At the Right Time

Have you ever noticed how important timing is to the Christmas story?

Paul writes that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4). At the right time, Jesus entered the story. Caesar’s decree “that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1) sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Luke records that, “while they were there, the time came for her to give birth” (Luke 2:6). Scripture was fulfilled as these events aligned. At the right time and in the right place, Jesus was born.

But timing continued to play a key role in Jesus’s life. Jesus speaks of his hour and his time on multiple occasions (see John 2:4 and John 7:6, for example). He didn’t rush things; he worked according to the time given him. Even his death, according to Paul, occurred “at the right time” (Romans 5:6). Clearly, timing is an important part of the story.

We often focus on the gift of Christmas, and rightly so. At Christmas, we celebrate the entrance of the hero into the action. The Christ appears, the long-awaited Savior who would save his people from their sin. Life and light appear at Christmas like never before, and the darkness hasn’t recovered from the blow. Because of Jesus, we have everlasting hope.

But this year, I’m reminding myself that timing played a role in the story. While I don’t understand all that this truth means, I know it gives us hope when things seem hopeless. God, who knew our greatest need, was neither too early nor too late in providing the solution. God, who saw our helpless state more fully than we ever could, did not send Jesus the moment we fell but instead spoke a promise that was kept over long, hard years of uncertainty, exile, rebellion, blessing, and grace. Through every twist in the narrative, every tragedy and every victory, every loss and every gain, he was working. While I’m sure many before Christ wondered why God seemed to tarry, God sent his Son at the right time.

And we serve the same God. He who met our greatest need continues to provide for his own, and his timing is still best. The waiting is difficult. We can’t see all that the Father sees or know all that he knows, and we grow restless in our ignorance, impatient for provision and for blessing. But our God is good and faithful. He will do what is best in his own time and way, and his timing and way are always best. So we can hope in him this Christmas, for the greatest gift as well as for every good and perfect gift he may give as well, in faith that he will continue to act at the right time.


Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

With a Storm

How do you respond
(w)hen t(h)e w(i)nd (s)hakes your tem(p)orary dwelling?
when the thund(e)r b(r)eaks your sense of calm?

(w)hen t(h)e l(i)ghtning (s)trikes your storehouses?
when all around you is (p)urifying floodwat(e)r and fi(r)e
life-giving,
all-consuming?

What do you do
when the Father answers your prayers with a storm
and a whisper?

Do you run away?
Where else would you go?

There is a response
when the w(i)nd sh(a)kes your te(m)porary dwelling.
when the thunder (b)reaks your sens(e) of calm.

when the lightning (s)trikes your storehouses.
when all around you is purifying floodwa(t)er and f(i)re,
(l)ife-giving,
a(l)l-consuming.

This poem would not be what it is today without the contributions of Andrew Wilson. He helped with both the structure and the content, improving the rough draft immeasurably and guiding the poem to its final form. I’m incredibly grateful for his feedback.

Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

Provision

Some hopes are dashed upon the throne of grace,
Are lifted up in pray’r to be denied.
And though it seems the Father hides his face,
We need not fear that he will not provide.
But his provision oft is of a kind
Perceived unkind while in the midst of loss.
What he deems “need” is diff’rently defined.
Sometimes the crown is traded for the cross.
But crosses borne in faith will always form
Our souls as needed, so we need not fret.
His grace suffices for the fiercest storm.
None who trust full in him shall feel regret.
But it is faith—not sight—that shows the way.
God is our shepherd. We need ne’er dismay.


Photo by John Joumaa on Unsplash

What is Best

God gave Moses specific instructions regarding sacrifices, priests, relationships, rest, and a number of other subjects, and his instructions are recorded in the book of Leviticus. As you read through the book, you begin to realize something: the Lord requires the best, not merely the comfortable or the convenient.

Take sacrifices, for example. Only specific types of animals are accepted, and acceptable animals often must be without blemish and of a certain age. The people couldn’t simply give God the wounded or small of the flock, the weak or the unwanted; they had to give their best. The same goes for the priesthood. The holiness of the role of priest seems to be illustrated in the high standards God set forth for those who could hold such a role. God’s servants couldn’t behave any way they chose; they were to be, in a way, the best of the people, the model of obedience and holiness.

God’s standards haven’t changed. He still requires the best of us. “You therefore must be perfect,” Jesus said, “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He wills our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and he remains “the LORD who sanctifies you” (Leviticus 22:32).

Such sanctification is not always convenient or comfortable. Paul chose his words well when he called us to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). We heed the call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23), a worthy yet difficult calling. Discipline and correction factor regularly into the process (Hebrews 12), as does grace for our failures (1 John 2:1-2). He refines us, molds us, and purifies us, and the process is often painful. He requires the fullness of our hearts, minds, and spirits. He requires the best of us.

It’s encouraging, then, to remember that God not only requires the best from us, but he also does what is best for us. He causes all things to work together for good, holding us in his unfailing love (Romans 8). He knows us intimately (Psalm 139), cares for us deeply (1 Peter 5:7), and gives wisdom for the journey (James 1:5-8). He doesn’t merely do what is convenient or comfortable in our lives. Indeed, his work may feel at times like a wound (consider Paul’s wrestling with the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12). But because the Lord is good, we can trust him in all circumstances, all seasons, all stations of life. He will always do what is best. Indeed, he has already done what is best for us by giving us the perfect, spotless lamb to save us, meeting our greatest need and ensuring he will not fail us in our lesser needs (Romans 8, James 1).

So let us offer our best to the Lord, withholding nothing as we learn to love and serve him better. Let us understand that he is worthy of our best, worthy of our very lives. And let us rest in the truth that God loves us and will always do what is best, trusting that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8

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A Lament

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I cannot find the words to share my grief.
I sit instead in silence, and I mourn
Those dreams that were conceived but never born.
I pray for rest, for respite, for relief.
Remind me of the gospel’s grand motif:
Light for the lost and hope for the forlorn.
This all is grace, the flower and the thorn.
Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.
I am a broken soul haunted by fears
With naught to offer but these feeble prayers
For hope and help to trust you through the tears.
With glory soon revealed, no pain compares,
So I cling now to you, the God who hears.
O Father, comfort me in these affairs.


Photo by TOMOKO UJI on Unsplash

Bitterness

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Bitterness inhabits me,
Burns within these weary bones,
Breaks the heart’s song, shifts the key —
Melodies to monotones.

Feelings fixate on frustrations,
Fast forgetting joy and peace.
Anger turns to accusations
As emotions seek release.

Father, temper this, my temper,
Tossed midst waves of woes and whims.
Devastate my vile distemper.
Heal my heart through holy hymns.

Christ has borne more suffering,
Bears me up in all I face.
Make of me an offering.
Let me ever sing of grace.


Photo by Alina Chupakhina on Unsplash

In Spirit and Truth

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:23-24

In spirit and truth.

In response to a question about places of worship, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman of a coming shift in perspective. Soon (indeed, sooner than many of the day realized), true worship would no longer be identified with a specific location, neither at Jerusalem (where the Jews worshiped) nor Mount Gerizim (where the Samaritans worshiped). True worshipers would worship in spirit and truth.

But what does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

Continue reading

By Faith

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I feel the pain but cannot find the benefit.
The path I would have chosen seemed a better fit.
Yet tests portend the sacrifice. I see my wraith
Point to my cross and call me to walk forth by faith.
Faith does not promise answers, bids me follow still;
Points past my understanding to the Father’s will;
Grounds hope not in the knowing but in being known;
Endures uncertainty certain of heaven’s throne.
Faith fixes focus not on the ephemeral
But finds eternal joy within the temporal.
It lays aside success and loss for higher gain
And trusts the one who gives and takes to justly reign.
Obedience bids me to die to self in this,
To trust the process in this brief parenthesis.
The work you do is good, as it shall always be.
Steadfast unto perfection is the course for me.


Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash