The Myth of Independence

Well, I finally did it. At the ripe age of nineteen, I moved out of my parents home and into an apartment. Me and Alyssa had looked at this apartment and knew we had to make a decision fast. They were going fast in this area where wanting to locate. With the wedding quickly approaching we couldn’t resist the roomy two-bedroom home. So this past Thursday I drove to work, then to the apartment where my family, Alyssa, and here family was waiting to help unload all of my belongings (which is not much).

So this is it right? I’m finally independent. Well, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. First, I have to say Alyssa made this move so much easier. She was always there for emotional support, asking me how I was feeling about it and always being ready to listen. She helped move me in which was an incredible help and it was such a joy to have her help set up our furniture. She’d scrunch up her face trying to picture the bookshelf in the guest bedroom rather than in the living room. I am so blessed by her and she has supported me so very much in this major change.

Continue reading “The Myth of Independence”

The Fear of Man

It affects us more than we realize. It shapes our behavior, our actions, our thoughts, and in some cases our destiny. We let it guide our steps, control our hearts, and rule our lives. The fear of man is powerful and potentially the greatest threat to Christians. We encage ourselves with thick bars of imaginary scenarios, possible trials, and desired, all-encompassing comfort. Fear of man paralyzes us for the purpose that God has called us to. I am writing this as someone who has struggled with this my entire life. I do not claim to have overcome it, but with daily grace, I believe I am growing in this area. In this quick look at this issue, we have to begin with the heart of the matter.

Continue reading “The Fear of Man”

Glorious Mysteries

Wouldn’t it be nice to live life without any mystery? I have pondered this question for some time. There are moments when I just want to know what the future holds. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how you are going to die? For some of us yes, others maybe not. It might not be great if we found out we are going to die of a shark attack, that could bring some unnecessary anxiety to your life. But seriously, sometimes I think it would be nice knowing how your life is going to end and how you’ll enter into eternity.

But mystery is a good thing. I remember as a child wanting to know who I was going to marry. I thought it would be so awesome just to have a name or to know something about her that could give me a clue. Now I am thankful that I wasn’t given a vision of my wife before ever meeting her. I think it might have been slightly awkward if my jaw dropped as I first met Alyssa in English class.

The truth of the matter is that mystery can be grace. Let me explain. Without mystery, trust can be lacking. There will be moments in life when we wonder if we’ll make it out alive, if we’ll be able to continue in life. It is in these moments when faith is given the opportunity to blossom. It is in these intense situations that we must lean in and trust in Christ and His goodness.

As life continues, our faith becomes stronger because we have lived through these experiences of despair and trouble. Even in these hard times, mystery is God’s grace in our lives. As a young person, there is still so much mystery to life. Yeah I’ve figured a few things out, but I’m still not exactly sure what specific ministry God will use me in. I don’t know what state or city I will settle down in. I have no idea what my kids will be like. I don’t know how long I’ll continue my education. There are still so many mysteries in life, and it can be easy to stress out about all the mystery. But these are all opportunities to trust God and lean into Him more.

This is one disappointment about growing old. When I have retired, my kids are grown up, and the mortgage is paid off, there will be less mystery. You still never know what a day will hold, but for the most part, there is less mystery than before. Steven Curtis Chapman describes these mysteries becoming reality in his song The Glorious Unfolding.

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Life is a glorious unfolding. At life’s end, we will be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness. We will see His goodness in our lives, His unstoppable grace, His renewed mercies.

There are mysteries, though, that transcend this life. There is still another glorious unfolding. It is that of eternity. There we will see the glorious unfolding of God’s ultimate, sustaining glory. There, our joy will be supreme because of the Alpha and Omega’s reigning glory. The mysteries we face today only point to those that will unfold in heaven. Mysteries are God’s grace in our lives. They cause us to trust Him more so that we can love Him more.

A Lingering Childhood

It happened one evening when I was at a coffee shop. Me and my brother went to a blogging social held at our favorite hand-crafted coffee joint. They had four well-known bloggers share about their blogs, and they shared some advice for novice bloggers. We were sitting in the back listening intently. I had just slurped down the last of my mocha over ice. I looked down and realized that I had chewed the end of my straw.

What a child, I thought. Still chewing on the end of your straw. You should have outgrown that years ago. Truth be told this is something most children do. While they drink their soda they cannot resist the urge to chomp on their straw. But when I saw this I suddenly found myself back in my childhood. Something eventually shook me out of the daydream and back to reality, and this is when I realized that I didn’t like reality as much. I was sitting around with a bunch adults drinking coffee and talking about writing things on the internet. Boring…

This is how I would have seen the situation as a child. Where’s the movement? Where’s the energy? And where’s the candy?! Most of us hold some very fond memories from our childhood and every so often something that was said or a smell or a surrounding will take us back to our adolescence. When Scooby-Doo was legit. When “boys ruled and girls drooled.” When there was nothing more hype than an overnight sleepover at your friend’s house. As Olan Rogers describes it: “when a can of soda could keep you up all night.”

I had a vivid imagination when I was a child. Most summer days I would spend defending castles, killing orcs, or orchestrating ambushes. We had this lilac bush that used to seem huge to me. You could climb inside and there was a small path that led through it. To me, it was an entirely different world in “The Bush” as we had dumbed it. Me and my brothers spent hours exploring the riches of this vast world, one summer I even remember defending it from a bee infestation (we didn’t let mom or dad in on that one).

If you are still reading at this point and have found yourself bored, then you are missing the entire point of this post. Too often we get so caught up in our adult reality that we can find ourselves to be obsessed. We are uptight, angry, depressed, and just no fun to be around. We never reminisce about our childhood.

I’m gonna say it, ok?!

Sometimes life needs a spontaneous dance party. Sometimes we need to cut the healthy eating to smash some fries from McDonald’s. Sometimes we need to run around in the sprinkler. Every now and again you should get your woman in the shopping cart and parade her around the parking lot.

When we get too uptight or stressed out, it’s the best time to relive your adolescence. Take a bike ride through the neighborhood and grab a drink at the gas station. Eat your favorite snack when you were a child. Buy a slip-in-slide that will last an hour, but it will be a joy-filled hour. One of my favorite ways to relive my childhood is to pull up some old video games. Saturdays used to exist not for naps, but for Nintendo. I love finding old video games and playing them as an adult.

One of the greatest blessings of my childhood was my ignorance. Most of us as children have an ignorance of the intense issues of the world and I now see that as a huge blessing. Do you remember what it was like to live care-free? No job, no illnesses, no terrorism, no worry of death. This may not be true of everyone, but for me none of these issues were a concern as a child. Today, these all seem to be common factors in my life. When life has got you down, return to your childhood because back then anything was possible. Find a trampoline to go jump on, bring out the Legos from the attic, pull our your dollhouse, watch some Loony Tunes. When the adult world is dragging you down, remember that you’re on life’s playground.

P.S. You all should watch this music video to bring back some awesome childhood memories.

Rebuke As Grace

David. What comes to your mind when you hear the name of this Bible character? One of the most well-known events of Scripture is centered around David, the story of David and Goliath. This is a story most everyone in the West knows or at least most have heard of it. David had faith when no one else did. He was brave in the face of great danger and probable defeat. Stronger men could have fought but wouldn’t. God used David to give the victory to Israel and later David became king.

Unfortunately, there is still another story that might come to mind about David. It’s the story of David and Bathsheba. Again, we all know the story, right? It was the time when kings were supposed to go to war. For reasons that Scripture doesn’t describe, David stayed behind. One morning, he awoke and walked on the rooftop of his house. It was here that he noticed a beautiful woman bathing. David becomes intoxicated by the sight. He sends immediately for her and commits adultery with her. Through the hands of his enemy, he has her husband murdered and takes Bathsheba as his own. By the end of the story, David has committed adultery, murder, he has lied, and stolen.

The Conclusion

I don’t know about you, but I often forget the rest of this story. Sometimes we read only this chapter and forget what comes in chapter twelve of 2 Samuel. God graciously intervened in David’s life. God sent the prophet Nathan to share a story with David. Nathan tells a story of a poor man and a rich man. The rich man had many flocks and herds while the poor man had only one little ewe lamb. The poor man loved this lamb; Scripture describes it this way: “it was like a daughter to him” (2 Samuel 12:3b). The rich man had a guest show up and he was unwilling to use any of the sheep from his herd so he stole the poor man’s single ewe lamb. He killed it and soon he and his guest were feasting on some delicious lamb chops.

When David heard this story he reacted in a very hypocritical manner. This is what he said, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die” (2 Samuel 12:5). Nathan replied, “You are that man!” I can imagine David’s face. For a split second, a confused look shrivels his features, then his face freeze, void of any expression. Shock.

Rebuke as Grace

Rebuke is one of the greatest means of God’s grace. Sin is never in God’s plan for our lives. That is always something we do on our own. We slowly drift from the path God has carved out for us, sliding onto the path Satan has twisted together for us. Rebuke is how God pulls us back to himself. This change wasn’t immediate in David’s life; there were still some serious consequences for this sin after his repentance. His child that he had with Bathsheba dies, that is a pretty serious consequence.

But David was set back on the path God had for him. Rebuke or confrontation is a hard thing. It is hard to look someone in the eyes and tell them they are doing wrong, but it is so often necessary. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” This is a powerful statement. Basically what is being said here is that if you truly love someone, you will rebuke them when you see them doing wrong.

Keep in mind, when we are called to rebuke, we must do it for the right reasons. We have to remain humble. We are rebuking them because we love them and want what is best for them. Rebuking should never be done to cut some one down or make them look bad. It should usually be handled in private and done in a kind manner.

Receiving It

Confronting people is hard, but sometimes receiving confrontation is even harder. Sometimes it straight up blindsides us. Life will be going great and then someone pulls us aside to share their thoughts about our life. Here are a few tips in receiving rebuke in your life.

#1. Thank them. Thank whoever it was that was brave enough to bring this to your attention.

#2. Pray. Ask God if there was any truth to what they shared with you.

#3. Study. Seek God’s word on the particular issue that was brought to your attention.

#4. Ask others. Ask those that are closest to you if this is something they have noticed in your life.

#5. Make the change. If you have come to the conclusion that the rebuke was correct, take steps to make the necessary changes in your life. Proverbs 15:32 says, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.”

Repentance

The goal of rebuke should always be repentance. David wrote an entire psalm explaining his repentance and the restoration that God was bringing. Psalm 51 was written after David was rebuked by the prophet Nathan. Listen to the emotion in this Psalm.

Psalm 51

“Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

 Remember what brought David to this point, it was Nathan’s rebuke. We all fall at times and we all need people in our lives who love us enough to confront us. This is God’s grace in David’s life. It brought him to the end of his sin and restoration began. This is why your relationship to the local church is so important. It creates accountability.
The next time you deal with rebuke in you life, whether you are considering dishing some out or you are receiving it, choose to see it as God’s grace. Rebuke is the means by which God yanks us away from our sin and puts us humbly in a state of rebuilding and reconstruction.

Grace Depender

I’ve made quite a few posts now, but I still have yet to introduce myself in any of them. My name is Caleb Painter. I’m a pretty cool guy, or so I’m told. I recently got engaged to the love of my life. Her name is Alyssa and she is incredible! I currently work with the youth group at my church, trying to always point them to Christ. I recently joined the management team for the best pizza place in town. I reside in beautiful, but sometimes chilly Michigan. I’m a full-time student online with Summit University where I hope to receive a degree in Biblical Studies with a focus in Youth Ministry. I am ready for God to use me wherever He would will.

If I could leave it at this, it would be great. I wish so badly that I could leave our introduction as brief as this, but there is more you need to know about me. There are days when I wake up and I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I don’t want to see people. I don’t prioritize my life around Scripture and the Church. I am not all that great at my job. There are times that I treat my coworkers in a way that no one should have to deal with. At moments, I am difficult  to be around, grumpy tired. Sometimes I wonder why my fiancé wants to spend time with me when I am this way.

Even if I could leave this introduction at this, I would walk away joyful, though slightly humbled. This is not where it ends. The truth is that I often trust my own strength over God’s. I believe He is there, but I want my way rather than his. I struggle and wrestle with this to the point of physical illness. My stomach twists into knots of worry. I can be angry with the people around me. I wish I could say I lived for Christ around the World, but I often cast a basket over His light. I fail at work. I fail at church. I fail in my relationships with people. I do things with misplaced motivation, love and compassion are replaced with pride and malice.

Their is a battle between my mind and my beliefs. What I believe doesn’t agree with what I think. What I think tries to destroy my beliefs. Anger, lust, jealousy. Disbelief, doubt, worry. You see, the real truth is that I am a hypocrite. I do what I wish I did not do, and I do not do what I yearn to do.

I

Am

Utterly

Depraved…

The only thing I deserve as consequence to this above list is eternal Hell, forever separated from God and His love. But this is where God stepped in. He sent His Son in desperate pursuit of me. He lived for me. He died for me. He rose for me. Grace was incarnated and walked on this earth.

Because of Christ, I now live under grace. Every day I wake up and take a breath, grace is there. When I head to work in a grumpy state of mind, grace is there. When I worry myself to sickness, grace is there. I am forever saved from myself. This is grace eternal. I am a grace depender. It justifies me; it sanctifies me; it sustains me completely.

So this is me. Let me introduce myself. I was lost in myself, but now I am a child of God who is kept by eternal graces.

The Beast Untamed

Two men tiptoed through the thick woods together. Their backs hunched over, they maneuvered through the trees quickly and quietly. Each had a bow with an arrow nocked to the string. The taller of the two men had a thick build. His sleeveless dark tunic was completely filled out with two arms rippling with muscles protruding from the shirt. His hair was dark almost matching his black tunic. His companion’s hair was a sharp contrast as the blonde locks flowed to a shoulder length. His tunic had sleeves that loosely clung to his arms which were lacking in muscle. He didn’t appear weak, but he looked small compared to his friend. Each of them had coils of rope over their left shoulder and a sword sheathed at their side.

The two hunters stopped at the sound of a breaking branch. It had come from their left; they each hunched down to a crouch. The woods were still. Neither of them dared to breathe. There was nothing… Had it been only the scampering of a squirrel or a few birds flying off. They waited. Nearly an hour passed by without them making a move. They were as close as they’d been to the catch of their dreams. This one moment would prove whether the myths and legends were based off of facts or fiction. Their muscles screamed out for mercy, tightening up from the uncomfortable crouching position.

Out of the silence, the beast appeared. It gave no warning to its approach. It wasn’t and then it was… It stood majestically in their presence. It almost taunted them, posing only thirty feet away. Neither man could comprehend the sight in front of them. The physical image of the beast was vibrant and passionate, yet it seemed to always be changing. Its mouth was enormous. At one moment, many rows of teeth taunted the hunters. Then in an instant they were gone, creating a scene of solitude or wonder. Then the teeth would reappear, bringing back the anxious heartbeats of fear and worry. The only thing unchanging about the beast were its wings. Each wing was huge and covered in deep blue feathers. The wings folded in to the side of the creature.

Both men looked at each other, knowing what they were about to attempt. They readied their bows, placing their index and middle fingers around the nocked arrows. In unison, they stood to their feet and let an arrow loose. Both would fancy themselves a good shot, hence they were both confident in the outcome once the arrows had flown. But as soon as the arrows had left their bows, the creature vanished. It didn’t appear that it had even used it wings. It was just gone in a quick flash…

Where had it gone? The men quickly scrambled to the spot were the creature had stood. Only a dark blue feather remained. They tried to think of what course of action they should take. Eventually, the slimmer man found himself climbing one of the tall oak trees for a better vantage point. After much struggle, he managed to reach the top. He looked over the forest. Just trees and more trees. Then, something jumped out of the green canvas. It was a sharp point jutting towards the sky. It was a mountain breaking vertically away from the earth quite a distance away. the tree-climber thought he saw something flying in the direction of the summit. He strained his eyes, desperately trying to clear his vision. He was sure it had to be the flying beast circling the mountain. He scurried down the tree as quickly as he could to tell his partner.

The two men raced to the mountain. They paid no attention to their hunger. They couldn’t afford the time to stop. They had to catch up to the creature. They did not notice their thirst for they were consumed by the idea of the beast. Neither of them were conscious of their fatigue, all of their thought revolved around one thing, that elusive creature.

After two days of constant jogging, they had reached the mountain. The men looked to the great peak, it was much larger than either of them had realized. But the humble emotion of climbing the mountain vanished when they saw the creature circling the peak. This had to be where the beast lived. The men decided to sleep at the base of the mountain and begin the climb at dawn.

They made a fire and laid on the soft grass beside the gigantic peak. Both were silent for many hours. The sun had set, the nocturnal animals were doing their evening rounds. Then, the bigger man began to talk. He could not sleep with the thought of the creature hovering above their heads. He talked about how catching the beast would change his life. With the beast tamed he could do anything, accomplish anything, be anybody he wanted to be.

Then the smaller man chirped in. He spoke his dreams of what fortune the tamed beast would bring him. He and his family would be beyond wealthy. They would own the world, having any comfort that a person could imagine. Health, food, friends it would all come with this prize in hand.

Like a crawling shadow at twilight the same thought creeps into each man’s head. A selfish and bitter thought changes each person’s perspective. The bigger man asks how they will split up the catch? Fifty fifty?

The blonde disagrees. He deserves more since he convinced his friend to come. The conversation quickly heat up as the disagreement turns into a fight. The larger man finally flings himself upon his once named comrade. They wrestle back and forth, struggling for an advantage. After many minutes of this tossing and turning, the weaker man finds himself depleted of all his energy. The larger man wraps his huge hands around his friend’s throat. He squeeze his hands into a tight grip, crushing the weaker man’s throat. In an instant, his companion is dead underneath him. The man climbs to his feet a self-proclaimed champion. He takes no time to mourn over his friend or regret his actions. He only looks at the summit…

Taking in a breath of the morning air, he begins the climb up the mountain.

The trek is not an easy one; he stumbles often as it begins to rain. The slopes become increasing slippery as the incline becomes steeper. He stops often to drink from small puddles of water. He doesn’t remember the last time he ate. Eventually, he forgets when the journey had become. He doesn’t remember leaving the small village he and grown up in. He doesn’t remember the days of hunting in the woods. He doesn’t remember killing his friend. The only thing on his mind is the beast waiting at the peak.

He is thin from not eating; his muscles have shrunk. He has to use his rope to scale the steep walls of rock. The air is continually thinning. He does not know how much further he can go. He gets dizzy often and stops regularly to rest at lesser slopes. At one moment, he lies on the cold hard rock, completely exhausted, trying to breathe. His vision blurs and he passes out.

A day later, the man awakes. He lifts his head and gives it a shake. He has never felt worse. His head pounds, his stomach aches, his throat and tongue are swollen from dehydration and his lungs burn from lack of oxygen. All of these feelings melt as he notices what stand merely feet away from him. It is the beast. The enormous creature stands at the edge of the cliff, looking out over the forest. The man reaches for his bow. He finds an arrow and nocks it to the string. He stood to his feet, takes aim, and lets the arrow fly. He feels his energy coming back to him. This is it, the moment he has longed for. The arrow soars through the air at an incredible pace. It reaches the creature and the arrow shatters on contact.

He had hit the beast’s wing, but the arrow had only broken into many tiny fractures. The creature lifted to the sky immediately. Its beautiful, terrifying eyes met his. The man grabbed a second arrow as the creature circled him. He let it fly. It was another direct hit to the wing, but the creature didn’t even flinch. The arrow only shattered yet again.

The beast dove towards him. He drew his sword. The beast crashed into him, knocking the blade off the side of the cliff. He lifted his spinning head from the mountain’s surface. The creature leaned over him. He dared not move. The beast sniffed him with his great nostrils and with one gulp, it swallowed the man whole.

These two men were ignorant. They had failed to realize the point to all of the myths and legends about this creature: you cannot tame the beast called Time.

This story was inspired by the song Lost in the Moment by NF.