Tag Archives: bride

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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A tale of two young women

Today is my little girl’s birthday. Only, she’s not a little girl any more. She’s a young woman, a year away from university graduation. Two days ago a young man asked her to marry him, and she accepted.

Bethany’s birthday is one day before mine, and I remember thinking when she was born that by the time she was grown up I would be sixty. At the time, that seemed an impossibly long time in the future, but here we are. I turn sixty-one tomorrow, and Bethany is now twenty-two years old, and looking forward to a wedding.

The engagement was not a surprise; Marion and I have known for months that this day would be coming soon, and we are delighted. Still, Bethany’s engagement is a sign of the shifting of the seasons. She is the youngest of my children, my only daughter, the only one of our children who still lives with us, and the last to get married. Soon the transition to the next generation will be complete.

A few weeks ago, my oldest granddaughter turned five. Although Marion and I weren’t able to make the trip to Kansas City for her birthday, we Skyped as she was opening some of her presents. She had been excited about her birthday for weeks in advance, and as young children tend to do, she was fully enjoying the moment.

A couple of days after Sophie’s birthday, I had a very significant dream. I had been reading Song of Songs every day for several weeks, seeking to appropriate the rich Biblical metaphor of the love relationship between Jesus and his bride. As a male, I used to find this image hard to relate to, but having a daughter who loves weddings has helped to change my perspective. God used a dream to open up this profound truth for me in a fresh way.

The dream featured two young women – my five year old granddaughter and my twenty-one year old daughter. I knew that God was using them to speak to me about my own life, and the life of every believer in Jesus.

In Scene One, I saw an image of Sophie on her birthday. She was fully occupied with her gifts and was delighting in the pleasures of a happy childhood. The scene then shifted to an image of Bethany. At the time that I had this dream, she was not yet engaged, but somehow I knew that she was thinking about her upcoming wedding.

As I considered the fact that Bethany would soon be married, I began thinking about my own marriage, and about Jesus’ teaching that there would be no marriage at the resurrection. This has always seemed odd to me. I have been married to the same woman for almost thirty-eight years now. What will it be like to meet her at the resurrection and no longer be married to her?

Then I woke up. When I asked the Spirit about the dream, this is what He showed me.

Sophie is going to grow up and become an adult, but at the moment she could not even begin to comprehend the various issues and realities that she will deal with as an adult. She is fully occupied with being a child. She may believe that she will become an adult, but she has almost no conception of what this will be like. Although she may imagine it at times, and imitate her Mom, her imaginary games are far from the reality.

Bethany has been coming to understand some of the realities of adulthood over the past few years. She loves little children, she enjoys playing with Sophie, and she can still enjoy the memory of being five, but she has no desire to go back. She is looking forward to a wedding and the life of a bride that will follow, and that is her focus now, not her former life as a five year old.

In the same way, it seems strange to you now to think that in the age to come, there will be no marriage as we know it now. You know you are the bride of Christ but it is hard for you to imagine what this will be like. The present reality of marriage is only an analogy for what is to come – a dim image, a shadow. It is important now, just as Sophie’s five year old life is important to her now, but in the future it will be only a memory. Right now you cannot really imagine the marriage supper of the Lamb, or life in the age to come, though you believe these things are coming. But when you get there, you will look back and remember what it was like in this age, but you will have absolutely no regrets. Press on for the hope of your calling.

This dream has had a powerful motivating impact on me over the last few weeks. It has helped me keep my focus on what God has in store, not only in this age but in the age to come. If our horizon is limited to this life, it is hard to stay motivated as we grow older because pain and death are all we have to look forward to. But God has made us for eternity. What we see now is only a shadow of what is to come. Our hope is not that we are going to heaven. Of course if we die before Jesus returns, we will be with Him while we are waiting, but our hope is far better than that. Our hope is that He will return to restore all things, and that we will live with Him on a fully renewed earth.

These things are hard for us to grasp fully. Like five-year-old Sophie pretending to be a grownup and imagining her own wedding, we have only glimpses of what it will be like. It is natural that our life in this age is important to us now, as Sophie’s five-year-old life is important to her now. God wants us to live that life to the full, but it is not all there is. He has much bigger and more glorious things in store for us in the age to come.

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The Bride and the Wedding to come

I have had a series of dreams over the past several weeks about the Bride of Christ and the wedding feast that is coming. This past week I had two such dreams, on separate nights, that were very similar. As I reflect on these dreams I am convinced that they contain significant messages, not just for me but for the people of God. In this blog I want to relate the core details of the two most recent dreams. 

The main character in the dreams was a young woman who was looking forward to her wedding. She was also a student who was trying to complete her studies. Her immediate challenges were filling her sights so that she couldn’t really focus on the joy of the wedding to come.  She was discontent and in distress because her circumstances were not perfect. She had goals that she was afraid she would not be able to achieve.

I knew that this young woman represented the Bride of Christ. She had a glorious future. She was destined to wear a crown of glory. But all that seemed very far off, and at the moment, her immediate problems were dominating her life. The crown she was wearing at the moment was not a crown of glory and beauty but a crown of fear and worry.

It’s as if she were saying “God, how do you expect me to get ready for our wedding when I have all these problems? Can’t you just fix the problems for me now, and make everything right? Then I can get ready for the wedding.” But what she didn’t realize was that the trials and tests and hardships were not a mistake and they were not an accident. They were planned by God as part of her maturing process. They were part of the beauty preparations that the King had provided for her. How she responded to the testing would determine the level of beauty and glory that would be formed in her.

One of our elders spoke to our church last week about the process of Christ being formed in us. Christ’s beauty is formed in us is as we respond to him in love and faith in the midst of testing and hardship.

Then the scene shifted and now it was the day of her wedding. She had come through the tests as pure gold, and she was radiant. She was dressed in white and was wearing a beautiful golden crown that was studded with gems. In the dream she was approaching a throne, in her wedding dress, and Jesus was on the throne. She laid her crown at His feet and knelt before Him. He placed it back on her head and raised her up to stand at his side. Her heart towards Him was to worship and adore Him, and His heart towards her was to raise her up to stand beside Him as his partner.

One day we will stand before Him in white and we will be wearing a crown of love and devotion and glory and honour and we will lay that crown at His feet and crown Him with it. But as we lay those crowns at His feet He will give them right back to us, and take our hand and invite us to stand beside Him.

We’ll say to Him “Jesus, you are so worthy. The glory belongs to You alone”. And we’ll bow down and lay our crowns at His feet.

And He will take our hand and raise us up again, and He will say to us, “My bride, you are so beautiful to Me. I want you to share My glory”.

That’s where we are going.

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The wedding feast

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Last Saturday my oldest son, Joe, married the love of his life, Carmen. For me this was cause for great joy.

I was delighted for Joe. He looked so thrilled as he waited for Carmen to walk down the aisle. He has married a good woman and he will be an excellent husband and father. He has waited a long time for this day, and his patience has been rewarded.

I have enjoyed getting to know Carmen and it was most satisfying to be able to welcome her into our family. She spoke her wedding vows with thoughtfulness and conviction. It was good to meet Carmen’s parents and her brothers, who evidently care so much about her.

I was so pleased for Marion. She and Joe have always had a special bond, and it was good to see the love and pride in her eyes as she watched her son get married and as she shared a special dance with him during the party that followed.

It was lots of fun to have Simeon, Heather and their girls staying in our home for the week leading up to the wedding. I loved playing with the girls, reading them stories, going to the park with them, watching “shows” with them, and talking with Sophie about the big picture of Jesus in our living room. Bethany and her boyfriend Dunovan also spent hours playing with the girls, much to their delight. I see the makings of a favourite aunt and uncle there (though there may be some competition for the title).

On the wedding day I was thrilled to see my two beautiful little granddaughters walking down the aisle in their pretty dresses, Sophie bearing the wedding rings, and Alivia carrying rose petals. Heather, despite feeling miserable due to a nasty cold, was a great sport and made sure the girls were up for their special role.

I was blessed to see again how many truly good friends Joe and Carmen have. Joe and his team worked long and hard to pull off a wedding on a farm under less than ideal circumstances (pouring rain). After having planned and hoped for an outdoor wedding, they adjusted admirably to the wet weather, spending several hours on the wedding day itself shovelling and raking crushed rock so that the rest of us would be dry (relatively speaking) inside the wedding tent. Others spent hours preparing and serving food. Carmen’s friends added to the joy of the day with their gifts of music, service and presence. Special mention goes to Caleb and Julie; Jon; Dave; Margaret, Maggie and Katrina; Nick and Alex; Patrick and Sarah.

At the reception, Joe’s brother Simeon, the best man, spoke with affection and pride of his respect for his big brother. Their younger brother, Reuben, took extra good care of Grandma and Grandpa with the help of his ever-supportive wife Jess, making sure that they were comfortable. Marion and I were so grateful for the help and support of Earl and Debbie Davidson who so generously made their house and property available. It was wonderful to reconnect with them as well as with other good friends from our Russell and City Church days.

All in all, my cup was full. My oldest son was seeing a dream of his heart fulfilled, my wife was happy, and my children and grandchildren were laughing together, serving each other and enjoying each other’s company in the presence of much-loved friends.

Yet during a week filled with such great joy, there were some troubling notes. In Barrhaven, an OC Transpo bus collided with a train, and several people were killed. In Washington DC, a number of people were shot by an assailant at the Navy Yard. In Nairobi, Kenya, Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a mall, targetting non-Muslims and killing over sixty. On a more personal level, our good friend Lynne is facing chemotherapy in the wake of cancer surgery.

How can we make sense of all this? How do you enjoy a wedding and a family celebration in the face of such pain?

These are really questions of life and death. Why is there suffering? Why is there grief? Why is there death? Why is there evil? What is God’s answer?

Though these questions are not easy for our hearts, the Bible does have clear answers. I find it so helpful to be reminded that Jesus, who has suffered for us and with us, is the real Bridegroom, and the Marriage of the Lamb is the real Wedding Feast. He is alive, He lives and reigns now in the heavens, and soon he will return to claim his bride and rule openly as King. The joy of Joe and Carmen’s wedding points forward to the far greater joy of that great day when every tear will be wiped away.

During his earthly ministry He did many miracles to encourage our hearts, and similar miracles are still happening today. To cite just one example, my good friend Gola Tiruneh has seen many works of great power as he reaches out to Muslims in Indonesia with the good news that Jesus is Lord. These are signs of His Kingdom that is coming, and they are wonderful indeed. It is good to have reminders that ultimately the darkness will be defeated, and the Bridegroom will be acknowledged by all as King.

But in the meantime, even when the Holy Spirit is poured out and people are saved, healed and delivered, even when hearts are healed and relationships are restored, even when we enjoy wonderful times of celebration with family and friends, this does not mean that there will be no more trouble. Jesus told us that until His return He would always be near, but He also said that his followers should be prepared for sorrows as well as joys, and warned us not to be dismayed by the one or distracted by the other, but to stay alert and fix our hope on His coming Kingdom.

I am very happy for Joe and Carmen, and wish them many years of happiness and much growth in love. I’m similarly happy when any of my children – or anyone else that I love and care about – finds true joy in life. But my heart’s desire for my children, and for all those God has called me to serve and love and pray for, is that they would fix their eyes on Jesus, the crucified and risen One who is coming to reign. He is the one who can anchor our hearts so that we are not dismayed by the troubles that are part of living in a dying world. The good news is that He has a plan to restore the earth and bring everlasting joy to those who have put their hope in Him. Every wedding, rightly understood, points forward to that glorious day when the Messiah will claim His bride and the earth will be restored.

I want to end this post with a link to a beautiful song by Matt Gilman that expresses the cry in our hearts for that day when the Bride will marry the Lamb. Blessings.

 

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Playing to an audience of One

All of us play to an audience.

This tendency to play to an audience – to do the things that we know will win us approval, applause and appreciation – starts very early in life. In fact, I am pretty sure it is innate. People manifest this tendency in different ways, but everyone does it.

Anyone who is a parent or grandparent knows what I am talking about. When my daughter Bethany was a preschooler, she concluded that she might be able to get out of potential punishments by fluttering her eyelashes. She overplayed her hand, though, at the age of four, by telling me her strategy. “You can’t punish me – I’m too cute”. When I finished laughing, I disciplined her nonetheless, even though it was hard to keep a straight face. And a generation later, the pattern continues. Bethany’s adorable nieces – my beautiful granddaughters Sophie and Alivia – are adept at the same game, and play their audience masterfully, although thankfully their parents have the wisdom to know when to play along, and when to burst the bubble.

Playing to an audience can be cute in a four-year-old. But this seemingly innocent game doesn’t stop when little Joey or Janie heads off to school. The audience keeps changing throughout life, and the strategies we use to impress people or win their approval may become more clever and subtle – but at bottom it’s really the same game, in many different forms. Make ’em think I’m smart, or cute, or sexy, or strong, or good, or otherwise impressive. Make ’em like me. Make ’em treat me well.

One of the remarkable things about Jesus is how free he was from this all-pervasive game, this compulsion to please people and win their favour. That’s because he was playing to a different audience. He did only what he saw his Father doing, and lived only for his Father’s pleasure.

Because of that, he could love even those who abused him and rejected him. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, he knew exactly what he was doing, and he had no illusions about the outcome of his ride. He knew that he was fulfilling prophecy. He knew that he was God’s chosen one, destined to suffer for the sins of his people and the whole world. He knew that the leaders of Israel were even then plotting to destroy him, and that most of those who hailed him as King would turn away from him just a few days later. He knew that even Peter, his right-hand man, would crumble under the pressure of fear and deny knowing him. He knew that he was headed for a cross. He had warned his disciples about this months before. When he sweated drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, waiting for one of his friends to betray him, wishing this cup of agony might pass from him, it was for their sake and ours that he stayed faithful. When he went into the heavenly sanctuary as Lamb and High Priest, he went for them – and for you and me. When he stands before the Father’s throne and intercedes for the souls of men and women, he’s doing it for those who denied him, rejected him and betrayed him. He’s doing it for us.

Jesus is the only one who can lay my heart bare with one deft stroke of the sword of his Word. He is able at one and the same time to wound me, comfort me and speak life and hope to me. He has exposed the twisted motives of my heart too many times to count, and untangled the tangled mess of my hopes, fears and desires so that I know which way I should walk. He does this because He loves me. Having given his life for me, he continues to plead for me, woo me, call me to himself, beautify me and prepare me until my transformation is complete, until I am clothed in glory together with all those who have responded to his call, and we enter in to the wedding feast as the glorious Bride that he had in mind from the beginning.

Jesus is able to finish what he started. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We can count on him precisely because he doesn’t care about pleasing us. He loves me and you, but he’s not compelled to win our favour by doing what we want. He lives only to please his Father. He can’t be corrupted. He has stood the test and been found faithful. Jesus doesn’t stand before me to win my approval. He stands before his Father’s throne as the heavenly intercessor for me, and all those for whom he paid so high a price. And so, because we have a Passover Lamb and High Priest who cannot be swayed, one who is faithful through and through, one who is completely incorruptible – so unlike our fallen human leaders – because of this, we can be completely sure that he will always deal with us in truth, mercy and righteous, holy love.

There are many things about Jesus that move my heart and make me want to weep with gratitude. Today, I am thankful that – so unlike mine – Jesus’ heart is consistent; that, so unlike mine, his eyes are always locked in on his Father’s face; that, so unlike me, he is unswayed by the many voices that clamor at him to change. He hears every prayer and is sensitive to every cry; his heart is tender towards everyone who calls out to him; but he lives his life and walks his course for an audience of One. Not only that, but he has promised to make me like him. In fact, that’s the only basis on which he will receive me. Salvation is completely free – Jesus paid the ultimate price for my forgiveness – but there is a catch. I have to agree to one thing. I no longer belong to myself but him. That means he gets to do what he wants with my life. That means letting Jesus make me over again, from the inside out. I, too, have to learn to play to an audience of One.

Jesus, you said that if my eyes are good and my gaze is unswervingly locked in on you alone, then my whole being will be full of light. That really is what I want, Lord. I want my life to shine like a city set on a hill for all to see. Do for me what I can’t do for myself. Make me like you. Teach me to play to an audience of One.

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Dream for the Bride

As I lay sleeping last night, towards morning I had a dream.

I was at a social gathering in the home of a friend, and I was introduced to a beautiful young woman. She had olive skin, was dressed very simply and modestly but I remember knowing somehow that she was a princess or some other very significant person, who was destined to fulfil some great purpose. She was very self-assured, but also quiet and calm. When I spoke to her, she paid attention to what I had to say as if it were of great importance. This was more than superficial politeness. She seemed to possess genuine humility along with confidence.

Almost immediately after being introduced to this beautiful young woman, I began to speak a message from God to her. Although we were in a social gathering it was as if I was speaking to her alone and had her complete attention. No-one else could hear, but she was hearing and taking in every word. It was as if Jesus was speaking directly to her through my words.

This was the message that I spoke to the young woman in the dream.

The word that is in you is a treasure. Treasure it above all things. Store it up and pay careful attention to it, for it is your life. It is alive, it is powerful, it holds the keys to life and death. It is more precious than gold or diamonds or wealth or fame or any other fortune. Do not let other voices distract you from this word. It is more important than anything else in your life. Days are coming when everything will be shaken, everything will shift, nothing will stay the same. In these days of shifting you will live from the word I have given you. It will be your anchor in the shifting and will keep you stable and secure. It will be your life, and you will feed on it and nourish many others. It will be your food and drink, it will give you life in time of famine and danger, and in the hidden place you will shelter many and give life to many because of the word that I have given to you – a word of life, hope, warning, direction and promise. Pay attention to this treasure, learn to know it well, guard it carefully, for nothing in your life is as important as this word that is in you.

After I had finished speaking to the young woman she went off to prepare for some sort of voyage. It seemed she was being taken somewhere in a car. At the time I didn’t know where she was going, but as I began recording the dream, I thought about the woman in Revelation 12:6 who was taken into the desert for a season to be sheltered in a place prepared by God, and I realized that this message was of great importance to the young woman because she was about to enter a season of intense testing.

There were a couple of older women present – I think they were guardians or mentors of the young woman – and they asked me what I had told her. I don’t remember answering them, but their question somehow alerted me to the power and significance of the message that I had spoken to the young woman. Although I was still asleep, in some way I also began to realize that this was a dream, not an actual waking conversation, and that I needed to communicate this message to the person for whom it was intended. So I asked the Lord (still in my dream, still asleep), “Who is the young woman in the dream? Who is this message for?” At first I was thinking that it must be a message for some specific young woman, and I saw the face of my own daughter, who is twenty years old. But then, one by one, I saw the faces of many other people who belong to him. Almost all of them were young, and I began to wonder if this was a message especially for young people. Then I saw the face of my wife, and realized that it was a dream for the Bride of Christ – for everyone who belongs to Jesus – and that I needed to communicate it to as many people as possible, but that it would be especially significant for the young.

Then I woke up.

 

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