Whose are you?

Whose are you?

The Question Posed

Are we conservative? Or Christian? Are we liberal/progressive? Or are we Christian? Are we conservative Christians? Liberal Christians? Which comes first? The world wants to know. When you identify as a follower of Christ, the main contention with the world hinges on where we fall politically. We ask silly questions of where Jesus would fall on this issue or that issue… We claim moral superiority based on which political leaning we cling to – but not due to the Words of the Lord. So, I ask again, whose are you? Which identity would most define you?

For some of you reading you may immediately answer “Christian, duh! I believe in the Bible, and I believe that God is sovereign, and I believe that Christ is the only way to eternal salvation!” But I want to ask you to look closer – look at your heart, and how you live your life functionally… Whose. Are. You? Do you make decisions based on what your political leanings state are acceptable? Do you make friends, and enemies, based on how they believe the nation’s Congress works with the POTUS? Do you find yourself quoting politicians, or knowing their beliefs to a better degree than you know your Lord’s? When you do quote Scripture is it to back up a politician’s words or platform? OR, maybe a more pressing question could be, can you quote your favorite team’s stats to a better degree than you can quote passages of Living Water?

For many in this nation politics take over their essential identity. For others it is their favorite sport team (whether pro or college level – sometimes both!). Some identify by their dislikes more than their Savior. Others find identity in their sexuality – their uniqueness – their race/nationality –  their wealth – their self-approval/disapproval – their denomination… Brothers and sisters, we cannot make a living that way! Not a living that glorifies Christ, at least! We need to develop a “Gospel Identity.”

The Answer – Gospel Identity

Finding identity in the Gospel means that our life is shaped by the Truth found in Christ’s words. It means that our life is shaped by Christ, and not the other way around. THAT means you like a politician, or a song, or a celebrity, or any other thing BECAUSE that thing is pleasing to Christ (or at the very least not offensive to Him). What aspects of your life are not affected by the Truth of Christ? …the answer is none… None parts of your life are absent from Christ’s desire for you.

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I understand “none parts” isn’t grammatically correct

Christ asks for nothing short of all of us. When we find ourselves compelled by grace, we should find that our whole selves are compelled – not just those parts that are easy. Those easy parts would be our kind words, our gestures of kindness towards kind people, lending a hand when convenient – and the like… When Christ calls us “Come and die,” He calls our whole person. And that is not easy. Finding our identity in the Truth of the Gospel calls for a surprising life. But what would that life look like?

A surprising life, centered on an identity in Christ, is covered in the just love of He who gave us life. It oozes a sense of wonder at our place in life – bought by our Savior’s blood. It supersedes every other consideration you can think of (even when there are times that other things may overtake it). A surprising life centered in Christ is one that can be counter-cultural, while maintaining a humility found only in Him who gave us faith. A surprising life finds God’s truth everywhere, but knows that ultimately it resides in His Word given to us in Scripture. A surprising life is had by one that can love his neighbor, but not accept their life decisions – and that neighbor never feels judged. A surprising life, found through holding to a full and true identity in Christ, is in itself full, and needs no nourishment from the world.

This life is hard, Christ promised it would be when He told His followers “I came not to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). A Gospel identity is very different than a conservative identity… or a progressively liberal identity… or a philanthropist identity… or a homosexual identity… or a black identity… A Gospel identity looks at what Christ said (I am the way, the Truth, and the Life – John 14:), and what He did (the Pharisees asked why Christ dined with sinners – Matthew 9:11). We live a life centered on Gospel identity when we stand up for our belief in the truth of heterosexual marriage – marriage founded in God, not man. We life a Gospel identity life when we vote for a candidate that wishes to care for the poor by giving them a hand up (John 9:6), not a hand out (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We live a life with an identity centered on the Gospel when we choose to speak words of mercy or love rather than curse another man made in God’s image (James 3:10). Yet we continue living a life of Gospel identity when we call out a brother in sin (James 5:19-20).

A Gospel Identity should be one that is counter-cultural. It shouldn’t just be a “nice life,” a “kind life.” When we do good, our actions should point back to Christ, who saved us from certain damnation. We do that by living unapologetically for Him! When we do good, when we are praised – direct that praise back to Him, not yourself. If I can give any other encouragement: when you live with this mindset, you will make a difference. People will notice. It has happened to me multiple times at my jobs. Speak up about your faith – don’t hide it, don’t apologize for it. That is how you live a life of Gospel identity.

 

will apologize for this post though, it may seem rambling – or seem a little scatterbrained. I write this sitting in a coffee shop, my first time really writing with some distractions around me… So, I hope this post makes sense, and that you find it encouraging yet challenging as we enter a time inundated in politics and sports, and so many other things clammering for a spot in your identity.

 

God bless!

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Who’s on the Lord’s side?

Tomorrow, in SC, is primary day for voting. I am usually quite silent on these issues. However, I cannot stand by and see the Trump take this state… He is not a good man, and a TERRIBLE candidate to represent the “conservative” side of the nation. 
I am one that typically places little, to no, faith in the “power” of political figures. My hymn today reflects Who’s side we should be on. The Republicans are inundated with “Christian” options for the ticket. Let me be clear that we are not a Christian nation – and I’m glad of it. We shouldn’t be. That said, I want to see a candidate take office that reflects the values and holds dear the truths that Scripture preach. We shouldn’t enact laws that enforce our religion – again, we are not a Christian country – but at the same time holding those truths (and they ARE truths whether you hold them or not) should not be damnable in this country. 
So, read this hymn brothers and sisters, and when you go into vote in the primaries tomorrow remember that, ultimately, we must be on God’s side. We ultimately need to trust Him in our lives. Amen?
#hymnsforHim
1. Who is on the Lords side? 

Who will serve the King? 

Who will be His helpers, 

other lives to bring? 

Who will leave the worlds side? 

Who will face the foe? 

Who is on the Lords side? 

Who for Him will go? 

By Thy call of mercy, 

by Thy grace divine, 

We are on the Lords side 

Savior, we are Thine!
2. Not for weight of glory, 

not for crown and palm, 

Enter we the army, 

raise the warrior psalm; 

But for love that claimeth lives 

for whom He died: 

He whom Jesus nameth 

must be on His side. 

By Thy call of mercy, 

by Thy grace divine, 

We are on the Lords side 

Savior, we are Thine!
3. Jesus, Thou hast bought us, 

not with gold or gem, 

But with Thine own life blood, 

for Thy diadem; 

With Thy blessing filling each 

who comes to Thee, 

Thou hast made us willing, 

Thou hast made us free. 

By Thy grand redemption, 

by Thy grace divine, 

We are on the Lords side 

Savior, we are Thine!
4. Fierce may be the conflict, 

strong may be the foe, 

But the Kings own army 

none can overthrow; 

Round His standard ranging, 

victory is secure, 

For His truth unchanging 

makes the triumph sure. 

Joyfully enlisting 

by Thy grace divine, 

We are on the Lords side 

Savior, we are Thine!
5. Who will stand for justice 

in a time of need 

Who will hear the poor man 

and his children plead 

Who will heal the rich man 

of his poverty 

Who will tell the homeless 

of eternity 

By Your love and mercy, 

and Your grace divine 

We are on the Lord’s side 

We are on the Lords side 

Savior, we are Thine!

When you feel sin creeping up…

#hymnsforHim

I’m posting a song that has a chorus. But when you read the verse, and place a refrain of the chorus between each verse, it has a true cadence that really drives home the central focus of the song. 
Chorus: To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, 

To hear His pardoning voice, 

Changes a slave into a child 

And duty into choice.
1. No strength of nature can suffice 

To serve the Lord aright 

And what she has, she misapplies, 

For want of clearer light.(Repeat chorus)
2. How long beneath the Law I lay 

In bondage and distress 

I toiled the precept to obey, 

But toiled without success.(Repeat chorus)
3. Then to abstain from outward sin 

Was more than I could do 

Now if I feel its power within 

I feel I hate it too.(Repeat chorus)
4. Then all my servile works were done, 

A righteousness to raise 

Now, freely chosen in the Son, 

I freely choose His ways.(Repeat chorus)
I feel like so many of the older hymns focus on one main subject, one main aspect of God: grace. Grace is what the authors want us to see in this life. Grace is what is so amazing about the Christian’s faith. It is so drastically different from every other religion. God came down in humility and picked us up. No merit. No rules. No “IOU” required. How beautiful is that?
I read these verses, and ask myself, “is that me?” Can I say that I am able to joyfully give up those fleshly pleasures that so enticed me? Honestly, that’s a hard answer to give. Many days it’s no. Many days my sinful flesh beats me. But I pray, that little by little, Christ is working to make that gap larger. That my trust in Him may grow stronger. 
And I think that is the point. We can’t do it ourselves. We can’t beat sin with just us and a mirror. We must have Christ. He is that catalyst that brings change. I guess my prayer today is that we can allow that catalyst to work in our lives. That we would let Him in. Let Him work out that grace so freely given. To turn this slave of unrighteousness into a child of righteousness. 
May that be your prayer too. Amen?

We have nothing to do with our salvation

#hymnsforHim

There Is A Fountain

1. There is fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

2. The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

3. Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
’Til all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

4. E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be ’til I die.

5. When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.

Salvation. There are many in the world today who say it is a farce. The only “salvation” you need is from your own insecurities and hindrances. That salvation comes from within – from realizing and tapping your own potential, your own “divine.” But why? Why would our insecurities be what holds us back? And why is there that sense of brokenness in the first place? We aren’t taught to feel broken – typically – we aren’t taught to sin, or break rules. We do however have be taught rules, guidelines, “do’s and dont’s.” Why is that the case? This hymn doesn’t speak to these things directly, but it does point to the facilitator of our salvation. The blood of Christ. And it is the sinners who are plunged into that pool that find their sin and brokenness paid for, and wiped away for eternity.

This salvation isn’t earned. And that is beauty of it. Think about it, if we needed to DO something to get saved, how would it be that the the sinner on the cross beside Jesus could be brought into heaven? He had done nothing – in fact, the Gospels together show us that he actually mocked Christ for a time while hanging beside Him. But in the end, he saw his error begged forgiveness, and was accepted immediately into the family of God. He prayed no specific prayer. He wasn’t baptized. He had no extreme conversion story to tell other Christians. He was simply a broken man, turning to the source of Life. And we, “though vile as he,” have the same chance at redemption, if we simply give up our “so-called” power for salvation.

His blood washes over the sins of His people. Regardless of nation, creed, language, or sin leaning. His own, the elect, the chosen from eternity – they will be washed in His sanctifying blood. Again I say, we have nothing to do with our salvation. We want to – oh, how badly we want to. We probably have a harder time coming to full grips with the Truth that we never deserve grace. That we will never earn the right to be called “sons and daughters of The Most High.” Look at most religions of the world:

  • Judaism – worship in the temple, follow the guidelines of Moses, sacrifices, be good. Two of which cannot be fulfilled fully now because there is no Davidic temple. It is about creating a ladder or sorts to reach up to YHWH to find salvation.
  • Islam – follow the 5 pillars as closely as possible (testimony, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage). It is about reaching up to the heavens to find salvation.
  • Hinduism – pray to your god(s), participate in as much good karma as you can thus outweighing the bad karma, participate in the many rituals. Hinduism is a difficult system to pin down as there are multiple legitimate ways to practice the religion.
    • New Age, or Westernized “Eastern Religions” fall into a similar category. Do good, think positively, good karma > bad karma, be respectful, et al
  • Buddhism – again, this is difficult to pin down fully. There is the threefold jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha), the threefold way (ethics, meditation, and wisdom), the four noble truths, and the noble eightfold path. Buddha is not worshiped, but revered as the first to discover the path.
    • There is more sampling of Buddhism in Westernized “New Age.” The concept of doing right by others, treating all life with respect. Doing no harm. Veganism. Yoga. The eventual end is nothingness/oneness with all.
  • Paganism/Earthy religions – These revolve around conceptions of dharma, without the word. Doing right by Gaia, or Mother Earth. These religions/cults simply spring up everywhere, so pinning anything specific down is impossible. You can see reflections in Wicca, Celtic religions, and even the “new” Jedi Temple followers.
  • Mormonism – believe in the works of Christ, follow the tenets prescribed in The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenant. The Book of Mormon is seen as a supplementary work to the Bible. In addition to knowing those scriptures, you are expected (basically required) to do a host of other things that are honestly contested among Mormons because of their secretive nature around many aspects of their faith.
    • It should be mentioned that the Bible explicitly states the following two things that Mormonism clashes with
      • 1) “if another teacher, or even an angel from above preach another message than the one you have been given, may they be cursed.” – (paraphrased) Galatians 1:8
      • 2) “if anyone adds to this book of prophesy may the curses be added to him, and if he takes away may his name be taken away from the Book of Life.” – (paraphrased) Revelation 22:19

 

I could go on to other religions/off shoots but I think the point has been made. Every other major religion across the world, and across time revolves around mankind doing something. Right worship, right speak, right actions, supplementary actions, etc… Christ is the opposite in every way. Christ was the one who had right speech, right actions, right worship, right living, etc… He, being God incarnate, came to earth and followed His own law to the letter from the Torah and fulfilled it! He came and reached down to his creation in it’s sin and despair. He saved us.

That is not an easy concept to want to grasp. It is honestly much easier, and much more enticing (on the surface) to simply follow a few rules. Be a good person. Do good things. Be kind. Smile. And find eternal bliss. But sin is more prevalent, and more encompassing than we wish to admit. Which is why we needed a perfect substitute for the sin. Christ was that propitiation. He was that perfect sacrifice that is called for in the Law of Moses. His blood, that was poured out at His crucifixion, is what washes away our guilt, our shame, our bad decisions, our mean words, our callous hearts. It can’t be us… we are broken.

 

But thanks be to God, that He has a way to find communion again.

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

#hymnsforHim

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

The cross was a bloody incident. The cross was death in a most excruciating way. The cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The cross before Christ crucified was a death reserved for the worst criminals they could find. It was a warning to other criminals to steer clear of that one guy’s crime. After Christ crucified it became a symbol of hope to those associated with the Christ. Today, we seem to forget the power of the cross. What it means. What had to happen for us to see the cross in a positive light. This hymn does a great job of reminding us of it all.

The cross is where our Prince of Glory was slain so that we may be set free. The cross is where God Himself took up our sin – the full weight of it – and bore it so that we would not have to. He did it all Himself, without us doing a single thing… so that we may not boast. Those many vain things that we seek because they give us fleeting pleasure… they count naught when weighed against the power of His blood. That one act would cover all sins past, present, and future of the people of God. His sacrifice would lay, like a purifying blanket, over the course of history, swaddling those who would become – or had become – His.

But what was the cross like? Verse 3 brings out some of it. The Roman empire was very good at one thing: killing. Whether in war or in peace, they had produced an almost scientific algorithm to killing effectively. Crucifixion was one of those of the gorier persuasion. You didn’t die from the beatings, the floggings, or the bleeding produced. You didn’t fall from the cross due to poor nailing – for they nailed through the wrist bones. No, you died of asphyxiation. Your feet were nailed together… to the wood… but through the unbelievable pain, you would push up to allow yourself to breathe. At least until they broke your legs… now you would hang there, in terror, until you suffocated.

Christ would take beatings, whippings, mocking, a crown of thorns smashed into His head… He would walk His final means of death up a hill… He would then be nailed, and mocked some more… But they would not break Him, not spiritually or mentally, and not physically.

See…from His head… His hands… His feet… Sorrow and blood flow mingled down…

Most of us have heard the phrase, “Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for youuuuu!” or “Christ died for youuuu, won’t you pleeeeaase accept Him into yer heart??” But have you ever actually sat down and thought about what Christ did so that we may not find ourselves one day eternally separated from God? That is where we find ourselves when we deny Him for a lifetime. It isn’t this place where the Devil is king, and all those rabble rousers get to spend eternity partying in sin. No. Hell is as much a prison for Satan as it is for the reprobate.

gustave_dore_inferno34
Look how big he is… and how stuck…

Hell is where the love and mercy and grace of God are absent… Hell is where only the wrath and righteous justice and judgment exist. God is still there, but not the lovey-dovey One. The righteous judge that produces just condemnation of the unjust. Christ sacrificed three days of the “three-in-oneness” He had experienced from eternity so that we would never have to experience that hell.

Were the whole realm of nature mine…. THAT were a present far…too…small

That love is so amazing, that love is so divine. There is nothing we can offer God to give us the same result that Christ’s sacrifice did. All we can do is give our life, our all, to the Man who gave His life – His all – so that we would never know the wrath of hell. There is no gift or offering big enough to satisfy the gaping hole sin leaves. But we can offer our thanks, our repentance, our faith. A faith that manifests itself if works for the Kingdom. We can survey the cross with wonder, and with sincere thankfulness!

Yes, the cross can be a tripping hazard for some, but for me… it is beauty so divine that all I can do is sing about it!

énouement

énouement

According to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (what a sad title for a website…), énouement means:

n. the bittersweetness of having arrived here in the future, where you can finally get the answers to how things turn out in the real world—who your baby sister would become, what your friends would end up doing, where your choices would lead you, exactly when you’d lose the people you took for granted—which is priceless intel that you instinctively want to share with anybody who hadn’t already made the journey, as if there was some part of you who had volunteered to stay behind, who was still stationed at a forgotten outpost somewhere in the past, still eagerly awaiting news from the front.

I love language. Language is a passion that I will never fully be able to explore. It especially is difficult because I know English… and frankly… English sux. It is at the same time far to specific and far too generalized to get a lot of meaning across. “Love” is a great example.

in-love-images-and-wallpaper-12

I “love” my wife. I “love” Marvel Entertainment. I “love” chocolate peanut butter pie my Aunt makes me. HOW?? How can I “love” them all? Because English has no real different meaning for that one word. Sure, I could be – again – uber specific or uselessly vague by using words like “enjoy,” “am obsessed with,” “relish,” et al… But when we hear people use that word we simultaneously do understand, and occasionally don’t understand what the speaker is actually saying in context.

Why did I just go into such excrutiating detail about that? Well, take the title of this post, “énouement.” That is not English. That is French. That word – that one word – in it’s native language means that entire paragraph above in English?! That is insane! We need more words like that in our language!

Why is my title énouement you, undoubtedly, ask yourself!? Well, its the concept I want to tackle right now! As I begin to branch this blog out from just discussing hymns and the like, I wanted to incorporate my family and my life as is. But as I thought about where to start, the one thought that kept coming back to me was, “man! If only I could talk to my senior self of high school, or even my close of freshman year in college self! I could give him a pat on the shoulder and wish him a good job. Sure, there would be challenges, but the life you are going to have is so much more than you ever dreamed!”

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just look at those two goobers

As I look back on the past – heck – 8 years I see such a development that I literally cannot do anything but praise God. The kid in that left photo said goodbye to the only life he knew after graduating high school. Goodbye to marching band, friends that stuck by him for nearly a decade. And stepped into a world that would be very different. It took me until I had nearly graduated college to realize, I wasn’t ever going home again. At least not in the way it was when I started my college career. When I began working for Bonclarken I was so naive it is almost funny. Almost. I remember nights talking with some of the guys I worked alongside and having my eyes opened to conceptions of the world that I had honestly never even fathomed existed. Ways to interact with people that had never crossed my mind.

But that isn’t even where it gets good. My college times were, hands-down, some of the best of my life. Or that is what I thought in the heat of the moment. My friends I gained from those years, friendships begun (Allyson, Tyler, Thomas, David)  and friendships refined (Scott, Lisa, John, and John) are ones that have radically defined my life. Erskine is where I met my wife. It’s where I started seminary. I refined my leadership skills. I found a deeper love for music, and a deeper love for Christ. Erskine College, and some seminary, was an amazing time in my life.

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We look so young! And me so skinny?!

But college ended. Seminary was postponed. I am now in a time that has shown to be the most challenging, yet most rewarding time in my life. Right out of college, the love of my life and I were wed on a perfect day 6/9/12 and 3pm. Because, like language, we both like numbers! Aren’t we just too cute?! During our time being married (going on 4 years) we have had some serious ups alongside some serious downs. We have struggled in ways that I would have never guessed possible. We have prayed. We have wept. We have loved harder. We have prayed even more. And God provides. I have paid bills on less than $20k a year. I look back on where we began – me providing on a part time job at Chick-fil-A – and I am astonished at how God provides. He provides with friends showing up with money to help out. He provides with parents who do this or that to cover something. He provides with better hours… a better job… a raise … a promotion… He just simply provides.

Then, when it seems like God has provided all you need, He laughs – and gives you a son.

IMG_1807
A mini-me

You think you know love? You think you know sacrifice? Do you suppose you know absolute fear for the well-being of another? Becoming a parent will do that. When you see this life that God has blessed you with, and you see how fragile it is… and God blessed you with him?? You are just a kid yourself?? But when you have a child, you are no longer a kid anymore. I don’t care how immature you may be – that child changes the world (even if you don’t follow along). Our son has shown me a joy I never thought I was missing. He has become an object lesson I had always heard about in sermons, but can now experience myself! His laughter is contagious! His kisses seem so genuinely loving! His hugs tighter than you could have ever imagined. When he cries, you cry. When he is hurt, you are hurt. And when he is sick, you would literally do anything to take that from him. So, how does God complement a son?

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SUPER!

He gives you a daughter! We are in the last weeks of this pregnancy, and then we will be a perfectly balanced family! God knows what He is doing. He blesses in ways we never imagine. We find blessing everywhere we look. And it is beautiful.

 

So, what would I tell myself? “Young man! Get a haircut, you hippy!” No, well… maybe that too. But I would tell myself to just hold on man, you literally cannot imagine what is headed your way! You think those people you hang out with daily in high school are your life friends? Just wait until you meet your roommate! You think that girl you have a crush on will define your love life? Ooooooh myyyyy gooooooodnessss! Just you wait man. You think your parents are ridiculous, and frustrating? Ask yourself how ridiculous you are when your son is running around with a loaded diaper. You think you understand God’s love? You. Aint. Seen. Nothing. Yet.

 

… and the beauty is that ten years from now I will undoubtedly look back at who I am right now and think the same thing… And that is the beauty of who God is, and who He is in our lives.