Monday, September 28, 2015

A Journey toward Grace

    Yep, I'm back to grace. If you've been around the blog much, you know that grace is a pretty keynote topic here. Tonight I thought I would give a brief outline of why this is such a freeing concept for me, and why I harp on it so often.

    If I were to describe myself tonight, I would describe myself as a Christ follower on a journey toward a greater and greater understanding and appreciation of the grace of God. The last two years of my life have made such an enormous impact on my faith and understanding of who I am in Christ that I cannot help but speak more and more on grace.

    See, two years ago, my life was a much more comfortable Christianity. I almost wrote "a much more comfortable faith", but that wouldn't be a true statement. In fact, my Christianity had very little of faith in it. My Christianity had just enough faith to embrace Jesus as Savior from my sins, but not as Lord of my life or my sufficiency.

    My sufficiency and security was found in formulas and answers: formulas of good conduct that promised God's favor and a higher standing with God and answers to all life's questions that fit God neatly and nicely in a nice, pretty box tied up with a bow of my own making in my human mind. God was neither the stern nosed judge of sin or the gentle Father compassionate with my brokenness.

    God was a concept that was too distant to understand, revealed only through trite phrases, formulas, and commands. Faith was simply a footnote, an enablement of my own human powers. Grace was the extra to top off my merit when it fell short of God's perfect standard. Grace was the whiteout for the occasional black spotch on my mostly white paper of life.

    But nothing prepared me for the answers I would find when I began pursuing Jesus, or in reality, when He began pursuing me. God was no longer just a concept, but a living, breathing, human reality, one both mysterious in power and human in compassion, a genuinely loving and caring Father. Faith suddenly became a radical concept, deeper than simply a grasp at salvation, but rather a call into the unknown.

    But the change that came in my grasp of grace was the deathblow to my carefully regimented religion. Grace wasn't the whiteout that covered my splotches; grace was God taking my black life and making Himself sin in order to give me His perfect purity. Grace was no longer an extra topoff to my tank of human merit; grace was literally my life.

    My life in Christ is due to grace, only grace. The reason I am a child of God is only through God's grace to me, undeserved and spurned. A raging grace from a wild God to so recklessly thrust purity into the hands of a sinner so impure and so undeserving. Truly, I say with Paul that "by the grace of God I am who I am."

    Through Christ, I am righteous who never did righteousness. I am pure who committed impurities. I am sinless who sinned. I am saved who threw myself off a cliff into sin against God. By all rules of ordinary human mercy, God should have spurned me long ago and left me to the devices of my free will to consign me to an eternity of hell.

    God broke the rules, the rules of ordinary human interaction by going above and beyond mercy. No, grace goes far beyond ordinary mercy. Grace is God revealing Himself, granting His righteousness to someone like me, to a defiant rebel. Grace is a wild God showing reckless love to His own murderers.

    And in this grace, the world comes alive. The world that before was so clearly black and white, safe-feeling in my bubble of self-righteousness, is now vividly colorful. The God of judgment takes shape into an incomprehensible and unexplainable mystery, but a beautiful mystery, one that pours out mercy after mercy to His children.

    I cannot understand it. Maybe one day when I look on Jesus, fall on my knees before Him, and cry out His holiness I will understand the greatness of who He is and the sacrifice He made. But I doubt it. I doubt I will ever understand the greatness of who He is and what He has done. I believe there is no explanation, certainly none to satisfy human requirements, for why He gives Himself so sacrificially and beautifully to His creation.

    Paul concludes Rom. 11 with a breathtaking statement about the majesty and splendor of God. In closing the most complete synopsis of the gospel recorded in the Bible through chapters 1-11, spanning from man's depravity to our new nature to our election in Christ, Paul chooses to end it by focusing on the inexplicable nature of God.

    "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid to him again? For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him by the glory forever. Amen."

    Who has given to God that makes God somehow our debtor, owing us salvation? Which of us has made a deal with Him that somehow makes us deserving of grace? The question doesn't even deserve an answer. He is so beyond us that His ways, His reasons are beyond our understanding.

    The scandal of the gospel is not that God would send anyone to hell; it is that He would choose to save any at all. The scandal of the gospel is that God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, died for rebels in defiance.

    Our journey toward grace is a journey that takes us further and further into the inexplicable. And that's okay. Because we serve an inexplicable God, the mystery of God is okay. God is not required to fit in the box of human comprehension and understanding.

    The further I go toward knowing Christ better the more I realize I cannot understand His ways. The more of His grace I experience, the more I begin to abandon attempts to understand it and to simply rejoice in the freedom it brings. "I'm no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God" as Jonathan David says so well in his song "No Longer Slaves".

    Children of God. Not only forgiven, but adopted. This is grace! This is an understanding that revolutionizes my life. My status is a child of God. Accepted. Redeemed. Loved. No matter what I've done or who I was, I am a child of God. No matter what I struggle with, I am a child of God. No matter where I go, I am a child of God. No matter what trials comes, I am a child of God. No matter what unforeseen tragedies occur in my life, I am a child of God. No matter where He leads, I am a child of God.

    My journey toward grace is still happening. I see my God in "vivid colors, warmth, and light" in place of the black and white God of judgment and love. In place of the understandable, I have been blessed by the mystery of a God I cannot understand or explain. In place of the commands and laws, I have been blessed with grace, with righteousness not my own.

    I pray my journey toward grace never ends. I feel as if my relationship with Christ is one that leads me deeper and deeper into a vast spreading field that is God's grace, and the more I know and find I don't know, the more and more grace I experience. And I pray the journey toward Christ and deeper into His grace never ends.

Guest Post

    I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for a friend this last week that was posted here yesterday. Check out the article and Ryan's blog!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


    A friend wrote me last night some very encouraging words that, while they were very uplifting, also motivated me to continue once again with my plans to tackle a controversial topic. Much of what I have been writing recently has been more universally accepted Christianity; tonight, I want to spend time writing about a topic that is hotly contested in the church today: authority.

    I have been blessed to have parents who have chosen to raise me to recognize that my immediate authority now that I am a teenager is Jesus Christ, and I am answerable to Him for my actions. I still remember one of the most poignant reminders of this was the time my dad told me that if I ever felt God leading me in a direction other than where my dad wanted me to go, I was to disregard what he said and follow God. I honestly, sincerely am so grateful to God for parents who want me to follow God more than they want me to obey them, and trust me to do so.

     However, two years ago I began researching the teachings of a fairly well-known homeschooling speaker, Bill Gothard. While sexual abuse allegations have caused his resignation from the ministry he founded, ATI/IBLP, his writings were what began my research into the concept of extreme authority. My research on Gothard led me to take a much more critical look at the teachings on courtship that I had grown up hearing in my circles, and again, there I ran across a principle of extreme authority.

     What I want to talk about tonight is indeed hotly contested and debated in the church at large. It's a question that has an extraordinary amount of bearing on our lives today, particularly those of us that are teens, because we are at a transition stage between parental authority and what our culture teaches is "independent life". However, many churches have taken a stand against that independence, saying that it contradicts Biblical principles of authority.

     So, what am I talking about? Well, here for example, is a quote by Jennie Chancey which I think quotes very well one section of what I am trying to combat with this post. "Your dad might be a plumber, he might be a carpenter, he might be an accountant. Whatever it is he does, he's your father, and as such he is a reflection of your heavenly father. Submit yourself to him, because you are his beggar maiden, and what glory there is to be a reflection of the choosing grace of God that says, 'I will take these lowly people and I will raise them up to be my bride."

     There you have it. Your father is a reflection of your heavenly Father, so you'd better stay in line! In fact, you are his "beggar maiden" (I'm not sure what that means, but it doesn't really sound good). This is what I would call an extreme authority viewpoint.

     In a nutshell, this view is basically that God has placed authorities in his life (such as parents and church government), and these people are your representation of God on earth. They reveal God's will for you, major life decisions must be checked off on by them, and their veto power is absolute. Now, very rarely will anyone actually say that much. In fact, in most cases, people will not even realize they are believing this.

    Here, for example, Bill Gothard's ministry IBLP (Institute for Basic Life Principles) website has in this article this quote: "God-given authorities can be considered “umbrellas of protection.” By honoring and submitting to authorities, you will receive the privileges of their protection, direction, and accountability. If you resist their instructions and move out from their jurisdictional care, you forfeit your place under their protection and face life’s challenges and temptations on your own." (bold is not mine, but IBLP's). Now, IBLP has an article on their website on how to make an appeal when your authority requests you do something unBiblical, but the implied default is that your authority is right, and unless it is directly contradicted by Scripture, you are under obligation to obey. Is this Biblical?

    Some would argue yes. Rom. 13 is a chapter that speaks in depth about a Christian's duty to obey his government, and many would say that Eph. 6:1-2 lay down the law in regard to a child's duty to obey their parents. Others would emphasize a daughter's need to obey her father, calling out Lev. 30 as their cornerstone. Whatever the position, yes, there are those who believe that the decision of your authorities is, in fact, the will of God for you.

    The clearest quote to that effect I have ever seen (and one of the scariest courtship articles I've ever seen) can be found here while discussing the topic of courtship: "And because earthly authorities themselves are under God's authority, we acknowledge that no daughter is obliged to obey commands from any source bidding her to sin. Yet some would seek to use this concession by arguing, 'What if God tells the daughter to do something her father doesn't approve of? What if, for example, the Lord reveals to her, through various signs and feelings, that she is to marry a particular man? Wouldn't God's will for the girl supersede her earthly, mortal, imperfect father's will? Simply put: No."

     Frankly, that right there is enough to make me stop and lay down because of nauseous feelings in my stomach. What? God's revealed will does not supersede the admittedly "eartly, mortal, imperfect" will of a young lady's father? But it gets worse... much worse. Comments in paranthesis below are mine, not the original author's.

     "As strange as it may sound, in the peculiar relationship of father and daughter, God, as it were, takes a back seat. (Yep, that sounded strange. Anytime you admittedly put God in the backseat to human decisions and mindsets shouts, trumpets, yells, beckons, belts out, and cries "Woohoo, theological problem!") God has created a hierarchy such that the daughter answers to her father, and her father answers to God." The author then writes further down this astounding comment that screams "invite spiritual abuse". "Thus, the will of the father regarding his daughter is the will of God."

     Maybe now you see why I may consider that we have a misunderstanding of authority in our churches today, particularly if we factor in these rather outlandish comments by Jesus after having just read the above comment, "If any man comes to me, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own lief also, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk. 14:26). Or "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37).

     Obviously, we have a discrepancy somewhere. These two ideologies are not matching up, and I hope to use the rest of this post to help point these discrepancies out. Please bear with me as to the length of this post. This is not a topic that can be covered sufficiently in a few short pages.

     So, right off the bat, a few verses come to mind to back up the authoritarian position, such as commands of Scripture (Eph. 6:1-2) that children be obedient to parents. However, we see instantly that this verse "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" is prefaced by a direct address, "children". This is not a command applicable to the entirety of the human race, only children, presumably young children at that since we also believe Jesus' words in Lk. 14 and Matt. 10 are inspired and meant for those who had the discernment to listen to and understand His meaning.

     The second verse thrown out there immediately is Ex. 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." At first glance, this may seem like an open-and-shut argument for the position of strong authority. But the word "honor" is not synonymous with "obey" like many would try to teach and imply. You can honor, yet still disobey. Honor can mean obey, or it can mean respectfully disagreeing. So this command really has nothing to do with our discussion besides reiterating that whatever our decision may be in regard to parental authority, we must treat them with respect.

     After this, usually the discussion gets harder. The majority of this post will be spent on the concept of parental authority overriding God's will in our lives as teens, so that is the side of the discussion I will spend the most time on here. Usually at this point, the next argument goes something like, "Well, the Bible doesn't necessarily say so, but the father's authority is implied throughout." This is, at best, an argument from silence, since merely stating the cultural heritage and customs of the people at this particular time in history is not the same as a command from God to go and do likewise for the rest of time.

    Around this time, Lev. 30 gets brought into the equation, the passage where a father is allowed to trump a daughter's promise to God if he desires, and the daughter is held as guiltless. However, this is a Levitical principle that is done away with with the dawning of the new Covenant and never mentioned again in Scripture. To draw an entire argument of parental authority on NT believers from one passage in the OT law is shaky in the extreme. While this may reveal God's particular will at this time in history to a particular people, we have no reason to conclude that this is his will for all people for all times throughout history.

    Some of you may now be scratching your heads. "But, Taylor, surely you don't argue that there is no such thing as authority!" No, I do not! I am not an anarchist. But, I would argue that authority, all authority, is under the leadership of Jesus Christ as revealed by the Holy Spirit and His Word, and this is interpreted by each individual believer, not by his authority. Thus, a believer's ultimate authority, over the authority of his pastor and family, is the leading of Jesus Christ.

    Matt. 10 and Lk. 14 make pivotal arguments into our discussion at this point. Christ demands wholehearted surrender and boundless submission, with no boundaries. No other authority or relationship has any right to hold us back from following what Jesus says, to the extent that our allegiance and love for them should appear to be hatred in comparison to our pursuit of Christ and His will.

    IBLP's website spends a bit of time discussing the results of obeying your authority or getting out from under your authority. While they imply that it is possible to disobey your authority in their article on how to make a godly appeal when your authority tells you to do something unScriptural and offer advice on how to stand alone against something wrong, they never outright detail how that truth walks hand in hand with this quote that seems to present a conflicting worldview, "By honoring and submitting to authorities, you will receive the privileges of their protection, direction, and accountability. If you resist their instructions and move out from their jurisdictional care, you forfeit your place under their protection and face life's challenges and temptations on your own."

    What IBLP seems to leave out of their neat equations here is the presence of God and His leading. By disregarding an authority that demands we go in a different direction than God has led us, we do forfeit their protection, but we replace it not with our own, but with a much better one, God's. If I have to choose between a human authorities protection from temptations and life challenges or God's, I'm going with God. Every time.

    Also in IBLP's statement is the assumption that the authority is right, since it results in "protection, direction, and accountability". If we're honest though, there are many times leaders mess up, and if we are simply following blindly, accepting whatever doctrine is espoused by the church or preached from the pulpit, though it changes from week to week, we simply mess up right along with them. Authorities are, unfortunately, not automatically divine. It would be much easier if they were, but they are not; thus the need for an individual and personal relationship with Christ.

    It is ironic to me that authoritarian views such as these are argued for in the Protestant church of all places, where the priesthood of the believer was so adamantly fought for in the Reformation against the authoritarian excesses of the Catholic church that demanded the subservience to its own authority that many Protestants are declaring today should take place in the home. Luther and others argued adamantly that no man, bishop, priest, or pope, can stand between you and God. Each person is directly accountable to God for his or her own actions.

    I am not demanding no authorities. The Bible does declare certain authorities (the husband over the wife in Eph. 5, the parents over the children in Eph. 6, the government in Rom. 13) have powers, but that authority is only firm up to the place it begins to contradict with the shown leading of God. Any time we make the leading of Christ in our own life subservient to the will of man, we have placed man in the place of God in our lives. At the point where our authority begins to contradict God's leading in our own personal lives is the point at which we must obey God rather than men (Acts. 4:19-20). Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another Good Quote

    I didn't have time to write a post tonight, but I did want to post this.

    “I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. ”
                                                                   -Brennan Manning

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Good Quote

    “I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you're doing as ministry. Start realizing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toilet or not. Your ministry is the way that you love people. And you love people when you write something that is encouraging to them, something challenging. You love people when you call your wife and say, 'I'm going to be late for dinner,' instead of letting her burn the meal. You love people when maybe you cook a meal for your wife sometime, because you know she's really tired. Loving people - being respectful toward them - is much more important than writing or doing music.”
                                   -Rich Mullins

Friday, September 18, 2015


    I've been struck these last few months at the importance of friendship. As I've gone back and looked at some of the things that occurred during my thought journey from legalism, one of the biggest things was a friendship that has impacted my life in a huge way.

    When I first began to think back, I began to put together some different things that really aided in my change in thinking back then. One of the major ones was a friend who both quietly and vocally supported me as I began to change my thinking. At a time when I was realizing that my theology and attitude was changing from nearly everyone else I knew, this friend stood by me, talking, listening, thinking, and discussing with me, even about the few topics we disagreed with.

    In thinking about it all these past few months, I've realized just how important that friendship was. I cannot fully state with words what that friends has done for and meant to me. That friend, knowingly or unknowingly, has forever changed my life. My goal is not to present a brilliant theological treatise for Biblical doctrine about friendship. This is simply a practical statement to us young people who are friends and have friends.

    As friends, we have the opportunity, whether or not we realize it, to shape how our peers think. We can be the flippant friend only interested in discussing the last Superbowl or World Series, we can be that half-hearted friend who at least listens to our comrades more interested in spiritual things, or we can be that engaging friend who is willing to talk the hard things and think through the difficult questions.

    I didn't realize this for many years. As friends, we truly have the opportunity to impact our friends. I can name off friends besides the one I spoke of above who have shaped my life into who I am now. I can name the friends who I always knew weren't interested in such things. I can name the friends who found such conversations over their head and confusing.

    This isn't a long post. My goal isn't to overwhelm you into submission. I simply want to suggest that we do more than we've been doing in order to help build our friends up. I can tell you from experience the difference just one supportive friend can make. I wouldn't be who I am without that friend. Be that person. Help your friends. Be there for them in the hard times, motivate them in the discouraging ones, laugh with them and enjoy them in the easy times. If you're friends, true friends, for long, you'll see all three of those times.

    We live in a time where cursory, shallow friendships are the norm. Let's stand against that, and pursue building strong, mutually supportive friendships in our churches. None of us can stand and make an impact on the world alone; but with support and comrades, Christ can accomplish much more through us. That motivation and support is one of the ways Christ gives strength to His children; in fact, it's one of the foundational reasons for the church itself.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

With You Always

    We live in a broken world. I was reading tonight an article about the possibility of an amnesty offer to the Boko Haram kidnappers in return for freeing their 276 hostages. As I read article after article, story after story of the horrors  and atrocities that are being done in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, my heart broke for a continent that I have come to love.

    In case you hadn't realized yet, our world is broken. We live in a world full of heartache, tragedy, and destruction. As we look around at the earth we live in, you see the stories of children forced to fight in wars they shouldn't even have to see, much less participate in. When you study the world's affairs today, there is no denying the brokenness.

    However, I'm not just sad. I'm also angry. Let me show you why. Across from the article I was reading about the horrific tragedy of the forced marriage of 276 girls and their forced conversion to Islam is an article entitled, I quote, "Exclusive: Kate Gosselin dumped by millionaire boyfriend".

    When I saw that little tag, I was nearly in shock. Now I realize that news is news, and that news networks simply publish the news that people are interested in. And they didn't characterize one article as more important than the other, so I certainly don't blame them. But why, tell me why, Kate Gosselin's relationships should be any interest to me at all after just reading of the forced marriage of 276 teenage girls. Why am I expected to care?

    Because you and I live in a world that would prefer to pretend the real world, with real blood, and real tragedy, doesn't exist. In our world of American idealism, most of us prefer to pretend that we live in a world just like America, a world of air-conditioning, easily accessible food, and pure, clean water. But the world's not like that.

    And believe it or not, the world is full of dying people on their way to an eternity apart from God, bearing His wrath forever. And sadly, actually caring about that fact enough to try to change it has become abnormal in our society. Rather, the norm is to simply accept the tragedy as a part of life and move on with our comfortable existences, oblivious to the suffering and needs around us.

    But there's a smaller group of us, those of us with no such plans. There is a group of people who wish to make a change, who wish to share the gospel here and abroad, and to do what is possible to alleviate the sufferings going on in the world around us. So for us, there is a whole world of suffering that we intend to make ourselves face that the rest of the world has the luxury of ignoring.

    How do we, as Christians, maintain joy and peace while honestly facing up to the truth of the tragedy in the world around us? The answer, strange as it may be, is found in the same chapter that compels us to remain unsatisfied with the luxury offered us in our culture of convenience.

    Matt. 28 is the battle plan for the Christian. In the final three verses, Jesus outlines His plan for the evangelism of the world and the methodology He intends for us to use in doing so. Very simply, this is what we refer to as the Great Commission, the ultimate task remaining before every believer. These three verses outline the global purpose and intention of Jesus Christ.

    "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'"

    In these verses, Jesus outlines the very command that makes many of us believe that a comfortable life enjoying luxury is outside God's plan for our lives. This command, these three simple verses, outline a world agenda of epic proportions for which hundreds and thousands of men and women have lost their lives in fulfilling.

    Submitting to and following these verses will cost everything. It may cost reputation, possessions, peace of mind, family relationships, or even life itself, depending on how God calls you individually. These verses are not simply a recommendation to reflect upon; they are, as David Platt would say, a summons to lose your life, whether that be figuratively or literally.

    And Jesus is not ignorant to the massive meaning behind what appear to be simple words. He knew, and knows, even better than we the vast consequences of living a life in obedience to this commission. And so, with this in mind, He both begins and closes this daunting command with some of the most comforting in the Bible.

    He starts off with a statement regarding His all-consuming authority. All authority, in heaven and on earth, is His. No matter what world situation we may see, encounter, or grieve at, the sovereign hand of God has already seen it and ordained it for His purpose. Nothing that occurs is outside His hand or beyond His ability. Instead, everything we see around us, no matter how cruel and unrelenting it may seem to our human eyes, is happening according to His direct and sovereign plan.

    Secondly, He closes off with the most incredible promise of the Bible. He began with a statement of His omnipotence, and He closes with a statement of His omnipresence. Not only is He sovereign in all things, but He is present with His children in all places. No where you go can take you outside the presence of God. Not the darkest night on earth or the deepest pit of hell can remove you from the Shekinah glory of God.

    In a world of hurt, trouble, and brokenness, we serve a God with all authority who will never leave, desert, or forsake us. Instead, He loves us with an unshakable, unalterable love that will not, cannot let us go. And as we go out into the world to be slaves, soldiers, and ambassadors for Him, we can live and fight with a reckless confidence in the goodness, the sovereignty, and the presence of a loving God. He is with us always; in the night, in Africa, in high school, in the office, and as Ps. 139 assures us, even in hell. Escaping His presence is an impossibility, even if you wanted to.

    Let's live with the realization of the truths that Jesus wants us to understand about Him. True, we live in a broken world. But we, as broken people in a broken world, are created as children of the most high God to show Him, to proclaim His glory throughout the world. And He promises us His authority, His presence, and His peace.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Blog!

    Hello, all! This post is to announce a new blog, one I am co-authoring with Lauren S. from Defying Depravity. You can find it right over here: Yearning for More . Our emphasis will be speaking to other teens and young people, although everyone else is welcome as well!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Good Quote

    Ran across this quote by G.K. Chesterton tonight.

“Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.”
                             -G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


    I experimented a little more with poetry the other night. Poem #2. :)

    I long to live for more than this,
To know, to love with deeper feeling;
To show a world of lost my God is
Living, breathing, offers healing.

I was enslaved. Dead. No hope within.
A fear-slave in chains I dared not break
Nor could I. In earth's dark hell, no light came in,
My thirst was never slaked.

Then entered One, a King,
A substitute, one who for me
Would take the blow, and bear the sting.
Thank God, for He has made me free!

Now life, true life, I feel. It's clean,
Is fresh, is free! No more a slave
Am I; but son, for all the world to see.
Now more of Jesus Christ I crave.

With strength, not mine, but His,
To face a battle, a daunting day;
With life anew, His dear cause is
Mine. To follow Him, forever, and today!

So if in sin's chains today you dwell,
With light quenched dark around you;
There is One who all darkness quells,
He'll let His peace surround you.

And life you'll know, like never dreamed,
Rushing to your soul. For through this King
Goodness, love not yours, is seen,
In you. And in this life, of mercy sing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Silence of God

    I ran across this song tonight, and I have a new Andrew Peterson song to add to my list of favorites. I'm not the only one to feel the silence of God sometimes! Once again, Peterson nails how I feel sometimes with this one!

Saturday, September 5, 2015


    I am always on the lookout for good reading material. As a blogger, I realize that one of the many reasons people read blogs like mine is because they're looking for that life tip that will bring peace or fulfillment, or that one next bit of information that will open up a whole new world of information for them. Well, guys and girls, I have found an article that fills that bill!

    Many of us as teens walk through our teens years feeling unfulfilled, knowing there is more to life, and just not realizing what else is out there or how to get it. This article right here (Yep, right here) outlines 27 things to do as a teen that will let you leave your high school life knowing you have lived life to it's fullest possible potential! Now, let's get ready to go!

    I'll be honest, many of these I had never thought of. I have only done 10 of these 27 things, so I will have my hands full this next year of my life trying to finish up this list so that I can look back on this accomplishment. But maybe after you see the massive accomplishment this list will be and sense of fulfillment you will get after you have completed it, we can tackle it together! Let's do hard things!

    The first one grabs my attention, because I need to get this one done! Go to prom! Of course, in order to "make sure we are hitting the high notes of our existence", we need to go to prom. I had never realized the power asking a girl to a mass date and dance could have, but I stand corrected. If I really want to finish high school having done hard things and accomplished great things, I guess I need to fix this little problem.

    There's quite a little series, from "pull an all-nighter" to "sleep in a car" to "go to a football game". Again, some of these I hadn't realized really qualified as high notes of our teenage existence, but still,I guess adults do know better than we do!

    Okay, in case you hadn't guessed, that was satirical up above. Below, I'm going to examine these 27 "hard things" and discuss a little bit. My comments will be in italics. This article got me just a bit worked up, so pardon the sarcasm. It's simply my default methodology for dealing with stupidity. None of the things outlined below are wrong or even necessarily stupid, although I have reacted that way to all, if not most. If you have the opportunity to do any of these (except maybe #3), go for it! Considering it the high water mark of your high school life may be a stretch though! Now, let the fun begin!

    Please understand that some of what is below is, in fact, good advice. For example, taking the SAT or ACT and touring a college campus is an excellent idea. I am not saying that everything in the article is false, simply much of it is. That is the part I wish to attack.

    1.) Go to prom. Doesn't everyone know that this is the apex of your high school career? Ask a girl to go out to a mass date/dance with you, duh! If you've never done that, you got no right saying you're living life to the fullest!

    2.) Pull an all-nighter. Cause nothing demonstrates your maturity and ability to do hard things like staying up all night... not. Trying to think of a reason why this is on a list of high school "high notes"... I've pulled all nighters before. On a plane. To another country. Believe me, I would have traded your "high note" for an hour of a sleep. In a second. And I'd have tossed in a $20 bill too.

    3.) Tell someone you have a crush on them. Because it's impossible to hit the high notes of your high school life without having had at least one crush... why not tell the person? I don't see how anything could go wrong with that!

    4.) Stop caring about what other people think. Good plan. So yeah,  no need to wear clothes, cause other people's opinions don't matter, and it sure is more comfortable without those! And why not lick that ketchup container when you're out to eat? It doesn't matter what other people think... unless you're, I don't know, looking for a job. Or out on a date. Or doing anything with other people!

    5.) Clean up your Facebook. Nothing like having lived such an epic FB life through high school that there is now a need to clean up your page in order to find a job. I guess that's what happens when you apply #4. to your FB life.

    6.) Talk to someone you've never talked to before. Okay, maybe we're through the ridiculous ideas. Now we can settle down to some fairly easy, but at least common sense ones!

    7.) Sleep in a car. Or maybe not... Sleep in a car? Who came up with this? The only time I purposefully slept in a car was when I was about 9. And it was cause I was in an area with bears and I was scared out of my wits, not because I wanted the "cool" experience of a rotten night of sleep in the back of a car! That sounds like a blast! They'll probably have that at Six Flags soon. "You can either ride the Double Dutch Twister of Death or you can climb into this little tiny, thinly carpeted box, lay down in a thin sleeping bag, and try to sleep while I make crunching and snuffling noises outside." Sounds like a blast...

    8.) Go to a football game. Doesn't everyone know your high school high notes haven't been hit unless you've sat in the bleachers and watched other people play a game! You're not even playing! The high water mark of your high school experience is watching other people play while you stuff your face with nachos and hot dogs. Nice...

    9.) Go on a road trip. Not much comment here... Doesn't everybody have a couple hundred extra bucks to blow on gas to drive to another town? Shucks, yeah!

    10.) Go to a midnight movie premier. Yeah, I can just feel what a hard thing this is... nothing like encouraging teens to buckle down and do hard things as teenagers. Looking for a big accomplishment? Let's go to a midnight movie premier...

    11.) Fall asleep in class. Take it from someone who has done this. You don't wake up feeling accomplished. You wake up feeling stupid, because that's how you acted. Seriously, that's an accomplishement? What's the next one gonna be, hitting the Snooze button one more time?

    12.) Cook a complete meal for your family. Finally, something at least kinda sorta an accomplishment! Still not exactly what I would call a "high note of your existence", but still, at least it's something more than fall asleep in class!

    13.) Pull a senior prank. Lest you think the list might actually begin suggesting some actual good ideas for high school accomplishments. Cause there's nothing like that epic senior prank to tell your grandkids one day to make them proud or to teach your son what real manhood looks like!

    14.) Learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry. As a reward for making it half-way through this list, they finally decided to put in an actual accomplishment! If you find time between your sleeping in class, planning an epic prank, going to football games and movie theaters, and confessing secrets to your crush, why not learn some real life skill? Nothing like saving that for #14!

    15.) Take a college tour. Okay, now we're rolling. Finally getting to some good sound advice...

    16.) Go to San Francisco on BART with friends. Okay, spoke too soon again. But this isn't horrific. I guess this could be considered an accomplishment. Alright, new record! Three accomplishments in a row! Let's see how far we can go with this!

    17.) Create good relationships with your teachers. Wow, okay, whatever the author was drinking during the fist 10 ideas must have worn off around number 14! Now, to sit back and glean all these wonderful ideas!

    18.) Take the Sat, ACP, and AP subject tests. Hmm, getting bored over here. I think I'll shut up for a couple of ideas.

    19.) Become a leader of a team, club, or class.

    20.) Get your driver's license.

    21.) Volunteer.

    22.) Reconnect with elementary school friends.

    23.) Start a blog. I have a feeling the fun's going to start again soon...

    24.) Go to a house party. Oh, yes, do hard things! Lemme ask though, what kind of a house party are we talking for it to be so epic that it fits on the list of the top 27 things you've ever done in your life? That's some house party!

    25.) Ask a stupid question in class. Well, if you walk away from this list thinking that this is something you should actually strive for, this one shouldn't be a problem for you. In fact, most likely, you can just about ask any question, and it will still come across the same! It should come naturally!

    26.) Take a drama class. So that in 20 years when you're explaining to your kids how accomplished you were as a high schooler, you can actually make these things sound impressive. But you better be faithful to coming to class and practicing, cause you're gonna have to be one whale of an actor to pull that off!

    27.) Get a part time job. Alrighty, way to end with some actual sound advice! Eureka, I have found a system for fulfillment! Now, where's the next midnight movie viewing near me...

    Alright, fellow teens, this is the world you live in. A world where adults think the most you're capable of is asking stupid questions and falling asleep in class, taking a road trip, and pulling an epic prank, and of teens who believe fulfillment can be found in a list of ridiculous life goals. And sadly, with what I see around me, we're not showing them any different.

    1 Timothy 4:12 shows that Paul held the standard for young people just a tad higher. Listen to what he says to young Timothy in this verse, "Let no man despise thy youth,but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 

    Look, guys and gals, we get to choose which we aim for. We can choose for a mediocre teenage life, one of limping by with an active social life and a dead spiritual one. Or we can choose to forget the lukewarmness that is categorizing our generation and aim for higher things, harder things, and nobler things. Paul apparently thought it was completely possible for young people to be an example of the believer, in all these different areas. It is entirely possible to develop this Christian character as a teen.

    Forget the low expectations that the rest of the world is throwing at you. Kick them out of your path and get going for some real accomplishment, some real dirt under your fingernails and some real meat for you spiritual life rather than this watered down substitute.

    P.S. If you wan to read a passionate, strong post on this same topic, minus the immense amount of blindingly intense sarcasm, check out Lauren S.'s excellent post on the subject over at Defying Depravity. She hits the nail on the head.



Thursday, September 3, 2015


    There is a pervading idea in many Christian circles that "questioning" God, the church, authorities, accepted doctrines, or traditional norms is somehow wrong. I don't have much time tonight to write, but I did want to briefly post on the topic since something that grabbed my attention tonight got me thinking about this.

    First of all, let's get it through our heads that questions aren't bad. In fact, questions and questioning your beliefs and opinions is the first step to reforming your thoughts, either positively or negatively. So questions are not evil things; they are actually the fruit of an active mind seeking the truth.

    Secondly, Jesus spent quite a bit of time answering other's questions and asking a few of His own (Lk. 7:20, Matt. 6:28). He never considered it a challenge to His authority or a bother. In fact, we see that when the disciples begin to ask Him questions about the parables, He actually reveals to them more than He did to the masses who did not choose to actively discuss the meanings of His parables with them.

    Thirdly, quite frankly, anyone of any depth whatsoever should, at one time or another, question their beliefs, whether they be political, religious, cultural, or philosophical. Questioning our beliefs is what leads us to think clearly and systematically through different controversial issues and come to our personal conclusions. So, again, a questioning mind is not a rebellious or "evil" thing. It is a gift from God created for our good.

    As we read and study the Bible, we will find questions, some that we can't answer. Jesus sometimes purposefully did this, speaking in mystery that the crowds could not understand. Only those with ears to hear (those willing to listen and think, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit) were those who were enlightened, while the rest remained in ignorance because of the unfamiliar teaching style Jesus sometimes used through His parables that left plenty of room for the unknown.

    Frankly, the finding of unanswerable questions about God shouldn't be surprising. If we believe that God truly is eternal, uncontainable, all-powerful, and possessing of all knowledge, then we, as humans who are none of those things, should not be surprised to come to the conclusion that God is at times outside our comprehension.

    So, those times when we find questions, what do we do? Well, first off, trust. Trust in a sovereign God who is in control over all things, even those we don't understand. And secondly, do you research! Find a commentary, look up some articles, read a book. When you're stumped by that tough question, chances are you're not the first person in history to be puzzled there. Look up a study help.

    This was more along the lines of a practical post than a theological or philosophical one. I hope it was a blessing to someone. Don't let anyone make you ashamed of a questioning mind or a ton of questions! God gave this as a gift to us, a gift that gives us the desire to find truth and learn about Him rather than remain content in ignorance. So enjoy the questioning mind! Keep finding questions!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guest Post

    Ryan, a good friend and fellow blogger over at A Message for the Messenger, has agreed to write a guest post for me today! He's a brother in Christ who I have shared many great memories over our several year friendship. I hope you all enjoy!


     So many times in the Bible and all throughout history, there are countless examples of courage being displayed. There are great men who stood up to and sometimes withstood seemingly impossible scenarios. I would like to touch on two people from history who displayed amazing amounts of courage. 

    The first can be found in 1 Samuel 14, verses 1-15: “Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Mikmash. One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six-hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phineas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left. 

    On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba. Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.’ ‘Do all that you have in mind,’ his armor-bearer said. ‘Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.’ Jonathan said, ‘Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, “Wait there until we come to you,” we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, “Come up to us,” we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.’

    So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. ‘Look!’ said the Philistines. ‘The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.’ The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, ‘Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.’ So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, ‘Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.’ Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre. Then panic struck the whole army – those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties – and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.”
    Now, notice how when the soldiers in the outpost saw Jonathan and his armor bearer, they said: “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in”. This gives me the impression that the Philistines suspected that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were bait for an ambush set by the Israelites, hiding behind Bozez and Seneh. That is why I think they said ‘Come to us’. They didn’t want to be in the ambush. But they were wrong.
    You see, God used these two young men to bring Him glory in the battle. It says later in chapter 14 that all the Hebrews, the prisoners of the Philistines, Saul’s army, and the ones hiding nearby pursued the fleeing Philistines. Jonathan had to start the fight. It wasn’t easy though. I don’t doubt that he struggled with fear or anxiety. I bet that he was anxious to get to the outpost. But he knew that God would deliver the Philistines into his hands. He had a renewed strength, and because he overcame his fear of the Philistine army, he was able to successfully believe in Christ and take the outposts and raiding parties. God won a major victory there, one that would be completed upon the coming of David.
    Now I have my historic, non-Bible story that I want to share. It is about a man named Ernest Shackleton. I quote from 2011 World Book: “In 1914, he led an expedition into the Weddell Sea, where ice crushed his ship, the Endurance. His party escaped in boats to Elephant Island. Shackleton and five companions then made a daring journey by boat to South Georgia Island and crossed the island’s glacier-covered mountainous ridge to summon rescuers. As a result, his entire party was saved.”
    This was a huge amount of courage on Ernest Shackleton and his men’s part. They braved twenty foot waves in their lifeboat to reach shore, where they crossed the mountains which had never been done before and sledded down the entire mountain to reach a British arctic station. They saved the men who were remaining on the island.
    Do you see a similarity between the two stories? The one I see is this: each one of those men exhibited their courage because there was a cause that had be done. There was something that needed to happen, and either no one else could or would, but they were the only ones with the courage to do it. Why were they the only ones who could? Because they experienced fear. Fear is not what makes a man. It’s overcoming that fear that makes a man.

    But how can we overcome fear? Obviously fear is something that weakens us; that makes us afraid to face it. How can we confront something that is frightening to us?

    I am naturally afraid of heights. It’s just something that I’ve always been afraid of. Even as a baby I would scream in terror when placed upon a changing table.  When I was old enough to walk, I was afraid to go up a flight of stairs.  There was one particularly set of stairs in our post office that was particularly scary to me then. Over the years, though, I’ve conquered that fear little by little, until I’m not so afraid of heights anymore. And you know what? We have a picture of me at the top of those stairs, having conquered my fear. Am I still afraid of heights? Yes, some. Was it easy to overcome my fear? No. 
    But the necessity to be up in high places made me have to conquer those fears. If going onto a high area was the only way for me to successfully get out of a situation, I would have to do that. And I had to conquer my fear in order to be able to go out onto a high place if I ever needed to. And the lessening of that fear has been a huge benefit for me in some areas. 
    So, to wrap this up, the act of conquering your fears can help build your courage. And you will need that courage in your youth and adulthood to stand tall and firm in your convictions and to answer God’s call on your life.

                          -Ryan S., from A Message for the Messenger