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First Fruits

I love bright colours. They are cheerful and they make me happy. I love splashes of colour here and there and everywhere. Colours everywhere – my clothes, my car, the walls of my house. But if there is one colour I can’t stand, it’s grey. I know technically it is not even a colour, it is just a shade. But I can’t stand it, and I know I am one of the few people out there in the world, since everything seems to be grey these days. But there you have it. I hate grey.

It’s coming to that time of year when all you see is grey. I’m not just talking about paint colours or clothing. I’m talking about the skies, the roads, the snow banks. Spring is coming, but until then, soul sucking grey everywhere. Blah.

Every year at this time of year, my husband will buy me a bouquet or two of cheery tulips just to get me through to next few weeks. They are my absolute favourite flower, even more than roses or lillies. They can be pink, purple, red, orange – the colours don’t really matter, I love them all. Why? Because to me, tulips are the first fruits of spring. Tulip bulbs are hearty and live deep within the earth all winter long. And then, slowly peek out of the ground, sometimes even through the snow.

After the tulips come the buds on the trees, the melting snow, the sweet songs of birds. But first, the tulips. It’s like a sweet little sign that more is coming. But after a long, cold winter – the first sign of spring is the sweetest.

I am so thankful that God created tulips. They bring me out of the grey every single year. Sometimes when I look at the world and all that He created, I wonder what His favourite is. Maybe it’s not tulips, or even a flower. Maybe it’s sky and space, in all of it’s magnitude and ever changing expanse. Maybe it’s the sea and all that is in it – the coral reef and all it’s beauty, or the hundreds of thousands of creatures that He’s created to live within it. Maybe it’s the trees that stand strong in the forest, and the leaves that change their shape and colour to every changing season. I think of all that He is created, and I am humbled to know that the answer isn’t any of those things. It’s us. You and me.

In James 1:18, James says ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” Like the tulips, being the first and sweetest part of spring. Or the juicy red strawberries in the summer. The first bite of an apple during the harvest. Or the very first snow of the season. Out of everything that He created, He created us to be the first, the best and the loveliest.

Like a tulip bulb is firmly planted in the fall, we can firmly plant His word in our hearts. Like the tulip bulb is watered and nourished during the long winter months while hiding under the ground, so our hearts are watered and nourished by the word of God in our lives. But in order to really grow, in order to push through the hard soil like the tulip, we need to do one more thing. And if we’re honest, sometimes this can get missed.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:19-27

We can’t just listen to the scriptures, or read the Bible and then be done with it. Otherwise, we would be like a tulip that never flowers.

A few years ago, the school my children attended was having a fundraiser by selling seeds. I looked through the catalogue to see if there was anything that I might be interested in buying. Let me just start and say that I am not a gardener, in any way shape or form. You can read more about my black thumb here. But I thought I would go ahead and give it a go since it was for a good cause. So I ordered a bag of tulip bulbs from each of my boys. They happily dropped them on the kitchen table when the order arrived and excitedly asked when I would start our garden. I said something like “someday soon” and it was soon forgotten by the promise of after school snacks. But then, I also forgot. And they got moved from the table to the counter. And then the counter to the top of the fridge. And there they sat for months and months. Okay, if I am being honest, it was probably a year. When I discovered them, the Mom guilt hit me hard so I went out in the pouring rain, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and I planted those bulbs. But when the winter came and went, the tulips never bloomed. I know that tulip bulbs are hearty, but I neglected them for a long time, and then hastily planted them in rocky soil that never let them take root.

If we lived our lives like that, neglecting being in the Word and then hastily spending a few minutes reading here and there – how would that take root? If we attend church and listen to the words but then forget them the minute we leave the parking lot – how will they take root? If we sit at a weekly meeting with our church friends, and listen to their prayer requests but never pray for them or try to help them in any way, are we really allowing the Word to take root?

Let’s be real for a minute. It is so very easy to pretend. To walk through life with the appearance that we are doing what is right, but then not really doing the right thing at all. Appearances can be deceiving – take it from someone who was a master deceiver for many years. It wasn’t until God intervened and softened my heart that things really change, allowing me to be able to have the opportunity to really let the Word settle in deep.

We need to be doers and hearers of the Word. The words that we read might just be words on the page to us unless we actually live them out. And here’s the thing – living them out is what makes us God’s first fruits of creation.

In Leviticus 23:9-14 we can read about the first fruits offering the Israelites were required to bring before the Lord. When the Israelites brought this offering to God, it became a pleasing aroma to him. I’ve often wondered about the term “pleasing aroma” and why a smell would make God happy. But at the heart of it all, it’s not the smell so much as what it represents – the Israelites obedience in doing what God had asked of them. If we do what God asks of us, by not only listening to the Word but also understanding it, it’s also pleasing to God.

When I get up close and take a whiff of the tulips, they smell pretty and give off a pleasing aroma. It makes me happy, but that’s not all that’s pleasing to me. I’m excited about the fact that they represent the season of spring which will soon come. The Hebrew word for first fruits is bikkurim which means “promise to come.” How fitting a word for us as we live out our faith right now? When we allow God’s Word to take root deep in our hearts, and we strive to live it out, we represent the firstfruits of creation. It gives us a glimpse at what is promised to come, when God’s Kingdom is revealed.

Every time I see a tulip, I’m going to be reminded that I’m one of God’s favourite creations. But I’m also going to use tulips as a reminder to be encouraged to actively live out what I’m reading in the Word. To be not only a reader, or a hearer – but to also wholeheartedly throw myself into doing whatever God asks of me. Spring is coming!

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Unpolished Stone

It’s quiet and everyone is sleeping. Everyone but me. I can’t get comfortable and my heart is heavy. So I quietly slip into the bathroom, fill the tub with warm water and bubbles and have a good cry. There is purpose in this season, but it’s hard to see it through all the messy bits. And so my heart just aches.

Maybe it’s because I’m the one who is always there. For every phone call, every confrontation, every poor choice, every meltdown, every hard lesson. I’ve heard from others that I would get to a point where I just don’t care, where I don’t feel the need to fight every fight and correct every mistake. But I don’t seem to ever get there, even after all these years of battle. Even though I’m exhausted, and broken, I can’t ever give up.

Once upon a time I was his world. His beautiful blues would sparkle at the sight of me. He would be thrilled to sit next to me, to show me the latest and greatest in his life. But that’s gone now. Time has shifted things, and now I’m just in the way. Now I’m just the one who doesn’t know anything. The one who rules with an iron fist. The boring one. I’ve watched his world since before he was born, and now his world is trying to squeeze me out.

I thought I was ready for these changes, but I wasn’t. I thought I would be stronger than this, but I’m not. The things he says to me break my heart, the things he does and mistakes he makes crush my spirit. Because understand this – this strange but wonderful thing – I remember the sweet child he once was, and I see the great man he could be.

If I was a sculptor, and he was my masterpiece, I’d take a mallet and smash this season right off. But that would be a mistake – the roughing out period is possibly the most important part of sculpting. While a mallet is a useful tool, any minor mistake could cause it to completely ruin the piece. And I’m no sculptor – but God is.

It’s a gift, really. To be able to see a glimpse of what he could be when God has finished the roughing out period and starts to finely chisel. All of these things that can be carefully removed by the Master Crafter. But it’s also tricky. Because while I may not be the Sculptor, some days I feel like I’m the mallet. One way or another, I’m directly involved in the roughing out period – and I’m feeling every strike, every blow, every scrape along the way.

Or maybe we’re just worked from the same block of stone. I’ve had a roughing out period too, long before his. I’ve been finely chiseled, but I’m still not a finished piece. Maybe when he’s being roughed out, I need some more chiseling. Maybe the purpose of his season is perfecting something in mine.

One way or another, we are in this together. Both of us just unpolished stone. Unfinished pieces, linked together by the Sculptor that gives us life. This season has a purpose – and I’m not going to give up. No matter how much we need roughing out, no matter how much work is ahead. He is worth every strike, worth the pain of every bit of stone that needs to be chiseled away.

Unpolished stone. Unfinished work. Forever intertwined, mother and son. One day made beautiful. But until then, we wait and work through this season.

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Treading Water

I feel like a failure. A terrible teacher. A bad mother. Or maybe just a lazy one. It’s been thirteen years and I don’t feel like I’ve done enough, don’t feel like I’ve taught enough, directed enough, prayed enough or prepared enough. I feel like I’ve been asleep on the job, like I’ve slacked off. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been doing everything I can but it’s just coming up short.

Survival. If you had to label my parenting style, that would probably be it. Some people tell me they think I have it all together, and it takes all of me not to laugh out loud because it’s so far from the truth. For the last thirteen years, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve been grasping at straws. I’ve tried different things. Mostly I’ve just tried to survive. Sink or swim, sink or swim.

The honest truth? I’ve not done either. I’ve just been treading water for so long, trying to keep my head above the waves. I’ve not gone anywhere. For the last thirteen years, I’ve just thrashed around in one spot.

Those people who tell me I look like I have it all together didn’t see my tears when my sweet, kind hearted son was screaming and throwing chairs in his kindergarten class. They didn’t feel my heart break when he was labeled a violent child in grade three and as such spent the year in isolation. They didn’t see me sobbing on the floor when I got a phone call that he’d attempted to choke an educational assistant in grade six. They don’t see those storms from our past, or the one that is darkening the skies on our horizon.

I’ve spent these years fighting for them both. Meetings, phone calls, doctors appointments. Scheduling therapy, mentoring, respite, check ups. Keeping on top of medication, changes in appetite, managing behaviour. Because they can’t do it themselves. Because they need me. Because I’m Mom.

And I’m so tired. Mentally drained. Emotionally exhausted. Weary. So I just keep treading water. Trying to survive, trying not to sink. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to swim. But I pray that they will get to. My two sweet loves, these little hearts that hold mine.

I don’t have long now. Time is slipping away faster than I’d ever imagined. Will all that I have done be enough? Sometimes the very thought of days disappearing and months fading away has me gasping for air. Have I done all I can do? Have I spent this time well?

No. And the answer breaks my heart even more. And when I truly stop to think about the overwhelming days to come, I feel myself sinking.

But then Someone grabs me and pulls me to the surface. I remember we don’t have to do this all alone.

Today, as I start sinking, I hear a song singing me to the surface.

We have found our hope

We have found our peace

We have found our rest

In the One who loves

He will light the way

He will lead us Home

As we offer all

to the One who saves Us

His love endures

Forever His love endures

Forever His love endures

Forever and ever

(The One Who Saves, Hillsong 2009)

And I remember that when fear is crippling me, I just have to lift my eyes. I just have to look to the One who saves us. Because even though it sometimes feels like we are drowning, we will never drown because He is holding us up, encircling us with His love and care. Like a lifesaver firmly wrapped around our middle.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s comforting to us, to quiet ourselves and think about. But it’s really a call to action. For me, my boys, for you. To put it bluntly, it’s saying SNAP OUT OF IT! Wake up! Stop stressing about the unknown! Look at who your God is and be amazed. Praise Him for what He has done in your life! Why are you worrying about the things to come? You know who I am! You know what I can do! Enough of this!

I know the days are slipping. The future is uncertain, terrifyingly looming overhead. Like those past heart aches from years of transition, another is coming. But I need to remember who my God is, and what He can do.

All this time, I’ve been treading water. Wasting energy, draining resources, pushing myself to do everything and then some. When all I really needed to do was stop, rest and focus on Him. If only I’d stopped sooner, I’d have seen He was holding me this whole time. ❤️

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Twenty Years Later

It’s a dark, cold night. I’m standing outside with my friends. Laughing, happy. Sparklers light up the night sky as we write our names in the air. As we write whatever our hearts desire. No one is really looking, and even if they were, I doubt they could even make out what I’m writing. My deepest, heart felt desire. To be just like them. To be skinny. To feel like I belong.

My new year’s resolution is to lose weight. It always is. I’ll try every fad diet on the market, desperate to be thinner. Desperate to fit in. But none of them ever work.

I have many new year’s celebrations like that one. Many new year’s resolutions to lose weight. Many years of heartache when my maximum, sometimes over-the-top efforts to be thinner bear no fruit. Many years of tears. Long after I’ve married the love of my life, long long after that cold, dark night.

And now here we are, about twenty years later, in another brand new year. But I have no resolutions this year. Only reflections on the past, and revelations too…

I’m thirty six years old. If I could approach my sixteen year old self, writing her hopes and dreams in the night sky, I’d want to tell her a few things. I’d want to tell her to just be herself. I’d want her to buy herself that pretty sweater she had been eyeing at the mall and wear it proudly because she looks incredible, the thinnest she’ll ever be in her life. And I’d want to just give her a hug, if for nothing else than to let her know even though she’s in for a rocky two decades of amazing highs and deveststing lows, she’ll come out the other side perfectly okay.

Twenty years later, I know why I could never lose weight on all those fad diets I tried. Twenty years later, I’m okay with having a disease that makes me fat. Twenty years later, I’m happy in my own skin – I don’t need to be a supermodel. Twenty years later, I know who I am. And it has nothing to do with the outward appearance, and everything to do with the heart. Twenty years later, I feel beautiful because I am His.

Instead of making resolutions, I’m writing down revelations.

I am who He says I am. A daughter of the King. (Romans 8:5)

The world tells me that I’m worthless, because I don’t look a certain way. But He tells me I am as precious as rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)

I am beautiful. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

I was created for a purpose. (Ephesians 2:10)

I am a shining light. (Matthew 5:16, Ephesians 5:8)

Twenty years later these revelations are more important to me than anything else. Twenty years later, my only hearts desire is to live according to His will. And I’m so thankful that in this new year, these revelations speak truths into my life when the voices of the world seem overwhelming. Twenty years later, I understand to whom I belong.

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Becoming His

It’s quiet in my house right now. It’s never this quiet. When everyone is silent, when everyone is sleeping. It’s extremely rare to be the only one awake in the early morning hours. And I feel at peace.

Sitting here in the quiet, I reach for my Bible to spend some time in the Word before the chaos that will become my day. And I’m thankful because I rarely get this time, first thing in the morning. It’s always mid afternoon, when my body is already aching and I’m worn and weary. And I find myself wishing for more moments like this.

I used to not care. If I woke up in the early morning, I would just roll over and go back to sleep. But something changed in me. Slowly my heart started to change and I wanted to spend more time in the Word. To learn more, to experience more. But I didn’t know where to start. So I decided to check out different things on Pinterest, but I didn’t like what I found. It wasn’t that they were bad or wrong, it’s just that I wanted more than topical studies.

The thing I don’t like about topical studies is that often verses are taken out of context to support the theme. Context is super important. The Bible is one big story that flows from one little story to the next, and to the next. And if we just pluck verses out to make out here and there to make us feel better, we are losing something much bigger and even more meaningful. Reading out of context allows us to miss, twist and mix up Biblical truths.

Take Jeremiah 29:11. Everyone knows this verse. You’ve seen it all over the place. You might even have it on a coffee mug or a wall hanging in your home. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s a feel good verse. It’s the kind of verse that brings you comfort when you feel like your life is spiralling out of control. But if you look at the context around the verse, you see so much more.

The Israelites have been banished from Jerusalem and are living as slaves in Babylon. Feeling miserable, they take hope in a prophet named Hananiah who tells them it won’t take too long to be back to their home, just a short two years. But Hananiah wasn’t sent by God to deliver this message, and he was passing it off as of it was straight from the Lord. Because of this, he died and Jeremiah came in with another message, this one from the Lord himself. And it wasn’t what the people of Isreal wanted to hear. From the city of Jerusalem itself, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiled Isrealites telling them to get comfortable. “Build homes in plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! and work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (v. 4-7) Jeremiah then warned the Israelites about listening to false prophets and the dangers of being tricked by people who proclaim that they’re speaking for the Lord. And then, just before the comforting verse we can find on any mug or banner, the Isrealites received news that probably broke their hearts. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: you will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” (v. 10).

The Israelites were ready to leave. They didn’t want to live a life of captivity. But because God had better plans for them, they had to stay. They weren’t living for the Lord, and God was punishing them for their sins. But because He deeply loved them, He needed them to stay in a so their hearts could be realigned with His. Only there would they look for Him wholeheartedly (v. 12).

When you’re sipping coffee out of a Jeremiah 29:11 mug, you’re probably not thinking of sin and captivity. But that’s the story. Instead, when we look at this verse, we should rest in knowing God’s plans are always better than ours, but in His plans, not everything will be easy for us.

Since context is so important and often missed, I decided to combine a bunch of study methods and create my own. Here’s what I like to do when I want to dig a little deeper.
First, I think it is important to always start with prayer. It gives you a chance to talk to God before you study His word, to get transition from whatever you were just doing to a time of worship, and to open your mind and heart to what you are about to learn.

And then after that, find your text and ask ALL of these questions:
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, AND, HOW?

WHO
It is always important to look at who wrote the book that you are reading. The Bible is of course God-breathed, which means it was inspired and ultimately written by God. However He chose to use human hands to write it out for Him. It is filled with numerous different authors with different writing styles. It’s important to know who wrote each book because it gives us a clearer picture of why it was written (more on that in a minute). So, the first question of study is WHO IS THE AUTHOR?

WHAT
There are several different types of books in the Bible. When I think about all the different books, I like to think of myself walking through a library. If you and I were at a library, we would see it is organized by different genres, making it easier for us to find what we are looking for. The Bible is also organized by different genres. There are books about law, books about history, books of poetry, books of prophecy, the gospels and the epistles. Knowing what we are reading helps us to understand how to read it best to glean the most out of what we are reading. Just like you wouldn’t expect to read a murder mystery in the same way you’d read a biography, we should not read the book of Exodus the same way that we would read the book of John. So the second question of study is WHAT KIND OF BOOK IS IT?

WHEN
The Bible is not written in chronological order, but is actually divided up by the types of texts I just mentioned. When you look at the Bible reading plans in chronological order, you might be surprised to see Job in the first month of reading. Even more surprising is that Job was likely written before we read about the life of Abraham!

Knowing when the book was written will help us with understanding the history of the book, who it was written for, and why. The third question of study is WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

WHERE
We can’t just take something out of the Scriptures and apply it to our lives at random. For example, not all of the promises that God gave to Isreal were intended for us! This is where studying in context is essential. It is important to look at where the book was written, who received it and for what purpose. Thinking specifically of the books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians, we can see it was written by Paul to the people of Corinth who were struggling with issues in the church, especially with a few specific people. Paul wrote these letters, and then sent them out where they needed to go. The fourth question of study is WHERE DID THE BOOK GO?

WHY
All of the Bible was written for a reason. This is certainly the easiest question to ask yourself when you are studying the Bible, which is filled with several different purposes. One night when we were just coming home from an event and it was past the kids bedtime, my youngest son was asked for us to read him a Bible story. My husband told him no because of how late it was, and our son said “But Daddy, the Bible is instructions from God!” Of course he got his Bible story that night – how could we argue with that?

While the Bible is filled with instructions it is also filled with admonition, inspiration, warnings, encouragement and more. One thing I have found helpful is to look at whether it is a descriptive or prescriptive text. Descriptive texts are when the scriptures are describing what took place, often with a lesson involved. There are descriptive texts all throughout the Bible, but we can find them prominently throughout the Old Testament. Prescriptive texts are when the scriptures are providing instructions on how to live, a “prescription” if you will – which can be found in much of the New Testament. The fifth question of study is WHY WAS IT WRITTEN?

HOW
The sixth and final question of study is HOW DO I APPLY THIS TO MY LIFE? This is a question that will be personal to you and your daily life, but if you are following through with the 5 W’s then you might have some good instructions on application.

I would also suggest writing out scriptures, memorizing scripture and journaling your thoughts as all of these things can be quite helpful to you as you learn how to apply God’s word to your life. Some questions you can ask yourself if you want to do some journaling would be:

1. How do I identity God in the text? Look for what attributes of God are revealed, what God said or did, and how He is mentioned – what names of God or character traits were used.

2. Find examples of faith in the scripture – how do the Biblical characters respond to their circumstances? Do they have good discipline that we can model? How does God show His love and grace to them?

3. Is this descriptive or prescriptive?

Applying God’s word to our lives is a heart response. How I apply a scripture to my life is very different than how you would to yours. We might respond differently to a sermon or lecture based on what we are going through. But the important part is that we do respond. Some questions we can ask ourselves to help us respond would be:

1. Based on what I have learned, how can I praise God?

2. What sins are identified that I need to confess and and turn away from?

3. How can I demonstrate faith like these Biblical characters in my own life?

4. What are ways that I can bring what I’ve learned to God in prayer? How can I pray for others based on what I’ve studied?

Journaling is important, and it’s so good to dig deeper into God’s word. I often get asked what I do to be consistent with Bible reading, and I usually recommend a Bible reading plan. Note that when doing a Bible reading plan, the goal is often to finish reading the Bible in a year. I’ve found that when I do this, I don’t have time to really dig deep into what I’m reading. If you’re like me, and you want more, follow a Bible reading plan, but don’t get caught up in the deadlines. Read and study, and you’ll find so much more.

If you’re looking for a Bible reading plan, I recommend these:

The Bible Project – this is hands down the best Bible reading plan I have ever done. In fact, until I discovered this resource, I’d tried and failed to read the Bible cover to cover so many times. Each book of the Bible you read through is accompanied by a short video lesson that walks you through the book and explains what it is about. http://www.thebibleproject.com

Back to The Bible – these one year reading plans offer much variety. You can read the Bible chronologically, historically, from the beginning to the end as it appears in the Bible, the Old and New Testament together, or everything all blended together. http://www.backtothebible.org/one-year-reading-plans

Five Days from Bible Class Material – While it is a great goal to read the Bible every single day, sometimes we fail. Often people who work different schedules, or who are on shift work find it difficult to have consistent time reading their Bible. A few people who I have talked to who are shift workers, appreciate this Bible reading plan because you only commit to reading 5 days a week and are able to still complete reading the Bible in a year. With only a 5-day a week commitment, it makes it far easier to catch up if you fall behind. http://www.bibleclassmaterial.com/Catalog/Mark%20Roberts/BibleReadingSchedule.htm

There is a lot of Information here. You can choose whatever reading schedule and study plan that works for you. But the message I wanted to convey is to start simply. The more we commit to studying the Word, the more we learn. When we consistently are learning more, we are prompted to align our hearts with His.

As we end the year and start into a new one, I encourage you to find something that works well for you. Be consistent. Dig deep. This time next year, I can guarantee your life won’t be the same. You’ll be a better version of yourself, and that’s such a beautiful thing. ❤️

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God of All History

It was a muggy day in May. My long hair was getting caught in the back of my chair again, and I was impatient for the bell to ring. The teacher was droning on and on about boring dates that I was sure would probably be on the test. I flipped through the textbook and the only thing that was really interesting was the pictures. Worn, tired and unsmiling faces. Why were they so grumpy? I wondered. Maybe because they had to sit through a boring class like this.

That was my introduction to history. Ironically enough, I discovered a love for it a few years later thanks to onr very excellent teacher, and went on to study it as one of my majors in university. What changed? I realized history was just a study of people in the past, and I love people. I love reading about how they lived, how they worked, how they died. History is all about stories. And I love stories.

It’s been many years since that dire history class, or any other class for that matter. But I still love reading about it here and there. Recently, I’ve started to think about something else in history I’ve never considered before – how did people in history worship? How did they live for the Lord? What did they learn? What can we learn from them?

I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a church leader in Nazi Germany who fought against Hitler’s ideals and preached and taught the love of Christ in a very unsettling time. Eventually he was captured while working in the underground helping Jewish people flee Germany. He was eventually sent to a concentration camp and was sentenced to death one short month before Germany surrendered and the camps were liberated. After his death, his sermons and teachings were recorded and still have an impact on people today, 73 years later.

God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility… this is for God the ground of unfathomable love. Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. The Church is the Church only when it exists for others – not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.

Bonhoffer’s words to his congregation in Nazi Germany can apply to so much today. What he spoke then encourages us now as we navigate through a world so confused and so lost that people just need Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon preached his first sermon nearly 100 years before Bonhoffer’s death in 1945. Spurgeon’s work as a pastor spurred revival and is so famous he became known as the Prince of Preachers. Yet Spurgeon was a humble man who taught boldly about coming to Christ and living a Christian life.

If any of you should ask me for an epitome of the Christian religion, I should say it is in that one word—prayer. If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith. To every soul that knows how to pray, to every soul that by faith comes to Jesus, the true mercy seat, divine sovereignty wears no dark and terrible aspect but is full of love.

Spurgeon’s words on prayer from nearly two hundred years ago still ring true.

George Müller was born thirty years before Spurgeon and was also a preacher. But Müller is better known for his work in caring for orphans and running an orphanage. Still, he had much to say about living in the Spirit.

I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also.It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. To ascertain the Lord’s will, we ought to use scriptural means. Prayer, the word of God, and His Spirit should be united together. We should go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer, and ask Him to teach us by His Spirit through His word.

Müller’s words and life are a testimony to living with great faith. He prayed daily for three friends to come to faith in Christ. He only saw the fruit of that in one friend, and the other two followed after his death. He also demonstrated faith in God in his orphanage. One day, when there was no food in the cupboards, he had all the children come to the table. He thanked God for his provisions and the food they would receive, knowing he didn’t have anything to serve. When he was finished, a milk wagon broke down in front of the orphanage and a bread wagon shortly after. He truly lived on faith and was filled with the Spirit.

These three men of history show us one thing – the God of today is the same God as yesterday, and will be the same God tomorrow.

Lord, through all the generations You have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, You are God. Psalm 90:1&2

For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5

Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from His heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to Earth from heaven to hear the groand of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die. And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion, His praises in Jerusalem, when multitudes gather together and kingdoms come to worship the Lord. Psalm 102: 18-22

God is a God of history. Through all time He remains the same. From beginning to the end. He sits enthroned on the praises of a thousand generations. And one day, He will bring us all together so we can praise His name as one.

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When God Says Wait

It’s almost birthday season. “Season” because all of our birthdays are clumped together in a matter of weeks. Mine is coming up this week, and then two days later, I’ll have a teenager. It’s crazy how time flies because I can still see his sweet baby face and chubby little cheeks when I look at him. I’ve done almost all of my shopping for him, and last night I wrapped his gifts and promptly hid them away as best I could. I don’t want a repeat of last year…

I have two brothers and a sister, so I know what it’s like to have to wait while a sibling has an awesome birthday. I felt all the excitement and angst on their special days while waiting for mine to arrive. Would I also get cool gifts? Would my cake be as delicious? It really comes as no surprise to me that his brother would have the same excitement and angst, because the two of us are basically the same person. Last year, he couldn’t contain himself and ripped the wrapping paper off his brother’s gifts, exposing what was inside. I had to do some quick repairs, but not before the birthday boy saw. I thought he would be excited to see his spoils, but instead he sat down and cried because his brother had stolen the surprise. Because the best part of surprise is anticipation for what is to come.

It’s timely that I recount this memory right now. A few days ago I was told that a medical treatment I was anticipating was not going to happen at this time. Something I had worked hard for all year. Something that would make my days easier and give me more quality of life. With one simple decision on someone else’s part, they’d stolen something from me. I was devestated. If I’m being honest, I came home and wept. I cried myself to sleep that night. And in the morning, I sobbed some more. I felt so deflated. I felt crushed. Abandoned.

Let’s take a step back here and re-read what I just wrote. I felt crushed. Abandoned. Key word? Felt. I felt that way. Yes, it was devestating news to me. (Still is). Yes, I wondered why God would allow this to happen right now. (Still do). But ultimately, my feelings aren’t in control of my life – His plans and purposes are. I can feel lots of different things, but that doesn’t mean how I feel defines the situation.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 1 Corinthians 4:8-10

Bad news doesn’t mean God abandoned me. I felt crushed, but I wasn’t really. It’s just not my time yet. I need to suffer for a little while longer. God is saying wait.

That sentence was easy to write, and I’m sure it’s ready to read. But actually doing the waiting? That’s tough stuff. Because no one likes waiting, especially today. We send a text and it’s received in seconds. We can order a meal and take the first bite in minutes.We can take a plane across the world and be there in a matter of hours. We can order something from Amazon and have it in our hands in two days. We are impatient. We just aren’t good at waiting, because often we don’t have to.

We want everything now. But that’s not how God works, is it? His timing isn’t rushed. His timeline looks nothing like ours, and that can be frustrating. We panic when things are out of our control, because the unknown is absolutely terrifying. Even if the Almighty God has it all planned out for our best interest. It’s still so hard to let go and leave it with God. And its that lack of faith and uncertainty which has the potential to cause a rift – creating fear, distrust and bitterness.

When God says wait, He’s saying trust Me.

When God says wait, He’s saying do not fear.

When God says wait, He’s saying be expectant.

When God says wait, He’s saying hold on to hope.

When God says wait, He’s saying I love you, and you are mine.

Sometimes I lose sight of what God says when He says wait. Two days ago, I couldn’t see it. Yesterday I couldn’t see it. But today, He’s making it a little more clear.

Imagine your life as a GPS (or if you’re old school, a paper map). Your goals, dreams and hopes are all destinations. You think you know which way you are going, you’ve made plans for along the way. But then you hit construction and you need to detour. As if that isn’t frustrating enough, a voice starts blurting out Recalculating, Recalculating! You’re no longer heading where you want to be, and the journey is different from what you expected. You might travel over tricky terrain. You might miss the stops you planned, but you’ll get to your destination eventually.

Waiting on God can be like that. But the beauty of His redirection is what happens on the journey. Sometimes He says wait to increase our faith. Sometimes He says wait to build and shape our character to model His. Sometimes God says wait so that we learn to depend on Him instead of ourselves. Whatever the reason, when God says wait, we need to take pause. We need to press in. We need to relinquish our control. We need to stop questioning and start trusting.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

My soon to be teenager is highly anticipating his birthday. He’s seen a few of the wrapped boxes (before I hid them away from his brother). He excitedly ponders what lies beneath the paper. He’s counting down the days. He knows the wait is hard, especially as the day dawns nearer and nearer. But he knows the reward is sweet.

Waiting is not easy. The destination is always going to be worth the wait. We might get sidetracked, our hearts might break a little, and we definitely will wonder if we will ever get there. But we can rest assured in His perfect timing, we will. So lean into Him. Cry a little. Pour your heart out to Him, because He’s listening. And when He’s ready, we will be too.