Everlasting to Everlasting

My heart must praise the LORD! All my inmost being shouts His praises because I remember His mercy toward me.

He has forgiven my sins, healed my disease, redeemed my life, revealed Himself, and crowned me with love and compassion. He wraps me in His goodness and

in His presence is perfect peace.

He delivers the oppressed and promises justice. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love because He remembers that

I am dust.

He accepts Christ’s payment for my sins and removes the stain of my offence against Him.

His love is great for those who fear Him.

Life is short, flourishing like a flower until the wind blows it away.

But from

everlasting to everlasting

the LORD’s love is with me.

For that, I praise His name.

 

*Inspired from Psalm 103

 

When you stand for Christ, you never stand alone

The stoning of Stephen is recorded in Acts 7:54-60.  It is interesting to note that when Stephen saw Jesus, both times Jesus was standing beside God.

Other passages describe Jesus as sitting at the right hand of power (Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62) or seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 12:2) but here, when Stephen needed his Lord the most, He stands. Jesus takes a position of action.

I find this amazingly encouraging. Just think, when we need Christ the most, when we are overwhelmed, distressed, persecuted, or attacked (verbally or physically) we have this picture of Jesus on His feet and ready to act. We have this image of Jesus in a position of action.

No matter how it feels, no matter how deserted or abandoned we feel in a moment of attack – Jesus is ready and able to intervene. Jesus is ready to do whatever needs to be done to ensure the will of His father is accomplished.

Stephen died

Stephen was stoned and Stephen did die. Why? Why did Jesus stand, but not intervene?

God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. We can’t and won’t always know why he doesn’t intervene when he can. But it is interesting to note that in Acts 8:1-2, Saul had approved the stoning of Stephen.

Why does this matter? Who is this Saul?

Saul persecuted Christians. Not like we are persecuted when someone “unfriends” or “unfollows” or “hides all posts” from us on social media. Saul pursued Christ followers for the purpose of murder. Saul’s name stirred terror in the hearts of believers.

Saul approved the execution of Stephen, yet at the end of his life Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

How will it possible for this sin not to be held against them?

“If they hear and receive the good news (24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10:43), then their sins will be forgiven, and they will not have to face the final punishment for a sin standing against them.

Is Stephen’s prayer answered?

Augustine said, “The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen” (quoted in Barclay 1976:62). In fact, Saul is the one adversary named in the incident. Luke is laying the groundwork for the great victory God will win through Saul’s conversion and subsequent missionary service.” (IVP New Testament Commentaries)

*Read more about Stephen’s martyrdom here. Read more about Saul here.

God’s Plan

God DID have a plan and perhaps Stephen’s willingness to forgive in those last moments before his death haunted Saul/Paul. Maybe Stephen’s willingness to speak boldly and die for his faith lingered and tormented Saul/Paul. Only God knows how he used Stephen in Saul/Paul’s life, but we can be certain He used it because God wastes nothing.

Christ knows all the ins and outs of your ministry trials, family difficulties, personal challenges, and relationships challenges and God has a plan for you.

I pray that this image of your Saviour standing, this picture of Jesus taking a position of action when Stephen needed him the most, will bring you immense comfort and courage to endure and accomplish what God has called you to do.

Never forget that you never stand alone when you stand for Christ.

Blazing Love

The black night gives way to the burning force edging over the horizon. Light floods the surface of the earth. You can’t miss it. You can’t deny it. It just is. Everyday

Love gently eases over the edge, melting, warming, inviting you to surrender to the blaze of newness. A new day brings new growth. It requests surrender. It demands I yield to Light and welcome Him into the darkest corners of my heart. I throw back the shutters and tilt my face upwards into the heated love of the Son.

He melts my hardness; He warms the cold and breathes new life into this tired body. This births prayer. Prayer dependent upon the Light.

O God, my perfect and good Father, may you continue to develop Godly character in me, a humble heart, and a tender spirit. May life’s difficulties produce growth, a deeper dependence on You, a giving over of my will and desire to Yours.

May the lost dream make way for a new dream. A dream that is more than I could ask for or imagine. I plan my steps, but yield the path to You, O Lord. You determine my way.

*from the archives

The Man Cold

We are both sick. Mom and Dad are out for the count the same week we demolished the kitchen. The kids are in charge and, in a poetic way, the house resembles how we feel: chaotic and unwell.

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You’d think being in the midst of a major renovation would make this the worst time to be sick, but it’s not. Usually, I feel tremendous guilt for staying in bed, for not cooking dinner, for not keeping up with the cleaning or laundry. Usually, I feel a bit jealous of my husband who seems to be able to take a sick day and really rest from his duties.

But this time it’s different. There is no guilt about dinner because I have no kitchen in which to cook dinner. There is no guilt about letting the kids watch a bunch of T.V. because half of the house is off limits. There is no guilt about cleaning when everything looks temporarily like this.

I found a few glorious days of guilt free rest tucked snugly into bed. It’s given me time to ponder the foolish things I’ve done in the past while sick.

I’ve spread germs further into the community by insisting on keeping every appointment while sick. I’ve taken longer to recover because I’ve failed to get the rest my body needs. I’ve fed a martyr-complex wrongly believing myself to be indispensable.

Perhaps the men have had it right all along? Perhaps men know something that us women have yet to understand: the world does not stop spinning because we take a sick day. Perhaps the man-cold (so commonly mocked by us ladies) is really wisdom in action?

Our house hasn’t been in this much chaos since we knocked down all the interior walls one Easter weekend. The kids have enjoyed more electronic entertainment than usual but it’s not going to kill them. Friends have brought meals and Sobey’s ready made dinners have filled in the gaps. The contractor has kept the renovation on schedule and I haven’t cleaned anything in seven days. Yup, seven days.

And you know what? It’s okay. I’m going back to bed.

 

Why now just might be the most wonderful time of the year

News Year Day is my day to pop in the earbuds and crank the worship tunes. I tuck the holiday glitter and noise into their pre-Christmas storage bins for approximately 345 days of slumber.  It’s a calming exhalation of clear surfaces and bare walls. And I don’t stop there. Each room gets a January clean sweep and bags and bags and bags of goods head off to the second hand store.

It’s such a contrast to that pre-Christmas feeling. You know, the feeling of vibrating energy and anticipation reflected in the non-stop action of the house. Everywhere we look something or someone is proclaiming it is almost herethe birth of our Saviour! The notes of this concerto increase in intensity as we celebrate years of prophecy proven true. He is here! He has come for us! I love EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE.

Then, one day, commercialism tells us it is over. Commercialism tells us to start preparing for the next holiday. But as I look around my unstuffed house, the lilting notes of Christmas linger. This song is less intense than the holiday jingles. This score of unknown length continues to play in the days after. It plays after we celebrate the birth, after we remember the death, and after we praise God for the resurrection. This gospel-living refrain is the soundtrack behind every normal and gloriously plain post-holiday moment.

This gentle tune slowly builds toward the moment when Christ returns for his own. Could today be the day? Now would be a most wonderful time to be gathered into the clouds with the Lord. I can almost hear the angels singing…

Yes, Christmas is over. But one day, perhaps on an ordinary day much like today, we will have the most wonderful day EVER. Christ is coming back for those waiting and living for Him, saturating each ordinary moment with gospel truth.

Until then, let our song of praise rise to heaven. O come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

How a Weary Soul Rejoices

Maybe it is the busyness leading to Christmas: parties, gatherings, rich food and late nights. Maybe it is the additional responsibilities: tree decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, budgeting, and cleaning. Maybe you are like me and you feel a little bit weary.

The pace this life requires, the pace this season requires, is not one maintainable through fleshly strength. Maybe you feel a bit of that weight yourself. Maybe verses like Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good…”press the air from your lungs. You just can’t do one more thing because you are weary right through to the bones.

Christmas is for the broken and weary

God’s call on us to sacrifice self in service to others is costly. It stands out in sharp contrast to the perfect holiday pictures of perfect smiling families with perfect yearly reviews flooding your mailboxes. But Christmas isn’t about us making the hard seem jolly and bright.

Christmas is for the brokenhearted. It is for those with shredded insides. It is for those missing loved ones. It is for the imperfect who need Perfection Personified to exchange the weary weight into an easy and light burden.

God knows about weary soul-crushing brokenness. For us to find a way through, He had to take on our weight of sin. That means that Christmas is our way through. Christmas makes a way out from under the heap of wrath poured onto all sinners and Christmas proves that God knows about our wearisome need.

God rips open the heavens and the angels proclaim that salvation has come. The flesh wrapped Deity came to bear the heaps of wrath suffocating you and me. He came to piece our brokenness back together with His perfection.

The easy and light gift of Christmas

Matthew 11:28-30English Standard Version (ESV)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We can surrender our heavy yoke of slavery and receive Christ’s lighter yoke of worship. We trade our heavy yoke of pursuing faith by works and take His lighter yoke of meekness and surrender. “It is the proud heart that tires of doing good if it finds its labor not appreciated; but the brave, meek spirit finds the yoke to be easy” (C.H. Spurgeon).

Maybe that is why Paul writes at the end of Galatians 5, if we live by the Spirit let us also walk (keep in step) by the Spirit – which is living and walking empowered by the Spirit. Maybe that is why Paul first writes of the power to live in the Spirit before he writes about doing good – especially “to those who are of the household of faith.”

I cannot live out this life on my own strength, but God has provided his strength through the power of his Spirit. This is how we can “not grow weary of doing good.”

Christ has come and this weary soul rejoices. The weighty pressure for the perfect Christmas, the perfect tree, house, photograph and gift is exchanged for the easy and light burden. This burden tells me none of the glitz and glamour of the holiday matters as much as the perfect lamb in the manger.

Stop and Breathe

Stop wrapping, baking, cooking, and cleaning and do some good for those in the household of faith. Pray for your brothers and sisters in the faith. Pray for your pastors and leaders and their families. Pray for your heart to be satisfied in Jesus. Pray for your children to know contentment and know the forgiveness of sins. Pray for the world to pause the parade of holiday events and kneel at the manger and follow that baby’s footsteps to the crosswhere a weary world can finally lay its burden down.

I pray your weary soul will repent, turn to Christ, and take up His yoke, rejoicing with Him. This Christmas, may your burdens be easy and light.

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The Miracle Isn’t on 34th Street

It’s a holiday classic. The story begins at the Macy’s Christmas Parade and Susan, a six-year-old skeptic, watches from above. She doesn’t have faith in things she can’t see.

We are much like Susan.

Kris Kringle, a friendly and impressive department store Santa Claus, eventually wins Susan’s heart. Sadly, her enchantment fades when Kringle fails to deliver her heart’s desire.

How quickly does our devotion fade when God fails to deliver what we desire?

In the movie’s climactic final scene, Kris leads the family to Susan’s gift and she eventually believes.

Our happily-ever-after isn’t as neat and tidy as that Hollywood classic because our miracle doesn’t involve God granting every wish like a cosmic Santa. Our happily-ever-after comes at great expense, a cost our Lord willingly paid, accomplishing the greatest miracle.

The Real Miracle

When God first came to His people, no parades were held in His honour. He quietly slipped into human skin one star filled night. God peeled back the heavens and the angels declared His glorious birth. A holy, all powerful, uncontainable God allowed Himself to be temporarily contained within human skin. He gave His life for ours and ascended into Heaven so the one greater then him could reside inside human hearts. This miracle didn’t happen for one girl on 34th Street. It happens inside all who believe.

Transformed Heart

Miracle on 34th Street is quaint, funny, and it warms my heart. But the real Christmas miracle doesn’t simply warm my heart, it transforms it. It turns it from a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

May your Christmas and mine never be reduced to a jolly old man who grants every desire. May it always be centred on a Sovereign God who knows ours desires and gives far more than we can ask or imagine. Perhaps not what we wish, but always what we need.

This year, I’ll grab my warm afghan and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. I’ll settle down in front of the fire and watch Miracle on 34th Street. But not until after I’ve pondered, praised, gave thanks and rejoiced over the real miracle—Christ with Us.