Tag Archives: God

The Pledge and Playing it Safe

Before I start, I just want to say that writing this is not easy. I’m well aware that many friends, family, or fellow Christians may disagree with me, but I also know that I am not always called to be agreeable. And I write this because I believe it to be truthful in my life. If I do end up posting what I write, I pray that God will do what He wills with it. God always seems to do that.

A teacher in school once told our class, “Never begin a speech or a paper with a definition.” BUT these teachers always said, there’s exceptions to every rule, and when we were a big-time author we could break the rules. I’m not a big-time author, but I do have my own, free-to-use blog that my mom may read, so I’m just going to break the rules anyways…

Merriam Webster defines allegiance as “devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause.” Now growing up in the U.S., the first thing I think of relating to allegiance is the “Pledge of Allegiance.” We all know it by heart. We grew up reciting it every morning in our schools. In elementary school, does anyone actually know what they’re saying? I remember thinking there was a word in the pledge that was “witchit.” I did not know what it meant, but we said it every day, so it had to mean something. As it turns out, that is actually two words “which it.” The whole thing goes like this:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I don’t know why it seemed so long in school. Maybe because it was the morning? I am not much of a morning person. Or maybe it was because time seems to pass faster now? Who knows. Anyway, that’s what we said, every single day. Then when I was old enough to go to Church Camp, we said it there every morning as we raised the flag. This just seemed to me like part of life in this country, and I didn’t think another thing about it.

Well at least I didn’t think about it for a while. I graduated a year and a half ago from a school named after a preacher of the American Restoration movement, David Lipscomb. In learning about his life and his work, it struck me how he was unwavering in his stance that his citizenship was in the Kingdom of God, not in this country. Lipscomb did not take part in elections, and he also was a strong voice for nonviolence. Growing up in Christian circles, I had never heard this idea. Perhaps I thought that a good American was a Christian, and a good Christian was a “patriotic” person. For many older people with more life experience than my generation, some may view this country as a shining light of freedom in a world of darkness.

I have a hard time rectifying this vision of the U.S. as a beacon of hope with God’s vision of the Church. In Matthew 5, Jesus is preaching to the people.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  -Matthew 5:14-16

This tells me that God’s light of the world is His people: the Church. God is calling His people to do good deeds to bring glory to the Father. We are God’s people. Many of us know of other Christians in other countries, and they are no less part of the Kingdom of God than anyone who lives in this country. So we, God’s people, are to be a light, I get that. What else is required of us? Jesus goes on his sermon, and he teaches on taking care of the poor, prayer, fasting, and finding our treasures in heaven. Then he says this:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  -Matthew 6:24

This is a painful teaching. Of course Jesus is talking about money here, but He is also talking about many other things that may become a master of our life. This teaching refers to power, sex, relationships, sports, and yes, the powers and authorities of the world. Occasionally, our country and God may have similar interests, but that is certainly not something that is consistent. God wants all of us, 100%, to be devoted to Him. Jesus’ message does not really attract those who only want a hobby.

This complete devotion that Jesus is requiring brings me back to the idea of allegiance. If we are completely devoted to following Christ, then our allegiance belongs to the Kingdom of God. I don’t believe myself capable of having multiple allegiances. At some point, we will make decisions that show where our devotion is, and I do not feel called to pledge my allegiance to a flag or a country. Believe me, this is not something that I really want to share on the internet. This idea has been banging around in my head for a few years now. I can no longer pledge allegiance to the flag and our country with a clean conscience.

This is not something I have decided based on the current political landscape or the many athletes who have taken a knee during the national anthem.  Throughout Scripture, God is calling upon His people to serve Him only.  All kids raised in church have to memorize the 10 Commandments.  Commandment #1: “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Commandment #2: “You shall not make for yourself and image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God.”  So maybe you don’t see standing, placing your hand over your heart, and pledging your devotion to a man-made object and human construct as idol worship?  OK, but its at least similar, right?

Then I look at a story from the book of Daniel about these three guys Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago.  Here these guys are living in a foreign empire and the king has a giant golden statue of himself made (a sign of empirical supremacy).  He decrees that everyone must bow down to this statue or be thrown into a furnace and burned alive.  So the time comes and everyone is gathered together in one place.  The instruments are played and everyone starts to bow, everyone except these three guys.  Can you imagine the looks even from other God-fearing people?  Can you imagine the whispering from their friends?  “Just bow and get it over with! It doesn’t mean anything! Just play it safe and do what you’ve gotta do!

Maybe you’ve heard, “Just play it safe and do what you’ve gotta do” before.  Maybe it was something at work that you just had to do to keep your job.  Maybe it was going along with the racist joking of a group of people because you were in the minority and didn’t want to be “that guy.”  There’s many times in our lives where we feel this pressure to play it safe and conform, and we are even advised by our friends and family to do so!  But I have been trying to think of a time where Jesus advised playing it safe, and I’m struggling to think of a time.

So anyways, the King has these three guys brought in and, to paraphrase, says, “I’m dead serious, I will throw you into the furnace if you don’t start playing along.”  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago, go on and tell this King that they believe God can deliver them from any harm, OH AND ALSO, and here’s the kicker for me, they say “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you have set up.” *mic drop*

So now they’ve really done it!  The King is ticked!  He has the furnace made 7 times hotter than normal, ties them up and tosses them in there.  Then he looks in and sees 4 people in there, even though he only put 3 in… and the new one “looks like a son of the gods.”  They aren’t getting burnt up and their bindings are gone.  So the King has them brought out, and then goes on to praise God and decrees that “the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Not only did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago stand up for their convictions, but God used that to change the heart of the most powerful person in the world.  When we give a little, God multiplies it!

So all that to say, we are not called to play it safe or be agreeable.  We are not called to give our devotion to any earthly government or symbol of that government.  We are called to give 100% of our allegiance to the Almighty God, the only God who can save.

And I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for 8 months, playing it safe, but today God gave me courage.  And let’s be honest here, I don’t have a wide readership.  And I stand at no risk to face imprisonment or any formal punishment because our country doesn’t do that, so how big of a risk am I really taking here?  But we can only be faithful with the platforms that we have been given.  We aren’t given the luxury of choosing what to care about. God tends to put stuff on our heart that won’t go away until we do something about it.

Also, I do not tell you this to start a movement. I simply tell you this because I had to. Maybe what I have written will make you think, and maybe you’ll read this and disregard it completely, that’s fine. I appreciate you hanging with me till the end.

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Reflecting Praise

Sometimes, people say good things about me.  I’m sure people say good things about you too.  Isn’t it nice when people say good things about us?  Doesn’t it make us feel good about ourselves?  Well it does sometimes, anyways.  Other times, doesn’t it make us feel shameful?  I know this is part of my story.  Why does someone saying good things about me make me feel shameful?  Because I know myself.  I know I’m not good.  Maybe you’ve felt similarly?

For the longest time, when someone would give me a genuine compliment about something they saw me do or heard me say, I would say, “Thanks,” but immediately think, “If they knew about that one thing that I’ve done or do, there’s no way they would say good things about me.”  We’ve probably all felt that way on some level before.  I know as someone who works in a local church, sometimes I feel pressure to look like I’m loving and flourishing at the whole following Jesus thing, even when I know I’m not.  This feeling of “if they only knew ‘x,’ they wouldn’t love me,” is called shame, and yeah, shame is not from God.

See, we all have issues.  Each and every person on earth has that sin or sins that tempt us, that call out to us, and that we have given in to before.  And yes, by the grace of God we have been set free from the bondage of sin!  But if you’re like me, sometimes you might choose the temptation of the sin that is familiar over walking freely with God.  And this happens, and no its not the right decision or action, but unfortunately, it happens.

But here’s the kicker, if I were perfect, I might start reading my own press clippings.  I might start thinking that things are going well because I made good things happen.  I may start thinking that when people compliment me, that they are doing as they should because I’m pretty awesome.  And if we’re honest, there have been times where we’ve had this attitude as well.

“OK, Michael.  Now I’m confused, because first you said that shame and thinking that we’re bad is not from God, and now you’re saying that we’re not supposed to think that we’re super amazing.  So like, what are we supposed to think?”

That’s a fair question!  So here’s the thing: Any compliments or praise that we receive for the way we live is a compliment or praise that belongs to God alone!

Let’s face it, God works through us, and we are FAR from perfect!  I would go as far as to say that God exclusively works through imperfect people.  It doesn’t take much time reading the Bible to see that He used people with some serious issues to advance the Kingdom of God on earth.  God used Jacob, a cheater and liar, to be the forefather of His people.  He used David, a scheming adulterer, to unite His people.  And God used Saul of Tarsus, killer of Christians, to spread the good news all over the known world.

Here on earth, we are God’s instruments in the symphony of His Kingdom.  When someone does something impressive with a violin, we don’t go up after the show and tell the violin that it did a great job.  The good things that others see in us are merely a reflection of our Heavenly Father, who has given us great gifts.  “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down for us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.  He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

God gives us words to say and things to do to reflect His glory on earth.  So when we receive praise, let us pass that on to God who uses us in ways that we could never choose for ourselves.  For God’s is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever and ever, Amen.

 

Identity Crisis

Looking back over my 22 years on earth, I see a lot of different things that I have done.  I also see the different people that I have been along the way.  Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you.  Let me explain…

Throughout my life, if you asked me to describe myself, my answers would be different based on what I was into in that moment, or who I was trying to be.  I remember in elementary school, I thought I was THE smartest kid in the whole school.  So, in order to prove my intellectual superiority, I entered into the 3rd grade spelling bee.  I studied a little, my mom quizzed me and whatnot, so I felt very confident going in.  Obviously, I was a little nervous, there was going to be a lot of people there.

*I take the stage behind the podium for the first word.*

“Michael, your word is museum.”

“Ok… m-u-s-u-e-m.”

“That’s incorrect.  The correct spelling is m-u-s-e-u-m.”

*I start crying as I walk to my mom.*

Well, that was disappointing.  Later one of my teachers said, I bet you’ll never forget how to spell that word, will you?  She was right, I didn’t.  Why do teachers have to be right all of the time?  They’re like moms, moms are always right.

So I was determined to take my rightful place among the top spellers in the land.  I entered into the 4th grade spelling bee.  I studied exponentially more.  My mom quizzed me a whole bunch.  I was ready.  I felt like Rocky Balboa before his fight with Ivan Drago (Rocky IV).  I glided through the first several rounds with ease.  This was my year, I just new it.  And it was down to me and my arch nemesis, Bianca.  This wasn’t the first time we had squared off, she was also impressive when it came to multiplication tables.

*I step to the podium*

“Michael, your word is collage.”

“uhh… (palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy) c-o-l-a-u-g-e.”

“That is incorrect.  The correct spelling is c-o-l-l-a-g-e.”

*I step back.  Bianca steps to the podium.*

“Bianca, if you spell this correctly, you will win the spelling bee.  Your word is banana

“b-a-n-a-n-a”

*My heart burns with rage.*

I know what you’re thinking, totally unfair, right?  SHE SHOULD HAVE HAD TO SPELL COLLAGE!!!  I had been snubbed, yet again, by my imperfections and a broken system.  This was unjust to say the least.  To make it worse, my little brother Joel won the 2nd grade spelling bee in a landslide, then the 3rd grade, then the 4th.

If I actually look deeper at why I was so upset, I realize that these were not simple losses of spelling bees, they were losses of my identity.

Throughout middle school and high school, I tried to find my identity in other things.  I tried to find my identity in football.  The thing about that was, I was no good at football.  And in high school, I was injured most of the time.  I also tried to find my identity in being the funny guy.  You know this type of person, they have to be the funniest person in the room at all times.  But someone always got more laughs than me.

In college, I tried to find my identity in being all Christian author-y.  I read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz and wanted to be just like him.  I started a blog – this blog – to show my skills as a writer.  I read Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, and I wanted to be just like him.  I started wearing bandanas to show how pacifistic I was.  I thought that being a pacifist was the coolest.

See, I was so busy trying to be all of these different things, that somewhere along the way, I forgot to be me.

One of my favorite quotes from the recent Olympic season is from Simone Biles (I know, you were expecting America’s new hero and role model, Ryan Lochte. /s).  In an interview, Simone Biles, darling of the U.S.A., made the statement, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.”  It would be easy for her to feel some need to get as many medals as Phelps or Bolt, or to accept that she is another exceptional Olympic athlete who should be mentioned in the same sentence as those two icons.  Biles is a terrific athlete, and there has never been another like her.  Despite all of that, she is focused on being the best Simone Biles that she can be.

That is the point isn’t it!?  God has made us all unique and different!

We do ourselves and the Kingdom of God a disservice when we place our identity in anything other than being children of God existing for the redemption of the world.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its parts form one body, so it is with Christ.    1 Corinthians 12:12

We are all differently gifted and blessed by God to serve in ways that only we can!  We are members of the body of Christ, created for a specific purpose, and together, God will do powerful things.

 

Peace and Blessings,

-Michael

my.. I mean thy… will be done

So I guess I would describe my current season of life as a season of waiting.

In my current situation, I have learned a lot about myself.  Waiting for things tends to do that.  See, when we wait for things, we often like to pass the time doing something to keep out minds busy about other things until the time comes to do whatever it is that we’re waiting to do.  Go ahead, next time you’re waiting on anything, see what you do.  I almost always pull out the phone.  That’s pretty much a go-to.  It’s safe, and strangely it has become completely socially acceptable to bury my head in my phone in the dentist’s waiting room, when I’m waiting on someone to meet me, or even at times when there is a lull in conversation.  I do not say this to condone my behavior, I am just making an observation as to something that I do that maybe you relate to.  ANYWAYS, the point is when we’re waiting, we like to keep our minds preoccupied with other things, as opposed to facing the strangeness and potentially awkward experience of waiting.  After all, what are we supposed to do?  Just sit and think?

Well by this point in what I would consider to be a prolonged period of waiting, I have pretty much exhausted all of my time-wasting options or gotten bored with them.  So now I sit here with questions.  Questions that I’m not sure I have a clear answer to.

For starters, when will this waiting end?

So you can better understand what I mean, let me explain.  I feel this calling to youth ministry, and I also feel a calling to do that as part of a church.  At this point, I want youth ministry to be my life’s work, and I need a church to support me in that; a church family to take me in and work with me to show the love of Jesus to teenagers both who are part of the church and those who are not yet part of the church.  I want to come alongside parents as they lead their children in faith.  So I’m waiting for a church to welcome this partnership.

So I am seeking these opportunities.  And I trust that God works in ways that I do not understand and cannot fathom, and I trust that it will work out for the best.  I’m also learning that the saying, “patience is a virtue” is true because virtues take practice, and patience certainly takes practice.  So I wait, and I have to believe that God’s time is better than mine.

Secondly, why has nothing already fallen into place?

The saying, “good things come to those who wait,” may be true, but it rarely appears to be truthful to those who are actually waiting.  To be comforted by this conventional wisdom, one must be hopeful about the result of their waiting.

I believe Abram was asking himself a similar question when God had proclaimed that he would be the father of a great nation, but all he had to show for it was an aging barren wife.  This question, if left unchecked, can cause us to do some rash things like how Abram slept with Hagar in order to conceive a son (Ishmael), perhaps to take his future and his family’s future into his own hands.  Maybe he thought this would in some way force God’s hand into sending his blessing through Ishmael’s line.  But God Almighty doesn’t always do what we think is best.  The Lord was planning something else, something that would go far beyond anything Abram could have imagined.  Through barren Sarai came a son, Isaac.  Through Isaac’s line, came Jesus of Nazareth, Savior of the World.

So maybe nothing’s fallen into place because though it was convenient, it wasn’t quite the plan.

And finally, when will thy will be my will?

For me, sometimes the hardest thing to pray is “thy will be done.”  Not because I don’t believe that God’s will is good and perfect, but because it’s not mine.  And I don’t feel like a necessarily terrible person for struggling with this because Jesus didn’t seem to have a particularly easy time praying this in the garden before his arrest.  Even Jesus, Son of God and member of the Holy Trinity had to surrender control to the will of the Father.  How much more so should I!?

To have God transform our will into His will, we must acknowledge that there is an Almighty God who created our world and that there is the Holy Spirit who is alive and active in our world.  We must also trust that God’s will is good for us.  And finally must pray that His will be done in our world and in our lives.  I think the latter of those is the more difficult for me most of the time.  I have to acknowledge that my life is not really “my” life, but rather that I am here on earth as an agent of the Kingdom of God.

We have to train every part of ourselves to surrender to God’s will.  We must pray that God will give us his eyes.  We must pray that God will indwell us with His Spirit.  And we must pray that God turn our thoughts towards him.

So yeah, strange times currently.  Life can get weird when you graduate from college.  I’ve learned that.  I want to leave you with a couple of prayers.  The first from Thomas Merton, and the second from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Rain, Prayer, and Provision

So about a half hour ago, I had a pretty weird experience with prayer.  I had just gotten out of a meeting on campus, and started to head back to my apartment.  As I walked out the door, I realized the solid amount of rain falling from the sky.  I had no jacket, no umbrella, and the next few minutes looked bleak at best.  I stood under the overhang for a minute, trying to accept the obvious truth that I would soon be cold and wet.  So I looked up and prayed (it couldn’t hurt, right?).  I prayed, “God, it would be pretty cool if you stopped the rain for the next two to three minutes so I could make the quick walk back to my apartment.  I know that’s kind of high maintenance, and it is my fault that I didn’t plan accordingly for this rain, but that would be awesome if you took care of that.”  Then I stood there for another minute or so waiting for either the will to walk through the rain or for the rain to lighten up.  Neither one of those things happened, but something did.

All of a sudden, Ben, a friend of mine, comes up through the rain with an umbrella.  I gave him the old, “What’s up, man?”

He looks at me and says, “Nothing much, what are you doing?” I’m sure I looked pretty strange just standing there alone…

“Just trying to get up the courage to walk through the rain,” I reply.

Then he extends his umbrella to me.  I look at him like he’s crazy, and he simply says, “Take this.” I’m sure I gave him a really weird look, so he added, “It’s not mine…I found it. (Ben’s that friend that everyone has who is always finding weird stuff)”

So I took the umbrella, told him I would get it back to him, and walked off towards my apartment.  And I was dry!

I tell this story for a few reasons, and the more I think about it, the more reasons I have for telling this story.  I’ll try and give these reasons in an organized manner so that you can understand my seemingly disconnected, but possibly connected thoughts:

  1. Nothing is too small to pray about.  Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Seriously bro, that was just a coincidence.”  I disagree.  Sometimes I think God answers those little prayers in unique ways because He delights in our delight.  It’s almost as if God is winking at us, as if to say, “I’m still here, and I love to see you enjoying My presence.”  And even if you are convinced that what transpired was 100% coincidental, I have to ask, what’s the harm in praying about the small things?  God is all-powerful, and He hears our prayers, even the wee little ones.  As a Christian, I believe that God wants us to constantly be praying about literally everything! 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Philippians 4:6.
  2. The Lord uses the people around us.  I doubt that Ben felt that the Spirit walked him toward my location and told him to lend me the umbrella.  I’ll have to talk to him about that, but I doubt that is how it went down.  Sometimes people are unaware of the impact they have on us or the way in which they might be used in our lives.  I have had many conversations from which I walked away feeling completely filled, and I wonder if those people realized what their words meant to me in the moment.  God sends us into each others lives at just the right time, sometimes as an answer to prayer.  Proverbs 25:11.
  3. God doesn’t always answer prayer directly.  See, God didn’t answer my prayer tonight by doing precisely what I asked for.  God didn’t close up the clouds for a couple minutes, but He provided an avenue for me that I hadn’t considered.  Sometimes we become so frustrated with things in our lives that God seems to be ignoring us on.  We ask over and over again for the same thing, and we work towards it, but the necessary doors never open for us.  We cannot become so focused in on what it is that we want that we limit the ways in which we are open to the work of the Lord in our lives.  A life following the Spirit’s lead is surprising, and we rarely can look back and say, “Yeah, I saw that coming.” James 4:13-15.

And I don’t tell this story to say that every time you pray for rain to stop, somebody will show up with an umbrella for you.  We are never going to fully understand the working of God in the world, and sometimes waiting on Him to reveal Himself to us is so hard.  But tonight was a cool reminder of the mysterious working of the Lord in my life.  I hope that if you’ve read this, you feel encouraged about prayer.  God is always listening, no matter how small the request, and He is always paving new paths for us.  The Lord is faithful.

Father, thank You for working in ways that I would never choose; for Your ways are far greater than mine.

-MC

I, Wretch

“Father, I come before you today as a wretch.  I come as one who has repeatedly, continuously turned from your grace.  For so long have I run from you.  For so long have I kept returning only to leave again.  Time and time again have I fully known what is right and good, and time and time again have I chosen the other way.  Father, for so long have I requested green pastures and quiet waters only to choose to remain in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  My  life has only occasionally been lived in a way that matches Your Gospel.  For so long I have been hypocritical of hypocrites with a plank lodged in my own eye.  I have been impatient in the things of Your will.  I have not trusted that Your plan is better than mine.  I have turned my nose up at the sight of Your will in my life for Your people.

Father, I often do not even see people who are different than me.  I have become so desensitized to the hurt in Your world.  I have taken detours to avoid Your plans.  Over and over again, I have turned away at the sight of those in need.  Constantly I set my mind on the things of this world and block out the things of heaven.  I have turned to the wrong places for comfort.  I have told myself that I belong here.  I have pointed the finger at others.  I have excluded those who need belonging the most.

Father, I have been ashamed of the cross.  I have been terrified of what people will say and what they will think.  I have given you only pieces of who I am.  I have cheated You.  Day in and day out I have put myself ahead of You.  I have proclaimed the words of Your Gospel but failed to live it.  I encourage people to share their faith while masking my own.  I have told half-truths.  I have blamed You for my shortcomings.  I have projected anger at myself onto others.  I have hurt those whom I love.  I have used my words to hurt others.  For so long I have longed for personal recognition.  I have accepted praise.  I have repeatedly fed my own ego by tearing others down.  I have put my wants in front of the needs of others.  I have been afraid of the future.  I have been afraid of my departure from this world.  I have been afraid of Your calling.

Father, for all of these things, forgive me.”

Son, I know.  I know your faults.  I created You.  Since the beginning, I have had a plan for you, yes you!  You are so valued.  I knit you together in your mother’s womb.  I know everything that you have done and everything that you will ever do, and I still want you.  You are mine!  Do not be impatient, for everything that you could ever need is already taken care of.  I got this!  In your time on earth, there are tough times, but I will never leave you!  Come to me, I am all that you need.  I am all that you will ever need.  I created the sun, moon, and stars, but you, you are in my own image!  I have given you a heart, a heart with which to love my creation.  You were not created to count your flaws, but rather, you were created to reflect me!  You are imperfect, you make mistakes, and you always will, but I have made you righteous!  I have washed you and made you clean!  I know how many hairs are on your head, I know all of the sins that you left out, I know what you did last week, and son, even after all of that, YOU ARE MINE!

In all those things, I AM.  From the beginning until now, I AM.  From now until forever, I AM.

Grace in the Gray

Doesn’t growing up kinda stink sometimes?

Life used to be so easy.  There were no decisions to be made, or not many important ones anyways.  Questions of morality were so black and white.  Back when the words ethics, prejudice, and bias meant nothing to me.  That was a time in which following God was a decision, not a lifestyle.  There was an obviously correct answer to every question as well as an obviously incorrect answer.  Everything made sense.  The choices set before me were easy.  Eat healthily or unhealthily.  Do the homework or suffer the consequences.  Lie or tell the truth.  Every action had a pretty clear consequence.

But now I find myself swimming in a sea of gray.  Almost anything can be justified in my mind.  Any action can be supported by logic.  And the difference between obviously right and obviously wrong has become a lot of maybes.  All of a sudden, making decisions has become an intense debate inside my head.  Nothing is clear.

But as far as I can tell, this is just part of becoming who I am.

When I came to college to study the Bible vocationally, I thought a lot of things would get cleared up.  That more study of the Bible would lead to a more black and white view of the world and what happens in it.  It surely hasn’t.  The more I study, the more I realize how little that I know.  The more I study God’s word, the more I understand the vast spectrum that Christians fall onto.  Often I have heard people talk about the Bible as if it is something that anyone with a brain can agree as to what it says.  More often, I have seen people heatedly disagree about its truths. Truthfully, we cannot know for certain that our ways are correct.

So what can we do?

In the current age, we can live by faith.  We can live boldly in a way that glorifies our Lord.  We can lean on grace.

So often, we extend grace to others for moral stumbles, but do not extend any grace for genuine intellectual/interpretation differences. Is salvation dependent on perfect interpretation? On perfect understanding? On perfect obedience? If that were the case, we would all be lost.

So today, I challenge those reading this to live boldly by faith.

Hebrews 11 speaks directly to this topic covering many who, by faith, were used to accomplish the Lord’s perfect plan.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2.

Boldly following Jesus is something that the Lord will prosper, not punish.

Run after Jesus through the gray. Faithfully trust Him. Count on grace for the missteps.