How do I begin? I believe the best place to start is to steal a line from one of my favorite authors Shane Claiborne. In his book ‘Irresistible Revolution’ Shane says, “My life was going just fine and then I discovered the true God we are called to follow and he ruined my life!” I think Jesus said something similar in the book of Matthew in chapter 10 verse 39 when he said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
There are many days I have wondered does this really have to be the Way? God do I really have to lose my life to follow you? I am sure there is an easier way? God can you make it easier as I don’t have the strength to carry on another day? It used to be easy, it used to be so easy God; but then you revealed yourself to me. You called me to a ministry where my gifts and talents can be used to fulfill your purpose so why make it so hard? God, “You were the one to call me to this ministry why would you call me to something that would be so difficult?” Aren’t you a God that prospers us, that blesses us, that watches over us, that protects us and strengthens us? But, you tell me I have to lose my life in order to find my life? Why? What? When? How? Come on God! Come on God! Come on God please show up now!
That is the daily battle that goes on in my mind. That is the struggle I have wrestled with the past two years. One simple day, one simple prayer, one simple revelation that has ruined my life from the perspective of the world but has SAVED my life according to the Word.
In 2004 I officially became a believer in the knowledge that Jesus died for me on the cross, but it was not until 2008 that I started to learn what it meant to give my life to Christ. In 2008 I was becoming bored with my faith. I wrestled daily with the idea that there had to be more to this whole Christ thing than just going to church on Sunday and participating in a young couple’s bible study. I wrestled daily with reading my Bible because that is what we were supposed to do. I needed some excitement and I began to wonder, does becoming a believer have any real excitement other than the hope in eternal life?
Before I knew it God was taking me through the book of Isaiah in a men’s group I decided to join at church. Nothing in my rational mind would have said yes to a 6am men’s group on Thursday mornings but I guess God knew just what he was doing. Two weeks into the 6am Thursday morning men’s group God hit me in the head with a hammer when Isaiah 46:9-13 came alive to me.
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.
Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are now far from my righteousness.
I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away.
It was so clear what God was asking of me. It was as if God was sitting there right next to me. I could hear the very words of God, “So, Jake you think you have accomplished a lot so far with your life? Well, why don’t you come join me on a new adventure. Jake, please understand you don’t have to come. I will accomplish my purpose with or without you but if you need an adventure, come follow me."
That day I said yes to God even though I had no idea where I was going or what He would ask of me. I said yes to an adventure and I said yes to losing my life. That Thursday morning I laid my dreams, my aspirations, my security, my worldly wisdom at the foot of the cross. I said, “Yes, God I am all in. I want this adventure even though I have no idea where we are going.”
I returned home after work that day and was not really sure what to make of something so clear from God that morning. So, I did what I was supposed to do and I turned to my Bible. I turned to the people of God; the people that He used to accomplish His purpose in the Bible. Suddenly the Bible was alive. Suddenly it felt as though I was walking with Moses as he was leading God’s people, Abraham as he was willing to sacrifice his own son, Joseph as he continuously fell only to be raised up again by God, Daniel as he had no fear and was thrown into the Lions’ Den, Nehemiah as he built the wall, Noah as he built the boat, Jonah as he was swallowed by a whale, Joseph as he obeyed God, Saul as God showed us how he could use the worst of sinners (which I am one) to accomplish his purpose, Matthew & Mark & Luke & John as they told the days of walking with Jesus, and Timothy as he rose as a young leader for Christ, and all the other many people that God would use to accomplish His purpose. I felt and believed I was simply one of them. I was called to God’s team and Christ was my coach and we were going into one hostile road venue with one GREAT opponent to defeat.
As I write on this day of June 30th, 2011 the opponent is still out there and the game has not been easy. God has used our family to win people to Christ. He has shown us how to walk a life that speaks the love of Christ. He has given us the eyes to see. God has sent us on a journey to Africa and in 30 days will send me on my 8th trip to Ghana. God gave us a new son named Justice through and adoption process that only He could have coordinated. Kids in Africa are learning about Christ and kids in Des Moines are learning about Christ through our hook called basketball. Lives are changing through only the grace that God can provide all because He let me play on his team.
As great as the game has been it has been a painful one as well. We have made a bunch of threes and thrown down some alley-oop dunks, but we have gotten just as many shots blocked and balls stolen. God’s word has coached us through it all, teaching us how to let go of the things that the world holds in such high regards. He has encouraged us to let go of the security that we had built up in savings accounts and retirement accounts. He has taught us what it means to fully depend on him as we wonder how are we going to pay the next grocery bill with seven hungry boys in the house. We know what it feels like to have our house head the way of foreclosure. We know what Christ meant when he said the gospel will divide and you will be persecuted. Many people have been supportive but just as many have criticized this “God” that we follow. We have become fools in the eyes of many but yet have learned to stand firm on the word of God and His definition of wisdom is simply : fear God. We have learned what it means to be refined by Christ and made mature in his Word. We have walked in days of pain, days of question, days of fear, days of distress, and yet in it all we are thankful because we are walking on a path specifically designed by Christ for our family.
We know in a fallen world someone has to lead. It may look foolish. It may look ignorant. It may look as though we are just flying by the seat of our pants. But we know someone has to lead for Christ. We know people have to pick up their cross daily and go and allow God to do the rest.
In Shane Claiborne’s new book Follow Me to Freedom he puts it like this: ‘Anybody can say he or she is a leader. Anyone can say, “Hey, I have this great idea to build fresh water wells in Cambodia.” And others can raise a ton of money for wells in Cambodia. Still others will make great websites for wells in Cambodia. But it will just stay a good idea until someone actually risks something and goes to the people of Cambodia. Like John says, it can even be a good idea. But a real leader has more than an idea…… she or he has followers who are eager to carry out a vision with all sorts of skills and passions. And a real leader will be the first to recognize someone is going to lead one part of the project better than he or she can, and will be the first to step aside and follow.'
My wife started her blog in order to provide complete honesty and transparency with our walk with Christ. There is a belief out there that if you fully live for Christ you are going to be blessed in every way possible. The truth of the matter is you probably won’t be blessed by the things of this world but you will be blessed because you will know what it means to become fully dependent on Christ. For moments of time we get to feel what the disciples felt, what the other people of God felt, and what the many people before us felt as they walked a life not filled by the things of the world but by the things of Christ.
What will tomorrow bring? We don’t know. I am learning how to wake up each day not relying on my own strength or relying on my own hard work and skills, but instead I am learning how to fully rely on Christ to meet my basic needs and more importantly allow the ministry he has called us for to continue to produce fruit in the lives of young people. Tomorrow we will crawl out of bed, lace up our shoes, put on our uniform, say a prayer and step back onto the court with Christ in order to make his name known in our very own backyard and amongst the nations.
I will conclude with one last thought from a pastor that I admire from a distance through his books that have directed my purpose for Christ. Francis Chan said in his book Crazy Love, “You know when you are doing something for Christ with the purest of intentions when the only way you are going to make it is if God shows up in one BIG WAY!”
God, let us see what You see, and feel how You feel, and please Lord, direct our hearts to Your purposes.