This is the last blog post on Fear No Evil, I promise, but I do hope you have enjoyed the short excerpts from each of the 10 chapters. In the Afterword, I look forward and try to imagine what life will look like for all of us who have travelled together through the valley of the shadow of death and now stand on the other side.

The book releases everywhere April 26th, but you can pre-order the book by clicking here. The proceeds will help support the Dream Centers we are opening here in Colorado Springs later this spring.

I learned something years ago that came to mind this week. It relates to dendrochronology, which is just a big word for analyzing a tree’s life based on the rings on its trunk that have formed throughout the years. It came to mind because I was roaming through a dense part of the forest near my home and ran across a series of trees that had been felled by lightning. I stared at the cross-section of one of those trees and noticed an irregular pattern of thick and thin rings moving out from the trunk’s center in concentric circles.

I’m not adept at reading tree rings, but according to fifteen minutes of a show I caught on the Discovery Channel one time, people whoare good at reading them can tell you with amazing accuracy how many forest fires, droughts, and beetle infestations a particular tree has withstood in its lifetime, as well as how many healthy years it has known, all by scrutinizing those rings. Which made me wonder what New Life would look like, if you cut our church in half and looked inside. I have a feeling you’d find lots of thick rings representing years and years of great growth, followed by narrow rings representing scandal and the loss of two innocent, young girls. But what energizes me is the idea that just outside of that narrowing, I believe you’d find increasingly wider rings once more—signs of redemption, renewal, and restoration.

As I looked more closely at one of the trees at my feet, I saw a cluster of tiny green roots bursting forth on the very branch that had once been declared dead. The tall spruce had fallen, but it was reclaiming new life as its own. The significance of that unforeseen recovery wasn’t lost on me, for I am experiencing something similar these days.

In the quiet of the forest, I was reminded that all of us—both those who call New Life home and every Christ-follower alive today—are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, as Hebrews 12 calls them, women and men who valiantly suffered for their faith. These are the ones who stared down Satan and remained unshaken. They planted the early churches, prayed fervent prayers, and laid the firm foundation on which we now stand. They’re the martyrs we sing about in worship songs, the ones who died for the sake of God’s glory and did so with the joy of the Lord on their face, and the ones who will cheer us across the heavenly finish line someday. As I considered afresh the sacrifices they’d made, I couldn’t help but wonder what they see when they look down from their celestial seat and peek into Christ-followers’ lives today. Do they see a bunch of beaten-down believers limping their way through life, or do they see the strength of Christ made manifest as his followers claim his promises as their own?

Staring at those hope-filled green roots, I thought to myself, I refuse to limp into heaven someday. If my two choices are becoming a victim or a victor, a victor is what I will be. Admittedly, on more occasions than I care to admit over the past three years, I have whined to God, “I did not sign up for this!” But each time, somehow with lovingkindness to spare, I sensed God say in reply, Zip it, Brady. I took that to be shorthand for this train of thought: Remember who you are. Remember whose you are. Remember the seal of my Spirit that has been graciously placed on your life. Remember the power that is now yours because of my unwavering presence in your life. Stand up. Dust yourself off. Commit yourself to the path of progress once more. There is a mountaintop on the other side. And the view is far better from there.

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