Category Archives: Bride of Christ

Stay steady and win the prize

Last night Marion and I watched a movie about Philippe Petit, who famously walked a tightrope between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center in 1974.

I was struck by his courage but also the extensiveness of his preparation for this feat. You don’t accomplish a feat like this without both attributes. Further, I noticed that he was completely convinced he could do this. He had faith – not in God but in his own ability. The pressure of maintaining this faith almost drove him mad because he was relying on himself and not on God. Still, he persevered and accomplished what he called his “coup”.

Petit said that he did this not only for the sake of the feat itself but also for the glory that would be his as a result.

To walk a tightrope you do need preparation, training, courage and faith. You also need incredibly good balance.

This morning I awoke from a dream about the Bride of Christ. The nations of the earth are being shaken in the time we are in, and the Bride of Christ is being shaken.

Although Jesus is called our Bridegroom in Scripture, and we are called his bride, the wedding is still to come. We are Jesus’ betrothed, but only those who stay steady through the shaking will get the prize.

The shakings are part of our preparation for glory. Many of us waver at times. We might even stumble and lose our balance momentarily. If we steady ourselves and get up again, we will make it. If we lose our grip and forget our hope in these moments, we will fall to our destruction.

As I was waking up from this dream the Lord also told me to get up and eat something sweet. I asked him, if I am being given this message about shaking, shouldn’t I be fasting and praying? He said no, get up and eat something sweet. So I did. As I did this I realized that God was saying that in the midst of shakings He sustains His people with the sweetness of His presence. We don’t have to maintain our balance and our courage by sheer force of will, as Philippe Petit did in his classic tightrope walk. We do need to fix our will on the prize, but we can abide in the sweet presence of the Lord. He steadies us so that we can finish our walk.

If you are going through difficult times know that you are not alone. The Holy One has his eye on you. Philippe Petit also had a team of people who believed in him and were cheering him on. We have a team as well. We need the Body of Christ to cheer us on to success. Even more than that – especially in those moments when we feel completely alone – we need to remind ourselves that the eyes of the Lord are on those who have put their hope in Him.

Yesterday evening was the beginning of the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles. This feast celebrates the abiding presence of the Lord with Israel as they were crossing the wilderness, when they lived in temporary shelters. For believers in Jesus it also signifies the beautiful, sweet reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit who refreshes us, renews us and empowers us to finish our race with joy. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a deposit or first installment on our  inheritance. Those who persevere in faith are destined to inherit an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken.

If your life sometimes feels like a tightrope walk between two towers, fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him steady you. You will get to the other side. Eternal glory awaits you.

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Nuggets of Hope 29 – Living Flame of Love

We live in troubled times. As if the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t present enough of a challenge, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has placed a spotlight on the reality of white privilege and the pain of the black community. Meanwhile, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head. A Montreal synagogue was recently torched, and fully 20% of Britons surveyed blame a Jewish conspiracy for COVID-19. And this is only a partial list.

In the midst of all this turmoil comes the Biblical feast of Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew), celebrated by Christians today and by Jews three days earlier. Originally a harvest festival, Shavuot was one of three festivals (the others being Tabernacles and Passover) for which Jews were expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The Book of Acts records that after Jesus had ascended into heaven ten days earlier, the community of about 120 disciples had gathered and were holding an extended prayer meeting. Meanwhile the city was filling up with Jewish pilgrims who had come from various places in the Roman empire to celebrate Shavuot. On the feast day, as the apostles were praying – probably on a rooftop terrace – the Holy Spirit was poured out in power, a crowd gathered because they heard God being praised and proclaimed in their various languages, the apostle Simon Peter preached a bold and powerful message, and three thousand Jews turned from their sins on that day, received Jesus as Messiah, and joined the community of His followers. While a nucleus stayed in Jerusalem, many of the pilgrims would have eventually returned to their homes, taking the new faith with them.

The new community of disciples was marked by several powerful features. They were full of joy by the power of the Holy Spirit. They stood in awe of God’s power and holiness. They lived together, shared their goods, walked in humility, loved their enemies and prayed for those who opposed them. Miracles of healing were common. Before long, persecution began to flare up as the new faith was a challenge to the established order.  Yet many were drawn to the new faith because of the undeniable sense that God was with these lovers of Jesus.

Two millennia have passed since those early days. The new movement, which began as a persecuted minority among Jews, soon spread to Gentiles as well and after a couple of generations had rejected its Jewish origins as it began to penetrate Roman society. Within three centuries, the church had become an established institution, supported by the state. Its history is a mixture of good and evil. The list of wrongs perpetrated in the name of Christ is too long for this blog. Yet many of the best features of our Western society are also directly attributed by secular historians to the influence of Christianity. By God’s grace, the same Holy Spirit who fell on the eagerly waiting fellowship on that first Pentecost has continued to bring repentance and renewal, and the number of those who truly love Jesus and His ways, and seek to follow Him in sincerity, has continued to grow.

In these troubled times, when many things are being shaken and stripped away, I believe it’s time for God’s people to return to basics – to our first love. The Holy Spirit was given to empower His people to proclaim the good news. He has given us many gifts of power. But His first assignment – His very nature – is to draw our attention to Jesus himself. I’m very grateful for the gifts of the Spirit. But I am even more grateful that He gives us the power to grow in love for Jesus and His ways. He is the living flame of God’s love, poured into our hearts. Whatever good we do – whether preaching the gospel, giving to the poor or caring for the sick – it counts for nothing with God unless it springs from love. But consistent love for God and His ways – which Jesus called the first commandment – is the one thing we are incapable of without the power of the Spirit. I can’t even love my own wife consistently without His help. We need the Holy Spirit.

In these times of growing turmoil and trouble, it’s increasingly evident that no-one has a solution to the challenges we are facing. There is only one leader capable of bringing peace, justice and healing to the earth – King Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, who will bring in His Kingdom when He returns. But He has given His people a deposit on our inheritance – the blessed Holy Spirit. In the chaos of our times – in the midst of adversity, when everything within us is crying out to God to change our circumstances – the Spirit empowers us to love and choose the Lamb and His ways. He is coming for a people who have learned to persevere and grow in love. In the end, that is how we will be evaluated.

Come, Holy Spirit.

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Nuggets of Hope 27 – Are you listening?

PSSST … 

Hey you. I have some things to tell you. Secrets. Things that can help you.  Are you listening? This is really important.

God. 

This is a time of many opinions, much commentary, many unknowns and uncertainties, many claims and counter-claims, much fear and anxiety, much suspicion and accusation, much unrest and contention.

In the storm of words, it is a great gift to be able to quiet one’s thoughts by giving our attention to the Holy One.

Before I was born again, I could not do this. I was a young United Church pastor – attempting to be a shepherd to others although I did not yet really know the Good Shepherd. I was driven and anxious much of the time. I wanted peace – wanted it desperately – but I could not think my way into it.

I found that the way to peace was through surrender of my will to Jesus Christ and baptism with the Holy Spirit. Right away my life became much simpler as I no longer felt compelled to solve every problem or come up with a solution for every situation. There was such freedom in not being responsible for everything.

I am very grateful for those who trained me, early on in my walk with Christ, in learning to listen to the quiet whisper of Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit.

Nowadays, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am finding that to stay healthy I need to practice a few simple disciplines.  Physical exercise, prayer, Scripture, work, rest.

One of the most important is to pay more attention to the voice of the Lord than to the voice of man.

From the time I was a young child I always wanted to know what was true and what was false. I also have a strong sense of justice and hate to see lies and wrongs prevail. These are good qualities but I have found that in order to stay in God’s peace – which is the place of order and productivity and fruitfulness and life and hope – I need to discipline myself to listen to His voice in preference to all the other voices. When I forget this, even for a short time, I pay a price. When I remember it, peace returns and I am able to see clearly again because I have heard the voice of the One who is True.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus, John 10:10

My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways …
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God, Isaiah 55:8-9

The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord,
And whom You teach out of Your law;
That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
Psalm 94:11-13

The Holy Spirit is such a blessing to me. In an instant He can cut through the confusion of human voices and give me His perspective. He doesn’t answer all my questions but He directs my attention to the one thing that I need to pay attention to in that moment. This brings rest to my thoughts and keeps me stable, focussed and productive.

One of my favourite Psalms speaks of the secret counsel of the Lord which is available only to those who fear Him. It is like the counsel that one gives to a trusted friend. I need that secret counsel on a daily basis, to guide my life, to show me His ways and keep me from trouble.

I daresay you need that daily counsel of the Lord as much as I do.

Are you listening?

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Nuggets of Hope 21 – The Hope of Glory

The hope of glory.

The runners in this photo were both running for the prize. They were running to win. They were running with focus and determination.

One of them is my young friend Rebecca Greer. She is an exemplary young lady. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic she has continued to train and stay in shape.

Why does she do this? It would be easier not to.

The answer is that she has vision and a purpose that enable her to see beyond the limitations of this present time. She is living for fulfillment. She is running for the joy of it. She is running for the hope of glory.

God has designed humans to want fulfillment. We are made for joy. We are made for glory. We are made for the glory of God.

I would never want to minimize anyone’s positive achievements in this life. We all need hope and purpose to sustain us. Young people need the motivation of believing that there is a point to their efforts to live a productive life.  But the energy of youth does not last forever, and so we need to ask ourselves whether we are spending the substance of our lives for a prize that is temporary and fading, or for a prize that is eternal and will never lose its luster.

Many of us feel that our plans, hopes and dreams have been placed on hold by this pandemic. Just yesterday I lost perspective for a few hours and needed a sister in Christ to remind me of my focus. The specific challenges are different for each person, but all of us are in a battle to hold on to hope. In the midst of that battle, it’s good to lift our eyes and look to the heavens, to the One who is seated on the Throne.

Why is this pandemic happening? There are many possible answers to that question. But in the end, no circumstance is outside of God’s control. Wicked people contrived to put Jesus to death, but God had a higher purpose. It’s up to us which narrative, which script, which agenda characterizes our life. It’s up to us whether these few months of pandemic are wasted time or fruitful time.

Like Rebecca, we can choose to continue training during this time. Physical training has some value in leading to a better life, so I continue to work out and ride my bike. I do this because I want to remain fit, productive and positive in my focus. I still have some years left in this life, and I want them to be good ones. But for what purpose? What is my ultimate goal? What is yours? If we make the daily choice to let Jesus work on the inside of us, to teach us His thoughts and His ways, the benefits will be eternal.

Writing from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of encouragement to his dear friends in the church at Philippi,

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Although he was in prison, Paul wasn’t obsessed with his own troubles. His confidence was in God, and so he was able to encourage others with the hope of their eternal inheritance and God’s faithfulness.

I believe that promise. It’s one of the Scriptures that I speak over my life almost every day, and it has changed the way I think. Today and every day, I am choosing to fix my eyes on the hope of glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Nuggets of Hope 11 – Complete in Christ

Yesterday afternoon, as I came back from a long Saturday walk, I saw a small crowd gathered in front of the house diagonally across from ours. At least, it was a crowd by COVID-19 pandemic standards. People were standing on the lawn and the street in clusters of twos and threes, each cluster well separated from the next one (for the most part anyway). I arrived home just in time to observe the festivities with Marion. Standing on our front deck I could faintly hear the bride and groom say their vows. They had come together as a couple some months ago, and now they were committing themselves to each other in sacred promises. A beautiful little girl was in the wedding party, the offspring of a past relationship.

It would have been easy for this couple just to continue living together without exchanging vows, but something in them made them want to make a covenant. I believe they are hoping for a fresh start. As I listened to their vows and thought about all this, I asked God to pardon their past failures, bless their intention to have a lasting marriage, and help them stay faithful to each other. The poignancy of the moment was heightened by the uncertain times in which we live. As we move from childhood to adulthood and begin making our own life choices, many of us start out with hopes, dreams and good intentions, but we don’t always know what will come our way on the path of life. Marriage, perhaps more than any other major life choice, tests our resolve. Will we be strong enough to keep the covenants we have made?

The classic symbol of marriage – the gold wedding band – speaks of the unbroken perfection of God’s love. It has no beginning and no ending. It is perfect in its simple beauty.

It’s only the love of God that can help a marriage truly succeed. And whether or not you are married, we all need that perfect love living within us to live a life that bears good fruit for eternity. We simply can’t do it on our own.

Like the couple across the street who exchanged wedding vows yesterday afternoon, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t have good intentions. But we need more than good intentions to fulfill our hope of living a life that is blessed by God, pleasing to him, and endures to eternity. We need the power of God.

The good news is that God has made that power available to us in Jesus. Writing to a group of new believers who were in danger of being led astray by other philosophies and practices, Paul pointed them back to the simple truth of Christ in them (Col 2:8-10 NLT)

Don’t let anyone capture you
with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense
that come from human thinking
and from
the spiritual powers of this world,
rather than from Christ.
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.
So you also are complete through your union with Christ,
who is the head over every ruler and authority.

We live in challenging times. In the face of COVID-19, all of us are tempted to feel powerless at times. We recognize the need to walk in wisdom to safeguard our health, but we can’t control the actions of others. The news is full of stories of people descending into behaviour motivated by selfishness, hopelessness and panic. Truly, fear has the power to make us do very stupid and short-sighted things.

In the midst of all this, those who have put their hope in Jesus don’t just have an example to follow. We do have that, but we have something far more. We have Jesus living inside us. And so we can have peace. He is our hope, for the present and the future. He is able to do miracles, and often does, but our hope is more than just that we won’t get sick. Eventually we will all die. That’s the reality of our life in this age. But we know that we who believe in Jesus will be with Him forever. He lives within us and is changing us day by day to make us into a better reflection of His beauty, glory and goodness – even in the face of COVID-19. And no matter what happens to us in this crisis, we know that if we stay faithful to our covenant with Jesus, we will share His glory in a world made new.

What a hope. What a promise. We are complete in Christ. We have hope for eternity. Thanks be to God.

 

P.S. This will be my last Nuggets of Hope post for a few days. I am sensing the Spirit telling me to pause for a time, to spend some time resting and meditating on the hope we have in Jesus so that I have fresh bread to share when it’s time for me to resume. God bless you. 

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Nuggets of Hope 3 – Not Guilty

Not guilty.

That’s what God, the Judge of all the earth, will say on the Last Day to all those who have put their hope in Jesus, the slain Lamb of God.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on the good news that those who have put their hope in Jesus have peace with God because of the Lamb’s sacrifice.

In Romans 5:1, Paul writes these powerful words.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

First, he says we are justified. That means we are declared innocent.

COVID-19 is something we can’t control. But what about the things you can control?

If you think of your actions and life choices as articles of clothing, are there things you don’t want to be wearing when you stand before God? Being justified means that instead of wearing those things, you can wear the purity and goodness of Jesus. The Bible depicts this as a clean white robe of righteousness. It’s been assigned to you as your inheritance.

Second, he says that we are justified by faith. Not faith in ourselves, not faith in our own intelligence or hard work, not faith in our spouse or our children or in the medical system or the government, but faith in Jesus. He died for us so that we might live free of regret, free of shame, full of confidence in God’s love.

Third, he says that because of this we can have peace with God. How wonderful in times like these to know that you can come to God humbly for mercy and help in time of need, and you don’t have to wonder whether he will welcome you.

I am so thankful to have this inheritance of peace with God. It’s available to you as well. All you have to do is ask.

God bless you.

 

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Streams in the Desert

All along the way that I lead My people, I provide them with springs of living water, streams in the desert, to refresh them. Sometimes they camp by those springs and conclude that My Kingdom has come. Sometimes they dig deeper and bring forth a greater flow. They bring forth a good harvest and then conclude “This is the Kingdom!”. But the springs in the desert are not the goal. They are at once for refreshing, for blessing and for encouragement. They are signs of what is to come. Keep moving forward. Don’t camp for too long in one place or you will conclude that this age is your true home. Enjoy My blessing but don’t make your home in this age. The Day is coming.

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Here comes the sun

Tomorrow I will turn sixty-five years old. And as old guys like me are wont to do, I have been remembering past birthdays.

When I was a boy, what I loved most about my birthday was being able to have birthday parties at the park on the first warm Saturday of April. My friends and I would play soccer, British bulldog, frisbee and other games and just revel in being outside in the sun on a warm, bright day after a long winter.

A week ago, with an ice storm developing, it didn’t look as though we would see that kind of weather this April, but now here it is, and I am so thankful for what looks to be the first sunny, springlike weekend that we’ve had in quite a while.

Over the past few weeks it seemed for a while as though winter and spring were having a contest. We’d have a few warm days and then it would turn cold and wintry again. It seems a long time ago now, but the sap started flowing in the maple trees very early this year. A friend of mine who has a sugar bush was boiling sap to make maple syrup at the end of February. Then we had more cold, then more warmth, then more cold, then more warmth, and then that ice storm that made it seem as though spring would never come. But now here it is.

It’s like that in our walk of faith as well. When Jesus comes into our lives and His love first becomes real to us, it seems as though everything has changed and the world will never be the same again. But then we begin to experience the battle between light and darkness, hope and despair in our lives. We have an enemy who does not want us to live in the light of the Son, and he does everything he can to convince us that our hope in Jesus is actually a delusion and that spring will never come.

There’s a battle between light and darkness in our world as well. In fact, Jesus predicted that before his return to bring in the New Day, many of his people would lose hope in the face of increasing darkness, and their love would grow cold. Many would say “Where is this coming he promised?” But for those who endure to the end, the Sun of Righteousness would surely come and they would see His face and receive His reward.

I want to be one of those who welcomes that new day. And so, even when the darkness seems to be winning, I will turn my face towards the light, and seek to point others toward that light as well, because I know that he who promised is faithful.

Jesus, come as you have promised, and bring in Your gracious rule on this planet we call home. Your bride is making herself ready. We long for the light and warmth of Your new day.

Here comes the Son! Let’s get ready for Aslan’s Spring.

 

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Knocking on heaven’s door

This morning at church, I did something perfectly ordinary. I left my seat and stood in the aisle to let Grace pass by so that she could sit with her older sister and her parents.

We had just finished singing three beautiful songs of worship and adoration, and faith was stirring in my spirit. As I stood there in the aisle, watching this pretty pre-teen girl child make her way to her seat, my eyes were opened and I was given a vision from heaven. In my spirit, I saw Grace standing in front of a large wooden door. She had her right hand raised and her knuckles formed into a fist. With childlike confidence, she was poised to knock on the door.

As I briefly pondered the meaning of this vision, I immediately realized that it portrayed the teaching of Jesus about faith-filled prayer.

Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

Grace is a wonderful young woman, the beloved youngest daughter in a warm, loving, faith-filled family. I concluded that this was a message from God about her developing character, and I made a mental note to share the vision with her and her parents to encourage them.

But my internal dialogue with God didn’t end there. As I prepared to sit down, I sensed that this vision wasn’t just for Grace. My thoughts immediately turned to my own daughter Bethany, also the youngest in our family. Although she is married now and no longer living in my household, Bethany knows – like Grace with her Dad – that if she needs something from me, all she has to do is ask me. If I can do it for her, I will.

I realized that Father was showing me something about His heart towards His beloved people. The vision was not just about Grace. It was a picture of the Bride of Christ, His beloved, knocking on the door of heaven and asking the Father for favour.

Grace is still a child. There is much she doesn’t understand about life, but she does know that her Dad loves her. Even if he doesn’t always give her what she wants right away, she knows that he will always answer her in love. She knows that she can trust him.

The message was clear. Knock boldly, knock with confidence. Even if the answer is delayed, it’s for a good reason. Keep on knocking. The One behind the door is faithful, and in His good time He will answer.

We live in times when many things are being shaken. There is trouble all over the earth, there are wrongs and injustices everywhere, and in many places God’s people are hard-pressed. But there are also signs of the Kingdom in many places for those with eyes to see.

In times like these, some will be tempted to shrink back and become discouraged and fearful. Others will press on boldly, knocking on the door of heaven and trusting Father to answer.

The ones who press on are the ones who understand the character of the One behind the door. They know they are His beloved, they know He has a glorious destiny for them, they know that Jesus will partner with them to rule the earth in the age to come. And so they keep on knocking.

This is how the Bride grows up and comes into her glorious maturity. She keeps on knocking, standing and waiting in faith and hope and love, until she hears the Father’s answer. She will keep on knocking until her Bridegroom returns to reign on the earth, and invites her to reign with Him.

O glorious day.

 

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