The UnFaithful Pursuit (vulnerably recalibrating)

I started this blog a number of years ago. I prayed and thought for days about what I would name it. What described me? What described what I hungered for? What was the point of the blog?After a few weeks I realized, "In faithful Pursuit", that's me. I was in faithful pursuit of Him. In pursuit of what He is really like, of who He says I am, of the things He says I can do. Just pursuit. Constant pursuing this One Thing. This One man, Jesus. I've always loved the scripture that says, "He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him" and when I was saved at sixteen I decided to spend my life chasing after who He really is. Ever since I've been saved I had this semi-obsession with finding out more things about Him. It was divine romance. It was in the most obscure moments when I would find out what He is really like. I'd drive down the road and He'd whisper to me. I'd be out on a morning jog. Perhaps sitting at a table eating. In these moments where I wasn't doing anything "spiritual" I found out that He was more than just a father, a provider, a healer, but that He was funny, that He made me quirky, that He was okay with jokes and games, that He loved romancing me, that He actually wasn't too concerned when I messed up with my actions, but He doesn't like when my heart was tainted. I began to learn what moved Him. I learned what touched His heart, I learned what He was attracted to, and I learned what broke His heart. I'd ask the questions you'd ask a boyfriend like what's your favorite color, what's your favorite food, what's your favorite thing to do together, whats your dream for us, for me, for your children. I was childish in my pursuit, but I was being fed and I was in love. Those first few years seem like a lovesick dream as I look back on them. It's funny I know they didn't always feel like it in the process, but somehow in reflection I can only remember the good and I don't much remember all of the hardships. Love does that doesn't it? It erases the bad and clings to the good. There's a grace as a young believer where the intensity of your love seems to make any and all costs seem like nothing. However it seems that sometimes as we grow in relationship we also become less impressed with the simplicity of love and more demanding of our new "expectations". I sat with a man yesterday who wrecked my heart as He spoke about Jesus. His words were matter of fact, simple, and convicting. I left wondering if I needed to get saved all over again, but knowing that His over 50 years of following Jesus had taught Him something I needed to catch. He said this, "somewhere along the way we realize and we're taught that Jesus gives us all the stuff we need. He heals us, He provides for us, He affirms us, He loves us, He gives us all the stuff. And soon we fall more in love with the stuff and we just go to Jesus to get the stuff that we're actually in love with." Ouch and Selah. Im not much in love with cars, computers, money, or "things". But perhaps I'm very much in love with some other things like healing, ministry, or revival. It's quite possible I have spent more time the last few years chasing after the things I'm in love with than the One who captivated me all those years ago. The saddest part is this has been my core message all along. It's about Jesus. As we all know you can easily preach a message you don't live out, but worse, you can preach a message and not realize you're not living it out. In the midst of my "breakdown" a year and a half ago, I had the "realization" or I was slapped over the head with a fact that I had placed many things in my God spot. I had allowed a spiritual parent to be the source of my comfort, affirmation, and love. I had allowed ministry things like healing the sick, missions, preaching, to become the thing I chased. I learned that even my "church" had become an idol and an object of desire more than the Head of the church. I had fallen in love with the work of His hands and forgotten that He just wanted to kiss me face to face. 2014 was spent in tears, weeping, pain, repentance, and recalibrating back to my original pursuit of ONE THING... Jesus. I made the mistake that I had for so long preached against allowing the gifts of God to become more of my focus that God Himself. And here as I sat in a room with a small group of friends pouring out his wisdom on us, we all sat in silence because the Truth was flooding our hearts. The Truth that "It's All About Jesus" has to be more than my motto. It has to be more than a good sermon I preach. When I say it's all about Jesus I must mean that He is actually more important than my relationship with the man of my dreams, He's more important than my family, He's more important than the next sermon I preach, or getting the lame out of the wheel chair, He's more important than this next "Big move of God", that long standing prayer being answered, He's more important than that dream job I'm being offered, or some "title". He's actually the pursuit of my heart. Just Him. Not Him plus the many things He does for me.

I've preached this sermon many times. I even was asked to preach it to my Bethel school class. I've "tried" to live it, but I somehow still forgot something that I remembered yesterday. I was 16 and had just been saved and I'd go sit on the back porch for hours pouring over the Word and writing out my heart to the One I loved. I was a freshman in college and I woke up early to rush into the laundry room on a Saturday morning as I stepped in and shut the door behind me, I slid to the floor, because He was already there waiting for me. Oh how I loved our Saturday morning dates. I was a sophomore driving down the road screaming praise music at the top of my lungs when I asked Him the question, "Do you think I'm crazy?" and He responded gently, "I love this, I made you this way".

I recounted over the years the many times my heart was smitten for Jesus. The days when ministry and the cares of this world were just not too important compared to my romantic relationship with the Savior of the world. The days when I had a rocking chair in my room that was set up just for Him on our morning coffee dates. The days when we would go on walks together and I would pour out my heart. The days we'd play games and He'd surprise me with the sweetest reminders that He knows me better than I know myself. Yes I remember the days that I pursued after His heart faithfully. And now I can remember the days that I pursued His gifts. Those days of faithfully pursuing the One who fulfills the deepest longings of my heart, those were the days that shaped me, they made me, they beckon me again.

The Lord told me that 2016 would be a year that He revealed Himself for who He really is to.... BELIEVERS. It's a year that you and I will know Him better than we've ever known Him before. We will know Him for His heart and not just His hand. We'll see Him as the Lover of our Soul and not just the provider of our needs. Will you pursue Him this year like never before? Will you take time to be with Him that doesn't only consist of presenting Him with your next deadline or bill payment? Will you ask Him questions as if, you might just want to know Him? Get to know His heart, there's so much more than we think. Be Blessed, J. Tate

Solid Foundation 2016

It's a New Year.I love new years. It's a time of reflection of the past and hope for the future. A time where I can sit with God, hear His understanding of my experiences, correct me, encourage me, and set me up to "forget what lies behind and press on to what's ahead..." It's a place to really do some "soul searching" and determine if I'm becoming not just the person I want to be, but the one I've been called to be. Honestly 2015 was a really good year for me. I understand that not everyone can say the same. Each year brings the potential for life changing circumstances, some positive and some negative and painful. 2014 was my year of massive painful changes. It was the year that somehow life came up behind me with a baseball bat and hit me over the head. Ironically it's not usually in the "highs" that you find who you are (though they can show you much too), but in the midst of trials, tribulations, pain, tragedy, times where we find out how genuine our faith is. I recently told someone that every. single. day of 2014 was painful and that's not a complete exaggeration. It was the year I battled for my faith. I battled for my health. I battled for my relationships. I battled for my life. It was a battle that felt futile and endless. But here I found out some important things. I found out that my faith that I was SO confident in was not so strong when placed in fire. I found out I didn't trust God as much as I thought I did. I found out that I questioned His nature when I felt extreme pain, confusion, and disappointment. I found out that I wasn't the person I wanted to be or thought I was. I found out that when I was hurt I lashed out in defense. I found out my mercy level was low when I felt threatened. I found out that I was controlling and I wanted things my way, so add selfish to that too. I found out that the people I'd placed all my trust in were just people and incapable of fulfilling all of my expectations. I found that not everyone who calls you friend means it as deeply as you do or is willing to stick around when the storms rage. I found out that I was deceived in how life really works. Somehow I had convinced myself of a false theology. A belief that said as long as I pursued God and gave Him my yes, really bad things would never happen to me. I "knew" that not to be true, but I didn't know it in my heart. So when I began to have trauma related symptoms like nightmares, depression, anxiety, anger, etc. I blamed Him. I blamed Him because I thought my yes was supposed to keep me from pain. This made me realize I feared pain. I didn't fear death. I was comfortable with dying for Him, but I didn't want to feel pain. I didn't want to feel alone. I didn't want to feel rejection. I didn't want to feel misunderstood. But none the less, I felt all these things and I kept feeling them over and over and over. In the end month after month of battle in 2014 left me without much faith, in devastating pain, depression, and anxiety, and all together hopeless. Absolutely hopeless. After a few breakthroughs, incredible friends, mentors, pastors, one awesome trauma therapist/friend, and a very real and alive Jesus I began to get back on my feet toward the end of 2014. When I did I had to face the reality that most of my faith was not built on a solid foundation. No I had built a pretty house, beautiful to all who looked at it, but there were wide holes in the foundation where I had relied on the teachings and revelations of others to guide me (not that this is totally horrible) and I had yet to actually experience harsh winds, trials, and tribulations in my own life. We all know the quote that calm seas does not make skilled sailors. I was a Christian, minister, missionary, mentor, etc who could quote the Bible to you as good as the next one, but my faith had yet to be put in the fire. In 2015 I determined one thing, my house would be built on a solid foundation and never again would my faith fall prey to the trials and tribulations of life, no matter how devastatingly painful they may be. My circumstances didn't all disappear, but my heart changed. I postured my heart after one thing and one thing only. Philippians 3:10 "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," I was ready. Ready to set out on a journey to know Him and His power, no matter the cost, the pain, or the suffering. 2015 became a year that I got to know Him again. It was a year that I saw more miracles than I ever have. It was a year that I saw Him redeem and redeem and redeem my situation. It was a year that He made the pain worth it. It was a year that He made the enemy pay for what He had stolen. It was a year that sent my faith through the roof. Not faith that life won't hurt, not faith that I'll never feel pain, or experience loss, simply faith that through it all, He's there, and honestly, that's enough.

Through this journey I had some of my greatest breakthroughs, triumphs, and life highlights.

As 2016 I have one main encouragement, reduce your life back to one main purpose, to know Him. Life is much more enjoyable that way. Ironically as I let go of all the things of this world. All of the fears, the pains, the offenses, the should of, could of, would of, I wished, and I just reduce my life down to one purpose, somewhere in that place He takes care of the rest.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33)

There's only one solid foundation in life and that's Jesus Christ. Jesus is perfect theology. He is the "imprint of God's nature" (Heb. 1:3). He is why we live. And in the end, He's worth dealing with all that this life might throw at you. Don't mediate on the past and certainly don't let it dictate your future. Go back to the simplicity of the Gospel. Go back to your first love. Go back to simply Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Here. Here is where unconditional joy is. It will not be found anywhere else.

Be Blessed, J. Tate