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. Continue Reading


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.”



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.”


When the Magnolia Blooms (For Those Who Wait)

Spring is a time of new life. The air is ornamented with bird songs, sweetened by the fragrance of trees blooming, and kissed with hints of warm breezes chasing away the deadness of winter.  All nature seems ready to explode with a whirling dance and a joyful noise announcing life abundant.

The subtle yet surprisingly swift changes outside echo the events of life as summer approaches. Spring means anticipation and change, tears and laughter mixed as endings and beginnings collide.

Oberlin is home to several tall, graceful magnolia trees, and their blooms always came just in time to usher the campus into a season of exams and papers, juries and competitions and performances. Seeing those large pink flowers assured me that the battle with cold and snow was past and that the perseverance of many months of hard work was about to reach its conclusion. Year after year, those magnolias told me I could breathe a little easier, while at the same time making my heart beat a little faster as I dreamed of the possibilities on the horizon. Continue Reading

Set Free

Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Through His blood I now am saved.1


What a beautiful and perfect covenant it is that satisfies the infinite righteousness and eternal love of the Lord of Hosts yet is mindful of me, to satisfy the searching of my soul. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). How glorious that we who are thirsty and desiring of the water of life may still take it freely. How cool and sweet and pure it is! It is beyond price and obtained without payment. In great mercy and grace the Lord has passed through my Samaria and has spoken such curious and good news – that I need not draw water from earth again. He has met me at my broken cistern and shepherded me to a fountain that never runs dry. And there I have found the Scripture to be true, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Our Father is faithful to provide for my every need. The least of His riches are far better than the sum of the world’s treasures. Just a drop of His grace outweighs oceans of human striving. His name is the LORD who Provides. As He sent the manna in the wilderness, He daily sustains me by His Word. And though it is not I who bring payment or provision, it is He who Sees for Himself a Lamb.

Truly no man can ransom another
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice.
Psalm 49:7-8

But He is merciful and says,

Deliver him from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom.
Job 33:24

As when He began His work in me, so it has continually been thus far. He knows all the days ordained for me and the needs of each one. “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25). For it will never be my strength, but only His:

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31

How I need to remind myself every day of what the Lord has done for me! How I need to trust the great love He lavishes on me! How I need His heavenly perspective to assure my heart. Because He remembers me continually, because I am inscribed on the palms of His hands, He has willingly forgotten my sin and no longer holds my transgressions against me. He chose me before the foundation of the world and predestined me for adoption, and not an adoption at arm’s length, but by a Spirit crying “Abba! Father!” He has made me accepted – now, despite my imperfections – in the Beloved.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
Isaiah 61:10

Jesus took on my humanity and bore my sin that I might be clothed in His righteousness. What more can I do? What more do I need? My God and Father has caused me to stand holy and blameless before Him according to His will and has seated me with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I need not say with Adam, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). I need not cover my sin with the blood of bulls and goats or the dirty rags of my good deeds. No, for He has carried my cross on His shoulders and placed His royal robe on mine, and I may boldly come near to the throne of grace and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O LORD of Hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at Your altars, O LORD of Hosts,
my King and my God.
Psalm 84:1-3

It is a peculiar truth that as a bondservant I am free, that I who once was a slave to sin, to fear, and to my accuser, should find freedom under the shadow of my Master’s wings. My Redeemer has bought me at the highest price and set me free.

Forever Free.

May I cease striving and know that He is God, that He will be exalted among the nations and in all the earth, that He does as He chooses, and nothing can stay His hand. All that He says will come to pass, and He has assured me that He will keep me from stumbling and present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy. The only God, my Savior, began His work in me by the Spirit and will complete it, not by my works in the flesh, but through His own righteousness credited to me and perfected in me by the power that raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing more can be added; it is finished.

It is finished, it is finished,
No longer need I labor for His love,
For Christ fulfilling the Law of God
Was deemed by God to be enough.2

I need to stop – stop trying to earn God’s love, stop trying to prove my stature as His child, and stop minimizing His grace by casting it in the shadow of a looming mountain of requirements and religious inventories. I need to stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

I am no longer under law, but under grace and led by the Spirit. I am no longer instructed by the tutor, but by the Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God Himself. He has high standards, but it is not I who live, rather it is Christ who lives in me.

So I will stand in the gospel. I will build all my life and hope on the bedrock of grace. And I will rest, knowing that the battle is the Lord’s, that it has already been won, that my enemies have been put to open shame, and that I can walk day by day beside the Lord with my head held high as more than a conqueror.


1.  “Satisfied,” Clara T. Williams
2. “It is Finished,” Jimmy Needham


Thus Far the Lord Has Helped Me

“Thus far the Lord has helped me.”

As another year comes to a close, this truth still abides. It was true for the Israelites, delivered from the Philistines even while Samuel offered a lamb and cried out to God (1 Samuel 7). It will always hold true, since the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, who delivers me from my enemies, will intercede for me all of my days and reign forever as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Rock that will never be shaken.

The Lord has helped me – there is no better way to describe this year. Or any given day. Or, I pray, my life. I am a jar of clay in order that God’s surpassing power may be known. The One who created out of nothing can surely heal my brokenness, and each year brings me closer to the Day when I will be fully, deeply, eternally whole. My failures have shown me that His faithfulness endures forever, that even when I stumble I cannot fall headlong. My successes have been evidence that His grace toward me is abundantly more than all I could ask or think. Continue Reading

Into Darkness Shines Everlasting Light

Among my favorite things about the Christmas season are the lights – hung on trees, fastened on light posts, strung on banisters and rooftops and storefronts. There is a quiet elegance to tiny bulbs illuminating chilly evenings and grey, winter landscapes. Anticipation fills the stillness, and as I drive home a gentle comfort whispers that perhaps the darkness is not quite so deep as usual tonight.

Even such small lights can bring hope. But the joy they proclaim comes and goes so quickly – soon Christmas will be over, we will grow tired of the decorations, and the lights will be put back in boxes where they will dance themselves into preposterous knots and inconceivable tangles over the next eleven months.

Perhaps they bring no joy at all. At times the lights act as mirrors, surrounding us with visible reminders of our emptiness, loneliness, or fear, or causing us to reflect on memories we would rather bury deep inside, and so the season of hope only serves to bring us one step closer to the outer edge of hopelessness. Perhaps it is all too much.

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8).

Jesus, the King of Kings, was enthroned in splendor and shining with unimaginable light and glory – as our eyes cannot gaze at the sun, so no person could look upon Him in the fullness of His radiance. Even so, He did not consider it all a thing to be grasped, but rather “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Even the bright star that led the wise men to His cradle must have seemed, though beautiful, yet in comparison as common as those lights we string in celebration each December.

The world was dark, and still the Lord entered it, not to save glorious angels or the host of heaven, but to redeem us who were in the darkness, walking in the darkness, and clueless as to where we were going because the darkness had made us blind (1 John 2:11). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Because of His mercy and love, God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). He came, not so that we could celebrate for a day, or even a season, but that we  should rejoice with Him for all eternity.

As His followers, we ought to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). But how did He walk? How did He who knew infinite light submit Himself to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Even in our world of darkness, He walked in the Light. Jesus is Light, but He is also in the Light (1 John 1:7). He chose to abide in the Light, to make the Light His dwelling place, even in a world in which He had no place to rest His head. His unity with the Father and the Spirit was His source of light, a Light that could not be dimmed even by the power of death. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

I know what it is like to have Christmases that are anything but merry, when carols are replaced by crying and panic seems to overpower the tidings of comfort and joy. If you are in that season, please keep holding on; but don’t just hold on, hold on to God. He is holding on to you. When He feels far off, know for sure that He is near. Though you fall, you shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds your hand (Psalm 37:24). Remember, His ultimate design is to wipe away all of your tears; for now, trust that He keeps each one in a bottle, close to His heart. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). And yes, there is a morning. If necessary, there is a night, but there is always a morning.

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of His servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10). He is good, and even when we cannot understand, He is worthy of our trust. Abide in His Light. He is the God of the poor, the mourning, the destitute. Jesus, who was honored with costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh many years ago is pleased to receive from us a broken spirit and a contrite heart. When we have no great riches or beautiful words to lift up to Him, let it be our joy and worship to lay down our cares, our fears, and our sadness at His feet.

This Christmas, whether surrounded by twinkling lights or somber shadows, let us look with eyes of faith on the One who is our Light, our everlasting, ever-satisfying, and all-sufficient Light. The night is not so deep as it once was, for “light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful and righteous” (Psalm 112:4).

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).


Finding Rest

“As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.’”   Matt. 24:3-12

These days, the world seems to be falling apart all around us. Events that would once have defined the sadness of a generation now grieve us on a daily basis. We weep with those we weep, we mourn and cry out to God. We search for ways to be the hands and feet of the Lord who delights in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness, and who even now practices these things in the earth. As obedient and beloved children, we seek to imitate our heavenly Father, to do the good things He has prepared for us to do, to be the people whom He redeemed to be zealous for good works.

But day after day, week after week, we hear stories that make our hearts sink, and we realize that for each story that threatens to tear apart our souls there are a thousand more we will never see in the headlines. Sometimes it seems to be too much. Who can keep going? Where is there any shelter from the pain so common it grows dull, from the weariness that seeps into our bones, from the fear that leads to restless nights and anxious days?

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

In these troubling times, it is the Lord who gives us rest and peace that surpasses all understanding, peace that the world cannot give because it does not know Him.

We live in a world that is terribly, irreparably (from a human standpoint) fallen and broken. If you search for peace, you will not find it. Are you finding it in the news? Do you have faith in something that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt will get you through today? Have you found anyone that can sincerely take away all the fear and sadness of the past, present, and unknown future?

The days to come may look bleak, but even in the storm that never seems to end, there is hope. There is One who created the universe with the mere words of His lips, who by His Word brings good news and a promise of a better future. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:13-14). There is salvation. There is life that cannot be taken away, that continues even through death. There is an end when all tears and pain will be wiped away and forgotten forever. There is a kingdom where there will be no injustice or deceit, no chaos, hunger, or loneliness, a kingdom where the brightest days on this earth will seem as dark as night in comparison to the light of His countenance shining upon us as we see Him face to face.

This world will not satisfy us; it will not bring us abundant life or peace or comfort. These things can only be found in one place, and that is in the Person who in Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. No human plan or effort will create a lasting remedy for all that is wrong on this earth. To find any hope or solution, we must turn to the God who has overcome all things. He is our stronghold in this life as we sojourn in a world to which we do not belong, and He is preparing a place for us, waiting to receive us into a glory that is far beyond all comparison. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

I am, without Christ, a person who struggles with heavy burdens of anxiety. I am prone to worry, stress, and fear. But my Savior is a Good Shepherd who brings peace. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Truly, truly, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, because He is with me.

You see, my God is a Father who cares for His children. We are helpless infants. We do not and cannot understand His ways – they are higher than ours, and His thoughts are not like ours.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” ( Job 38:4-7)

Even so, He has told us ahead of time the things that are to come, just enough to get us through without unnecessarily burdening us, as a parent would prepare a young child. “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He gives us comfort when He tells us these things; He knows what will happen, and even when it is painful and we don’t understand, He is sovereign over all. Completely, 100%, no exceptions. We must trust that He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. We must trust that His faithfulness is great. We must trust that He does indeed have a plan, a plan that has not failed and that will prevail as He watches over His word to perform it.

These things must come to pass, and though He is patient toward us, He is coming quickly. The disarray crafted by the evil one will only serve to prepare the way for the kingdom of the Son of Man who destroyed Satan’s power long ago; though we do not yet see it, there is nothing outside our Lord’s control. Though we do not know the day or hour, we can be sure that the Messiah who once entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the Jesus who is the Prince of peace, is coming on a white horse, soon proclaiming Himself undeniably as the King of kings. Let us never forget that our Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for our forgiveness, did so not only because He is love, but also because His name is righteousness, and in His own blood He satisfied the need for justice in the sight of a righteous God. He saved us out of His incomparable goodness, a goodness that is not only compassionate but holy, a goodness that is more worthy of worship than we will ever comprehend. As we cannot plumb the depths of the priceless meaning of our salvation, so we cannot perhaps understand what a serious and awful thing it is to rebel, as all have done, against the great I AM.

As throughout the ages, even so today He warns us. He calls those who have not yet come to Him and offers them the chance to be His own children, to plead for forgiveness and escape His wrath that will completely eclipse even the terrible things that are here right now. Our sin drags us down to Sheol, but the Lord lifts us up in grace. He calls us to believe Him and worship Him in faith, knowing that “in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25). Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe, who have not seen Him and yet love Him. When this world is soon stripped away, only those things rooted and grounded in Him will last.