Roaring Hills & Rain

The fact that God thought to sometimes mix in the rumble of thunder with rain storms is an awesome thing. Sitting in my study, on the 2nd floor of an old Dutch colonial type house, the thunder can sometimes feel as though it penetrates right into my chest. It’s like these old walls don’t even try to smother the sound as it enters into the room. Especially late at night when nothing else can be heard except the rain dripping outside or the occasional car passing by on the very wet road near my house. 

I was quickly brought outside of my self as I stopped and listened to the noise as it cracked the night sky and flooded over all the surrounding hills. The trees get no break, they’ve no insulation – they are completely exposed and they almost seem to amplify the effect. How far each wave of thunder reaches is incredible and I’m brought to thoughts of how small I am and how God’s powerful creation obeys and displays his rule; a rule that is beyond man’s capacity and which must be utterly terrifying to those who do not know the Sustainer of all things. 

The God of creation is terribly powerful indeed and I see that on display in such storms. Yet I also note that this natural order reveals that He also provides the rain through such awesome demonstrations of might. It is very much the case scripturally that the God of the Bible is revealed as one who brings salvation through judgement. It isn’t any wonder that the created order can be heard singing this tune also. A man may be struck with the fear of death at the horrid noise of thunder and raise his fist to the sky while at the same time another man raises praise for the life the rain of that same storm brings to his crop. 

While the storm parallel isn’t exact, the narrative fits: Christ who bore God’s wrath at the cross suffered terribly while at the same time completely gained salvation for His people. One can look at the cross and see only unnecessary violence and another can believe upon the Son, confess their sin and be brought to their knees in utter worship of the one who conquered death. The latter group rejoice to know that their Savior is also sovereign over such noisy affairs as thunder storms. The fear of the Lord trumps and subdues any fear common to humanity. Trust in Him and find rest. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

The Hope of Rightousness

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” – Galatians‬ ‭5:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬

The hope of righteousness that comes by faith produces an eager anticipation of the eternal life obtained in Christ…a hope which is longed for by every believer. A hope worth fighting for and keeping secure in ones heart. Paul warns here that the circumcision party was adding works to the equation of justification (beware any teaching other than that of faith alone in Christ for justification) and therefore was robbing the hope that is so precious to every ‘child of promise’ (those who have faith in Christ). 

How does this righteousness produce hope? First by recognizing that it is not ones own righteousness that the one who has faith tastes, but that of Christ’s. This recognition comes to light by the grace of God when humility speaks honestly to ones own sinful nature; that ones best deeds done in the flesh are equaled to nothing more than that of filthy rags (scripture says that man’s ‘good’ works = menstrual rags). It is His Spirit working in the believer, through faith, that one performs true works of Godly love. Such works will not feed a self righteous mindset, but these are those that can only result in the believers ascribing glory to God…because such works are completely by His grace and granting from start to finish and the believer praising God will sense this to be true both in the experience of it or upon reflection of it as we do now. 

In His providence I suppose these works can and often do go unnoticed by the believer; perhaps so that the right hand not know what the left is doing…thereby pride would continuously be slain at its roots. I also wonder how often these works are left undone by believers and what type of judgement awaits us who through slack and apathy stall our Lords call to serve. I fear this for many Christians, myself included. 

I can speak for myself as I know I’ve turned aside many times from opportunities from His works. What comforts me though is that my Lord is faithful when I am not; that He is Lord and I am not; that He is the perfect Teacher and I His student; I am His subject and He is my kind Ruler; I am his adopted son and He my loving Father; that He saved me a sinner, not as a righteous man and has committed to conform me to Himself; that He will finish what He started; that He is mighty to save. Oh goodness! He has dealt ever so kindly to me, even when my heart condemns me and my accuser screams my list of sins at me, He has not forsaken me and He leads me to repentance…He restores my soul. Praise God, grace is mine as a son, eternally!

Let me not lose sight of the hope of righteousness; let me let go of the elemental powers of this world; let me fully trust in my Lord and walk in His ways. I know that when I walk in His righteousness I am eternally minded; the temporal is enjoyed and used for His purposes but it becomes necessarily secondary. I pray to do more and more of His works to know the joyous laughter of His praise and glory. May it be so. Amen. 

Thanksgiving in Canada

I very much enjoyed time away from home this past week to spend with my wife’s family in Canada. It was the same as it is every year; the sound of rushed footsteps sweeping in and out the kitchen, the chatter of several voices chiming in to discuss random topics, children triumphantly pushing the boundaries of every perceivable obstacle they can imagine, abounding laughter over several games of competitive euchre, and the constant temptation of each festive meals’ aroma which are prepared every morning, noon and night. What a joy to experience it all with love and grace in my heart enabling me to catch the beauty going on in all these precious moments. Much love to my family in Canada, you all thoroughly blessed me this Thanksgiving, I’m truly thankful for all of you.

Our Great Assurance

God preserving His saints is not some abstract and ancient doctrine that is irrelevant to the modern Christian’s walk. God powerfully displays this function of His in the here and now for His children. The scripture teaches that none who belong to the Father can be snatched from His hand. These words of Christ bring me great comfort in the context of my salvation, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (ESV, John.10.27). Considering the truth I’ll be sharing in this paper, my testimony of becoming a Christian has a few crises moments within it that should make any honest person’s hair stand up. It is my joy to share this testimony in hopes that those who may struggle with doubt can see the great hope that is ours in the Lord; assurance of salvation is something we can and should rest in.

The memory of my radical conversion takes me back to a setting of an aged apartment complex in Winter Park, Florida. It was the year 2001, and I was nearing the end of a long year in school working toward my Associates degree. I had been living like most college students who lack discipline, without the fear of God, and for anything and everything that felt right in the moment. I was not un-churched at this point in my life, in fact, I had spent many years in Christian youth groups and had made a profession of faith in Christ many times. I was determined to live a wild life style because there were no boundaries imposed upon me by God fearing people. Winter Park, Florida is a long way away from Hyde Park, NY. Living loosely without being held accountable to anyone was certainly what I perceived everyone else was doing and it is what my heart desired.

On a particular night in the fall of 2001, the level of my rebellion against all that is good and holy had peaked. All alone in my room, high and perverting my heart away on the internet, I sensed a quickening of conviction within the uttermost parts of my being. The brevity of this conviction was so real and tangible that I dared to speak audibly into the silent air of my bedroom room and ask, “God is that You, do You see me?” I can’t say that I heard an audible “Yes” but everything in me knew that I was in the presence of Holiness and that my behavior was completely unacceptable before Him! I fell to my knees and sobbed out tears of shame and remorse, for my atrocious and sinful behavior was exposed. I was broken hearted to think of how displeasing I was before my Holy God who was confronting me! In this moment of sorrow I remembered a name, a name that I’ve heard others claim can save, the name of Jesus! I cried out for Jesus to save me from these horrible sins and burdens of sorrow. What happened next was remarkable. I sensed all my shame, all my guilt, and all my sorrow taken off from me and my heart was instantly infused with uncontrollable joy and laughter. I laughed for what must have been twenty or thirty minutes reveling in the reality of salvation that had come to me. I remember as the laughter died down as if I had walked through a spiritual door, as one born into a new realm of existence. This was surely new birth, I was born again!

Needles to say, I was sober and in my right mind instantly. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew about my conversion experience. I remember being in a relationship with a girl at the time this happened; however, she didn’t want anything to do with my Jesus. Where I was unable to end the wrong relationship in my own strength, God through the Holy Spirit within me ended it very fast; for my heart now desired purity where before it was bent primarily toward the lusts of the flesh. The Word of God became my best friend, and I grew in the knowledge of the Lord for several years without slipping into sinful habits that very much plagued me beforehand.

As I grew older in the Lord I found myself searching for like minded brothers and sisters who had come to know Christ in a similar way that I had. I began to assume that everyone who is a professing Christian must have experienced such a radical conversion as me. Subconsciously I was gradually becoming more and more disappointed that no one I knew seemed to be able to relate to my experience. What I didn’t realize then, in my searching for some formula conversion experience others could relate to, was that I had lost sight of the finest point of my conversion: the Holiness of God meeting me in my depravity, yet showing me grace solely based upon the merits of Christ. (Justification by faith alone is so much more than a reformed doctrine to me, it is extremely personal!)

This distraction away from the Holiness of God led me into a mindset of doubt. I gradually became more liberal in my thinking toward the scriptures, forgetting my first love. I cowered in fear at the many popular post-modern arguments posited against the scriptures, and I had no capacity to defend the faith against all its opponents. When the enemy can get a believer to doubt the Word of God, he has effectively rendered him or her sidelined and off the playing field. That was me, I fizzled out and became about as passionate for Christ as a kite is without wind. I fell for the ancient trap of the serpent, “did God actually say” was the poisonous question being posed; my root in the scriptures wasn’t sufficient to survive my enemy’s attack (Gen 3.1).

Sin began to creep back into my life, for I lowered my guard down and found myself getting ensnared again to things Christ had once already defeated in me. Thank God that He is for His children and not against them! “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3.9). In retrospect, it becomes clear that it is truly God’s kindness that leads to repentance. There was a sense that I knew I couldn’t keep going on in my sin. I would fall seven times a day but there always remained a sense of conviction in me. No matter how hard I may have tried to suppress those convictions, they relentlessly pursued me.

I began to cry out to God for help. I remember praying prayers persistently pleading to have my passion restored for the scriptures. In these prayers I remember telling God how I hated my sin and needed help. I was honest with Him, and I told Him I couldn’t break the habits without His power working in me. Hunger for truth and righteousness were growing desires that He restored to me. He answered my prayers in the form of reformed preacher’s podcasts! I started listening to countless hours of sermons and lectures on topics like: the Holiness of God, Regeneration, Preservation of the saints, a High View of Scripture, Apologetics, Church History, and all sorts of deep theological topics. My confidence in the scriptures was being restored through the exposition of sound doctrine. Soon after, the authority of the scriptures began to become my delight.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111.10). God has caused me to delight in Him in all His ways. I believe that all knowledge is of the Lord, and when we practice excellence unto the glory of His name, we get to enjoy Him as we do it! This hunger for truth started about two years ago and has led me to Lee University. My desires are to show myself tested and approved to rightly handle the Word of God, grow in my knowledge of my Christian heritage, and further develop the skills I’ll need to advance in whatever area God wills me to go next. Being able to trust His Word is being able to see His promises. Great assurance of salvation is available to all who fully trust in the scriptures. My prayer is that I become an efficient expositor of the Scriptures for His excellence, unto the glory of His great name. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3. 16-17).