Life is a spiritual journey. Christianity is an adventure. Or at least it should be. At times our faith seems to reflect sitting at our favorite coffee shop while “instragramming” the perfect shot of our roasted pour-over while angled in the right light and precisely placed on the reclaimed wood table next to your dream journal being #blessed marking the #perfectfriday. While there is nothing wrong about that common experience, I would like to believe that the life of follower of Jesus is less about sitting and dreaming and more about going and following. As a matter of fact, the life of a follower of Jesus has always been about this simple command,
“Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Luke 9:23
If uneventful is what you’re used to, underwhelming has been your experience and boring is what you're expecting then you may have been following a “list of rules” instead of following a “life with God.” A lack of passion or excitement in your Christian journey might be because we have reduced our journey of faith to be centered more on the elimination of sin instead of exploration of God. Resisting sin continuously is depleating but finding God continuously is inspiring. Erwin Mcmanus says it like this,
“The entire focus of our faith has been the elimination of sin, which is important but inadequate, rather than the unleashing of a unique, original, extraordinary, wonderfully untamed faith.” - The Barbarian Way
Untamed is what we both admire and fear about the outdoors. Describing your faith as “untamed” should feel unusually invigorating. I like the word, "untamed" because there is "savage" state to the world (our relationships, our politics, our professions, etc) that is truly... savage. But we won’t allow the untamed state of our world to limit us to retreat but to inspire us towards adventure.
Justin Timberlakes latest release, Man of the Wood, has every girl heart-throbbing and every red-blooded American male high-fiving. Why? Because there is something about this album that is different from his others. Maybe it's because we have seen Justin go from this refined and smooth performer to a raw and unfiltered outdoorsman. Music is a spiritual experience. As this album drops, there is something raw yet beautiful (and possibly spiritual) about the journey he is on that we as Christians can relate to. When Timberlake took to social media to let us know he was not only announcing his album, Man of the Woods, but that it would be dropping on Feb. 2 (just days before his Super Bowl Halftime Performance, NBD), I immediately started to make plans to break into the US Bank stadium and find my spot in the halftime show. While my tenacious heart and passionate pursuit of collecting experiences more than things is a gift to many, Timberlake gifted us all with a teaser video that is just a little taste of what we can expect for his newest album: He's running through the meadows, he's kissing a Jessica Biel, and he's wading around in a river with his clothes on for some reason. It's a side of Justin we haven't really seen before. And we like it. In the video teaser, he talks about the inspiration behind Man of the Woods. He says,
This album is really inspired by my son, my wife, my family, but more so than any album I’ve ever written, where I’m from. And it’s personal.” – Justin Timberlake
It’s “inspirational” and it’s “personal.” I love that he chose those words. Our spiritual life is both inspirational and personal as well. It's inspirational because true inspiration (even the nature of this word) means to “breathe into” as God breathes into us His plans and purposes for our lives. It's personal because his journey is his own...and so is our faith journey. Our pursuit of God is meant to have in inspirational and personal expression of adventure and rawness to it...no matter if your man, woman or Justin. Who we are and what we are made of is not just fuel to keep going but our marching orders for our Christian adventure.
Being a Christian has, is and always will be about movement. Many things qualify as movements these days. But the heart of the Christian life is to find out where God is moving and to stay close and stay on course. The Old Testmant has a great visual example of following God as cloud by day and fire by night. We know Jesus' command "to follow Me" is for all of us who call upon Christ as Lord (just like the disciples in the Gospels). Even when we may not even know how to get there, but there is someone that is following closely enough that if I follow them, I am in essentially following Jesus,
“Follow me as I follow Christ.” - 1 Corinthians 11:1
An obvious point here: God is not a God that stays in the same place. It’s in God’s nature to compel us to follow Him forward. To seek him and to move with Him. Seeking is part of the Christian life. Pursuing is a part of the believers nature. As a matter of fact we are commanded to “seek first” (Matthew 6:33). Let's put our quest for God first than our quest for all other person, places and things. The meaning of seek in this passage means "to exert oneself vigorously; to make strenuous efforts toward any goal; to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete." Pursing God isn’t “natural.” But there is an effort for the believer to exert. There is an intentionality to seeking that we have to engage. God makes it clear that “no one seeks after God” (Romans 3:11). So allowing our human nature to take charge and "not seek" when we were "made to move" slowly transforms our lives of Christian pursuit into lives of "Christian couch potatos." A spiritually lazy escape from the stress of real life and forget about the “outside world.” God doesn’t put you on a "spiritual vacation" but a "spiritual venture" that involves absolute uncertainty as to the outcome but demanding risk and guaranteeing reward.
The Christian life isn’t easy. There are no quick and easy paths to spiritual life and maturity and if you want to experience a deeper and more meaningful level of maturity then prepare for a long and arduous journey. If this generation is to really follow Jesus on this spiritual adventure, then we must abandon instant gratification, spiritual formulas and equations and embrace the true mission of Jesus and follow Him with all that we are. The terrain is vigorous and the it isn't for the faint of heart. And In case you thought you were the only one who thought it was supposed to be easy to move through the Christian landscape…it’s not. In a way you need markers. You need a legend. A legend is a map key that show you where you are so you know where you are going. Because the Christian landscape can sometimes be difficult to know where you are and you have to know where you are to know where you are going. If God calls us to be an adventurer, to be a seeker, to be a pursuer then charting a course is critical.
But God is not a God about North, South, East and West. Instead God is about bushes that burn in the fields, oceans that are meant for you to stand upon, winds that whisper truth on the mountains and waters that part when you need them to most. It’s less about your direction in life and more about his declaration for your life. When God speaks we go. When God burns we turn and follow. When God speaks our name we step out into storms to meet Him. When God dries up riverbeds there is no direction but forward for the spiritual traveler. Jesus didn't settle and neither do we. For the Christian adventurer, it's less about settling and more about pioneering. The Christian life is about moving because God is moving. Where God moves we should want to be. Movements collect momentum but monuments collect memorabilia. So where God goes we go. No questions asked.
So what does the terrain of the Christian landscape look like?
I believe the spiritual terrain of the Christian life is divided into 5 areas:
MOUNTAINS: “Unshakable Truths.”
On the Christian landscape there are a range of truths that sit in the background on the horizon. They are always in picturesque view everywhere you look and everywhere you go giving us a dividing line on the horizon as to what is worthwhile and what is trivial. You may choose to climb these behemoths or simply admire their strength on a clear day. Regardless these truths are sometimes in the center of your view but will always be peripheral to your view. These truths will never fall. They will never move. No matter where you have come from or where you are going, these truths have always been there and always will be. They are there to remind us of who we are and who He is. These truths are Jesus is God, The Bible is God’s Word, Salvation through grace, etc.
PLAINS: “Common Ground.”
There are places in Christianity that are simply level. They are open and wide and beautiful wide-open spaces where all can gather together. This is a place where no one is higher than anyone else but we are level and in agreement. No matter where you have come from on your journey, these common ground areas allow you to make progress because it’s easily passable level fields and meadows and find acceptance because everyone is welcome here. These common ground areas include themes all Christians can agree on: love, forgiveness, peace, hope, etc.
OCEANS: “Deep Themes”
Going deep is part of the Christian life. It’s a part of the journey that is left up to us and those we are with to compel us to dive in to subjects of the Christian journey that aren’t as easily understood or articulated. Every ocean has a shore and that’s where we all start. But while the shore is beaituful place to stand and admire, there is more. There is a depth that is waiting for you to walk out deeper and to go farther. Slowly you leave the security of the shore and the ground under you as the water rises until you find yourself treading water. Even though you see the shore, you choose to dive in and swim. Going benetath the surface and submerging yourself. You will be forced to come up for air but for many of us we are just beginning to explore the seemingly endless terrain of these suberianian themes of our Christian life. These themes include: Sovereignty, eternity, God’s will, etc.
FORESTS: "Cultural Views"
Sometimes the journey isn't as easy to follow and the path as clear. And it's not because the path is more treacherous but sometimes the path is harder to find and discover. There are parts of the Christian journey that are as thick and complicated as the growth of an untamed forest. The branches intertwine like opinions and roots as deep as it's passions. The beautiful yet complicated design of a forest reveals to all who pass through the beautiful yet complicated expressions of the cultural opinions we hold dear to our hearts. But yet we choose to go out on limb and share our view because everyone's journey is unique just like each person. Seeing the forest through the trees has never been more true as we navigate the cultural issues facing our fatih as we move forward on the path in front of us or finding our own path in these complicated woods. These cultural forests include: tolerance, same-sex attraction, politics, right to life, etc.
RIVERS: "Inspirational Currents"
Starting at it's highest point on the mountains, rivers find their path and make their way over everything and nothing can stand in it's way. Where the current goes the river goes. Where the river moves life moves with it carving a path throughout the land and saturating the dry areas and flooding the wilderness with it's power. It's current carries you and the it's refreshment sustains you. When you find the current it carries you but resist the current and make waves. So you respect it's movement and revel in it's beauty. You rest on it's banks or wade into it's depths but once you find the river you won't stray far from it. Because when you have drank from it you won't drink anything else. When you experience it, you know it's pleasure and purpose. These inspirational currents are those moments in the presence of God where you are filled, restored and marked by the Holy Spirit.
As an adventurer following Jesus, you will experience this terrain. While the Christian Landscape has these beautiful expressions, the journey is never easy. There are treacherous moments:
Because every ocean carries storms
Because every forest can get you lost
Because every mountain has a valley
Because every river has rapids
And even meadows can get crowded.
So we choose to trust journey and lean into the direction God has given us. Just because it's hard doesn't mean God's not part of it. God's with you. The journey is yours. Follow Jesus.
Anything you would add?
Highest point you are there…
Lowest point you’re there….