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What Is Happening 10 Years Later

This road of being a Christian is a rocky one, full of mountain highs, valley lows, hidden pits, stinking bogs, and open fields. Where I’m at right now is kinda like where I was 10 years ago right after God interrupted my life, but different. Then, I hardly knew God beyond His saying, “Trust me.” I didn’t know what that would mean then. Now, I still don’t really know what that will mean in the days ahead, but I do know God a whole lot more. I know that God is good, and I know AND feel that God loves me. I may not know what the next step will be, but I know the Lord. Beyond that, there is a little bit of clarity for me in what’s going on because certain themes have just been present.

If you haven’t read how I got here, you may wish to read about what happened 10 years ago and what has happened over the last 10 years. If not, that’s OK, too.
Last year, my pastor challenged the church to consider that we had lost our first love. We had lost sight of Jesus, like the church of Ephesus we read about in Revelation. This was the case for me. As a Christian, for years I have been chasing trying to get better, when I ought to have been chasing Jesus. Let me explain.
A conversation sprouted a couple months ago around being satisfied in Jesus. I’m not sure I can really explain what that is like, but if you have tasted and seen his goodness, you will know it. On a much smaller scale, think of the feeling of standing near a waterfall. Beyond the roar of the water and the coolness of the mist, there is something that is difficult to express in words, but you know what it is. That is what God and satisfaction in him is like, in the sense of being difficult to describe.
I had been looking to people to satisfy me, essentially making gods out of them. No man, other than Jesus himself, or woman can carry that weight. I have looked to all kinds of places and people to quench my thirst, and that can only be found in God. There are plenty of times I don’t believe that, until He makes himself and his love known in some unbelievable – and satisfying – way. Knowing God is supremely satisfying, but sadly, I still wander. I still seek to find some sliver of satisfaction in things like buying stuff, relationships, harboring bitterness, and meeting some set of extra-biblical standards I heap on myself. That stuff may lessen the thirst for a moment, but to quench it? Not so much. In the New Testament book of John, Jesus has a piercing conversation with a woman. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (ESV) Jesus is keeping with the imagery of water used in the Old Testament when he speaks to Jeremiah (in chapter 2, verses 12-13) and says “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord ,  for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” I think this is pretty pointed for me. Jesus is telling me that he is the direct source of all life and satisfaction. He is the spring of life. He is beckoning, “Drink deeply, and be satisfied.”

In the midst of that, I’ve been wrestling with what does it look like to really obey God? I think it’s to follow Psalm 34:8. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (ESV) The goodness of God. I am called to rest in the goodness of God, but it’s so hard to rest. I gotta be doing something, I gotta be moving, I gotta be going to the next place. I gotta move. A verse that came across my path a few weeks ago is Hebrews 4:9-10. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (ESV) It’s worth reading in context, but what I think the writer of Hebrews is getting at is not about Sundays. It’s about realizing that when Jesus said ,”It is finished!” while he hung on the cross, he meant it. Jesus is the better and more satisfying Promised Land of the Old Testament. I need to rest from trying to come into God’s presence by how well I’m navigating the ship of life and rest in Christ’s finished work on behalf of those who are his. The ESV Study Bible comments on the verse this way: “The promise of entering now into this rest means ceasing from the spiritual strivings that reflect uncertainty about one’s final destiny; it means enjoyment of being established in the presence of God, to share in the everlasting joy that God entered when he rested on the seventh day.” How this resting connects with obeying is that if I am drinking from the well of God for my satisfaction, I will be living in obedience because I will not be tempted towards idolatry of trying to find satisfaction in something lesser. That’s not to say lesser things cannot be enjoyed, but if they are elevated to the point where I am seeking to be satisfied in them than in God through them, I will be in disobedience, which is sin.
As I read Romans, the essence of sin is not that I did a bad act or deed, but that I exchanged the truth for a lie. The truth of God as all satisfying is discarded, and the truth of anything else being made as all satisfying is lifted up. Living in the lie and trying to be satisfied in it is a life of sin and disobedience. Trying to reconcile myself to God on my own terms instead of his is a life of sin and disobedience. God loves me. The Father knew me. Jesus died for me. The Holy Spirit stirred me to faith in Jesus, then guides me in faith. The gap between me and the Father has been closed, not just to reconciliation, but to adoption. I am in the family. I can exhale. Living in light of that is the essence of rest.
But God does not gift righteousness to a child to allow them to remain in the lesser pleasures of sin or the chains of fear. I woke up on Monday, February 9th 2015 to the still quiet voice of God. “You’re afraid of what people think of you.” The culturally Christian thing to say would be, “I’m going to work on that. I’m going to fix that.” All I can say is that I want to spend more time with Jesus, and I will cheerfully take whatever results come from that. If that’s where I find living water that forever satisfies, and delivers me from all fear, that’s where I want to drink from.
How am I going to do that? I had thought that gap was to be filled with reading about Jesus in Scripture. I had recently watched a sermon preached by Mattie Montgomery of the band For Today, and I reached out to him on social media to tell him I was encouraged from his sermon to spend time with Jesus by reading the Bible. He replied, “Hey man!  Just to respond to your statement: You don’t discover the things of Christ by the scriptures, but by the SPIRIT. Obviously scripture is VITAL, but as you’re reading it, beseech the Spirit to guide you and instruct you while you read. According to his function in the life of believers, as Christ explained in John 16:1-15.” I don’t put that in this post to name drop, but really only to preserve the counsel so I can come back to it. It’s very easy for me to approach God in a mathematical static way (If I read about Jesus, then I will love Jesus) instead of a malleable dynamic way (Holy Spirit, give me a heart that delights and is satisfied in Jesus).

One of the resources I found helpful, outside of the Bible, is a book I read a few years ago called Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, by John Piper. It’s available as a free download if you wish to read it for yourself. My plan is to reread it again this year, as the theme of being satisfied in Jesus is at the forefront of where God has me right now. The Digital Age sings in their song Captured, “I’ve never felt more found than when I’m lost in You.” That is where I’m at, and it is a place of wonder and marveling. They also cover a song called Fall Afresh, which is what I’m desiring my prayers to look like: “Spirit of the living God, come fall afresh on me. Come wake me from my sleep. Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow.” Yes… that is simultaneously where I am and where I am not yet, but desire. 

What a ride it has been. This is all swirling around, not merely for my own souls satisfaction, but to be a loving overflow. In January 2005, God loved me, then he stopped me, and said, “Trust me. Rest in me. Follow Me. Love me. Be satisfied in me.” The most loving thing I can do is to ask you… will you do the same? Do you feel the tug on your heart? Do not try to extinguish what God is stirring, but ask God that he would give you the eyes to see and a heart to love and rest.

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What Has Happened In The Last 10 Years

My pastor, Matt Rawlings, baptizing me. Photo used by permission from Bev Peeples.


In January 2005, I was fast asleep. Perhaps more appropriately, I was dead asleep. God knelt down, got right in my ear, and gently said, “Wake up!” I was disoriented, and wondered what the heck had just happened to me. My path was altered, my life was lovingly interrupted, and I had no idea where I was going.

Jenny and I had been married for almost a year, and we were living in Michigan. My behavior leading up to this point had cost me more than one friendship. I have since heard people talk about giving God part of your life and keeping part of it for yourself. First step on this new path was the crushing blow of coming clean about who I had really been. I think this is what is meant by the phrase God must increaseand I must decrease. Humility 101, I suppose.
So here we were, living in Michigan. I knew part of what I was to do was to start going to a church. We went to a few different ones, and I struggled in a huge way. One of the sermons I remember was about forgiving and forgiveness of sins and how if I don’t forgive and ask forgiveness for everything, then I won’t be forgiven, and I was really confused. Are you telling me that if I don’t confess every single sin I do, and have ever done, that I won’t get into heaven? The checklist was growing to be impossible. I thought God was just on the sidelines, as some kind of cosmic cheer leading genie.
I didn’t know what to believe. We weren’t having much luck on the church front. Jenny had grown up in Daytona Beach, Florida, and was a part of the same church movement her entire life. We were convinced that what they believed about the Bible and God was true, and a church plant had recently happened in Greenville. South Carolina. Her parents were considering making the move there to be a part of the church, even as we had already begun talking about moving to Daytona. We needed a place to learn about God and the Bible, and we wanted to be closer to Jenny’s family. I was also wanting to go back to college, so the combination of church, family, and school brought us to Greenville on September 23rd, 2005. Two days later on Sunday, September 25th, we attended the church that was one-third of our reason for moving here. The church was meeting in a Seventh-Day Adventist building and I said to Jenny, “This place is a cult.” (The SDA church met on Saturday, and they let us use the building on Sunday.) I came in with a thick coat of cynicism, and what we saw was foreign to me. The pastor then, Jim Britt, was playing an acoustic guitar, all by himself. I found out that this was less than satisfactory to a lot of people, but my church experience had been “worship leaders” performing a cheesy entertainment show on stage with some silly shuck and jive dance moves. The whole thing with Jim and the acoustic guitar was so simplistic, so unentertaining, that it was like God crafted it to specifically speak to me in a way I needed to hear, and it was there my cynicism began to melt. The sermon was from the book of Mark on the unpardonable sin. To be honest, the point on that message is kinda foggy to me now, but I remember that’s what the message was about. 
Then we met Rick Thomas, who helped us get plugged into what the church called care groups. These were basically small group meetings held during the week to discuss what we heard on Sunday and seek to apply it to our lives, as well as build relationships and actually do life with other Christians. People were bringinh meals to each other when they were sick and everything. To hear the Bible preached at church was a new thing to me, as ironic as that is. I would learn that is called expositional preaching, where over the course of weeks or even months, the pastor works through an entire book of the Bible. I was finding that I even remembered what the sermons were about week after week and was able to connect them with each other.
We learned about church membership, which is an up in the air topic in Christian discussions and arguments anyway. I will just leave it at Jenny and I definitely wanted to be official members of the church. It was during this time that I really began to learn what the Gospel is. During our interview process, Rick was asking if we needed to be baptized, and I responded for myself, “I think so.” He asked, “Why do you think so?” My answer was very revealing: “So I can get to heaven.” Turns out that this mindset had permeated much of the way I operated.
This is what’s called works righteousness. Basically what that means is that I thought I got into heaven by checking all the right boxes. As I was discipled by my peers and, more importantly, read the Bible, I found that this is the exact opposite of what the good news of Jesus really is. What the Bible reveals is gift righteousness. That means that all my boxes were checked by Jesus, and I believe it. That’s a double edge sword, because it’s simultaneously very offensive and the best news ever. Offensive because, seriously? The Bible sets the bar infinitely high and then says I can never reach it. It is also the best news because God’s rescue plan is that Jesus came to reach the bar on our behalf! This is why I came to believe the Bible was true, because if it was merely the words of men, men would have made the bar high but still reachable. Man makes much of himself, and I cannot believe man would naturally think and make the effort to put himself in the place Scripture does. “You are hopeless on your own, no matter how hard you try” grinds too hard against the way the human race operates that the message must indeed be a revelation beyond us.
But back to baptism. In 2007 (I think), I was actually baptized as a Christian by my friend and pastor (at the same church), Matt Rawlings. I learned that it’s a public declaration that, follow the symbolism here, you have been raised to new life, and your sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. One of the verses that I kept going back to was Galatians 2:20-21, which says I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Admittedly, that takes some chewing on to figure out, but it was where I started to understand what was going on. So, baptism doesn’t save anybody. I had it all wrong. All those submersive dunks did for me when I was 14 and 18 was make me a wet pagan. All that real baptism did for me as a Christian was make me obedient to a command that ended up being a huge means of grace to me that physically helped me see what Christ indeed has done in me. Grace to me, benefit to me, but no saving effect.
Two big words that I would learn and have difficulty separating were justification and sanctification. Justification is legally being made made right with God, reconciled with God, through the work of Jesus. It’s by faith alone that this happens, not by being good enough for God. Sanctification is the getting better process, where we become more and more like Jesus, but doesn’t do anything to make us right in front of God because that’s already been done when we were justified. Sanctification is a lifelong process of changing, putting sin to death, repentance, and hoping and delighting in who Jesus is and what he’s done. It’s important to make distinctions between these two, because tangling them together didn’t do me, or anyone around me, a lick of good.
Raised to new life. Once dead in sin, now alive in Christ. Then, sorry Carrie Underwood, but I took the wheel. It became about me, and my efforts to get better and become a better person. Losing sight of what Jesus had done and making it about what I had to do only made more of a mess out of me. In my attempts to “be a leader” in my home, I became overbearing, passive aggressive, and frustrated. I tried to learn all the right answers, pray in a way that sounded spiritual even though I was not very spiritual, and be a religious know it all. What is interesting about becoming a Christian, and I think a lot of people don’t see this, is that while some areas of behavior may improve, others decline. You never really get better or become a better person. Maybe in one area or another, but not wholly. I’m not trying to make an excuse, it’s just reality. I may have grown in an obvious area, like swearing less, only to find out that anger has manifested itself elsewhere, and then my inner sailor reemerges (especially in the last year). I wish I could remember who said this, that we are like sponges with ink in them. I can keep the ink in as long as no ones is squeezing me, but the second I’m squeezed by something not going my way, the ink (the sin that still resides in my heart, though forgiven on the cross) comes oozing out. Indeed, I am a desperate man in need of a savior. I came to see somewhere in those middle years that living by “Christian virtues” was really not the point of Christianity at all. During the movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce’s taking on of the slave trade in England, John Newton (who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace) says, “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.” Living in light of THAT truth, day by day, is what I came to see that being a Christian was really about. It wasn’t about getting better, although that may happen. A few years ago, I read an excellent quote by the author Bill Clem who eloquently stated that “The Gospel is about identity transfer, not identity improvement.” This was huge to me. This was probably the pivot point for me in this period of my life. Instead of trying to force growth, force my life to be a certain way, force my family to be and act a certain way, my focus shifted. What has Christ done for me? Was I basing my identity on ME, or was I basing it on who I was IN CHRIST? (For an exercise, check out the book of Ephesians in the Bible, and underline every time “in Christ” appears, for a study on identity.) I knew as a husband I was supposed to love my bride as Christ loved the church, and what does that look like? Jesus gives the church grace. He lovingly leads, and he pours out grace on his bride, the church. I can honestly say that grace is not a word that could be used to characterized how I interacted with people during this time of my life. Yep, I heard the Gospel. I heard that Jesus died for my sins, and believed it. At least on the surface. Functionally, I was still living under the law of works righteousness instead of the freedom of gift righteousness. For years, I hated Father’s Day and my family’s attempts to celebrate it because I didn’t measure up to my self-imposed qualifications. I was miserable and miserable to be around. Self-salvation projects really make for me being unpleasant, so for the record, if I am being unpleasant (and I have a long history of it), you could ask me how I’m trying to save myself. I may not be, but it’d be a decent question of a friend to ask of me. What was the remedy? Well, the Gospel, really, but I forgot so easily.
Books played a huge part in my life as a Christian, and I’ve read dozens. I had made a few attempts to read the Bible cover to cover, and I never made it past 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament. Most times, I would make it into Joshua and then burn out. Finally, in 2013, with the help of YouVersion, I was able to read through the entire Bible chronologically in a year. The Bible isn’t written in chronological order, and there are all kinds of different literature styles penned by different people all under the same divine inspiration of God. I was able to get a context for what the story line for the Bible is, and I really began to see it as God’s rescue plan for mankind. Outside of the Bible, there are three books that I think really stand out as meaningful, even life-changing, for me over the last 10 years. The first is Romans, by R.C. Sproul. I took an entire year (2011 or 2012?) to slowly crawl through the book of Romans in the Bible, and R.C. Sproul held my hand. There was a short pause in that to read his book The Holiness of God, which I only mention for the chapter on the Insanity of Martin Luther, because that spoke to me right where I was at in my vain works righteousness. Romans helped me to really dig into the Bible and learn what it had to say, even parts that I didn’t like. Sproul also said in this commentary something that stuck with me. “The doctrine of justification by faith alone is easy to get from an intellectual standpoint, but to get it in the bloodstream takes a lifetime.” The second, which I actually listened to on audiobook, is Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I’ve heard it said that eschatology – the study of last things – is the crown jewel of Christianity. Not the end times, Left Behind style, but what can be anticipated as the flyleaf of this era is turned and the rest of the never ending book of eternity begins. It’s not that I hope for heaven most strongly, but what comes after heaven when this earth is made new, and sin and suffering and death and injustice are all at an end. Zion. The third book is One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian. To learn that God’s love for us is one way was mind blowing to me. I wasn’t earning my justification. My sanctification was frustrating because surely, I wouldn’t struggle with things like anger, lust, greed, and pride. I took the presence of these sins in my life to mean that I hadn’t been justified by Christ’s work on the cross. However, when Jesus died on the cross, he gave the proclamation for all who would come to call him Savior – IT IS FINISHED. Am I to continue living any way I want, doing away with all of the laws of God? No, as reading New Testament books like Romans and Galatians would show with a quick reading. But, as I read the law, read what God requires of people blatantly spelled out by Jesus (“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48), it becomes painfully clear that I can’t keep the law, no matter how hard I try. I was coming full circle back to why I believed the Bible in the first place. It is finished. Now those were sweet words to my soul. To rest in the Gospel, to rest in that Christ died for my sins and was raised again, to be free from trying to do the impossible of trying to be perfect as God is perfect, that is sweet freedom, I learned that God is holy, and I am not. I need a mediator, and Jesus is that mediator (2 Timothy 2:5).
In C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity, he talks about Christianity being a house with a long hall and many rooms. The hallway, what he refers to as mere Christianity at its most basic, is where he spends his time. Denominations, doctrines, and other things people like to identify with and disagree about are what the rooms are. I’ve purposely not spent any time delving into which room I’ve found myself in, because the important thing is that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. If that’s not good enough already, he was raised again on the third day and ascended to heaven so that I can have hope for the same. The purpose of this post is not to be a convincing argument for Bible doctrine (there are books for that), but to relay to you a snapshot of what this roller coaster has looked like over the past 10 years. It hasn’t always been pretty, and I’ve acted out poorly in a lot of ways. I’ve had to make a lot of apologies to people I’ve hurt and said and done sinful things to and against. I’ve learned even more so that my hope is not in myself, but my hope is in Christ alone. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but quite frankly, that’s a big part of why I believe it, too.
The past 10 years, I have been a mess. Not as much of a mess as the first 23 years of my life, but I’ve still managed to bumble through the Christian life. I’ve learned my hope is not in myself, I’ve learned that I’m still going to sin (simultaneously a saint and sinner – wrestle with that one) and I need the humility to fess up to it when I do. We are still at the same church, Redeeming Grace Church. I’m still married to the same woman, Jenny, who has lived the Gospel in front of me more vividly than anyone else. We’ve had rough times, and great times. We’ve had three healthy children together, and we’ve had three heartbreaking miscarriages. I’ve worked jobs I’ve hated, and I’ve been broke. I’ve poorly managed resources. I’ve made and lost friends. I’ve struggled with depression, and then I would refuse to communicate anything other than “I’m fine.” I’ve yelled in anger. Again, my wife Jenny has been the most vivid display of the Gospel I have seen, loving me even when I am unlovable, just as Jesus has done. We have thrived, and we have suffered. All of this stuff I’ve learned about the Gospel doesn’t happen in a vacuum. How do I navigate life with it? Only by the grace of God. He’s not a God sitting on the sidelines, but actively involved working together all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8). In the midst of that, I know this fire of sanctification is burning away the impurities I am prone to wander to. I’m not good enough for religious people, and I don’t even perfectly live by the Golden Rule, so I’m not good enough for secular people. I’m not really that good at all. But God is. My hope in the Gospel is not that I can act good enough for God, but that Jesus died and rose again to make an enemy His friend.  Learning to be satisfied in him is where I’m at right now. I can’t be satisfied in how good of a job I’m doing, because I’m not really pulling it off that well. My hope is in Jesus, who loved me and died for me. Learning to rest is a difficult thing. More on that in the next post.
If you missed how I got to this point, be sure to read about what happened to me 10 years ago.
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What Happened To Me 10 Years Ago

At some point during the January of 2005, my life completely changed.
This January of 2015, I have been a Christian for 10 years. The milestone has brought me to reflect upon my life, where I was, where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, where I’ve changed, and things like this. Some of that reflection is what this post is, and what you could call my testimony.
My becoming a Christian did not occur when someone handed me a tract or hassled me about coming to church. Rather than being someone who responded to an altar call, I was much more like Jean Valjean in Les Miserables after the bishop scolded him for forgetting the candlesticks as well.
“What just happened to me?”
Hold on for some back story. I grew up in a Christian home, had Christian parents, and went to church. When I was 14, I got baptized because I had never been. When I was 18, I went on a youth retreat to Colorado and didn’t really care about the mountains, if you can imagine that. (We even went to Rocky Mountain National Park.) I went down the aisle and said a prayer, and got baptized again, thinking that was the key to heaven. At best, I was a deist. I believed that God existed, but I knew very little of things that were true of God. Let’s stop and talk about that for a second. I believed a Christian was someone who said a prayer that was equivalent to magically saying “abracadabra,” someone who was a good person most of the time and said “Forgive me, I repent” when they were a bad person, went to church, got baptized, voted Republican, only listened to “Christian” music, avoided movies that were rated R, and was what we called in the late 90’s “straight edge” (didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs).
I was still living the same way I always had, seeing myself as the anvil to which the world around me must be hammered out and formed against. There was only bad fruit from a bad tree, to use some language from the Bible. My roots were still dead, so all of my actions grew out of that, twisted and gnarled. Did I ever do anything “good”? Maybe, but the motive behind any of that was surely how it would benefit me. Not so good, really. I knew the lingo and could say a lot of religious stuff. I even recorded my own album at the time, and it was very religious sounding. I was only building an empire of dirt that would crumble. I went to church, but had no idea what the preacher was saying. I counseled with the youth pastor, but all that really was about was changing my behavior. My days consisted of the self-righteous pursuit of whatever pleased me, whether that be lazy indulgence, berating people for my own amusement, or fueling my deeply rooted misanthropy. I had tried to “be a good person” and learned soon enough that wasn’t working out for me. I had heard that you find God at the end of your rope, so at some level I suppose I set out to find it, even though I dismissed God in the process. The details of that descent aren’t that important so I will spare those gory details of what I was involved with, but perhaps if we are ever sitting around a campfire together and the opportunity comes up, it would be a story to be told. That being said, I don’t particularly like remembering who I was at that point in my history.
It was during this time that I met Jenny. She truly is an instrument of God’s grace in my life. I met her in March of 2001, and we got married on March 20th, 2004. Jenny was indeed a Christian, loving the Lord and walking with Him. She was (and still is) a woman full of grace. We were both under the impression that I was a Christian after that walk down to the front of an auditorium in Colorado, and though a lot of my behavior had changed, my heart had not. I was more engaged in covering up who I had been.
My job at the time had me working in near isolation. Out of an 8 hour day, I was alone for at least 6-7 of those hours while my engineer supervisors were busy figuring out new methods and materials for research and development. Sometimes I’d be building jigs, painting booths, running wire, or wet sanding aluminum molds for hours on end. When I wasn’t doing that, I’d busy myself with small tests, other small projects, or riding the fork lifts around the warehouse. That much time spent alone makes for opportune times to hear from God. Make no mistake, though, I wasn’t wanting to hear from God. I wasn’t seeking Him, and I wasn’t praying to Him. If anything, I was giving Him the finger. In that quiet and isolation, I had listened to all there was to listen to, read all there was to read, done all there was to do. Just me, alone, with the quiet. Over the months, I came face to face with who I was and who I had been. I don’t know how long it was, but over the course of time, there was what I could call a tenderizing process in me. What was built up was being torn down. What had grown deep was being uprooted. What was established was being crushed. Where I was proud, I was being humbled. While I was not pursuing God, I encountered Him, and I was undone.
Very clearly, as clear as I can remember hearing from God, in a way that was not audible and I have no words to explain further, I was stopped in my steps and presented with, “Josh, you have two choices for your life. You can trust me, or you can not.
To which I could freely but only respond with, “God, I don’t really even know what this means, but I trust you.”
And I didn’t really know what that meant beyond a surrender. I don’t know if I could articulate what the Gospel was at that point. I only knew something had happened to me, and I was not the same anymore. Looking back, I guess you could say that it was my first step on the long road to Zion. It would be over the next 10 years that I would discover more of what all that would look like, but that is another blog post.
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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 http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Sin soli Deo gloria the glory of God the Gospel

soli Deo gloria

Glory to God Alone.

I have been hearing this Latin phrase soli Deo gloria, and it struck me. The Lord, Yahweh, I AM, Maker of Heavens and Earth, is where the buck stops when it comes to glory. He is big. He is mighty. He is what it’s all about. Do the mountains and seas and skies and valleys have any glory? Only that which is given to them by the Father.

We seek glory and majesty. We have to have mountains. We have to love near the water. We want the sunrises and sunsets. We have to have sex (where we behold the glory of another AND seek our own). We have to present ourselves in ways that lift ourselves up. We have to have a promotion. We cannot bear shame, scorn, or the truth that we fall short in any area. We are not God, nor or any of the things we put in his place (read: idolatry). God alone is able to withstand and bear the weight of glory. Every thing that we try to make God that is not God will crumble under the weight of trying to be God. Try fulfilling all of the characteristics of God to your spouse and see how long it takes for you to realize you are not.

James 1:16-17 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

As I love the outdoors, which is much of what I cover here, this is something weighty to consider. When I stand on the cliffs of the Linville Gorge and behold sights that take my breath away, it is not enough to merely be in awe of the scene. If the glory of Linville is an end in itself, it falls short. The infinite God of the universe has carved this rugged and majestic gorge out by simply stating it “Be.” Our amazing daily paintings of sunrises and sunsets in the sky are simply because God said “Be.” If we behold the glory of creation, we are doing it and God wrong if we do not finish our sentence with soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.

God is glorious. God is also holy. This means that he cannot bear the presence of sin, like when you and I have failed to ascribe glory to him when it was due, and gave that glory to something else. THIS means that we have said to ourselves and God that he is not worth all glory, and belittled the name of the One who has formed the cosmos. Matt Chandler says in his book The Explicit Gospel, “you cannot be sinful and get near God. It doesn’t work. God’s holiness will incinerate you.”

So what is the problem? Jeremiah 2:12-13 tell us. “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Glory to God alone… So we are in trouble when we assign glory to men, women, children, money, mountains, oceans, beaches, valleys, fame, fortune, reputation, relaxation, security, houses, cars, alcohol, smoking, knowledge, science, celebrities, politicians, the government, policies, causes, sex, relationships, Buddha, Maher Baba, Mohammed, the Virgin Mary, being a good person, methodology, parenting, vaccinations, immunizations, schedules, homeschooling, our good works, the environment, the wolves, the whales, dogs, cats, events, work, play, recreation, respect, health, wealth, prosperity, our business, freedom, traditions, preferences, fear of what other people think, writing a blog, or a host of other replacements mankind is constantly inventing. We have forsaken God, and sought our hope and glory and pleasure in anything but him. So now what, that we have all offended our Creator? Romans 2 tells us that if we continue on in this manner and presume on God’s kindness to save us because “that’s what God does”, we are storing up wrath for ourselves. Who’s wrath? The wrath of the one we have offended. Brothers and sisters, we are ALL in deep dookie here.

But there is hope! It is revealed to us in Romans 5:6-8 that, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This means that the chasm between God and man, created by man’s offense, has been bridged because Jesus Christ the Son of God, fully God and fully man, has paid the penalty that was ours to pay.

You have heard people say repent, and I will say it again, shouting it the loudest at myself because I have repeatedly offended the Creator of the Universe. Repent means to turn away, turn around, a reversal. It looks like saying, “God over all! I have given glory to things that do not deserve it, and ascribed glory to things to which glory was not due. All glory belongs to you alone! I am guilty. The Bible tells me that you sent your son to die on a cross, bear my wrath, take the penalty I deserved, and rose from the dead for my life. Father make this true for me. Forgive me for trampling all over your great and glorious name, and help me to live this out by your power alone, not mine, so all glory will continue to be given to you alone. In Jesus name, amen.”

So now here is the kicker. Lets retrace briefly: you are a sinner who has robbed God of his glory, which God will regain either by pouring his wrath out on you or out on Jesus. You trusted in Jesus! Now, instead of bearing guilt over your cosmic treason, you now rejoice in your cosmic adoption into the family of God! We learn in Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Further yet, we can lay claim to verses like Psalm 16:11 because we are no longer enemies of God and can approach him with confidence as his children: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There is rightly no more fear of God for those who have trusted in Jesus. Now instead of the glory of God being the weight of the case against us as sinners, the glory of God is our pleasure, and this pleasure is not one that is fleeting. It is not but for a moment like standing on a mountain top, and then fades as we long to once again stand and behold a behold a reflection of glory. The pleasure of the glory of The Lord is ever satisfying. Drink.

John Piper restates the Westminster Confession and says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.” May that be true of all of us, and if it is, it is to the glory of God alone.

(All Scripture quoted is from the ESV, English Standard Version)