He is Risen

1 Apr

I know, it’s not Easter for a few weeks, but I just had to say it. He is Risen. I had to remind myself of this today. In God’s providence, I’ve been having many conversations about death recently. No one “looks” for conversations about death. There are many other topics that everyone would much rather think upon. But, some days, it becomes an inescapable reality for various reasons. We all know that saying, “There are two things people can’t avoid: death, and taxes” but how often do we really think about what that means? Death is unavoidable. Just saying it makes people uncomfortable. There are so many things we can avoid in life. We can avoid getting a job, we can put off marriage, we can participate in many activities or choose to not participate in activities, and all of this gives us some sense that we are “in control”. But in death, there really is no control. That is a scary thought.

Just yesterday, I was out with a good friend, and we were having this conversation. We were talking about the recent deaths of several people we know, and reflecting on how unexpected they were. At the same time, it was sobering to face the fact that although the time and place were unknown to anyone except God, there was really nothing unexpected about their deaths at all. Part of the deception is that we all would like to believe in some way that death is just a normal part of life that we have to accept. In North America, with all our obsessions surrounding health and prolonging life by eating well, exercising, and prolonging our youth (whether it be through plastic surgery or just some form of procrastination from taking on certain responsibilities associated with adulthood), it has become too easy to trick ourselves into believing that death is not at hand. We rarely face even having to look at a dead body, since most of the time, attending a funeral means looking at a casket. It’s almost as if, by not thinking about it, and not seeing it around us, we pretend that it doesn’t exist.

I assume that most people, when asked how they’d want to die if they had the choice, would choose something “peaceful” like passing away quietly in the night, in a home surrounded by family and friends, at an old age. But what has ever given anyone a reason to not only believe that death is either “normal” or controllable? You don’t have to look far to see examples all around of how untrue this idea of death is. Its victims don’t have an age nor do they fit into a type or category. This is a certain reality: we will all die, and we don’t know when. In light of that, here are my questions: is there any hope in the face of death, and, are you ready to face it?

As I was talking with my friend about these questions, she asked me “Are you scared of dying?”, and although I knew my answer right away, it made me think even more about why it is that I can say with real confidence and real hope, “No, I’m not scared of dying.” Don’t get me wrong, if I have to think about the ways that I might die, there is definitely fear. I don’t think about this often, but I’m no different than anyone, I do not anticipate death with excitement in the sense that I think it will be pain free, or easy on me or anyone that I love. That is not what death does. It will one day destroy my body, and in some ways, I do fear that experience. My response, that I am not afraid to die, comes as a result of this truth: He is risen. You may have heard many things about who Jesus is and what His life was about, but do you realize, that the whole concept of the good news or the Gospel, is that Christ came to defeat death? When He died on the cross, His body was laid in the ground, but three days later, he was actually, physically, raised from the dead. During his life, he raised people from the dead. Lazarus, his good friend had been dead for several days, and when he came to him and called him saying “Lazarus, come forth!”, Lazarus rose up and came back to life! Does that blow your mind or what? Do we even stop and think about what that must have been like for people around watching, especially those closest to him? I mean, I can only picture how utterly stunned and shocked bystanders would have been. Lazarus’ sisters must have been speechless for days. Their brother, whom they had just buried, was now back with them, eating and talking. And he wasn’t the only one. Why do you think Jesus performed that miracle? I can think of one reason, although there are probably many. He was showing people that he had authority over life and death, and when he speaks and calls someone to come forth from the grave, they will live. There is nothing, not even the greatest enemy we as human beings have ever known, that can defeat him. That is hope.

You may not take the Bible as true or believe it to be what it claims to be as the authoritative word of God, but in it, there is the explanation as to why it is that death entered the world in the first place. Death is not an evolutionary process. It’s not “nature’s way” of eliminating the weakest. It is a curse and it is the result of sin that came into the world from the very beginning. All that God created, was never meant to die, and yet, because of the sin of man, we all live under the sentence that Bible says is the penalty for our sin. Anyone who understands the simple concept of justice, getting what one deserves as a result of an offence, can understand that when God said that anyone who sins must surely die, he was speaking about the reality that all sin, everywhere is an offence to the Creator, the one who made each and every person to live in perfect union with him. Since the beginning, death has never been normal or something that people should learn to accept. No, it needs to be remembered as being our greatest enemy. When we forget that, and are consumed by a thousand other cares or distractions, we are in danger of being totally unaware of the serious state of our souls. It is not something that any person, in themselves, can overcome or defeat. Tell me, do you know anyone who has truly cheated death? No. Except Jesus. He didn’t cheat it, he destroyed it.

And that is the real hope. It made me angry and sad to stop and think about what sin really does to each and every one of us. It blinds us from these realities and causes to live in various forms of unbelief about who God is and what it is that he has done in sending Jesus to the world. Many people are familiar with the verse, John 3:16, but don’t know what comes right after that. It says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” Read that slowly. God, loved us. He gave us his Son, by sending him to die for us in our place on the cross. By Jesus taking our place on the cross and receiving the punishment that we deserve, we don’t have to die a spiritual death. He did not send Jesus to destroy people, he sent him to give them life and to save them! From the beginning, God has been on a rescue mission, to bring lost souls back to himself.

I can’t not say these things right now, because for a moment I’ve been reminded again of the dark shadow that covers over all of us. Although Easter is a few weeks away, this truth should make us sing for joy each and every day of the year. Those who know Jesus have this real hope, that they will not taste death and they will not be destroyed, because Jesus already took on that death for us. I am so thankful for this. If only we would reflect more on our hope, every day, so that we go out into the world with a sober-mindedness about what we really have been saved from and how pressing it is that we share this hope with everyone else. And for anyone who doesn’t know him, I pray that being reminded about the reality of death, would cause you to reflect on the life you have now. There is only one person in all of history who has defeated death, and by trusting in him, and turning away from sin to follow him, life is yours to live. No longer do you have to live in fear, he came to overcome that.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Looking Back, for Strength to Look Forward

21 Aug

I’m breaking the silence on the blog… Here it is. I am glad that people probably have few or no expectations about me writing on here so in my absence (and that of all my co-writers), I’m sure life has gone on and everyone is doing just fine. Nonetheless, I think I’m ready to jump back in!

I’ve been learning MANY lessons over the past few months. I’m sure I haven’t arrived at a place where I can say that I now know and have fully grasped what it is that the Lord is teaching my and why He’s doing it now, but, somehow there are things that I think are getting through my stubborn skull. It’s funny how lessons don’t come in neat, tidy, easy to understand packages. Sometimes you get a little of this here, and something more there. Just the way it is with little children, you instruct a bit on one day, and that doesn’t mean that they get it immediately. It often takes time. A long time. Some lessons will keep being taught over and over in many ways and at many times, but there is a reason and purpose, and even when we don’t get the “why”, it doesn’t matter.

I’ll try and dig in to exactly what I mean by using a recent example. This past summer, I’ve often found myself floundering in discouragement. I am faced with some area of sin, some struggle I’m having, whether it be with patience towards my family, or learning to gain self-control in many areas of my life (time, money, etc.), and I begin to believe that there’s no hope and that things will always be the way they are. I’ll never stop responding with annoyance when I’m asked a question for the fifth time, and I’ll never say no to that unwise purchase, because I always find a way to rationalize my choices, even when I know they’re not the best. As I have on many days felt disheartened and hopeless, the Lord has brought to mind my past. Can you think back to when you first became a believer? When you first became convicted about sin in your life, or realized that the direction you were going in some particular area was not good, what happened? Did God leave you to wallow in self-reliance and guilt? I am sure that the answer for a believer is no. It is a good thing to remember back, and even list off mentally (or on paper if that helps you), struggles that you once had that have been overcome. I can think of many, many different things that I used to feel hopeless about, that God has brought me through. I’m not the same person I once was. That doesn’t by any means mean that I’ve arrived, or am floating around in some state of perfection, far from it. It is just a reminder that God is good and He doesn’t leave us in our sin. He who began that good work, WILL be faithful to complete it. It is Him, not us, working to conform us to the image of His son.

Reading from an piece written on another blog, I was reminded of how when parents are teaching their children, lessons get learned after much repetition. It is rare that the first time they hear or see something, they’ll pick it up and have no problem recalling what to do or say the first time they’re tested. But over time, they do learn. Thank God for His patience with us. We are just as stubborn. We want to insist that our way is the better way, or that we must see our situation more clearly than He does, so He’ll understand why it was ok for us to behave the way we did, without faith and hope in Him, and without obedience.

In a world where the world discipline has such a bad rap and is most probably associated with abuse, or unfair treatment, it’s hard to get our minds around the fact that it really is such a good thing. It’s a good thing to experience discipline and to practice it. The Bible says that if we are not disciplined by God, then we aren’t his children, because a loving parent disciplines the children he loves. God does the same thing. He chastises us, for our good. Again, with little kids, it’s the exact same way. We put limits on their desires, and stop them from going ways that are not good, not to restrict them but because we love them, and the ultimate freedom is not found in wandering whatever way they think is best, but in staying in safety, where they are able to fully enjoy liberty without hurting themselves and others. God’s reminders to us through His Word about sin, about the reality of our hopelessness, are not meant to leave us despairing and turning inwards for the solution. They’re meant to turn us towards Him so that we go to the real source of hope and strength. His discipline is a sign of His love.

Here’s one more point on discipline that comes from another recent experience. I’ve been running a lot this past summer. I’ve never particularly liked running and I actually don’t really know what got me started. I love sports, and I love exercise, but I guess because my time is limited in some ways, I find myself unable to do certain types of exercise that I’d typically be drawn to. I can remember participating on various teams growing up, and knowing what it meant to commit to some form of athleticism. The commitment didn’t just happen at game time on the field, or the ice, it happened prior, during 6 am practices. It happened at home, practicing some skill on the driveway. It meant saying no to other activities so that I could say yes to being on a team. But it always felt worth it because at the end, regardless of whether I played on a winning team or not, the satisfaction of having committed to something and having been willing to see it through till the end was good. With running, I have no one to hold me accountable. It’s just me out there, on the road alone early in the morning. I sometimes run with a friend and we’ve mentioned to each other several times that waking up and getting out the door is the hardest part. But once you’re out there, and once you finish that run, you feel great, not just physically but mentally as well. There is something valuable in telling your body to do things that it doesn’t want to do. It is a good thing to force yourself to work hard, even though you know your muscles will ache and you’ll have to crawl out of a warm bed, because the end result is so much better than not doing anything at all. Discipline is like that. It hurts you in the present, and the reward doesn’t show up till later on. You don’t want it, because it seems hard to accept that anything painful or difficult could be good (regardless of how many times you’ve seen results!). I’m telling you, even after running several days a week, getting up for that fifth time in spite of the benefits, is still a challenge. I’m sure it will continue to be, everyday I choose to go out.

To wrap all this up, remembering where we’ve been, and the fact that we’re not there anymore is hopeful. It reminds us that God has disciplined us, and will continue to discipline us for our good and for His glory. We don’t need to loose hope. We need to look up instead of inside. And the looking back serves as a good reminder that there are spiritual exercises that you have been put through and have seen results from. Just as our physical bodies need reminding that pain can be a good thing when it is used to mould us into a new person, so with spiritual difficulties and even failure. We’re reminded that we aren’t who we should be, but, to borrow from a quote whose author I can’t remember, by God’s grace, we’re not who we used to be, and one day, we will be who He has called us to be.

Till next time!

(Lord-willing not in 8 months!!!)

Maj

Some Favourite Tunes

19 Mar

I love music. I love all kinds of music.

I especially love the way song writers are able to capture profound truths in a very concise way. I thought it might be fun to share some of those amazing lines with you in this post. I will give you a link so you can listen to a few of them that you may not know that well. Enjoy!

“Well might the sun in darkness hide, and shut his glories in. When Christ, the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin.”(Alas and did my Savior Bleed, Isaac Watts)

“Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,which wonders to feel its own hardness depart. Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground. And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.”(Thy Mercy, My God, John Stocker)

“Oh Perfect Love come near to me from hatred help me part. So I may bless my enemies with glimpses of Thy heart.” (Perfect Love Come Near to meWesley Randolph Eader)

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine. So you bring all your history and I’ll bring the bread and wine.”(Lover, Derek Webb)

“He knew who his betrayer was, He washed his feet, He washed his feet. He knew who his betrayer was, He washed his feet, He washed his feet. Oh, He loved them so.”(He Loves Them SoWesley Randolph Eader)

What are some of your favourites? I would love to hear from you.

I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy

7 Mar

The reality of God’s sovereignty has caused many sleepless nights in my 9 years as a Christian. I don’t loose sleep over wrestling with the complexities of how this works itself out in time and space with real human beings who make real decisions. Rather, it is the sometimes painful reality that God rules over each human being’s eternal destiny. He has mercy on who He will have mercy.

I go through a range of emotional responses during these long nights. But what I find myself coming back to is this: He is God and I am not. As we are told by Him in Exodus 34:6-7, He is “The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty….” this same Lord chooses whom he will shower that mercy upon. He says this of himself, just a few verses before, when Moses asked to see His glory: “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19)

So he is, as He tells us, gracious and merciful and in control of how that grace and mercy is shown. Imagine he wasn’t? Imagine it was me who was in charge of pursuing people to show them mercy and grace. It would probably look something like this: “You, the one whose personality I mesh with and have deep conversations with, I will show you mercy. And you, the one who is well dressed and good looking, I will show you mercy too. And now you, I am feeling pretty good today, so I will show you mercy too….but just make sure you stay on my good side and keep speaking to me in my love language or else I may decide to show you another side of my character.”

God is not like me. He does not show mercy because of what we provide him nor is he partial to the well dressed and pretty. He is not governed by his feelings, rather he binds his mercy to us with a promise that it will never leave us. His mercy and grace is beautiful. It calls out to those who don’t get along with him. In fact, His calls on his enemies to receive his mercy. He calls on those whose sins are like scarlet. He call on those who have been brutal and unloving to others. He calls on those who have lived with bitterness their whole lives. He calls on those who are weary and heavy laden. He calls them all to come and receive his mercy and grace because he wants them to know his mercy and grace.

So, the next time I lie awake at night and think about the profound reality of God’s sovereignty, I pray that he helps me remember that there is not one else like him. There is not one person on this earth whose mercy is as extensive as his. He is God and we are not. I pray that my soul would rest there and go forth into the world with that amazing message, for his names sake and for the good of all people.

Some helpful clarification on infant baptism

11 Feb

I stumbled upon a helpful short video from The Gospel Coalition website that highlights a discussion between Ligon Duncan (a Presbyterian)and Thabiti Anyabwile (a Baptist) on the issue of infant baptism and whether or not the practice is biblical. If you, like me, aren’t as well versed some aspects of the arguments behind infant baptism, their discussion is very helpful in clarifying and shedding light on the paedo-baptist position.

Take a look!

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Day 3: Comfort food

11 Feb

Day 3: Comfort food

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Day 2: Make a favourite meal

11 Feb

Day 2: Make a favourite meal

30 Day Challenge Day 1: It’s Spring! (sort of)

8 Feb Day 1: After

Since He (God) created man as a creative creature, by creating him in His own image, these ‘creative creatures’ have, through the ages, retained fragments of the perfection which He made in the first place- though spoiled, of course, by sin. Every single one of us has been spoiled by sin. But as we look back over history and see artists musicians and creative people in various fields, we can recognize the ‘image of God’. Continue reading

Making All Things Beautiful: A 30 Day Challenge

7 Feb IMG_2691

Remembering that we are finite, limited creatures, and that we do not have the time or talent to do everything that will be suggested, let us consider some practical possibilities. – Edith Schaeffer

So what if we’ve resolved to take our time and our talents to bless others in the area of making our surroundings beautiful but don’t know where to begin? I’ve got to say, waking up this morning and writing out my list of to-do’s did not inspire me. Continue reading

Fruit Central

6 Feb Knitting

Can I recommend once again another read that I’ve enjoyed going back to over and over? Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic from Femina is a short little piece that has taught me lessons I replay often.

One of her chapters describes the nature of fruit trees. They produce an abundance of fruit if they’re healthy, and of the fruit they produce, there is often a lot of it that never gets eaten but rather falls off and is left along the way. That doesn’t stop the tress from doing what they’re supposed to do. They make their fruit, not caring who eats it or what happens to it. Continue reading

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