As the Waves Crash, Tell The Truth

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I remember this one time I went to the beach with a friend. I wasn’t feeling particularly well but decided to go anyway. So we drove down the highway to edge of the Georgia coast, parked the car and strolled towards the ocean. I decided to go ahead and get in the water after a few minutes of letting the sun bake my melanin well-done. As I began to get into the water, I felt the smoothness of the waves that seemed to lift me up and set me back down as they passed through me. After enjoying God’s creation for some time, I decided to head back to shore. As I’m doing that awkward swim-wade-walk thing you do when the water is not deep enough to swim but not swallow enough to walk normally, I remember a wave coming out of nowhere and crashing into my back. Normally, waves may just push you a little bit, your friends would laugh at you for looking foolish and you get back to the shore with a mouth full of saltwater. But, being sick, this wave basically almost killed me. Ok, so probably not killed me, but it did hurt. And it did actually knock the air out of me. After I composed myself a bit, I was able to make it back to shore but had to rest for a while. It’s funny how the same wave that once felt like a gentle hand that carried me over the ocean floor could in the next moment turn on me and become a hard shove to my fragile body. Waves can carry; but they can also crash.

Lately, the waves of life have been crashing against me hard. They have come in the form of crippling fear and intense hopelessness. Both realities are caused by believing in the lies of the enemy and both seem to crash hard every day. The fear has mainly affected my sleep. I lie awake at night wondering if someone, or something, is out there. Waiting. Lurking. Out to get me. It keeps me up at night, affects my rest, and causes deep senses of condemnation and sadness as I feel like a failure every morning. Shouldn’t I be able to get past this? Why is my faith so weak? What is wrong with me?

The hopelessness stems from the false belief. It tells me that I’ll always be alone, and that its my fault. It tells me I’ll never get a good night’s sleep again. It accuses me of not having enough faith and yells that I’ll always let God down. It foreshadows a future where my sin causes shame and disappointment. It tells me life will never get better and that there is no hope to have. 

Lies. All lies. Obvious lies. Subtle lies. Attractive lies. Ugly lies. Why are lies so easy to believe? Because, generally, they match how our flesh views the circumstances we are in. These lies may point out a part of the truth, but they never tell the full story. Being single does sometimes mean being lonely, but being single does not equal hopelessness. The dark can be scary and could be full of threats, but none of those threats are stronger than the God I say I believe in. Why can’t I see those truths? Because my eyes are on myself and my circumstances and not, instead, on the true promises of God.

For my hopelessness, God has promised me a hope in Jesus Christ. He says my singleness is a gift, not an issue to despair over (1 Cor. 7:7). He says that I have everything I need for life and godliness in Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3), and that He uses ever single event in my life for His glory and my good (Romans 8:28). Jesus came to give hope, and if I am given Jesus Christ, then there is nothing else needed that my Father would not give me (Romans 8:32).

For my fear, the Lord is a shield (Psalm 28:7; Psalm 33:20). He does not give a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He is the glory and the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3) . He gives rest to His children and protects them as they sleep (Psalm 4:8). They have no reason to fear the terror by night, or the arrows by day, or the pestilence that stalks in the dark (Psalm 91:5-6). The Lord provides armor to fight the enemy. And Jesus has disarmed the powers of this world (Colossians 2:15) and has overcome the world (John 16:33).

These are the truths I have try to tell myself as the waves crash into my back. They are the truths I try to gurgle up as the water sometimes seems to fill my lungs. They are the truths I cling to when the enemy wants to knock me off the solid rock that I hold onto for dear life. They are not truths I have held onto well, always, but they are truths none the less. Even now as I write this, I can hear the lies of the accuser telling me my faith is weak and that I don’t truly believe these verses that I quote. And maybe thats true, somewhat; but it’s not the full story. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). When I am faithless, he is still faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). My faith, as small and weak as it may be, still allows me to see power of God (Matthew 17:20). He is Truth; and Truth always outweighs lies. Lies aesthetically hold weight but when placed on the scale next to truth, always comes up extremely lacking.

The crashing waves are moments to remind yourself of the truth. The enemy uses the waves to disrupt you, disorient you, and to destroy you. But the Lord allows the waves to crash into us so that we can crash into Him, the solid Rock. He does not allow them to overwhelm us, even if He does allow them to crash into us. We may be submerged, but He will never let us drown. He knows we are dust, and we have a sympathetic High Priest in Heaven named Jesus Christ who sees our trials, who is concerned for us, and who asks us to cast our cares on Him. So tell the truth. Our Savior still saves. Even as the waves crash.

My Struggle To Believe That God Is “for” Me

I struggle with believing that God is going to disappoint me. Years of unanswered prayers, current struggles I’ve wished long gone, pain and discomfort I fear will linger long until eternity I have allowed to shape me into a person who wrestles with the manifestation of God’s goodness.

I know He is good. I theologically and personally assert, defend, and lean on that truth. But experientially, in my day-to-day, the choices I make to not choose Him but some lesser god who does not exist nor can provide for me shows I truly struggle to believe in His goodness. And that reveals a deeper cavern of disbelief that I see in myself: I struggle to believe that God is for me.

God being for me means I wrestle with how I view the way God deals with me. I struggle and wonder if His actions on my behalf are for my good. This is not an uncommon struggle. Elijah feared this in the valley on the run from Jezebel; David pondered this many nights on the run from King Saul and even his own son; the disciples thought this in the middle of a storm that Jesus somehow found the ability to sleep through. And our forefather and mother, Adam and Eve, thought in the same vein as they chose to listen to a created tempter than their Soveriegn Creator and Father. Like parents, like children.

Romans 8 does a magnificent job to dispel this fear lingering inside every Christian. Verse 32 states this:

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Paul is basically saying “Y’all. The Father, who has been eternally in community and in love with His Son, gave up said Son to you and with Him, all the rights and privileges of His Sonship. So, what’s the issue, guys?” And it is true; the Father gave His most valued love, His Son, to us, God the Son, Jesus Christ. There is not a thing on Earth or Heaven above, real or imagined, that could ever, nor will ever, come close in comparison to the Son of God. For He is God, eternally begotten, fully God, Savior of the World, the only wise God and King. And He, obeying the will of the Father, offered Himself up for us, to us, so that through Him we could be called children of God if we believe.

So, we have been given Jesus, the only answer to our sinful condition which is, by far, the worse thing about us and that has happened to us. If God is so loving to not leave us here, why would we doubt His love? Why would I doubt his love? It’s because of my disbelief. It is because of the heart of sin inside of me that has been dealt with and requires dealing with daily. I worry because I don’t believe. I am anxious and fearful because I don’t believe rightly. I’m not saying there is some magic faith that happens when I simply choose to not disbelieve; I am saying, though, that if I did believe, as the Bible tells me to, my struggle might be more victorious than not.

Either way, God is faithful. Even when we are faithless, God is faithful. God is for me. His plans for me are for a future and hope. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is able to keep me unto the end. And He, foremost of all, is for me. And He has proven all of this is the Person and work of Jesus Christ. I believe, Father; help my unbelief.

The Gospel is For Losers

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The Gospel is for losers. That’s the whole point of this blog. It’s probably the only thing I have to write, actually. The gospel being for losers is good for 2 reasons: (1) We are all losers and (2) losing is the only way to be saved

Yes, I just called you a loser. Because you are. Don’t think so? It’s probably because you are comparing yourself to other people, those worse losers, on some sliding scale that eerily always seems to work out in your favor with you ending up on top. But we know any scale that always ends up the way you want it to is probably rigged for you to win. Meaning, then, that you aren’t a winner, but instead, (ta-da!) a loser. And the Bible, in its normal tradition of ruining the inflated thoughts you have of yourself, agrees with this statement. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And God’s glory is the standard by which we are judged. Meaning, we all lost. If you were born human, you were born at a deficit. In fact, you were born spiritually dead. Dead in your sins, far away from God, considered an enemy and at enmity with God. We all are born clear across a chasm so wide that no human effort, human ingenuity, or human desire could help us cross it. We are all born losers. And this would be the worst news in the world if not for the God-man, Jesus Christ, the only winner ever born on Earth. This God-man, in fact, is not only the only winner ever born (and the first-fruits of many other winners to come) but Jesus was a winner who lost for losers. Jesus Christ, perfect in every way, fully God and fully man, Son of God incarnate, took the biggest and most major “L” possible for the very people who earned this gigantic “L”, namely, you and me. And He took this loss and turned it into the most beautiful, the most glorious, the most loving and fierce win the earth will EVER know. Jesus Christ died the death of loser sinners and offered them, in exchange, His glorious win. Romans 5 shows us that Jesus gave us His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness. Jesus essentially says “Here’s my W; let me take that L”. Notice that, though, we do not “win” this win. It is given to us. It is not earned, it is not warranted or deserved. For losers are, by definition, not deserving of a win. No, this life-saving, life-changing win is given to us, to those who believe that Jesus is the God-man, the Son of God, the only Way for salvation. The Winner (and Creator, Upholder, and Sustainer) of the Universe gave us losers a way to have a relationship with Him, the most coveted prize in the Universe.

So since Jesus died for losers, being a loser is the main requirement to receive salvation. And this theme of losing to win is straight from the mouth of Christ (sorry, Fantasia). In Mark 2 finds Jesus eating with what the Bible calls “tax collectors and sinners”. In fact, just a few verses above he calls a known tax collector to follow Him. The Pharisees enter into the scene and question who Jesus decides to keep company with. There is a stark difference in public opinion and personal perception among the people in this room. The Pharisees thought very highly of themselves and I’m sure the tax collectors and the sinners probably felt the opposite about themselves. But I’m guessing both parties were intrigued at the fact that Jesus was found in this space with the people present. After the Pharisees asks why Jesus would eat with such losers, Jesus utters what should be considered the loser anthem. In verse 17, Jesus tells the Pharisees “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”. Meaning, Jesus didn’t come for people who say all they do is win, win, win no matter what (great song, though). No, He didn’t come for self-proclaimed winners. He came for those who knew they were losers. Not just societal and cultural losers, but losers at their core. Sinners. He came for those who knew they were dead and needed life. He came for those who knew they were far away from God because of decisions they had made yet wanted to be brought closer. He came for the broken, the hurt, the injured, the outcasted, the needy, the dead. He came for those who knew they needed someone to come for them. The problem with this message in our very American, winning is life, (#winning) mindset is that it is directly opposed to how the gospel says we should come. Salvation is for those who know they need to be saved and those who have faith that Jesus can and wants to do just that. Those who believe they can earn their salvation don’t think they need to be given it, and therefore miss it. But as stated earlier, compared to God, which is the only standard that matters and is eternal, we all fall short. And we all lose. But that is GREAT news! Because that means all of us are candidates for salvation. Jesus said the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Jesus’s messages were not simply cultural messages meant to help the “less than” feel better about themselves. Instead, He hung out with the “less than” to show all of us, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, that next to God we are ALL less than but that our being less than did not stop Him from finding us, rescuing us, and calling us to Himself. So it is only in Christ that we are more than conquerors. We go from losers dead in our sins to being called children, found, and His. In Christ, we overcome. In Christ, we conquer. In Christ, and only in Christ, we win.

Lessons and Thoughts about Philando Castile and Justice

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Philando Castile had a license to carry. Philando Castile told the officer he had a weapon in the car. Philando Castile told the officer he was not reaching for his weapon. Philando Castile reassured the officer he was reaching for his identification. Philando Castile was then shot at 7 times. Philando’s girlfriend starts to live stream after the shooting, showing a bloody Philando Castile in his last hours. Philando’s daughter is in the backseat. The young girl, probably not old enough to process the full weight of what exactly happened, tries to comfort her mother. It comes to light that Philando was pulled over due to an alert out on a robbery suspect. Apparently, Philando matched the suspect’s description. Philando allegedly was high as the officer said he smelled marijuana. The officer believes he’s in danger and must open fire. The officer does. Philando dies. A trial ensues. 11 months later, no conviction. Same story, different city. Lather, rinse, repeat. Here on some thoughts I’ve wrestled and come to terms with as I processed this past week with tears, anger, and the smallest glimmer of hope.

God is Justice

God is justice. For justice is the response to sin. All sin. And only God can fully mitigate out proper justice for sin. And He did so in His Son Jesus Christ. Justice is His. Vengeance is His. God is holy and righteousness and therefore only true justice will satisfy His wrath. And He will bring it. He will soon rid the earth of all injustice and those who perform it. Only those who have faith in the work of His Son will be safe from His justice. I cannot fight for justice here and not talk about the universal justice the Lord will one day bring. My grace in these scenarios is not some weak, passive engagement but rather a desire to be God-gloryfing above all, even when I’m angry and upset. And I don’t do that well. But I must, in all things, bring glory to Him. And one way I do that is by pursuing justice in all things.

I’m No More Protected Than Philando

Philando followed every command given to him. I haven’t seen one piece of evidence that without of doubt proves anything but that. Most kids are taught to respect police officers because they are there to help and it is what good citizens do. I was taught that same lesson, but it was more for my own survival than a citizenship award. My parents saw Rodney King. They know what can happen to non-compliant black people when they are pulled over. I’ll admit my respect for officers comes more from a desire to not give them any reason to harm me than from a respect for the position itself. When you can do all the right things and still have your life taken, you learn quickly, then, that survival isn’t just about doing the right things. Eric Garner was choked on video. Trayvon Martin was killed by an over-zealous neighborhood watchmen. Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times, 19 of them hit. Sean Bell and 2 others were shot 50 times the day before his wedding. Oscar Grant was shot in the back, handcuffed, on a subway platform. What do all these, and countless others tell me? That my life can be taken simply for looking like it should be taken. I look suspicious of a crime, therefore I have committed it. And not just me. My grandfather, my father, by two little brothers, uncles, cousins, and so forth. Basically, I am a Philando Castile that might or might not happen.

Police Reform Must Happen

I have police officer friends. I know that sounds like the trivial “I can’t be racist because I have black friends”, but being friends with officers has allowed me to see the other side of the coin. They are just as much afraid of not coming home to their loved ones as I am when I get pulled over. I understand, respect that, sympathize with that and affirm that. But, and I tread lightly but purposely here, it is my belief that police officers are here to protect and to serve. And a lot of them do that everyday, very well, without any thanks. But there are times where officers don’t do that. And when that happens, there should be justice. It is no different than a citizen who commits a crime. Good citizenship can be argued to be doing anything that doesn’t directly take away from the wellness and flourishing of the place of citizenship. So a crime would be something that falls into the opposite of that category. And when crimes are committed, justice should be had. Similarly, when a police officer does something other than protect or serve, that should be noted. I’m not asking for a police witch hunt or police perfectionism, but I am asking for change. When something like what happened to Philando Castile can be seen as normal procedure, then normal procedure should be questioned. No police officer would want what happened to Philando to happen to their child and have the courts basically say that it is just business as usual. As a citizen in America, I want to affirm the good that so many police everywhere do, and also challenge the opposite that is very rarely addressed.

The Church Must Make Up It’s Mind

Church, I love you. I love you because Jesus created you and adopted me into you. But I’m wrestling with the thought that churches in America (yes, specifically the predominately white churches) are dead-set on becoming irrelevant, specifically when it comes to issues on race and justice. The question to ask is, do you truly believe justice is being served in this area? I’m not asking that churches always make a public statement for every injustice it sees (churches would never be able to shut up, if so). But if you can cry out for the unborn, if you can fight against sex trafficking, then why the silence on Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Walter Scott? My opinion is that the church in America hasn’t fully made up it’s mind on whether these things are actual injustices. Sure, they are tragedies and travesties. But injustices? The jury is still on that one. So, church, as your POC congregants sit in the pews, listen to your sermons, do community with you, allow you into their hurt and pain when things like this happen, just know that we are all wondering, “Do they really get it?” And I’m not sure if you do. And until you are willing to see that actual injustices are taking place in these events, I’m not sure if you will. But know this: the role of the church is to show the current kingdom of God has already taken residence on earth. Which means when injustice happens, we should speak. If not, then what are we really doing here? My prayer, in the midst of the somewhat pointed rebuke, is that we would not be divided over this but that the pursuit of justice would unify us as a church; as His church. The fact that there is still a black church and a white church, separated by more than just cultural preferences, is an issue. What a beautiful opportunity we have been given in America to withstand the divisive plans of the enemy and join together in pursuing justice in all areas, specifically race.

Let Justice Roll Down

I’m a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and as such I believe that His kingdom has already come and will come more fully in His second coming. But His kingdom being here already means that we should fight for justice in every public arena, if we really want the Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. I cannot look to man to give me justice without the holy conviction that I serve a God who is Justice Himself. It is from that conviction that I must press on in the fight of justice, specifically surrounding race, and know that I am fighting for what is right even when it feels like I might be the only one doing so. Ultimately, it is God’s just nature and character that should affirm my feelings towards and pursuits of justice, not my own. And it is in that conviction that I can press forward. So, let justice roll down like waters from a mighty stream! Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Gospel Music And Fighting to Feel


Today the verdict to the case regarding the killing of Philando Castile was handed down. Not Guilty. No surprise. And yesterday was the culmination of the #SBC17 drama, where a vote declined the passing of a resolution that resolved to denounce all alt-right and white supremacy groups. It was later found out that the reason for the motion not passing was due to uneasiness regarding the wording of the resolution, as well as some ignorance regarding what “alt-right” meant. Still, black and white evangelicals all over social media took to their keyboards and the firestorm ensued. I was angry at the SBC17 controversy. But after the news of Philando Castile, I felt nothing. Not because I didn’t actually have feelings about it. I remember the video. I remember the words Philando’s girlfriend spoke on the video before bursting into tears. I remember hearing their daughter in the background try to console her mother, as she probably had no real way to process what she just witnessed. When I think about what kind of repressed trauma that little girl might have, its hard to not feel anything. And I felt a lot when the video was first released.

But now, I don’t feel much. I can’t feel much. If I cried every time an injustice toward black skin was overlooked and unpunished, I’d be dehydrated from the tears I could cry. If I allowed myself to get angry every time I had to defend the dignity of my black brothers and sisters to my white brothers and sisters after a tragedy like this happens, I would probably have no ability to have any close white friends. If I allowed the stress to overwhelm me every time I looked to the church to be vocal about these events, when all I get in return is abortion rhetoric used, essentially, to “all lives matter” my hurt, I might not be here today. (News flash: black people care about the unborn too; we just seem to be a little preoccupied making sure those unborn don’t grow up to one day get shot for having a toy gun on the playground).

So no, I don’t always allow myself to have emotions. I don’t allow myself to feel because I’m afraid to. I’m afraid of having to walk around with the pain of what it means to be black in America. So I sometimes choose to not feel, so I can survive. I’m not saying its right, or smart, or the healthy thing to do. But I choose it. And even still amidst the struggle to not struggle, against the backdrop of closing my eyes as the world around me seems to burn, I’m reminded that I must feel. For feeling keeps me human, it keeps me in the fight against injustice and, more importantly, it keeps my need for God in plain view.

There’s a reason why I will always prefer old gospel music over any genre of Christian music to come out. Gospel music was cooked in the furnace of struggle, oppression, and unwavering hope. It is the only genre of music that allows me to struggle with both despair and hope. And when I listen to it, when I hear the struggle in the beauty, when I can feel the hope fighting through the despair, when every note climbs up and down like the path of struggle for freedom itself, I’m reminded of three things: God is good and will always be, injustice is sin and sin must be destroyed, and this will not be how it always is. Gospel music helps me feel again. Gospel music helps me hope again. Gospel music lifts my eyes off of my struggle and onto the One who will one day do away with injustice. Gospel music helps fight the feeling to not feel.

There will be another Philando Castile. I pray to God it won’t be so, but I can’t put hope in that. There will be another SBC controversy (they are 0-2 this year, so far). There will be another argument with a white friend who just can’t get it. There will be another instance of indifference in the church on this issue. But God is good; and so is the music that talks about Him. So, I’m fighting to feel.

 

The Power of Presence

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I’m not much of a swimmer. Swimming a couple of feet and treading water for maybe 10 seconds is the best that a summer’s worth of swim lessons got me. I love being near the water and even being in it, but going toward the deep end isn’t something I prefer. I have a very rational (possibly irrational) fear of drowning. The thought of not being able to take a deep breath of oxygen scares the living daylights out of me. And what is scarier about drowning is how quick and how quiet it can happen. One minute you are above the water having fun, the next you are slowly sinking to the bottom hoping someone notices you. And since you’re underwater, its impossible to call for help. I hope I never have to experience that.

But even though I hope I won’t have to experience a physical drowning, I have experienced an emotional one. That may sound dramatic, but hear me out. Have you ever been so burdened by the weight of life and all of it’s demands that you just feel like you’re gasping for air? Well in that moment, how easy is it call for help? Probably not easy at all. That’s because there are moments in life where you can feel so burdened down that you really have no energy or strength to reach out and ask for help. And so your hope relies on people being able to see you and understand that they need to intervene. But doing that requires people to be present. Simply being present can save lives. Most places that give information about drowning list tips that all include someone being present. Knowing what drowning looks like means nothing if you are not present to witness to signs. Being present can mean the difference between someone making it, or not.

Jesus understood the power of presence. Hours before being betrayed and arrested, Jesus  and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was going off to go pray before the action happened, and decided to take 3 of His disciples with Him. His words to His disciples spoke volumes as to what Jesus, in His perfect humanity, needed at this moment: “Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful , even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matt. 26:38, ESV). Here is the King of Kings, the King of Glory Himself, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Savior; and here is the man Jesus Christ, the one who bleeds, the one who cries, the one who is tempted and without sin, and the one who was to be killed. Jesus, in his last hours, only asked that His disciples remain there with Him. He knew they could not change anything, nor was he asking them too. He knew they could not save Him because He gave His life up freely for our sins. And yet, Jesus asks His disciples to be there with Him. Jesus was going through anguish accepting the cup put before Him, for He was fully human and was aware of the pain set before Him. And in that moment, what He asked for was the presence of His closest friends.

There is power in presence. Not magical or mythical properties. But the presence of the friends in the midst of suffering can honestly do wonders for the sufferer. And what I love most about what Jesus asked of His disciples was that He did not ask them to fix the situation. Jesus is the Savior, and therefore could not look to His friends for saving. And we are not saviors and can only look to God for saving. But God has gifted us with the ability to be present in the lives of those who are hurting. I can attest to the reality of being able to simply sit with someone who just got some devastating news. No verses thrown tritely their way. No false promises made to make them feel better. Just simply being there. Presence is powerful. As humans, we were built for community. We are therefore made to flourish in the midst of it, not in the absence of it. Meaning, God created to you to become fully who He has created you to be only in the midst of community. Intentional, purposeful, persevering and present community. Oh that we would be a people who are intentionally present! In a world where distractions sit in our pockets, on our nightstands, and on our desks, being present seems like a waning virtue. We must not let it be. We must fight to be present in the lives of those we love. We must seek out ways to be present in the lives of our neighbors, our family, our coworkers, the barista who makes your coffee, the kid who bags your groceries, the deli worker who makes you that breakfast bowl in the morning. They all need someone who is present.

You may not know how to swim; but being present while someone is about to drown could save their life. In the same way, you can’t fix the problems in the lives around you; thats God’s job. But you can be present as that person walks through whatever they must. And I guarantee you that your presence will matter.

Faulty Cisterns and False Gods

Two things are true about humanity: we were created with needs and we were created to worship. Under the master craftsmanship of a sovereign and holy God, it is revealed to us that our needs and our worship are actually tied together. What, or who, we worship will determine where we go to have our needs fulfilled. These needs aren’t limited to only physical needs. Things like intimacy, security, satisfaction, happiness, joy, hope; all of these and many more will be sought after at the places we worship. And we can find out what, or who, exactly we worship by noticing where we turn when these needs arise.

God is revealed as Jehovah-jireh (YHWH-Yireh) in Genesis, right after providing a ram en lieu of Abraham’s son Isaac as a burnt offering. This name means The LORD will provide. And throughout the narrative of the Old Testament (and eventually the New Testament, as well) God shows Himself true to that name. He provides for His children out of famine, out of slavery in Egypt, out of the wilderness, and out of captivity. But without fail, like us, Israel always turns to other gods to provide for them. Their rebellion is not simply amnesia or a lapse in memory; it is deliberate treason, intentional rebellion, and grievous adultery. This is where we find ourselves in Jeremiah 2, listening to the Lord speak through the prophet Jeremiah to His people about why they turn their backs on Him. The Lord questions His people as to why they would consistently turn their backs on the same God who has saved and provided for them time after time, asking them “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?”(Jer. 2:5).

Notice the connection God makes between what we worship and what they make us. He says Israel’s fathers pursued worthless things, and in the process became worthless. There is a direct connection between our identity and our g/God. You are as valuable as the person/thing you worship. Which brings us to the true nature of the sin the people committed against God: “for my people have committee two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13). Cisterns were essentially wells dug out of the ground that could only hold a limited amount of water; and being “hewn” out the earth, they probably tasted and looked like their surroundings, muddy, dirty and bitter. This is the indictment God has brought against His people. Instead of choosing to partake in the fountain of beautiful, clean, clear, crisp, cold, and captivating waters known as Yahweh, they preferred to drink from cisterns that could only provide unclean, filthy, sickness-inducing, muddy, dirty liquid. And, whats more, these man-made cisterns have holes in them; they cannot even hold the water! The very thing the cistern is made for is the very thing it cannot perform.

Friends, this is a most beautiful picture of idolatry. Choosing to worship anything, and anyone, other than the true and living God is choosing to put the weight of our existence, and our existential needs, on a figment of our imagination. I’m not saying false gods don’t really exist; they are just really useless. Think back to the golden calf made by the Israelites in Exodus. What exactly did they think this golden calf could do? I doubt they thought it could part the Red Sea, or that it could call down hail from Heaven. Then why did they make it? Because idolatry is pride. It is a prideful statement that says “Not only is there another in existence worthy to be called god, but this new god can also do for me what the original could not”. We turn to false gods because we refuse to believe, trust, wait, and obey the only true God. We are idolaters because we are selfish and prideful. Only pride could make a people choose to drink muddy, dirt water simply because they can do it on their own terms. The reality is that false gods will never provide what they say they can. And after expending our time and energy worshipping them, we will come away further from what we need and just as empty as when we came.

Let us be a people who repent of worshipping at the altars of false gods. As stated earlier, you will know what your god is by where you run in times of need. Let us be a people who, through the grace and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, ask for hearts that burn only at the altar of the Living God. Let us be a people who look to Christ, God the Son, who point us to God the Father. Let us ask the Lord for strength to close the lid on the cisterns which only make us sicker every time we bend down to fill our cup with its poison. And let us remember, we WILL worship; we must decide at which fountain we want our cup to be filled. You were made for living waters; it’s time to start drinking…

A Reason To Live

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We all need a reason to live. Reasons to live get us out of bed in the morning; they get us into our cars, get us through work, get us home and put us to sleep at night. We all need those reasons. Without realizing it, society spins, turns, and burns on our individual reasons to live. It could be needing to pay the bills; feeding and raising your children; making it to graduation; or simply just to experience enjoyment, pleasure and passion. But what happens when those reasons aren’t strong enough anymore? If your child is your reason to live, what happens once they grow up and no longer need you? What happens if your job is your reason to live but one day you suddenly lose it? That marriage that kept you going somehow shatters before your eyes. The problem with our reasons to live is that they are often as temporary as our own lives. And that would be ok, if our souls didn’t recognize in that moment that clearly we are made for something more permanent; eternal, even.

I know the woes of building eternal hopes on temporary foundations. Well-paying jobs only satisfy for so long. Writing blogs, dancing to new choreography, eating at new places and meeting new people all bring a thrill and a high that will soon dissipate. And once it does, I find myself standing there asking “What’s the point?”. If these things are the reasons to get out of bed every morning, then why get up knowing they will all soon cease to please? If these adventures only temporarily fill the voids in my heart, are they worth pursuing? Will there every be a pursuit, a point, or a goal worthy of the permanence and eternality my heart and soul long for? The issue, of course, is not just the pursuit but the hope behind the pursuit. All too often I realize that these pleasures and desires I put so much energy into pursuing, turn out to be the prophetic jars that cannot hold water; strewn from the selfish fabric of my selfish heart that believes these would make an excellent god. And every time these jars not only prove they cannot hold water, but cannot hold anything I actually need them to.

So, what is the point? Is there a purpose, a reason, and goal to strive and reach for that will sustain us every day we get out of bed in the morning. The Apostle Paul seems to think so. While in a prison cell he wrote a letter the church in Phillipi that eventually was canonized into the Bible as the Book of Philippians. In this book Paul exhorts the Philippians for their faith and for how much of an encouragement they have been to him. Paul here has every reason to question the point of living. Being in prison probably doesn’t inspire much hope and many reasons to keep going (I’m guessing, at least). And yet it is in this prison, trapped and surrounded by guards, that we see Paul explain to us very clearly and very briefly the point of living: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21, ESV). Paul gets out of bed, every morning, in his prison cell, with hope and anticipation, because his life is not based on the encountering of temporary pleasures; his life is based on living for Christ. In fact, he mentions that his chains have in fact spread the gospel even more! His imprisonment has actually unchained the gospel message. And it is in this that Paul finds his reasoning for living. Paul lives, and dies, for and to Christ. It was not in the wild horse chasing of pleasure that Paul found his satisfaction; it was, ironically, when he was surrounded by chains and bars. This “to Christ” language shows up in numerous letters by Paul. In Romans 14:8, Paul tells us that we live and die to the Lord. In Galatians 2:20 , he tells believers that our live is no longer about us, but about Christ. Paul’s point is simple and clear, yet profound and cavernous: the point of life is Christ.

Christ is the only sure North Star to follow as we navigate life. Proclaiming His goodness, displaying His love, conforming to His will and loving Him with our all is the reason for life. All other things pale in comparison to the majesty, glory, and wonder of a life submitted and given completely over to Christ. Believer, like the Apostle Paul, please don’t think this is a goal I have attained simply because I write about it. I’m simply one who has just been given a map but has yet to figure out fully how to walk smoothly on such torrid terrain. So pray for me. But thanks be to the Holy Spirit, Who’s very job is to apply the words of Christ to our lives and conform us into His image. But our job, every morning, ever lunch break, every car ride home and random gift of peace and quiet that we get, is remind ourselves that our life is for and to Christ. Love your children, to the glory of Christ; work hard at your job, to glory of Christ; marry, serve, blog, travel, eat, drink, Netflix, shop, sleep, enjoy life, all to the glory of Christ. For to truly live is to truly live for Christ; He is, in fact, the point of it all and the reason to live.

 

Lessons Learned during Writer’s Block

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I wish I had something extremely profound to write about currently. Maybe I’m over-thinking and being a perfectionist to my own demise. But writer’s block doesn’t mean God hasn’t been speaking. In fact, He’s been pretty present as of late. So I decided to write down some of the lessons I believe the Lord is teaching in this season of pruning and shaping He has me in. Some of these may turn into full length posts someday, but for now they are just random lessons learned in the wilderness of writer’s block:

Too much weed killer, and not enough fertilizer, kills a yard

Mortification and vivification are two words used to describe the Christian’s process of sanctification, the process by which God shapes and forms His children back into the shape of shalom, the image of their Savior Jesus Christ. Mortification is the daily process by which sin is intentionally, purposely, and viciously battled against; vivification is daily the process by which the believer, in response to the mortification, attempts to “vivify”, or bring to life, virtues and joys that replace areas where sin once dwelt. The process must be “both/and” to be considered sanctification. But, like most things with humans, we tend to swing more to one side or the other. Personally, my pendulum swings more towards mortification. That in no way means that I do a good job at killing sin (most times quite the opposite), but it does mean my mind is generally more concerned with how horrible I am and the things I do wrong than concerned with replacing those horrible things with things that bring life. Recently, while talking with a friend about my deadly one-sidedness, he compared what I was doing to tending to a garden by using too much weed killer and not enough fertilizer. Weed killer is used to, well, kill weeds. Fertilizer, on the other hand, is used to begin to process of growing more desirable plants in your garden. Using too much of either one, at the expense of the other, ruins the yard. Too much fertilizer without first clearing out the weeds produces a garden with flowers choked out and surrounded by weeds; but use too much weed killer and not enough fertilizer, and you just have a graveyard of dead plants. This is what the Christian life is like. Only focusing on mortification without asking for the grace to vivify only brings death. But in order to truly enjoy vivification, or, in order to truly enjoy the beauty of new life springing forth in your garden, you must be engaged in the hard work of mortification. Be both/and.

God’s sanctification is God’s love

I just got through reading through the book of Leviticus. Yes, it was arduous; and yes, it’s worth it. Leviticus is full of festivals, moral laws, weird sacrifices and a lot, and I mean a lot, of shed blood. Staying deep into the weeds of it can easily find you lost. But if you zoom out a tad bit to look at how it reveals God’s character, we see it centers around God calling Himself The Lord who Sanctifies, a name He gave Himself in Exodus. So this isn’t a new name for the people of Israel but, after giving them all of these laws and commands to follow, He needed to remind Israel of who He is, which gives an explanation for what He is doing. God’s name is God’s character; and His character always proceeds and explains His actions. He is the God who sanctifies His children. Why? Because He is Holy. And only holy can be around holy. Therefore, God shows us that His love for us and His desire to dwell with us is so great that He would make a way for the people to sanctify themselves. Ultimately, these sacrifices were not enough and the people continued to live in rebellion and suffered the consequences of such. But it is through the blood of Jesus, slain hundreds of years later, and the giving of the Holy Spirit that now dwells in the hearts of believers, that we see God’s master plan (and master love) to continue to purify His people and make them holy and blameless before Him so He can dwell with us. Why? Because He loves us. God sanctifies because God loves.

Loving Jesus is the Beginning of Living

Are you in love with Jesus? Like, really in love with Jesus? Are you in love with His mission? Are you in love with His words, His actions, His thoughts? Are you in love with His commands? Like the psalmist, are they sweeter than honey from the honeycomb? Honestly, I don’t love Him like that. There are times I question whether I have even the base standard of love for Him. Does He consume my thoughts? Do I long to linger over the Word, the entire Word, to see traces of Him from Genesis to Revelation? Is He both my gentle Savior and my Mighty King? Do I love his sufferings? Do I love how He took every bit of suffering that I am deserving of for being an enemy of a holy and wrathful God? Do I love how He loved others? Do I love looking for ways to bring truth and light into the lives of other people like He did? Do I stay up at night and meditate on His truth? Do I wake up and reach for His Word instead of my phone? Do long for the Holy Spirit to apply His Word(s) to my life? Do I long to look like Him? Do I long to be with Him, to sit next to Him, to see Him face to face? Do I love Him? Not like I should. And if I’m not trying to love Him like that and more, I’m not trying to live.

Let The Refugeed Of Lord Say So…


The topic of refugeeism seems to be one of the most current controversial and therefore discussed topics in today’s times. The temperature of the conversation started long before President Trump, becoming a more popular American table topic back in 2014 when Christian persecution captivated the nation, specifically the church. Now, on the back end of a hurried executive order to ban immigration from specific countries, the topic has once again found its fervor in the mouths and hearts of Americans. In the conversations I’ve had with friends and strangers regarding immigration, there seems to be three distinct categories of mindsets regarding the issue: Some are completely against foreign immigration from countries that are perceived as threats, endorsing the infamous wall our President promised to build during his campaign; others are baffled and shocked at what they call the heartlessness of those who would immediately shut down any talks or momentum towards a more inclusive immigration reform; and then there are some who are simply in the middle, who believe in the reality of the threats to national security,  but can’t seem to reconcile completely the images of drowned babies and war-torn children and families.

I’m not writing this to tell you what specifically to do. Personally I find myself more in the middle. I understand the need to protect ourselves from threats, as I have my mother, father and brothers here. But I also understand something else: if I am a Christian, I am a refugee.

A refugee isn’t just anyone who visits another country or a broad label given to all foreigners. There are specific circumstances that would qualify someone as a refugee, mainly the fact that their home country or land is no longer safe or habitable for them or their family. A refugee, then, is someone who needs to be rescued. Redeemed, even. In Psalms 107, we see the beautiful depictions of what being redeemed looks like. Each section contains an overwhelming problem, a desperate cry to the Lord, His gracious response and rescue, and the gratitude that flows from that.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalms‬ ‭107:4-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

This section and the verses that follow are referring to the rescue and redemption only the Savior of the world could bring, namely salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I know my story well. Caught and trapped in the domain of darkness and enslaving sin and death, it was only the graciousness of the Lord to allow me into His family and call me his own. I have no personal merit or privilege that would require Him to act on my behalf in this way. It is only out of the overflow of His Love inside the Trinity that spills over to me that He acted for me and rescued me. All believers are those who once wandered lost in foreign lands, searching for and in need of food and water. Some are there because of their own sin; others are there because of the brokenness of this world.  But all find their hope in Jesus. God rescues us, the foreigner. And through Jesus Christ, we are no longer foreigners but citizens of a new kingdom and children of a new family.

The topic of refugeeism is not easy. The policies and reforms needed require discernment and wisdom. But they will also require great compassion. It is my belief that the heart of the believer should be for the rescuing of the refugee. That doesn’t negate hard conversations surrounding safety or security, but it does mean that compassion and empathy should also be seated at the table of these conversations. For every true believer knows what it means to be in need of rescue.