December 19, 2014

Glimmerings of Glory!

“Is Christmas ruined?” She asked it of me hoping for reassurance that despite the tensions in the air and the tears streaming in the wake of relational heartaches, despite the upheaval of a house up for sale and an impending move, despite the sadness of moving away from all that’s familiar and loved… despite all this, Christmas will go on.

Dropping into all the relational stresses, the loneliness, the ‘sad’ of being dislodged from home at Christmas time, comes the reality of what Christmas is all about. It shines all the brighter against the backdrop of our messy world.

Perhaps the things we equate with Christmas do more to obscure its meaning than to point us to it.  We love the nostalgia of Christmases past, the cozy fireside (minus chestnuts roasting!), the aroma of baking gingerbread, the perfection of iced sugar cookies, the tinsel sparkling on the tree, the lights glowing, the music playing.  But the stable of Bethlehem had none of these.  Nor did the cold lonely hillside where the shepherds eked out an existence with no hope of a change in their circumstances, ever.  Just this, day after day, night after night.  Tending sheep, a thankless job, a weary existence…

And then the glory of God came bursting in to their night skies.  Isn’t that the way it is?  We’re stuck in darkness apart from God revealing Himself to us, giving us ears to hear the good news, jolting us from our mundane marking of time to live in hope.  This is the glory of Christmas.  The world was still dark when the angels went away.  The shepherds would return again from the stable to their hillsides.  The baby’s diapers would need to be changed.  Mary and Joseph were still homeless for a while…But there was hope.  A Saviour had been born. God’s plan to redeem us all was showcased in that manger.  Hope was rekindled. God has not left us to our make our way alone.

That’s why no matter how bleak the season of life we are in may seem, no matter how disappointing, crushing, lonely, or disjoint life has become…Christmas is not ruined.  Its glory is only enhanced when our props vanish and the backdrop is dark.  A light has shone on those who walk in darkness.  A hope has been born to those who wake hopeless.  For family members with unsalved hurts, for the lonely, the lost, the helpless, the dying—a Saviour has been born. 

His name is Wonderful Counselor—the answer to those impossible situations that strain us to the breaking point. Mighty God—the very intervention we can’t live without. Everlasting Father—loving and protecting, aware of our needs, never absentee, unfailing forever.  Who doesn’t long for such a Father? And He is the Prince of Peace.  Peace with God is our soul’s native cry. Jesus was born to pave the way. No turmoil can eclipse this kind of peace. What more do we need than in Him is found?  A Saviour has been born to us; He is Christ the Lord.  He is the Great I AM in answer to all we are not.

Is Christmas ruined when our own worlds stand in disarray? Never.  

God’s glory has shone around inviting us to the manger—to behold His Son, ‘born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law’.  He invites us to believe the promise of blessing given to Abraham long years ago.  “I will bless you… and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen.12:2,3) God’s heart is to bless mankind, His creation. How few believe it.

He longs to free us from the sin that makes slaves of us all.  He longs for us to know the freedom of the sons of God, to be liberated from our efforts to do enough good to earn peace with Him.  Peace doesn’t come that way; it never has.  The good tidings of Christmas, the ‘first noel’, is that God has given us Jesus to save us from our sins.

Christmas isn’t ruined by our imperfections, our failings, or even our want of joy.  No, only if the Christ child was not really born is its meaning lost.  Is peace on earth a seamless reality in all our gatherings with family and friends?  Does Joy to the World imply an endless emotional high despite dark days and melancholy memories?  No, but peace and joy are rights of sonship, given to all who worship the Son as their Saviour, who believe He has come for the likes of them.  As we treasure Him and lay all our hopes at His feet new hope will be born.  This Hope of the world will not disappoint. Instead He takes our shame and offers us the glory of God.  This is the hope of Christmas.

If Jesus isn’t Saviour enough for me, if God’s good will depends on my good behavior, if my sin is too great or my heart too stubborn to be moved by His Spirit to repentance and faith…then maybe Christmas is ruined.  But a light has shone and while it shines there is hope for us all.

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:4,12

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12


Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good…Ps.103:2-5

Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. Ps.130:7

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. II Cor.3:18

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Cor.4:6

December 14, 2014

What to do with the King of the Jews

The newborn King was recognized by so few. 

Things haven’t changed much.

A baby was born in a stable—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet so few knew.  Foreign wise men appeared asking: "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" Herod was alarmed. The shock was felt through all Jerusalem. What did this mean? The King of the Jews had come? Really? Who knew!

The hubbub died down. Infants in Bethlehem were slaughtered to insure no rival to Herod’s throne.  Herod breathed easy while unbeknownst to him, the newborn king became a toddler in Egypt and then moved back to Nazareth to learn the carpenter’s trade with his ‘dad’.

But then one day this man came preaching: Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.(Mt.4:17)  Unless you are born again you cannot enter it.  You believe in my Father, believe also in me…

Some were curious.  They welcomed the Kingdom as long as it served their interests. Many were healed.  But His message was a hard one.  Repent. Take up your cross.  Follow me.  The birds have nests, the fox its lair, but I have no place to lay my head…Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  There was no way around this Jesus.  He was a lamb sent to save, a King come humbly riding on a donkey.  But He was a King, undeniably a King; He spoke with authority. Very few believed.  Few understood this  King had been born for them. Few bowed the knee to give Him the honor and allegiance He was due.

His own were slow of heart to believe.  They chafed at His call to repentance and faith as the only means of entering this Kingdom.  Their forefathers had made the same mistake, rejecting God as their King in favor of a mere man.  What's to be done with this King? The wise men from foreign lands knew; they came to worship. But his own did not receive Him.  They protested "we have no king but Caesar!"

And at his trial the question came:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Wise men were nowhere to be seen now.  Instead of bowing with gifts, the soldiers mocked Jesus’ claims to Kingship and crowned Him with thorns.  The crowds called for His death by crucifixion. 

Jesus was a humble King.  He let them do to Him as they would. He had not come to condemn but to save. (Jn.3:16-18) The newborn king had grown to manhood to die for the sins of the world. Only by death could peace with God be bought.

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done”, He had taught His followers to pray.  His death was the Father’s will.  Only by His death could God’s Kingdom come on earth.  For only when the King holds sway in the hearts of men can God’s Kingdom be said to have come on earth.

So the Babe of Bethlehem, now grown, was  nailed to  a cross with  a sign above His head announcing what the wise men had said in the beginning.  Here hangs “the King of the Jews”.  Who knew?  Who believed?

Millennia have passed.  The celebration of Christmas has stuck in western cultures, though its meaning is lost to most.  Most know (I presume?) that a baby was born.  But what of a King who is worthy of worship? 

I listened again to the Hallelujah chorus this afternoon at our annual “Carols by Candlelight”.  How many believe the reality of what they are singing?

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever.

Handel’s words, taken from Revelation 11, describe a time yet future, when Jesus will return to establish His Kingdom on earth.  He will come again, this King, but not as a babe in a manger, not as a lamb to bring peace with God by the sacrifice of Himself.  He will come next time to reign!  This will entail bringing to trial those who have refused His rule, and rewarding those who are eagerly awaiting His return.  (Heb.9:27-28)There’s no in-between.  The baby in the manger was the King of Kings.  Celebrating Christmas has no significance apart from this. Otherwise this Bethlehem baby would long since have been forgotten.

Just as was the case the first time around, many have stopped expecting His coming.  Scoffers will say: “Where is the promise of His coming?”  The wait grows long.  But it is not in vain. Jesus waits too--for as many as will to come to the knowledge of the truth, that the Babe of Bethlehem is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is worthy of the worship of our lives. 

And so today, as we sign a contract to put our home up for sale, I’m taking this long view of things.  The kingdom I belong to is not of this world.  I bake cookies here.  I play Christmas music—“…glory to the Newborn King”.  I love the cozy and the warm of this home and I have loved owning this piece of God’s earth.  But I can let it go.  My Kingdom is not here.  This is not my final resting place.

The King is coming to reign on earth, but in the meantime  He holds sway in my heart.  And if He wants us to move, I am willing.  We do not see all the reasons why but we sense it is time…so we’re taking steps and trusting Him to lead us forward, for His Kingdom’s sake.

Do you know this old hymn? It was a comfort to my quivering heart this morning:

The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever

My house is up for grabs. But His is forever.  This all feels a little unreal but the real estate agent was here today.  This unthinkable thing is underway.  Should real live homes be sold?   When they are cozy and bright with Christmas lights, when they have served as secure nests for mothers and young, when they have housed so much of life and love…should they ever be put up for sale?! 

But I have a King and by definition He is the One who directs and appoints our places and times.  Who am I to drag my feet?  I am His child, and I am His subject.    And that is enough.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. I Tim.1:17

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.  May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! Ps. 29:10-11 ESV

As we celebrate the birth of a baby in Bethlehem,
let’s remember He is the King of Kings!


I will extol you my God and King, and I will bless Your name forever. Every day I will bless you and I will praise your name forever and ever. Ps.145:1,2

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. [Heb 9:27-28 ESV]

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
[Dan 12:2-3 ESV]


The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [II Pet. 3:9-12 ESV]

December 5, 2014

We’ve outgrown our life plan…


It’s the time of year for Christmas letters, time to re-cap what has transpired month-by-month in our lives.  Births and deaths, weddings and vacations, accomplishments and happy memories.   Meanwhile we relegate the sad, the bad, and the hopeless to wait in the closet till the Christmas letters are signed and mailed, or till we’ve pressed ‘Send’ in our e-mail window.  Everything’s looking good in our house…. (Hmm…but that’s another topic for another day) As for our house, we’re getting ready for two things this year: Christmas, and moving.

I was looking back to see what I said in our Christmas letter last year.  I liked it so well I thought I could use it again this year!  Just fine tune a few details.  Add a year to the new grandbaby’s life. Add a wedding. Add a new job for one of our kids.  Put a chick back in our empty nest and voila.  Not much has changed.  In fact last year at this time I wrote:

So… we are enjoying a quiet winding down of our first year with just the two of us rattling around in this big house. Having gotten past the initial withdrawal ache we are enjoying the chance to rediscover 'us' as we wonder what to do next…Our life goals were evidently too limited; we're only 52 and have run out of ideas! Thirty years ago we started our family and now we're back to square one, alone together again. We sure are glad we still like each other!! We want our lives to be about family still and it sure would be nice to live a little nearer to those precious grandkids…so we're asking the Lord to direct our steps with that in mind.

We’ve been thinking about a move for a long time.  The grandkids just keep growing up without us! But the truth is, we’re comfortable here.  Beautiful surroundings, minimal cost of living, maximal leisure time, low stress…low crime rate--safe place to raise a family.  We have enjoyed eleven years of retreat in this place (and what a spot for a retreat center it could be!)  It’s not that we haven’t been willing to move, at least in theory.  And little by little we’ve been weaned from our first loves here.  My hiking adventures largely died with Louie three years ago.    Jim’s sailing ventures ended with the sale of our boat last year.  [To conclude that story, she actually sank in the Strait last spring during a race at the hands of her new owner!]  Our sailing era is over.  

We have found fellowship here and purpose among God’s people, and we have been refreshed, but there is a sense that it is time to move on.  But still… we are here, asking God to move us, lead us, show us, what more He has for us.  And we wait…

I’ve been mulling over Psalm 32:8’s description of what it means to be directed by God: 

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.  Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” (Ps.32:8 ) 

What does it mean to wait on God for direction with understanding?  Not idle and mute.  Not stupid and stubborn.  What does it mean to be guided by His eye?

Our recent car crash shook us with the reality that life is indeed short.  We are not guaranteed endless years of health and leisure to come and go as we please.  Our lives are not our own.  We are God’s own possession for His purposes.  And we want to be holy people—not just in the sense of ‘what we don’t do’ but in the sense of being all that we are meant to be. 

For what has He designed us in this stage of our lives? 

I’m a homebody.  I love having my own home, my own quiet circles of family and friends, my own little world… I am comfortable here.  But I have always viewed life on this earth as transitory.  No one stage is guaranteed to last a lifetime.  Perhaps this comes from our early married days in missions; we moved constantly, never expecting to put down permanent roots.  Despite being a homebody at heart, finding my ‘dream home’ would be a hazard for me.  I don’t want my heart to be entangled with a place.  I don’t want my security to be based on having found a comfortable routine, a predictable lifestyle or a familiar circle of friends.  Where is the living by faith once I’ve found my ‘dream home’?  Most of all I don’t want to be ‘as the mule’ who must be coerced to move or he will not.  I want to be willing and ready to gladly lay down my love of home and go wherever…

And that’s what I’m pondering these days, as our talks of moving become tasks of getting ready to actually move.  We have laid down more roots here than ever before.  Literally.  Up until this move our fragile sense of permanence has always prevented us from planting trees.  Here we have planted scores of trees—dozens and dozens of firs, seedling maples that tower over us already, and fruit trees that are just coming into their fruitful years… I understand the longing for the permanence of home, to watch trees and kids grow through all the seasons of life.  But we were never meant to love houses and lands and the comforts of home to such an extent that ‘Follow Me’ precludes leaving these. We were never intended to feel completely comfortable in this world.

So as we sense a move coming up we are sorting and sifting the ‘stuff’ of our lives that has brought us a degree of security but which now weighs us down.  And we are asking: Will we need this to fulfill God’s calling on our lives?  

I thought this part would be easy—this knowing what to take.  When it was about furniture, the choices were more clear.  Ages ago we glibly discussed what furnishings we would take if ever we moved.  Since we started out here with next to nothing—sleeping bags and toiletries, random pots and dishes, we have few sentimental attachments to furniture.  But then we officially moved up with a moving van and there were beds and the antique kitchen table and my heirloom rocker and of course, my desk.  And the rest has just grown on us over the years, as ‘stuff’ is wont to grow in a culture that values ‘things’ as the measure and means of happiness.  And we have been carried along on this tidal wave of ‘blessings’.  Imperceptibly my ‘stuff’ and my comfortable place have become a source of security so that the thought of abandoning it gives me shivers in the night.  What if…Jim dies, the economy crashes, we can never own a house again, we hate living in Alberta… What if…


….without you I fall apart…

The two songs that brought me peace on the night when my worries got the upper hand were these:  “Lord, I need you” and “My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  I DARE NOT trust the sweetest frame (or home, or comfy situation) but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.”

Never mind the modern adage to ‘follow your heart’.  Mine is a traitor.  It loves its simple comforts and predictabilities.  It is bound to set its hopes on things seen and to quiver at possibilities unseen. It loves the illusion that everything’s under control. It isn’t. Not under my control anyway.

Have you listened to your heartbeat lately? (another example of something not under my control!)  Not just that physical one that pumps the blood that keeps you in life, but your heart of hearts.  It was designed and installed by God,  custom-made to reflect its Creator’s desires, true enough.  But it’s been sabotaged.  In the garden when Eve opted to make her own decisions, to ‘follow her heart’, to get a better understanding of good and evil…on that day the human heart proved itself untrustworthy.

David was known as a man after God’s own heart despite his failings because  he truly wanted what God wanted. When his own heart carried him away he always made his way back by confessing he had been wrong and God right:

“But David's heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” II Sam.24:10

I want a heart like that.  Saul’s heart was not so pliable.  He cared more for his own glory than God’s. He died for His breach of faith.  Not only did He disobey God’s clear command, but he justified himself.  In addition, because “He did not seek guidance from the LORD” but sought out a medium instead,
“therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David…”
I Chron. 10:13,14  He couldn’t be bothered to do things God’s way.  His own heart betrayed him.

I don’t want this.  So I am speaking ‘Silence!’ to my quivering heart in this transitional season of our lives, and I am asking that  God would plant His desires in my heart.  I want His peace and His vision for our futures. I want my heart to be weaned from finding security in things and circumstances and to truly set its hope in God.  As He makes His desires to be our desires then we will be holy to our God--

“…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Pet.3:4-6

Knowing God’s heart is what I’m after, rather than following my own into disillusionment.  I need a refit done on my heart to outfit it with His desires for me. The process is underway.  Part of me is willing to go or stay, to cling to or fling my possessions as He dictates, to forsake this home and fearlessly follow into the great unknown…  He’s got the blueprint for these holy souls he’s making of us. He can see the unique reflection of His glory we are and will be.  He’s got the design and our eyes are on Him for the next steps.

Thanks for sharing our journey by your thoughtful words and prayers.


“…you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes”
I Kings 14:8

And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father.
I Kings 15:3

‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.' Acts 13:22

“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” –David, I Chron.17:16

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

“Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.
Ps.37:4,5 ESV

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” Heb.12:1,2