Goodbye, my Sparrow

Well, the time has come… the Loved Sparrow has been replaced. I now have a new site called The Contrary Calling. There’s not much there yet since I just started it, but I hope you’ll check it out! 🙂 http://thecontrarycalling.com/

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“I know you can… But even if you don’t”

“Even If” by MercyMe is, in my opinion, a very refreshing song that stands out from the rest of the latest generic Christian music. This song about pain acknowledges that God is able to heal, but he deserves praise even when he doesn’t take away the pain. Here’s the video and here’s the “story behind the song” video. (Although, I must admit, the guys are looking a bit old :P)

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t
It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now

But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may

‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

 

Finding friendship in unlikely places

Fall, 2014, was when I said goodbye to my friends and hello to loneliness. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, my family left the church that we had been a part of ever since I was in first grade. From then on, I’ve silently observed the friendships of others as I myself stood on the sidelines.

I wasn’t completely alone, though. For the 2015-2016 school year, I used an online school program through which I made some pretty great friends. It’s taken me a long time to acknowledge those relationships as friendships since I can’t actually be with those people or see them face to face. But, based on my observations of “real” friendships, I prefer mine.

You see, a friend isn’t just someone you hang out with. Friends care about each other. Friends are willing to do what is best for each other even if it hurts. Friends have real conversations. Friends know each other, and I mean they really know each other, not just the silly things like what ice cream flavors they like, but who they are as individuals. Friends celebrate each other’s accomplishments and sympathize with each other’s pain. Friends are the people you can rant to and know that they’ll calmly listen. Friends are the people who give you wise advice. Friends are the people with whom you can learn and grow.

Take this duck, for example. We all need this duck in our lives.

That’s the kind of friends I’ve found. While it hurts sometimes to be reminded that my friends will never actually be there when I need a shoulder to cry on, and while I may often be jealous of the people I know who are constantly talking about their sleepovers, parties, and whatnot, when it comes down to it, my internet friends are worth much more to me than all the shallow friendships in the world.

Try to find friends like that. Try to be a friend like that. I don’t care whether your friends are people you know in “real life” or people you met through online school or a blog or whatever. If you have that kind of friendship, treasure it and nurture it. It is a rare jewel. Don’t take it for granted. And if you don’t, try to find somebody that’s lonely, and be that friend to them.

The true story of a king who sacrificed himself for a bunch of worms

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Ok, so you’ve probably heard at least the first part of those verses a million times. I want you to read it again, but this time, think about what the author is trying to say.

When I read these verses, I notice one thing in particular. Just as this whole book of Ephesians has been doing, these verses show us how great and powerful and sovereign God is, and they ought to humble us. This is not our doing, it is the gift of God. It is not the result of anything we have done, or else we would be proud of it.

The gospel is not something for us to be proud of. The gospel tells us that God is in control over all the universe and that he is holy, righteous and just. The gospel tells us that we are basically no better than filthy little worms in God’s sight because we have sinned, we have rebelled against him and deserve his wrath. Yet God, that we might praise him for his kindness and grace to us, showed us compassion and sent his own son to die the death of a criminal to offer us life.

Really, my brothers and sisters? Don’t we know better than this? Let us boast only in the cross of Christ. The King of eternity died that the worms might live! We are the worms, so why do we pretend we are kings? The worms need not be proud of their filth. They did not save themselves; they could not save themselves.

For by grace, you have been saved.

Our salvation comes from his grace. That undeserved favor that he shows to us. By this unfathomable grace, we filthy worms are redeemed.

You have been saved through faith.

“But not everyone is saved!” you may say. Well, yes, that is true. Because there’s another component: faith. In order to be saved by that grace, we must place our full trust and confidence in Christ. (That’s literally what faith means if you look it up in the dictionary.) We are not saved through our own works.

We are saved by putting our lives in God’s hands, though they really were there all along; by trusting that he came to the earth as a human yet fully God, that he lived a perfect life, died in our place, paid the price for our sin, and came back to life to prove that one day, though we too will die, we will also be raised back to life and we will live eternally with God in paradise and praise him for saving the wretched worms. And what a glorious gift it is.  

But the story doesn’t end there.

You see, we worms aren’t worms anymore. We’re children of God, and we have a mission. Though our works can’t save us, God wants us to do good works! We are God’s creation, and he created us to do good works. Verse ten even tells us that he prepared those things for us to do so that we would do them.

What are good works? Doing good things and exemplifying the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

Why do we do them? Because the king saved the worms, so the worms should want to live to praise him; doing good things, showing kindness and patience and all that other stuff is how they can express their gratitude and love for the God who saved them.

Application

Something we talked about last night at my youth group is how we should never “get over” the gospel. You see, the gospel isn’t just the starting point of your life as a Christian. It’s not just a quick fix.
The gospel is our life support. It must be the central point of our lives because we cannot live spiritually without it.

-Always stand in awe
We should never stop being amazed at what God has done. Sometimes, it’s hard to care. Sometimes, you’re emotionally just wiped out and you don’t feel the warm fuzzies or the “wow” feeling when you look at the gospel. But, you know, it’s not just about emotion. It’s not about how you “feel”. My intention isn’t for you to go cry because you’re an awful worm, whether or not that’s an appropriate response. What I’m asking you (and myself) to do is to regularly reflect on what God has done and to let it impact your life.


-Remind yourself 
Try making analogies like the worm and the King if that helps you think about the meaning behind it. Maybe you can listen to music that reminds you of the gospel. Studying your Bible in the mornings is always a good idea. But however you remind yourself of the gospel, you need to act upon it. When you recognize what God has done, your life should be changed as a result.


-Live as one who has been forgiven
We talked about how you’re made to do good works. So do them. I shouldn’t need to tell you all the different ways you can do good things. Whatever you do, you should be able to say, “I’m doing this because of what God has done for me.” When you show love to the people you don’t want to love, you should be able to say, “I’m loving this person because God has loved me.”  Anything good in us exists because of the grace of God. We love others and do good because God has taken these worms and turned them into something much more glorious.


-This is the story, this is our mission
We must understand that, from the very beginning, we were made in God’s image to reflect his glory. Yet, when we rebelled against God and rejected him, we defiled ourselves. We are the ones who brought ourselves to that worm-like state. The beauty of the gospel is that when we utterly ruined ourselves, God offered to fix us. He has restored us to the full potential of what he created us to be. We are no longer worms. We are his children, and our purpose is to magnify our Father. This is the essence of the Christian life; this our mission.



How do you see the world?

“Life is what you choose it to be”,
No, not in all cases, you surely must see.

Can you take a sour berry,

and make the very same berry sweet?

I surely can not and neither can you,

Unless with the help of some sugar cubes!

Just as surely as I cannot change

The time of day at which it shall rain,

I cannot change the circumstances

With which God has chosen to surround me.

There is something yet that I can do,
A power I hold, and so can you!

A power of strong fortitude-

This power is called gratitude.

This power changes how I see,

For it maintains joy in the little things.

Gratitude, what a mighty weapon,

Capable of changing one’s perception,

Dispelling dissatisfaction and complaints,

Even when one’s joy is distant and faint.

A change of view is all it takes,
To start a habit of giving thanks.

Modern music with a classical touch (AKA shortest blog post ever…)

Patrick Laird, a cellist from the Eastman School of Music, and his pianist wife Marnie who attended Juliard, together comprise Brooklyn Duo, covering pop songs on their piano and cello. They have collaborated with famous chamber groups and quartets for many of their songs, one of which was recorded at Carnegie Hall. Similar in style to The Piano Guys, Brooklyn Duo makes good music to study to, or for those of us who sit in amazement at other people’s musical performance, that’s an option to. I can’t discuss the content of their music since it doesn’t have lyrics, but the musical aspect is wonderful! Here’s their Youtube Channel if you wanna check them out (which you should!) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk_9hHaw0n1Vbbld6cXyh6A

A song about bones?


Singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle has sung all her life. Her mother called their home a music box, because Lauren was always singing. In 2010 and 2012, she was a contestant on American Idol. Though the fame of Hollywood might could have been hers, she chose a different path and ended up joining Centricity Music, a major Christian record label.

Lauren’s most recent hit is entitled “Come Alive” (AKA “Dry Bones”). My initial thought when I first heard this song was something along the lines of, “What Christian artist sings about a passage in the minor prophets?” Yes, this song is based off of Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37 of the book of the Bible which bears his name. Parts of the song are a bit vague; other parts wouldn’t be fully understood without a previous understanding of the passage from which they come. Overall, though breaking the mold, Come Alive has been a huge hit, making it to the top of the charts for Christian music.

Because of the vagueness, it may take a bit of effort to truly “get” the meaning behind each line. The main theme, however, is not too hard to grasp: As we “call out” to lost souls, God causes their hearts to be receptive and draws those souls to him; thus the spiritually dead receive spiritual life. The song is a prayer that God would save the people with whom we are sharing the gospel and for whom we are praying.

You can hear Lauren Daigle and Michael Farren explain their inspiration for this song right here.

A word to the weary…

Do you ever feel useless, a failure? Have you ever wondered if there’s any reason left to live? As someone who has experienced those things, let me show  you some hope in the truth. I can’t promise the truth will always make you feel warm and happy, nor will it solve all your problems; but perhaps it can give you a glimmer of hope and encouragement.


You are here for a reason.

There may be days you don’t want to “do life” and you just want to give up. Why are we here anyway? What good could we possibly do in this messed up world? Friend, you are here for a reason. God has a plan for your life.

If there were truly no purpose for your existence, no good you could do, no reason for you to keep on going, then you wouldn’t be here. But you are.

Your heart is beating, your lungs are breathing, and you are alive. Every beat of your heart and every breath you take is because God is sustaining you, and God always has a purpose in what he does.

“In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4b-6

 

Keep on fighting.

I know it’s hard. At times, you may be completely overwhelmed by  frustration and despair. It may be so tempting to climb back under the covers and never get out of bed in the morning. You know all the things you should be doing, but you just can’t seem to pick yourself up and get with the program. Yet no matter how hard it is, you must keep fighting. You must decide every day that you are going to live for Christ no matter what. You are going to get out of bed every morning because you are not alone; because no matter how hard it may seem, He will give you strength to face each day if you ask Him.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” Isaiah 40:28-29



Rest in his care.

Cast your burdens on Jesus; Talk to Him about it. He’ll listen to your cries. He is able to sympathize with your weaknesses as He Himself suffered, that He might be the propitiation for your sins (Heb. 2:17). Come to Him, and He has promised to give you rest (Matt. 11:28-30). He may not take away all your problems, but He will help you to bear them. Acknowledge your dependence upon Him, and ask for His help.

God’s love for you is constant regardless of whether or not you see it; His grace abounds freely.

 

Look to the hope of the future.

This world is not our home. We have a greater hope: that of Zion, God’s future kingdom. Jesus purchased our citizenship by His own blood. Zion shall be a place of great joy and rejoicing where we will be happy with our Lord and Savior for the rest of eternity.

“Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.” Isaiah 60:18-21

 

Remember your purpose.

We exist to bring glory to God. As the Westminster Catechism states: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. It glorifies God when we choose to get up and face the day rather than apathetically lying in bed all morning. It pleases Him when we intentionally observe the beauty of His creation and the goodness of His character, and thank Him for it rather than wallowing in a state of despair.



Satan wants us to give in to apathy and desperation. He is the ruler of a kingdom of darkness, from which God has rescued us. But as Children of the Light, our job is to magnify Christ, not succumb to the darkness we’ve been saved from.


We were made for more.


We are children of God, chosen before the foundation of time to be adopted as sons and daughters, that we might magnify the glory of our Father.
Giving into the darkness and pain is not the only option. No matter how impossible it may seem, you can keep on fighting, and live to bring hope to others as you glorify God.

Two of my most frequently played songs

Though I love too many songs to pick favorites, Though You Slay Me by Shane & Shane is especially touching. The music itself is beautiful, but the words based off of the first part of Job 13:15 are even more beautiful. Through this song, the author has painted a picture of what it looks like to trust God in the midst of suffering. To hear the story behind the song, click here

With less of an acoustic sound, Tenth Avenue North’s song Control is also pretty high up on my charts. Control puts us into perspective as it reminds us of God’s sovereignty and providence, and how greatly we don’t deserve his favor. You can watch lead singer Mike Donehey’s “video journal” here. I will warn you, though, that I personally did not agree with everything that he said in that video, and liked the song better before I heard his perspective. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, but I believe very strongly that Christians in the typical American church culture need to stop focusing so much about themselves and more about God, especially in what is considered Christian music. I would rather see this song as one about acknowledging God’s control over our lives than to see it as another song about how we are so awesome because God loves us no matter how rotten we are. Yeah, it’s great that God loves us, but could wesing about some other aspects of his character too, like sovereignty, providence, justice, and holiness? Anyway, regardless of the back story, I’d encourage you to add this one to your playlist.