Joy: Jesus’ Plan for Us Together, Before Creation

Joy in the Journey - Emboidery PandaSo where’s joy to be found if today is mixed with soul numbing routine, character testing, and the uncertainty of confusion and conflict? For me, greater joy is not found in the absence of those things, but in recognizing that I have the opportunity to walk with Jesus through them in fellowship with Him.

Charles H. Spurgeon’s “Tested and Battered” devotional on Job 14:14 caught my attention recently. He comments on several reasons for being joyful in our earthly life which usually includes suffering of mind and body, and testing of character. But the one of Spurgeon’s list that got me thinking again that everything on the path of obedience following Jesus Christ is meaningful is this one:

“We would not have full fellowship with Christ if we did not sojourn for a while below, for he was baptized with the baptism of suffering among men, and we must be baptized with the same if we would share his kingdom. Fellowship with Christ is so honorable that sorest sorrow is a light price by which to procure it.”

Phil 3-10 agodman_comThese comments by Spurgeon seem to turn on its head the notion that the only reason Christ entered our world is to save you and me from suffering and death. Just as Christ created our world and mankind for fellowship with him (with who he is in his heart of hearts), and just as he planned and spoke into being a man and woman whose human nature was fitted to the one he would want to embrace for himself, so now, as we live out our lives on an earthly plane, we live them out as he chose to live it himself (in the only way he could live it given who he is in his basic nature as the Son of God). His plan, or design, for our life preceded the actual execution of the plan in the creation moment. And that plan arose out of who he is personally, and what he could choose to experience himself. There is such Glory that we share in this that it’s hard to put it in words (Psalm 8)!

Colossians 1 16 pinterestYes, as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Jesus did become poor for our sake that we might become rich. It is proper to draw principles for living from such mercy and grace. But, to draw the greatest joy from that truth, we must come to realize that it was not just for my sake or your sake. Christ’s choice to live among us was clearly also and primarily so for his own sake, or his glory in other words – that he might fulfill the creation purpose he designed into everything (see Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:4-12 and Colossians 1:13-24).

Yes, Spurgeon is right. We would not have full fellowship with Christ if we did not sojourn for awhile below. I for one find great joy in knowing that I have the privilege of sojourning here as he himself once chose to sojourn.

To enjoy the entire devotional referenced above, go to the following link:

Further teaching to inspire confidence in what God is doing with us today…

“Always guard against self-chosen service for God. Self-sacrifice may be a disease that impairs your service. If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it. But never decide the place of your own martyrdom, as if to say, ‘I will only go to there, but no farther.’” – Oswald Chambers [From <> ]

“Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful.  Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen. When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say ‘That’s meaningless!’ It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and care for.” ― John Piper [From “Though You Slay Me” – Shane & Shane featuring John Piper |]


Did Jesus ever have a head cold?

Paleo-Chicken-Soup-Recipe-2 Living Well Mom

We don’t know if Mary ever served chicken soup to Jesus.

And so I was wondering this morning how much He could relate to my dripping sinuses and chest congestion. I wondered why He would protect us throughout the winter from colds (which in Julia’s case with the IPF is a huge blessing), but then now in the spring He would let it take away this weekend from us. We had opportunities to serve our church family and our immediate family, and they’ve all been put aside. In addition, there’s little energy to tackle home projects. So what’s up?

I remember that He is here now in me, experiencing this cold. When I pray that it be taken away, and it isn’t, I remember Jesus in me is choosing to bear it for this time. What are His purposes in this? For one thing, I’m sure He isn’t wanting to go with me into discouragement or grumpiness. That’s not where He goes in the midst of a cold! I’m also sure He is showing me again how much greater is fellowship with Him than the temporary misery of one weekend “lost.”

soup vzxfunnynimatedgif_blogspotIs it too bold of me to say, “I don’t know if He had a cold when He walked this earth, but today, in me, He’s got a whopper!”? That statement seems to resonate with the following scripture passage, and so I’m drinking deeply of the best kind of chicken soup to be had – chicken soup for the soul.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies….So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18 ESV)

Dare To Be That Daniel

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

Who would not want to be like the biblical hero Daniel?

Most of us dream of waking up some day and being like the golden boy of ancient times. Daniel was physically handsome and strong, emotionally stable, socially poised, and mentally quick. He was spiritually gifted and a persuasive speaker. He was able to manage people, affairs of state, his home life, and still remain regular and passionate in his devotional life before the Lord. Daniel rose to the top in the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar and then stayed near the top under succeeding rulers. He seems to have been a golden boy who had everything going for him in terms of his gifting, position, and prestige.

However, did any of the things mentioned above get him through the tough times? Ezekiel mentions him along with Noah and Job as one who remained righteous while going through testing (Ezekiel 14:12-23). How tough could it be for this golden boy of ancient times?

To begin with, we should not forget that Daniel had been exiled from his homeland and family in Judah as a teenager. He was taken by force to serve in the emperor’s court. From the beginning of his Babylonian life, he faced constant temptation and pressure to worship the idols and culture of Babylon. In government service, he faced a lifetime of opposition and hatred from fellow government officials and national religious leaders. He constantly had to adapt his language and methods through the turmoil and uncertainty that comes with changes in administration of empires. And yes, he was thrown into a den of lions! So much for a golden existence for our golden boy! And so much for us wanting to be like him.

Daniel in Lions DenThe amazing thing is that it was not Daniel’s good looks, strong body, his quick mind, or his prominence in government that rescued him in, and out of the den of lions. It was God Himself delighting to walk with him, uniting His power and wisdom to the strength of Daniel’s moral convictions. The New Testament book of Hebrews mentions Daniel among people of living, overcoming faith. His life was built upon a solid foundation of trust in the one true and living God walking with him.

Daniel did not deserve or make his own way. God is the one who gives or withholds favor to us in the physical, mental, and social gifts he bestows. And, no matter what, he is to be praised and worshipped. Daniel was not a preacher or a priest, but he was willing to say to his godless contemporaries, “When it comes to matters of the heart, and God’s place in my heart, I will not be moved. I cannot go where you want me to go.”

On the outside, Daniel was a handsome, powerful, favored Babylonian administrator. On the inside, he was a humble servant of Yahweh that used the gifts God had given him to step bravely into the opportunities open before him. Let us dare to be that Daniel!

A classic hymn I enjoyed singing as a boy…

Dare to Be a Daniel | Philip P. Bliss, 1873 | © Public Domain

Standing by a purpose true, / Heeding God’s command, / Honor them, the faithful few! / All hail to Daniel’s band!

Refrain: Dare to be a Daniel, / Dare to stand alone! / Dare to have a purpose firm! / Dare to make it known.

Many mighty men are lost, / Daring not to stand, / Who for God had been a host / By joining Daniel’s band.

Many giants, great and tall, / Stalking through the land, / Headlong to the earth would fall, / If met by Daniel’s band.

Hold the Gospel banner high! / On to vict’ry grand! / Satan and his hosts defy, / And shout for Daniel’s band.

From <>

Daniel 2:19-23 (NIV)

During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

When is Enough Enough?

Seven years ago became a two-girl family. No, we hadn’t had a baby—that would have taken a class “A” miracle! Missionary friends sent us their daughter in 2009 when she became college age. Then in 2011 a second missionary family, who are great friends and live out of the country, sent their oldest daughter to live with us. We became something we never imagined—a haven for young adults who were formerly ex-patriots.

Our two girls could not have lived in countries that were more different. Emily came from Mongolia, a dry, barren part of the world that spends nine months of the year below zero and where the main diet is meat and root vegetables. The other girl, Sarah, lived in a poor fishing village in Mexico, two blocks from a beautiful beach in that lush, semi-tropical country where seventy-five degrees is considered really cold and the diet consists of a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables but very little meat. One thing they both have in common is a familiarity with a large variety of people and living conditions. Needless to say, there was a never-ending list of topics for conversations at our home.

One thing that experiencing other cultures adds to your life is an appreciation for the little things we are blessed to have here in the United States. Sarah speaks of putting an electric rod in a bucket of water to heat it up and then using the heated water for showering. Emily talks of how she enjoyed going to their outhouse on forty-below-zero mornings just as the sun was coming up and being amazed at the glorious colors of the sunrise. Their shared bathroom at our home may have had the most unusual green fixtures ever seen, but at least they functioned in the normal American way. There wasn’t, however, the sound of the surf or a view of the sky.

Somewhere along the way, Americans have come to believe that the way things happen in the United States is normal. We consider our mere existence as being enough to make us deserve comfort and ease. Too many Americans function as if the world owes us something. Fortunately, most of the world cares nothing about our petty demands. Millions of people accept abject poverty as a way of life, working together as communities to help each other through the difficult circumstances around them. Much of the world scrubs their clothes in rivers, digs trenches for latrines, and cooks their food over open fires. The idea of a bedroom for each child is unheard of in most cultures. Many of the rooms in my house are larger than the average home for much of the world. People are too busy making a life for their families to complain or even contemplate that there could be a different way to live.

When is enough enough? The idea of contentment is becoming a foreign concept to people in our country. Instead of being thankful for the blessings we have, we protest that we can’t have it all. After all, we deserve it. We are Americans.
As I listened to our girls talk with delight about the places where they grew up, I realized their fond memories were not about things they had but about the people who surrounded them. Emily enjoyed putting on plays with friends and having deep conversations with neighbors. Speaking of cooking together as a community and freely dropping into each other’s homes makes Sarah’s eyes sparkle. The joy of working together to accomplish a task and sharing resources so the entire community could celebrate together are highlights of their lives. There is no talk of personal rights or accumulation of “stuff”. The joy of their lives are more basic. It’s all about family and friends.

I may have been the “mom” of the family, but I had much to learn from our “daughters.” Traveling into other cultures is not new to me, but I must confess that a public water closet in Evion, France that was a simply a hole in a concrete floor was way beyond my comfort zone. But as we lived and worked together, my list of basics shrank and my “Dream List” came to contain more relationship goals than physical stuff. Sharing our home for a few years was very good for me.

Julia, Do You Love Me?

This morning I read again the story of Jesus meeting His disciples at the sea shore after His resurrection and how He spoke to Peter, asking him three times if Peter loved him.(John 21) How those questions must have tugged at Peter’s heart knowing, that just days before, he had forcefully denied that he even knew Jesus. Jesus was so tender with Peter, asking him if he loved Him and then giving him the task of feeding His sheep. As I read the story, my heart once again felt Jesus asking me those same questions, “Julia, do you love Me?”

The word Jesus used for love was the Greek word agapaō. When I typed the word in my prayer this morning (I usually write out my prayers to God.) I typed “agape”. The Thesaurus told me that the word means open, astonished, amazed, openmouthed, surprised, shocked, and agog. Those words seem to fit the kind of love I have for God. I am often amazed and surprised by how He loves me and how He works in my life. Yet Jesus wasn’t asking Peter, and He is not asking me if I am amazed by Him, He is asking if I love Him with total commitment and devotion.

Over the years I have struggled to apply the word love to my life. I am not a people person. I have lived my life surrounded by people, interacting daily with them, teaching and leading them. I am energized by many of those interactions but also drained by some. I don’t naturally enjoy being around others. I would say I am an introvert who has lived her life as an extrovert. Many times I have said I don’t like people in general. That struggle has even worked its way into my relationship with God. Do I love people as God asks me to love them? Do I obey the great commandment and love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?

When I attended Grace University we had assigned seats for chapel. I sat next to a very strange guy who one day wrote the same sentence over and over in his notebook. That sentence was, “Love is the feeling that we feel when we feel a feeling that we’ve never felt before.” My problem has been that I have looked at love as a feeling, an emotion or some sentimental, unexplainable emotion as portrayed in a Hallmark movie or a chick flick. After examining the word over the years, my conclusion is that it is not so much about emotion as about exactly what Jesus asked Peter. “Do you love Me with total commitment and devotion?

After explaining to a friend about my struggle with loving people, he asked me a question that has helped me tremendously. He asked, “Julia, when people leave being with you, do they feel that you love them?” I had to answer yes, because many people have thanked me for loving them. As I thought about that question, I realized that love is action. It is caring, listening, making time for people much more than an emotion. It is an attitude that lets others know they are important to you, that you have their back. It is being committed to helping, sharing, or teaching so that the other person’s life is made better. It is devoting your life to others.

As I think about God asking me if I love Him, I realize that I do. I am completely committed to hearing Him, following Him, obeying Him. I am devoted to God and would never think of giving up on Him. He is the most important person in my life. And with that realization, I also understand that I really do love many people. I am committed to being their friend, willing to do whatever I can to help them work out their problems, grow in their knowledge of God, or simply enjoy sharing life with them.
So as I think about an answer to the questioning of Jesus, my answer is yes.

How God’s omnipresence changes prayer

Prayer makes sense only if it is a tangible expression of confidence in God’s immediate presence to us.

How does the invisible God help us to apprehend Him in faith, so that our hearts are reassured He is with us and cares for us? We want to pray in love, faith and humble obedience, not wavering doubt, but how can we when it seems all we are doing is voicing personal desires or thoughts about God? Heart-felt, faith-filled, humble prayer in itself is a key to answering these questions.

Ps 139 7_8God is omnipresent. He is everywhere at the same time, and one of the ways He manifests His omnipresence to us is through our prayers.

The Scripture provides abundant evidence for this, but so does a clear understanding of the difference in nature between the Creator and the created. No human being (deceased or otherwise), angel, or demon is everywhere at the same time. Only God, our Creator, is omnipresent. If you or I have thoughts of our deceased parents or grandparents, or want to say something to them, we cannot contact them directly.  They are in a place far removed from us, and we cannot reach them by memories, thoughts, or “prayers.”  The same is true of the saints, and the mother of Jesus.

The only invisible person we can be confident knows our thoughts and innermost desires, that hears our words, and feels our love is God Himself. When the Bible speaks of God drawing near in our prayers, it is plainly saying that as we pray, an assurance arises in our hearts, or peace settles over our minds in the firm belief that He is indeed present, and attending to our concerns.

So, let us rely on God’s ever-present Spirit, crafting words of faith for our prayers, turning from sin and relying fully on Jesus’s blood and righteousness.  We then have every reason to believe that God is hearing our prayers and the prayer itself becomes evidence He is here.

The Psalmist declares that God inhabits the praises of his people. He also speaks of God holding their tears in his bottle. His word says that he never forsakes us and leaves us. And even if I don’t have a spoken prayer but a groaning in my spirit, even then God is drawing here. Praise the Lord!

“Lord Jesus, thank you for being here this morning in answer to prayer.  Thank you that this walk of prayer reminds me that you are here with me.  Oh my soul, take your rest in the ever-present God!”

Key references for further study on prayer giving evidence of God’s presence: Psalm 56:8-13; 139:7-10; John 15:5,12-17; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Peter 5:6-7; James 1:5-8; 4:2-3, 6-7

Key references for further study on God’s omnipresence: Job 34:21; Psalm 32:8; 113:4-6; 139:3,5, 7-10; Proverbs 15:3; 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 57:15; 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Matthew 6:6; 18:20; Acts 17:24, 27; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 4:12

Why the forever pardoned seek daily forgiveness

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.” [“Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. © 2003, Good News Publishers]

That may resolve quite nicely the tension followers of Christ sometimes feel between His words in the Gospels and the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans.

Paul wrote, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NIV),” but Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15 NIV).” Paul wrote in the context of praying in the Spirit, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us (Romans 8:31 NIV)?” However, Jesus said, “when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25 NIV).”

Are there two kinds of situations in which we seek God’s forgiveness?

It may not be helpful to create such a distinction, but the reality of life as a believer and the testimony of the Scriptures is that there is a distinction to be made between two different persons seeking God’s forgiveness – between the “culprit” and the “child.”

  1. The culprit seeks a forgiveness that is judicial – a pardon for sin that will free him from the sentence of death and eternal separation from God.

Slide3God’s forgiveness because of Christ’s death on our behalf “justifies” us forever. We speak of this justification powerfully moving us from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light, or lovingly moving us from being lost in ourselves to being found and made part of His eternal family, or resurrecting us from being dead spiritually to being living temples of the Holy Spirit. For the believer in Jesus Christ, the Scriptures are quite clear there will never will be any judicial condemnation that can separate us again from God and eternity with Him.

Jesus said in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (NIV).” Paul echoed his Lord’s words in Romans 3:21-26 stating “all those who believe” are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” The presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life is the decisive factor. With Him present, there is no possible way to fall into eternal condemnation ever again (Romans 8:1-4; Ephesians 1:13-14).

For the culprit, the essence of seeking forgiveness is a repentant heart.

Jesus, echoing the words of the prophets, came preaching repentance. Repentance is the essence of forgiveness for the penitent culprit-sinner-enemy of God seeking His forgiveness, and it still holds true today. See Isaiah 30:15; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 5:31-32; 24:46-48; and Acts 2:37-39.

  1. The child seeks a forgiveness that is “familial– an “okay” from the Spirit of the Lord.

Slide4Reconciling “hugs” from our Heavenly Father frees the child of God to thrive in God’s love. Familial forgiveness enables us to enjoy the blessing of a restored fellowship with Him free of any strain (that strain which hid God’s face for a season). The relationship after the forgiving hug from the Lord is the more intimate and deeper kind of a tested relationship that lasts forever.

For the child, prayer seeking a complete, love-saturated acceptance is the essence of seeking forgiveness.

In prayer we seek the same familial unity with Jesus that He enjoyed with His Heavenly Father (John 17). It is the basis for the Lord’s teaching on prayer, and truly the basis for humility before God in all things. The child seeking forgiveness is actually walking out the repentance that first brought him to Christ, and is finding rest in the absolute and total love of God that sent Jesus to the Cross on our behalf. See John 17:20-26; Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:24-26; and compare with 1 John 1:5-10 and Romans 6:8-19.

Jan Lievens_The-Return-of-the-Prodigal-Son-pptThe story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 illustrates why and how the believing child of God will always seek the best of relationships with his Heavenly Father. The returning son said humbly, “Father, I have sinned,” but the beauty of the story is in the healing forgiveness and grace flowing from the father’s heart of love for his son. The father’s loving forgiveness restored his son completely and represents exactly what we seek when seeking God’s forgiveness.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him…”

Are there two kinds of situations in which we seek God’s forgiveness? It may not be helpful to create such a distinction, but the reality of life as a believer and the testimony of the Scriptures is that there is a distinction to be made between two different persons seeking God’s forgiveness – between the “culprit” and the “child.”

Recommended resource:
Whether it’s accusations from the enemy or our own troubled conscience, many of us feel like we’re living under a guilty verdict. In a sermon from Romans 8:33-36 entitled “Case Closed,” Alistair Begg provides biblical evidence to set us free!


Have you ever said, “I can’t forgive myself”

There are three realities that need to be worked through in order to forgive myself.

  1. Guilt – the reality of being morally unjustified in the hurt I caused, especially before my holy God
  2. Restitution – the very real responsibility I have to restore what I’ve taken, or repay what I’ve broken
  3. Shame – my deep soul stain of unworthiness, ugliness, and fear of rejection

226256bf69baaa647fecfd65edfe2adc pinterest (GardensDesign_com)Guilt arises because I’ve no moral justification for doing what I did, especially before my holy God who holds every life sacred and is exalted as the ultimate judge over all matters. The remedy is singular. To be free from guilt, I must recognize that ultimately only God can forgive sin, and accept humbly what he has to offer. My friend’s forgiveness does not pardon my guilt, nor will any act of forgiveness toward myself. My only option is to accept God’s forgiveness through Christ.

Restitution is appropriate and honorable.  But restitution can only go so far. Usually what is taken away or destroyed can never be completely restored by the offender.  But what I can do to make restitution, I should.  When I do, my responsibility toward the offender returns to respecting and serving him as my neighbor – like every other neighbor I have.

Shame is another matter altogether.  A sense of guilt is taken away when I rest in God’s mercy. The responsibility of restitution is over when I’ve done what I can to make amends.  But the shame cast over my soul is another matter because it’s the sense of unworthiness and ugliness that now grips my soul.

In shame, I see myself as unlovable – especially to myself. Another way of saying I can’t forgive myself is to say I cannot love who I’ve become, based on what I’ve done. That’s the problem of shame. I may fear I am likely to cause the same injuries again, and I certainly fear that I won’t be found acceptable by those I value the most.  Shame colors me so deeply at that point that I can’t imagine ever being free again to enjoy being the person God has made me to be.

How am I finally freed from shame and able to smile again at the unique person God has created in me? 

1912898824-How_do_I_forgive_myself quotesgram_comLove is the answer.  The Scriptures teach us that God’s perfect love casts out fear, and over and over again calls us to forgive one another.  This is an extreme, radical kind of loving that can heal my guilty soul at the deepest level – where the pool of shame I’m hiding in is deep and dark.

So, my shame-covered soul begins to move from living in the stagnant, stinking waters of shame to living in the life-giving stream of love that flows from the heart of God.  I say, “Please God forgive me.” And He does.  I plead, “Please God, LOVE me,” and miracle of miracles, I discover that He does!  I say to the one I’ve offended, “Please forgive me.” And in God’s grace, he may.  I wonder if I’m lovable, and miracle of miracles, God puts people in my life who choose to respect me as a human being and go beyond that to love me in tangible ways. It’s then, that I am able to once again be thankful for who I am in God’s creation.  I no longer feel any need to justify myself, or make myself lovable because simply, I AM loved.

David Ewert (Thursday, February 1, 2018)

A month of Bible verses for reflection and growth toward being once again fully, freely alive!

  1. Genesis 33:1-17
  2. Genesis 50:15-21
  3. Exodus 22:1, 3-6, 14
  4. Leviticus 6:2-5
  5. Psalm 19:12-14
  6. Psalm 32
  7. Psalm 51
  8. Psalm 103
  9. Psalm 139:7-16, 23-24
  10. Isaiah 6:6-8
  11. Isaiah 30:15
  12. Isaiah 44:21-23
  13. Matthew 6:9-15
  14. Mark 12:29-31
  15. Luke 5:31-32
  16. Luke 19:1-10
  17. Luke 17:3-5
  18. John 8:1-11
  19. John 21:15-23
  20. Acts 3:18-20
  21. Romans 3:9-26
  22. Romans 10:9-10
  23. 2 Corinthians 7:5-13
  24. Galatians 6:1-5
  25. Ephesians 3:14-21
  26. Ephesians 4:25-32
  27. Ephesians 5:15-21
  28. Philippians 2:1-8, 3:7-21
  29. Philemon 1:10-20
  30. 1 John 4:7-21

Christmas lives again!

Have you ever noticed that what’s the same year after year is not always the same year after year? Have you noticed how fresh & new something so old and familiar as Christmas can feel?

Get your fire backThink about the way God paints beauty into His magnificent creations.  He will often repeat a theme or a subject (that daffodil, that cloud, that sunrise, that snowflake, that wave), but each time we experience it, it’s unique in some way.   Isn’t it in the moment of revelation and awakening of those things that the blaze of beauty catches our breath?  Seeing a photo of a blue-green wave cresting is wonderful, but it’s not the same as seeing the wave. God’s extravagant displays of love and glory are meant to be tasted in real time, today, in this moment we breathe by His grace.

We may try to immortalize those moments, but we really can’t. The beauty is not a thing we can set in stone, but something that disappears as quickly as we look away.  We turn to look again, and it’s gone.  Those flowers we marvel at wilt away, the cloud drifts or changes into some other fantastic shape, the sunrise warms to noonday, the snowflake melts, and the wave crashes.  We’re not meant to immortalize beauty in photos or recordings, but be reminded by the photo to  look for it again, now, in the growing, ever-changing world we live in today.

And so we come to times like Christmas.

The same artists sing the same tunes over and over again on the radio or TV. In those repetitions, they’re like the photos we take, trying to catch the essence or beauty and grace we see and frame in a picture forever.  But after a week or two, we start to get bored by it all – and maybe we should.

What makes Christmas come alive again, as ours did this year?  Somebody said they had been challenged to concentrate on giving presence, not presents to their friends and family.  I believe the clue to enjoying every long-held, cherished tradition lies hidden in that encouragement.

  • This Christmas morning I realize that although most of our Christmas décor is out of a trunk, it is never put on display in the same way.  My wife Julia, in her zeal to put herself into the holiday reflects her Creator in this.  She changes the old décor into something new by fitting it to our present space and tastes.  The main tree has a different theme. The furniture and the candles are arranged in different spots.  And so everywhere I look, I see her – her touch, her grace, her enthusiasm for bringing the traditions forward into this moment once again.
  • 2018 christmas business card frontYesterday, we enjoyed such an awesome Christmas Eve together – in all three services and a reception, from the morning worship hour until midnight candlelight Communion! What struck me is how fresh & new something so old and familiar can feel. Last night when our church pianist played old carols, they seemed new, and then I realized they were! They were new to THAT moment, just as the precious awareness of Christ’s love was again new to THAT moment, and this moment, and the next…

How does Christmas live again? 

Christmas is as fresh and unique as the people who give it to the world today.  The only way for Christmas to live again is to make it a living, in-the-moment experience, with all the love and energy  and faith we can pour into it. We don’t just look at the nativity set on the mantle.  We go out into the cold night to gaze in wonder at the “Living” Nativity.  We don’t just listen to the carols played and sung again and again on the radio, we go to church and hear them FIRST HAND sung by newly assembled choirs and older, more humble church musicians.  We don’t pretend to enjoy gift-giving like we always have, we today mold our gifts to the way our loved ones are today  – those grandsons that are now a year older, those shut-ins that can no longer get out to see the Living Nativity.

2014318_StudioJRU_AllThingsNewPrintableI love the vision of an eternity with the Lord that rests on the foundation of beauty – beauty that’s always new.  In the introduction to the eternal kingdom of Christ we’re told God makes all things new, in that moment, forever.  We can’t be bored then, when God displays His beauty in eternal glory because it will be a living, breathing forever new thing!

And surely we don’t have to be bored today. Christmas can be a thing of beauty again, if only we’ll stop settling for simply repeating and begin reliving, today.

For further inspiration along these lines, check out Pastor Dirk Gieser’s Christmas Eve message at


“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.'” Revelation 21:4-6 (NIV)

“Remember” in the Bible:  God instructed His people to remember days like the Sabbath and annual events like the Passover – as though they were living it for the first time.  “The Hebrew word for remembering is zakhor, meaning “you shall call to mind.”  It means more than merely recalling something in the past, but suggests actively focusing the mind upon something in the present.” (


img20171217_04552268-003This early morning after Pauline’s quiet death yesterday afternoon has been such a mixture of anger and concern over the incredible load of suffering she carried because of MS, and the immense relief I feel that she is free of all of that now. My soul is burdened with weariness and sadness, but in the midst of it there is peace that God has her and life willl go on for all of us until it’s our time also.

My flesh wants to complain to God and ask what’s the point of it all – the suffering, the struggle, the death, the grief, but my spirit must yield to his good and perfect and acceptable will. What Kerri-Sue quoted on Facebook for me from Romans 8:18 comforts me: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Over the years, so many beautiful things how come into my life because of my amazing sister Pauline. She is the “happy music” in my long term memory, from days long ago when she gave me a love of music in piano lessons. She would say, “David, I am so glad you’re going to grow up to be a man because we need men to sing and play God’s praises. You can be like King David of Israel and bring a blessing to many people.” I imagine the heart of praise showing up in how I worship today is probably because I always longed to be the man that she dreamed I could become.

img20171217_04552268-002She was always the oldest sister, so I suppose it was natural that she would become a counselor to my dad and mom in their hardest moments and deepest struggles. Pauline was a constant source of encouragement to my dad after his leg amputation and the loss of mom to heart attack. Now in my older years, I can see that her devotion to them was not just a normal response to being the older sister, but a choice, a deeply loving choice to stay near them and to fight for them. My deep appreciation to her for those years of constant care and attention to their needs is beyond words.

I cherish the way Pauline would pamper me with her sour cream raisin pie, date bars and cream-bathed lima beans. I’ll never forget her loving smile and the love in her voice when she said my name.

How many times I have said to my soul, “David if Pauline can stay faithful to Christ, hurting like she does, so can you!” She was a continual Beacon of Hope in my quest to act in faith during times of loss and suffering. And so here I am this morning, wanting to walk in this day in the spirit of Grace that my sister exhib1472725_10202628918186909_2045534552_n-001ited so often.

24058763_10210727193161946_514252581082750938_n-001My prayers go out to my brother and her husband, Art, and her six children – Jim, Paula, Bonnie, Terry, Nolan, and Tyrone, and their families. All  of you are continually on my mind, as I wait on the Lord to do miracles of grace in your lives and provide for your need for wisdom and strength as you put the finishing touches on Pauline’s life.

13427789_10206639549893419_6245828837550442054_n-001We all are, as Pauline was, human beings filled with desire and longing, struggling with sins of selfishness and fears over this or that. But in the end Jesus took her life and turned it into something beautiful. Now the glory that she walks in with him has put everything in perspective and she is quiet in his love and his care forever.

Those of us who remain rest in hope Jesus will do the same with us.