive
Race a car around a track a few times
Helicopter Skiing
Travel back to Israel
Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef – travel Australia
Kiss Miranda in Golden Gate Park as the sun sets
See a volcano in Hawaii – June 2010
Get my mother-in-law to go camping in Colorado
Go on an African Safari
Climb to the summit of a mountain
Whitewater Raft through the Grand Canyon
Spend a summer camping with family
Record a CD of my own songs
See U2 live – Sept 2009
See MuteMath live – Oct 2009

I know there will be more ideas later. I’ll just add them to the list.

Here’s another list of some amazing things I’ve already been able to do.

Marry the most amazing woman in the world
Dance under the moonlight with Miranda
Witness the birth of my children, Kasen & Kesleigh
Travel to Israel
Work under an incredible leader – my father-in-law
Grow up in an incredible family

Kiss Miranda at the top of the Empire State Building
Tell my dad goodbye on his deathbed
Recorded 2 CDs with Throne Together

Play and sing on stage leading hundreds in worship

Youth ministry
Disciple youth and lead them into relationship with Christ
Watch on as youth I worked with go into the world serving Christ doing missions in Africa, Egypt, Costa Rica, Thailand,
planting churches, Leading worship, serving their church

Traveling Experiences:

Travel the World with My Father-in-Law:
Israel
London/England – John Wesley/Soul Survivor
Rome & Italy
New York – Brooklyn Tabernacle
Phoenix, Arizona – Church of Joy

Go to Continuing Education Conferences in:
Nashville – Worship Together
Ginghamsburg, Ohio – Media in Worship
San Francisco – National Youth Workers Convention
San Diego – NYWC
Dallas – NYWC
Saddleback – Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry Conference
Willow Creek – Youth Ministry Conference

Family Vacations:
Yellowstone
California
Florida
Tennessee
Las Vegas
Washington DC
Tons of Ski Trips
Cozumel

Places I’ve gone with Miranda:
New York
Florida – Honeymoon
Livingston
California
Colorado – skiing
Gulf Shores
Mexico Cruise
Hawaii

Tightrope Walking

Wire
There’s a classic story about a tightrope walker who rolls a wheelbarrow across the wire. When he asks if people believe he can do it again, they all say, “Yes!” but when he challenges them to get in the wheelbarrow and prove their belief. . .well, I guess it reveals their true belief. If we don’t step out in faith every once in a while, does that reveal our faith too? When we live our lives always always making the “smart” or “safe” choice, or we go after the goal that we’re sure to achieve, what does it reveal about our relationship with Christ? Do people look at our lives and wonder, “Is that all their God has called them to? Is this really all there is to being a Christian?”

What would it be like to have someone look at your life and say the opposite. . .”Whoa! He’s got this insatiable desire to change the world! He’s crazy to attempt that! What is it in a man that compels him to be that way?”

Could it be that our “Christian” lives are lacking the intensity and risky nature that God requires from a people who have been given faith? Is it a lack of exercising the faith we’ve been given or do we blame God and say He didn’t give us enough faith?

Warren Bennis quotes Karl Wallenda saying, “Walking the tightwire is living; everything else is waiting.”


Prayer:
Lord, may my life be that of a tightrope artist. I want to honor You with a life of not only walking the wire, but one of enjoying the trip and dancing through the process with You by my side.


June_70_9_months_ridin_a_horse_in_h
PS – My first set of wheels – Here’s a pic of me @ 9 months. (June 1970 – I look like a girl.) As a kid, I had really good balance. Mom said I was walking at an early age. I can remember that learning to ride a bike, skate, walk on stilts, etc. came pretty easily to me. I wonder how good my balance is these days? Of course the “balance” I need now is a little different.

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Adventurous Faith

Scuba07editI have always been drawn to an adventure. There are so many things I want to experience in life – all of which seem like adventures to me – I wanna bungy jump, skydive, scuba dive the great barrier reef, go spelunking, maybe even heli-skiing. I want to see lions, elephants, and kangaroos in their natural habitat. I’d love to travel to see all the wonders of the world. I want to write a book someday, and drive over 150 miles/hour on the autobahn. I want to run with the bulls, and go on a cattle drive like on City Slickers. I want to fight Darth Vader off with my light saber. (OK – maybe that one’s a stretch) I would love to be able to risk everything I have in order to be a part of something God called me to. Something like planting a church. I want to do it all. I want to get to the end of this life and feel like I had done all there was to do.

Here’s the good news for me!

J. Oswald Sanders says, “Vision leads to venture, and history is on the side of venturesome faith.” (Chapter 8, pg 57, Spiritual Leadership)

Inapit
Mark Batterson writes about this kind of risk-taking faith in His book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” He talks about how the Biblical definition of faith and the worlds definition seem at odds. Usually when you hear  the word “faith” being used, it’s in terms like: “He is so faithful to the Word.” “She stood her ground against those guys and stayed faithful to our traditions.” It’s usually used in some sort of defensive stance, but the Bible talks about faith in very different terms. Batterson calls our attention to the parable of the talents. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” is spoken to the guys who took a risk. Faith is offensive rather than defensive. The play-it-safe guy was called wicked and lazy. Faith is actually defined as risky!! Now that makes me happy. That means the life that I’ve always dreamed of is actually what God is calling me to. I hope I get to the end of life and God says, “Well done, good and faithful (risk-taking – hyper-hopeful – crazy – what-were-you-thinking? – Jesus-believing – go-after-it-all – offensive – gutsy) servant.”

Pray that my wife can live with me.