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.

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.

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.

Good and Bad as Grace

The subtitle to my blog is more than a phrase, it is a lifestyle: “Learning to see the good and bad as grace…” Before I explain what this has meant for me, I want to make it clear that this is a worldview within the Christian worldview. This is a way that we as Christians can perceive the events of our lives. I have chosen to see the transpiring moments of my days on this earth in this light. This is a counter-cultural way to see the world; it does not come naturally or easily.

The Unnatural Worldview

As humans, we tend to let our circumstances determine how we behave. We wake up a little later than we should have, our coffee was made wrong, our boss chewed us out, our child gets sick with the flu, and for the rest of the day, we will be miserable. We let our circumstances rule our lives. Worse still, we let them steal our joy.

Of course, these are small trials in life. What about when a loved one passes away? Or when we get that diagnosis from the doctor? How about when we lose our job and don’t have a back-up plan? These are some bigger trials that will come into play on the stage of life. How should we respond to these? Those without Christ would get bitter, depressed, jealous, or abusive. How should the Christian respond to these trials? How should we react when we our child is driving us crazy, and how should we react when a family member dies? This lifestyle will help us respond correctly to both the small and the more daunting trials we may face.

Circumstances Don’t Rule

Circumstances don’t rule the Christian’s life. There are several reasons why this is true. God is in control and is good, we are not meant to live on earth permanently, and the physical realm does not encapsulate our joy. The bottom line is that the Christian can look at the good, the bad, and the ugly and see them all as grace.

God is in control… It may sound cliché, but it is true. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). God is all-knowing and all- powerful. He is also good. He knows exactly what is best for us. Sometimes, this means we receive that diagnosis or we lose our job. God knows what’s going on and what is best for us. In Tim Keller’s book Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, he says,

God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.

Unanswered prayer, trials, and tribulation come to us through God. There is a reason for them, there is a purpose for our current struggles. Remember in them that God is in control, and He will guide us through them. This is promised in Scripture and displayed in the lives of many of the Biblical heroes of the faith. God is faithful to us even in our darkest moments.

This is not our home… We are on this earth for a very short time. If we have received the Greatest Grace, we are only waiting for forever to get here. Earth is not our home, worshiping Christ before His throne is. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” These trails only make us long for our coming, unbroken eternity with our Savior.

He is our joy… We do not live for the prosperity of earthly gains, but for the prosperity of the soul. Knowing Christ is our joy, and nothing can come close to comparing to this. Everything else leaves us empty, with a gaping hole in our chest. Again, Paul writes, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). When we understand this, our worries, fears, and pain are belittled. Our joy is not found or restricted by the fading physical world; it is explosively discovered in our growing, intimate relationship with Christ.

Bad as Grace

When we understand and believe these things, we can choose to see the good and the bad as grace. It is still hard. Sometimes the pain is unbearable, the horror too horrific, the death too often, but I believe that even in these circumstances, we can experience spiritual peace because our hope is in God. These times can be an opportunity to lean even more into Christ, depending upon Him completely. When the trials come, they can be for our good. The horrible things we experience can be grace in our lives.

Suffering has a way of stripping away all of our guards and self-protection to get to our hearts. This is why Scripture refers to suffering and affliction as the refiners fire; trials refine us and transform us more into the image of Jesus Christ. Unpleasant circumstances will force us to see the ugliness of our hearts that we have been trying to hide.

Each morning we wake up, we have no idea what the day will hold. A season of suffering could be close at hand, and we will have a choice to make.

The Choice

Because of the eternal graces, we can choose to see the good and the bad as grace. Because God is good, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, just, loving, and merciful we can choose to see the most wretched circumstance as grace in our lives. We may never understand, but we should still choose to accept.

The choice is yours. The decision lays before you each day. Will you choose to find your joy in Christ or in the passing physical world? It is when we choose to find our joy and worth in Christ that we are set free. This is the gateway to thriving in any circumstance rather than desperately clawing your way to survival in the midst of everyday life. Examine your heart, where are you seeking joy?

Lord, help me to see the good and the bad as grace. I no longer want to live my life according to life’s restless circumstances. I want to have the joy of Paul, that even in prison he had unimaginable joy. I want a peace that surpasses understanding. Give me joy in you. Help me to hate my sin and love you more. Conform me into the image of your Son.

Amen.