In the Darkness

stars in valleyStars shine brightest in the darkest of nights.  Though they are always present, the  brilliance of their ever-glowing light is most visible to us in the midst of darkness.  The bleaker the night sky, the more beauty we see of the stars in the heavens.

The Christian life is much the same way.  Darkness makes way for the light of Christ. Difficulties open the door for God’s power and might to be revealed.  Life is found in death.  Joy is found in sorrow.  God’s riches are uncovered as we become aware of our need.  Grace is discovered in the midst of our sin.  Losses lead to gain.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single  seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35)

“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9)

God is a Redeemer.  He brings light out of darkness and life out of death.

The entire Christian life from beginning to end follows this pattern of life through death.  That’s why The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions begins with this prayer (may we make it our own today):

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

the grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty,

thy glory in my valley.

God never wastes trials, difficulties, and pain.  If you are in the darkness, He is near to you.  Look up and let the light of Christ Himself shine upon you.

When You Feel Like You’ve Blown It

failed

There are times when we all realize that we’ve messed up.  That we’ve stepped out of line.  That our actions have not been consistent with our core values.  That we’ve sinned.  That we’ve blown it and we’ve failed.

In these moments, we have a choice to make.  We can either wallow in self-pity and try to feel good about feeling bad (a miserable way to live), or we can Remember Jesus Christ and return once again, through him, to the God of all grace and mercy.

In his book The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges quotes a letter written by Mutua Mahiaini, a leader in The Navigators ministry in Kenya, Africa.  In this letter, Mahiaini gives sound advice to those who feel like they’ve blown it:

“Sin grieves God.  We must not down-play the seriousness of it in the life of a believer.  But we must come to terms with the fact that God’s Grace is GREATER THAN ALL OUR SINS.  Repentance is one of the Christian’s highest privileges.  A repentant Christian focuses on God’s mercy and God’s grace.  Any moment in our lives when we bask in God’s mercy and grace is our highest moment.  Higher than when we feel snug in our decent performance and cannot think of anything we need to confess.

Whenever we fail–and fail we will, the Spirit of God will work on us and bring us to the foot of the cross where Jesus carried our failures.  That is potentially a glorious moment.  For we could at that moment accept God’s abundant Mercy and Grace and go forth with nothing to boast of except Christ Himself, or else we struggle with our shame, focusing on that as well as our track record.  We fail because we have shifted our attention from Grace and Mercy.  One who draws on God’s Mercy and Grace is quick to repent, but also slow to sin.”

So, if you feel like you’ve blown it, you are actually experiencing a potentially glorious moment.  At this very moment of weakness and frailty and failure and sin, you can return to God through Christ and experience his abundant mercy and grace.

If you are in Christ, Jesus lived the perfect life that you have failed to live, and that perfect life has been credited to you by grace through faith in him.  Jesus carried your failures.  Jesus paid the penalty you owed for your sins.  Jesus bore the wrath that you deserved.  Jesus rose from the dead for your justification.  And even now, if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

You see your sin and failure, but don’t despair.  Jesus is a friend of sinners and his grace is greater than all of your sin.  Go to him in all your need, and he will receive, forgive, cleanse, and purify you.

“Fourteen Days”

just married

I’m currently within 2 weeks of my 14th anniversary to the most amazing woman I know.

Laura, this one is for you.  I was reminded today of a poem I wrote for you 15 years ago, just 2 weeks before we happily said, “I do!”  I only wish we could have been married earlier.

Along with my salvation in Christ, you are the greatest blessing in my life. Remember this poem?

“Fourteen Days”

In 14 days, we’ll sing his praise,
  as you and I commit our ways, 
to live together for all our days
  in communion and love for our God
 
In just 2 weeks, we’ll end the streaks
   of simply kissing on the cheeks, 
My heart will pound and my knees grow weak, 
   as our lips together touch.
 
How can I tell you how I feel, 
   though emotions inside seem so real, 
And I know you’ve waited so long until,
    we would finally be One?
 
All I think that I can say, 
   is that I watched a bride and groom today,
I watched intently all the way, 
   but my mind was fixed on you.
 
I’ve saved myself for you,
   for what else could I do,
from before time our Lord knew,
    that you would be the One.
 
I wrote to you this poem – 
   it’s simple, but it’s true
All of this is just to say
   that I am deeply in love 
      with you.
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