He will be with you 

He will be with you 

This hymn resonates with me today. I may not be facing certain death but I’ve been hit with news that I wasn’t expecting. A job that seemed a sure thing fell through and coming to grips with that isn’t easy. It’s happened over and over and over again… and it’s just disheartening. But i need this hymn tonight. I need to remember that no matter what… God is with us. He guides our paths. He directs our ways. And we need to trust Him. 

1. When you pass through the waters, 

I will be with you, 

And the waves will not 

Overcome you. 

Do not fear, 

For I have redeemed you, 

I have called you by name, 

You are Mine.
Chorus: For I am the Lord your God (I am the Lord your God),I am the Lord your God (I am) 

The Holy One of Israel 

Your Savior 

For I am the Lord your God (I am the Lord your God),I am the Lord your God (I am) 

The Holy One of Israel 

Your Savior 

I am the Lord (do not fear) 

I am the Lord (do not fear) 

I am the Lord (do not fear) 

I am the Lord (do not fear)
2. When you walk through the fire 

You’ll not be burned, 

And the flames will not 

Consume you. 

Do not fear, 

For I have redeemed you, 

I have called you by name, 

You are Mine.(Repeat chorus)

He has called us by name. Us. He has claimed us as His own. He has redeemed us! I ask myself as I ask you, reader – “what else do we need?” Yes, times may be rough. Yes, things may fall through. But God is there. He is truly there. To those who find faith in things of this world, but seem to feel empty in times of turmoil – God is there for you!
As I get ready to fall asleep, it is good to know that God has already won the victory for me. For His own. On that truth I rest my hope, and on that truth I rest my spirit. Amen. 

The Apostle’s Creed Pt1

I havent posted anything for a long time! But this year I would like to try to find time to post once a day – something small just as a reflection. For the next week and a half I will be posting something on The Apostle’s Creed.

 

This creed can be dated back centuries, and is arguably one of the oldest affirmations of what it truly means to follow after Christ. It embodies something that all Christians can confidently affirm, something that ties us all together; regardless of denomination, background, geographical location, et al. It is short, yet powerful. It is simple, yet deep. It is beautiful and poetic. Yet unwavering in it’s biblical foundation.

 

So, let’s start with a recap of what The Apostle’s Creed is:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son – our LORD –

who was conceived by the Holy Ghost/Spirit…

suffered under Pontius Pilate…

was crucified, dead, and was buried…

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From there He will judges the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost/Spirit…

the holy catholic church…

the communion of saints…

the forgiveness of sins…

and the resurrection of the body. Amen.

Today let us reflect on the first two lines…

I believe in God, the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth…

The word used for believe is more than simply affirming the existence of something. It isnt like saying “I believe it is raining right now,” or “I believe that he/she did this/that.” It is a deep rooted conviction. It is something you stake your life upon. It comes from the word credo in Latin. It means to put one’s trust into. Traditionally “I believe/credo” came before a statement of faith. That is why we have things like The Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed. They state something known to be true by the speaker.

To believe in God is to say very little. The demons believe in God… and shutter… so it isnt just that we believe in God. God can be wrongly found in many forms in this world. We proclaim that we believe in God the Father Almighty. This God is different than a Zeus, or a Thor, or even Allah. This God is a Father to His people. He is relate-able. We are able to talk to our Father. But this Father is something else – He is almighty. He finds full strength only within Himself. He needs nothing, therefore He lacks nothing. He finds all things within Himself, and is entirely totally self-sufficient. He, as the creed affirms later, is Triune. The three Persons are entirely perfect within themselves and need nothing to complete Themselves.

Yet, God the Father Almighty is also Maker of heaven and earth. He, in His infinite wisdom, saw that His glory is best shown when there is Creation to revel in it and sing its praises. He brought creation of all things into existence because it brought Him great joy. He saw that it was very good. He knew that Creation needed to be. So He created it. God brought Creation up from nothing to allow there to be another thing that could enjoy His Truth in existence. Now, as we will talk later, it wouldnt stay like that long.

But this is our God. He is Almighty. He is Maker/Creator/Sustainer of all reality. He is perfect in and of Himself, but found joy in creating us to see His image and to eventually share in His eternity. This is our God. This is who we believe in. This is what we believe.

Amen!

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!

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!

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.

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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.