Creator of All

Does God have the power to stop the Sun? And yet maintain gravity and atmosphere? To hold everything together while actually ceasing the rotation of the Earth? And then start it up again? Without everyone dying from the whiplash?

Sounds like a crazy concept, but that’s the cleanest read of Joshua 10:13-14. The sun stood still. God did it. This was an act of almost incomprehensible power.

Overestimating the power of God is impossible. Go ahead, try. “More powerful than a million suns.” As soon as that is written, it can be exceeded. How about a billion suns? More powerful. A trillion? More powerful.

His power isn’t just seen in miraculous events. God made everything. Simply by speaking it into existence. His power is simply limitless, right?

I can (barely) grasp the idea of limitless power. Inasmuch as I do, I am driven to bow my knee, to submit to the reality of overwhelming force. He is God. I am not. Nobody else is. Only him.

God’s power is amazing, but his omnipotence is not what primarily amazes me. What humbles me is in the midst of his power, he cares. He doesn’t just make the stars, he knows them by name. He doesn’t just make big things, he makes grains of sand.

In the account in Joshua, the sun stands still. But what is equally amazing as that miracle is why. The day lengthened on account of Joshua asking for it, and God listening.

God cares for his people. His most amazing attribute, in my eyes, is hesed, a transliteration for a Hebrew word meaning steadfast love. He loves. This all-powerful God, he makes the lame walk and the blind see. He looks at fallen broken people, and gives healing and hope. He does this himself, in his son Jesus.

If God has set his love on you, then you have nothing to fear. He goes before his people, he cares for his own, he protects them and keeps them (and he is really able to!).

The only issue of life is—has he set his love on you? And the answer is simple: yes, he has. If you will trust him. Anyone who trusts in Jesus, not in themselves, will be saved (John 3:16).

So see his power. Be amazed. And receive his mercy, thus to sing in glorious wonder. Because the all-powerful worker of miracles died to set you free.

Almighty Love

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

We love stories of noble sacrifice. A mother running into a burning building to save her infant child. A few brave soldiers staging a futile rearguard action to buy time for escaping women and children. A secret service agent leaping in front of the President to save a life. These actions exhort us to greater deeds of noble sacrifice ourselves.

That’s not what we’re singing of today. Sacrifical deeds for the innocent, the important, the worthy, the valuable. We’re way beyond that kind of charitable activity. We’re into the unknown, the incredible, the indescribable, the incomprehensible.

We’re in the realm of a story like this: a murderer who tortures and abuses, caught and bound to a chair, about to receive the lethal injection that will finally bring even a modicum of justice—and tremulous voice carries through: “Wait! Kill me instead!” And the command is from the lips of one of his bleeding, barely living victims. Not noble, in our eyes. Pathological, maybe. Pathetic.

Pathetic because there is nothing noble about the murderer. No smidge of repentant humility. No remorse. No turning over a new leaf. No hope that the criminal will become a better member of society through his reformed behavior. If you killed the victim and let the murderer free, he goes and murders some more. This just seems wrong.

Jesus died. And Paul still zealously rejected Christianity. Paul even progressed into persecution—murder?—of those who believed in this Messiah.

Until our eyes, like Paul’s, are opened to the incredible depth of how sinful we are, and how Christ died for us while we were sinners, our Christianity will be of a noble, understandable, wonderful sacrifice.

When our eyes are opened, we see it is more. We cry out, with this song, “How can it be, you first loved me?” How can it be that Jesus died for those who continued to sin, that love reached out for the unlovely? Rejected, despised by the very ones who needed him most.

When you come to your end, when your bridges are burned, when you sit in the wreckage of what your very best efforts result in, you are ready for this love. Almighty Love. The upside-down, incomprehensible, radical love of God in Jesus Christ. May the gospel continue to breathe life into your every breath in the wonder of our indescribable Savior.

O What A Fountain

“Praise for the Fountain Opened” was penned by William Cowper in the 1700’s. Struggling with seasons of depression and melancholy, he found his hope in the deep and wondrous cleansing blood of Christ.

This song draws from Cowper’s ode to the marvelous sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. This is the center of our hope and our faith. The Lamb of God has made his sacrifice, his blood is all the sinner needs, the weight of Jesus’ suffering washes away every guilty stain.

Like the dying thief, our own past, our own insignificance, our own failures all press upon us. We need to look always upon our savior, to see that we are the ransomed church, the children of God, simply by what he has done.

So redeeming love is our theme, the song that we sing. And we have to keep singing, because we forget that this is our only hope. As the cares of the world keep assailing, as injustice and suffering abound and simple life seems to hold no intrinsic joy, we remember again by faith that Jesus has washed away every blemish, every sin, and covered us in his righteousness. And for a moment, just a moment, we again splash in the cleansing flood, we are free in the clean waters that he has bathed us in.

Writing this song and thinking these thoughts did not cure Cowper from his bouts of depression. But these truths assure him and us that depression will end, that hope is alive, that we are cleansed forever in the fountain of the ransoming blood of Jesus Christ. Healing comes. Sin will be done. Life is ahead. Until we die, we sing of the redeeming love of our saving God.

You Go Before Us

Two little kids peer ahead. At the end of the hall is a huge pile of balloons, bobbing a little, inviting. With joy they run down to be engulfed in the multicolored cloud.

Maybe you can picture your kids doing something like that. Or, in a lighter moment, even you yourself.

But we don’t usually think of our whole lives that way. Our lives are filled with ups and downs, with striving and working through uncertain days and nights.

We have responsibilities and duties and obligations. And they are real ones, to spouses and children and parents and jobs and more. So we don’t usually think we are kids running down the hall toward a pile of balloons. We think the path we’re on is a conditional one, conditional on our improvement and strength. We have to discover what God wants us to do, and do it.

When I’m tempted to think this way, it is fantastic to consider Joshua. To picture the people of Israel massed on the plains of Moab, waiting to enter the land of promise. The place of rest. It doesn’t seem like it will be an easy run. There are obstacles and battles and even a huge river in front of them.

It is easy to hear “be strong, be courageous!” or “be careful to obey all the law that Moses commanded you,” and think that is the task for us. That’s certainly not running toward a pile of balloons. That’s a tall order, especially since I’m not particularly strong, courageous, or accomplished in the Law.

Until we realize… that those commands aren’t actually directed to us. They’re directed to the one who goes before us. Be strong and courageous, God says, to Joshua. Joshua, strong and courageous, will lead the people into the land of rest. Joshua, strong and courageous, will obey all that God speaks to him.

What a wonderful picture of our Joshua. When our path led only to condemnation and destruction, Jesus was strong and courageous. Jesus, our Joshua, obeyed the Father perfectly. He took on the world, the flesh, and the devil… and, through suffering and death, won. His blood covers our sin. His righteousness is ours forever. Simply by trusting in him.

By trusting, we are in that hallway, with much more wondrous things than a pile of balloons at the end.

And even when the hall seems dark, we know that this light momentary affliction is followed by an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). This future is because of the wonder of a God that goes before us, a forerunner who has already made the path straight, a Savior who loves us forever. It is a joy to follow him.

The Anchor

Examples of what God has done for other people are really helpful for our own journey. Examples help convince us that God does what he says. Abraham really did receive what God promised, because God is steadfast and trustworthy and doesn’t lie.

I mean, look what God did for the people of Israel! He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt by great signs and wonders. He fed them and kept them in the wilderness. He led them by pillars of cloud and fire. He went before them, fighting for them, giving them the land he’d promised to Abraham. Clearly he does what he promises.

But those examples aren’t really an anchor for me. Not because I doubt God’s promises. But I doubt that those promises apply to me.

I have not kept the Law. I am not a physical descendant of Abraham. I am troubled and struggle all the way through life. I am unworthy of the promise of God and don’t keep up my end of any bargain he may have made.

So when I see that there is a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” in Hebrews 6:19, I long to actually know what this anchor is that holds fast my soul? What is this strong connection that I have, that I can lean on and be assured of and rest in?

The writer of Hebrews wants us to look hard at a particular promise, from Psalm 110:4: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

See, just like the promise to Abraham—God promises, and swears. There is a priest, who represents a people before God. And he is above and before the Levitical law. He is David’s descendant, and David’s Lord. His name is Jesus. And thus in the Old Testament  there is a promise that will tie directly to you and to me.

Faith is faith that this promise is true. Not the Abrahamic promise, that one’s obviously true. Not the promise to David, or the promise to Noah, or other promises in the Bible. Nope. Focus on this one, the promise God made in Psalm 110 and swore to never change. The forever-priesthood of Melchizedek.

There is a priest. One who represents us before God. He does not plead with God for mercy on our rotten lives. Rather he calls for justice, in forgiving our sins because he has paid for them all. He is beautiful and perfect and shining, and his perfection is ours before God, because we are found in him. This is the truth: he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. That’s the presentation of this priest in Hebrews 7:25.

If you trust Jesus, he saves to the uttermost. That’s not a statement of try harder, do more, excel, improve, or find any hope in yourself.

Our anchor is the sworn promise of God that Jesus is our priest, above the law, once and for all saving us by his blood alone. This is our assurance. He is ours. Simply by drawing near, by placing our trust in his priesthood.

Focus on the right promise. Be assured. Your anchor will hold. No matter how troubled life gets, no matter how ingloriously you  fail, your anchor will hold. Your deliverer delivers. Your savior saves. Rest in the arms of the one who really has done it all for you.

“What though the accuser roar
Of ills that I have done!
I know them well and thousands more:
Jehovah findeth none.”

Great Is Your Faithfulness

Sometimes it takes the darkest moments to understand where light is found.

Difficulty can sound so mundane. In 586 B.C. Babylon came and conquered Judah, destroying Jerusalem, tearing down the walls, the city, the temple.

That doesn’t sound so bad, really, until you read the poems of the lament. They bring to life the real tragedy, the hopeless destruction.

“In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity.” (Lamentations 2:21)

“My flesh and my skin waste away… my bones break…  I’m enveloped with bitterness and tribulation and darkness and death” (Lamenations 3:4-6). These are cries of suffering and pain and hardship.

The message of Lamentations is made all the more tragic because it is deserved. Random evil didn’t do these things; they are brought on by sin and evil within as well as without.

Yet within the darkest hour there is a glimmer of light that will not go out. We rip it out of context; it is a verse you may know well.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

In the dead of night. In the moment when there are not flowers and gentle breezes. In the time of overwhelming tragedy, even self-inflicted. At that moment, there remains a light.

The steadfast love of God.

Not our faithfulness. His.

“Great is your faithfulness” isn’t a statement of God meeting us halfway, or of his having enough to pay us for all we do for him.

“Great is your faithfulness” is a statement of hope when all hope is gone. A statement of personal breakdown, of finally finding where light is.

The steadfast love of the Lord means he did not abandon his people. He sent a savior. His faithful son. Who in the midst of our own sin and sorrow and pain blazes forth with the message of care and love and provision.

His faithfulness provides all that we need. His suffering sacrifice cleanses us. His righteousness is given to us. We have only one place to put our trust—in Jesus.

So when the day breaks and there seems to be light everywhere, remember the real light. The one that is steady when all else fails. The one who brings grace and truth. Our anchor, our savior, Jesus.

Don’t hope in yourself. Not even on your best day. Trust the faithfulness of our God in Christ.

“’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:24).

Lord of All

“Who is this King of glory?”

That’s the question of Psalm 24. Check it out, Psalm 24:8-10, the psalmist repeats it twice. The answer is that the King of glory is our God. He is the Lord of armies. He is the Lord victorious. He is the one who is strong and mighty, mighty in battle, worthy of all praise and honor and worship because of his supreme majesty.

All fortresses fall. All gates open. Nowhere can stand against our powerful God.

The wonder of this song is not that God is powerful and mighty and worthy of praise. Of course he is. The wonder of this song is that we get to gather and sing. That we are drawing near. That we are getting to declare, to exalt, to bring praise.

Psalm 24 describes who gets to do this wonderful praise, who gets to ascend the hill of the Lord and stand and worship.

Those who have clean hands and a pure heart. Those who never have idols. Those who don’t deceive, ever.

So why in the world are we singing this song? That’s not us. We have dirty hands and impure hearts and are constantly falling into idolatry. Deception marks us.

Thus the gospel raises its head. Who is this king? He is not just the mighty warrior, the conquering sovereign. He is also the king who loves me. For my life he bled and died.

This king himself is our peace. He has broken down in himself the wall keeping us out. As Ephesians 2:16 says, he has “reconciled us to God in one body through the cross.” We get to stand in his presence simply and only because of what he has done for us, as we trust in this king of glory.

So don’t just pass over “we gather here to bring you praise,” or “we draw near to seek your face.” What amazing statements of wonder, that we who are nothing get to gather and praise the one who is everything.

We aren’t worthy. But he loves us. And look at what he’s done. Let’s worship the king together.

Everlasting Arms

I was in Arroyo Park last week. Sunshine filtered through the trees and ferns, revealing uncountable shades of green. I was struck again by wonder and amazement at what God has made. Like seeing  the stark beauty of the North Cascades on a clear day. Or looking out at the violet shades of the sunset sky over the Sound. These are amazing snapshots of God’s majesty.

Reminders of God’s sovereign power and majesty are good for my heart, but become worship when coupled with another even more life-altering truth: he loves me.

How could a God who makes wonders have even a single care for me? I am one of over seven billion people alive right now. I am not just insignificant in the grander scope of humanity, I’m sinful and imperfect and twisted. If I think about it too long, and apart from what God’s revealed in the Bible, I default to fear and guilt. I end up redoubling efforts to make myself more presentable, or I end up in despair.

He loves me. This is what I can’t see in the mountains or the sunset. His mighty hands have delivered me, in the arms outstretched at Calvary. The Son of God has come and shown me the love of God in his incredible sacrifice for me.

Isaiah 61:10 says “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.” His salvation, his righteousness. Beautiful, majestic, powerful—and he loves me. Loves me in the gift of his own suffering and death to win me.

It is the love of my Savior on display that lets me—nay, compels me—to lean in. It is the good news of Jesus that assures me that God is for me, that his everlasting arms are holding me. My need is to trust in Jesus, in the gospel of who he is and how he loves me.

Over the past year or so we’ve had a hamster at our home. The first time we took her out of her safe environment and held her, she literally quivered in fear. Her heart was beating so fast it seemed like it would burst. Her nose twitched as her eyes darted to and fro. She was waiting for disaster to strike.

Little did she realize she was in safe arms. If only she would trust us! If only she would lean into the care that we have for her. We feed her. We pet her. We keep the cats away. We want only good for her. Instead of looking for a way to escape, if she would just trust in our care, then she could rest. She could lean in.

How much more strong and safe and loving is our God. Not only has he made us, not only does he provide for us, not only does he make a way to be with us, but also has clearly revealed his incredible love by becoming one of us.

So go ahead. Lean into the everlasting arms. Realize they are the arms of Jesus Christ. If you trust him, he will never let you go.


The challenge of your Christian life is believing what you don’t see. The Bible calls this faith.

There is so much that is seen. You see your need for food and clothing. You see injustice and wrongness in the world. You see how things are, how the world works.

Our world is filled with practical, visible concerns. Like what the medical profession calls “ADLs.” Those are “activities of daily living.” Everyone has tasks to accomplish every day, like getting dressed, eating breakfast, taking a shower, and (hopefully) brushing your teeth. Those activities need to get done, they are a visible part of life.

And those basic activities don’t really even touch all the other parts of life. Having enough money. Taking care of kids. Holding on to a job. Making a few friends.  Add in looking ahead to ensure these things in the future, and you have the basis for planning and hoarding. They are based largely in worry.

So what is seen leads to worry. That worry drives behaviors which don’t really settle the anxiety, because plans go awry and riches melt away. And who can plan for illness, or have enough money to cheat death?

James says that the answer to our worry for ourselves isn’t planning and saving. The answer is found in faith. What we need isn’t more attention to building a nest for ourselves. What we need is to believe that our home is not here.

Our hope is not bound up in the success of a life well lived on earth. Our hope is in the coming of the Lord.

“Be patient,” James 5:8 says. “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” That’s the answer to anxiety. Jesus is coming, and he is coming for you and me. Above all we seek to be with Jesus. We seek a heavenly homeland, where he is. And the calming truth is that he has promised it to us, by his strength and in his timing. He is alive. He is coming again. None of us has seen any of this, we simply trust in Jesus. Thus our lives at our core are not about achieving on earth. Our lives are about waiting for Jesus.

My anxiety is helped when I meditate on the love Jesus has for me and his amazing promises. I think on stories of God’s deliverance—always by his strength, his power, his time, his way. He freed his people from Egypt in mighty miracles, he parted the Red Sea, he provided manna to eat, he gave water to drink, he made a way to dwell among his people, he went before them directing and guiding. And that’s only Exodus!

Activities of daily living remain before you. But don’t worry if you can’t accomplish them. And don’t rejoice if you accomplish them better than other people.  If your heart is set on Jesus, take comfort that this is not your home, and that your faith is to wait for the coming of the Lord. He is coming soon!

You Give More Grace

I go to church. I hear the Word, not just on Sundays, but in my own reading. I meditate on it in my own prayer times. I hear what I have to work on. I understand moral behavior. I hear commands and law. And I get to work. I think that by hearing, I will improve.

Why do I think that? Because that’s how everything in my life has always worked.

I rowed crew in an 8-person boat. That doesn’t include the coxswain, who steered and yelled at us. And a lot of yelling there was, because we had so much to work on. We would get up, our team, early in the morning to practice before college classes. We would come down to the lake in the evening and practice some more. We slowly improved.

I studied medicine, poring for hours over books and diagrams. Memorizing facts. Practicing on patients. As scary as that last phrase is, it was necessary for me, and for other students like me, to improve. Practice makes perfect, right?

If you tell me what the goal is, if you give me instruction on what to do, I will get to work. Because it has always worked for me.

That’s why James is soul-crushing. Because what he tells me has no solution in my methodology. He proclaims that my tongue is full of poison, and gives no solution. He points directly at my heart and says my problems, the conflicts in my life, are based on my bad desires.

Am I supposed to work on my desires, then? Improvement by force of will? Imposition of external behavior? Tricking my mind to think that though it longs for chocolate ice cream, asparagus is actually what it desires?

If what James was saying was that I just need to eat asparagus, I would force it down gladly. But he essentially says I have to like it, too. That’s why it is soul crushing. I can’t actually change desires. I can’t give my heart anti-coveting instructions. I’m helpless.

I am humbled by my failure. And there is grace in the finished work of Christ. There is grace for when I slip with my tongue, or when I have conflict. For when I sin behaviorally.

But I am even more humbled when I see how shallow my successes are. When James convicts me that even though I choked down the asparagus, I didn’t love it. And that’s an inescapable problem. When I finally realize that my best actions are still threaded through with desires that won’t be tamed. Desires that no matter how hard I try, bring conflict and pain.

When I really look at myself, James 4:6 becomes even more amazing: “But he gives more grace.”

I am unworthy. You are too. But he gives grace. And as life continues, and I see even more of my sin, my desires off, my words imperfect, he gives more grace.

I am caught in the wonder of a love that loves me when I have failed, that loves me when I am weak and not strong, when I am unclean, when my wrong desires are exposed. A grace that covers me even when—especially when— I am trying to repay a debt that has already been paid.

O my Savior, I am amazed by your love. You give more grace.