Silent Noise

This past week I had the privilege of traveling outside of the states for the first time. I drove with a couple of guys to Algonquin Park in Canada. If you are not familiar with this park, let me fill you in. It is basically a huge park made up of hundreds of small lakes. It is untouched by man. You are not allowed to drive motor boats, build buildings or docks, the water is uncontaminated and the wildlife untamed. We spent an entire week traveling the Algonquin and barely scratched the surface of the beauty there. It is vast, gorgeous, and pristine.

I left my phone behind, along with anything else that would be a distraction. Midway through the week we had a solo day. Our group of eight split up and spent the entire day alone. I brought along my Bible, journal, and a book I had been reading. I found a giant rock off the shore and set up camp for the day. I spent most of the day sitting on the rock singing, praying, reading, and thinking for the sake of thinking. It was an enriching time spiritually, a refreshing time physically, and a time of growth mentally. It wasn’t until reflecting on this time later that I came to realize the importance of silence.

Silence is grace given by God for us to grow to become like his Son. In Scripture, there is a pattern of men going out into the wilderness before important transitions or intense situations. Jesus went into the wilderness before his three years of ministry began. The Apostle Paul followed this same model (Galatians 1:17-18). Getting away from the distractions of life to focus on God is extremely important before a big life transition.

As many of you know, I am about to get married. This is going to be a really big change in my life that will come with its joys and struggles. With that being said, this trip could not have come at a better time. I was able to focus for an entire day on my Savior and what His sacrifice means for my life. It was refreshing and refocusing. I realized that a “solo day” only meant nine hours spent with the One who is always with me. I wasn’t really alone, but for aware of His presence. It was an incredible joy to sing with only Him listening. To read Scripture aloud among His creation.

I think a solo day is something I will try to recreate in my life. Many Christians harp on us if we spend time away from people. “You’re supposed to be the light,” they may say. “How are you going to accomplish that if you’re always alone?!” While I am not recommending you become a recluse living in a cave miles away from civilization. But in order for you to effectively be the light, I am convoked that you will need a day here or there spent entirely with the One you are telling others about. These moments of silence are where you will be able to experience God’s grace in ways you wouldn’t fathom.

Put away the phone. Get off the computer. Shut down your brain. Pick up the Book. Petition and sing praises to God. Grow in the grace of our Savior. I challenge you to find a day this month, and spend it entirely with God. You will not be disappointed.

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.

All Lives Matter

Thursday night, twelve cops were brutally attacked. Trying to keep the peace in Dallas Texas, they were gunned down. Five out of the twelve died. This is the deadliest attack on the police force since 9/11. Two civilians were injured by the sniper. Micah Johnson was angry about the recent brutality shown by cops in Minnesota and Louisiana. He specifically targeted white cops. When he had been trapped by the authorities, he said he was upset about Black Lives Matter.

This tension is causing great confusion for America. Some are ready to rise up against the police force because of the recent mistakes some have made. Others are standing behind the police force, knowing that two officers do not represent the entire division. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” has sprung up since all of these intense situations between cops and civilians.

I think the first thing we need to realize is that being a police officer is an incredibly challenging job. They have to make life or death decisions in an instant. There job is one that most could not do. I am very thankful for the men and women that serve on the police force. Our nation would be a disaster without them.

Sadly, this does not excuse the recent shootings executed by cops in Minnesota and Louisiana. From the videos, it appears that they killed for no reason.

Hate is a terrible, powerful thing. It creeps in slowly from a young age. It seeks to control our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. It is lustful in that there is never enough destruction. It breeds within its enemies, stimulating war. Where there is hate, nothing good can follow.

There is a perspective that can fix this: All Lives Matter

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

-Genesis 1:27

Every man is created in the image of God. This truth brings us all on an equal playing field. No man’s life is worth more than another’s because of his skin color. The very idea sounds preposterous when it is stated this way. The unborn, the African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, all of human life is created in God’s image.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

In the Black Eyed Peas song, Where Is The Love, they say this:

Father, Father, Father, help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?

Sing with me y’all:

One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That’s all we got)
One world, one world
And something’s wrong with it

There is something wrong with our world and it is what hate stems from. That is sin. These issues that our world is facing is nothing new; these same issues of hate, greed, and violence have been a part of humanity because sin has been a part of humanity. There is something wrong with our world, and it is people. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery” (Mark 7:21) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

Everyday, we wake up as sinful human beings. Pack a tiny earth full of us and you’ll get the  issues we are facing today.

The Solution

There is only one solution to these issues: the gospel. It is the only thing that conquers sin, the only thing that can transcend the depravity of man. God answered the cry of the Black Eyed Peas by sending Jesus Christ; He is the “guidance from above.” But he does much more than merely guide us, He graciously pulls us away from ourselves. He crushes our sin and wins the victory for us.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7

Only because of God’s mercy and grace, we can experience a new life without sin. We still battle with our flesh on this earth, but we are promised an eternity without sin. I hope this encourages you, Christian. Remember this in the midst of the moral chaos, all of humanity is made in the image of God, we have marred this image in our sin, Christ has rescued us from ourselves. All lives matter. When people ask “Where is the love?” point them to Him.

The Day America Became Independent

 

Very recently, I have come to realize that I put too much faith in my nation. Don’t get me wrong, I love America. I love this country and many of the things she has stood for  throughout her life. But I have not agreed with many of the decisions that have been made by this country’s leadership lately. It has been scary to see religious liberty in question. This messy presidential election alone could be an example of the moral decline of this nation. Besides this, we have issues of sexual identity, immigration, abortion, Isis, gun control, mass shootings, racism… The list is almost endless.

As I have seen this list grow larger, I have become more worried. Where is this nation headed? And how bad will it get?

These are the questions I mean to address here. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, declaring that America was a nation and was no longer dependent upon Britain. What an incredibly terrifying day that must have been, those fifty-six men scratching their names upon the document that would be this country’s foundation. On that moment, America was born. Since then, we have celebrated this on the 4th of July, perhaps we have even boasted this.

Living out its 240 years (so far) as an independent nation, America has shifted to an independence from God. The Declaration of Independence was based on Biblical principles, but we have abandoned this, trying to thrive while separated from God. We have abandoned his word, we no longer come to him in prayer, we often see His church as only a building at best. We have forgotten God, relying on our own strength. Pride has slowly wrapped its claws around this country and sank them into her heart, deeper and deeper. What is wrong with this country? We no longer depend on God.

When you have the comforts we have, it can be difficult to depend on God. We have incredible medical procedures and medicines to cure most illnesses. Most American’s have decent jobs and are able to sustain a living. Most American’s have families or friend to keep company with. When we have all these things, plus so much more, we lose our dependence on God. Let’s see how David describes his dependence upon God in comparison to wealth and comfort.

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
  He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

   How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
   They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah

   For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
   He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
   On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

   Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us. Selah

   Those of low estate are but a breath;
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
   Put no trust in extortion;
    set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

  Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
    according to his work.

 

David did not trust in riches, he did not trust in high estate, or in hard work; David trusted in one thing, in one Being. He held all of his trust in God. Power belongs to God, to Him belongs salvation, to Him belongs steadfast love. To put trust in riches and wealth is stupidity when we have such a Fortress.

This is where prayer is so important in the Christian’s life. Prayer brings us into a dependence on God. When we realize that He is in control, we suddenly loosen our grip on life. At any moment, I could collapse from a heart attack. At any moment, I could get fired. At any moment, I find myself in the middle of a mass shooting.  Each of our lives are held together by mere threads that could be ripped apart at any given moment. Prayers is when we realize this before God. We thank Him for another grace-filled day, hour, moment, or second. Prayer keeps us humble, and it keeps us dependent on God.

America is enthralled by her own strength. She is delighted by her own beauty. She is dependent on herself completely. When America slowly lost her dependence on God, she slowly became more dependent upon herself. This is why we see moral chaos in a once Biblically sound country. Today, celebrate America the beautiful. Thank God that she was founded on Scripture. Thank Him for so many good years. But pray for a dependence on God.

The best thing you can do for America, is to turn back to God. Realize that He is good and gracious. Everything we have is only by His grace. Become dependent upon Him. Hunger for His word, yearn for Him in prayer, and long for fellowship with His body. See these things as life-giving and joyous. Put more faith in a perfect God than an imperfect nation. In order to change a culture, you have to start with you.

This country is heading in the complete opposite direction of where God is. America is self-reliant. We delight in our riches. We depend only on ourselves. May we turn and run back to our roots, may we turn back to God.

May our pride fall and die before our country does.

A Feast of Ancient Words

“Ancient words ever true

Changing me and changing you

We  have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart…”

These lyrics recite one of the greatest means of grace that we have constantly at our fingertips. The Word of God… The God of all knowledge, who created the cosmos, who is all powerful, who created the depths of the sea, who resides in perfect Heaven, who named the stars, this God wrote a book.

I remember as a boy, I was a big reader. I loved reading fiction, I’d sit on a summer day with no school and devour a book. Sometimes I would start a book and then discover that it was a part of series with a final book not yet released. So I would quickly read the books that were written in the series and then I would wait for the release of the final book. I would wait, dreaming of how the story might end. I would hunger, the tastebuds of my brain longing to linger over the coming literary flavors. Finally, the day would come and the preordered book would arrive at my doorstep. The anticipation was killing me. I would rip into the box, and hold the book in my hands in a stunned state of awe. Here it was, the final edition to the series, the end of the tale, the farewell of all of the characters. I would almost get nervous, what if it didn’t meet my expectations? Then, with a deep breath, I would flip to the prologue and dive into the final epic.

Ok, I know what some of you are thinking, “What a nerd!” That’s alright, I embrace it. But, nerd or not, I think it is safe to say that very few of us ever approach God’s Word with this attitude. Often an attitude of religious duty drives us to read Scripture. It is either out of religious duty or we just don’t do it at all because of laziness. I would challenge us all to reevaluate how we approach Scripture.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

-Psalm 19:7-11

 The Psalmist approached God’s Word with an incredible sense of awe. He described it as being more desirous than gold. It is sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. I’ve had honey straight from the comb, there’s not much else sweeter. It is perfect; it revives. Scripture is not deserved by any of us. Through the Bible, God reveals his character to us. Scripture equals grace as a means of sustaining spiritual life.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

-Isaiah 40:8

God’s Word is unchanging. It will last an eternity. While my copy of Scripture is not eternal, the truth found in the text will last for forever. The Bible is an eternal grace.

So why don’t we treat it like an eternal grace. It sits by my bed each night, I pick it up on average about every other day. The Psalmist describes it as life-giving. Take away his food, his home, his status, his family, just so long has he has the Word of God with him, he will press on. Let us hunger and thirst for Scripture as our only source of life.

But how do we do this? How do we learn to crave Scripture?

David Mathis in his book Habits of Grace says

The potential practices [for Bible reading] are limitless, but the principle beneath the practices is this: The fundamental means of God’s ongoing grace, through his Spirit, in the life of the Christian and the life of the church is God’s self-expression in his Word, in the gospel, perfectly kept for us and on display in all its textures, riches, and hues in the external written word of the Scriptures.

The key to hungering for the Bible is to have the proper perspective of Scripture. Scripture is only available as a means of grace. We do nothing in order to receive it. It is available twenty-four seven as a source of life. It has been perfectly preserved and is understandable. Can you believe it? The inklings of God are knowable and are the spiritual nourishment for the Christian.

Believe it and live it, Christian. We have the eternal grace of God’s Word, that resound with God’s own heart, at our side all the time. Quit starving yourself and feast on the riches of God’s Word. Here is my number one tip for learning to hunger for God’s Word:

Read it.

If you have never consistently read the Bible, you have yet to feel and experience the joys of it. When we are constantly listening to what God is saying through His word, we become dependent upon it. Suddenly, our jobs, our finances, and our phones all take a back seat. You do not truly know how detrimental starvation is until you know what it feels like to be full.

Today is a Monday. Pick up of the Word, and create some silence so that you can listen to what God is saying. It may be painful at first, but this means of grace will produce growth much faster than any other method. Feed your relationship with the Lord. Join me at the table of grace and feast with me.