So long, Billy…

Today, Billy Graham transferred accounts from this world, to the next. I would say he died, but he would say he is more alive now than he has ever been.

His life now, is not the limited, Parkinson’s-riddled, trial that he experienced on earth. He is home, experiencing eternal life with God. Just as his favourite Bible verse (the classic John 3:16) promised him.

Was he perfect? Of course not – he was human and in need of a savior. That’s why he loved Jesus so dearly and dedicated so much of his life to helping others come to faith in Christ. It is only the one who knows his own darkness that clings so closely to the light.

I’m of mixed emotions today. I had the joy of getting to hear Billy Graham at the Sky Dome in Toronto in the mid 90’s. My faith had become my own – not just something my parents hoped for me – in the past few years at university. And I remember walking through the cement corridors of the Dome as I made my way down to the main floor, to profess my faith in Jesus. It was the moment I publicly declared my faith. And I’m so glad I got to make that walk, that first commitment, on the heals of Graham’s preaching.

I’ve been through wilderness seasons and trying times. But I’ve never regretted that decision. Jesus has guided and enlarged my life in ways I could never have imagined. And my story is just one small drop in the ocean of stories of lives committed to Jesus that come from the life Billy Graham committed to.

On the one hand, I’m sad to see this powerhouse of faith pass from this world.

On the other hand, I have found myself thinking throughout this day that there are few for whom the phrase “Well done, good and faithful servant” is so easily applied.

So long, Billy. I hope to see you in Heaven one day.

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Needing peace…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT

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Today has been one of those days in which I ran from one thing to the next – many meetings and appointments to keep. I am home now, and tired with a day that had so much packed into it.

When I’m weary, I long for peace and comfort. I long to slow my breath down, and know that everything is ok. Not because anything was wrong today, but because the frantic pace of this world, this city, gets under my skin and into my soul. The frantic pace makes me feel frantic and frazzled.

I love what Paul writes to the church in Phillipi – this reminder not to worry, but to pray. That through prayer, the peace that is longed for will be found.

I need reminders like that when life gets busy. I need to remember that God’s got my back. That he’s known me since before I was born, and has watched over me continually.

This Lent, may you not worry about anything, but pray about everything. May you experience the peace of God, which is beyond understanding. May you live in Christ Jesus.

A heart breaks…

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭116:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, since Wednesday, the news media has been all over the shooting at a school in Florida. And that’s as it should be: it’s a heart breaking story.

At the same time (and maybe this will get me in trouble), but I’m getting really sick of the sentiment that “thoughts and prayers” are equated with “doing nothing.” I understand the frustration. Goodness knows, I understand the desire for change and the growing unrest over the perceived lack of change.

However, as a person of faith, it upsets me that anyone would say that prayer – our direct line to the Living God of the Universe – is passive.

In my opinion, prayer is one of the great privileges of faith. As a member of a reformed Protestant branch of Christianity, I believe that God listens directly to the prayers of his children. I believe that prayer changes things. I believe that when I cannot find the words to express my prayers, the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf to express the desires of my heart to God. I believe that my prayer changes things – things in the world and things in my heart and soul.

I believe this is how it is for any person of faith.

So it’s heartbreaking to hear prayer equated to a platitude.

This Lent, I encourage you to pray fervently. Our world needs prayer. Our souls need prayer. And God’s ear is bent close.

The journey begins…

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭NKJV

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I love the metaphor of journey. The thought that a life, a season, a relationship, a faith – any experience at all – is a journey.

I remember Don Miller (in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years), writing about what it was like to canoe across a lake – the shore was so far off, and then after a whole lot of paddle strokes, suddenly you arrived. Journeys are like that. It seems to take so long – the destination is so many days or miles or steps or paddle strokes away – until suddenly you arrive. It didn’t seem sudden while you were still journeying, but then it was. Arrival. Journey’s-end. Completion.

The danger with any journey is that you will focus on the arrival. You will long for it, hope for it, continually work toward it, and in the suddenness of its arrival, you will know that you missed a lot by not being present for the journey. By not slowing down and noticing the paddle strokes as they piled one on top of the other.

Lent is a season of journey. Slowly, through days that can seem to bleed together and last far too long, we journey towards the joy of Easter. Of the empty tomb. Of the conquering of death. Of the triumph of sacrificial love, laying itself down for us once again, and rising back up again, to claim eternal victory and give it away to you and me.

Easter is the destination – and it is one glorious destination – but let’s not miss the journey for the sake of the destination. Our steps between now and then matter. Each day, each moment, each paddle stroke, has something to teach us, spiritual riches to impart.

This Lent, I hope you’ll journey with me. I’ll do my best to post regularly, to share some of my steps, and to encourage yours. And may we both find that our Master walks with us, every step of the way.

Ash Wednesday…

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John‬ ‭15:12-13‬ ‭

So today is Valentine’s Day, but it is also Ash Wednesday – the official beginning of Lent. I saw a meme posted on Facebook by one of my colleagues that said, “What am I doing for Valentine’s Day? Working and reminding people of their inevitable deaths.”

That’s what Ash Wednesday seeks to do – to remind us that we are all mortal. Our time will end. As John Ortberg once said – no matter what else changes, the death rate of the human race remains steady at about 100%.

Why do we seek to begin this season by reminding ourselves that we are all going to die at some point? Because humans are good at deceiving ourselves. We tend to act as though we have all the time in the world. We tend to act as though death is something that happens to others, not to us.

Even though our news media continually confronts is with stories of untimely death – car accidents, boating accidents, people lost to hurricanes or earthquakes or avalanches, people lost to murder or gang violence, soldiers killed in the line of duty, individuals lost to disease or complications from surgery. Death is, actually, all around us. But we don’t like to think of our own inevitable death.

Because when we do stop to think of it, we are confronted with needing to do something about it. To prepare in some way. And that is precisely why Lent begins with this reminder that you, me, and everyone we know, will eventually die. Reminded of that, we are called to action – in the case of the Christian, we are called to put our faith in the One who can (and more importantly WILL) deliver us from death to eternal life.

So on this day when Love is so crassly commercialized in much of our society, may you think on death. And may you be reminded of the truth that the greatest love anyone can have is to lay their life down for their friends. Jesus did that. He did it for you, and for me, and for everyone else who isn’t going to get out of here alive.

Death doesn’t win, friends. Love does. Love wins.

Amen. And thank you, Jesus.

Glory to God…

This is what it’s about.

Christmas has arrived again. I hope yours will be very merry, and that you will spend the day with people you love.

I also hope you’ll know what it is really about. That God so loved the world that he gave us his only son.

So that we would know peace as we never had before. So that we would experience a peace that passes understanding. So that we could be reconciled to God.

Glory to God and peace to all.

Merry Christmas.

Us…

Immanuel means “God is with us.” This is one of the names of Jesus, because in Jesus, God came to be with us.

Most of the time we do is on the “be with” part of that phrase. But I’m quite taken with the “us,” this year. We are never meant to be on this journey alone.

It’s always supposed to be an “us.” Jesus, even as he calls his first disciples, calls more than one. The church is an us – a group of people bound together by the love of Jesus.

A group of people who are called to share that love with a world that desperately needs it.

Today, as I prepared services for my group of people at Graceview, I was struck by what a privilege it is to belong to a community of faith.

My hope is that you will gather with other members of the church – either at your home congregation, or at a church where you are a guest this time of year – and experience Immanuel, God with us.

Wrong…

I don’t know why, but sometimes we get it wrong when it comes to Jesus. We seem to focus on the “thou shalt not” parts of the Bible. We get hung up on sin.

We seem to focus on that rather than the fact that we have a Saviour. Don’t get me wrong – I’m well aware that sin is a problem. I know I do things that are sinful – things that hurt others, that hurt my relationship with God, that hurt the world that God created. Sometimes I do these things willfully, because there is something in me that is broken – that doesn’t function the way God created me to function.

I know that I’m not the only one.

And that would be a really depressing thought – except that God doesn’t leave us to our misery. God acts. God steps out of Heaven to become a child. To be with us, to walk among us, and to lay himself down for us.

Because Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas!

Through Him…

When God wants to show his love for us, he sends a part of himself. His son. One of the persons of the Trinity.

And God does this not just so we can learn from him, experience him, converse with him – God does this so that we can LIVE through him.

You see, if you want to know what life is meant to be, it takes following Jesus. It takes asking Jesus to be a part of every day, every moment, every decision, every dream, every hope, every battle and every victory in your life. It takes a lifelong journey of learning and growing and being transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Some days that will be an easy journey. Some days making Jesus part of your whole life will come naturally as your next breath. And other days, you may wonder if you ever really knew Him at all. You may wonder if he’s really there.

But then – every journey has its ups and downs.

What I’ve learned at this point in my journey, is to always keep going. Keep seeking Him. Keep trusting Him. Keep learning from Him.

Through him, I find my life. Over and over and over again. And every shadow that comes, every “down” part of the journey, is only a passing thing.

That’s why it matters that this baby was born in Bethlehem. Because God was showing his love to the world by sending his son, so that we might live through him.