The Light Stand’s In The Place Of Darkness…

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As we approach Easter, it’s important to focus our hearts on the cross again. Often, I’ll intentionally observe lent, choosing to abstain from certain things that take my eyes off Christ. This year has been challenging though. I suppose it’s a spirit is willing, flesh is weak, type situation.

I want to, I really do. But just haven’t been able to. My mental margin is somewhat nil  from so many other things pulling in every direction. It’s challenging to focus. So I choose to live in the grace that doesn’t come by earning! Hallelujah!

However, as hard as its been this year to “get into it” I officially give up trying to manage all the nagging things to the neglect of what’s most important. I desire to live in the amazing grace I can’t earn while also re-focusing intentionally on the Easter season. Fully and with both eyes up, pressing in on my Saviour. Boy do I need it.

For this reason, I’m choosing to narrow in on certain aspects of the Cross each week  until Easter.

This week’s focus is; Christ as my substitute.

And as I read Matthew I see that one of the first instance’s we witness this substitution taking place is the moment Jesus stands beside Barabbas. You can read it here.

Pontius Pilate has just declared Jesus innocent, but in order to keep a silly tradition he must release one prisoner at Passover. And so there stands Jesus; pure, sinless and falsely charged next to Barabbas; notorious, known murderer. A perplexed Pilate asks the angry mob who should go free…”The king of the Jews”? Or the murderer?

With the chief priests and the elders persuasion the crowd calls for Barabbas to be freed. Sinners calling for the freedom of a fellow sinner. This is the embodiment of sin itself. The desire to see darkness and evil run freely, unencumbered by anything that would shed light, peace and justice.

Barabbas is released. Wickedness unchained. While Jesus stay’s in shackles. The Son of God immediately take’s the place of a murderous revolutionary. The light of the world stands in the place of darkness.

Pilate leaves the fate of the “king of the Jews” in the hands of a blood-thirsty mob. And the ungodly call for His murder. Sin breeding sin. It’s a sess-pool of unrighteousness at this point. And its just the beginning. The shadow that will fall on all those who called for His death is something they could never had prepared for. For they know nothing of what they’ve done.

The blameless one pay’s the price, so the sinner can walk free.

This story begins as Jesus substituting the punishment for Barabbas. And it ends with Him atoning for us all. Even that chanting crowd.

His blood poured out to repair the damage. The damage a murder creates in the heat of the moment. And the corruption of a faulty trial carried out by mob-mentality. The devastation of thievery on the poor. And every other form of sin that takes root in the life of every single human past, present and future.

He stood and received what we deserved to receive.

It is the greatest atrocity the world has ever known. And yet it’s our only hope. Which is the great conundrum of the faith. I hate it and I love it.

As we approach the throne of Christ this Easter season, whether you’re observing lent or not, take time to turn your attention to the One that bore your sin. Let us never become too busy to remember or too bored to care.

Let the shocking sacrifice of your Saviour stir you up again. Allow its offense to rub harshly against your sensibilities. Know the outrage.

And then give thanks.

“Up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn, walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn, facing for sinners, death on the cross,

That He might save them from endless loss,

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer, seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree, wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading,

Blind and unheeding, dying for me,

“Father, forgive them,” my Savior prayed, even while His lifeblood flowed fast away, praying for sinners while in such woe, no one but Jesus ever loved so,

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer, seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree, wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading, blind and unheeding, dying for me”

Lyrics: Avis m. Christiansen (1920), music: Harry D. Loes

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Posted in Christian Living, Theology | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…And More…

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I’m back!

Where did I go? Into an oblivion of hectic real-life engagement. And I needed to take my hands off the wheel of things that don’t matter. Like this blog. I like this blog, it’s a lovely outlet. But I have so much outlet in other area’s of life right now that I didn’t used to have as a stay-at-home mom. This place acted as a great relief for all the thoughts swirling and wreaking havoc in my brain. Thoughts that 2,3,4,5 year olds just have no interest in hearing about. Weird kids. But I’m no longer in that stage of life. I’m in a new one and I’m still adjusting to it.

So… what’s going to happen to this blog? Will it continue? Do I have any room for it anymore? I think I do, but not at all in the same way. There was a time that I was writing 2-3 times a week. That ship has sailed so far away I can’t even see it anymore. BUT I still love writing. And I miss writing. And I plan to continue in this forum (somehow), by writing content I care about. It’s just going to be less regular and probably interspersed with old material.

And…what about Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…? Here’s the thing. I don’t read as many articles and blogs as I once did. I used to do it religiously. I was so nourished by so much online content..that eventually it became like gorging on semi-healthy food. It no longer satisfied. A steady diet of other people’s opinions can be unhealthy. Funny how that works. Don’t get me wrong, we need to read other saints and hear their wisdom. I was just doing it far more than reading my Bible. And that’s bad, bad, bad. With that said, when I actually have worthwhile material I’d like to share, I’ll do one of these posts (but it won’t always be on a Sunday).

Sound good?

So for today my dear friends I have one lonely article and a bunch of songs. Because that’s the genuine reality of where I’m at. So here they are…

I Have Forgotten How To Read: I relate to this so much its scary. I don’t even know when it happened. But slowly I find myself struggling to do the simple task of reading – which used to easily translate into writing in this forum. But doesn’t anymore, because my reading sucks. Anyway, just read the article. Can you relate?

Sovereign Grace Music – Lord, Have Mercy: Singing this as a congregation at a conference recently, was so refreshing and nourishing to the soul.

Oh, The Deep Deep Love Of Jesus – Audrey Assad: This is just one of my most favourite hymns done in a way that doesn’t destroy it. So I appreciate that.

Strahan – Help Me Believe: “Lord, I believe, please help me believe” is a phrase I relate so strongly. And singing it, brings a persistence that I otherwise couldn’t express. And for some reason this is the only song that I could get to post directly into this blog. Stupid computers.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Life, Music, Uncategorized, Video's | 1 Comment

Prophet, Priest, King, Baby…

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Twice I’ve had the honour of having little babies at Christmas time. Those were special days that I cherish in memory, as it gave me a sweeter understanding of Mary’s plight. I also remember savouring deeply each coo and smirk my soft little babies made as I contemplated the absurdity of a baby God.

A long-awaited Prophet, Priest and King in the form of a delicate and defenceless babe.

God would have to be sovereign to do it that way. He’d have to be intricately involved in every detail of every nuance of this story for it to go well. Because a teenage mother whose unplanned pregnancy made her the scourge of her community isn’t exactly the best case scenario for the flourishing of a saviour. Not many of us would choose that path or write that cosmic story.

At the same time the plan is brilliant. Isn’t it?

The weakness of that King revealed God’s upside down Kingdom. It not being one made up of heavy-hitters or high achievers. The lowly, defenceless and diseased would be what this Kingdom consists of. It’s perfect. His little helpless presence is a picture into the wisdom and stature of his Father.

The Son of God putting on flesh and becoming what He created in order to show perfect mercy. Not just mercy. But perfect mercy.

Because only a good Prophet proclaims truth in love, humbly calling the sinner out of the dark and into the light. A good priest mediates for the people with deep understanding of their turmoil within. A good King will lead others by personal sacrifices, not afraid to get in the dirt for the sake of others.

When Christ was born in a manger, it was the beginning of a perfect, blameless and yet acutely challenging life. He’s not a Prophet, Priest or King who doesn’t know and understand our mortal pains and sufferings. He knows them intimately. He’s the best kind of Saviour. The only kind that makes any sense.

The absurdity of it all remains…but for different reasons now. I no longer wonder it happened this way.

Now I’m gripped that He would do it at all. I’m stirred with gratitude for the sacrifice. It’s shocking, not because it’s a strange story, but because our King has come and He’s come for us. For the sick, sad sinner. For me.

Christmas comes each year beaming good hope.

And not just a good hope for the well, affluent and cheerful. It’s for us. For the ones hurting, lonely and sick with sin. It’s not about perfectly posed smiling faces sitting on Santa’s knee or precisely planned activities. As lovely as all that is. When we pull away all the happy wrapping, Christmas is a day of remembrance. Remembering a cold night in a barn. A night with very little fan-fair and a great deal of looming war.

But this is exactly why we sing. We sing rhythms of remembrance and we ought to sing them with joy over that great hope.

I believe Mary’s song is the best Christmas song of them all. She perfectly express’s all the richness of God’s upside down Kingdom in Christ’s coming. So lets read and remember that an immaculate Prophet, Priest and King came down to us as a baby that first Christmas so long ago.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Let Your Pastors Wife Be Herself: This is good. Above all, please remember that your pastor’s wife is human. She will make terrible mistakes. She will say stupid things. She will have days when she is selfish and self-centered. She will go into spiritual slumps. I know because I do all of this and more. But, one thing that keeps bringing me back to a biblical focus is the grace and goodness of the church of Jesus Christ.

Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media: I’m willing to bet by now most of us have experienced some terrible pit-falls of social media. Of course it can be used for so much good and yet it also has come destructive tendencies. Watch out for these three.

Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends: This is all too real for our family right now. For those of us in ministry who have suffered (or are suffering) from this affliction, I think we need to do everything we can to discover and embrace an applied theology of weakness. Even the Apostle Paul said that it is in weakness that we discover the glory, power, and grace of God. This is how God works. He is upside-down to our sensibilities. Better said, we are upside-down to his.

Prince Of Heaven – Hillsong Worship: Every now and then Hillsong writes a song worth listening to. This is one of them.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Life, Ministry, Music, Uncategorized, Video's | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Top 10 Misquoted Lines From C.S. Lewis: Well this is interesting. And sure makes me want to do better at checking my source when quoting someone.

You Too; A Call To End Violence Against Women: Violence against women is a pervasive issue, and the women in our churches are not immune. Mary Kassian writes about how violence against women is an affront to Gods creation…and yet we all sin this way, both male and female.

Polarizing Issues And The Departure Of Nuance: This is an important one. Its written by my pastor and friend, and you need to read it. We are not owed Christian values in our society but rather we are called to love God, love neighbour, and live in such a way that causes the watching world to say, “I want that”.

Only Jesus – Austin Stone Worship For Kids: If you want to throw in some worship time with your kids during family devotions, here is a great resource. I’m a pretty harsh critic of kids worship music and I heartily approve of this one. I actually listen to it on my own too.

Good Good Father – Zealand: You may be sick of this song already, but just in case, here’s another one for the kids. My kids love doing the actions to these.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Music, Parenting, Uncategorized, Video's, Womanhood | Leave a comment

Hollywoods Reckoning Is A Reckoning For Us All…

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We live in interesting times, don’t we? Particularly right now as a sexual-assault reckoning sweeps across the glitzy streets of Hollywood, rocky hills of politics and sunshiney nooks of the morning News. With every new day comes a new story of sexual abuse or inappropriate behaviour. All of it happening behind the scenes of smiling faces who provide entertainment to the masses.

And I think most of us (Christians that is) have had a similar thought linger with us through it all. It’s about time.

Vindication. Right? I’ve read conservative blogs that have this tenor to them. They ask the question…why are we surprised when depraved Hollywood elite, who tout terrible violence, nudity and foul language in their movies, act depraved in their personal lives? And I think we read these thoughts, and node in agreeance. Ya, their not morally superior. It’s about time the veil is lifted and the world see’s them for the deviant people they are. 

Have you felt this way?

I have. It feels like a long-time coming. They speak like their the moral judges of our time at award shows and gala’s and therefore we’re all just supposed to take our que’s from them? Because their actors? Really?

For so many (particularly conservative) folks, this cultural set-up has been infuriating. Which makes the current reckoning seem so satisfying.

Listen though…it shouldn’t be.

That is exactly the place we ought never settle into. That place of us against them judgement with sick satisfaction in all the grief and shame. When we sit in that seat and get comfortable, we’re no different than them. Because we truly are no different then them. You may read this and get angry. But its true.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” ~ Romans 3:11

We’re not morally superior to them. Yes, even those of us who love Jesus. Because listen, none of us were accepted by Christ because of moral prowess. Not one of us. And although we’ve been justified by what He did on the cross and have been grafted into His family, that does not make us better.

However what it ought to do, is make us the most gracious people on the planet. Because we were offered grace in the midst of our sexually immoral, inappropriate and deviant lifestyle. And its a miracle, that God would accept us at all.

Because of this, what right do we have to get cozy in our judgement?

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” ~ Psalm 1:1

The terrible truth is that the church is no stranger to these exact same kinds of allegations. And if we think for a second that this same grand reckoning isn’t on its way to us, we are terribly naive. As much as we think these sins are inevitable for the “bad people” in Hollywood, the same goes for the church. Why? Because bad people hang out there too.

Indeed we’re all bad people.

Deeply infected sinner’s. All of us liable to fall in one way or another, if the conditions were perfect to do so.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? ~ James 4:12

So as this cultural veil is lifted and the accounts pile up, how should we respond? It should go without saying, that our compassion should rule the day. Our empathy and care for the victim’s should be the quickest reaction and first response. We ought to mourn with those who mourn. And be people who seek and pray for true conversion, reconciliation and restoration for all.

We must take the plank out of our own eye, before removing the speck out of another (and only if that another is a Christian). And we must remember where exactly we came from by taking note of our own indwelling sins, before we ever open our mouths to speak on someone else’s.

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. ~ Luke 8:17

This is just as much a warning for us as it is to the Hollywood elites, lest we lie to ourselves and operate as though it’s just for them.

We can’t live in the dark on a couch with the scoffers. When we’re in Christ, we stand in the light, with truth and grace bringing lost ones to the only One who can deliver and redeem them.

The same great One who saved us.

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Putting Aside Bucket Lists For A Longer Vision Of The Coming Glory…

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While scrolling through Facebook I came across a story that made me take pause both because of its tragedy and commentary on the culture at large. It read “Saskatoon Mom With Terminal Cancer Continues To Check Things Off Her Bucket List.” This woman is 30, healthy looking and beautiful with a daughter at her side. Only her living reality is every mom’s worst nightmare. Yet, trying to stay positive and move forward she’s working on a Bucket List.

And she’s succeeding; checking off her list one by one, making her dreams come true. It’s a lovely thing for her to spend her last days making memories with her husband and daughter in all kinds of exciting experiential ways.

It’s becoming more and more common to have a Bucket List even without terminal illness looming. Mainly because most of us have a fundamental understanding that life is precious yet short. Any of us could go at anytime. For this reason we write long lists of aspirations to check off. And even if we don’t have a written catalogue, most of us still have one or a few things in our mind that we’d like to accomplish before that fateful day.

“I want to go to Ireland before I die”, “Hiking the Grand Canyon is on my bucket list”, “If I could just go to Disneyland once, I’d die a happy person.”

Everyone has their “thing”. Because when we die, the perception is that all those wonderful opportunities die with us. And what a sad reality that is.

But is it true?

For the Christian, it is not true. For the reason the Bible calls, heaven. But see, most of us don’t like thinking about heaven. And I think it’s because we believe it’s too abstract and confusing. Sure it will be great, but we don’t know exactly what that means, so we avoid thinking, studying or even imagining it at all. We don’t want to be like the seemingly selfish folks who dream about heaven being an endless game of golf (because I guess that sounds good to some people). Yet we also want to ward off the notion that heaven is just one long worship service that never ends.

So what is it then? What will it be like?

What if it’s both and neither of those two examples? What if after we die, there is much to do and see? What if this life isn’t the only life we will have experiences in? And what if that kind of closeness to God includes worship and excitement mingled together?

How does dwelling on that possibility inform the way we view our desires for our lives this side of heaven? And how does it change our need to create lists of things to do before our day of death?

Revelation 21:1-4 says,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Scholars disagree on the nature of how the old earth is removed and new earth is made present. But regardless of how that happens, what we see is that earth, our world, is a part of our future after we die. It will indeed be different, much like our bodies will be different. But it will in fact be there. Physical. And better!

Sin will no longer be present, evil’s existence gone, sickness and sadness triumphed over. The lovely that we see here on earth will be made brighter by the absence of all Satan’s corruption. God Himself, will actively live and move among His people; the most jubilant detail of them all!

Picture it! Let your imagination run wild with all of Scripture’s particulars directing your mind’s path. Your allowed. Go ahead!

Ponder the fact that there’s a good chance the New Earth will be familiar to us. After Jesus rose from the dead, some of the disciples didn’t recognize Him at first. Until they did. He was different and yet the same. The new earth in its resurrected form will indeed be new, but will likely be very similar to what we already know.

Randy Alcorn in his Book called Heaven says,

By calling the New Earth Earth, God emphatically tells us it will be earthly, and thus familiar. Otherwise, why call it Earth?… The Greek word for translated “earth” is ge, from which we get “geology”. It is used of land, soil, and the world itself. Walter Bauer defines ge as “the surface of the earth as the habitation of humanity.” Ge connotes physicality, It’s not a figurative, airy, symbolic, or abstract word. It’s tangible, concrete. It speaks of an earthly realm where there are physical human beings, animals, vegetation, and natural resources. 

With this physical New Heaven comes so much possibility. What if we’ll still be able to travel the new earth? What if we will indeed be able to play golf (if you actually like golf)? Or visit a resurrected Grande Canyon-esq site? What if?

In all likelihood, this could be the case.

We’ll definitely see sunsets, watch flowers grow, and enjoy the beauty earth reveals to us now. And what we know for certain is that there will be a great city; a functional and familial community, with Christ at the centre. All of this should be enough to invoke excitement for those who love the Lord, shouldn’t it?

It’s just that we don’t often think this way about death? We live as though all there is, is this physical life. We function as though all we have now is all we have at all.

Yet, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Right? Why did Paul say this in Philippians 1:21? He was differentiating between two worlds. To live is Christ means that however long God gives us life on this earth, we must spend it proclaiming the good news of Christ. We live as a vessel of God. We proclaim Jesus, and we live to glorify His name. To die is gain means that when we pass on from this earth into the next, we inherit the reward of Heaven and get full communion with the Jesus we proclaimed.

Bucket Lists are not evil. Don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing in Scripture condemning them. And people with terminal illness’ are more than free to intentionally and systematically create memories to leave with their families in the form of a Bucket List.

However, I’m thinking through its necessity for the everyday Christian. Because I do believe the very existence of the Bucket List reveals a sign of the times in a way. And it may just uncover a deeper heart of misunderstanding. There’s an element of it that can be, perhaps for some, self-centred or self-seeking.

Yet, this side of heaven (or the next for that matter) isn’t about me. It’s not about me ticking a list of desires as fast as I can as I wait for death to take me away from the joy this world grants. As a follower of Jesus, I’m called to spend my life living for someone else. For Christ. To live is Christ.

But that’s not the end. When the Lord decides to end my days on earth, I begin a new life. One that is engulfed in the fulfillment of all I proclaimed about Jesus. One that is absent of all that made life on earth unbearable. One that involves God, adventure, excitement and joy.

It’s gain.

The knowledge of that should make the Christian relax a little on the need to fit in all our most urgent aspirations this side of heaven. Because the Christian who dies young doesn’t miss out on anything.

They just enter into an entirely new and holy escapade.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Devotional | 3 Comments