Friday, January 13, 2017

Keeping On

"LeAnn, get out of this barn and out of my life!"

My brother, Pete, on his way down to do chores, heard my sister Carla scream those words from inside the barn.

Carla had reached the boiling point. She just couldn't take any more. Something had to give. She had been slogging along, doing her barn chores, trying to finish distributing the grain prior to bringing the cows into the barn for milking.

LeAnn was a pet cow.

While a pet cow might sound like a nice idea, in this instance, it wasn't so nice. LeAnn's problem was that she had no respect. Not for other cows. Not for my brother. Not for my sister. LeAnn was having the time of her life, having once again escaped the confines of the pasture and munching along in front of the cow stanchions, eating the grain my sister was so faithfully putting out for the 69 other cows who would soon be coming in to get milked.

Making things worse, LeAnn was leaving a trail of cow pies behind her.

My family often laughs about the "LeAnn" incident, but at the time, it wasn't so funny. At least not to my sister. She was working hard to get a job done, and despite her best efforts, instead of seeing progress, things seemed to be going backwards.

Can you relate? Is there a "LeAnn" in your life? Someone (or something) that pushes all your buttons and makes you feel like your head is going to explode?

Was my sister wrong to react in the way she did? I don't think so. Heaven knows, I'm in no position to point fingers. One thing we can all count on: the LeAnns in our lives will keep coming, those button-pushing, troublesome people and situations.

How often have you been trying to get something done, only to have it all unravel?

What you and I do in those moments reveals a lot about our character.

What did my sister do? After she expressed her frustration, she kept on. She persevered. She cleaned up the cowpies and finished the job.

Sometimes, that's all we can do. Clean up the mess and go on. It's hard, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Bible tells us that our good work is not in vain.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." [1]

1. 1 Corinthians 15:58, New International Version

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Fresh Start

Need a fresh start?
Every New Year's Eve, thousands of people flock into Times Square and elbow-to-elbow, wait for the dropping of the ball. When the ball drops, confetti rains from the sky, noisemakers raise a din, and couples kiss enthusiastically.

Why does everyone love the New Year so much? Why all the hoopla?

I think it has something to do with starting fresh. Whether we want to do something better, or break a bad habit, the beginning of the year is a dividing line; we put away yesterday and look toward a new, and better tomorrow.

There is something within the heart of man that wants a fresh start. I think it has something to do with how hopelessly flawed all of us are. As Jeremiah put it, "the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
a puzzle that no one can figure out." (Jeremiah 17:9, The Message)

Even one of the greatest giants of the new testament struggled with human weakness. "I do not understand what I do," the Apostle Paul said. "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Romans 7:15 NLT)

We tell ourselves, maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe I'll be a better person. Maybe my will power will be stronger. Maybe I'll lose the weight I've been struggling with. Maybe my health will improve. Maybe I'll make more money.

Mankind desperately wants a fresh start, but what many don't seem to understand or accept is the fact that followers of Christ have a fresh start every single morning. He forgives 70 times 7, and removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. How far is that you ask? I'm not a big traveler, but from what I understand, it's pretty far. In fact, I don't think the east and west ever meet. Wherever you are on this globe, east is one way and west is the other. There is no line separating the two. Neither is there a line we can cross over to find the sins that God has forgiven. They are simply gone. Removed. No more.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Quiet Christmas

Into a Spiritual Winter

Like Narnia, the nation of Israel was
experiencing a spiritual winter.

The first prophecy that Jesus would come to save mankind was given way back in Genesis, right after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. God did not wait long to tell them that a rescue would be coming. Right after He dealt with Adam and Eve about their sin, He told the serpent:

"And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Jesus was the promised offspring of the woman, who would "strike the head" of the serpent.

Although there had been many prophecies about the coming Messiah, it had been 400 years since a prophet had spoken in Israel. God had been silent.  It was a spiritual winter. Almost like the Narnia of C.S. Lewis, where it was always winter but never Christmas.

Into this silence, a messenger arrived with a startling announcement for a young, Jewish girl.


Mary was probably between 12 and 14 years old.
Mary was young, probably between 12 and 14 years old. The day Gabriel came, she was probably working, quietly going about her daily duties. It was a regular day—a day of weaving, cleaning, and helping to take care of her younger brothers and sisters.

Mary’s future was a lot like that of most other young Jewish girls. She looked forward to getting married to her fiancĂ©, Joseph, and starting her life as a wife and mother.

Life was very ordinary. Nothing ever seemed to happen in Nazareth. But one day, something startling did happen. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

The future that Mary had imagined for herself was instantly shattered. She was a virgin, and had been keeping herself pure for marriage to Joseph. What would he say if she were to become pregnant? Besides that, how was it even possible?

The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) The angel left and the room was once again quiet. In the silence, Mary breathed a prayer to God.

What would her parents think? What would Joseph think?


It was quiet that night in Bethlehem. Crisp. Cold. Clear. Joseph leaned against the stable wall and looked out. The stars looked especially bright in the black ink of the night sky.

There, on the edge of town, the wind blew down from the hills, whooshing through the trees and whistling around the edge of the stable. Joseph remembered the words the Angel of the Lord had spoken to him in a dream:

“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph wondered, could it be his own Mary was fulfilling the words of the prophecy: “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means ‘God with us?’”

Jesus was born in a stable while the animals looked on.

A Lowly Manger

The stable was mostly quiet. The cows, donkeys, and sheep gave off a friendly warmth that almost made the stable feel cozy.

Mary and Joseph could hear the shuffling of hooves as the animals moved in their stalls, and the fluttering wings of the doves overhead.

One small child, who would forever change the world.
Somehow, the animals had been more welcoming than the people of Bethlehem! Truly, Bethlehem was sleeping that night, physically sleeping and spiritually sleeping, completely unaware that the King of the Universe had just made His appearance.

The town was quiet now—everyone gone to bed—and the only other sounds were the low sound of the wind coming down from the hills and the occasional small cries of the newborn baby.

Who would have thought that this one, small child would forever change the world? He came so quietly, in the darkness of night, to such a common, ordinary family, and in such an unexpected way.

The people of Bethlehem had no idea who had been born in their town that night. They slept right through one of the greatest events of history.

A Bunch of Lowly Shepherds

A fire crackled in the darkness of the Judean hillside. A ragtag bunch of humble shepherds pulled their blankets tighter against the wind.
The angels announced the good news first to lowly shepherds.

The sheep were noisy as usual, the ewes and lambs baaing and bleating to each other. Suddenly, another sound exploded in the sky—it sounded like a rushing wind—and with it a bright light. An angel appeared in the sky, saying:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

The shepherds wanted to see with their own eyes the baby that the angel had spoken of. Could this really be the promised one? The one lamb who would take away the sin of the world?

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:16-18)

All For Love

He humbled himself as a little baby, coming into this fallen world to redeem us.

God incarnate, Emmanuel, entered a sinful world through a lowly stable. He left the glory and majesty of heaven and humbled himself, becoming a little baby, and ultimately giving his life for us on a cruel cross.

He was the one spoken of by the apostle John—“in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh.” (John 1:1,14)

Why did he do it? Why did he cross the great divide between heaven and earth? Between God and man? He did it because He is love. Love crossed over with a purpose—the redemption of man, a gift from God to reconcile all mankind.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Trusting Daddy

Dad, with his three daughters, a.k.a. "fencing helpers."
I grew up on a dairy farm, and as a kid, we often had to go out and fix the fence that held the cows in. We used barbed wire - four strands attached to fence posts every few feet.

It wasn't uncommon for Dad to ask us kids, "want to go fencing?" We were expected to say "yes," and we always did.

Dad had an old manure spreader that he used strictly for fencing. It was a rusty old contraption that he pulled behind an old "Model A John Deere" tractor. The spreader contained rolls of wire, a wire stretcher, fencing staples, clips, posts, post-hole digger, and post maul.

Dad drove the tractor and us kids perched on the sides of the manure spreader, our bony little backsides bumping along as Dad drove over the rough ground.

When we got to a place that needed repair, Dad would pull over and us kids would pile out of the spreader to help. Sometimes we were replacing staples that had fallen out. Sometimes we had to splice wire or fix gates. Other times, we had to replace a post - one of my most vivid fencing memories.

Usually when Dad replaced a post, he used a metal one. Quite often, the metal was replacing a wood post that had rotted. My job was to hold the post while Dad pounded it in.

The posts were pretty tall and my Dad was pretty short, so he would stand in the spreader, one foot down in the spreader, and the other one up on the side. I would stand down on the ground, holding the post in position. The post maul was 20 pounds. Dad would swing it in a big arc, down, around, up over his head and then striking the post with a metallic ring. He would swing, and he would swing, and he would swing, the post inching down a little further into the ground with each strike.

I stood, a puny little kid, with a 20-pound hammer swinging right over my head. The post maul would hit that post and the reverberations traveled up my bony arms as I held on, keeping the post straight.

Was I scared? Well, maybe a little. If he missed, that 20 pound hammer would have come down on my puny little girl arms, probably shattering them. But he never missed. Never.

I could trust him. And trust him, I did.

It's that same kind of child-like trust that God looks for in us - His children. "Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." [Matthew 18:2-4 NLT]

He craves that same kind of closeness and blind trust with us that a child has for his or her Daddy.

Now, as an adult, I don't know if I could bear to watch a grown man swinging a 20-pound hammer over his kid's head. I'd probably do some kind of intervention. But that kind of trust - the trust I had in my Dad when I was a child - is what our heavenly Father (Heavenly Daddy)
wants from us.

Can we trust our Heavenly Father? Absolutely. Even when it feels like life is pounding us down, He's right beside us, giving us strength, giving us peace, giving us hope.

Trusting Daddy is a good place to be.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Love. Love. Love.

"Love, love, love," sang the Beatles. "All you need is love."[1] The song's  message is deceptively simple.

Is that all we really need? Surely there's  more to it than that.

I think we all recognize the need to be loved; it is one of the most basic, and deepest of human desires. You can have virtually everything in life, but if you don't have love, what good is it? So that part of the Beatle's song is true.  

But I think we need to differentiate something here. There is human love, and then there is God love. 

Most of us have experienced human love at some time in our lives, whether the love of a parent, a friend, or a spouse. Human love is a beautiful thing, but it can fail. Just look at all the marriages that end in divorce. 

That's where the Beatles song is deceptive. There's a little more to it than just needing love. Human love can fail, and when it does, it hurts. Real bad.

While human love can be fragile, God's love is not. In fact, God doesn't just love. He IS Love. (1 John 4:8)

After the last supper, Jesus poured out his heart to his disciples. He told them that "greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Jesus was speaking of himself. He was about to lay down his life for his friends, his twelve disciples, as well as for his future friends - those who would come to know and love him, decades and even centuries after his death on the cross.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV)

You might think, he was God! God can do anything. It was easy for him to die. But let's not forget, he was God in a man's body. A body like yours. Like mine. And he laid it down. He committed the ultimate act of sacrifice. The ultimate act of love and redemption. 

If you want to know real love, turn your eyes to Jesus. His eyes are on you, and His arms are open.

1. The Beatles, 1967. "All You Need is Love."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Four Gardens

There are four gardens of great significance in the Bible.
When we think about a garden, we think about a place of beauty, refreshment, and rest – a place where delicious scents and bright colors delight the senses. 

The Garden of Eden

Of course, God was the first gardener. He planted the first garden in Eden – a place of utter perfection. That first garden was created before sin, before weeds, before blight – it was indescribably perfect.

God could have kept it as a place of pristine beauty for all eternity. But he had another plan. God formed man out of the dust of the earth, giving him shape with his own hands and crafting him in his very own image. The Lord gave him dominion over every created thing.

Genesis tells us that Adam walked in the garden with God in the cool of the day. It is hard to imagine what that would have been like. Adam and Eve were the only humans who ever had that privilege. 

Tasting the forbidden fruit changed things forever. The world, as Adam and Eve had known it, was gone. The Lord had to banish them from the Garden he had created for them.

Sin had come, and with it, a world of woes.

With the first bite of that forbidden fruit, sin entered the world, and with it, a penalty.  Adam and Eve needed redemption. A price had to be paid. God, himself, sacrificed animals and dressed Adam and Eve in the animal skins. For thousands of years, animal sacrifices continued – so much sin, so much blood.

Until the perfect sacrifice came. Jesus was the lamb sent from the very hand of God. One without blemish. One that would atone for the sin of mankind once and for all. Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist told his followers, “behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

The Garden of Gethsemene

The shadow of the cross had loomed over Jesus from birth, but that shadow became unbearably heavy in another garden – the Garden of Gethsemane. In that garden of despair, when he took our sin upon himself, the agony and travail of spirit was so heavy that he sweat great drops of blood. “Father, let this cup pass from me,” Jesus pleaded. “Yet, not my will, but yours,” he said, submitting to the will of his father.

Why did Jesus, the Son of God, allow himself to experience the humiliation and agony that came with this kind of death? Why did the Father sacrifice his one and only son? 

The answer is simple.  One word - love. He did it for love.

The Garden of Golgotha 

John 19:41 tells us that “in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” Loving hands carried the lifeless body of the Son of Man from the cross to a tomb in the Garden of Golgotha, leaving him cold and alone, his battered body sealed away behind a stone.

Sin came in the Garden of Eden. Jesus took our sin upon his shoulders in the Garden of Gethsemane. And praise be to God - victory came in the Garden of Golgotha! Three days after his death on the cross, after what looked like the worst defeat of all time, the incomparably great power of God filled that cold and lonely tomb, and began coursing through the body of Jesus. He rose in glorious power, claiming victory over sin and death - forever.

Jesus conquered death and the grave, and we are more than conquerors with him. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus said “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you might be also.” He is preparing a place for all the redeemed. And one day, perhaps very soon, he will come again to take us to the wedding feast of the lamb and to live with him forever.

He has given us a wonderful promise, but with it a warning – for it is only for those who have ears to hear.

The Garden of Eternity

 “To the one who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Once again, we will be in a garden – a garden of eternal delight, ever and always with the one who loved us all the way to the cross and on into eternity.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living Proof

Religious leaders admitted that the body of Christ had gone missing.

"Without Jesus, I don't think any of us would be here." 

So said one of my Adventure Rangers, the class of fifth and sixth grade kids I teach on Wednesday nights at church. 

That's a powerful statement. We are all - individually, and collectively - living proof of a risen Savior.

I have the opportunity to teach the Adventure Rangers group every Wednesday night at my church. This year, we studied Lee Strobel's "Case for Christ for Kids." It was a great study that really grabbed the minds and hearts of the kids.

When Jesus walked this earth during the three years of his ministry leading up to his death on the cross, he used many names for himself - Son of God, Son of Man, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Bread of Life, and many others.

We asked the question - how do you know Jesus is who He says He is? 

Or, to put it another way, how do you know Jesus is the Son of God, and not just a great man?

That's a really good question and one that my Ranger group grappled with over the weeks.

When I posed the question, there was a huge outcry in the room - it says it in the Bible!

I countered - how do you know the Bible is true?

A hard question for fifth and sixth graders, as well as for adults! It is a question that every Christian should be able to answer with conviction. It is not enough to say that we believe because our parents believed. Each of us must believe for ourselves and be fully convinced in our hearts.

We talked it through and came to a resounding, unshakable conclusion: the Bible is definitely true and Jesus is THE SON OF GOD. 

How did my class reach that conclusion? Well, here are a few of the many powerful supporting facts that are indisputable and which they, and every Christian, can stand upon:

  • There were about 60 important prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled all of them!
  • Jesus performed miracles in front of thousands of people. At the time the gospels were written, many of these eyewitnesses were still living and could have disputed the gospel accounts if they were not true. (And let's not forget that Jesus still performs miracles today!)
  • If Jesus was not the Son of God and was lying about himself, he was willing to die for that lie. This simply makes no sense - who would die for a lie? 
  • Although his tomb was guarded by professional Roman soldiers, his body was missing. The Jewish leaders admitted the body was missing.
  • More than 500 people saw Jesus after he had risen from the dead, including all his disciples.
  • The men who were his disciples were radically changed by being with him. They were not educated men - just common people who made an enormous impact on the world.
  • All of the disciples, with the exception of Judas (who killed himself) and John (who was exiled to Patmos) were killed for their belief in Jesus. Again - who would die for a lie?

Around the globe this Easter Sunday, millions of Christians will gather: 

  • in churches large 
  • in churches small
  • in churches adorned with stained glass windows 
  • in churches adorned with a plain, rugged cross
  • in churches that meet outdoors
  • in crystal cathedrals
  • in country churches with plain old wooden pews 
  • in city churches that meet in schools and use folding chairs
  • in main street churches or secret underground gatherings
  • praising the risen Savior in thousands of languages

All around the globe - all worshiping Jesus - the Son of Man, the Son of God, sent into the world to save us from our sin.

"Without Jesus, I don't think any of us would be here."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Once again, Christmas is upon us, and with it a myriad of memories and thoughts.
The words to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" were written more than
150 years ago, but the message rings true today, perhaps
even more that when it was first written.
Each of us brings past remembrances into the holiday. For many, those memories are sweet. For others who have experienced loss of someone they love, they may be bittersweet. For still others, looking at current events and turmoil around the world (or close to home), the Christmas message of "peace on earth good will to men" seems like an unattainable dream.

Henry Longfellow wrote the poem "Christmas Bells" in the middle of the American Civil War. His oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing, or even his knowledge. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, only after Charles had left.

"I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," Charles wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good".[1]

Henry Longfellow's son, Charles, soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, a few short months after enlisting, he was severely wounded. [2] Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Henry Longfellow was inspired to write a poem, "Christmas Bells" on Christmas day, 1863. The words of the poem were adapted in 1872 for the carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." [3]

The lyrics let us look into the heart of a person who awakens on Christmas morning in utter grief and despair. He had just lost his wife in a tragic fire, and his son had been severely wounded in a battle on American soil. Although these words were written more than 150 years ago, they are probably even more relevant today than when they were originally written and many reading this can identify with that grief of heart.

As we look around us - near and far - we see much heartbreak, devastation, and turmoil, yet if we listen closely, we can hear something beautiful, albeit from a distance. It is the message of Christmas, an old, old message, yet one that is as true as the night it was first delivered by angels to a group of ragtag shepherds: "Unto you is born this night a SAVIOR who is Christ the Lord." This SAVIOR has come to set things right.

Why are things not right then, you ask? Let us remember that the story is still unfolding. The events of the end, while already written in the book, have yet to unfold.

Whether this Christmas finds you rejoicing or battling despair of the soul, let your eyes turn toward Jesus. It is in Him, and only Him that we find true peace.

The Lyrics

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

[1] Calhoun, Charles. Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004: 223–224. ISBN 978-0-8070-7039-0
[2] Studwell, William. The Christmas Carol Reader. Binghamton, New York: The Haworth Press, 1995: 166. ISBN 1-56024-974-9
[3] Ibid.

photo credit: <a href="">christmas bells tockholes 2009</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming

Christ's coming to a cold and sinful world was as
miraculous as a rose blooming in the winter snow.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming." I find it next to impossible to sing this song without shedding a few tears.

The song is quite old. The lyrics were penned by an unknown author and first appeared in print in the late 16th century.

The song begins by talking of the beauty and tenderness of a blooming that came in the cold of a winter night.

As a rule, growing things do not live in the winter. The frost kills tender plants. Even hearty plants and trees lose their leaves or die back to ground level. The warmth and light of the sun revive them in the spring.

Along came a rose.

If I stepped into my yard this December (northern Minnesota) and noticed that one of my rose bushes had come into bloom, it would be startling. Completely unexpected. And altogether thrilling.
That is what the birth of Jesus was. It had been 400 years since the nation of Israel had heard from God.[1] It was a spiritual winter. Almost like the Narnia of C.S. Lewis, where it was always winter but never Christmas.

Into the drought, into the silence of 400 years, came the Christ - one born as a rose in winter. You would think a rose bursting into bloom in the cold of winter would be treasured and deemed precious. Hard as it may be to understand, this rose was not treasured. This rose was cut off and trampled on the frozen ground.

But the rose of this song isn't just any rose. It is a rose "e're blooming," with "e're" being a contraction of the word "ever." Most roses die when they are cut off. Not this rose. Although He was cut off, after three days, this rose sprang forth in greater glory.

The sweet lyrics.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

I would write more, but I think these lovely words say it all, and say it best.

[1] There were four hundred years between the close of Malachi and the coming of John the Baptist. For more see:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Upon A Midnight Clear

The sheep these shepherds were watching weren't just any sheep. They
had a special significance and might help to explain why the message
was first delivered to these shepherds.
The old Christmas carol, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" is almost poetic in its rich imagery. We see angels bending down to earth, floating heavenly chords, cloven skies, and peaceful wings.

I can almost see star dust swirling and glinting as it falls down upon the snowy midnight ground.

It's about a song.

When we sing of "it" coming, we are not speaking of the Christ child. Rather we are singing of the song - the one the angels sang, heralding the arrival of that precious babe.

We don't know the exact time of the birth of Jesus. All we know is that it occurred "while they (Joseph and Mary) were there" in Bethlehem. However, we do know that the angels appeared to the shepherds that night - whether it was minutes or hours after the actual birth.

How symbolic that the song of the angels came in the night - when the light was gone and darkness rolled over the Judean hills like a thick blanket.

Imagine the shepherds, quietly gazing into their campfire, or walking around the edge of the flock, vigilant, keeping an eye on the shadows, wary of any predators that might be approaching. The night is quiet and dark.

Scripture tells us that suddenly, "the angel of the Lord came upon them" (Luke 2:9 KJV) and the radiance of God's glory surrounded them.

The angel's message.

"I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:10b-14 NLT)

The song of the angels struck a deep chord within the hearts of the shepherds who wasted no time in traveling to Bethlehem to see the baby for themselves, even if it meant leaving their flock untended.

Who were these shepherds?

Well, according to Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity, as well as a pastor and biblical scholar known for his book "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," it wasn't only the shepherds who were significant. It was also the sheep that they watched.

Edersheim says that traditional Jewish belief was that the Messiah would be revealed from the Migdal Eder ("the tower of the flock"). The tower was close to Bethlehem, and located along the road to Jerusalem. The sheep that pastured there were very special sheep. They were the ones used for sacrifice.

God's message to the shepherds, delivered by the angels was likely significant for many reasons, but especially so because of the very sheep they were protecting. These shepherds were the first to hear about the birth of the ultimate Lamb who would take away the sins of the the whole world through His death and resurrection.

"It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" ends with a verse on the end of the age - the age of the ages when Christ will rule and peace will prevail over all the earth.

Even so, come Lord Jesus. (Revelations 22:20c KJV)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The First Noel

The angels announced the birth of the Savior to a bunch of ragtag shepherds.
Christians have been singing
"The First Noel" for almost 200 years. The tune and the words were composed in the early 1800's. The word "Noel" originates with a late 14th century French word for the "feast of Christmas" or "the Christmas season." It is a variant of the Latin natalis "birth (day) and in church Latin, was used to refer to the birthday of Christ. [1]

When we sing the First Noel, we are singing about a very special day - the day Christ was born. 

The coming of Christ, the Messiah, was foretold by Old Testament prophets and the expectation of a Messiah by the Jewish people is clearly expressed in the gospels. Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) both recognized the significance of the birth of Jesus. Later in the gospels, John the Baptist speaks about the Messiah (John 1:20). The apostle, Andrew, called his brother Peter, telling him that "we have found the Messiah" (John 1:41). The Samaritan woman at the well was also aware that a Messiah was coming (John 4:25).

The first prophecy that Jesus would come to save mankind was given way back in Genesis, right after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. I find it particularly striking that God did not wait long to tell them that a rescue would be coming. Right after He dealt with Adam and Eve about their sin, He told the serpent "And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15) Jesus was the promised offspring of the woman, who would "strike the head" of the serpent.

Fast forward about 4,000 years [2] to the town of Bethlehem. The rescue mission had begun! A baby was born. That baby was God, incarnate, the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

All of heaven rejoiced at this next step in God's big plan. 

In Luke 2 we read:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." (Luke 2: 8-15 KJV)

The Lord came first to humble people. 

I find it particularly appealing that God sent His messengers to poor humble people, rather than to wealthy or powerful people.

The first noel was to certain poor shepherds, in fields as they lay. Shepherds were very lowly people in Bible days - not the ones you would expect God to honor with the first news of His Son's birth. We always picture the angels in the clouds, but a careful reading of the scriptures does not say that they hovered in the air. It does say that "the angel of the Lord came upon them." How utterly glorious it must have been! "The glory of the Lord shone round about them." What a picture of the Light of the World, coming into the darkness of a sinful world!

I love that the angels made the announcement of His birth to a group of ragtag shepherds. That means that His love is for all, not just those respected and esteemed by the world. That means that He loves you and me. As I write this, I weep for joy! To know that God came, in the flesh, to redeem me, to redeem you, is beyond comprehension.

Born is the King of Israel!

[1]noel. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved December 05, 2015 from website

[2]Kitchen, Kenneth A. and J.D. Douglas, eds. (1982), The New Bible Dictionary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale), second edition.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Child is This?

The message of Christmas is so big that its impact is felt around the world. At the same time, it is so small that it was contained in the body of a tiny infant - the baby Jesus.

When I think of the fact that the Creator of all things humbled Himself, leaving the glory and majesty of heaven and taking the form of a baby, I am awestruck. There is nothing in all the world that we can compare such an event to. It is simply without parallel.

The Christmas carol, "What Child is This" paints a picture of the baby in the manger and what the future held for the tender infant.

The first verse asks who this is, lying in the manger, sleeping on Mary's lap, and accompanied by both angels and shepherds. The second verse asks why this baby is being subjected to such a lowly setting and goes on speak of the reason Jesus came - the salvation of sinners. It also talks of the nails and the cross that Jesus will face as an adult.

So many things about this carol touch the heart. But the one that strikes me first is the humility of Christ to come in such a manner. Although He was one hundred percent God, He was also one hundred percent human, and as such, he was so vulnerable, so small, and so very tender. Think of the soft baby skin, the downy head, and the ten small toes and fingers.

It is impossible for us to imagine the journey from heaven to earth, but imagine just for a few moments what it would be like for you and I to simply roll back the clock and go back to being a baby. Hypothetically, if I were asked to undergo such a transformation to help someone else out, it would be a phenomenally tough decision. I would no longer be able to speak, to walk, to perform the smallest of daily personal activities. I would be totally and completely dependent on someone else.

What Christ gave up to come here was so much more! He was not just rolling back time, He was also leaving the courts of heaven and all that is connected with royal position. On top of that, the shadow of the cross was always over Him, even at His birth. The third verse of "What Child is This" tells us to bring Him incense, gold, and myrhh. These are the very gifts that the wise men brought to the child. While their significance is not explained directly in scripture, traditional thought says that each gift has a deeper meaning.

Gold is the precious metal that covered the ark of the covenant. This gift is thought to be symbolic of His divinity. Frankincense was used in worship and is thought to be symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. Myrrh is a spice that has been used in embalming, symbolizing bitterness, suffering and affliction. Not the typical gifts given to a baby.

But Jesus was not just any baby. What child is this? This child was God in the flesh, born to be Savior of the world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Author Ace Collins explains
the history and meaning of  the beloved carol
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of the oldest Christmas carols, dating back to the 16th century or even earlier. In his book, "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas," author Ace Collins provides a fascinating
perspective on the history of the song.
"Like so many early Christmas songs, this carol was written as a direct reaction to the music of the 15th Century Church. During this period, the songs of organized religion were usually written in Latin and their melodies were somber and dark, offering singers and listeners little inspiration or joy. In fact, though few admitted it in public, most church members secretly disliked the accepted religious songs of the day. Yet the laymen of the time had no power over the way they worshipped and had to accept things as they were. So, while they continued to go to worship, they created their own church music outside the walls of the cathedrals and chapels. In this way, the peasant class led a quiet rebellion against the tone of religious music by writing religious folks songs that were light, lively and penned in common language. Their Christmas folk songs became the foundation of what are now known as Christmas carols.
'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' was the most famous and most loved of all the early carols. Written with an upbeat melody and speaking of the birth of Jesus in joyful terms, the song may have shocked early church leaders, but it charmed their flocks. Not only did they sing to this carol, they danced to it.
'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' lyrics reveal that the song’s unknown writer knew the story of Jesus’ birth well. He included the high points of the gospel throughout the carol’s verses. The writer also fully understood the power of Christ and what His arrival meant to all who embraced it. In the case of this writer, comprehending the full and personal meaning of the birth of the Son of God brought forth enthusiasm and joy simply not found in any other church songs of the period. Though it might have been rejected by the church leaders, 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' better presented the message of the first Christmas and the life of Jesus than did many of the songs used in formal worship of the day.
'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' was sung for hundreds of years before it was finally published in the nineteenth century. By that time—thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s love of carols—the song found favor in the Anglican Church. Soon even the protestant English clergy of the Victorian era were enthusiastically teaching “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” to their parishioners. Crossing the ocean to both Europe and America, the carol became a favorite throughout the Christian world and it is still sung in much the same way as it was five hundred years ago. The only problem is that few of today’s singers fully understand the beginning of each of the carol’s many verses. This is a result of the evolution of the English language.
When modern people say “Merry” Christmas, the word merry means happy. When “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was written, merry had a very different meaning. Robin Hood’s “Merry Men” might have been happy, but the merry that described them meant great and mighty. Thus, in the Middle Ages, a strong army was a merry army, a great singer was a merry singer, and a mighty ruler was a merry ruler.
So when the English carolers of the Victorian era sang, “merry gentlemen,” they meant great or mighty men. Ye means you, but even when translated to “God rest you mighty gentlemen,” the song still makes very little sense. This is due to another word that has a much different meaning in today’s world and a lost punctuation mark.
The word rest in 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' simply means keep or make. Yet to completely uncover the final key to solving this mystery of meaning, a comma needs to be placed after the word “merry.” Therefore, in modern English, the first line of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' should read 'God make you mighty, gentlemen.' Using this translation, the old carol suddenly makes perfect sense, as does the most common saying of the holidays, 'Merry Christmas.'
You might wonder why, when most didn’t fully understand the real meaning of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,' the old carol remained popular. The world’s love for this song is probably due to its upbeat musical piece paired with the telling of the most upbeat story the world has ever known. Those who sing it naturally get caught up in the celebratory mood of the message and embrace the same kind of emotions that those first to visit the baby Jesus must have felt. As the angel told the shepherds, 'I bring you news of great joy.' That joy and the power of faith can be felt and experienced in every note and word of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.' You just have to know how to translate the words into the language of the day to have a very Mighty Christmas!" [From "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins.]  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Absolute Truth

Truth is absolute, whether or not we see it that way.
Ignore it at your own peril. Embrace it and live.

In the 21st century, it seems like everything is relative. It all depends...we say. That's your opinion...we say. I believe...we say.

I put before you a simple statement: we must know - and live - the truth, or in the end, we will have a sad awakening.

Here's a silly example that I hope will help me make my point.

If I look at a chair and say that it is a treadmill, is that OK? I could stand on the chair and move my feet up and down, racking up as many steps as I wanted. "See," I say, "it is a treadmill." If I believe that it is a treadmill, and use it as one, does that make me right? No. It makes me foolish, ignorant, uninformed, and possibly stubborn.

Would I not be better off to ask myself, "could this be a chair?"
Would I be hurting my self image and worth by admitting that I may have missed the truth?

When I read the gospels, I often ask myself, how the Pharisees could have been so blind. Couldn't they see that Jesus was the Messiah? Did they ever stop and ask themselves, "could Jesus be THE ONE spoken of by the prophets?"

I recently finished reading the book "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" by Nabeel Qureshi. Born into a devout Muslim family, Nabeel found himself searching for the truth during his college years. That search eventually led him to the truth: Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to salvation.

Eventually, the truth will find us, whether we seek for it or not. 

Do you know the Truth? Jesus said, "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE." Seek the truth and you will find Him. Or, close your eyes and keep walking in ignorance. The choice is yours.

photo credit: <a href="">Tell the Truth</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Back in April I heard Todd White speak at the FCA Convention. Todd is a man of moderate height, built like a Mack truck, with dreadlocks cascading most of the way down his back. He was an atheist and drug addict for 20-some years before being radically saved by Jesus while in Teen Challenge. He now travels the world, in his words, "destroying hell for a living." He prays for nearly everyone he encounters, flows in more or less nonstop words of knowledge, and has seemingly endless energy for spreading the gospel from one end of the world to the other. He is a Holy Spirit wrecking ball on a mission to bring the Lost into the kingdom. At the end of his sermon on the first night of the convention he said, "Is everyone in here a Christian? You should be by now." Then he pointed to a guy halfway back on one side of the auditorium and said, "You, in the red shirt, you don't know Jesus. Get down here right now." The guy walked down front and fell into Todd weeping as a phalanx of Christians surrounded him and prayed with him.
The point is this: I have never met someone as fearless as Todd White. It wasn't all hunky dory at the convention: Todd ruffled quite a few feathers with his intensity, and some of his unorthodox doctrine. But for me, the meat and potatoes of what he was saying was this: "There is a whole world of people who are living in despair, self-hatred, bondage, and depression, and they are desperate for you and me to manifest the love of Jesus that is in us." In his view, this is normal Christianity. Laying hands on the sick, operating in words of prophecy, sharing the love of Christ with everybody - all this should be normal Christianity. 

The thing is, none of this is possible without spending time communing with the Holy Spirit. We have to see the value in being Mary, and just being with Jesus, instead of being Martha and working, working, working for Jesus at the expense of relationship with Him. We have to let his love seep into our pores, or we're never going to care about the Lost, much less put our pride on the back shelf long enough to share Jesus with someone. Sharing your faith, especially in this era, is a very vulnerable thing, and if you don't have an overwhelming urgency for the lost, birthed in you by the love of God for the broken, it will be very hard to overcome your innate desire to be well-liked by everyone, all the time; to not upset the apple cart. 

So I realized, at the convention, that I want those things. I want a relationship with Jesus that isn't about my doing, but about just being with Him, letting him restore my soul. I want to have a burden for people that don't know Him; certainly a more intense burden than I've had the first 31+ years of my life. I want to be fearless in the face of what people will think of me. What about what God wants, and what He thinks of me? 

Twice this summer I have gone with some of the youth to Bemidji to try to find people to pray with. Why Bemidji, you say? Well, because praying for people in Fosston, Bagley, Erskine, McIntosh... - people you may know - is extremely intimidating, and when you've been afraid your whole life, you need to start out small. The first trip, Brady Finseth, Sam Marx and I felt like we struck out. Sure, we talked to a guy in Office Max about Jesus, but he was already a Christian. Sure, we got up the gumption to walk into Planned Parenthood and talk to somebody about Jesus, but it was closed. We were driving home feeling discouraged, until we started thinking, "Hey, we did get to lay our hands on Planned Parenthood's building and pray for an end to abortion. And that guy in Office Max? Maybe he'll feel compelled and encouraged to share his faith." The second trip was last week. Brady, Breanna Carroll and I went, again, to Bemidji. This time we asked a couple people in the mall if we could pray for them. Both immediately said no, and bristled at the suggestion, but as we talked to them they seemed to open up a little. We ultimately didn't pray with them, but we ambushed them in the spirit afterward:), and rejoiced at feeling even a small measure of rejection for the kingdom's sake. We also got to pray with a homeless guy named Gary, who was outside of Walmart, as well as bless him with a food card. Then inside Walmart a cashier said, "Hey, were youse the ones praying with that homeless guy out at the stoplight?" which led to a conversation and some prayer requests from her (Deb) for her husband, Paul, and his health. It's not exactly earth-shattering evangelism, but it is chipping away at our pride and our fear, and what could be more necessary? 

In Philemon, Paul says (v. 6), "...and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ." My friend, Ben Clark, says he believes that Paul is saying to Philemon here that there are certain things we can't know about the heart and character of God until we begin sharing the good news of the gospel of Christ with others. And I want to know the heart and character of God. What's more, I want to have the heart and character of God, which means I want to feel the way He feels about the Lost, and be compelled by Love, not by fear, when it comes to sharing faith. 

"In the end," says the ever provocative Todd White, "I will not be standing before my Father next to a line of people I could have affected for the kingdom but didn't because I was afraid." A resounding AMEN to that, and also to this: that my spiritual wish list, for the rest of my life, would include, instead of anything self-gratifying, simply this prayer: "God, make me FEARLESS for the gospel today, that someone may hear of Your love, and turn and be saved."


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Playing Every Note

Make every note count.
A single note doesn't amount to much. Or does it?

I began taking piano lessons when I was ten years old. That's a long time ago. My love of playing piano has only deepened over the years. You would think that after 45 years of playing an instrument that one would stop learning, but that isn't true. I keep learning, keep pushing, and continue to be amazed by the power of music.

Lately, I've been enjoying playing the song "Morning Has Broken." It is a great way to start the day, reminding me of the Lord's mercies, boundless and fresh each and every morning.

As I was playing this week, the Lord showed me something. If I sat down at the piano and attempted to play the song, it was less than it could be - less than it should be.

I found that when I focused on playing each and every note with passion and feeling, the end result was different. It was special. It was beautiful.

There is something better than playing the song - it is playing every note. 

So it is in life and in our walk with the Lord. We give our lives to the Lord, and want to make our lives count for Him, but it is in the days and in the moments where real beauty lies and where we can really LIVE. 

The moments are important. Make yours count today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Like a Flower in the Field

The blooms of a China Rose tree are beautiful, but they don't last long.
Spring is beautiful. Each day, as spring takes hold, we can see buds swelling, tender green leaves emerging, and with each sprinkle of spring rain, an aroma sweeter than the finest French perfume. It is a season of new beginnings and abundant promise.

We know from watching spring after spring over the course of many years, this tender season will soon give way to summer, summer will wind down into autumn, and once again, a blanket of snow will cover what was once green.

The turning of the seasons is a perfect picture of both the brevity and the sweetness of our lives here on this earth.

As the Scriptures say, "People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades." (1 Peter 1:24 NLT)

The China Rose tree is one of the first shrubs to bloom each spring. When it blooms, it is literally covered with delicate, crepe-like pink blossoms. The flowers only last a few days, but what glorious days they are! Once the shrub is done blooming, there is nothing to recommend it in the landscape - no interesting shape or attractive foliage. In fact, it is a shrub that goes unnoticed if it is not blooming.

One spring day several years ago, as I was driving to church, I noticed a China Rose shrub in full bloom - a glorious symphony of delicate pink. The next time I drove past, less than a week later, it was plain green. The beautiful blossoms had already dropped to the ground.

Is a flower any less beautiful because it is perishable? Certainly not - in fact, if anything, it is more beautiful, more amazing, and more appreciated.

I remember well both of my grandmothers, steadfast, faithful women of God. When I was young, it seemed as if they had lived, and would live, forever. While they will certainly live forever - it is not on this earth. They are now gone and their memory is precious - like petals of a China Rose tree.

Do you ever wonder what you will leave behind? When you are only a memory on this earth? With all my heart, I want to do something that counts, something that makes a difference.

At the same time, I know that God has made me for a unique purpose. I can only be what He has made me to be. Anything that I try to be beyond that can only amount to nothing. To be fully alive in Him, fulfilling His purpose for my life, is everything.

If that means one glorious day of being in full bloom - so be it. May I bloom happily for a day.

There is an old saying, "bloom where you are planted." How often have you felt that you wanted to bloom somewhere else? That you were a different kind of plant, entirely? From our physical appearance to our finances, our career or whatever situation we may find ourselves in, we usually want something else.

Paul said, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV)

Oh that we may be content, to bloom for a single day like the China Rose tree, to simply be what God has intended for us, and in that surrender to bloom our hearts out - even as we know we are perishing, our bloom is fading, and with it, all the glorious beauty, that we have come to know.

There is a daily living and dying that holds us tightly in its grip. The eternal sings in our hearts while mortality nips at our feet. "While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life." (2 Corinthians 5:4 NLT)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Poem for Bikers

There's no better way to view the beauty of God's creation
than from the seat of a motorcycle.
At Bethel Assembly's first Blessing of the Bikes, Canadian biker Keith Braun shared an original poem, "This Biking Life." Enjoy.

As we cruise along for just the ride
Down roads alone or with friends beside
Basking in the sun and breeze
The filtered light through all Your trees
Help us Lord to understand
While we travel here across Your land
That we’re also here at Your command.

On broad avenues or down winding lanes
The rumble of engines like distant trains
The sound and wind that lullaby
The ride and bring that biker’s high
Create for me a two-wheeled hymn
Keeping soul and mind in trim
And showing me that it’s from Him.

All this world’s made at Your pleasure
For all Your creatures in equal measure
Help us then as we cross Your realm 
To keep You firmly at the helm
Of our two-wheeled chariots on the road
Remind us Lord that which You told
That in serving You we shall be bold.

Your Son’s command, before He went
Was that we should be willing to be sent
As you go, share what you know
Giving to others as you grow
Sharing the truth that our God is here
On the winding road, free from fear
Knowing You long to hold us near.

On through the curves we love to glide 
And up across that next divide
Soaring through the sun-drenched day
Wishing all the same could stay
Riding with brothers and sisters too
Who love You just the way we do
Knowing that You are forever true.

Help me Father to share Your light
With those You bring into my sight
Help them to see Your love and grace
With which You meet us face to face
Show me along the road today
Some friend, and tell me what to say
To share Your love in a healing way.

May Your light shining through the trees
Again help to bring us to our knees
And in visiting this great creation
Keep us yet in adoration
In thankfulness for all You’ve done
For sending us Your only Son
And for Your Spirit who makes us one.

By Keith Braun

Friday, May 1, 2015

Perspective is Everything

My Dad, the man with the HUGE shoulders.
Perspective is everything. Those of you reading this blog who know my family know that my father would never be described as a physically large or imposing man. At only five feet, four inches tall, he would easily be described as a short man by most any standards.

But even a short man may be perceived as large in stature, depending on the perspective of the person considering him. When I was in first grade, I idolized my father. (I still do.) I vividly remember describing him to my classmates.

"My dad is really strong," I said. Reaching my arms out as far as I could, I exclaimed, "his shoulders are HUGE." I tended to be rather dramatic in those days, and my words created quite an impression within my circle of friends. I had given them the idea that my dad was some sort of Super Hero, beyond the bounds of the average mortal man.

Imagine my surprise when one of my friends saw me with my dad in town. "Your dad isn't big!" she said. "He's short. I thought you said he had HUGE shoulders!"

Of course, I was only about three feet high myself at the time, and when I looked at my dad, I had to look up to see his impressive five foot, four inch frame. My perspective had a lot to do with my perception.

There is an old cliche that says, "You can't see the forest for the trees." When we are in the middle of the woods, all we can see is one tree after another. It is hard to grasp the breadth and depth of the entire forest. It is only when we place some distance between ourselves and the trees that we can actually see the forest. We are missing perspective.

As the current of life sweeps us along, lack of perspective can lead us to questions and uncertainty, but the simple truth is that we are not seeing the big picture. All we see are the many small events and the multitude of pieces that comprise the whole.

God does not have that problem. In speaking of Himself, he says; "For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9 NLT)

His ways are higher. His thoughts are higher. To say that His perspective is higher is not really accurate, because He does not see things from a singular angle or vantage point; what He sees is nothing less than the absolute truth.

Paul said "we see through a glass, darkly." (1 Corinthians 13:12) The New Living Translation reads like this:  "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."

Hold on for a minute. God knows me completely?

Do you ever think about the fact that God sees through all the extraneous stuff of your life? He sees through the facade, the pretense, and the attitudes, to the very heart of you -- what makes you tick, what drives you, what makes you cringe, what you want to hide. He sees the burden you are carrying, the hurt that is ravaging your heart.

He also knows the ending. We do not.

Do you trust Him? I mean REALLY trust Him, even in the middle of life's challenges?

It is only by looking up that you will see His HUGE shoulders -- the only way you will see His arms reaching down in love.

Open our eyes, Lord. Help us to see -- to see You, and to see the things of life as You see them.