Where no man has gone before.

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

We all want to be the hero. Whether it’s a feeling we admit out loud or an uncensored thought that we quickly hush at night, we are attracted to epic stories for a reason.
We want to be in Captain Kirk’s chair—to lean thoughtfully to the right, bring our hand to our chin, and give the command, “Warp factor one, Mr. Sulu.” (Of course, none of us know what a “warp factor” is, but man does it sound legit to say.)
We feel a pull towards the bravery, boldness, strength of Kirk as he leads his crew into battle with a seemingly unconquerable foe. We want to exude that confidence and optimism. We want to save the world, and give people hope.
But then the lights come on. We leave the theater, and maybe say, “I’m going to be my own hero this week. I’m going to take charge, to exude swagger and confidence. I’m going to be [insert the name of hero here].” Now, I’ve always had a vivid imagination, but whether you admit it or not, this desire to become the hero lives within all of us…
…yet, it’s easy for us to let reality kill it. We get sucked into the routine of daily life. We get overwhelmed by our challenges. We say, “I’m facing all of these struggles. There’s no way I can be a hero, I can hardly keep my head above water.”
It’s like Captain Kirk saying, “Aw, yeah, you’re right. I don’t know if we’ll be able to beat them—they’ve got better technology and more manpower. Let’s just surrender to the enemy.” (Because most of us don’t turn away from our problems altogether, but allow ourselves to be consumed by them.)
A hero would never say that.
You are a hero. You should never say that.
How can you reclaim your “captain’s chair”, and be the hero of your own story?
Here’s three lessons we learn from Captain James T. Kirk (or any hero) that apply to real life:
  1. You are on a mission.
As a Christian, you were put here for a purpose. Every moment of every day, you are in the midst of an incredibly real war being waged for the earth and, most importantly, the souls of its inhabitants. You’ve been placed here as a soldier of the King—an almighty, all-knowing divine ruler who gives you the battle plans and ensures your victory. And this King is despised by a very real, incredibly dark and dangerous enemy who wants nothing more than to see your demise, and to cripple you so that you can’t help those around you.
You must realize that your life doesn’t just consist of your “home, work, gym, home” routine—dulling you to the real situation is a ploy of the enemy. As long as the enemy can keep you inwardly focused, you’re a non-factor in the war. But God has made you an heir, a commander. You wield His authority, and act in His name. Just like our heroes, you bring light to a world of darkness. You are powerful. The opposition and struggle you face means you are a factor in the war—or else there would be no reason for your adversary to try to take you out.
  1. You have an origin story.
In fact, if you’re like me, you’re in the middle of your origin story. Captain Kirk wasn’t promoted to captain of the Enterprise without first having learned how to fight, how to strategize, how to effectively take on and defeat your enemies. For us, these enemies may not be Romulans (almost definitely won’t be), but may be uncertainties with your job or finances, relational conflict, or other trying situations. In the words of James T. Kirk, “You must learn before you reach for the stars.” and “A little suffering is good for the soul.”
You can’t get to the climax of the story without going through the crisis in the story. It equips us and strengthens us to stand up in the face of the enemy and, to one day, be able to protect and save others, too. Only after the origin story can we take the captain’s chair. Attack each day like it’s one more step on your way there—you write the outcome of your own origin story.
  1. Your mission is to bring hope.
To quote Commander Spock, “We find hope in the impossible.” And in life, sometimes it can seem we are in impossible situations. There is no way out, there is no way to win…
…wait, that sounds familiar. It’s the plot of every good movie—when it seems all hope is lost, the hero is able to find a way. The best movies are the ones that have a plot twist at the very last second, where you can’t see the solution coming from a mile away. Yet, in real life, if we can’t see the solution at the beginning of the challenge, we often give up. We don’t keep fighting. We surrender. And then, we’ve failed in our mission.
We have hope, because God has assured us victory in all things. And that, in every struggle, He will never allow us to have to tackle more than we can bear. 1st Corinthians says, “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.”
With such victory assured, He’s given you the mission of taking this hope to others, too. To liberate those who are being held captive by their circumstances or past. To bring the news of His salvation to anyone and everyone—anywhere and everywhere. He alone has the power to save, and He has entrusted you alone with your specific mission (the people and situations around you) to do what nobody else can, and to make a difference nobody else can in the war for the Kingdom.
It’s your turn to boldly go into tomorrow—a place where no man has gone before, and nobody else but you will go in your shoes—to explore His world, to seek out His plans, and to be the hero on a mission, His mission.
Live long and prosper.

Leap of faith.

Setting: Middle Eastern Desert, Afternoon, 1989

Indiana Jones looks across the chasm to see the doorway cut out of the sheer rock face on the other side—knowing that behind that door lies the object that he seeks, the reason for his journey: the Holy Grail.

 

But looking at the sheer drop below him, he falters for a moment: “It’s not possible. Nobody can jump this,” he says.

 

Taking a moment to look back at the ages-old guidebook in his hand, he suddenly has a moment of realization: “It’s a leap of faith.”

 

His father, from the cavern behind, urges him on: “You must believe, boy. You must believe.”

 

Though his trepidation is still present, Indy sets aside fear and reason and takes a step out into nothing but air…

 

….and is caught by the rock bridge beneath his feet. One that is invisible to the eye and otherwise unknown, except by those who dare to tread there. Indy’s elation is apparent as he walks—first slowly, then with greater confidence—to the other side.

indiana-jones-invisible-bridge.jpg

 

 

Setting: Sea of Galilee, Night, Time of Jesus

Twelve men are rowing across a lake. Twelve men that have left everything—their families, their occupations, their futures (in the eyes of society)—to become disciples to a rabbi who called them out.

 

Now, at this time, the discipleship of these particular men was a radical thing on multiple counts. First, they were not who the society of the day would have typically viewed as disciples. Why? Well, the education for a Jewish boy in Jesus’ time came in three parts. At age 4-5, students would enter into Bet Sefer and began their study of the Scriptures. At the age of 12, most boys would then stay home to learn the family trade, while the best students would continue their study (while also learning a trade) in Bet Midrash (secondary school). Very, very few of the most outstanding Bet Midrash students then sought permission to disciple a well-known rabbi of their choosing.

 

Jesus called Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, as they were casting nets into the lake—same with James and John. This meant that these boys were already a part of the family trade—they had been through Bet Sefer and maybe Bet Midrash, but they had not been called beyond that into the discipleship of a rabbi. They were, instead, learning the business of their fathers. But, in that instant when Jesus called, it says James and John “immediately left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:22).” This discipleship was such an honor, they left everything and went without hesitation.

 

Secondly, Jesus had called them. Usually, the disciples would ask the rabbi if they could follow him, not the other way around. Jesus had selected the disciples first, instead of the disciples selecting Him.

 

So, back to the boat—we now know its passengers are twelve men (Jesus’ disciples) who were not society’s choice, but they were Jesus’ chosen. Each had taken a huge leap of faith—leaving behind their livelihoods, families, and futures (by society’s definition)—to follow Jesus.

 

As they row towards the opposite shore, the wind starts to pick up and the waves start to get rough until they’re in the middle of a full-blown storm. The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, so they’re also far from shore and stability. Their boat is being battered amidst the waves, and the worry amongst the group starts to grow.

 

When they first see Jesus walking on the water towards them, this worry has escalated to fear. They cry out, “It’s a ghost!”

 

But Jesus keeps walking towards them, and calmly says, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”

 

Now, it’s interesting to note that at this time the disciples seemed to have already forgotten who Jesus is. This isn’t just about the fact that they’ve mistaken Him for a ghost; rather the much more significant fact that they’ve forgotten that He’s the one who works miracles against all odds. He calms the wind and waves. They had just seen Him feed the 5000, and yet their confidence in His capabilities seems to have already given way in light of their current situation.

 

Also note that Jesus does not immediately calm the storm, but starts out by reminding them who He is. He’s teaching them to trust before He tells the waves to cease.

 

Peter still has doubts. “Lord if it’s you,” he calls. “tell me to come to you on the water.”

 

“Come.” Jesus says.

 

Peter steps out of the boat and—as long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus—he’s able to walk forward confidently. He can walk on water with his eyes on Jesus—defying logic or circumstances around him. Like Indiana Jones, he takes a leap of faith.

 

But Peter starts to sink when he becomes so focused on where he is that he loses sight of who is in control. Peter realizes that the situation around him seems impossible, and allows it to literally pull him down. He experiences a crisis of faith that resulted from a misplaced focus and ends up dragging him under. His situation seems impossible, given the wind and waves rushing around him.

 

He cries out, “Lord, save me!” and as soon as he does, Jesus is there and pulls him back up to safety.

 

“You of little faith,” Jesus asks, “why did you doubt?”

 

Why do we doubt? Why do we take our gaze off of Jesus when the waters get rough?

 

I’m not talking “rough” as in a bad day (that, too!), but “rough” as in when things feel hopeless, and we feel helpless to control the forces, circumstances, and situations that have beat us down or backed us into a corner.

 

Like the disciples, we’ve seen God work miraculously in our lives before; yet, we often become so consumed by our current situation that it threatens to drown us. Like the Israelites in the David and Goliath story, we tremble because we face an adversary we feel we cannot beat and lose sight of whose we are. (Thanks Dan Sadlier, for the analogy today!)

 

Take your eyes off of the waves, and focus on His face. We are loved by the one for whom nothing is impossible—not even the storms we face that are entirely beyond our control. He is called the Savior for a reason.

 

The best part? He has already been building a bridge for you (see the Indiana Jones analogy) and charting your next step amidst the waves to bring you closer to Him. He’s been planning your steps since before you were born (Psalm 139:13), and has been working all things together (Romans 8:28) for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Stepping out in faith is stepping out on solid ground—you may not be sure where the next step will lead you, but you can be sure He does.

 

“You called me out upon the waters,

The great Unknown, where feet may fail.

And there I find You in the mystery.

In oceans deep, my faith will stand.

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves.

When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace,

For I am Yours, and You are mine.”

Oceans, Hillsong United

I should be dead.

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 2.50.00 PM.png

Or, at least in the hospital.

 

I didn’t notice the red pick-up truck until a split second before things started to fall.

 

I was reaching forward to change the radio station, and hadn’t even fully finished turning out of our subdivision when I saw the red truck coming the other way—then suddenly lose control and veer off of the street.

 

Everything that followed happened so quickly.

 

The truck crashed head-on into the power pole right across the street from me, then flipped and started to roll down the hill. Momentarily distracted by the scene, I didn’t notice the power pole falling until the disconnected power lines fell all across my car with flurries of sparks. In shock, I turned again to look at the truck, but instead saw the huge power pole falling straight for my driver’s side door. I heard it make contact, saw the cables ensnaring the front of the vehicle, and sat immobile in shock. Then I heard a quiet, calm voice, say, “Keep driving.”

 

I pushed down on the gas and somehow—I have no idea how—drove straight forward and out of the reach of the falling timber and electrical lines.

 

I know the lines and pole made contact. I heard them. I had been momentarily paralyzed. Yet, when I pulled over—hyperventilating and breathless a bit further down the road—I climbed out of the car to find that not only was I alright, but the car was completely unscathed.

 

I can’t explain it, other than to say that it was a God thing. Otherwise, the story is too crazy to be true.

 

The neighbors rushed over to my house where my brother was enjoying summer vacation, and told him to come quickly—that I had been in an accident. People who saw it thought that I could not have made it out the other side. The power pole should have crushed me. The sparks should have caught on the car. The power cables should have made it impossible to drive forward.

 

But I did.

 

So today, I’m thanking God for His protection and provision. For His presence everywhere, all the time. For His great love, and calm in the midst of my storm.

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

 

When things get hard, give up.

You read that right.

 

“I need direction, soon, that’s clear beyond the shadow of a doubt.” ~ July 12th, 2016

 

The words seemed to ring with confidence and assurance—a proclamation, a bold inquiry of God, a place where I was staking my claim. My way of saying, “Lord, move here.”

 

Exactly one week later, I sat on an American Airlines flight out of Newark. It was midnight. It was raining. I had gone through four cancelled flights and three standby flights that I didn’t make within a seven hour time span. I had cried in front of a flight attendant. I was supposed to be flying into Fort Wayne. At midnight, I sat on a last-ditch effort flight into Chicago, with a four hour drive home ahead of me once I landed.

 

Talk about a detour.

 

To make matters worse, the ceiling above my seat started leaking mid-flight. On an entirely sold-out flight. It was like a steady drop of rain just “plop, plop, plop”-ing into my lap as I tried to sleep. The flight attendant just looked at me helplessly and handed me a few cocktail napkins to wipe up the drips as they came.

 

I finally landed, climbed in the car, and turned on the stereo for some company on the long 4 hour drive back to Indiana.

 

Except the stereo was broken. The iPhone adapter didn’t work. The radio didn’t work.

 

Nothing was working.

 

I had been joking with my mom all day that there was really nothing else that could go wrong. That things had to finally be looking up.

 

But forget clarity. I would have settled for a working car stereo.

 

That phrase is the problem: “I would have settled…”

 

How often do we say that in our own lives. We often jokingly say, “I’d settle for this” or “I’d settle for that” when our ideal isn’t present. It may be settling for a job, car, or relationship. It may even be settling for a sub-par cup of coffee or any Friday night plans to save us from another Netflix binge.

 

You get the picture.

 

But saying “I’d settle…” implies that we’d settle for whatever is within our power at the moment. Sometimes, this need to “settle” even motivates our drive to strive. Yes, relating the two seems counterintuitive. However, if we are forced to “settle”, we want it to be the very best we could settle for. So we continue to work tirelessly towards the best job we can achieve, the best relationship we could have, the best car money can by.

 

We strive so that when we have to settle, we’ll at least be as happy as we can have made ourselves. We become “human doings” instead of “human beings”.

 

That’s the problem. “Settling” only happens when we remove God from the equation. I think the word “settle” makes God cringe. Actually, I think it makes Him angry.

 

He doesn’t want us to settle in the least. He doesn’t want us to only have what we can offer in our own power—even if we work our whole lives to achieve it. He loves us so much—we are His children, and He doesn’t even want “settling” to be in our vocabulary. He wants to infuse His supernatural power into our natural lives and bless us beyond what we can even imagine today.

 

When things seem impossible and it seems like we want to settle, He wants us to give things up—to Him.

 

Give it up to God when things get hard.

 

On July 12th, I had prayed for clarity beyond the shadow of a doubt. And on July 19th, the only thing I had clarity on was that I needed to entirely give things up to God. That’s incredibly scary for me. I say that I trust God and trust His heart, but I also most trust others when I’m actually in control of what’s going on. When I’m sure everything will be okay, because I have the power to make it that way. And I had to confront the question that asked if settling for what’s in my power is worth sacrificing what God’s best is for me.

 

Is settling for what’s in your power worth sacrificing God’s best for you?

 

The short answer: absolutely not.

 

C.S. Lewis once said, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

 

Giving God control means that I may have no idea what the upcoming plans are for renovation, or what the blueprints look like for the future. There may be piles of rubble where I throw up my hands and say, “I have no idea what you’re doing here. Why did we need to take this down? That wall was perfectly good there.”

 

But maybe God knew that there was mold living in that wall that needed to be torn out. Or, that that wall was actually supposed to be a door.

 

God says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”

 

If I trust His heart, I’ll trust His plans. I give up to Him.

 

Would you rather be a cottage, or a palace?

True freedom.

“I don’t know.”

 

These may be the most nerve-wracking words in the English language.

 

They’re usually being said in response to something. Someone has asked and expected us to have an answer, or at least an inclination. Instead, all we have to say is, “I don’t know.”

 

Standing at a crossroads means that you don’t know exactly what lies down either path.

 

Sure, you may have seen a map that says, “Waterfalls here” or “Dangerous pit of vipers here.” But you haven’t seen either route for yourself. You don’t know exactly what lies along the way, or what awaits you on the other side.

 

In that first example, it’s pretty easy to surmise that the path with the waterfalls would be the best route to go. (Just ask Indiana Jones—“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes.”)

 

But what if the map says “Beaches here” and “Mountains here”? What if both paths seem like great options, and you’re unsure as to what will bring you the most enjoyment and fulfillment?

 

Or, what if there’s no map at all?

 

You stand at an unmarked crossroads. You’re free to choose either direction. You have no idea which path holds the fulfillment you seek, or the regret you fear.

 

You’re paralyzed by the decision.

 

 

 

As humans, we crave freedom—the freedom to make our own schedules, be our own bosses, to travel and explore, to make our own choices.

 

However, we often fail to recognize (or choose to ignore) that with increased freedom comes increased responsibility.

 

We become completely responsible for our actions and reactions.

 

And if we don’t question the motivation behind these actions—if we don’t keep our responses in check—we’ll find that our decisions are merely reacting to circumstances instead of acting despite circumstances.

 

Now, don’t misunderstand me—the events in our lives are can be catalysts to what God has for us. Even if He didn’t cause an event to happen, we serve a powerful God who can work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28)—our right and wrong decisions, our missteps, the things we have done or the ways decisions of others have affected us.

 

But when we don’t choose to give things to God, we’ll find that we often make knee-jerk reactions out of fear, anger, or anxiety instead of saying, “I trust God. I know He is in control. I will embrace His peace” despite the waters raging around us.

 

Quick reactions cause pain. Thoughtful actions bring gain.

 

We serve a God who gave us free will. We serve a God who will respect that free will (Revelation 3:20).

 

Thankfully, we also serve a God who will work out His best for our lives when we surrender that free will (Proverbs 16:9).

 

Going back to our earlier example, imagine that you’re not alone at this crossroads. You have a guide with you who has traversed both paths—who has seen both the challenges and scenic views along the way, and can tell you with certainty which path is best for you.

 

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”

 

You see, God knew that unchecked freedom can illicit unprecedented fear. If you can do anything, there’s a lack of certainty and often a void that it leaves. It’s un-channeled and unchecked. It’s like a weapon wielded by someone who doesn’t know how to use it, and often does more damage (including collateral damage) than good.

 

However, in surrendering our free will to God, we experience even greater freedom—freedom from worry, stress, fear, and shame.

 

Our freedom has been channeled into a purpose—for Him and for His Kingdom. In freeing God to work, we can free ourselves from worrying about it. We have the God who knows all things and from that standpoint, can work all things together to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

“I don’t know” may be one of the most nerve-wracking phrases in the English language.

 

“I don’t know, but God does” is the most freeing.

 

Live free.

Red Sea Moments

“How can I pray for you today?”

“I’m praying for a Red Sea moment.”

 

In yesterday’s “Be still” post, I talked about God’s immediate response to parting the Red Sea when the Israelites were in dire need of rescue.

 

Specifically, Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

 

And, immediately following, the Lord reached out to Moses and—through Moses’ faith and obedience—parted the Red Sea. He gave the Israelites the breakthrough they had been desperate for.

 

He parted the Red Sea.

 

If we fully grasped the reality of who God is, I don’t think we’d be so calm.

 

Challenge yourself.

 

Get a glass of water. Set it in front of you.

 

Now using only your mind and hands, split the water into two vertical parts, leaving a completely dry strip across the diameter of the glass.

 

Spoiler alert: You can’t.

 

God did.

 

Except instead of something as small as a glass, He sent wind to split the Red Sea into two parts with a dry strip from end to end for the Israelites to cross.

 

Let’s put this in perspective.

 

The Red Sea is 221 miles wide and ~1,610 feet deep.

 

Nobody knows exactly where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and some experts try to speculate that it was a nearby lake, etc. that they crossed and not the sea itself.

 

However, given what historical evidence we have, the smallest likely crossing would have been the Gulf of Aqaba. It’s a large gulf at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Even this smallest possible crossing point is 15 miles wide and 6,070 feet (over a mile!) deep.

 

You couldn’t create a dry strip in a glass a couple inches wide and deep.

 

God immediately created a dry strip of land in the midst of a sea that was 15 miles wide and over a mile deep.

 

Think about it.

 

Since this miraculous element of God is hard to grasp, we as Christians often fall into two traps:

 

1) A god who can’t make it happen.

 

In this first scenario, we often try to bring God down to our level, instead of acknowledging that He operates at a level and in ways far beyond our understanding. We start to intuitively and perhaps even unknowingly ascribe to Him human attributes, like the ability to be in only one place at one time.

 

C.S. Lewis addresses this tendency in the Screwtape Letters: “I have known cases where the patient called his ‘God’ was actually located to the left and at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or only inside his own head.” (Screwtape, speaking to Wormwood)

 

We stop seeing him as the almighty and start to see Him as “limited”. This directly affects our ability to trust in Him. If we limit our perspective of who God is to just what we can understand, we start to put Him in a box of our own manufacturing.

 

We start to think logically. We perhaps still pray about big things, but also start to work on our own contingency plans. Maybe even praying to Him about these things becomes an afterthought instead of the main approach.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, this scenario could cause us to limit Him to the god of stoplights and subways and small things don’t really matter. It may be, “Oh God, please help this stoplight to change…now!” or some such thing.

 

Now, don’t misunderstand me – praying about stoplights and subways is perfectly great. In fact, God wants us to go to Him with everything. But falling into a flippant mentality because we have put Him in a box, or don’t wield prayer as the weapon it should be in our lives—that’s when we’ve got trouble.

 

 

2) A god who can’t relate

 

The other scenario is that we don’t understand how God could be so mighty and mysterious, and yet really care about us. Really care about you and me. There are 7 billion people on this planet. We can think of Him as the divine, almighty ruler of the macro level, but don’t trust Him to control the micro.

 

We mistake our inability to comprehend all that He is as a sign that He doesn’t care about all that we are as individuals.

 

We adopt a sense of reverence without the balance of relationship.

 

We start following the steps of a religion, without falling into the step of a walk with Him.

 

And this perceived inability to relate or disinterest of God in our lives manifests itself as a seed of distrust. You can’t trust someone you don’t know, and feel doesn’t know you.

 

 

Both of these traps limit His ability to work, and our ability to realize the full love, depth, and mystery of the Savior towards us.

 

 

The fix? Change your thinking.

I want to tell you a secret: God laughs.

 

Not this pious, deep, frowning “huh.” That’s not even a real laugh.

 

I’m talking about the kind of laugh that starts as a grin, then spreads across the entire face, lights up the eyes, and emerges in this loud, hearty expression of amusement. The kind where He puts one hand on the wall and one on His belly to steady Himself after laughing so hard. The kind where He wipes away the tears from the corners of his eyes and then says, “Okay kid, that was pretty good.”

 

I think He enjoys making us laugh. He enjoys bringing us happiness (Job 8:21), He has miraculous plans for our lives, and for our place in the Kingdom (Jeremiah 29:11), AND He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

He is a God beyond our understanding. He is a God that makes all else tremble. He is a God who is capable of anything.

 

He is on our side. He loves us. He is for us.

 

And, we can trust Him completely with all of our plans, and all of our being.

 

We serve a God of “Red Sea moments”.