Failure is ALWAYS an option

I hate failure. With great passion. Admittedly, I hate it so much I fear to start something just because I could fail. Looking back over the years, I know I have missed some amazing opportunities because I fear to fail.

The world has made me fear. It’s definitely not God’s doing. God wants to push me over the edge because he knows my wings will make me fly. Fear does not have God’s flavor on my tongue at all, it’s acidic and has a nasty back-taste. Where God and his promises are full bodied and effervescent.

I have been contemplating failure a lot lately. Part of the reason is that I am nowhere near where I would have thought I’d be by now. I had this amazing life planned, working in a hospital and volunteering with retirement centers around my community as a chaplain. Perhaps finally doing a little bit of traveling. I never thought that life would be taking the look of what it is right now. I never thought God would place me where he did when he seemed to fill my mind with such dreams.

My life is not bad. I am very blessed to have the job I do, taking care of a lady who is just a few short months away from turning 100. I’ve learned a lot taking care of her. I am an active member in my church as a Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, which still surprises me since I grew up in that church. To think that these people are trusting me to teach them God’s word is daunting and occasionally nerve-wracking. The responsibility is big and I am still learning. Just because I have a piece of paper that says I satisfactorily completed Bible studies in a graduate level school, doesn’t mean that I still don’t have a lot learn.

Sometimes, I desperately miss school. I miss the constructed learning environment where I could fail and learn without it it necessarily making a huge impact on my life. I miss the drive that I had to succeed– not that I don’t still have it, but it seems to be missing a focus on a set goal. Now my drive to succeed sometimes just feels like getting to the next paycheck. Not that inspiring.

Life is about failure. It’s about coming at a situation and finding a way through it. Most time, if we are honest with ourselves, it rarely takes one time through a situation. We usually have to stop and reevaluate our tools and knowledge before attacking it again, perhaps at a different angle.

God gave me dreams for a reason. I think he has given me the ways to put them into action. I just need to learn how to trust him more than worrying about my bank account.

Failure in the science world is seen as a success in many ways. Albert Einstein famously said, “I have tried 99 times and have failed, but on the 100th time came success.” Scientists don’t give up when they meet with resistance. They take notes and then tweak a variable before attempting it again. Their brains- their hypothesis–says that it should be possible, they just need to find a way to make it work in real life.

To live life as if it was a hypothesis. A possibility that could be made reality. To know that dead ends and sudden twists are great adventures that mean it could still be an amazing discovery. To know with certainty that what you know to be true still has the ability to amaze you when you discover that there is more than that certainty.

It’s interesting. I view my theological inquires- my study of the nature of God and my religious beliefs– as a human hypothesis of God. I have long believed that if I held my beliefs as such, I would be able to be willing to let God show me his true self. My feeble human words can never accurately and completely describe the Divine. The Divine cannot be contained in the failing words that I use. To believe they can, is to shove God into a box, and he cannot be contained. I read all theologians’ writings with this thought, it is their very human attempt to explain an aspect of God that they see. They are bound to make mistakes just like I am. If I have a prayerful heart and ask God to continually show me who he really is, I am less likely to be led astray by theologians whose own prejudices influence their definition of God and salvation.

Perhaps this seems to be very childish view at God from someone who has a Masters Degree in the Bible. But, then again, Christ exhorted the disciples to come like children to him, which is to say, humbly and without artifice. When those who call themselves theologians and have the degrees to back them talk of God, do they do it humbly? Or is it with a certain arrogance that says they know it all? Listen and learn from them, but make sure you always have a faith that is open to God’s guidance. When you speak to others about the God you follow, be honest, say you don’t know everything but what you do know has changed your life.

I have been blessed mightily by the theologians that God has placed in my educational/spiritual life. But, I know that they don’t know it all.

I will always need to learn more about God. And I will never know everything about my faith and salvation until he calls me to his side and explains what it really is. My human hypothesis will then be put to the test, and I much rather hear him say, “Close, but let me show you what you didn’t understand.” Rather than, “Wrong! That is not what I was doing!”

I am attempting to live life as a hypothesis. There is nothing stopping me from trying again, but myself. It’s hard to put into practice though. Human constraints whether real or imagine seem to wrap themselves around me and I hesitate. Why am I willing to do it with the most important aspect of my existence- my faith- but I’m not willing to do it with this very human existence? Failure seems to be knocking whenever I think of going off script.

Makes me want to pull a Mythbusters and blow something up before trying again.

Here’s to living life without fear! May I seek it with a full heart, because God gave me wings and is encouraging me on.

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Why I’m not God…

Since the creation of Man, we have thought that we could be better than God.
Throughout the Scriptures we find examples of prideful Man trying to push God off his throne.
* Eve listened to a lesser creature, because she wanted to be like God and Adam followed. (Genesis 3)
* Cain killed his brother because he was jealous, but he also thought that God was wrong. (Genesis 4)
* The Flood happened because Man reveled in their own evilness, we found sin to be much nicer than righteousness. (Genesis 7)
* Our multiple languages and dialects? Also, directly linked to the idea that we could be equal to God. We attempted to be in the space of God so that we could make a name for ourselves. (Genesis 11)
It continues on. Barely is there a story in the Bible that does not show the traces of the pride of humanity, kings were felled and nations were scattered or destroyed because of it.
Pride. We think we can be better than God.
Today, we are yet again attempting to take the place of God. We say Science is the only way! Everything can be proven, we need not trust a myth!
Why do we think this? Because, God gave us free will. He did not create creatures who followed him mindlessly, but rather because he loved us, gave us our own chance to trust him.
I am not God. Let’s admit it, if humans were gods, life would look a lot more like the Greek/Roman Pantheon stories. We would be waging wars over jealous looks and creating unwanted half divine children who create havoc upon the earth. We would be threatening destruction at every whispered cross word.
If I was God? Every time I got embarrassed people would go missing. Get angry? I’d probably shot flames from my eyes and there would only be ash were someone use to be.
Yeah, it’s a good thing I’m not God. I wouldn’t forgive, or look for the righteous among the sinners. I wouldn’t die for those that hate me, that’s for sure!
There are many reasons why I am not God. But, why would I want to be when we have such a loving one already?
We have a God that created us just for the pleasure of it.
We have a God who even in his anger, allowed humanity to survive.
We have a God who gave us what we wanted, even though it hurt us, then provided us with some warriors to save us from ourselves.
We have a God who died for us. Not only did he stop breathing for a time, but he suffered a horrendous death so that we could have the opportunity to be saved.
He gives salvation for free.
All I can say, is it’s good that I am not God.

If I spoke to the graduating class…

On Friday, I will finally be walking across the stage to receive my long awaited Master of Divinity diploma. I am finally about to start a ‘new’ chapter in my life. What is on that next page I haven’t a clue, but I am eager to turn it. On that end, I was thinking about what I would say to my graduating class if given the chance. So I thought, maybe I would share it with you instead. 

To the graduating class of 2013, congratulations! You have finally made it! Take a deep breath, you deserve it.
Let us take this moment though to thank those who have helped us through this journey. Our professors who have spent so many hours offering us wisdom and praying for us, to the supporting staff that helped us make sure we stayed on track with our credits as well as dealt with the headache of loans. To our parents, spouses and families, who have sacrificed their time, their money, as well as putting their dreams on hold so that we can complete our schooling. To our churches, who have prayed over us, helped us perhaps financially, but also offered many chances for serving. These are the people who have helped us become who we are now. God has given us these people to guide us and sharpen us on our spiritual path. Remember to thank them for their presence in our lives. God has blessed us with these people and has used them to make us grow.
We have been forced to go through tests, trials, perhaps even a bit of tribulation to get to this point. We do not know what is truly awaiting us as we leave this school. There are the plans and dreams we have to change the world or at least our little part of it, but we do not know the grand plan of God. We have our ideas, but ultimately where will we land?
We might feel like we fail if we do not find the job of our dreams right out the door of school. Or we feel ashamed that we are only working ‘a simple service job’ when in fact that is a good job to have at that time. Just because we leave these halls with pieces of paper that says we are Bachelors and Masters does not mean that we earn the right to be given the perfect job out of the gates. We must sweat more, bled a little and shed some more tears before we can take our places among those with experience. We got the book knowledge now it is time that we gain the wisdom of experience.
We will learn by actively doing and we will be putting into use that which we know the theory of. We will learn humbleness by failing at what we think we are  experts of, we will learn trust by relying on our fellow laborers to complete their jobs. We will learn respect by working under demanding employers who don’t give us free passes because we’re Christians. We will learn the strength of our faith when we work alongside nonbelievers and we will hopefully learn to love God more.
Life is not easy. We do not have all the answers. There is only one person, one divine person who has all the answers. God does not just give us just the questions but the answers too. Every answer is in the Scriptures. We must study, learn and keep the answers deep in our hearts. God is in control of our lives. he might lead us to certain difficulties so that we can grow into the child that he knows we are.
We will fail. We will break. Some of us will stand back up and try harder, others of us will stay broken and become angry at God, as if he is to blame for what we are going through. He is not. We are sinners who cause more harm to ourselves than any other person. Sometimes we will fail to pay attention to God’s guiding, other times we will outright refuse to do what God wants much like Jonah did. But just as in Jonah’s story, God will work through us despite ourselves.
So I encourage you fellow graduates, life will be hard but it is worth it. Give it your all, because God will use you where ever you land. What might seem the wrong time and the wrong place for you might just be the right time and place for a miracle of God. You are a tool in God’s toolbox, make sure you are sharp at all times so that you can be used for his glory.
It isn’t about what I can do, or what you can do. It isn’t about how smart we are, how talented, how daring, but rather about what God is doing through us. It is all about him. We just have the blessing of being part of his plan. This should be a freeing knowledge. It is not under our own power that we will accomplish anything. We will get our strength, our determination, and our faith from God.
We cannot truly fail if we allow God to lead us.
Romans 8:28 & 30- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
So, on this day of celebration, remember to give thanks for the work God has done in you. Give thanks for those he has put in your life, because they are the ones who sharpen you. Give thanks for the trials that will make us grow and for those things that will strengthen our faith.
We are about to walk into a new journey, it will be scary and it will be awesome. My prayer for us as we go forward is that we are ready, that we make ourselves available for God to use us to our fullest potential. It will be a wild ride and it will be worth it. Are you ready? 

If your Church isn’t family…you’re doing it wrong!

My church is my family.
I love my little country church, because I know they are there for me.
This summer for me has been a perfect example of the cohesiveness that should be found in a family and most assuredly should be found in a church, due to the way that my church- my family-has watched over me, prayed over me, helped and encouraged me. I was given summer jobs when I most needed it by my small church. A church of less than 50 people have kept me working for the first half of my 3 month summer break. This is the way a family works. This is the way the Church should work. Caring for one another in everything.
God created this wonderful entity that is the Church when Christ told Peter, “on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)”
Throughout the writing of Paul in particular, but all of the New Testament, we find examples of what the Church should be.
* It should be a united body- 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
*That does not show favoritism- Galatians 3:28
* We are to love one other because God first loved us (this means the unbeliever and the most annoying person that you can think about)- Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 7:9,  1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 5:11, Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:36-40, Luke 6:31-36, John 3:1, 16,14:21-25,15: 9-13, Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 13, 16:14, Galatians 5:13-14, 5:22-23
* We should show gratitude to Christ and love to each other- Colossians 3:14-16
* We are raised together to be a Holy Temple to God- Ephesians 2:19-22
* We are to bear one another’s burdens- Galatians 6:2
* We are not to be ashamed of God’s Word- 2 Timothy 2:15
* We are to be devoted to fellowship, prayer, and the teachings of the Bible- Acts 2:42
* We should be known as followers of Christ by our love for one another- John 13:35
* We are to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in our present age- Titus 2:11-12 
*  We are to become more like Christ as we mature spiritually with the help of our Church body– Ephesians 4:11-16
* We are to guard the proper teachings of the Church by allowing only faithful and trustworthy teachers- 2 Timothy 2:1-2
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 We are to beware of many false teachers –Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 24:11
        *  They will introduce false teachings and deny the Sovereign Lord- 2 Peter 2:1
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 We are to be careful of the obstacles such false teachers place before us to cause      disunity- Romans 16:17
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People will find their own teachers because they can’t endure sound teachings from the Scripture- 2 Timothy 4:3
* We-  every believer- are to test the teachings and the spirits to make sure they are from God, because there are so many false teachers in this world- 1 John 4:1
* Our Church should be presented as pure, holy, and sinless to the husband and head- Jesus Christ.- Corinthians 11:1-15
*This means not allowing politics, fads, controversy, or conspiracy theories to cause us to change the Gospel by adding or removing any part of the Scripture- Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelations 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2
This is just a little bit of what the Church is suppose to look like.
God’s plans are for His Church is to change the world. We are to change it by loving it. Not bashing it over the head by saying how wrong they are about everything, but by gently, reverently, lovingly, showing them the truth.
We aren’t to take stands against people like the Westboro Baptist Church does- where we show intolerance and hatred, because Christ DID NOT do that! He died for those the WBC says God hates! No. Jesus Christ died to save the sinner. He died a horrible death for the WBC just as much as He died for the homosexual, the adulterer, the abortionist,  the thief, the liar, the murderer, the gossip, the child molester, the rapist, the soldier, the teacher, the president, the priest, and so many more.
Jesus Christ died for each of us. Because He LOVED us. You, me, we are the same. No matter your background, no matter your future, you were considered worthy enough to save. Because our God loved us! John 3:16, Hebrews 9:26-28
God doesn’t hate a person. He hates the thing that keeps us away from us- our sin! He hates anything that would keep us away from Him, anything that makes us unrighteous and ungodly. If He hated us, as in the person, there would have been no reason to die for us! But, He wanted to rebuild our relationships with Him, so God did the ultimate thing. He sent His one and only Son to die a horrible death on a human-made torture device so that we might be saved. Saved so we can enter into our fixed relationship with the One and Only God. 1 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 3:12, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 9:14, 
As a Christian who follows a loving God, I wish to extend my deepest apologies and sorrow to those who have been hurt in any way by those who proclaim to be Christian. I am so sorry that the Church which should be a loving family, who should love all who are considered God’s children – which is EVERY HUMAN ON THIS PLANET!- has caused harm in the name of that God.
We are broken humans. We wish to take the throne from the Sovereign Lord because we believe we can rule better than He. Wake up everyone! We’re in this mess in the first place because we listened to the Serpent in the Garden when he said, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4).” We believed the guy who is known as the Prince of Lies! Satan was thrown out of Heaven because he thought he was better than GOD! (Isaiah 14:12-17)  We are once again allowing the Prince of Lies to turn our heads from the teachings of the Gospel. We are allowing him to twist what we learn, so that we won’t even open the Bible anymore to learn for ourselves what is truth.
This is where you need a firm foundation. To find a church that will guide you on the right path. A church that allows and encourages you to open your Bible and read it for yourself. Every person who seeks the True God, needs to know the Scripture for themselves. So that we are not swayed by good sounding rhetoric. So that things that sound like Scripture are proven either false or truth. Because the Devil is in the details. He likes to use just enough truth to make it sound right, when in actuality you are signing the dotted line with your soul– and all those who follow you.
When your church is family, you will fight hard to keep each member’s eyes on God. You will put your blood, your sweat, your tears into making sure that person is growing and loving God. You will work to protect them from false teachings. You will stop their meandering covetous eyes and ears from following a false teachers.
If your church is family- you will listen to their guiding. You will trust their love. You will seek their prayers. You will encourage them as much as they encourage you.
The church is not meant to harm another in the name of God, but to love them with a deep an abiding love as God loves us. We are meant to love God so much that our very natures change and that love overflows to others. We are meant to love God so much that others will wish to meet the God that changed us.
Is your church family?

2 Timothy 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.