Walking the Line

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My wonderful grandpa’s birthday is today. Much of my stubbornness and compassion came from him. I talked to him on the phone earlier and shared with him the name we have chosen for our second son, Jonathan Eli. At Thanksgiving he had announced to the family, pretty much out of the blue, that he had been thinking of that name. Today when I told him that we had in fact chosen that name for our son he said, “I know. I just told my sister Ruby on the phone.” He was touched but not surprised.

Apparently he really did know. It was one of those inexplicable knowing by faith kinds of things. A measure of the movement closer to God I have seen in my grandpa’s life in very recent years. The power of God’s love has been hard at work in the lives of my mom’s family. Prayers that were prayed for decades have been coming to pass in the wonderful work of God’s mercy and grace. The culmination of a passage from the Psalms that has been really moving to me lately…

I’m finding my way down the road of right living, but how long before you show up? I’m doing the very best I can, and I’m doing it at home, where it counts. Psalm 101:2-3 MSG

My Papa has been an incredible example to me in my life. Not because of his perfection, because I have never been under such a false assumption where he was concerned. In fact, I have long since felt that his many flaws were so well known as I grew up that they always pushed me in an authentic direction. I struggled to actually be authentic much of the time, but the example was there. I never felt that he tried to be someone he wasn’t. I never felt that he pretended. He was never fake. He was always himself. And he never apologized for it, perhaps another series of traits I inherited.

Like the classic country ballad his nephew Bob helped to make famous my Papa Wootton has always Walked the Line. Not perfect, but dedicated. Dedicated to his family. Dedicated to the things that matter. When I grow up I hope I can be just like him.

Happy Birthday Papa & Happy Valentine’s Day to the rest of you.

Thanks for reading,
Nate

The 3rd Lament: God’s Great Faithfulness

When I think of Lamentations it’s not usually a go-to source for encouraging scripture. But Lamentations 3:19-24 paints an incredible word picture of the beauty of God’s love for us. I want to visit this wonderful passage over the next few days in hopes that it will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me.

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… there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. (‭Lamentations‬ ‭3‬:‭19-24‬ MSG Emphasis Added)

How great is the faithfulness of God? Have you ever considered that question? I mean, after all, what is faithfulness? It is the condition of being full of faith. An ongoing permeation of belief in something.

God has great faithfulness. God permeates faith.

After all it is by him that we believe in him. It is by his words that we have faith. It his because of his great limitless love that we are adopted in.

God’s faithfulness is not measured by moments, actions, or attempts. It is not defined by works, not even those wondrous things by which we come to him. God’s great faithfulness is measured only by him. That is to say, God is inseparable from his great faithfulness.

He will always believe. He will always be the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of the unseen. (See Hebrews 11:1) Or as one translation puts it, he is our confidence.

God’s great faithfulness is as reliable as he is. Always. He has great faith. Both in himself, and in his love for you. Yes, God’s great faithfulness means something for you. It means God always believes in the you that you could be. Because the blueprint for your potential rests in the grace of God alone.

God’s great faithfulness is pointed right at you.

The 3rd Lament: New Every Morning

When I think of Lamentations it’s not usually a go-to source for encouraging scripture. But Lamentations 3:19-24 paints an incredible word picture of the beauty of God’s love for us. I want to visit this wonderful passage over the next few days in hopes that it will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me.

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… there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. (‭Lamentations‬ ‭3‬:‭19-24‬ MSG Emphasis Added)

Every morning. That’s how often the prophet Jeremiah realized that God’s mercy rolls back around. God’s willingness to extend his love and kindness is in step with the dawn; and its always dawn somewhere.

Every morning the mercy of God is hand crafted. The creator of the periodic table preempts every element of grace you find yourself needing with the passing of each day. It’s custom. For you. For everyone. For every situation.

In the face of such terribly compassionate love and mercy, how can anyone think themselves unworthy of God’s affection. Forgiven much. Love much. (See Luke 7:36-50) That is the opportunity. That is the reality.

Custom grace. A love tailored for all humanity. That fits every individual. It’s not a bandaid for your burdens. His is a lifeline for your soul. A legendary leg up.

Maybe that’s exactly what you are needing right now? Failure has gotten old. The same tired patterns of behavior may have left you feeling a little more than broken. Well, the sun is always sweetest at dawn. Move out from the darkness of our own designs and embrace the caring nature of the Father.

Every day is a new day. A new dawn. A new chance to walk the path God has for you.

The 3rd Lament: Loyal Love

When I think of Lamentations it’s not usually a go-to source for encouraging scripture. But Lamentations 3:19-24 paints an incredible word picture of the beauty of God’s love for us. I want to visit this wonderful passage over the next few days in hopes that it will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me.

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… there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. (‭Lamentations‬ ‭3‬:‭19-24‬ MSG Emphasis Added)

Jeremiah went through a pretty horrible time. He is often called The Weeping Prophet. And his writings portray much of the anguish he must have experienced.

Like Jeremiah we ourselves face difficult things from time to time. The thing that gives me incredible hope in the love of God is the great opportunity we have in those hard moments. In difficulty we find a fight or flight scenario. We can run. Forget. Abandon. Or we can step up (or be lifted up) to be seized by the kind of certainty that can only come through a faith that has been tested and tried. Faith isn’t easy. I would submit to you that anyone saying total faith in God is easy has probably never had to live where the rubber meets the road.

This kind of fighting faith was Jeremiah’s every waking moment. Instead of throwing in the towel he went round for round. He stood toe to toe with all of the craziness happening around him. Stuff like death threats, starvation, imprisonment, and assassins. He never quit. He didn’t give up on God. Why? Why did he keep his grip on hope?

Because Jeremiah remembered the inexhaustible love of God.

Jeremiah knew that God’s love is loyal. Even when we quit God will never leave us or forsake us. (Read Dueteronomy 31:6)

Jeremiah knew that God’s love has an endless source, namely God himself. This Loyal Love is rooted in the very nature of the one who wields it. There is always more for those who go looking to find it.

Jeremiah knew that God’s love is merciful. The love of God is full of undeserved grace. That unending, unmerited, supply of affection comes to those who certainly do not deserve it. Yet it comes. God’s love is the merciful product of the God of mercy.

Jeremiah knew that God’s love couldn’t have dried up. It may have felt that way, looked that way, or seemed that way—but the prophet knew. Deep down in the Well of Living Water is an unquenchable source. The love that does not run dry is the love that defies all apparent circumstances.

Jeremiah knew this. I believe it kept him going through the most difficult times. You can be sure that God’s loyal and merciful love is in full supply for you. Today. Wherever you are. Whatever you’ve done. No matter your circumstance. Ask him for some and watch the floodgates open.

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The 3rd Lament: Hold On To Hope

When I think of Lamentations it’s not usually a go-to source for encouraging scripture. But Lamentations 3:19-24 paints an incredible word picture of the beauty of God’s love for us. I want to visit this wonderful passage over the next few days in hopes that it will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me.

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… there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope… (‭Lamentations‬ ‭3‬:‭19‬ MSG)

Remember this, there is one constant, God loves you. It helped Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet credited for penning the Book of Laments. He went through some really crazy stuff. But he held on to hope.

We go through some crazy stuff too sometimes. To others it might not seem so bad, but for the person experiencing the turmoil it’s never a fun to place to be. The wildness of the ride this life throws our way can catch us off guard. It can blast the wind from our lungs, the strength from our hearts, and the opportunity from our fingertips—but it can not change the way God feels about us.

Even our own reckless personal choices can cause tremendous pain and heartache, but they don’t affect the way God feels about us. He loves us deeply. And for those of us who choose to recognize that love for what it is, and abide in it, it is our constant.

When life gets shaky we can hold onto Him. We can hold on to hope.

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In This For Good

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They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers. (‭Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭14‬ MSG)

Commitment is crazy scarce in our culture these days. When things get rocky people run for the hills. If that sounds like you then you’re in good company.

When Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26) his disciples scattered. They just flat split. Even Peter, his best friend, sold him out, denying him when the going got tough.

If you have ever split, quit, or cut your losses—which narrows it down to just about everyone that breathes oxygen and falls under the description “human being”—then you and the disciples have a lot in common. They were quitters. But they didn’t stay quitters.

In the Book of Acts the early church historian Luke paints a vivid picture of a dedicated body of brothers whose undying devotion to the Gospel flipped the world upside down. But it’s the same guys that left Jesus high and dry in the Garden. What changed?!

They experienced the resurrected Jesus. They had quit on Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t quit on them. He walked right into the room, declared his identity, deity, and design for their lives, and charged them all with a Holy Mandate, a Great Commission.

Each of them made an about face. They went 180. They flipped the script, settled their heart’s compass on true north, and went ALL IN.

They agreed. They were in it for good. Hell or high water. Pain, persecution, and martyrdom would follow all of them. Every last one. But they agreed. They were in it for good. Because Jesus makes quitters into world changers.

If you struggle with commitment, you don’t need more guilt. You don’t need better reasons to stay in the mix. You need an encounter with the risen Jesus. Ask. He’ll help. He hasn’t quit. He’s in this for good.

I Love My Bible: Blueprints & Buzzer Beaters

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The Bible is full of a lot of cool stuff. A LOT of it can be pretty tough to wrap your mind and heart around sometimes. But it’s worth the effort to try. Why? Because the Bible is our single greatest source of information about God, and it’s His single greatest method for speaking to us.

When you need to know tax code, you get a book on tax law; when you need to learn how to potty train a puppy, you read up on dog training tips; and, when you need (which is always) to both know more about and more of God you read the Bible. But it is way more than just a book. It’s a bullseye from Heaven’s throne. It’s a guaranteed three point basket. It’s an instruction manual.

Like all instruction manuals it was written in a variety of languages. So you will have to discover the one that you best understand if you hope to put its instruction to a good use. However, if you are willing to put in the effort to figure it out you will live a life full of the timely instruction of God.

God speaks to us through His Word. The words on the pages paint a picture of an eternal drama that is forever unfolding around us. It is remarkable. And like all good instruction manuals it unfolds a blue print for the way to make things work. And the biggest truth it has to deliver is that the only way things ever truly work is when they work through God.

The Word of God, full of timeless truth, is also full of truth that sometimes arrives just on time. Sometimes we forget what the blueprints say and we, or someone else, messes up the plans for our lives. Well, God’s Word generally has something to say about that too. I often find that when I’m at my wits end is when his Word is the most personal. His Word is a blueprint for me to live and love by, but sometimes it’s also a buzzer beater that comes just when I need it most.

I Love My Bible: Why I Don’t App

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The Bible is awesome. It is insightful, inspired, and many other things—including sometimes confusing, scary, and sad. However, above all it is a collection of stories, poetry, prophecy, and correspondence that paints a picture of a singular narrative…

God’s redemptive love.

I love it. And can’t stop diving into it on a regular basis. But lately my bible reading has taken a new turn. I don’t read on any of my bible Apps anymore.

It’s not that I don’t like them. They are absolutely amazing tools. In fact, we live in an age when access to the Word of God is more abundant than ever before. Digital resources are off the charts amazing. These days I have access to more information on my iPhone than my pastor had in his entire library when I was growing up in the 90s.

But that was not always the case. There was a time when the bible didn’t exist in English. There was a time when incredibly courageous men of faith gave their very lives to ensure the bible was translated, copied, printed, and distributed. They were martyred for the Word of God.

It is an entirely personal choice that is in no way whatsoever theologically driven. I have no compulsion to push my preferences on anyone else. But I have stopped doing my daily reading through an app. I’m not knocking them. I still suggest my favorites to people. I still even use them at church or on the go.

But for my personal time with God I have elected to hold the actual book in my hands. To feel it’s leather covering and crisp pages. To write in the margins. To make notes. Outline sermons. And appreciate the effort it took a great many people, inventors, and heroes to make it available to me.

Apps are awesome, and INSANELY useful, but for me there is just something almost degrading and impersonal about reading God’s Word on the same device I use to make my grocery list or read last night’s boxing highlights.

You see, I really Love My Bible. And that’s why I don’t app anymore.

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Attitude Matters

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I Love My Bible: Attitude Matters

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I am 34. I have been reading the Bible pretty much every day for over 22 years. But I didn’t always read it the way that I read it now.

My dad is a high school art teacher—so growing up he, myself, and my kid brother all rode to and from school together every day. It was a cherished routine chocked full of memories. One of the constants from that season of life was a nearly daily stop at an automotive parts store managed by my uncle.

My brother and I would grab a stool and settle in for what was sure to be a long stop, my dad loves to talk. And my wonderful aunt who often helped around the store would inevitably strike up conversation with my brother and I. The talk almost always turned quickly to the Word of God.

“Nathan, you been reading your bible?” She would ask in her dearest friendly voice.

“Yes ma’am!” I would fire right back. But I hadn’t been. At least not like she meant. She wanted to know if I had actually been trying to read and understand it on a regular basis.

True enough I had a bible. It was an old school style King James Bible complete with all of the thee’s, thou’s, shouldests, and such. It also had a handy zipper and nifty little portrait of some Caucasian guy (presumably Christ) holding a sheep on the cover.

I would unzip it and thumb through its pages on occasion, but not with any real desire or intentionality. But my aunt kept asking, and I kept pretty much lying about it.

…until…

I started feeling bad about it. I mean even an 11 year old knows you shouldn’t lie about reading the Bible. So I stopped lying about it. My answer didn’t change. I still told my aunt that I had been reading, but from that point on it was the truth.

What began as an attempt to assuage my guilt and dodge a difficult question transformed into a daily habit which has since directed the course of my entire adult life.

The Bible is more than book (actually it’s a library.) It is bigger than the sum of our collective moral posturing. It is more powerful than the poets, prophets, statesmen, and martyrs who penned its many truths. It is not to be worshipped, though it is meant to be a spotlight that shines on the recipient of all our adoration.

And you will get out of it in direct proportion to the attitude accompanying your heart when at last you arrive at the border of its pages and paragraphs.

Because it is full of information but it also full of so much more.


More in I Love My Bible.
Why I Don’t App

Peace Out 2014

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2014 Is Over. The last year of our lives has been a roller coaster of awesome. As we get ready to ring in the New Year with family and friends I thought I’d jump on the ol’ blog to share a brief summary of some of what stuck out for the Kings over the last 12 months.

1. Life will always be crazy. Just when you think you have a handle on the wild ride and adjust to the new normal, it all changes again.

2. Enjoy the crazy life. If you don’t enjoy your crazy life, we’ll be honest with yourself, it’s the only one you have, and are ever going to have. Make the most of it. Cherish the awesome. Learn from the not-so-awesome.

3. Money is just money. Make it. Spend it. Save it. Give it. But certainly try not to love it, or even like it.

4. We are just one breath away from heaven’s gate. It’s been a long time since I was reminded of this truth in such a personal way. Make all of your breaths between this one and that one mean something special to those around you.

5. Nothing worth doing comes without work. That doesn’t mean it always has to be hard work, but chances are, if something is actually worth the attempt it will require effort, time, and maybe even a little personal sacrifice.

6. Better not bigger. You don’t necessarily need to make something bigger to feel fulfilled. Start by making it better.

7. Hard things are better with friends. Whether you’re camping out on a sidewalk at midnight outside of a Guatemalan hospital or talking the loss of a loved one through with your mentor, hard things are softened by the company of people who love you.

So long 2014. You were pretty good to us, but we are really excited about 2015.