the Ancient of Days is born

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Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)

“This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’ life on earth, not the beginning.

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.

The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person — not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus — existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person. 

Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one — namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed ‘from of old, from ancient days.'” (John Piper, Good News of Great Joy, Daily Readings for Advent)

Jesus upholds the universe by the word of His power, yet He emptied Himself and became a human. He chose to hang on a cross for you. For me. He, the Ancient of Days came forth and allowed humans He’d created to taunt Him, to beat Him, to kill Him. He, who Daniel spoke of 600 years earlier:

“I watched as thrones were put in place
    and the Ancient of Days sat down to judge.
His clothing was as white as snow,
    his hair like purest wool.
He sat on a fiery throne
    with wheels of blazing fire,
and a river of fire was pouring out,
    flowing from his presence.
Millions of angels ministered to him;
    many millions stood to attend him.
Then the court began its session,
    and the books were opened.”

Jesus, the Ancient of Days — reigning with such power and glory that we struggle to understand Daniel’s descriptions. Jesus, from of old, from ancient days — born of a virgin in a common feeding trough through a lowly birth. Born to die. Born that He might give forever life to those who themselves are bound for death.

Jesus! Name above all names! Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord. Jesus! Incarnated; forever existent; born to tell you the truth.

Jesus, the Ancient of Days; born to set you free.

This Christmas, behold the man!

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Painting: Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!) by Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891)

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You are to name him Jesus

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“She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

“The name Jesus means “Savior.” It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins.” This is His special role.

  • He saves them from the guilt of sin, by cleansing them in His own atoning blood.
  • He saves them from the dominion of sin by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit.
  • He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him.
  • He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day.”

Jesus, what a friend for sinners!

“Jesus is a very encouraging name to weighted-down sinners. He, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves great, conquerors, bold, magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Savior. Those seeking salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His role and His delight to show mercy. “For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him” (John 3:17).”

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds!

“Jesus is a name which is especially sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good. It has given them what money cannot buy – that is, inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon describes the experience of many, when it says, “Your name is oil poured forth” (Song of Solomon 1:3). Happy is the person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God’s mercy and goodness, but in Jesus.” (excerpts from J.C. Ryle’s The Gospel of Matthew)

Oh believer, worship your Savior this day! He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords, yet delights to show you mercy! Throw off any vague notions of God’s goodness, and instead draw near to Him with confidence; with  boldness; for He alone gives peace and rest. Your happiness will be found today, everyday, only in Jesus. Only in the One content to call Himself your Savior.

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teaching children generosity at Christmas

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We were slow. It took us until about Day 5 before we fully realized what was happening. Then, we started trying to catch them in the act. Twelve full days passed and we never once caught any of them.

They modeled for my family a generosity overflowing. They, at a time when our hearts were heavy and our energy depleted, arrived in stealth and left gifts at our doorstep.

For 12 days.

They regaled us with daily, arriving-in-secret, creativity-abounding sets of gifts — one set a day for each of the 12 Days of Christmas. Partridge-in-a-pear-tree pajamas for the children, a small Christmas tree bedecked with  pear and partridge ornaments, and a box of scrumptious real pears. And that was just Day 1. Eleven days of delights followed.

In the years afterward, we tried to copy their love and originality. We’d pick a family going through a tough time and we’d create for them a similar 12 days of unexpected delight.

The delight of delighting others

And this is the thing: I’m not sure if our kids would say they relish more the memories of the surprise gifts appearing on our own doorstep that first Christmas, or the inward delight we experienced crawling through nighttime bushes in dark clothes and leaving gifts on porches and ringing doorbells and fleeing before our own 12 Days recipients rushed to their door. (We’d hide in bushes just far enough away to not get caught, but still close enough to hear their excited voices each night. Then we’d sneak away and plan our next night’s outing. Oh what joy!)

I tell those two stories because the other day I passed a Salvation Army bell ringer and missed those years with my children. IMG_6682As I dropped coins into his red kettle and walked away, I hoped we’d adequately modeled for our kids (in the middle of our culture’s “I need more!” pressure) true generosity at Christmas. For as you know, not only in big ways like delighting a family with a 12 Days of Christmas memory, but in daily, ordinary ways, our guiding actions speak and are remembered.

If you hope to teach generosity to the children in your life (especially when surrounded by Christmas consumerism), here are a few other ideas (that will probably delight you as much as they delight those you give to):

  • On Christmas Eve, leave money (again, anonymously) in someone’s mailbox. We used to think of a list of people we loved and were thankful for and then, as dark approached, we’d map out a plan and drive to their different streets. We’d park the car, and each child would take a turn sneaking up to the different mailboxes and leaving our “we love you” envelope. We’d drive away giddy and giggly and hoping our small gift would lift their hearts toward Jesus. Oh, the sweet memories!
  • And in daily, all-of-December ways, you can work to cultivate generosity in your children. Intentionally put change in your wallet and have it ready to pull out for the Salvation Army bell ringer as you approach a store. Let your kids experience the happiness of dropping the coins in and saying, “Merry Christmas! Thank you for standing out here collecting!”
  • Shop together for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, bake for neighbors, support missionaries in a special way, help a widow with her Christmas decorating. In all you do, talk about the kindness of God toward us. Talk of His amazing grace, and His incredible generosity.
  • And pray with your children for the people who will open their mailbox or front door to your surprise gift. Pray they’ll think of the gift as coming from the Lord and that they’ll love Jesus more because of it. Pray they’ll worship Him and know His deep love for them this Christmas! And pray this: that He’ll do the same for each of you!

“…lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 11:18-19)

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when my arrogance is worse

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When I feel my heart harden, with huffish thoughts toward someone swirling round and round, I desperately need God’s Spirit to bring me up short. When I’m caring more for my own agenda, irritated at what I perceive as arrogance in the person thwarting my plans, I need the Lord to convict me of the sulky arrogance in my own heart. I need Him to bring me to repentance for my own lack of tenderness toward that very person; to expose my firmly-entrenched belief that I’m better and that I deserve better treatment. I need Him to deeply persuade me of my lack — lack of deservedness, lack of loveliness, lack of humility. And I need to be astounded at His great mercy toward inept me; that His grace toward me is miraculous.

“The humility that only awe of God can produce in my heart produces tenderness toward people who need the same grace. No one gives grace better than a person who is deeply persuaded that he needs it himself and receives it from Christ. This tenderness makes me gracious, gentle, patient, understanding, and hopeful in the face of others’ sin, while never compromising God’s holy call. It protects me from deadly assessments like, “I can’t believe you would do such a thing,” which tell me I’m essentially different from everyone else. It’s hard to bring the gospel to people when you’re looking down your nose at them.” (Paul Tripp)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

(Colossians 3:12)

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show them a light so lovely

IMG_6613“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, or by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” (Madeleine L’Engle)

Jesus. The source. Jesus, the light so lovely. Jesus, the giver of light to those stumbling in lonely darkness. Jesus, who said:

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

And who says: “You are the light of the world…No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp…gives light to everyone in the house.” (John 8:12, Matthew 5:14-15)

Lord Jesus, we ourselves desperately need your light. We need you! And we so want to be light, sharing your good news, loving, leading others to the source of all their hearts really need. Please open the eyes of people around us, using our words and actions to bring them your light. Use us to show them a light so lovely that they’ll crave the source of it. Oh Lord, please give them yourself!

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Painting: The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)

Related: still the same inside, unexpected tragedy and prayer through it and You might be the person God would use in a pretender’s life.

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a thankful heart is a happy heart

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“Not all the bounties of Providence can make us happy if we have a thankless, ungrateful heart. You may have all that the world can give you, and yet be wretched; or you may be very, very poor, and yet be cheerful. A thankful heart is essential, and, oh! may God be pleased to give us that thankful heart!” (Thoughts and Their Fruit, C.H. Spurgeon)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

(Colossians 3:16)

Grandmother Reading by Albert Anker (1831-1910)

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ceasing to be great in our own eyes

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“I will magnify God with thanksgiving.”

(Psalm 69:30)

“What does an all-sufficient God, who owns and controls all things, demand from the creature he has made? That we cease to be great in our own eyes and become small that he might appear great.”

We’re to cease being great in our own eyes. But we live in a world that teaches, at almost every opportunity, just the opposite. So, as a Christ-follower, (1) how do I begin to lessen in my own eyes? And (2) how is it good for me when I become small? And (3) how does calling God great (by giving thanks) magnify Him? What exactly does Psalm 69:30 mean? This:

“When we give thanks to him from our hearts, God is magnified. Gratitude glorifies God. Why does it? The answer is simple: Givers are more glorious than receivers. Benefactors are more glorious than beneficiaries. When we thank God, we acknowledge and display that he is the giver; he is the benefactor. We pay him a high compliment…saying “thank you” is a compliment; it magnifies people: You did a good thing for me; I’m indebted to you…

Therefore, when gratitude springs up in the human heart toward God, he is magnified as the source of our blessing. He is acknowledged as giver and benefactor and therefore as glorious. But when gratitude does not spring up in our hearts at God’s great goodness to us, it probably means that we don’t want to pay him a compliment; we don’t want to magnify him as our benefactor.

And there is a very good reason that human beings by nature do not want to magnify God with thanksgiving or glorify him as their benefactor. The reason is that it detracts from their own glory, and all people by nature love their own glory more than the glory of God…”

But:

“To those who have come to the end of their rope, who have fallen exhausted from pulling at their own bootstraps, our text is good news…”

For:

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

“It is not the well who need a physician but those who are sick.”

And:

“Jesus has nothing to do for those who insist they are well. He demands that we admit we are not great. This is bad news to the arrogant, but words of honey to the oppressed who have given up their charade of self-sufficiency and are seeking God.

And for those who’ve given up their charade, what better good can there be than this:

For by such He will be found; and He will pour into our empty hearts such a love as we have never known. And there will arise freely and joyfully a sense of gratitude so genuine and so visible that God will be greatly magnified as the merciful giver of everything we have and are.” (Quotes from I Will Magnify God with Thanksgiving! by John Piper)

So we’re given the honor of magnifying God by expressing gratitude. And in the expressing — in the calling Him great and ceasing to give in to the craving for greatness for ourselves — we experience love and joy and freedom. We get to admit that we aren’t great, and that He, the all-sufficient God, who owns and controls all things, is the merciful giver of everything we have and are.

We become more and more who we were created to be: happy in the awareness that we deserve nothing, but that everything is a gift. We know we’re  loved. We’re joyful. We’re free.

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility . . . for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you…”

(1 Peter 5:5–6)

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divine love would have put you there

 

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“Some plants die if they have too much sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get but little; you are put there by the loving Husbandman, because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection.

Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.

You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, “Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows.” Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God. Down busy self, and proud impatience, it is not for you to choose, but for the Lord of Love!” (C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening)

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Are you under a cloud?

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My childhood home sat atop a steep hill, and as the sun broke through clouds after a summer’s sweeping thunderstorm, we’d rush outside and gather with neighborhood friends to splash through puddles and play and laugh. Sometimes, to our added delight, beyond the rainy mist rising from warm pavement, summer’s startling gift could  be spotted in distant skies. Hanging just over the tall pines that lined the bottom of our hill, a rainbow — vivid, startling, shimmering — would perch in our droplet-filled sky. We’d watch and wait and wish its mysterious beauty would never disappear.

We loved summer’s rainbows.

I don’t play in summertime streets anymore, but  I still love a surprise sighting of red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet hanging as a great bow in the sky. Then I loved, with sheer childhood delight, the summer sky’s colorful arch surprise. Now, my grown-up spirit still lifts, but not only at the rainbow’s shimmering beauty. Now I also marvel because I understand the deeper meaning of God’s bows nestled in grey skies:

“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you,”…And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Gen. 9:9, 12-13)

“…The Hebrew word for bow in this text is the same Hebrew word used for the kind of bow one uses in battle, as in “bow and arrows.” God is talking about laying down his weapons…

‘They accepted it as a sign that God has no pleasure in destruction, that He does not give way to moods, that He does not always chide, that if weeping may endure for a night joy is sure to follow. If any one is under a cloud, leading a joyless, hopeless, heartless life, if any one has much apparent reason to suppose that God has given him up to catastrophe, and lets things run as they may, there is some satisfaction in reading this natural emblem and recognising that without the cloud, nay, without the cloud breaking into heavy sweeping rains, there cannot be the bow, and that no cloud of God’s sending is permanent, but will one day give place to unclouded joy.'”

I need to know, now in my adult years, that joy is sure to follow weeping. I need, when under a cloud of heavy, sweeping rains — when my heart wonders whether God has given me up to catastrophe, and is letting things run as they may — to be assured that no cloud of God’s sending is permanent. That one day unclouded joy will break forth from the heavy sweeping rains. That the bow will appear.

“…The rainbow, then, is a sign of God’s promise that he has hung up his bow…In the same way, the cross is a sign of God’s promise that he has hung his Son up to die, and it’s a reminder of his grace toward you that because Christ has taken the wrath, the wrath is taken.” (Quotes from Jared Wilson, May 31, 2016, When God Lays Down His Bow)

And since the wrath is taken, the Day of unclouded joy will arrive. No cloud of God’s sending — not one — is permanent for his child. When the heavy sweeping rains descend, when you’re sure your joyless, hopeless, heartless days are here to stay, know that those thoughts are not true. Look to Jesus. Pray to believe that:

 “Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

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I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain
that morn shall tearless be.

(O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, George Matheson, 1882)

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the way down is the way up

“…true humility in our church relationships will show itself in our being willing to undertake the very lowest offices for Christ…Genuine humility makes a man think it IMG_6437a great honor to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, or to be allowed to speak a word to a little child about Jesus, or even to wash the saints’ feet…Humility is a qualification for greatness. Do you know how to be little? You are learning to be great. Can you submit? You are learning to rule. My symbolic sketch of a perfect Christian would be a king keeping the door, or a prince feeding lambs, or, better still, the Master washing His disciples’ feet.” (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon 1733: On Humbling Ourselves Before God)

“Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end…So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.” (John 13:1, 4-5)

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high…

(The Valley of Vision)

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Look for the great surprises!

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“Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly, they are nice ‒ we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are ever facing this glorious possibility of having the greatest surprise of our life?

Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve been reading books, I’ve been listening to sermons, but I’ve arrived now at a sort of peak and all I do is maintain that. For the rest of my life I will just go on like this.’

Now, my friend, you must get rid of that attitude; you must get rid of it once and for ever. That is ‘religion’, it is not Christianity. This is Christianity: the Lord appears! Suddenly, in the midst of the drudgery and the routine and the sameness and the dullness and the drabness, unexpectedly, surprisingly, he meets with you and he says something to you that changes the whole of your life and your outlook and lifts you to a level that you had never conceived could be possible for you.”

Living Water: Studies in John 4 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Painting: Jesus Talks to the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)

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no color in this world

colorful autumn leaves

“There is not one blade of grass,
there is no color in this world
that is not intended
to make us rejoice.”
(John Calvin, 1509-1564)

Lush, green blades of grass. Blaze-orange and apple-red autumn leaves. Colors. All colors. Given for you. Meant to draw you toward your Maker. Meant to awaken moments of happiness that lead to praise from within. Praise, bubbling up and full of rejoicing. Rejoicing that works good things — things you need — into your heart and soul.

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
Let the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he is coming!

(Psalm 96:11-13)

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broken, or made strong, as it pleases Him

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“I beseech Christ for this one thing only, that He will enable me to endure all things courageously, and that He break me as a potter’s vessel or make me strong, as it pleases Him.” (Huldrych Zwingli, 1484-1531)

Able to honor the Lord when your times call for courage and endurance. Able to lay yourself in His arms, so that whether broken or made stronger, you want only what He knows is best. Zwingli wanted to live with God’s visual to Jeremiah at the forefront of his life:

“… I went down to the potter’s house,
and there he was working at his wheel.
And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand,
and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do…
‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand’…” (Jeremiah 18: 3-4,6)

On days when courage isn’t at the forefront of my emotions and my fragility screams at me and my broken cracks loom large, I don’t have to lose heart. I can remember that my burdens dull in comparison with the soon-coming eternal weight of glory. I can still (not in my own strength or hunkered-down self-will) radiate the light of the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, shining as a tired little pot, yes, but shining as a fragile jar who gladly knows the cracks are necessary:

“…we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us…So we do not lose heart…For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:7, 16-18)

For in worn fragility we come to understand this wondrous truth: We’re not meant to shine in our own power, but Jesus’ light shines out through each purposefully-given crack. And, as our outer self wastes away one crack at a time, we’re able to proclaim this glorious reality:

Any surpassing worth belongs not to me, but to God alone: And that’s the grandest purpose any clay vessel could ask for.

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when cancer comes again

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When cancer came again I sensed a need for stillness. Stillness before my racing, jumbled thoughts. Stillness before I spoke or wrote too much. Stillness before God.

Last time, our son had cancer. This time, my husband.

The shock, the confusion, the “why us again?” has now given way to “why not? Why not have cancer brought to us again?”

I believe cancer shouldn’t come again when I believe I deserve better than what God has allowed. And also, when I forget. When I forget that God only gives good gifts to His children. And if He only means good for me, then in thousands of ways I’ll not grasp this side of heaven, He’ll use this new season in our life, unexpected or not, to draw us (and others, hopefully) closer to Him.

For if He only gives good to His children, this season, no matter the outcome, is a gift. And for all the ways He plans good through this that I’ll probably never comprehend, there is one good already realized. It’s simply this: Cancer, upon its arrival, carries a poignant reminder of our mortality. Cancer reminds us that our years on this earth are short, few, fleeting. Through cancer we know that:

“We are mists that appear for a little time and then vanish.” (James 4:14)

Mists in the morning. Vapors, vanishing at sunrise. Yet. Exceedingly valuable vapors. Vapors meant to realize, for our good, our own brevity. But how does being reminded of the briefness of life work for our good?

When we’re faced with our own mortality, wakened to what was true all along, reminded of life’s brevity, we can begin to gain a wise heart:

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

In the realizing and remembering and numbering, we become more wise. More fully human. More worshipful of the One who is not. We bow. We humble ourselves under His mighty hand.

We humble ourselves by casting our cancer and its exhausting cares upon Him. He strips away our false sense of control, and at the same time reminds us that He cares for us — that not an atom goes astray but by His omnipotent decree.

So, as counterintuitive as it sounds, cancer comes, both the first time, and the second time, as a gift — meant to waken, remind and humble. We’re reminded we’re mists in the morning. Yet dearly loved mists. Mists meant to flee to the strength of the only arms strong enough to hold. We’ll find happiness nowhere but there.

“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and in due time He will exalt you, casting your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7)

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a septillion stars

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God put us on this little planet with the night’s sparkling array spread above us. Rotating around the star we know as the sun, within the galaxy we call the Milky Way, He created our solar system within myriads upon myriads of vast galaxies.

Then: He gifted human beings with eyesight and with the ability to ponder.

Have you ever wondered why?

With our naked human eye, in completely dark skies, traveling to both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, we’d be able to see and ponder almost 9,000 of our galaxy’s stars. With binoculars, we could count up to 200,000. With the most modern of telescopes, astrophysicists have now counted trillions upon trillions:

  • With those telescopes, we now realize our own Milky Way galaxy doesn’t contain 200,000 stars, but 400 billion!
  • And besides our own galaxy, there are 170 billion galaxies we can currently observe (yes, 170 billion!)
  • Some of those, the spiral galaxies, contain more than a trillion stars (yes, a trillion within one galaxy)
  • Some of them, the giant elliptical galaxies, have 100 trillion!
  • If we multiply the number of galaxies (the ones we know of) times the average number of stars in the different types of galaxies, we realize that the stars in our universe number roughly a septillion (I don’t think I’d ever even heard of the number septillion)
  • A septillion is a 1 with 24 zeros after it. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Why did God set up our night sky like that?

“…the universe is God’s best effort to say: That is how big I am. That is how strong I am. That is how glorious and magnificent. The galaxies are all about God, not man.” (John Piper)

King David added another question:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3)

David asks: How is it that He, who “upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3), bothers to care for us?

How can it be that He, upholding a universe of  a septillion stars (and the planets rotating around those stars) still cares for us so much that He’d — knowing we’re most joy-filled when we worship Him — plan for us to be wowed by a universe that shouts out how magnificent He is? He might uphold, sure. But care at the same time? And all for our good. How kind and compassionate He is!

Jesus upholds this universe — with 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars — by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3).

Bow to Him. Worship and adore Him.

And as you bow, “ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if with His love He befriend thee.” He upholds our world and her night sky’s blanket of a septillion stars. Yet He chooses to befriend you in love.

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Father, I’m wowed. I’m awed at your strength and power. And I wonder; why do you care? How can it be? Yet you do! You even, with your love, befriend me. Oh Lord, please show yourself glorious by using my life, here on this earth surrounded by a septillion stars and upheld by the word of your power, as you grow your kingdom!

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