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!

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.

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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.

“The Sands of Time Are Sinking”

“The Sands of Time Are Sinking”

#hymnsforHim

The Sands of Time Are Sinking

1. The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for –
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

2. The king there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land

3. O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

4. The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

5. O I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine
I stand upon His merit –
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

I know this hymn from my childhood…but I can’t tell you the last time I sang it, let alone read through it. But – seriously – if you just skipped down to my words, go back and read through that! It’s like reading C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien! The imagery!! The content! Wow. Just wow.

 There is honestly so much in this song that speaks volumes about the beauty of God’s plan in this world. A plan that “brings a poor vile sinner into His house of wine.” It provides the answer to the two part question:

  1. Who is God?
  2. Who are we in relation to God?

God is He who, from the foundation of time, has been the fountain of all things. He is beautiful, He is glorious, He is mercy incarnate. God is He who with the same power that breaks the will of Leviathan (Job 41), gently lifts up the broken who trust on Him. God is He who willingly takes in those who are helplessly sinful and shows them a mercy that cannot be described with human analogy. His mercy is extended to those who are called according to His purpose. Mercy is not free to all, but free to those whom He foreknew. Those who He foreknew, He also predestined.  How just would mercy be if it were for everyone..?

Who are we? Well, we are the poor, vile sinner. We sin. Daily. I mess up. Daily. I find myself chasing after temptuous thoughts. Literally. I just want to find a new way to be a bad Christ-follower. I take part in teasing, or negative talk of someone at work. I seek that thing that arouses me in sin. Seek it. Look for it at times. Or maybe I get angry at my wife for no reason other than she was right about something that I wanted to be right about… thus making me feel guilty. Seriously. Sinning is one of the easiest things to do when fallen. All of mankind has this problem, and that should not be hard to see. So, as nasty vile sinners – what are we to do? Do we just simply ignore the problem, say it is made up, and pat ourselves on the back for being less evil than other more evil people?? No. We need salvation. We need cleaning. Thus, the mercy that God provides is most necessary to our eternal living arrangements.

But – as a nasty, vile, selfish, proud sinner – do you think I am going to just be like, “yea! awesome, you are going to take my sin away, reminding me of how terrible I am. AND, you are going to do it for free because, in your own perfect Will, You decided that I was to be called to be in your family? AND there is nothing I did to deserve or earn this? Great! Sounds good!” No. Of course not. That may sound like the easiest gig in the world. But it gives up control. We no longer command our fate. Our destiny then is necessarily sealed from the get go. We also must admit we were flawed in the first place. This too, a post/ultra-modern “no-no.” We can’t just give up control!? That flies in the face of all we are taught about who we are as people, as Americans... We must be commanders of our own fate. Captains of our own ship. But Christ calls us to toss all that aside and see Him as our true salvation.

The bride looks to the bridegroom, not her own garments. His beauty is immensely more beautiful than her own. Even at her best. She knows this. And is swept up in its Truth. It is His sacrifice that draws her attention the strongest, not the prize such a sacrifice awards. But this is a gospel we need to preach to ourselves daily. This isn’t always easy to remember. Christians, I think, get so caught up in the concept of sharing the gospel with others that we forget to preach the gospel to ourselves first. You must first find that God has brought you into right relation with Him before you can even attempt to bring another into right relation with Him. Remove the log from your own eye, before you point out the speck in another’s. And that analogy works both from a prideful and logical standpoint.

Finally, let’s Tarantino this, and go back to the very beginning of the song. “The sands of time are sinking…” We are in the last hour. Every minute we are alive is one minute closer to Christ’s return. We are given basically one calling as Christians – aside from trusting on Him who gave us eternal life. It actually spawns off from that gift and trust. Once, like I said above, we get our own heads on straight (facing Him, not ourselves), we need to be facing out. Into the world. Reflecting the Light of the world, Jesus the Christ. A friend of mine, quoting another theologian, told me a profound truth. If I were one outside the faith. If I had Christian friends who, believing to be holding the one true Key to eternal joy and eternal life with a God who had created all things with but words. AND, if those friends never had the gall or gumption to breach the subject with me… well, I would be appalled! Do I not deserve evangelism? Do I not need to hear these words, even if I think you are mad to the core? Regardless of what another person will say or think or do in response to your proposition of the Gospel, is it not your duty to share that Gospel??

“The sands of time are sinking.” Christ will return with no warning. And I ask you, American Christians? I ask myself… What are we doing about it? Are we drinking, and eating, and being merry – because tomorrow we die? Are we blissfully ignorant of our friends and family that have no saving faith? Are we… dare I say it… selfish? Selfish of the gift we have been given? I doubt that last one – or at least I hope not… Honestly I think it is fear. Fear of the “no.” Fear of rejection. Fear of awkwardness… And, let me say this, I am typing this – and hearing it in my head – and my words condemn me too. How easy is it to just slide along through life not offending anyone. Not bringing Truth into the conversation at work when you hear so many lies? Not being a source of Living Water when a friend needs it – even if they don’t want to hear it! Brothers and sisters. We rejected the Living Water too! We didn’t want to hear where we needed to change a portion of our lives. But Christ wants to save as many of mankind as He can. And trust me, He will save all of His people.

Don’t get me wrong. My, your, our personal involvement in salvation is moot. We are simply doing His work. But step back and think about that! God – in His infinite wisdom and power – knew it was best for me, for you, for us, to be involved personally in the salvation and evangelism of this world. We get the immense pleasure of being a part of a plan that reaches back before the foundation of the world. God chooses to use us, poor vile sinners, to bring the Truth of the Good News to other poor vile sinners. To share the stories that show the Truth of our fallen nature, but the just Truth of His mercy. That we stand in Christ alone for our salvation. The sands of time are sinking, and we need to ask ourselves how are we working out our salvation? Are we working it out with fear and trembling, as Paul writes, or are we complacent – poised to be spit out for the sin of “lukewarmness” as John writes?

If you have any questions, please comment or message me! If you like this post, please “like” and share! If you need me to expound on something, let me know! Thank you for reading, and have a great day!

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

1. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

4. And when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

5. When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

#hymnsforHim

Amazing grace, as one of the most well known hymns, has touched the lives of millions upon millions of people since its inception in the 1800’s. It tells us a story not unlike our own – one of woe, and sin; one of complete helplessness, one of traversing many hardships. Yet the tag is always pointing to our Savior who promises so much more if we but accept grace freely given.

Grace is a concept that seems somewhat foreign to our post/hyper-modern world. To give freely what is unearned, or in fact undeserved seems preposterous. Grace must be co-opted. It is both a work of God and of man. He offers it, and we reach out and accept it. That makes the most sense, no? It may make sense to the world. Nothing is free. But grace, God’s grace, THAT is free.

For grace to be merited, is to make assumption that we have power in our salvation. That may sound empowering, and to some it may even sound like a good thing! But lets think for a second. How good are you really? How often, in the heat of a moment of temptation, do you choose good – do you choose God? I would be honest in saying over 50% of the time I choose sin. So, if we co-opt with God for our salvation, when did we choose good? Why does one particular choice bring salvation, and others are just choices? Are we really that proud to say that God, the omnipotent, all gracious Being that He is can be turned away? That when He offers grace to a sinner, we have any choice but to accept it in awe and amazement of His majesty?

That is what this song allows us to see. Amazing grace! How sweet such an offer sounds, that He would wish to save such a wretched sinner as myself?? Once I wandered the wilderness that is my sin, I was lost in my own damnation – but now! Now, I am found in Him who found me. He took my face, He made the scales to fall from my blind eyes. He held my blackened heart and He made me new. He taught me true fear, a fear of not knowing Him – then instantaneously He relieved those fears through His grace. There is so much in my life I have already done, that I have already made it through. It is by God’s grace that I stand here today – that I found breath this morning. And I know – I know for certain! – that it is His grace that will lead me to a new home when my time comes. It will be a life of endless peace and worship – one devoid of sinful flesh. It will be a life full of true purpose, and absolute fellowship with my brothers and sisters and with our Lord. And when we have spent an incalculable number of days before our Lord, singing His praises, working in and to His glory, it will be as if we had only begun.

Amazing grace!

How Deep the Father’s Love

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

——————-

This song is so powerful. It speaks to so many facets of my faith – my conviction. It reminds us of the reality of sin, the beauty of Christ’s death, and the new reality of His resurrection.

I think people need to understand this side of the Christian faith. We aren’t all Joel Osteen’s, or Phelps families, or defenders of the crusades, or any other false ”

options

” of Christ out there.

I hope to make this more clear as I make more posts, but a true Christian is one that accepts the reality of our sinful nature and our depravity… This must occur alongside a full, headlong plunge into the truth of Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection is the hinge, the crux, the entire point of my faith. To deny the
Resurrection is to deny Christ’s entire life and mission. To say it didn’t happen is to say that He was a liar lunatic, and His followers were literally just as out of their minds. Remember that these men went to their deaths with one thought on their minds, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

So what drives you? What gives you purpose? You see my goal, to give glory to Him who gave me true life. I work, I play, I live in both realities: sin and resurrection.