A Response to Evil ...

Sometimes.. Life makes me stay up late and rant.
And sometimes I feel like I need to share that.

I am up late tonight, tossing and turning, soaking my pillow in tears, desperately sad and furiously angry. Why? This world is so very full of injustice. Full to overflowing.
Somewhere over the ocean, 21 Christians were beheaded. 21. And my heart is breaking right now. I saw their faces, their names, the image of them lined up on the shore… and I can’t help but feel a wild grief for those faraway men. Why? I do not know them, after all….

“It’s just another tragedy in a broken world, Jacquelyn. Say a prayer, hug your people close, thank God for the country you live in, and move on.”
Those things are good, and I will certainly do them. But NO. I cannot look away, I cannot dismiss this, I won’t. It hurts my heart that they are Christians, my brothers. But even if they were not, I would still mourn their loss—perhaps even more so, because we know that those who die in Christ also rise to life in Him…

Why do I mourn these strangers across the sea? Simple- because every person on this earth is infinitely valuable. To dismiss that inherent, infinite value is to discard a life. It is to be the masked men lined up behind them, swords at the ready. I will not do that. Instead I will sit up in the darkness and weep for the loss of these precious lives. They are worth sadness. I will be angry at the evil that caused this. I will kneel on that shore, where their bodies laid broken, and dig my fingers into the blood-soaked sand and I will cry for them and cry for my God to restore this place, to bring glory to triumph over evil. That is what I am doing tonight.

I can’t even hate the people who did this- I am crying for them as much as anyone. For underneath those masks are people whom my God loves with an unfailing love—even now, he loves them still. I wish I could hate them, I want to have someone to blame. Yet they, too, have infinite value. How this must break our Father’s heart…

Part of me is furiously angry, also. I want to scream “where are you, God? You could have stopped this- all this senseless violence. You should have done something!!” But then my furious heart stills at the sight before me.

My Jesus. Bent low before his captors, they with their weapons and he with his wounds, cross weighing heavy upon his shoulders. His precious blood staining the sand. And I know he was there on that shore, right next to those men, kneeling with them, his blood and theirs mingling. I see him reaching scarred hands towards the masked captors even as swords sliced sharp and life ebbed away. And oh, the love in His eyes.

Now I am weeping for the fullness of that love. Love that kneels on bloody beaches and comforts prisoners in war-torn lands, but love that is here as well.
Sitting in a dim bedroom in the middle of the night with my neighbour and her newborn.
Love that keeps company at my friend’s bedside as she fights illness, breathing raspy and body weary. Love that knows every corner of this old house, and covers every sweet soul that slumbers here, some more peacefully than others.
Love that calls wayward sons home and offers rest to weary bodies.
Love that offers peace in conflict, joy in pain, hope in trial. Love that wraps around every single one of us, no matter who we are, where we are, or what we have done.

My Jesus knows and deeply loves every soul spinning wild on this planet—and today that is enough. My God, OUR GOD, is enough.
Enough for lifetimes of painful yesterdays, the tragedies and triumphs of today, and for thousands of uncertain, unknown tomorrows. Oh the depth and the breadth of His great love for us, his people. Oh, how he loves each one of us. And He will bring restoration to this place once again. In these things, we find hope.

- By Guest Blogger Jacquelyn Morran

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Three in One

No ... I'm not talking about the Trinity in this one as you might think from the title. Instead I'm thinking back over the events of the last few days. People are grieving the passing of three of society's 'icons' over the course of this last week: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson.

All three were well known names during my growing up years. Ed McMahon, of course, was Johnny Carson's sidekick on The Tonight Show. I never was a huge fan of the show but I recall my friends talking about it frequently. Posters of Farrah Fawcett adorned the walls of friend's bedrooms through the 70's and into the early 80's. And Michael Jackson, well, he made kind of a splash on the music scene as I recall!

To some extent these three lived out the dreams of many - fame - fortune - success - in their chosen endeavors. To some they were 'larger than life' - and their beauty (alright - Fawcett's beauty!) - their material wealth - the life they had the freedom to live - were to be envied. But the events of the last week remind us of what we know to be true - they were just people - people, in all the ways that matter, that were just like you and me.

And that brings to mind another thought. Because they were just like you and me - created by the hand of God - they have souls that live on past the dying of their bodies. It means too that they now stand in a place of giving account to a Holy God for the lives they have lived. Now, I make no judgment on their standing with God. I don't tend to follow celebrity news and have no interest into peering into someone else's life. Therefore I have no real idea of where they were at spiritually and what they did with the Good News of Jesus Christ. But the news of their deaths has made me think of the parable Jesus tells in Luke 12:13-21. I would encourage you to read this passage yourself but just in case you don't, the short form of the story is this: A man was blessed with great wealth. He spent his life focusing on it, and the enjoyment of it, but gave no thought to God. Just when he thought he had it all, God spoke to him and said, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" What a challenging thought!

I'm also reminded of Matthew 16:26 ... "What good will it be for a man (or a woman), if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" Kind of puts things in perspective for us, doesn't it? One day we too will stand before a Holy God. Our bodies will have withered and died ... but our souls will live on. And the testimony of God's Word (the Bible) is that the soul lives on in one of two places - either in Heaven or in Hell. If one is a real place then certainly the other is real as well. Jesus spoke of them both as being real. I'm willing to take Him at His word. In that moment of time, when we stand before the Lord, I can only imagine that everything we have done and built up with our lives will pale in comparison to what we have done with Jesus. That should inspire us to live our lives here on earth with a greater view of eternity, with a better perspective on the things that are really worth our time and efforts and resources.

That's not an easy task. Our lives are filled with a lot of 'distractions.' But it's well worth our while to put in the effort. Perhaps a good place to start is in prayer - to start each day by praying that we would see the world around us as God sees it, that we would see others, and ourselves, through the eyes of God. To pray in such a way would surely transform our lives and our hearts, our desires and our dreams. What do you think?

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Spiritual Biographies

It's been awhile since I've updated the blog - sorry about that! But I'm back at it now and will try to be more consistent in the weeks to come.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says this:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

I tremendously enjoy reading! But not just anything will do ... whatever I'm reading has to capture my attention and hold it. The best books also nurture my spirit and build into my faith. Among these are the many spiritual autobiographies that fill my bookshelves. Real life stories of people who have wrestled with their faith, who have frequently been through extraordinarily difficult times - people whose faith has been refined in the crucible as it were. To me it is a tremendous encouragement to my own walk to see how faithful God has been in the midst of the trials of others. It's a reminder that I'll find Him faithful in mine as well. That's a part of the wonder of the Bible too - it's the story of real people - the good, the bad, and the ugly! - who strive to live out their faith (or not) - and the God who speaks into our lives.

I've just finished reading "A Dangerous Faith," edited by James Lund and Peb Jackson. It's a collection of ten stories each one focusing on an incident in the life a different individual. True life stories of people trying to make sense of their faith when their world is falling apart - from inside the Pentagon on 9/11 to a plane crash off the coast of Alaska; from Iraq to Columbia, from mountain tops to sea level, the reader discovers God at work in remarkable places.

Why do books like this excite me and fuel my faith? Because I think to myself, "That could have been me!" (Well, maybe not the mountain climbing adventure - but you get the idea!) These aren't "heroes of the faith" - they are merely faithful people who struggle at times with their own mortality but who persevere in their faith and in doing so experience the presence of the Lord in powerful ways.

How about you? Whose story has touched your life? Let me know ... I'm always looking for another good read!

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Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

One of the most awe inspiring encounters that people have had with God is when Paul encounters the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and is profoundly touched by the experience.  For three days he is left blind and goes without food and drink.  And while he has been touched physically by this encounter we do not want to overlook the likelihood that in those three days Paul must have been doing a great deal of soul searching as well.  Everything he had poured himself into - the persecution of the church and so on - was being stripped of it's veneer of righteousness and being shown for what it really was.

In the midst of this physical affliction and inner turmoil the Lord sends to Paul a Christian by the name of Ananias.  The Lord speaks to Ananias, telling him to, "Go!  This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."  (Acts 9:15-16).  Not quite what we expect to hear, is it?  God is going to use Paul's life powerfully, He's going to use him to reach hundreds and thousands with the Gospel message, but Paul will suffer as the Lord before him suffered.  This is just a partial list of Paul's sufferings as recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28  ...

He has been imprisoned, flogged, and beaten.  He has been stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and hungry and the list just goes on and on!  Yet he did not waver in his committment to the Lord nor the task set before him.  Instead he was able to rejoice in the midst of suffering for he knew he suffered for the sake of the Lord's name - he suffered on behalf of his king, his Lord, his soveriegn, his savior and his people.  Paul was able to rejoice because he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus and saw the big picture.

Our first inclination when trials, hardships, or opposition arises is to pray and ask God to take them away.  If we constantly focus on the trial rather than Christ we will miss the blessing that the Lord may have for us in the midst of these things.  I came across these thought provoking questions the other day which I would like to share with you and which might help us to each view the trials of our lives a little bit differently.

"Which is the greater demonstration of God's power - changing something around me or changing something within my heart?"

"Which is the greater faith builder - seeing God's deliverance from every difficulty or experiencing His presence and strengthening in the midst of trials?"

"Which reward is greater - immediate relief from discomfort, or tested and refined faith that will result in praise and glory when Christ returns (1 Peter 1:7)?"

"Which answer to prayer is greater - that God has removed something and given me external peace, or that He's left me in a trial and given an internal peace that nothing can steal, not even my circumstances?"

Peace.

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In the midst of Adversity - the Grace of God

In 1 Peter 1:6 we read these words, "... now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."  That will be a familiar experience to many of you who read this.  The trials we face in life can take many different forms - from the loss of a job to the loss of a loved one and everything in between.  Many of us will face trials that stem from sickness or disease.  In the midst of that struggle we will be called upon to live out our faith when we don't have the answers to our problems, when the outlook is not what we would hope, and when we are not certain what tomorrow will bring.

My family has been 'rocked' by the news of the last few days - from news of the growths in my neck to the phone calls informing us of my father-in-law's brain tumors and of the accident in which my wife's cousin broke his neck rock climbing.  Through these things we begin to catch a glimpse of what Job must have experienced as servants came to him, one after another, to share their sorrowful news.   Job's response has always inspired me.  He did not curse God nor turn from Him but cried out in faith, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away may the name of the Lord be praised."

May it be that in the midst of the adversity each of us faces that this may be the song of our hearts as well!  For we know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."  Furthermore Scripture reveals to us a sobering truth - that it is in the midst of these trials that we experience the provision of God's grace.  The Lord tells Paul, "my grace is sufficient for you."  And so it was.  And so too will it be for each one of us for the God to whom we come is the same yesterday, and today, and forevermore.  Praise be to the Lord our God!

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