Afraid Yet Filled With Joy

There is a strange juxtaposition whereby, at the same time, while fear and doubt are trying to capture my heart, the Holy Spirit is pulsing reminders of joy. Joy in my identity as a secure child of God. Joy over my filling with the Hope found in Jesus. Joy in the understanding of God’s great love. And joy in the permanence of God’s Kingdom and Christ’s righteousness in my life.

I love this quote by Elisabeth Elliot: “Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to do the thing we fear. Go straight into the furnace or the lion’s den. Were those men out of touch with their feelings or with reality? No! Nor was the psalmist who said, ‘When I am afraid, I will trust.’ There’s a big difference between feeling and willing.”

Matthew 28:8 says, “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples.” Just as the women at Jesus’s tomb were focused on their devoted love of Christ and their intent on bringing burial spices for His body, an amazing intervention by an angel caused them a mixture of fear and joy in an instant. The angel revealed the very thing they had hoped for – Jesus was not there, He had risen from the dead! They saw proof of His resurrection. But, in that same moment, the emotions of surprise, trepidation, and fright flooded in.

In all the moments of life, I am relieved that I can experience both fear and joy at the same time. Much like the example of childbirth, there is the mishmash of simultaneous thoughts – “I can’t possibly do this thing,” …”give me drugs,”… “I really really can’t wait to meet this little one,”… “one more push,”… “there will be joy in the morning, right?”

That similar mixture of fear and joy is the juxtaposition in the mind and heart of every believer. We see the proliferation of evil and brokenness and many fearful things in our world. All very unsettling and disturbing. We are certainly not out of touch with our feelings or reality. Yet, we know God’s promises in His Word that these things must occur and even greatly increase. These things signal the nearness of Jesus’s 2nd coming, a cause for great joy! So, I pray that God will help us all to manage our “fear and joy” moments so that we will continue to do just what the angel commanded the women at the tomb to “…go quickly and tell His disciples; ‘He has risen’…” (Matt. 28:7).

Matthew 28:9-10 says, “Suddenly [on their way] Jesus met them [the women who had been at the tomb]. ‘Greetings,’ He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me.’ ” These women were not out of touch with their feelings or reality. These women had stepped out in courage and were willing to obey both the angel at the tomb and Jesus on the way.

In the face of fear, another favorite verse I like is 2 Chronicles 20:12b: “…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” God is always faithful to deliver what is needed when we are both afraid and filled with joy. Take courage in these frequent moments.

Easter Anew

I have been familiar with the Easter story all of my life it seems. Yet, only recently I have realized the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ taking place during the actual time of the Passover (Matthew 26-27). An important detail to be sure. One I never pondered.

Matthew 26:2-5 says, “ ‘As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’ Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill Him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or there may be a riot among the people.’ ”

In the Matthew passage, I see that the religious leaders had decided to avoid condemning and killing Jesus during the actual Passover. An important detail. They were afraid that riots would occur. They wanted to keep the matter “hush hush.” Meanwhile, I wonder if they were also trying to suppress their lingering doubts concerning the Truth of the Son of God? Did their consciences bother them? Did they want to keep everything quiet in case they were found to be wrong in condemning to death an innocent man?

There was nothing about Jesus that was going to remain a secret. Evil human planning and plotting at this Passover time in history was going to be exposed by eyewitnesses and Gospel writers. The story of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead would be a resounding story heard around the world for generation after generation. God’s timing would prevail. The story of the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer. An unstoppable Truth. A continuing decision demander. An ultimate confrontation for every human being on earth.

Knowing that God overruled especially the timing of the religious leaders and that His plan would prevail despite any human manipulations is quite encouraging and comforting. That Jesus would be arrested at the very time that God foreordained, exactly during the Passover commemoration in Jerusalem, and that His sacrifice would fulfill everything that the Passover symbolized – these things have God’s amazing imprint on them. Timing belongs to God alone.

It’s true. God’s Word is new and fresh to me every time I read it, and especially with a story with which I am familiar. The prevalence of God’s sovereign plans and purposes supersedes all human opposition and attempts to determine all outcomes. It is all really up to Him and, as every detail of prophecy is fulfilled, it is difficult to comprehend how anyone cannot believe in Jesus Christ, the true Son of God. But, it also tells me that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted by anything that happens here on earth. We are responsible to hear and take in the Truth and make a decision about it.

This Easter I am pondering God’s sovereignty over timing. He foreordained, before the foundation of the earth, that there would be a Redemption Plan that would be so perfectly fulfilled during an actual Passover observance over 2,000 years ago. I don’t want to miss one important detail in scripture anymore. The Passover symbolism is not lost on me. The Precious Lamb who takes away the sin of the world — Jesus. God’s timing for Him and for us was perfect.

Our Best Thought

One day goes by. The next one comes. Thousands of decisions, small and large, get made. Some have minuscule consequences, others significant. Decisions branch out across the day without so much as a look in the rearview mirror. Not even wide awake, we have first thoughts. Questions really. What day is it? What is on the calendar? What do I need to do first? What is the right thing to do now? Is that coffee I smell?

Better first thoughts. Psalm 11:7 says, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face.” Jeremiah 23:5 says, ” ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.’ ” Out of the darkness and stillness of a night’s sleep (hopefully), we can emerge into the light of day and start it with an acknowledgement of our Lord and Savior, the Righteous Branch, with His purposes and character soaked in each decision, small and large.

Better first thoughts. By God’s Spirit, one restful sleep state can bleed into another restful awake state. We can assume the restful position of being an “instrument in the hands of the Redeemer” by God’s grace. We can be an overflow of the filling of the fruits of the Spirit raised to materialization. We can be a smaller branch connected to the Righteous Branch. We can find rest that comes from “blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”

A former colleague of mine once pointed out that Jesus is our best thought. Whenever I heard him offer this perspective to the faculty of a local Christian school, I was reminded of two traditional hymns from my childhood in church – “Jesus, The Very Thought of Thee” and “Be Thou My Vision.” Undoubtedly, Jesus is my best thought, not just a better thought and not a passing thought. The best questions I need to repeat are: This minute whom will I serve? This day how will I reflect my Creator to the world? This week how will I pour out the love and compassion of Christ?

Best first thought. Colossians 1:15-18, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” I do well to hold on tightly to my “best thought” as the gifts of days unfold.

Best of all. John 1:1-5, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He (Jesus) was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The Story of Kairos Eight25

Kairos Eight25 is a Christian support ministry for women who are experiencing or have experienced infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss. The ministry began as the result of intentional prayer among several women at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church/Williamsburg, VA in the summer of 2019. Prayers continued monthly via Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic and God then provided much needed scaffolding to prepare us for our “soft opening” on October 20, 2021.

One provision was a name that would communicate the heart of the ministry. Kairos Eight25 was selected. Kairos, a Greek word meaning “the most opportune time,” speaks of God’s timing and Romans 8:25 (NKJV) promises “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Next came the need for leadership. God led Gwen Martin (me) and Ali Williamson to serve as co-chairs of the Kairos Eight25 Team and ministry.

Next came the words to communicate our VISION:

Inspired by God’s love and strength, Kairos Eight25 aims to alleviate the aloneness, burden, and grief of women who walk through the valley of infertility and miscarriage. Based upon Romans 8:25, support is offered to refresh women spiritually and emotionally, to preserve expectancy, and to encourage persistence in the hope of the Gospel.

Next came the words to communicate our MISSION:

Kairos Eight25 offers a monthly support group to provide Christ-centered hope to women who are experiencing the loss and loneliness of infertility and miscarriage. Women will walk alongside each other on this journey to provide confidential listening, regular prayer, hopeful messages, and a library of life-breathing resources.

Next came the design for the Kairos Eight25 logo. Amazingly enough, a professional graphic designer in our church offered his services pro bono as a gift of love! He worked closely with the Kairos Eight25 Team to achieve a beautiful result.

Next came the designing of the Kairos Eight25 website (now live! Our own Co-Chair Ali Williamson created this beautiful website. We look forward to making the Kairos Eight25 ministry easily accessible as an online presence in our community! We also have an Instagram account, @kairos825_williamsburg.

By God’s grace, Kairos Eight25, as a ministry of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, is slated to launch regular monthly meetings starting MONDAY MARCH 14, 7:00-8:30 p.m. We have recently visited many local churches to deliver brochures and get the word out.

Kairos Eight25 is intended to provide loving support and encouragement to women who are grieving losses associated with potential or actual motherhood while making the Gospel clear in their suffering. The ministry will intentionally not provide any direction or opinion regarding personal choices concerning fertility treatments, interventions, physicians, clinics, etc. However, the team has chosen to provide an approved list of Christian resources (books, podcasts, websites, articles, etc.) that speak words of the Lord’s grace and kindness into the specific grief that women experience in infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss.

We pray that you will connect us to women who might need this support ministry by inviting them to a future meeting or sharing information that might be helpful to them. We already have a list of women who have experienced these struggles and have offered to be contacted for one-on-one support meetings/conversations outside of the regular meetings at the church.

If you have suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact members of the Kairos Eight25 Team:

Co-Chair, Gwen Martin,         

Co-Chair, Ali Williamson,

Our Preserver

One of the attributes of God is Preserver. He is our Preserver. He lovingly secures our salvation for eternity and maintains His gracious hold on our lives as we love and serve Him and others. Believers are firmly placed in His grip through faith. God safeguards His Word in our lives and He perpetuates our progressive sanctification through His Holy Spirit. We are preserved! We’re in His clutches, defended, conserved, kept, and in a sense frozen solid.

A January snowstorm can bring to mind the good, bad, and ugly of ice and snow. On the one hand, the beauty of new fallen snow in the sunlight is breathtaking. On the other hand, the treachery involved in traveling in the storm or being caught in icy conditions is often underestimated. Finally, there’s the dependence we have on keeping food stored longterm through the means of freezing. Freezing is a means of preserving. Meat is frozen, vegetables are frozen, medications are kept on ice, and the list goes on. And we are acquainted with the panic that happens when thawing happens unannounced by a power outage. We grow very concerned when preservation becomes compromised.

Scripture promises us that God’s preservation of us is without compromise. No power outages threaten us. There is no fear of melting away, no fear of slippage, no fear of being lost. He is our ultimate Preserver. In Him, we can have complete confidence.

God has put important things in place to preserve His children. Deuteronomy 6:24 (NKJV) says, “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.” God preserves us through our obedience. Nehemiah 9:6 says, “You alone are the Lord; You have made the heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.” God preserves us through His Creation, the air we breath, the water we drink, the food we eat, the shelters that cover us. Psalm 16:1 says, “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” God preserves us through our ever-deepening trust in Him, enabled by His Holy Spirit. These truths are encouraging to me at the start of a new year – 2022…

Also, God preserves us through His protection. Psalm 32:7 says, “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 121:7,8 says, “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Psalm 140:4 says, “Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble.” 2 Timothy 4:18 says, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

As God’s imagebearers, and as we mature in our faith, we begin to reflect God’s preserving characteristics in our own lives – His righteousness, His truthfulness, His fairness, His sincerity. Psalm 25:21 says, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.” He involves us in His plans to reconcile and restore. Isaiah 49:8a says, “Thus says the Lord: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you; I will preserve you and give you as a covenant to the people, to restore the earth…’ ”

Most importantly, God gave us His Son to preserve us eternally. In Jesus Christ, we experience the gift of salvation and understand that by losing our lives in submission to Him, that our lives become preserved forever. We are secured. We are protected. We are delivered from slavery to sin. We are reflectors of His grace because we have first experienced it in Him. We are sealed. We are forever part of His Kingdom.

Luke 17:33 says, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” A great promise for 2022!

Everywhere Incognito

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”

God is everywhere. This is one of His attributes. He is omnipresent. Although you can’t find the word “omnipresent” in the Bible, you can find how God’s Word conveys His “everywhereness.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24 (ESV) says, “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.” Psalm 139:8 says, “If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!”

What does this mean to me? Especially as a God-worshipper? With God’s power being everywhere at one time, I realize that the power of God’s supreme enemy surely cannot be everywhere at one time. I take comfort in the limitations God has placed on the power and the presence of Satan. In James 4:7 we are told, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” My resistance ensures that God’s enemy will be away from me. Not present with me. Not capable of “everywhereness.” Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of my presence.

But, not God. When Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven after His resurrection, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to believers. Believers were sealed in this promise and this reality. There is nowhere we can be without His presence. Admittedly, we may ignore His presence or suppress His presence, but He is nevertheless near us because of His “everywhereness.” It is a promise and a seal.

The experience of God’s enduring presence extends to the eternal soul that lives on following bodily death. We may wonder about the mystery of this, but God’s Word gives us pointers. In Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, he indicates that our souls will not sleep even after death (sleep) of the body. We will celebrate the continuing condition of being “with” Him. Luke 23:43 says “today you will be [with] Me in paradise;” 2 Corinthians 5:8 says “away from the body… at home [with] the Lord;” and Philippians 1:21-23 says “to live is Christ, to die is gain… and be [with] Christ.”

By faith, we know that God is everywhere as His Word surely indicates. And, there are great comforts found in God’s “everywhereness.” Here are a few that I’ll end with. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him…” Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.’ “

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.” He keeps watch. He goes with us. He does not leave us. He gives strong support. He dwells with us. He is everywhere. He is the God Who is at hand. Omnipresent.

Many Are The Wonders

When I look out of my front window of 35 years, at my favorite time of the year (around Thanksgiving), when color is still on the trees, I think of Psalm 40:5 – “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

All in God’s plan. This piece of property, hidden in the depths of a wooded community. The manner in which this location for our family was revealed to my husband many years ago. The way our family became completed in this spot. The refuge it has been while keeping us near to work and school and church commitments.

Many are the wonders! Quirky flamingo ornamentations. Prolific wildlife of the good, bad, and ugly variations. Plenty of shade and privacy. Even a creek view in the winter. And yes, technically it is a swamp somehow survived by past generations I guess without bug repellent, chain saws, and severe allergies (but how? is the question). Still, it is our peaceful place, swamp or not. Home.

Nothing can compare to God’s grace in this homeplace. There are too many stories to tell which would declare God’s mercy here. Three children and six grandchildren later, we marvel at our heritage of faith and unconcealed love for God, but acknowledge that His work is never finished, even after 35 years.

As older means wiser, we more often count our blessings, knowing it started with a Savior born in a stable and a Lord Who would wrestle us all down and teach us humility, a thing He had planned for us in this wonderful place. Many, Lord my God, are the wonder You have done…

Later in Psalm 40, verse 10 says, “I do not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I speak of Your faithfulness and Your saving help. I do not conceal Your love and Your faithfulness from the great assembly.” Not unexpectedly, our faith has been challenged, tested and measured in 35 years. We are a household of admitted control freaks, authority haters, easily given to stress and perfectionism, short on patience, and big on independence. But God has been faithful to take His gracious sandpaper and file us down. Of course, there are scars… His work continues…

Still, when I look out of my front window of 35 years, the sunrise of God’s love and faithfulness, new every morning, is blinding and pure. And, of course the beauty of this place is a physical wonder because the chief landscaper is meticulous (and it is not me). However, the spiritual wonder is like the Christmas tree lights! They sparkle, they cast away the darkness, and they whisper miracles. Many are the wonders!

I am grateful that Christmas becomes the pathway to Easter in my heart, now and forever. It starts with a Savior born in a stable and ends with the Lord Himself Who gave us the gift of faith and life, and even specifically placed us in this certain location, in this certain home, with these certain family members, for such a time as this. Many are the wonders!

Prayer At Church This Morning

GCPC Congregational Prayer – Nov. 28, 2021

Almighty God, You are the Holy and Compassionate God Who gives us eternal hope in Christ. This morning we lift Your Name high as we meditate upon Your abounding Goodness, Your Truth, and Your faithfulness to all generations. With humility we approach Your Throne of Grace with freedom and confidence, understanding that You see us and hear our prayers.

Holy Spirit, we ask that Your providential purposes in our nation, state, and local governmental agencies be fulfilled and that believers who serve in government, military, or in first-responder capacities will look to You for wisdom and courage to lead as You direct. Give us pure motives as we live in obedience to Your Word and live in accordance with governing authorities.

Gracious Father, we are thankful for all those who worship You. Thank You for Your transformative work to change our lives so that we might reflect the love of Jesus and the power of the Gospel. We ask that You would bring great encouragement to our church staff with our determined and continual prayer support. Give us all the desire to serve in the church, thereby lightening the burdens of responsibility necessary to complete the gospel work in our community and the world, to which God has called each of us.

With Thanksgiving, we raise our hearts and voices, remembering that this season is one that leads us to the celebration of our Savior’s birth and reminds us of our enduring spiritual treasures found in Him alone. We pray that in every Christmas-related outreach to our community and world during this season that You will bring the Gospel to the forefront, moving hearts to embrace the great gift of Your Son Jesus.

Father, we ask for Your protection and provision for our missionaries, military personnel and others who risk their lives to serve You in hostile places. We ask You to strengthen the hope and perseverance of the persecuted church around the world. We pray that, by Your Grace, the spread of the gospel would be unhindered in all areas where it has been previously prevented.

We praise You for the gift of new life. We pray that you will continually protect and provide health to our expectant mothers and their unborn children. We praise You for recent births in our church family, and especially your healing work in reversing the effects of perilous birth complications among these. As well, we ask for Your tender care of our women who face great losses in unfulfilled motherhood. We pray for effective outreach to provide care to women facing those hard seasons.

Great Physician, we pray for an end to the pandemic and its suffering. We pray for those most vulnerable to the virus or those who are already infected —, the elderly, the weak, those with chronic conditions, the poor, the hungry and the isolated. Let us meanwhile continue in our loving commitment to protect our family members, neighbors, and friends from its harm. For the sick, the lonely, the grieving, and the disconnected in our church, we ask for Your intervention, both spiritually and physically. For those suffering with recurring health challenges, we ask that You provide them with the gifts of perseverance and steadfast hope, even when circumstances do not lessen or become removed. We also ask that You carry those who have recently lost loved ones through the valley of grief with a great sense of Your presence, mercy, and comfort.

We pray for the next generation – our college students and our young people. We ask that they come to fully trust in You, Lord, and become like trees planted by streams of water, whose leaves are always green and who yield fruit even when the heat of drought comes. May they not conform to the pattern of this world, but instead develop a keen ability to test and approve Your perfect and pleasing will. Give them great discernment and great dependence upon Your Holy Spirit for strength and endurance.

Rock of Ages, grant us all, adults and children, fresh confidence that “there is no future where You are not present, no sorrow where You are not near, no tears not kept in Your bottle, and no locust-eaten years You will not restore (quote from a prayer by Walter Henegar, Senior Pastor of Atlanta Westside Presbyterian Church).”

Today move us to reflect Your generosity with our tithes and offerings. Open our hearts to the message of Your Word preached here today.  Create in us a receptive spirit and an open heart, and a new energy to be obedient and fruitful in Your Kingdom.

In the Name Above All Names, Jesus Christ Our Lord, we offer these prayers. Amen.

To Be Human

Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” He made the ultimate way for us to be restored humans – to end our spiritual poverty, to be remade in God’s original design, to be free from the power of sin and degradation and decay. That Jesus took on our humanity and still maintains his “fully Godness and fully humanness,” is our eternal Hope. He didn’t provide salvation so we could simply escape hell. He provided it so that our humanity might be preserved according to what the Creator-Designer God fully intended His humans to be. Preserved for eternity, preserved for a new heaven and new earth, preserved for life with Him.

A book that recently challenged my thinking about Jesus and His humanity is called GENTLE AND LOWLY by Dane Ortlund. I needed this book to remind me that, to this day, Jesus Christ is still fully God and fully human, both before and after His Ascension…

As God’s Creation, humanity has uniqueness in purpose. To be human was and still is to love the Father, Master, Savior and Lord. Any exception to that Truth reveals a loss of our humanity. We were created to live in relationship, fellowship, and communion with God, just like Jesus does. In the Garden of Eden, humanity was devastated by corruption. And because of that, Jesus entered our world through the Incarnation to rehumanize us as we were truly meant to be and to replace that which was stolen by sin and death.

In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), the first mention of blessedness goes to those who are “poor in spirit” or those who recognize their spiritual poverty and recognize their need for a Savior. That Truth opens our awareness to what being fully human means – that being our dependency on and accountability to God our Creator.

By God’s grace, Jesus came to rehumanize me and you by humanizing Himself in obedience to God the Father. He came to reveal my sinful heart, and to offer a 180-degree course correction. If I will only live by faith in Him, I will be made new. Jesus will release me from the sin problem that defeats my human flourishing. He’ll remove the deceptions that take away my true humanity, the things that degrade my status as God’s child, the things that undermine His good purposes in my life.

Although important, the matter of our faith in Jesus Christ is not all about what happens after we die. Faith is also about what happens while we live in the world as recipients of Christ’s purpose to restore in us human flourishing according to God’s design. His Holy Spirit works to sanctify us, to prepare us, to recreate us, to make us new. We are “made-new” humans, who will die (yes), but not be swallowed up by death. We will live in eternity with Him in the full reality of being humans saved by His grace. In my restored humanity, I am able to identify and reject lies, I am able to combat the assaults of worldly culture, I am able to flourish in Christ.

Truth is a Person, not a dogma, not a code for living, not a set of laws. Jesus is the rehumanizing resurrected Savior, the firstborn from among the dead. Colossians 1:18 says, “And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” Revelation 1:5-6 says, “And from Jesus Christ, Who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priest to serve His God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”

Open the Vents

In the most claustrophobic and confining spots, sometimes I have to remind myself to just breathe. Especially on a plane, and nowadays, especially with a mask on. Remember to breathe in slowly and out slowly. Full breaths, no partial breaths. I’ve always wondered why stressful situations bring about a reduced intake of fresh air. Why we forget to breathe. Why exhaling is such a relief after a near car collision, and why inhaling (of course) is such a literal lifesaver. Yet sometimes we forget to do it.

Rerouting physical air is a thing I do in my house with the HVAC vents. As an allergy sufferer, I close off vents or partially obstruct vents that are directly pushing air toward me. I also redirect the air flow in directions that reduce my sensitivity. If only air didn’t carry dust with it or other non-fresh things. And why do we all like to get outside and get some “fresh” air? Likely because staying inside the house, air recirculates and gets stale. Likely because outdoors, unless someone is blowing leaves, the air seems clean and big. I can only imagine that God designed our lungs to breathe perfectly balanced clean air, fully and deeply, in the pre-fallen world before sin entered the picture…

Similar to HVAC vents, as if I didn’t want to experience God’s encompassing grace fully and freely, I am so often guilty of closing the vents of my heart, sometimes slightly, sometimes completely. I can easily start off a day closing the vents of my heart to the outflow of God’s Spirit through me to others. I cannot count the times that I have shirked intentional gospel conversations with others. How often do I tug myself away from God’s strengthening power to try to do good things in my own strength and understanding? Too many for sure.

The unobstructed flow of grace I have received from God through faith is the same flow of grace that I should be able to freely give to others. Tamping down the vents of my heart is the same thing as withholding God’s best. Moreover, it is subtle, but second best to live life for the heart of Christ or for the smile of God when first best to live life from the heart of Christ or from the smile of God. The difference is in the “openwideness” of the vents of my heart. When I live from my identity as a child of Christ, the action flows out of my motivational headquarters. It’s not an external thing, but something from inside. “From” the heart of Christ is the way I reflect the actual Person of Jesus instead of a set of doctrines or a church. Unrestricted flow of gentleness, tenderness, and loyal loving-kindness is the “from” version of open vents of my heart, open to the heart of Christ living in me.

Galatians 2:20 says it better, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” In this way I am living out the life Christ has planted within me without reservation, with the full force of flow from vents that are wide open.

As my heart here refers not to my flesh-and-blood circulatory system pump, but to the seat of my will, inclinations and actions, I love the open vent metaphor. I know a legal spirit of judgment and spiritual blindness is what often pushes the vents of my heart shut. Yet in Christ, I really don’t want the air of my heart to get stale or stagnant. There might be some good deeds that I’ll do, but they will flow from something much lower than the fresh blow of God’s Spirit when He cleans out the impurities and prepares me to live from His heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” God has promised to remove the stone-like qualities of a heart that constricts its own vents. Imagine days where the vents of our hearts are wide open and nothing is flowing except the fruits of God’s Spirit. Imagine days where all that is blowing is the fresh air of God’s Spirit coming from within us. Imagine days where our new heart of flesh sees stone no more.

Praying God opens the vents of my heart and your heart today.