Tag Archives: Kingdom

Outlasting the Blues

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, and Ontario enters its second full lockdown, with new government directives that leave many questions unanswered, all of us are getting a little battle-weary. Couple this with the political turmoil south of the border and you have more than enough discouragement to fatigue even the most stalwart soul.

When we are in the midst of a battle, one important key to victory is perspective. If we can see the enemy and the battleground, we can fight much more effectively. This morning as I was waking up, a dream fragment told me my God was trying to get my attention. With three simple words He gave me that precious gift of renewed perspective. The words came from a 1979 Arlo Guthrie album title – one I used to love but had not listened to for years.

Outlasting the Blues.

I had been asking the Lord to help me understand why we seem so powerless against this pandemic. Didn’t he bestow upon His apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, including the power to heal diseases?

He patiently reminded me that the gifts of the Holy Spirit don’t guarantee that we will have no more troubles in this age. To the contrary, Jesus made it clear to His apostles that in this world they would have trouble.  In the midst of troubled times, times of great need, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is a great blessing and source of comfort. But the gifts He gives are signs of the Age to Come – a deposit on our inheritance. They are given to empower us, to give us hope and resources with which we can help others.  They are not given to exempt us from trouble.

We who live in North America have been so used to relative peace and prosperity that we have developed an entire theology to tell us that what God really wants for us is a comfortable life here and now.  I like my comforts as much as the next person, but I know my Bible and my God well enough to know there’s something wrong with that theology. And I know it even better now than I did before COVID.

We are in a time when God is shaking many things. We are experiencing birth pangs. There will be more birth pangs. I have never given birth, but I did accompany my wife through the birth of all four of our children, and  all her labours were long ones. Even the shortest was about ten hours long. I can tell you two things about that experience. First, it was hard and long and painful and messy, and she wanted it to be over long before it was.  Second, after each child was born she had absolutely no regrets about the experience. It had all been worth the struggle.

The Bible tells us that God’s plan is to make all things new. He is preparing a glorious bride for his Son, and looking for those who will persevere in prayer and faith, hold on to hope, and seek to grow in love as they wait for God to finish his work.

I don’t want to just escape into distractions while I wait for the pandemic to be over. That would be a waste of a good test. Tests are given for a reason. I want to be one of the ones who don’t quit, who keep their eyes on the prize and share in the glories of the new heaven and earth in the age to come.

By the grace of God I am determined to outlast the blues. How about you?

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Nuggets of Hope 24 – The King’s Beauty

This morning I began my day with a walk to see the horses in the field at the end of our crescent. Although the weather forecast tells me a blast of winter is coming, this morning I can still taste, see and feel the glory of spring. It speaks to me of the Creator’s great wisdom.

The Biblical storyline tells us what young children often intuitively understand – we were made by a good Creator. Our lives come from His hand. The beauty and complexity of creation testifies to His goodness and power. He made humans for intimate fellowship with Himself.

That storyline goes on to tell us that a rebellious angel tempted our first parents to choose independence, and ever since there has been a curse on creation. But even when the curse was first pronounced, Eve was promised that her offspring would one day crush the serpent’s head. That offspring is Yeshua, who was, who is and who is to come. He came once to announce the coming Kingdom in words and deeds of great power, and to offer his life as a sacrifice for sins. He is coming again to restore all things.

Some ask why a good God would permit terrible things like the coronavirus to occur. There are many ways of answering that question, but anyone who has been paying attention to the message of the Kingdom shouldn’t be surprised. We know from Scripture that many things will be shaken before Jesus returns to bring in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are currently experiencing one of those times of shaking.

Near the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns, Marion and I watched a movie about World War II. It reminded me of my parents. They were 22 and 18 respectively when the Netherlands was invaded by the Wehrmacht in May 1940. They lived in an occupied nation for most of the next five years. Did they know how long it would last? No, but they held on to the hope that there would be life beyond the war, and in that hope they gave themselves to living for the day when the war would be over.

We are called to live with our eyes on an even greater Day – not just the day when the covid-19 crisis will subside, though that will be a day of great rejoicing, but the day when our eyes see the King in his beauty. Our response to Him in this age will determine whether that Day brings us the joy of sharing his reward or the horror of irreversible judgement. We are made to share in His glorious Kingdom that is coming, and to inherit a new heaven and a new earth. Don’t let the troubles of today cause you to lose sight of that hope. Let that hope anchor your soul. The King is coming.

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Nuggets of Hope 20 – Deliver us from Evil

Deliver us from evil.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are in shock because of the recent tragic sequence of events in Nova Scotia in which twenty-two victims lost their lives to a crazed gunman.

There are many dimensions to this tragedy. At the most basic level, there is the gut-wrenching loss and grief suffered by the loved ones of those who lost their lives. It’s hard to imagine the pain they must be feeling. They are greatly in need of our prayers.

One of the victims was an RCMP constable, Heidi Stevenson, a wife and mother of two children who had planned to rendezvous with a fellow officer. She was deceived by the gunman’s replica RCMP vehicle and uniform. We like to be able to assume that our neighbours and colleagues mean us no harm. This is basic to the fabric of life in small town Canada. When we are deceived, it can tend to erode that trust in the reliability and truthfulness of others.

It’s natural to prefer safety and trust to danger and betrayal. Yet Jesus taught his followers not to be surprised by evil. He taught us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. In other words, take full account of the existence of evil and the devious strategies of the evil one, and yet do not let yourself become cynical or hardened or fearful. Despite the presence of evil, disciples of Jesus in a fallen world are called to remain stable, fruitful and full of hope. To do this, we need both the innocence of a young child and the wisdom of a battle-hardened veteran.

Jesus of Nazareth, Israel’s Messiah and the hope of the earth, perfectly embodied both. He was fully given to his Father’s will and free of guile, yet he was wise regarding evil. The evil one had no hold on Jesus but he was fully aware of the schemes of the enemy. In that full knowledge, he freely gave his life as a sacrifice – for what? So that we could live out our days in this life with no more tragic eruptions of evil – no more plagues or shootings?

No, Jesus didn’t promise us that. Instead He promised us opportunities to bear witness amidst increasing trouble, with peace in the midst of trials – followed by a horrific final crisis and then a world restored, full of the knowledge of the Lord, to be inherited by those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

We can’t escape pain in this life. But we can make the pain worthwhile, by entrusting ourselves to the One who alone is good and who gave His life for us. There is a place for wisdom and prudence in the life of a disciple, but these things by themselves will not lead to life. In the end the only way to be safe from the schemes of the Evil One is to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb and the conquering Lion.

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

John 10:10-11

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Nuggets of Hope 13 – All Things

All things. Yes, I did mean all things. All things work together for good. 

All things? Everything?

Yes, all things. That’s what it says. Romans 8:28. You know the verse.

Even COVID-19? Lord, surely you couldn’t mean that.

Yes, yes I do. I do mean exactly that. For those who love Me, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to My purpose.

But God … how can you mean that? How can this pandemic be good?

I didn’t say it was good. I said it can work for your good. But since you’re asking Me questions, I have a question for you. It’s a really important question. The most important question anyone will ever ask you. Do you love Me?

Well …. it’s a bit complicated right now. I mean, you aren’t exactly managing things the way I would like.

Well, do you?

I think so. Sometimes. Sort of. A little bit. But I don’t like some of the things you do – or allow.

Then maybe you should spend some time with Me, and let me show you what I want to do in you through this test.

Maybe. I guess that would be a good idea. But God, can’t you just make things like normal again, and make this coronavirus go away? I don’t like tests. I don’t like upheavals. I don’t like it when I can’t control things, or when my life doesn’t work the way I think it should. And I don’t like to see people suffering.

I know.

Yes. Yes, I suppose you do know. You know my thoughts, don’t you.

Yes, I know your thoughts. But you don’t seem to know My thoughts very well. Did you know there’s another part to that verse?

Is there? Doesn’t it just say all things work together for good for those who love You?

That’s part of it. But remember that bit about being called according to My purpose?

Oh yeah. That part. So what’s that all about, anyway?

You tell me. What do you think is My purpose for you?

I dunno. A nice, easy comfortable life here on earth – after all, I’m a Christian, right? I go to church, I believe in you, I hang out with my nice Christian friends, I do good Christian stuff, and you’re supposed to protect me and my family and make sure we don’t have any trouble. After all, we’re good people. And then I get to go to heaven. But it doesn’t quite seem to be working out the way I thought. This COVID-19 thing really has me rattled.

Yes, I noticed. But did you know that you left out a couple of bits? My purpose for you is a bit bigger than you thought. 

It is? I was afraid of that.

Yep. Did you know there’s a part in there about becoming like Jesus

Really? You expect that? Nobody can be as good as Jesus. He’s special. He’s different.

Well, I didn’t say you had to do that part by yourself. You can’t make yourself like Jesus. You can’t change yourself. Especially not when you keep trying to play it safe and stay out of trouble. That’s why I’m helping you out by letting you go through some problems. 

That’s supposed to help me?

Well, how else am I going to teach you to depend on Me? You spend most of your time trying to figure everything out by yourself. So I allowed the devil to stir up a problem that was too big for anyone to handle. 

I have to admit, I did wonder if maybe the devil had his hand in this. But I don’t understand why you would let him do that. I still don’t see how this pandemic can lead to anything good.

You see how your leaders are trying really hard to cope, keep everyone from getting sick. And medical researchers are working really hard to find solutions, things they can use to manage this problem. They want to find a vaccine. They don’t want to have another problem like this one again. I understand that. I understand that you’re all frightened, and you just want it to end. Believe me, I feel it. I’m hearing way more prayers than usual, and most of them are full of fear. But at least they’re praying. That’s a start. But most people haven’t got a clue what this is really about. 

What is it about then?

My enemy – the devil – wants to destroy you all. He always does. He hates you, and he hates Me. But I’m not going to allow that. I am letting him test you, though. To see how you’ll do. To see how many of my people – those who say they’re my people, anyway – will actually turn to Me. Did you know that’s how you become more like Jesus?

By turning to you and paying attention to you? Really? It’s that simple?

Yes, really. That’s how it works. And not just when things are hard. All the time. You have no idea how much I love you and want to see you grow up into the amazing, glorious person I intend you to become. I want you to live with Me in My perfect Kingdom that is coming, where there is no more suffering or death or pain or anything evil. But none of that can happen unless you go through some troubles. Without troubles, you won’t change, because you’d rather stay in control, you’d rather keep things safe and comfortable. The reason I allow troubles in your life is so that you’ll turn to Me and let Me have My way in your life. 

Ouch. But yes, you’re right. I see that, a little bit anyway. I do want to learn to turn to You and trust You more. I’m tired of being afraid. So what should I do? How can I fix this?

You can’t fix it. That’s the whole point. But I can. I can work in you so that you’re not so anxious, so worried, so stressed. I can teach you to trust Me. I can make you more like Jesus. I can cause you to grow in love, so that you can actually help people in this crisis and not just worry about yourself. I can prepare you for My glorious Kingdom that is coming. I can do all that. But you have to pay attention to Me. 

OK God. Let’s give it a go. I think that would be a good thing. My way’s not working so well.

I noticed that. Glad you’re on side. Walk with me through this. 

Thank you, Lord. Please help me. Teach me Your ways.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. (Romans 8:28-30 NLT)

 

 

 

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When the lights go out

Derek Prince tells of a young Swedish woman named Barbara, who stayed with him and his wife Ruth for a period of three months to learn English. While staying with them, she told them a story.

Barbara was a pastor’s daughter and had lived a very sheltered life. But her friends at school had started telling her about some of the pleasures of life in the world, and she decided that she wanted to experience what she had been missing. She told her parents that she appreciated the way they had raised her, but that now she wanted to taste and see what the world had to offer.

Her parents wisely decided not to correct or criticize her. They simply told her that they would pray for her. And so they did.

That night, she had a powerful encounter with God in the form of a dream. In her dream, she saw two cities. One was a big, modern, beautiful city filled with flashing, glittering neon lights. Across the valley from the flashing city was another city of light, but this city did not flash and glitter. Its light was steady, calm and clear. As she considered the two cities a well-dressed, well-mannered and cultured man approached her and offered to show her the flashing, glittering city. She went with him, and he began to show her around. But the farther they went, the uglier he became. Soon she realized the man was the devil in disguise. As she considered this, horrified, she saw the lights in the flashing, glittering city begin to go out one by one, until it was in total darkness. She looked across the valley at the other city, and its light was as steady, pure and clear as ever.

At that moment she made her choice. She would pursue the city whose light never goes out.

It’s easy for us to think we are missing something if we don’t see the latest show, have the latest iPhone, go on every vacation trip imaginable, and so forth. And in themselves, many of the attractions of this world are innocent – though some are far from it. But if we let ourselves be enticed by what the world has to offer, we are walking a dangerous path. And once the lights begin to go out it’s too late to choose. We need to choose now.

Way back in 1979, Arlo Guthrie, son of the legendary Woody Guthrie, wrote a song with these compelling lyrics

Just one question still remains
To which we must respond
Two roads lead from where we are
Which side are you on?

Arlo Guthrie, Which Side, © 1979

Abraham, our father in the faith, was “looking for the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God“. That’s the city I am looking for as well, the one that is coming down out of heaven from God.

When the lights go out in the city of man, will you still have light to walk by? You can, if you have fixed your eyes on the City of God.

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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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Perspective on the eve of an election

Tomorrow the people of Ontario will choose a new provincial government.

This has been one of the most hotly-contested and tumultous elections I can remember. We live in a time of increasing social contention. Many people have strong views on the policies, promises, values and convictions of those who desire to govern us, and those views do not always align with others of equally strong conviction.

It’s right that we should take this decision seriously. The opportunity to choose who will govern us is a privilege that we ought not to take lightly. Wise leadership is in everyone’s best interest. One observer put it this way :

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, 
    but with a [leader] of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue. (Proverbs 28:2 ESV)

So what if you “lose” – the government that emerges is not the one you voted for? Or what if you “win” – you get the government of your preference — but two years later you find them to be a disappointment?

When considering politics I am often reminded of the words of the Psalmist,

Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God. (Psalm 146:3-5

 

It is indeed a privilege to be able to choose our leaders. But even as we do this, let’s remember that they are just as weak and fallible as we are. They may have many excellent qualities but they are still very imperfect, as are we. Whether we are pleased or disappointed in our current – or subsequent – government, let’s remember that our hope for a truly just society rests not on the abilities of the current crop of politicians, but on the character and promises of a covenant-keeping God who has promised to bring in His Kingdom at the end of the age.

There’s great peace in remembering who is ultimately on the throne. When He comes, he will make everything right.  In the meantime, while we wait for that Day, let’s remember to pray for the leaders we elect. And let’s remember that civic virtue and social justice are everyone’s business. It’s up to you and me to improve the society we live in, remembering even as we do our best that our hope is in the Lord, not in ourselves. And so, no matter the outcome of the election, we can always be full of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God bless you as you vote !

 

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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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What I want for my grandchildren – and for you

This morning, Marion and I got to see Sophie, Livie and Maddie Rose – our three Kansas City cuties – opening the Christmas gifts that we had ordered for them. The wonder of video technology made it possible for us to share this moment with them. It was a joy to our hearts to see each of them respond with delight to the presents we had picked out for them (with a bit of helpful advice from their Mom).  Sophie was thrilled by her new art set. Livie was excited about her dot to dot books and markers. Maddie was pumped about the Paw Patrol books and stuffed toy.

Last night at a family Christmas Eve gathering at my sister’s home here in Ottawa, I delighted to see the awe and wonder in the eyes of my granddaughter Maddie Joy as we read the Christmas story and sang well-loved carols. Her almost-two-year-old heart was captivated by the lights on the tree and the beauty of the music. We have some gifts for her as well, which she hasn’t seen yet, but of course we are looking forward to watching her open them.

Yes, we love our granddaughters to bits. Most grandparents love their grandkids. It’s a pleasure for us to give them gifts. The gifts we buy for them are an expression of our love for them.

But what do we really want for these four delightful little girls?  Mostly things money can’t buy.

We want them to know they are loved – by us, by their parents, but ultimately by the God who made them.

We want them to know that they are made for beauty, truth and significance.

We want them to know that they are more than just accidental blips on the screen of life, that their lives have eternal value and purpose.

We want them to know that despite whatever pain or suffering they may encounter in their lives in this world, God’s glorious plan is to make all things new, that Jesus is coming to rule over a Kingdom that will never end, and that they belong in that Kingdom with Him.

This is the path of hope that was opened up for us by the child of Bethlehem – a child who was destined to die for the redemption of the whole earth, a child who is coming as King to rule the world in righteousness.

We live in troubled, confusing, dangerous times. We need a light for our pathway, and Jesus is that light. What I want for my granddaughters is what I also pray for you – that the True Light of the World will shine in your life and guide your steps into His eternal Kingdom.

Merry Christmas.

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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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