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Be Still



For the last few weeks, I’ve had this sensation like something was going on. There was movement occurring. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. Maybe I still can’t. 
Any user of social media can tell you that people present causes, ideas, viewpoints, and a host of other things that become points of tension. Sometimes we are witness to the clashes, and sometimes we take part in them. Sometimes we take sides in them and become emotionally invested, spending our energies and time and resources. Sometimes the opportunity for comparison becomes overwhelming and we gives ourselves over to it. Sometimes you are just addicted to the news feed. I’m guilty of all of that. My heart is especially prone to crave the praise of others, and I’m guilty of constantly checking texts, this blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and e-mail hoping for a morsel of that praise. How many followers do I have? How many times have my posts been read? Beyond that, I’m currently struggling with rampant materialism and desire to be satisfied with things. The thing that is consuming my time and thoughts and energies right now is a mountain bike that I don’t even have the money for. It’s suffocating to want things so badly, yet I try to breathe in stuff instead of fresh air. There’s so much noise in life!
“Be still, and know that I am God” reads Psalm 46:10. This is the verse that started whispering to me, beckoning me to quiet myself, about a week ago. Trying to do this, I find that I hate the stillness and quiet. It’s like I’m addicted to noise. I feed on arguments. In a frustrated moment last week, I Tweeted “So many voices in Christianity! Maybe I should just read the Bible instead of blogs.” So noisy, it’s hard to think straight. In sitting down to write this post, I checked out Psalm 46:10 in a few different versions of the Bible -ESV, NLT, and HCSB. I found it interesting to read the HCSB, which translates it as “Stop your fighting – and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” The context of this verse is speaking to the nations, but I believe that can easily be dialed to speak to how I – we – can be in noisy conflict and scattered attentions daily. Mowing the grass today, in the noise, somehow I was quieted.
The first verse that came to mind was 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12. Sticking with the HCSB: “But we encourage you brothers, to do so even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, doing as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” Is this running through my posts and statuses and shares and tweets and pins? I’m convicted that it is not. I’m convicted that my heart loves to act like some dungeon master of noise, versus being still to know the Lord. I love the turmoil, if I’m going to be really honest. This is the fruit of my own hands, and it’s not good. Yet the mere fact that I’ve even become aware of it, which is purely revelation as opposed to self-discovery, gives me hope. Here the law once again crushes me, and it is only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that I am lifted up out of this empire of dirt. It’s not just big sins that Jesus deals with, it’s subtle ones like my life seems to be permeated with. Ones I don’t even see always. That I don’t always see my sins and error is that much more evidence I can only despair of my own goodness and throw myself on the mercy of God, that my sins were paid for by Jesus when he died on the cross, and I have hope for life because Jesus rose again to life and doesn’t remain in the grave. Grace grace grace alone, because by the law alone I’m hopeless.
The final verse that bubbled to life while doing yard work was Psalm 34:8 (HCSB): “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Ultimately, that is why this is even showing up on this blog. The mission statement of what I post here Eternity has been written on your heart. Fight to taste it. Much of that takes place in the wonder of seeing God in creation, but even though creation tells me about the nature of God, displays God’s awesome creativity and testifies to God’s existence, it doesn’t offer me any hope. That is only found in the Bible, the revealed and kept word of God. The mountains and streams cannot quiet the noise for good, but the Lord can. How? By telling us that it is in tasting and seeing that he is good. I want happiness in a hike, in a bike, in a lawn that appeases others, in peoples opinions and praises, in turmoil, in things. Happiness is only found in tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, and taking refuge in him instead of a hike, or a bike, or the praises of others, or things. 
Whatever is happening right now, whatever revelation is coming into view, and whatever sanctification that is so dramatic in my life that I can sense it taking place… that started sitting on a log in my backyard after midnight. It started when I was able to quiet myself. Beneath all the crazy places an things I run to for satisfaction, I know they will never satisfy me. I know, deep deep down in my once dead heart of stone that has been brought to life by the grace of God, that the Lord is the desire of my heart. I know because in Psalm 16:11 says of God “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Do I revel in that? More often than not, I find myself on the judgment end of Jeremiah 2:12-13 – “Be horrified at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled. This is the Lord’s declaration. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” I try to live and find that happiness in researching mountain bikes, or fighting bushes for a waterfall, or gaining the praises of men or more acutely followers on Twitter. God help me to fight to taste the eternity that you’ve prepared, which is full of and out of your goodness!
So what comes out of all this, and how is it working out? I’m going to try and cut back the noise. No deleting any accounts, but definitely a scale back of their use. I’ll be maintaining this blog, still updating it with trip reports from The SC Project. I’m deleting the apps off my phone, because that is a huge source of noise for me. I want to not be so glued to my phone, hoping to scrounge a praise for myself or satisfy the lust for a new notification. I’ll be keeping Facebook Messenger app, so for those who contact me through that can continue to do so. “Oh this is legalism and duty!” you may be thinking. Not really… though I can’t do anything with 100% pure motives (even this post is mixed and there is a level of wanting people to know!), I just want to taste and see that the Lord is good. I want my happiness and joy to be found in Him. I want any adventures I have to merely be arrow that point the praises to the Creator. I want the praise of God to be ever on my lips. Even as I type that out, the thought is savory and satisfying. I want to clear the noise. I want to learn to be still. I want to throw myself into whatever God is stirring in me. I want to deepen and strengthen the relationships around me instead of pollute them with phone distractions. I want to fight to taste the eternity that has been written on my heart so badly that my wife and kids and our friends want to taste it, too. That is what I want.
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Christianity Freedom God http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Idolatry Jesus Life Seeking the Gospel

Can Freedom Be An Idol?

Before I start, let me say this post is not directed at anybody specific. If anyone, it’s introspective; however, the theme of freedom has been playing out in several conversations I’ve had with several people lately, so it’s time to ask some questions because I think in all honesty this pertains to more than just me.
A lot of things come to mind when I hear the word freedom, but a quote from Dave Ramsey, which I’ll paraphrase since I can’t  remember it exactly, seems to ring the loudest: “What does one do when they don’t have any debt? Anything they want to.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty dang good to me, especially since I feel like I’m wearing some of those shackles myself. 
We spend our days and months and years fighting and clawing for that which we think will give us our freedom: money, savings, retirement, medication, success, education, promotions, a house in the mountains or at the beach, vacations, cruises to exotic countries, or a giant pool in our backyard. We label those things freedom, and we make them idols, sacrificing to get them. And for what? A family that barely sees and knows you, a huge pile of stuff, a giant property that takes your freedom because you either have to maintain it or pay someone else to, and you’re still left wanting. We can think of idols or demon gods like Molech in ancient times that people sacrificed their children on the altars of, but are we really any different? We sacrifice our wives, husbands, kids on the altar of career and education and more stuff. I sacrifice my family so I can do __________. Sounds like the same ballpark.
We all want freedom so badly. Whether it’s freedom from work, sickness, debt, addictions, suffering, depression, pain, mortgage, government, taxes taxes and more taxes, we all want to taste the sweet air of freedom. This is something we all share. I propose that we all share this because we all share something even deeper, that we are living in a world where sin still exists. Martin Luther defines sin as “the self bending in on the self.” Sin is chains and slavery and the opposite of freedom.
In all honesty, I don’t think our deep desire for freedom is a BAD thing. Mark Driscoll has said that when a good thing becomes a god thing it becomes an idol. An idol would be something that we give ourselves to in hopes that it would provide heaven from our hell. It’s when we go about looking to find a savior that cannot save is when our worlds start crumbling. Or maybe it’s a case of wanting the created over the Creator. Is it that we ultimately want freedom more than we want the only One who can offer it? That would be like marrying someone only for the sex without building any relationship. 
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 ESV)
This is the message that Jesus gives. He is saying “Come to me, and I will give you freedom.” While many good things can give us some rest as gifts from God and foretastes of heaven, nothing will ultimately give anyone rest like Jesus. It is worth noting, however, that Jesus will never give us our idols. He will never allow us to be satisfied with that which cannot. We will never find freedom in that which enslaves.
If you are wondering what that is all about… the best counsel I can give is another from Jesus himself.  Either this or the previous verse would be excellent places to start.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13 ESV)

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Bible Christianity Focus Gospel Grace http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Idolatry Life Sanctification Sin

I am a Poor Pathfinder

(Paris Mountain State Park)

I’m a poor pathfinder

Every day life is difficult to navigate, especially when I start to see how painfully weak I am in the day to day. As a Christian, it is my desire to see the Gospel permeate every aspect of my day to day, and not simply showing up for church on Sunday out of some lame excuse like “showing respect.” That’s garbage. So what are some of the things that demand part of me and what are things that grasp as the leftovers, and where do each of those things overlap or usurp the other? Already, it’s becoming clear that much wisdom is required to navigate the day to day paths of life. Wisdom I seem to not have…or at least not use.

I’d love to see my priorities line up in this order: Christian, Husband, Father, Employee (I stole that from Mark Driscoll). Then everything else falls where it may. Unfortunately, that is far from reality. I will typically top that list out with Myself. Then while in church yesterday, instead of connecting with the truth we were singing about, my heart was far from God and my mind was focusing on the upcoming Linville Gorge LNCW trip, and then stayed there for most of the remainder of the day. At least I wasn’t giving into covetousness and thinking about all the ways I can get an iPhone5, right? Wrong, I’m pretty sure.

It’s difficult to navigate life as an idolator. I know. I am frequently lost, bypassing God, stepping on those around me and pushing my family aside like they are some sort of obstacle to my true passions. If that sounds horrible, it’s because it is.

Last week, I awoke to a rare moment of Scripture being the first thought in my head. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16 esv)

A joy to me and delight of my heart. Isn’t that what I chase after in any thing? Isn’t that what fuels my pursuits in relationships, adventures, and finances? “If only…then I’d be happy.” Here, God is promising that joy and delight is found in the Bible, the direct revelation of God himself to humanity. This passage goes on to say that joy is found by being called in God’s name. This verse is a really good place to camp out, because you could unpack it and the ramifications for a while.

What does any of this have to do with pathfinding, other than I am totally lame at it when it comes to life and things that TRULY matter (unlike which ledge I should use in an upcoming hike). The Bible gives us these revelations in Psalms:

For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. (18:28 esv)
Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. (119:105 esv)
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (119:11 esv)

What can I conclude from all of this? If I am pursuing God by finding joy in the Bible as I learn more about who God is, I will sin against him less (LESS, as I will be a winner until I see my God Jesus face to face). If I am sinning less against God, then I will be sinning less against my wife, kids, friends and co-workers, because all sin is first and foremost an offense to God (another good place to camp out). I will not pursue vain idols and interests and hobbies and pleasures to the expense and neglect of God and my family.

There was a punk back back in the 90’s called Crux, and one of their songs closed with the lines “Where I focus my eyes is where I’m led in time. Please I plead give freely to the strength I need to keep my eyes set on You.” Amen.

Lord, help me to love You more, because I am weak and wicked and prone to wander. Grant me desire and not through Your word and knowing You, so that I might reflect You brightly instead of my sin so shamefully. Help me to keep my eyes and heart set on You, and let me be filled with You, that I may love You and enjoy You forever.