Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Psalm of Comfort

Psalm 138
Thanksgiving for the Lord's Favor
A psalm of David

I will give thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to Thee before the gods.
I will bow down toward Thy holy temple,
And give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindess and Thy truth;
For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name.
On the day I called Thou didst answer me;
Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul.

All the kings of the earth will give thanks to Thee, O Lord,
When they have heard the words of Thy mouth.
And they will sing of the ways of the Lord.
For great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is exalted,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the haughty He knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me;
Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, 
And Thy right hand will save me.
The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Thy lovingkindess, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Thy hands.
  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Unusual Beliefs --> Unpredictable Results

     I was talking today with a friend, and we were discussing a David Platt quote along the lines of it being impossible to truly identify with Jesus and call yourself His without being a disciple of His. We've discussed before on this blog about Jesus' call to radical abandonment in Matthew 10 and Luke 9 and 14 especially, and so a quote like that only more bluntly sums up what we've said before.

     But in speaking with her, I was at a loss to explain what I meant at one point and finally blurted out a phrase, which we adjusted later to more accurately sum up our thought. It got me thinking all day... that the sum of the gospel, for me right now at least, comes down to "unusual beliefs that will lead to unpredictable results."

     As I process again and again (as I think we should constantly) the gospel and the words of Jesus and how they should shape and lead my life, I'm realize that what I believe is unusual and at odds from what is normal and acceptable. It's not common to say that God has claim to your life that overcomes affection, logic, and desire. It's not accepted or in many circles even acceptable to say that God owns you, that you're no longer your own, that God's foremost goal is not your happiness but your sanctification and His glorification.

     These are unusual beliefs and claims, claims that are uncomfortable to read and even less comfortable to try to get a grasp on and apply practically in our lives. It takes a major paradigm shift in order to see the world through the light of the words of Jesus in His word, and to grasp what it truly means to follow Him and identify with Him.

     These are unusual beliefs, even uncomfortable beliefs, that really threaten so many deep-seated ideas about God and even myself. But what's even more unsettling than the beliefs themselves is that I have no idea where these ideas will lead or where they will drop me at. Looking forward, beliefs such as that God rules over my life and His commands and direction are far more important than my dreams, plans, or comforts can be disconcerting.

     To realize that Jesus' call for one's life surpasses your comfort zone and maybe your dreams or desires or maybe just where you feel safe can be scary. At a minimum, it rips the safety net from beneath you and shoves you into an uncharted ocean with an unpredictable destination. You're scared to take the next step... and at the same time, you know you'll never be satisfied until you do. You're scared to death of what comes next, but you know you'll never know peace where you are.

      Unusual beliefs that lead to unpredictable results. A bit scary, mm? A little daunting, when you think about it? But doesn't it make sense? That if Jesus is really worth losing my life for, giving everything for, then He should be worth following to an unpredictable future? If Jesus' worth is what we say it is, then our response should be whole and unfettered devotion to Him, even if it means leaving predictability behind.

      He is worth it. His call, to a radical obedience, is worth it, because He is worth it. And that is the knowledge that propels us to hold Him, when weighed in the balances against all relationships, all dreams, and all desires, to be greater than all.

Monday, September 12, 2016

To Follow Him

Following Jesus... is to lay down every desire of my heart that runs counter to the heart of my Lord.

Following Jesus... is to hold loosely to the things of this earth in order to hold tighter to the things that will last.

Following Jesus... is to abandon safety, comfort, ease, tranquility, and the norm as values to be held dear in favor of the risk, discomfort, danger, and battle.

Following Jesus... is to defy the world's standard of wise and sensible in order to become foolish under the banner of Jesus and share in His shame... in order to share in His glory.

Following Jesus... is to submit every dream, thought, plan, and ambition to the obedience of Jesus Christ and sacrificing every one of them on His altar.

Following Jesus... is to at times be misunderstood, slandered, abused, mistreated, avoided, persecuted, hurt, and and lied about. Don't be surprised; it happened to our Savior, I can hardly expect better.

Following Jesus... is to consider the lives of the dirtiest leper, the most wretched sinner, the most despicable and unloved, the abused, the lost, the hurt, the broken, and the torn down to be of infinite worth to my Father and worth laying aside my own comfort and safety for.

Following Jesus... is to lose my life in Him, and in losing it, to find it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Just Do It!

    The past couple weeks, I've been on vacation. Before that, I've been dealing with various projects and church stuff and other things... in a nutshell, I've been busy or mentally exhausted enough to not want to have to bother with the blog over here. Hopefully this post marks the end of that couple month part of my life.

    The past couple weeks, I've been walking through a very difficult time in a friend's life. She's been wrestling through a couple personal struggles, things that include nearly daily panic attacks and anorexia. I'm 18 years old, and I have absolutely no experience dealing with such things, so it's been a trying couple weeks for both of us. But it's also been eye-opening to me about how grace affects our thinking... and how often our patience runs thin and we just want to forget the whole grace thing and jump to our default.

    This may be news to that friend, but there are nights after a long day where the temptation is to message that dear friend to just... do it. Just eat. Just do this. Just don't do that. Just do it. It's easy to talk about grace as a philosophy or a concept, but isn't it harder to actually go and apply it to real life people in difficult situations and realize that this is when the proverbial rubber meets the road?

    See, I think we tend to talk a lot about grace as theology but ignore it as practicality. Even those of us who are more "into grace". I think grace tends to become a theological concept, something for sermons and for counseling... but only for the first five phone calls. Or the first ten calls. Right? Isn't that the temptation? Like after a certain period of time, it's time to stop talking about this grace stuff, this trusting Christ to change us into His image and likeness as we learn to love Him, and start talking about, well... buckling down and doing it!

    Isn't that where we tend to see a lot of our thinking devolving to if we just cut out all the Christianese and theological lingo we tack on... doesn't it come back to a glorified, spiritualized Nike commercial? One where the cross meets you when you're lost and have nothing, and then helps you back to your feet so you can get your life together. One where grace is a concept, but a concept that eventually, after enough tries, devolves to "Just do it already!" Where grace works the first ten times to pick you back up, but then we realize that you're just not trying hard enough to hear about grace again.

     C'mon, we say, isn't that a bit excessive? I mean... Paul gave commands! Paul told us to do things, and Jesus told us to, and James did... but what is sprinkled so liberally through their writings? The gospel of Jesus' atoning work on the cross for us so liberally sprinkles Paul's writings and the other apostles it's practically impossible to read a set of commands without in some way running into the gospel staring you in the face again.

     Giving commands, without any relation to the gospel and the working of Jesus in our hearts, simply cripples us with guilt as we realize that if I'm honest, buckling down to work harder doesn't usually result in the results I'm looking for. We realize this constantly as we pray for God to change our hearts to be Christ-like. We pray for God to make us unselfish or strengthen us to be more loving.

     So why are we so quick to run out of this same grace for other people, grace that is born of the realization that those in Christ re being sanctified and worked on by Him, and that we are all simply learners at different rates and places along the same journey toward the image of Christ, and that it is Him who is the grand architect of this, not us? If sanctification is God's work in another person, maybe one with more unconventional struggles than myself, just as much as it is God's work in me, shouldn't that change our outlook and our response to fellow believers, and of our response to even ourselves as we deal with guilt and our view of ourselves?

     I am not trying to imply that it does not require any effort in order to follow in the steps of Jesus or to blame our own sin struggles on the Holy Spirit for not having sanctified me yet. This is not an excuse to blame shift. What it is is an encouragement to show patient, abiding grace to other people in their struggles, a grace that comes alongside others to help each other rather than stand over one another and rebuke each other toward action with trite encouragements to more self-effort.

     I want to sum up, because this may seem more complicated than it really is. Simplified down, my entire point is found here: Moral living, the kind of change that "Just do it" inspires, is not the goal of my walk with Christ. It can be a useful message to hear occasionally from a trusted person when I need a push forward, but it fails to change the heart and only changes the outward. True heart change, what Christ is after, is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in us, each of us, in your annoying Christian brother in the other pew just as much as in you. So pressing each other toward Christ does far more for our path toward sanctification than does pressing each other toward outward conformity without inward change of heart.

     Anyone can change behavior patterns. Atheists, Hindus, Confucians, Buddhists, and Muslims all are quite capable of living outwardly moral lives.Our first goal for ourselves, our families, our friends, our churches, and the like should never be moral superiority but a close and fervent, living, breathing, vibrant walk with Jesus, from which heart change can flow. And if we truly believe that, the way we relate to brothers and sisters, particularly struggling ones, changes. It ceases to be about making them get their lives and acts together in order to be obeying the morals nearly so much as it is pressing them, gently but surely, toward Jesus and back toward the cross... where the Holy Spirit will open their eyes and guide their steps from the inward, outward, rather than stagnating on the outward and never getting beyond that to the inward.

     The Pharisees had the outward perfect... and Jesus called them whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but inside full of rotting flesh. Not a pretty picture, right? That's what moralism without sanctification is to Jesus. Demanding someone change the outward for the sake of the outward, without inward heart modification, is worse than useless... it's guilting. Because no number of motivational sayings will help a person resist temptation when they're weak, particularly when they're weak alone, and failing when the outward is the goal only leads to more guilt, which leaves us vulnerable to more attack.

     The goal of our walk with Jesus is a closer walk with Him as our sanctification progresses. Sanctification is not a changed moral life. Sanctification is a changed heart, changed desires, that will, over time, change our moral lives. So, as friends, as believers, as family members, let's press each other nearer and nearer to the cross. Occasionally, a friend will need that push forward in their moral living... but far more often and far more likely, your friend will need that reminder that the power of God and the atoning, strengthening, long-suffering grace of God reaches them where they are today.

     So, you've heard it. You know what to do now. So just go out and do it! Just do it already! ;)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Our God Is....

    "But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth." (Ps. 86:15)

    "The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness." (Ps. 145:8)

    "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." (Ps. 103:8)

     I love Psalms. While I love some modern praise music, there is a simplicity to the psalms that I love. I think we sometimes overlook the simple praise to God for His character qualities. David so often takes the time to sing praise to God for aspects of His character, His mercy, His truth, His Word, His lovingkindness.

    This isn't a long post, but I love this little collection of verses, verses that are simple and pure praise to God for being who He is. They aren't complicated, but they are deep reflections of the character of God. He is merciful and gracious, compassionate and slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness and in truth.

    Do we understand that this is David's rejoicing in these truths of who God is? These are verses of who God is and what His thoughts toward His chosen people are. Rejoice in them! Take comfort in them! When you are down or feel condemned or under His judgment, look at them and consider once again the beautiful grace that beckons us and calls us to rejoice in Him as our Savior, our Father, and our King.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Failing's Not Just For Failures

    This week was our church's VBS, and somehow, I have become our team's consistent skit villain. I was the prodigal son, a selfish king, Balam, and Peter denying Jesus, all in the past two weeks. I hope that doesn't say anything about my reputation!

     But one of my parts was Peter denying Jesus from Mark 14:66-72. It won't be a long post tonight, but I wanted to touch on something I've been thinking about ever since portraying him in that skit. It's very easy to get the feeling after we sin, particularly after falling to the same sin again, and again, and yet again, that we lose our ability to be used by God.

     Reading the story of Peter though says so much to me about God's ability to use us despite our inabilities. Loud-mouthed people, soft-spoken people, gentle people, even pushovers, abrupt, rough, even offensive people, ugly people and pretty people, city people and country people, every one of us with our gifts and our weaknesses, come together into one global army for the purposes of God... and He uses us.

     With our weaknesses and our flaws, with all of that, He uses us. For His purposes and for His glory, despite horrible sin or nagging, small sins, it is His power that shines through the worst of us and the best us, the prettiest and the ugliest. Everything we accomplish is for Him alone and through Him alone.

     Whatever your reason for believing yourself incapable of use by God, I challenge you to read Mk. 14:66-72 and then repeat your reason. It will pale in comparison. God can use a loud-mouthed fisherman named Peter who denied Him three times... He can definitely use you. You're never too far gone or have too many problems for God's use.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Update

    It's been a hard couple of weeks and a busy few days. I know I've been pretty quiet over here, but I just wanted to poke my head in to say that I haven't left. I need to let my mind and heart clear a little bit more before I'm ready to write again. But I will be back very soon! Thanks for reading, everyone!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Test of Discipleship

    "And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, 'I will follow You wherever You go.' And Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' And He said to another, 'Follow Me.' But he said, 'Permit me first to go and bury my father.' But He said to Him, 'Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.' And another also said, 'I will follow You, Lord, but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.' But Jesus said to him, 'No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'" (Lk. 9:57-62)

     My brother called my attention back to some of the more radical passages of Scripture this week. Having to reprocess many of the passages that set me on my journey two years ago has really been a convicting few days, and my poor brother has had to put up with a lot of "I don't know's" and "I had never thought of that"'s. (Thanks, Corey. :)

     Christian has become such an over-used term I avoid calling myself by that name now and try to use the term "follower of Christ"... but no one term has ever caused me to feel as hypocritical as that one does. Really, Taylor? Are you a follower of Christ? A devotee, a disciple, a follower of Jesus? Because if I am, then I should be able to go back and retrace the Jesus of the gospels and see His life in mine, right?

     If I'm honest, you can't. What sense of life change is there in me that sets me apart as someone living for another kingdom? What part of my life tells those in contact with me that I am different, that I am not another teenager fighting to the top of my sport but a disciple of Jesus Christ with a calling that transcends this world? The real question... am I really what I say I am?

     I know salvation is by grace alone through faith, and my failures are washed away in the blood of Christ and that I am raised in new life in Him... but new life for a purpose. New life to speak forth and point to Jesus Christ and to present Him and His love in every avenue of my life. Can I honestly say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ? I have to say that, at this moment, no, I cannot. At best, I am following from afar.

     "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and contemplate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all His possessions." (Lk. 14:26-28, 31, 33)

     If part of Jesus' gospel presentation was a warning to count the cost, I think it can safely be said that following Jesus without personal cost then is not actually following Jesus. I don't say that to take a slap at evangelicals at large today; I say this as a rebuke to myself as much as to anyone. If my life has no trace of cost for the sake of Christ, I have no business saying that I am following Jesus since Jesus' call to discipleship inevitably was joined to a warning of the cost or a call to the radical.

     I'm trying to slowly return my life toward trying to follow after Jesus, being a disciple of His. Not a Christian, but a follower of Jesus Christ. Please pray for me as I'm kinda lost as to what to do. But it's a good kind of lost. :)

   

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Let's Try Something New...

    So, this is a trial video to see if it possible to figure out the transfer of a video from my cheapo phone through Google drive to my computer hard drive to my blog. I would like to start putting some videos on my blog and hope to drastically improve the quality as I figure some things out, but I'm putting up this trial video here. Be forewarned. If you're a photographer or videographer, you may go into a fit and might possibly become suicidal. Don't say I didn't warn you.

video

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Who Will Deliver Me?

    In case you didn't know, I'm not perfect. Surprising, right? Despite what you may have thought, yes, I too sin. Daily. Hourly. And when we narrow the scope of sin to all those things done not for the glory of God, I sin minutely. Constantly. Sometimes sins I feel guilty about, others that shock myself with my callous attitude toward. Some are considered more major than others, others are so small most wouldn't even realize they're a sin. Nevertheless, I am a great sinner.

    Nearly every day, I shock myself at some point with my own callous treatment of other people. That I seem unmoved by some people's pain, or my own impatient, self-righteous treatment of others in day to day life. I'm ashamed of the thoughts that run through my mind, and even more ashamed of the ones I let lie there sometimes and fester when I know they're wrong. I'm ashamed of the words that sometimes spring to my lips, though I catch them before maybe they become audible words. I have been struggling with anger toward God for several weeks now, and the doubts keep coming up.

     I don't say that to ease my conscience by publicly airing my sin; I say that to simply point out that I have sin in my life that I struggle with daily and sometimes have victory over, other times don't. I don't speak this as someone looking back over my past when I used to sin but as someone who right now, today, sins.

     I've written from here before, but it never ceases to amaze me. The book of Romans is such a powerful book that unlocks the gospel of justification by grace through faith in such a way that leaves me utterly astounded by the God of such a gospel. Romans 1-6 explains man's depravity and God's grace in the clearest language in the Bible yet in more depth than anywhere else. Romans 7, Paul's drift changes from the theological concepts of salvation toward the practical living of the Christian life in 7-8.

     It's a long chunk of Scripture from Romans 7, but I think it's extremely pertinent to what I'm going to say and so I'm going to quote quite a long passage here.

     "For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For the good I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good."

      Did anyone else find themselves nodding, "wow, I couldn't have said that better myself, Paul!" That so accurately sums up where I am so often! With Christ in me, there is something in me that drives me toward desiring good and the Holy Spirit is at work sanctifying me and my desires, but there's something in me holding me back. Keeping me down, tempting me, and reminding me of my past failures. The good I want to do and in my head I purpose to do, I so often don't, and I instead practice the very things I detest! How?!

     It's because there is evil dwelling in me in the form of my flesh. There is a part of me that will tempt me and try to draw me back toward the temporary pleasures of sin, and there will be times I give into that side of me. Some seasons of my life, it seems like I never disregard those temptations; other times, I feel great times of victory.

     But what is Paul's answer? Try really hard? Give up? We can see what sounds like apparently hopelessness in Paul's writing here... This is totally me taking license with the Scripture here, but I like to imagine Paul writing this verse and then pausing for a moment overcome with emotion. He just reached the climatic build of man's horrid, desperate condition before God that he has been building through the entire book. I imagine Paul stopping for a moment to ponder the massive consequences of the one little verse.

     "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" That is the climax of the book of Romans. You can see the desperate emotion in Paul's words, the realized helplessness of men fighting against their sin nature alone. But Paul's next words ring out in victory that shatter the hopelessness of the previous verse.

     "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin. Therefore is there now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

     I feel like V from V for Vendetta, "Now for the crescendo!" That statement holds the despair and the victory of the gospel in one fell sweep. Who will set me free? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ! The answer is obviously in who he is thanking!

     Who will set us free from this slavery? Who will cancel the condemnation that comes with the flesh and the wretchedness of who I am? Who is it that will transform my very nature into something completely different, something pleasing to God through righteousness not mine? Jesus Christ.

     Who will set us free from the body of this death? Paul identifies it rightly as death, death in our own wretchedness... who will set us free from this condition? Jesus Christ! In Him, there is no condemnation. There is freedom. There is the power to do what is right. The power to fight victoriously against some of those temptations, against all of them. Will we fail sometimes? Yes. But the power is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

     Paul is on a roll as he launches into chapter 8. "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh... And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba, Father!'" 

     In Christ, we are not the same. Thank God, who I am is not defined by what I do but who lives through me. I have not received slavery; I have received adoption. I am defined by who God is through me. Blessed be His name!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Who am I?

    I remember, it was just too blasphemous. No way could I accept that statement. I put the book down... and picked it up and read it again. Three times. No, this wasn't true. I put down the book and went inside the church, only to hear a guest speaker say the same thing. I just couldn't get away...

     If you know my story, you know that the statement I'm talking about is the radical doctrine of substitutional, vicarious atonement.Crazy that I grew up for ten years in evangelical churches and still didn't know what that was, but it's true. That's why 14 year old me was reading a book that dared speaking of me as the bearer of the righteousness of Christ and I had to put it down.

     For those of us who grew up being taught the Bible, we know who we were. Particularly Baptists (where I grew up) are known for repetitively hammering who we were by consistent teaching on sin and vice and so on. Simple Christian theology dictates that we know who we were... we were sinners. Maybe we realized as a child that we've sinned before and so we require forgiveness before God; maybe we were older and realized to a greater depth how great our depravity is before God, that our entire nature and disposition runs counter to God. In any case, one part of the gospel I definitely got was that I was messed up on my own.

     Who I was was pretty clearly and often spoken about. We were sinners before God, guilty, black, rebellious. We were the ones who nailed him to the cross. We were the ones who fell short of God's design, His perfect plan for the world.

     But what was never addressed is the new question: who am I now? Who am I now? I know I was a sinner before. I know I was a rebel. I know I was worthy of damnation. I know all that... but who am I know? Am I the same person with a new, fresh slate to draw my new identity out on depending on what I do? Am I the same sinner, but with the past grudgingly forgiven so I can slink into heaven just as the gate is closing, forgiven but still evil?

     This new identity... do I have one? Am I the same person, just forgiven, like a murderer who murders but is pardoned and the whole world knows he's still a murderer, just not a punished one? That was the lie I fell for for years. I got that I wasn't going to hell, but that was the extent of who I was in my new identity. My new identity was "forgiven sinner". I was just as evil as ever, I just wouldn't be punished for it. God was the cosmic benevolent old man, who saw the grandson break his favorite fly rod but didn't do anything about it.

     "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

     "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

     "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."

     "For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

     A new creature? Old things have passed away? Grace may reign? Become the righteousness of God? Perfected for all time?... Does that sound the slightest bit blasphemous?

     In Jesus, we have an entirely new identity; in fact, I'm a new person. I'm not who I was before, and the new me is clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I am no longer a sinner. That is not my identity any more, no matter how much I may sin while clothed in my new identity in Christ. Every sin is washed away by the blood of Christ, nothing staining my new identity as the righteous child of God made right with Him through Jesus Christ.

     I am no longer a sinner... I am a saint who still sins. Yet even that sin is done away with, washed away, removed forever, by the never-ending supply of the blood of Christ my Savior. I am not anything to be despised or disgusted with anymore, because I am a child of God made new, completely new in Him. I am not the same person I was. I have an entirely new identity in Jesus Christ, not merely a cover-up or a facade to camouflage my old one.

     Who am I?     I am radically loved by my Father.
     Who am I?     I am a child of God, His by adoption and fully His child.
     Who am I?     I am justified, no longer under the wrath of God.
     Who am I?     I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ, lacking nothing before God's throne.
     Who am I?     I am no longer a sinner, with no vestige of the guilt and the stain left upon me.
     Who am I?     I am an entirely new person, complete in every way in Jesus Christ.
     Who am I?     I am a transformed being, from a dead son of Adam into a living son of God.
     Who am I?     I am a co-heir with Christ, one who has been glorified and made beautiful in Him.
     Who am I?     I am one who has been bought with a great price.
     Who am I?     "My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I
                             have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." (Brennan Manning)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Cry of Anguish... and a Song of Praise?

    So I've been quiet over here for a few weeks... I try to be pretty open about my struggles and who I really am, so I'm not going to lie about why. The last few weeks, I have been almost completely apathetic in regard to my relationship with Christ, and I've been struggling with being angry with Him. A friend has been going through a very hard time, and a few weeks back I let my frustration over that friend's suffering get the better of me, and let it lead me into apathy, anger, and some darkness myself. Thus the silence on here... it feels hypocritical to write others about God when I am not in a right relationship myself.

     A couple days ago I admitted to myself where I was and started taking some steps toward pursuing Christ again. Ironically, it was the very friend I've been angry for that sent me the references I'm talking about tonight: Psalm 13 and 22.

     Psalm 13 opens with words that really spoke to me right where I have been, "How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?" I've read enough psalms not to be surprised by what came next, but it still stuck out to me... David closes the Psalm with the words, "But I have trusted in Thy lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation, I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."

     My plan was to look at 13 first and then go check out 22, so I didn't spend long thinking about that. I was going to spend more time on it when I came back... but 22 caught my eye too. Before I even started the chapter, it was clear the course the psalm would take. Under the title of Psalm 22, the NASB has printed, "A cry of anguish and a song of praise." Honestly, I didn't get any further than to breeze through the psalm to verify that yes, that is exactly what Psalm 22 is.

     My mind stopped there. A cry of anguish and a song of praise. Wait, what? How? Why? Who does that, I guess was more my question. A cry of anguish, a cry of heart-wrenching grief... followed by a song of praise. Mixing grief with praise, deep sorrow with a kind of joy... this should be something that clicked before.

     Several weeks ago, I arranged a sermon on the book of Job to keep in my back pocket if the need arose. In Job 1, after Job loses everything, he says something very strange in v. 21. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has given away." This I understand. He poetically draws a parallel... he came into the world with nothing, he leaves the world with nothing. It was God who blessed him... it was God who know cursed him. Pretty standard stuff here... until the end. "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

     A cry of anguish... mixed with a song of praise. Raw honesty enough to admit being crushed and vulnerable, but real faith enough to see past the momentary anguish and see the sovereign and good God that presides over it. Anguish and praise... Anguish in my present situation, praise in looking past it and seeing the God who is there and who is good in it and sufficient through it.

     Anguish will come... but don't let the anguish control. In the anguish and the silence of God, praise. Blessed be the name of the Lord, in the giving and the taking. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Good Song

         I've been becoming more and more a fan of Michael Gungor's music. "Us for Them", "Vapor" and now "Hurricane" have become some of my favorite Gungor songs in the past few weeks. His style is just one I really enjoy.