All or Nothing at All

J.I. Packer, in his book “Knowing God” wrote:

“One can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of Him.” (Knowing God, pg. 26)

We can spend hours pouring over Scripture, reading theology, studying about God, and yet when it boils down to it, we don’t even know Him at all.

In Matthew chapter 7, we read:

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:22,23)

Seems there is great danger in knowing a lot about God, but missing Him completely.

I, for one, shudder at that thought.  Lord, may it not be so with me!  I want to know You, closely, intimately, fully.

And even that prayer itself makes me shudder.  It’s…scary.  I mean, to know God?  The God who identifies Himself as a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)?  The God who, when seen, causes men to fall down as though dead (Rev. 1:17)?  The God that no man can see (1 Tim. 6:16)?  I mean, do we really think through the things we say and sing sometimes?

But yet…anything besides Him is not enough.  Anything besides being fully His is…empty.  Having everything besides Him is having nothing at all.  And truth be told, the only way to know Him is to seek Him and follow where He leads.

And as He leads us, walking along with us, we come to know Him more and more.  His Word comes alive to us.  He speaks to us in His Word, lighting our steps before us (Psalm 119:105), leading the way in dark times, in hard times.  It’s in those trials, those valleys, those places where we never thought we’d end up that He seems to speak most clearly.

It’s in those times that we truly come to know Him for Who He is, to see His will a little more clearly, to find His heart, to realize His love, to understand His plan a bit better…even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, even when it makes no sense…because at the end of it all, He’s enough.

No, He’s more than enough.  He’s everything.

And to live this life without knowing Him…is to not live at all.

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation.  On You I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:4,5)

 

 

Anxiety Abounding

You don’t have to be hyper-observant to realize that we live in troubling times, amen? Everywhere I go, there is a sense of worry, of fear.  Every media outlet, be it old-school print, or new-school social, is replete with stories of terrorism, racism, political discord, outbreaks of diseases, natural disasters, wars and rumors of war.  Everywhere you turn, people are talking about these things.  If you’re awake, you’re aware of it.

You could say that anxiety abounds, couldn’t you?  And you’d be right!

As I was thinking about these things today, the words of Paul the apostle to the church in Philippi, written 2000 years ago, yet so appropriate for this day, came to mind:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7)

Just read through those verses a few times.  Let them sink in.  Let them give you proper perspective in these anxious times.

Rejoice…

Be anxious for nothing…  (I’m pretty sure that even means the presidential elections, y’all)

Pray…

Be thankful…

PRAY…

And when you do these things, you’ll have a peace that passes understanding (because, seriously, who of us can understand all this anyway?).  This peace comes from getting your eyes and mind off of the worry and the fear and the terrorism and the elections and getting it on the One Who sits enthroned above it all:

JESUS.

Christians, lets keep our eyes on Him.  Let’s live like we believe what the Word of God says about the times we live in.  Let’s live like we believe God is truly in control (even when we don’t understand it).  Let’s not let our love grow cold, but let’s shine like stars in these dark times by extending the love of Christ, by sharing the good news of the Gospel, by proclaiming the only true hope there is:

JESUS.

 

There’s Not Enough

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“Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.  Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?  Who can declare all His praise?” Psalm 106:1-2

It’s a rhetorical question.  The obvious answer is “no one!”  No one can hope to utter all the mighty acts of our God!  No one could possibly speak forth enough praise for Who He is, for all He’s done!

Charles Wesley said he wished he had a thousand tongues to try.

More recently, Rend Collective sang “A thousand years, a thousand tongues are not enough to sing His praise.

There aren’t enough songs.  There aren’t enough worship sets.  There aren’t enough church services.  There aren’t enough voices.  There aren’t enough choirs.

There isn’t enough time.

Psalm 145 says “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever.”  Forever and ever means…forever and ever!  There is no end!  If we started now and go throughout eternity, every moment of every day, it’s still not enough to adequately praise Him for all He’s done!

Even now, around His throne, angels cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God almighty!  Who was, Who is, and Who is to come!“(Revelation 4:8)  Amen and amen.

So what, then?  Shall we not sing?  Shall we not try?  Obviously not!  Let us sing all the more!  Let us praise the One Who alone is worthy!  Let us write songs, let us sing songs, let us cry out every change we get, with all we have, declaring that our God reigns, that He is good, and that His love, his steadfast, never failing love, endures…forever!

The Blessing of Family

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(A pic of me, my mom, dad, and three sisters.  We’re missing my big brother, who couldn’t make the trip this year.)

My little tribe and I just got back from trekking cross-country (well, half way cross-country) to visit our family in Oklahoma City.  I gotta admit, prior to the beginning of that journey, there is always some apprehension.  Oh, it has nothing to do with worry about seeing family or anything like that (after all, when you ARE the weird uncle, there is never any family weirdness for you to worry about!).  Rather, the apprehension deals with packing up the car with your three children under the age of 10 and driving 1200 miles.  Straight through.  20-plus hours on the road.

But after the road-lag wore off (thanks to long afternoon naps and cool cousins who are willing to occupy your kids),  I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the heartland with my family.  From simply hanging out and chatting over a cup of coffee (actually, mancups of coffee!) or swimming for hours on end, or guitar shopping with my bro-in-law, to church on Father’s Day  with my dad, to the beautiful outdoor wedding of my niece, it was a really great trip.

After we got home Tuesday, I was tucking my kids into bed, and each of them shared how they miss their family already, and how they had such a great time.  They told me they were thankful for their family.

Yeah, me too, kiddos.

I know that many of you reading this do not have the blessing of a close family, or even family at all.  My heart breaks for that.  I’m so grateful for the time we have with our family, both those who are close to us here in NC, and those who are miles away across the country.  To see my kids having grateful hearts for that as well…yeah, that’s pretty awesome.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to take some time off and go spend that time with my family.  I’m thankful for the memories that we created, that my kids made, that my family made.

And I’m thankful that it was hard to leave.  I’m thankful for the tears that morning as we piled into the car for the return trip.  Those tears are a reminder not to take the time we have for granted, not to “waste the second hand” (in the words of songwriter Andrew Osenga).  Time passes too quickly, and those moments we have with our loved ones should be cherished, whether they are the “big events” like a wedding, or Father’s day worship, or the “small ” simple times sipping coffee under the stars.

They’re all golden.

I Have Decided

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Moments like the one pictured above are too priceless for words…too hard to explain….to special to articulate meaningfully…but I’ll try.

That’s my pastor and me, preparing to baptize my oldest daughter at our church’s recent baptism service (we do it at the pool, y’all…it’s how we roll!).  I had the distinct privilege of getting to baptize her myself, just as I did her little sister a few years ago.

Ruthie came to me a few weeks ago and brought up the subject of getting baptized.  We chatted for a little bit over breakfast (cause a little bit is all you get with her 9-going-on-19 self), and I told her to pray about it and talk to me some more.  The weeks went by, and nothing else was said.  I assumed she changed her mind.

Then Friday night, as we were about to go see Rend Collective (amazing, btw) with our girls, my wife and I were talking over the logistics of the upcoming weekend and I mentioned the baptism.  My daughter perked up and said “that’s THIS weekend????”  She thought she had more time!  She told me she definitely wanted to get baptized.

So we talked about what baptism is and what it isn’t.  We talked about how it’s not some magical thing that happens when you go under the water and come up, but how it’s a picture of your old self dying to sin and then rising to new life in Christ.  We talked about how it’s an outward sign of what Jesus has already done in your heart when you asked Him to be your Lord and Savior.  She said she wanted to do it to start fresh, to be the person God is calling her to be.

I could go into a lot of backstory here, but I won’t.  Suffice it to say it’s pretty cool to get to share moments like this with your kids, I must say.  Pretty amazing indeed.  These conversations were definite answers to pray, I’ll say that.  So parents, keep on praying for you kids.

Fast forward to the moment pictured above…we’re in the water, and I get to pray over this little girl and her decision to make this public profession to follow Christ.  I thanked God for saving her, for calling her to Him.  I thanked Him for giving me the privilege of being there with her.  I prayed for Him to bless her life, to guide her steps, to fill her with His Spirit and to use her for His glory.

I prayed that she would be a life lived fully for the glory of the Lord.

Then I got to perform the age-old ordinance of baptism on my Ruthie…this picture Christ gave us of our dying to ourselves and rising to new life in Him.

And just like at her dedication as a little child, I once again, in my own heart, reaffirmed that his precious girl isn’t mine at all.  She’s His.  Fully and totally.  He made her, formed her, gave her to me and her mom, to raise to know Him and love Him.  To follow Him, all her days.

Just as I seek to follow Him all my days.

So we all continue down that path…following after the Master.  Me, her mom, her sister, and Ruthie.  I can’t help but think of the old hymn:

I have decided to follow Jesus…I have decided to follow Jesus…I have decided to follow Jesus…No turning back…No turning back…

 

The Blessing of Time Together

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Last night, my wife and kids met me after work and we went to get dinner together.  After navigating the insanely oxymoronic time of “rush hour” in Raleigh, we were finally seated around a table together, me and my tribe.

My head was spinning from the drive over, my son was talking non-stop about the latest craze in Legos, my middle one telling me about her first violin ( or fiddle, if you ask her) lesson, my eldest was being a pre-teen critic of most things, and my wife looked like she was glad just to have another adult set of hands, eyes, and ears there to help out after a busy day.

But before you think I’m complaining, let me tell you what hit me.  What we were doing was a beautiful thing that has sadly become rare in these days: the family dinner table.  The whole crew gathered in one place, talking to and listening to one another.  Laughing together, joking together…enteracting.

Far too often this gift of time together has been replaced with distraction (first the TV, now the cell phone), with distance, with busyness.  Oh, we’re guilty, too.  It’s easy to do.  It’s easy to get sucked into other things and miss, no, neglect the greater things, the simpler things.

I sat there last night listening to our kids’ talk about their day, their interests, their problems, and realized just how precious that time is.  My eldest is 9 going on 19, and our relationship is rapidly changing.  Just yesterday, she was daddy’s little girl.  Now she’s becoming more and more independent of ol’ dad.   I want to cherish the time I have with her, and also every moment I have with my other two.

Psalm 127:3 says

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”

Unfortunately, many of us don’t treat them that way, nor cherish the time we have with them.  Some make the mistake of trading busyness, doing things with their kids, keeping their kids involved in everything under the sun, but spend no time actually getting to know their kids.

Time goes too quick to throw away the precious with the waste of technology, of Twitter, of Facebook and Instagram, of email and text.  Too precious to throw it away with pursuits that will never profit, with pastimes that have no lasting impact.

Those things can wait.  Time won’t.

So make the most of it.

Ask for the Old Paths

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Our society is an interesting one, a perplexing one, a…gasp…hypocritical one.  What do I mean?  Well, I’m glad you asked!

On the one hand, we love the old.  Just take a look at current fashion, home decor, music…vintage is all the rage.  I’m a guitar nerd, and a vintage (pre-1950 in my book) Martin Guitar would pretty much cause me to dance the happy dance for quite a few days.  Retro is in.  Thrift stores are booming, and not just because it’s cheap.  It’s cool to go old-school.

Mid-Century modern is making a comeback in furniture and design.  If you’re a Fixer Upper fan, you know “ship lap” is all the rage, whether it’s the real thing (preferable) or faux (from your favorite home center).

We left behind the big shoulder pads and double breasted suits of the 90s to return to the 1950s with the clean lines and close fit of the classic suit.  Fedoras and newsboy caps are back in style in headwear, for those lucky enough to have a head shape conducive to such things.

Americana music is huge right now, hearkening back to the pre-synth and drum machine sounds of a by-gone era.

So we love the retro in what we wear, how we decorate, and our music.  But when it comes to what we think, what we believe, we tend to eschew the old in favor of the new.  Like a pre-teen child, we seem to have a dogged sense that we know better than everyone who has gone before us.

And the saddest part of this mentality to me is not that society at large thinks this way (that’s to be expected), but rather that the church thinks this way.  In fact, much of the social “reforms” of modern Western society are making inroads in the church.

This is not good.

Now, I’m no Luddite.  I’m not talking about the use (or lack) of technology here.  I’m talking about core beliefs, core values, truth.  When we start looking like society in our beliefs and values, we have a major problem.  We are the ecclesia,  the “called out” ones.  We are to be holy, separate, different, in the world but not of it!  

God told Jeremiah the prophet:

“Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…” (Jer. 6:16, NKJV)

Ask for the old paths.  The way the travelers of old moved along life’s highway.  The old paths were old because they were trusted, established, safe.  Go off into the wilderness, off the path, at your own peril.

But today, many of us are just like the people in Jeremiah’s day.  The verse above ends with: “But they said ‘we will not walk in it.’ ”  

What have you said?  Society is rapidly coming to odds with the truths of Scripture.  Why?  Because we think the “new” paths are better.  We know better.  We are a society of teenagers railing against our parents, thinking they’re old fashioned and we “gotta be free to be me.”  I used to think that way about my parents…until I grew up and realized just how smart they were.

How about you?  You gonna grow up and realize that God’s ways are better, that God’s ways are righteous, that  God’s ways are safe.  Are you going to seek out the old paths and follow them?

Or are you going to set out in the wilderness, like a bull-headed teenager, convinced that you know better?

The choices are before us daily.  Choose wisely.  Ask for the old paths.