The Gardener

Lord of glory, You dwell with the poor and destitute,
God of justice, You delight not in the death of the wicked,
King of Israel, King of all the earth,
Teach us gracious courage, humble wisdom,
Truth seasoned with gentleness,
Kindness stripped of appeasement.
Show us beauty from ashes,
That when all is against us, God intends good.
Help us learn patience toward those who are learning,
Compassion for the foolish and proud,
For our ignorance, too, led to darkness.
Open our eyes to see
That when we stand alone, we are least alone,
That grace calls forth extravagant sacrifice,
That strongest love requires strongest worship
Perfected in weak and broken vessels.
We love our friends, so we must love our enemies,
Because we were enemies until You called us friends.
In greatest anguish, there is greatest hope,
So we sing in the night to the Giver of songs
Who redeems our tears and answers our cries,
Who grows mercy from evil
And fills emptiness with life.
Whoever waits for You shall not be put to shame.

Dying, We Live

It’s the word of the cross that gives us freedom, victory, forgiveness, and a changed heart. It’s in Christ and Christ alone that we can be born again to hope. It’s in being crucified with Christ that we are raised to new life. And it’s in being united with Him in His suffering that we find resurrection power. 

I may not know what your struggles are, but we all have them, and we are all sinners. But in Christ, all who believe are washed clean, made righteous, and called sons and daughters of the King of kings. The Father is the gentlest and most compassionate of parents, and He is a Shepherd who loves us too much to let us be destroyed by our sins. He calls us to repentance, faith, and surrender because that is the only place where we can be made whole, to the praise of His glorious grace. 

I think Ken Ham explains our sin nature, the power of the gospel, and our new identity so well in the following points. He specifically mentions homosexuality and LGBTQ identity, but the truth can be applied to any sin or any identity we lay down at the cross:

“1. We are all fallen with sinful hearts and evil dispositions and tendencies from infancy. Because of our sin nature, every person is born into sin and with a heart that desires darkness, not light and righteousness. Just because a person has debased desires from youth doesn’t make those desires right, natural, or acceptable—it is still sin, according to God’s Word (and this is not true just for homosexuality—it’s true for every sin!).

“2. We are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24). Scripture never tells us to pursue our natural desires. Instead, it says those desires are wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and the only answer is repentance and faith in Christ, who gives us new and eternal life. When we joyfully embrace Christ as Savior, we’re given a new power to say “no” to sin and to pick up our cross and follow after him, no matter the cost.

“3. We’re called to a new identity. Our culture says you are your sexual desires—your identity is wrapped up in your sexuality, hence the plethora of gender and sexual orientation identity options. But Christ says you are a sinner in need of a great Savior. When you turn from sin and trust in Christ, you are given a new identity. It’s not grounded in your desires but grounded in Christ and what he has done for you on the cross when he freely forgave the sin debt you could never pay. If you are in Christ, he is your life (Colossians 3:4) and you are a new man or woman in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

“Our culture says that we’re ‘born this way,’ but Christ says, ‘You must be born again’ (see John 3:1–17). It’s only through new birth that we’re reconciled to God, given a new identity in Christ, and given freedom over slavery to sin—including those sins that have tempted us from our youth.”

When we entrust ourselves to God, we must surrender our lives totally to Him. But in our surrender, we find the Prince of Peace and the beauty of holiness. May we find our eternal treasure in Christ indescribably greater than all the broken promises the world has to offer. 

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'”

Matthew 16:24-25 NASB


God, You rule over all history.
If You see each sparrow as it falls,
Surely You have known these times,
Held them in Your hands,
And done what is right.
You are the Ancient of Days –
None is like You,
Unchanging, trustworthy, and eternally faithful.
You are all-consuming, yet
We are not consumed;
We have nothing, yet
We shall not want for anything;
We are cradled in the arms of
The Shepherd of our souls.
Lion of Judah,
Lamb who was slain,
Eagle whose wings are true shelter,
Majesty and Humility,
Servant made King,
What an honor it is
To love You.


O my soul,
A sea of bad news is the brine
That makes hearts thirst for living waters.
You were created for such a time as this –
Take your stand before the darkness,
Proclaiming freedom to captives.
The Love that saved you
Is still saving;
The Hope that enraptured you
Is still dawning;
The Maker of heaven and earth lifts your head.

So bow down to your worthy God;
Worship the Alpha and Omega.
Feel the scars of the hands that hold you;
Even in the chaos His purpose stands.
Arise, my soul –
Walk with Him who rules the waves,
Breathe the salty breeze,
And speak life.


Father, I am exhausted and overwhelmed.
When I look at the future,
I take my eyes off of You,
And I am filled with dread.
Let Your Word soak into my soul,
Cleanse me from within,
That I may instead be filled with Your Spirit,
For many are waiting and watching
To see if my God has power –
If He is above all gods,
If the fear of Him can consume all other fears,
If He can fill the shadow of death with brilliant light
And make the Valley of Baca a place of springs.

Lord, with each step of faith,
I cry for Your grace and strength;
Your life is my supply to endure again –
But the world is filled with lifeless souls
Walking empty paths,
Crying for hope.
Father, I pour myself out as a sacrifice,
Carry the dying of Jesus,
That their eyes may be opened
And their souls find peace.

Let those who count all as loss to know You
Stand firm and take action!
Let them shine like the stars –
Cause many to bow at Your name as we await
The rising of the morning star,
The dawning of day
When we, too, shall arise
To rejoice in Your glory forever.

Remembered and Redeemed

When I look at the 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 8:3-4

When I think of the righteous and holy King, who am I that He should think of me? Who am I that I should be redeemed by His blood? I am a jar of clay, a creation from dust to dust, and in the end, an unworthy servant. That He should set His love on me speaks nothing of my worthiness and everything of His mercy.

I am as much in need of His sacrifice as I was the day I first believed. Were He a God of changing, were the shadow of His wing to depart from over my head, I would stand condemned and without hope in the world. Yet He is a God of covenant faithfulness, of eternal intercession, and of a perfect priesthood which once for all lifts me out of the mire and places me in the cleft of the rock. Sprinkled with the blood of Christ, the wages of my sin have no power to lay hold of me.

As many were astonished at you –
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.
Isaiah 52:14

My Lord and my God, who are You that you would descend from so high a throne to so lowly a death? Who are You that You would pay the highest price for the most wretched of sinners? There is no other God like You, a God who creates life and conquers death, who brings healing with a touch of Your robe and authority with a whisper of Your name.

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
1 Corinthians 6:17

Would I be joined to the holy and perfect One? Would I, once dead in my trespasses and sins, caked in the mud of lawlessness and the disgrace of corruption, be united with Him who dwells in unapproachable light, who rules with a scepter of uprightness? Am I to be counted among the spotless bride of the most handsome of men? Am I to share in the righteousness of the Righteous One? Then it must not be my own doing, but only the redemption and grace of the everlasting God of Abraham, who numbered me among the children of His kingdom before the stars were ever hung in the evening sky.

Yet is was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:10-12


The more I know of the Lord Jesus, the more I come to understand how surpassingly lovely He is. He is kind and gracious, patient and gentle, strong and mighty, meek and glorious. To catch a glimpse of His perfection is to be transfixed for eternity; He is living water that satisfies yet makes me thirsty for more. What will it be like in the New Jerusalem when earnest longing for more of Him undergoes a metamorphosis into complete and utter satisfaction?

This week, as I was finishing the vestiges of my fall study of 2 Corinthians, I was confronted with this unsettling truth: Christ Jesus, who fed the multitudes and healed the sick, called His listeners to take up their cross and follow Him. I think of all the goodness with which the Lord daily feeds me, not only with physical needs like food, clothing, and shelter, but with His constant presence, His light-giving Word, and His soul-filling peace. His guidance over the circumstances of my life (while not always understood by me) has been without compare as He roots out toxins, lifts heavy weights, and leads me to still waters and continuous restoration. Just as He once showed His ancient followers, He has today proved to me His storehouses of bread and His power to heal.

So now the cross comes. It is heavy, foreboding, and torturous. How can I bear it? Will I walk in stride with the Savior, or will I step back, horrified and despondent at the stripes in His flesh He now calls me to imitate?

The faith required to believe that God could save me is perhaps surpassed by the faith needed to believe He can keep me, that He can cause me to follow Him to the end. My strength is not adequate to carry that cross. I will run at the first thought of discomfort, and even if I am able to stomach the idea of it, I collapse under the weight of ostracization and pain. How can God keep me from turning back, as so many others seem to have done under this difficult saying?

It is only through the love of Christ that I can endure. While most hide their faces from the Man of sorrows, I must recall within my soul this most handsome of the sons of men, from whose lips grace is poured out like honey. Only as I behold His glorious beauty can my love grow deep enough to be rooted through drought, tempest, and shaking. Only in His love can my love be made strong enough to go to Him outside the camp and bear His reproach.

Even still, my love for Him may falter, but His love for me never fails; it is sure, steadfast, and boundless. Yet very often, I forget His love for me. His kindness toward me has been a decided fact in my mind for so long, and has become such a staple of my spiritual diet, that somehow it has grown bland in my reckoning. Without consciously uttering such an idea, I have made God’s love for me out to be, at worst, a distasteful obligation, and at best, the kind of love I use to describe my affection for, say, a favorite pair of shoes. Utilitarian, unremarkable, forgettable. I’ve let a lie enter my mind that sells God short. Satan hasn’t changed His playbook much since the Garden.

The Lord’s love is so much more. It is a love wide enough for the world, yet unique from all others when placed on me because He loves me as me. It is a chosen, perfect, all-consuming love. “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). His love goes beyond all that could be imagined. It is an impossible love which only a righteous Creator could possess, for His love loves the unlovable and, in doing so, makes them lovely.

I look back on the miry pit where I began and marvel at all the Lord has done for me. So many people want to become a better person in their own estimation, and yet God is working in me to make me perfect and complete in His holy and righteous sight. Even now, I am sure of the change in me from glory to glory. Where I see the rough stone, He sees the cut and polished jewel; what a joy to know that the refining of the present time is even now bringing a flash of light here, a deeper hue there, until one day I will know myself as the workmanship He designed from the beginning. From formless rock to priceless treasure – this is the power of God in me.

Therefore, when I ponder the future and feel my knees tremble, I’m going to seek the Lord who will sustain me to the end, and I will find strength of heart in His love for me. Do I not trust His promises? Are I so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, am I now being perfected by the flesh?

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

With the Lord’s help, I’m going to take up the sword of the Spirit and destroy the stronghold the enemy has built in my mind that bears false witness, declaring my defeat. The Mighty God is my God, and this Creator and Sustainer of all dwells in me. It is impossible for Him to lie, and He has already shouted in victory and led me in triumphal procession. By His power at work within me, He will do far more abundantly than all that I can ask or think. He will make me to know the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and as I am transformed into His likeness, my love too will become unshakeable. All that I desire to become in Him – all that ways I desire to be like Him – will soon be my everlasting truth.

I am so fed up with the sin in my life. I am so done with it. Yet I hold onto it so dearly, unwilling to relinquish the thing that both inebriates and emaciates. When my decisions side me with the world rather than with God, when I deny Him by my works or unsaid words, when I see the double-mindedness that clings so closely, I am disgusted and mourn that I am not what I should be for the One who is everything to me. But rather than climbing down into the pit of despair, I’m going to challenge the prognosis of never-ending shame and turn to the oath which swears that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. I will hope in Him who is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, the only God, my Savior, through Jesus Christ my Lord. For it is He who works in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

As Spurgeon says,

“If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, He looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to Him as His own handiwork, but because it is like Himself, for ‘He is light.’ Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God’s eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which He has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which He has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the Judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people–but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, ‘The Lord knoweth them that are His.’ You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees ‘light’ in your heart, for He has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from His gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in His finished work, God sees the ‘light.’ He not only sees it, but He also preserves it in you. ‘I, the Lord, do keep it.’ This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by His grace, He will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.”


New Year, Eternal Savior

2018 is here, bringing new hope, new beginnings, and new resolutions. The new year can bring second chances and a clean slate, and it can seem so satisfying to turn the calendar page away from the hurts, worries, and failures of the past year and begin anew.

But there’s something about the yearly change of the guard that leaves me on edge. Those new hopes leave my heart open to new disappointments, those new beginnings can suddenly come to a close, and those new resolutions can be quickly broken. Even by the end of January 1st, I realize the challenges of living in this world, and I sense the strength of my flesh warring against me.

I don’t need a second chance. I need a Savior.

I’ll never get it right on my own. I don’t even stand a chance. The world likes to tell me that I can do it, but the reality Jesus reveals is that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As much as that ruffles the feathers of my pride, deep down I know it’s true. I know I’m in need of a God who offers not second chances, but new life.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

In Christ, I am a new creation. Not a better me, but a new me. A me that’s blameless and above reproach in God’s sight. Jesus Christ has accomplished once for all what I could never hope to attain in a lifetime: He has made me right with God. At the foot of the cross, I am pure and holy for all time. Having once shed His blood, He has washed me completely, and I don’t need a new year or a new start, because what He offers is sufficient. His grace is enough.

Yet I’m often tempted to believe that it’s not enough. Sometimes I think that I need another new start, that I need to do something to begin again, and I inadvertently reject the truth that the regeneration God has worked in me is sufficient. I listen to the lie that says that I’ve ruined His new creation with my sordid sin. I begin to feel useless to serve the Lord, and I imagine that I’m a reject product of God’s workshop.

When that happens, I have to shift my mind off of hopelessness and onto the Giver of hope who has made me acceptable in the Beloved. I need to remember that in God’s courtroom, Jesus is my Advocate, and that when the Righteous Judge looks at me, He sees His Son.

As I walk daily with the Lord, even in the midst of my seeking Him, I will sin. But He has made provision for my every need, including forgiveness and cleansing. He picks me up and dusts me off and helps me keep walking. Never, never again do I need to fear wrath and condemnation. I never need to look for a new stain remover for my sin, and I should never feel too far gone, because the good that the Lord has begun in me He will complete. No matter how I fail this year, His mercies will be new every morning – not just on New Year’s Day.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Ezekiel 36:25-27

I’m not going to be a new person in 2018 because I already am a new person, clean from all my uncleanness, with a new heart softened toward God. I don’t follow Christ perfectly, but His forgiveness is enough to cover me, His life is enough to get me through life, and by His Spirit and Word I can continually be renewed and have the courage to overcome.

Waiting in His Path

In the path of Your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for You;
Your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for You in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks You.
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
Isaiah 26:8-9

The path of the Lord is level and true. His way is full of light and peace. He is a steady and strong rock for those who tread the narrow road; He is eternal life for those who walk in the everlasting way. My soul know that His thoughts are just, and His ways are good.

In His name I seek refuge; in His righteousness I find righteousness. Jesus is salvation, and only the Lord is a Savior.

For Him my soul waits, and in His word I hope. The anchor of my soul is settled in His promises; in Him the waves of doubt are stilled. To no longer be tossed to and fro by the wind, to walk steadily with one opinion, one mind, one heart – this is my heritage as the Lord works and wills, as He tends and prunes, as He completes and glorifies.

Oh to be found waiting at the coming of the King of kings! To be lingering in His paths, abiding in His love, working in His fields, feeding on His pastures, judging with His right judgments. To not shrink back in shame, to be ready at His arrival, to daily seek the Day of seeing face to face.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
For the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2

When, Lord? My soul yearns for You in the night; I wait for You more than watchmen for the morning. I have seen Your light in this land of deep darkness, and I look expectantly for the time beyond the end of time when there is no need for sun or moon because Your glory with shine. Today, Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and eternally, the Lamb, Your Word made flesh, will be the lamp of the nations.

May Your name be glorified and remembered in all generations.

For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
Habakkuk 2:14

My soul longs for the reign of the King.

He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.
Micah 4:3-5



His Grace is Sufficient

“Whatever is good, Christ’s grace is sufficient to bestow. Whatever would harm, His grace is sufficient to avert. Whatever you need, His grace is sufficient to give, if it is for your good. Whatever you would avoid, His grace can shield, if His wisdom dictates.”