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The big question of yesterday’s sermon at Heights Community was “have you allowed darkness to be greater than the Gospel?” I have written quite a bit about darkness here on Finley, I am. If you’ve looked darkness in the face, you know the feeling that goes to your core.

Grumbling

There is always something to complain about. You have to be intentional about the state and direction of your heart. Read your heart’s pulse. When you are asked how you are doing, do you respond positively more often than negatively? Averages, of course, matter. You are allowed to have a tough week. But tough year?

Let me be clear, while not grumbling: my last year had a lot of dark points. A lot. I can grumble about a lot of it. I know that I am in the valley of Psalm 23, so of course I also know where God is and how much I should want.

And the blessings have continued unabated. Yeah, I’ve been in a valley, but God’s been providing for us. Promotions, raises, the house, and a church that loves and supports us daily.

Welcome Back

One sermon point yesterday was that we need to tell more stories of thankfulness than stories of grumbling. And I felt that. Maybe I haven’t grumbled much here, but I have with my closest of friends. And I need to be more intentional about this. The blessings have by and large outweighed the curses in the last year. Outweighed being the key word there. Don’t count your curses, y’all. If I did, they may outnumber my blessings over the last 18 months. But the blessings outweigh them. Ooo. Yeah, I love that too.

Last year we left our church of 8 years. And when I say left, we were basically chased out. Long story, but the short of it was heresy was present and snakes had their way. A lying pastor said to my face, while lying, “if you don’t trust us, what are you doing here?” So we left. Now I can grumble about this, but we are four months into this move and the weight of the blessings that have come from it are enormous. The darkness would love to keep drawing my eyes back to the curses, lay them out and ask me to count them, but I should be focused on thanksgiving and there is so much to give thanks for. I needed to be somewhere else and God knows better than I do. My kids have grown so much spiritually in the last four months that I cannot help but stop, stunned.

God is good.

A note here is that we need to be drawing this out of our fellow Christians too. It is one of my notes I have taken since leaving our church of eight years. Grumbling, gossiping, and a lack of thankfulness were too common. People didn’t push you to the Cross. Sometimes you need to vent, to grumble. At least you feel like you do. But a good Christian friend pushes, massages that. If a brother or sister is entangled in the darkness, you should be shining hope and help them see the power of the Gospel in their situation: show them the way to the Cross. If someone comes to you to grumble about someone else— often gossip— drive them to resolve conflict, to confront the conflict, to put behind them the things that are unresolvable and to focus on the Cross. When we do this we train— disciple— not only others, but ourselves, to not grumble. Acknowledging the darkness is fine, but being obsessed with it requires you to be pulled out. There are right and wrong ways to do that, but we as Christians need to be helping our fellow Christians in this. I didn’t have this at our previous church and I somehow didn’t see it until we were in a church that actively practiced it. And I love it.

Despair

Stare into the darkness for even a few minutes and you’ll feel it staring back. You’ll feel the pull, the snaky appendages wrapping around you, constricting around you. That whisper, “there is no hope, you are alone, God isn’t coming to save you this time.” Despair loves to sit in the corner of your room and just watch you silently. A spook. An unnerving, unblinking gaze.

As I stated above, one of the ways they can get in is to get you grumbling. To take your eyes away from the Cross, to take your eyes off the end of the race, to get you to focus on your worries of today, your anxieties of tomorrow, your depressions of yesterday. To take your hope. The dwellers of the darknesses, they know they cannot take your salvation, but they can make you absolutely useless.

How many nights over the last year that I have hit the pillow and uttered a simple prayer: Lord, please take the watch. Sleeping with one hand on your sword, one eye open, ready for war is no way to rest. One must trust that God’s got you and when you wake, grab your lute and wake the morning (Psalm 57:8).

Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!

Psalm 57:8 ESV

Live in prayer, not despair.

Give me such fellowship with thee
    that I may defy Satan,
      unbelief, the flesh, the word,
  with delight that comes not from a creature,
  and which a creature cannot mar.
Give me a draught of the eternal fountain
  that lieth in thy immutable, everlasting love
    and decree.

The Servant in Battle, The Valley of Vision

Power of the Gospel

A lot of talk around Christian Nationalism is a misrepresentation of the entire conversation by those that would prefer to demonize and kill hope. I’m almost through Doug Wilson’s Mere Christendom right now and one thing he makes abundantly clear is this is not about converting by the sword or even electing the right, red-pilled conservative. This is about the hope in the Gospel’s power to transform and once it has transformed, leading Christianly and restoring Christendom. You see, the right elected official may be able to throw out abortion as a “right,” but he cannot change the hearts of wicked men and women that scream in wretched desire to murder babies.

One would be dumb to not acknowledge that making something illegal will force hearts to change over time— see slavery or the practice in India of burning widows alive with their dead husbands— but that has to come along with the sharing of the Gospel. Sure, end the murdering and sacrificing, but spread the hope of Jesus and people will start to slay their own dragons.

The Gospel has power. Lots of it. Much larger, much slimier darknesses than your present one have been defeated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Much larger threats than the ones you face have fallen before the Gospel’s power. We contend with a vanquished foe. Vanquished. Defeated thoroughly.

In the end, God wins. Calvary broke the dragon’s head. And if this is the case, we have hope the life-changing nature of the Gospel. The world-changing nature of the Gospel. The darkness doesn’t win. It ceases. (Revelation 22:5)

This is why the topic of Christian Nationalism has been infectious to many: it is hope-filled. Christ wins. Go and make disciples of all the nations. As we disciple nations, as we win cities and states to Christ, how do we lead, how do we establish Christendom? It is a hope-filled trust that God wins as a foundation. Not that if we can just get one president that hears us, we can make America great once more. No, that if we spread the Gospel we can see splendor returned to the world like God intended.

The Gospel itself is power. Don’t let the darkness shut you down and make you useless. Don’t despair, don’t grumble, don’t cry your way into heaven.

A Campfire in the Valley

Looking out into the darkness has an alternative. The light of Christ is radiant with beauty, hope, grace, mercy, and love. Even in the darkest valley, Death lying in bloodthirsty wait, the campfire of the Gospel shines brighter than the darkness’s power to engulf the light. Gaze into the fire, peace and hope are there. Let them soak into your soul, drown out the echoes of despair. Grab a lute— or guitar if you still don’t have a lute— and sing songs of thankfulness, of hope, of grace amazing. Write these songs in your heart so when you have to venture through the darkness you can raise your Ebenezer and not lose the hope you know holds more power than those that stare at you from beyond the veil.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

‭‭John‬ ‭16‬:‭33‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our nation is running towards revival or civil war.

The hatred is crackling, the energy is raising, and everything is on edge. Either lightning strikes, the fire ignites, and people start killing each other or God drops us to our knees and a massive revival resets us. Very little can calm down the animosity that we are seeing.

Very little can reunite us.

I pray that God plans the prior.

One of the heartening signs that has resulted from the ascendancy of this creepy clown world regime is that it has revealed to me that there are still seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. There have been many new voices, deserted by their former leaders, who have stepped into the breach. They are standing up straight, and they are unashamed.

It is true that things look bad. The leadership of Laketown was feckless and self-serving. The whole town is in disarray, and is under attack. The dragon has come and everything is hopeless.

But there is one man, Bard, and he has one arrow. And with that one arrow in his hand, one bird comes and speaks to him. And he sets the arrow to string, unashamed.

The Shameless v. the Unashamed by Douglas Wilson

No commentary needed here. Pastor Doug said it all. Christian, go read Pastor Doug’s post. Or watch the video.

Culture Saturday: Good News and Hope for De­transition­ers

One of the things you may have noticed about the new site— if you have been following me a while— is the content has been less politics- and culture-related over the last two weeks. Part of that was intentional. In migrating all the content, I got to add great features like tag pages and nested tags and similar posts.

These features gave me great insight into what my focus points have been and let me chart out where I want my focus points to be. For one, I want to write about what I do more. Web development, woodworking, etc. And I’ve done more of that in the last two weeks than I have in the last 8 years of this site. Another is music. I play a lot of music. Instruments and songs. Looking back at the Christmas songs over the years that have impacted me and why is great.

Ultimately, I am trying to share more evenly across many categories. I am writing a lot and saving drafts to publish later. I am coming to a sort of strategy. And culture and politics are part of that. The intersection of culture, politics, and faith is of particular interest to me and that leads us to Culture Saturdays.

Douglas Wilson, who you’ll find on my Blogroll, has been one of my favorite preachers over the last decade. Specifically, I love his willingness to address the cultural zeitgeists in a way that a shepherd should: wolves looking to kill his sheep need to be shot. That oft means uncomfortable conversations, especially in an age when tolerance is hammered with words that end in -phobia.

In an article last week, Douglas addressed a fictional— though plucked from the headlines real— young gal named Candace, who— after burning bridges to much of her family and friends in transitioning to living as a boy— has come full circle and is transitioning back after an encounter with Jesus. And there is so much good in this article, you need to go read it.

One of the temptations that comes to those who are seriously repenting is that they overshoot. In recognizing that their sin went far beyond the boundaries of God’s law, they assume falsely that their sin also went far beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Douglas Wilson, Good News and Hope for Detransitioners

The is so much importance on a proper understanding of grace. Heard someone ask the other day why “good things happen to bad people,” and I responded that if good things only happened to good people, good things would never happen. The grace of God to extend a hand is not conditional on the quality of the individual needing a hand, as then no one could qualify. While your sin has cast you very far from God, well…

[…] God’s grace does not live snugly in a little heavenly bungalow—God’s grace is a ranger, lives out in the badlands, and rounds up outlaws. God’s grace is a bounty hunter.

He’s coming for you.

But then, after He has apprehended the fugitive and brings him in, He surprises everyone by calling for the best robe, a fine ring, good shoes, and he orders that the fatted calf be killed. Then he tells the head servant to go hire a swing band. So your sin, however great it was, is no match for the kindness of God. This is something you need to fix in your mind now, and you need to make a point of hanging on to it. In Christ, God saves sinners.

Someone said the other day to me that what we see in the Bible is not Man trying to get right with God, but God trying to get right with Man. The reason we don’t see Man trying to get right with God— if you exclude all the many cases of exactly that in the Bible— is because we are totally depraved and consumed with sin. We cannot make a good decision if our lives depend on it, because our lives do in fact depend on it, and yet… Yeah. God is not, then, in fact trying to get right with us, but to get us right with Him. He is pursuing, He is wooing, He is trying to bring us home.

So the good news is that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and you qualify.

One of many reasons that I love Wilson. I listened to this article first as I was driving to work this week. I nearly spit my coffee all over the windshield with this quip. You qualify.

But we have to look straight at the nature of this good news, because there are two different kinds of good news, and we must not confuse them. […] But the second kind of good news does have prerequisites—and that is that there needs to be an antecedent understanding of the bad news. […] You receive news that the governor signed a pardon meaning that you will not be executed in the morning—but you need to have understood that you were going to be executed. Otherwise the good news makes no sense. Certain kinds of good news make no sense at all apart from the related bad news.

The threat of Hell is real. Wilson’s analogy of receiving a pardon but understanding that you were going to be executed is important. There is punishment for sin. A just God cannot allow there not to be. But, in mercy, He gives us a gift of Salvation and we must confess it, take up our cross, and follow Him. We get it for free in the sense that it cost us nothing— as there is no way we could pay the cost— but also it costs us everything. Surrender and follow. This can cost us jobs, family, friends, and so much more, but if we do not, the ramifications are eternally worse.

Many of our sins are socially complex. […] In your case, your sins were a player, but the whole thing was a group effort. There was the media propaganda. There was the social contagion of the other girls at your college doing this […] In other words, there was no shortage of sin, and plenty of sin to go around. You need to acknowledge the sins of all these other people as a theological truth, but then as a practical matter you must focus on your own sin, confessing that sin as though you were the only one at fault.

This is the addressing of the uncomfortable. Our culture is pressuring young people— children— to make life-altering decisions before they are capable of understanding the life-altering nature of those decisions. Folks that detransition are often faced with their new reality that their voices are changed forever, their reproductive systems— if they didn’t have them removed— will never function properly again, and worse. We are talking about the chemical castration of children at the altar of a societal god.

But. We are individually responsible for our choices, our actions, and without euphemism: our sins. We cannot just blame our sins on others. Others very well may have pushed us there, but we are responsible. And remember, in that responsibility and repentance we acknowledge the wages of our sin (Romans 6:23) while also receiving the grace and forgiveness that only Christ can provide.