The Beautiful and Holy Act of Feasting

One of my favorite elements in Stephen Lawhead’s books is when he writes about food. For those who do not know about Stephen Lawhead, he is a writer of historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and imaginative Celtic mythology who has been creating stories of beauty and power for over 30 years. (If you are not familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and rectify that as soon as you can.) I have been reading Lawhead’s books since I was in the 4th grade. I devoured them as if they were water to a parched man. One of the common traits of his writing is the vivid and enticing description of times of feasting. The times of food, drink, and fellowship. These moments never disappoint.

The thing that made these moments so powerful, even though I did not recognize this fact until I was much older, is that they were not really about the food, however wonderful and appealing his descriptions could be. He had a more profound reason for painting these scenes of culinary joy. Lawhead knew the true, sacred power of The Feast.

Perhaps my favorite moment of feasting in any of Lawhead’s book occurs in The Paradise War, the first book of his magnificent trilogy, The Song of Albion. The protagonist, Lewis Gillies, a reserved, timid, and decidedly uncurious American studying in London, has come face-to-face with something he cannot completely understand. I will not spoil the fun but it is enough to know that things happen that should not happen based on our understanding of the world and he is struggling to make sense of it all. He meets a rather odd individual, Professor Nettles, who helps guide him in this strange new journey he frankly does not want to take. After Nettles attempts to explain the mysterious things that are happening to Lewis to rather unsatisfying results, he changes tack. Nettles takes Lewis to visit The Serbian. They arrive at what appears to be a warehouse, yet inside hides a place of unexpected joy and delight. It is a restaurant of sorts. A place where the owner and proprietor, Deimos, selects the meal for the patrons. He serves them with his own hands, bringing out one amazing dish after another. Lewis’s inhibitions and fears slowly melt away, under the unbridled exuberance of his host and of Nettles as they feast. Lewis succumbs to the revelry and digs in with abandon. The food, the drink, and the comradery in that old warehouse is a thing of beauty and it works on Lewis’s soul in a way that words, and facts never could. The wonders and possibilities of the “otherworldly” become tangible to him on that night.

It was Christmas of 1987. I was 10 years old. I grew up as a missionary kid in the country of Panama. That Christmas we experienced something that while shrouded in the haze of my childhood has never left my soul and heart untouched. Our neighbors, a couple who I honestly do not remember at all, invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner. In Panama, the custom is to eat a big, lavish meal on Christmas Eve at midnight. I have few memories of the night other than an overwhelming feeling of rightness of it all. The table, in my probably not completely accurate memory, was filled with foods of all kinds. There were meats, vegetables, salads, side dishes, desserts, everything you could ever want, all prepared with skill and care. And it was all there for us. Perhaps my parents have some idea as to why we were invited there that night. I do not. I do know it was a night I will never forget. Everything about that evening and that meal felt good. It felt exactly the way it was supposed to be. That is the best way I can describe it. It was right. While I am unsure about the spiritual state of our neighbors at that time, I do know our meal together was something special and sacred. They blessed our family that Christmas in a way that I am not sure even they realized.

I need to be clear about something at this point. I am not trying to make some grand theological point. I am not aware of the Bible speaking clearly or passionately about feasting in the manner in which I am writing. With that said, I do know that Scripture is full of examples of people enjoying meals together. Food and the sharing of it with others winds its way throughout the pages of Scripture. One of the most famous verses in Ecclesiastes tells us “that there is nothing better for [humanity] than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” We are also exhorted to do everything for the glory of God and that includes our eating and drinking. The Old Testament law, given to Moses by God Himself is full of times of feasting and celebration. Those holy days were divinely mandated. While Christians usually do not celebrate those specific days anymore, the foundation and truth behind them endure.

More than that, it is in the very actions of the people we read about in Scripture that we get a clearer picture. When Abraham meets the traveling strangers – the LORD Himself and His angels – he prepares a meal and eats with them. The Prodigal son is welcomed home with a feast. Jesus feeds those who follow him in miraculous fashion. The Last Supper. The great Wedding Feast of the Lamb that awaits all who believe. It is clear that feasting, eating together, is not something man invented. It is something good and holy that our Creator set in our hearts from the very beginning.

Perhaps my favorite Scriptural example of this is found in the final chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus is alive. He has defeated death. He has appeared a few times to His disciples at this point but is not with them at all times as He used to be. He makes periodic appearances now. On this day, Peter and a few others head out to fish. It is something they know. Something they understand, which they need desperately in this time of things that simply make no sense to them. They fish all night but catch nothing. Jesus, standing on the shore, sees them and tells them to cast their nets on the other side. This has happened before and they know it, though they still are not convinced it is Jesus who is speaking to them. They obey, though, and they catch so many fish their nets are close to breaking. Peter is the first to accept that it is Jesus and he jumps from the boat and makes his way to the shore to be near his Lord. The rest of the disciples follow in the boat. Once they are all there, they find that Jesus has a fire prepared and is already cooking fish for them. He has bread as well. He invites them to come eat breakfast with Him. He breaks the bread and hands pieces to each of them. He does the same with the fish. The creator of the universe, the conqueror of death and the grave, cooks breakfast and serves them with His own hands. What a picture of humility! It is also such a simple and normal moment, one that is relatable to all of us. It is a meal. A time to sit down, eat, talk, and be with those He loves. In the midst of their confusion, uncertainty, and excitement, Jesus chooses to eat with this group of men who have followed Him for years.

I am probably stretching the limits of reasonable applicability and there are probably biblical scholars reading this who are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at my overzealous leaps of logic. I cry mercy. Perhaps I am overstating things. I do not think so but I will leave that to my betters to decide. I do know how my experiences have shaped me. I have felt the warmth, grace, joy, intimacy, love, and overwhelming rightness of feasting. I have experienced it with family and with friends, with neighbors and strangers. I have experienced it at church potlucks. I have seen what food and drink and companionship can create. I have seen it and know that it is good.

I have these friends. We will call them Sonia and Marvin. For as long as I have known them, they have lived out the truth of feasting better than anyone. They open their home constantly, inviting friends, family, and even some whom they have just recently met, and they break bread together. The food is always good, but that is secondary. What matters most, the thing that makes what they do so powerful, is that they open their home and their hearts and make everyone who enters part of their family. It is Christ-like and beautiful and it has blessed my life more times than I can say.

If done well, these times of feasting can be times of intense bonding. These times of feasting can loosen the tongue, open the heart, and remove obstacles to fellowship. This Easter, enjoy your time of feasting for it is a good and holy thing. Do so with the understanding that your Creator blesses all such acts of righteous pleasure. We were created to enjoy His many blessings and times of feasting and fellowship are blessings of the highest order. Gather with your family and friends, give thanks to the Father who gives us all good things, and enjoy this gift of the Feast.

Una Perspectiva Panameña sobre la Semana Santa

Puesto que pasé casi 30 años en Panamá como misionero, tengo una perspectiva sobre la Pascua de Resurrección que confío que haya enseñado una lecciones importantes.

En primer lugar, la Semana Santa en nuestros primeros años en Panamá tendía a ser influida mucho por el Catolicismo Romano, la religión predominante en Panamá. La semana entera era templada, con menos énfasis en los aspectos comerciales de la vida. El viernes santo era sobrio y solemne, las emisoras de radio y canales de televisión sólo podían tocar música solemne, penas funerarias, etc. Las iglesias celebraban misa para conmemorar el viernes santo. No había deportes o entretenimiento. Posteriormente, el viernes santo llegaba a ser más secular, y ha continuado así. Es posible que algunas emisoras de radio hayan mantenido programación solemne, pero no así los canales de televisión. Algunas personas mayores, estrictamente católicas, dicen que la fecha se ha convertido en tiempo feriado, pero no “día santo.”

Es interesante que en aquellos años el domingo de resurrección era como cualquier día normal. Se llamaba “domingo de gloria”, pero según nuestra perspectiva no había mucha celebración de la resurrección de Cristo, y la gente iba a la playa, tenía paseos, visitaba familia, etc., básicamente como cualquier otro tiempo cuando no le tocaba trabajar. Pero ni la solemnidad ni la frivolidad le tocaba a la gente profundamente. La solemnidad no influía a la gente a venir a Cristo para pedir perdón de pecado y recibir un Salvador que cambiaría su vida. La frivolidad no era gozo cristiano, basado en la certeza del Señor resucitado que había conquistado la muerte.

¡Qué diferencia descubrimos en la iglesia evangélica! En primer lugar, muchas iglesias celebraban un culto especial para el viernes santo que daba énfasis a los últimos siete dichos de Cristo desde la cruz. Yo pude participar en muchos de esos cultos durante los años, a veces predicando una de las siete palabras, como en un servicio unido, y a veces predicaba los siete dichos. El culto a veces se extendía mucho, pero el enfoque teológico y práctio ayudaba al cristiano y daba un buen desafío.

Cantábamos canciones como “Hay Un Precioso Mantanial,” y “¿Qué Me Puede Dar Perdón?” Además, cantábamos sobre la pasión de Cristo como “Oh Qué Amor,” y ¿”Sabes Que Murió Jesús?,” ese último cantada a la música de una canción popular en Los Estados Unidos en los años 1960 “Sealed With a Kiss.” Canciones hermosas, melódicas sobre la muerte de nuestro Salvador en la cruz que me tocaron profundamente, pero desconocidias en inglés.

El Domingo de Resurrección siempre era un día especial en Panamá. Cantábamos en español por supuesto, canciones como “La Tumba Le Encerro” (“Up From the Grave He Arose,”) con volumen y emoción, y luego escuchábamos en mensaje predicado en ese día de días.
Nosotros pudimos introducir el concepto de servicio de amanecer a la iglesia de Bethania donde servimos unos 15 años. Creo que algunas iglesias ya lo hacían, pero era concepto nuevo para muchos a quienes vimos llegar a los pies del Señor, y rápidamente se convertía en una de las actividades más populares e inspiradoras del año. Un servicio temprano, generalmente como las 5:30 o 6:00 a.m., seguido por un desayuno, y luego la Escuela Dominical, significaba un día glorioso en el Señor y con Su pueblo.

Recuerdo nuestro primer domingo de resurrección en Panamá en 1978, cuando nos reuníamos los domingos en la noche. Creo que era un 26 de marzo. Nuestro servicio principal se celebraba los domingos en la noche en aquel tiempo. Cantamos. Oramos. Yo prediqué. Al final, un joven de más o menos 20 años pasó al frente para recibir a Cristo. Su palabras fueron estas: “Sabía que tenía que haber algo más en la vida de lo que yo había encontrado, y esta noche lo he encontrado en Jesucristo.” ¡Cristo resucitó! ¡Él vive! ¡Ha resucitado. Ha resucitado verdaderamente!

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in English on April 13, 2017. You can read it here.)

Of That Day and Hour…

There are things that Christians can know for a fact about the last days of Jesus’s time on earth. We can know that Jesus was crucified for our sins, that three days later He arose, and several days after appearing to various individuals He ascended into heaven promising to one day return. We can know these things because it says so in the Bible. Do you know what else it says about this subject matter? Is says that now no one—not even Jesus or the angels—knows when He will return, that only the father knows (Mark 13:32). Despite this, there have still been those throughout history who have believed they could accurately predict when his arrival would take place.

This trend became a national American Christian craze in the first decades of the 1800s. This was in large part thanks to an individual named William Miller. His earnest study of biblical end time passages convinced him that he could predict the coming of Jesus as sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. He had a sizeable following with his many followers informally known as Adventists. But when the last day of this date range passed without Jesus arriving, his many followers throughout the country fell into a massive despondency known as The Great Disappointment.

This “Disappointment” resulted in much disillusionment. Some of these people eventually got past these low feelings and surprisingly maintained their zeal for specific end time predictions. The result was an eschatological obsession among these people in order to form their own predictions. A group of these individuals were led by James and Ellen to found the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, which was largely based on the study of end time predictions.

Studying what the Bible says about the end times is a very good thing. We absolutely should study it as much as possible. However, we should realize that there are some things within Scripture we most likely won’t know until the very end of time. And we should not be so proud as to think we can accurately pinpoint exactly when Jesus will return. As mentioned, Jesus Himself says that this is impossible for us. However, he also says in Mark 13 that since we don’t know when He will return, we must constantly wait in anticipation. He also told His disciples that the specific date was really none of their concern, that while we don’t know the date, God has already long ago scheduled it and will handle it (Acts 1:7). Yes, it is not necessary to fully understand a whole lot of things about God. In this case, we just need to know that our risen and ascended Savior is returning and that we need to be ready when He does.

“Be Still, My Soul”

Most of my generation, especially those of us raised in church, will always love hymns. They will forever have a special, unique place in our heart. Many of us also love other genres of music, like Christian Contemporary, Southern Gospel, Country Gospel, or others forms of Christian music, but traditional hymns will always have a unique spot in our life. Recently my friend Gowdy Cannon had a March Madness hymn sing-off in which people could vote for their favorite hymn, and his carefully-chosen list which matched up some of the best-loved songs of the ages was featured. All were winners; excellent choices that have blessed the saints for decades or even centuries, and all deserved to be on that list.

I’d like to put another song on my list of great hymns. I’m not saying this particular song is the greatest ever. Much of that is certainly subjective, and I prefer to say that there are many wonderful songs that have ministered to the body of Christ, and have been the body’s vehicle to give praise and worship to the Lord and that there is probably no way to pick the “best-ever.”

I would, however, like to add “Be Still, My Soul” to the list of all-time greats. The music is stellar; written by Jean Sibelius of Finland. It’s actually a classical piece “Finlandia,” which is the national anthem of Finland, and tells the story of that European nation. A portion of the music was then utilized to create the hymn. The lyrics were written much earlier by Kathrina von Schlegel, and this is the only hymn she was ever known to have written.

It was translated into English by Jane Laurie Borthwick in 1855 into the version we commonly sing today. The music has been used for other compositions, such as in Elisabeth Elliot’s book Through Gates of Splendor about the five martyred missionaries in Ecuador “We rest on Thee, our Shield and Great Defender,” and more recently by Gloria Gaither in “I Then Shall Live.” The music, of an unsurpassed beauty, lends itself for many poetic compositions.

My favorite arrangement of “Be Still, My Soul” is that of the group 2nd Chapter of Acts. Converted to Christ during the Jesus Movement, they sang some beautiful compositions, such as “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” “The Easter Song (Hear the Bells Ringing”; a song they wrote), and others. I have found their version of “Be Still, My Soul” to be one of my all-time favorite songs.

Unlike some hymns, which are sung in worship to the Lord (think of “How Great Thou Art”), or as testimony songs (“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine”) “Be Still My Soul” is sung to one’s self as an exhortation, an encouragement, and a reminder of God’s sovereignty and steadfast faithfulness.

Jane Laurie Borthwick’s translation is powerful. I recommend you find yourself a good arrangement of the song; I’d recommend 2nd Chapter of Acts’ version as I mentioned earlier, and listen to this beautiful hymn. Even more, find a copy of the lyrics and meditate on them.

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Hymns are nutritious to the soul when we sing them and meditate on their message. The stability, the strength of the believer is found in our steadfast and sovereign God. Our soul can find its rest and peace only in Him. What a blessing to experience this, even in the midst of storms and severe trials! The song “Be Still, My Soul”, both in biblically-based lyric and unsurpassed classical music, brings countless Christians assurance and hope. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection and the Prominence of Empirical Evidence

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
[The Apostle John]

The most obvious and crucial distinction between Christianity and other major world religions is that it is based not on rules, philosophy or human goodness, but on the facts of a man’s life. It is appropriate that Christmas and Easter are both so widely celebrated (even if a Sunday morning attendance box to check for many) because both, in stark contrast to some other major religious and holy days, answer the question “What happened?” What happened in real time and space in 3D world history?

And it is not merely as simple as something happening. In both cases, something amazing happened. Something literally miraculous and literally incredible. Something scientifically impossible. A virgin gave birth and a man rose from the dead. Someone more poetic than me has commented that Jesus entered the world through a door marked “No Entrance” and left through a door marked “No Exit.” Which makes the juxtaposition of what happened and why Christians believe it so fascinating.

For if you read the New Testament carefully and notice which themes emerge, you can definitely find doctrine and morality. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John et. al. taught things like, “Return evil with good,” “Love is patient and kind,” and “If your neighbor is hungry, and you have to give, it is wrong to turn him away.” But if you get at the heart of the New Testament’s message, it definitely is NOT “Be good and you can get to God” or “Think correctly and you will be enlightened.” It really is about what Jesus did. What happened. The miraculous, impossible things that men and women gave their lives to make sure the rest of the world would know forever.

When John opened his first epistle, he didn’t begin with loving your neighbor, or even with Jesus’s atoning sacrifice being for the entire world. No, he began by pronouncing Jesus as God and saying “We saw him. We heard him. We even touched him.” In short, he is making a case that the impossible things that Jesus did by coming and going from this world were empirically verified by those who followed him. And THAT is the message he wanted to begin with. All truth claims about Jesus and the morality that follows hinge on what they experienced with their five senses.

Peter, in his second letter, also values this early on:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

And this was also how even Luke, who was not an apostle but was a scientist and doctor, began:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

And perhaps it is no surprise since he also wrote Acts and as a result recorded numerous direct quotes from the apostles that kept highlighting the importance of them being witnesses to what happened with Jesus, notably his resurrection:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it…

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this…

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things…

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead…

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me…

Empirical evidence of Jesus’s resurrection was so important to Paul that what we now know as the Apostles’ Creed is the main thrust of it:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

In short, the creed was not rules or philosophy, but what Jesus did. It is precisely what happened—what they experienced with their senses. The theological implications arise from that.

I close with noting two of the scenes from the Gospels that were, in part, the basis all of the aforementioned verses. They fascinate me for several reasons I want to discuss. All of them are empirical save one. First from Luke:

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

First, I cannot help but notice that the cognitive dissonance of a dead man now being alive was so outrageous and so overwhelming, the empirical-based evidence of actually seeing him wasn’t enough. Resurrection from the dead was so magnificently far away from what they could comprehend (notice the use of “joy” conjoining amazement above), they could not even believe their own senses. That is a historically special case of “What happened?” Because it was, indeed, impossible. And that is the truth that launched the Christian faith.

Second, I cannot help but be deeply impacted by the fact that Jesus kept trying to empirically prove it to them by eating the fish. It’s almost like “Me actually being here in the flesh isn’t enough? Touching me isn’t enough? You think I am a ghost? Watch this.” And then he does something else they can observe with their five senses. An incredible scene.

Next, coming full circle, from John:

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Similarly as above, I am again amazed that Jesus solves the doubt, not by telling him to have more faith or to merely believe his eyes, but by going further and letting him touch him. It is that sense that John mentions as well at the beginning of 1 John that really grabbed my attention as I was preparing my mind and heart for Easter this year.

But as any good student of the Bible will tell you, John 20 doesn’t stop with belief based on the empirical. Jesus tells Thomas after he confesses him as God that those who have not seen and still believe are “blessed.” That includes you and me. The apostles witnessed based on what they saw, heard and touched. We witness based on what we believe. But we are not the unfortunate ones. God, in his divine sense of justice, again turns the world upside down by proclaiming the blessed group the opposite one as you’d think. Just as with the Beatitudes. Those who have not experienced Jesus in real time and space join the ‘poor in spirit’ and ‘those that mourn’ as blessed in God’s kingdom.

Yet who is blessed is not the heart of our Gospel. The heart is the apostles’ message of Jesus. Their empirically-verified message passed down from generation to generation for nearly two millennia. All of our theology is built upon “What Happened.” And that makes Jesus wholly distinct from Mohammad and Moses and Siddhartha Guatama, the founder of Buddhism. He wasn’t just killed and buried. He resurrected and appeared, so that he could be seen, heard, and even touched. That is how Christianity began. And that is the heart of Easter.

Five of Our Favorite Easter Themed Songs

It has long been our contention that Easter does not get the kind of attention it deserves. At least, when compared to another religious holiday like Christmas. Specifically, Easter-themed music feels like an afterthought a lot of the time. We think that is sad and unfortunate. Easter is the moment our faith became a reality – the specific moment in time when God defeated sin and death and made our redemption possible. It is a time of reverent contemplation and passionate celebration. So, as is our way, we have to chosen honor this season by highlighting five of our favorite Easter-themed songs. We hope you enjoy the list we put together.

♦ “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin

Chris Tomlin may need to leave old hymns alone or “stay in his lane” (I disagree with statements like this but I won’t fight about it), but I don’t think I can stand for people besmirching him over a song like this. This song isn’t a theological essay like many great hymns but the one point it makes is extremely important and it makes it well. Christ’s resurrection isn’t just an empirical fact in history; it means everything for us as far as what happens to our bodies and souls for eternity. 

And it is rife with biblical phrases and allusions. Look at just a few from the very start: 

There’s a peace I’ve come to know (Reminds me of John 16:33) 
Though my heart and flesh may fail (Taken directly from Psalm 73:26 but also reminds me of Job 19:26 and 2 Corinthians 4:16) 
There’s an anchor for my soul (Sounds like Hebrews 6:19) 
I can say It Is Well (Not Scriptural as much as it was clearly taken from the H.G. Spafford hymn, which is entirely appropriate) 

And as he gets to the chorus the number of citations or allusions to how Jesus beat death are multiplied. No, this song isn’t as deep or complex as 1 Corinthians 15’s take on the resurrection. Clearly, this theme can fill thousands of pages of doctrinal discussion. But we rejoice in the mere fact that resurrection wasn’t a one-time isolated event for one man, but the firstfruit of the resurrection of everyone who trusts in that man. I have played this song overlaying an iMovie of Scriptural references, many of them above, the last three times I have preached at Easter at my church–2009, 2013, and 2017. I cannot say enough about how much it floods my heart with the joy and hope of what matters most—how the Bible answers the problem of the vilest, most despicable, unforgivable villain there is: Death. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –  Gowdy Cannon

♦ “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” by Charles Wesley

“Christ the Lord” was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley and 17 other siblings.

Interestingly, Charles and John didn’t enter into a personal relationship with Jesus until right after they finished serving as missionaries to Georgia. On the boat ride back home to England, they met a Moravian constituent. Once back in London, he introduced the Wesleys to fellow Moravians who led them to Christ. From them, they learned what it really meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Wesley’s conversion experience took place in 1738 and he wrote this hymn almost exactly one year later. It was written and played as one of the first hymns of the brothers newly founded Wesleyan Chapel in London. This was just the beginning of his hymn-writing career. He would go on to write well over 6,000 more hymns. I have not read or sung all of these songs but I have heard that many of them are mediocre at best. But those that are great are considered the best of the best in all of hymnology (many consider his “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” the most theologically rich Christmas song). And “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is one of the most theologically rich Easter songs. It has certainly been one of the most popular Easter songs since it was first published in 1739.

Christianity celebrates the entry into new life by dying and that new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus is what this hymn clearly celebrates. It is via our acceptance of this sacrifice that we truly live. I Corinthians 15:19 tells us that if this life alone is all that we can expect, we are of all men most pitiable. But for Christians, it isn’t all we expect. We have a hope of life with Christ after we die. That is why we can confidently say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This truth is at the very center of Christianity. That Jesus died and rose again so that we too may die and rise again into everlasting life with Him. 

The first three stanzas of this song remind us that Jesus rose three days after His death, rose to heaven to reign as a glorious king, finalized his work of redeeming grace, and opened paradise for all. But the song also reminds us that this was not just something that happened and finished up over 2000 years ago. The fourth stanza is clear that this is still true for us and that we have reason to sing praises to God above for His great work of love all the world. He, all three persons of the Godhead, did this for us. The last two lines finalize: “Praise Him, all ye heavenly host, alleluia! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” – Ben Plunkett

♦ “Grave Robber” by Petra

This is not an Easter song. It is a song about what Easter made possible. One thing that Petra (mainly Bob Hartman writing the lyrics) excelled at was incorporating Scripture into their songs. This one is filled with allusions, direct quotes, and paraphrasing. This song, more than almost any I have heard, is entirely focused on the hope the resurrection of Jesus brings to believers. The lyrics are powerful, encouraging, and triumphant. As the chorus of the song so aptly states:

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

In the here and now, we still struggle and fight with death, but one day, death will be no more. Death will finally die. That is our great hope, provided to us by the death and resurrection of our Lord. This classic song, by the preeminent Christian rock band of the 1980s, is the perfect reminder of this truth. For my money, few songs can match it in melody, structure, sound, and message. Every year around Easter, this song makes its way into my music rotation and I never regret it. It moves me every time I hear it. I hope it will move you as well even if the style is not your preference. Focus on the lyrics and the truth they convey. One day, the Grave Robber will “wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears. There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain and sorrow.” That is a truth worth singing about. – Phill Lytle

♦ “Remember Me” by Ben Shive (Performed by Andrew Peterson)

I’ve been listening to Andrew Peterson’s music a lot lately, especially his latest album Resurrection Letters: Volume I, released just in time for Easter last year. I heartily recommend the entire album (along with the Resurrection Letters, Prologue EP and the Resurrection Letters, Volume II album released 10 years prior[1. Yeah, I don’t understand volume two being released 10 years before the prologue and volume one either. ]), but I am supposed to write about just one song.

I strongly considered the modern congregational hymn “Is He Worthy?” (which Chris Tomlin borrowed for his latest album Holy Roar) and my personal favorite “His Heart Beats” which focuses on the actual moment of Jesus’s resurrection. In the end, I chose “Remember Me”.

“Remember Me” was written by Ben Shive (with whom Andrew Peterson collaborated on all of the Resurrection Letters albums) who, in his words, “wrote these songs [“Remember Me” and “Into Your Hands”] to help myself and the folks at my church remember Jesus this Good Friday.”[2. Link] I love that this song wasn’t written primarily to be published and recorded (though I’m glad it was) but was written by someone to help himself and his fellow church folk to remember Jesus.

I chose this song mainly because the lyrics cover the full story and meaning of Easter from our part as “wayward sons” and “prodigal daughters” in need of a redeemer to “ascend that hill” for us, through the story of Jesus during his last week from triumphal entry “as a King” to death on the cross to resurrection, to the resulting hope we have of our eternal life with our Lord when Jesus returns.

Secondarily, I chose the song because of the groovy pop tune atypical in Easter songs. It’s refreshing. – Nathan Patton

♦ “Arise My Love” by NewSong

I love a good power ballad. I love Easter Sunday. Put them both together, and you get “Arise My Love”. 

It is, formulaically, every bit 80s power ballad. A slow build, synth, echoey drums, it’s all there. Stryper could have done this song, and they would have killed it. If they added in a screaming guitar solo, it would be icing on the cake. (I’m still holding out for a Stryper cover BTW).

But this song is so much more than just an epic build. This song is a freight train of theologically sound emotion that is focused on the most victorious moment that humanity has ever witnessed. When you listen to this song, you get the sense that all of creation, all of Heaven and Hell, has been moved to contemplative silence at the tomb. Then you get to the chorus, the airy, heavenly “Arise, My Love! The grave no longer has a hold on you! No more death’s sting, no more suffering! Arise! Arise, My Love!”

I cry every time I hear it. I’m tearing up right now as I write this. It takes a lot to move me to this kind of emotion, but this song captures that most epic moment of all time so very well. Jesus is blazingly glorious, and this song gives just a tiny, minuscule glimpse into that reality. 

“Sin, where are your shackles? Death, where is your sting? Hell has been defeated! The grave could not hold The King!” – D.A. Speer

Hopefully, a few of your favorites were included in our list. We welcome you to share some of your favorites with us in the comment section. Let’s celebrate, through music and song, the resurrection of our Lord together.   

Regarding God’s Animal Kingdom

“Then God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.’ So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird–each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.’ And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.” Genesis 1:20-23

“And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.” Genesis 1:24

I wonder, do cats and dogs and fish and all the other creatures in God’s vast animal kingdom feel the same emotions we feel? How do they experience them? How does God relate to those feelings? Do they process anger in the same way that humans do? Pain? Happiness? Boredom? Animals and humans might function in profoundly different ways, but I do know that He values them and wants us to cherish them as well. He even brought them to Adam so he could personally name them. God apparently did so in order that they might serve as companions, but Adam indicated that none of them was suitable. Thus, God creates the first woman Eve to be this companion (Genesis 2:19,20).

God commanded man to rule over all of the earth and over all of the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:28). Later on, humans are also commanded to eat the flesh of animals for sustenance (Genesis 9;3) and to use select animals as burnt sacrifices to Him (In Genesis 3:21 Abel brought the first recorded animal sacrifice before God). The Bible also tells us that while the spirit of man will rise in the end, the spirit of animals will go down into the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). This indicates that when animals die, that is it for them. When the animals of this present world die, they remain in the earth.

This does not suggest that these animals are not important to God. They might not relate to God in the same way we do, but He still cares deeply about them. On the fifth day, He began the process of filling the earth with animals. On this day, He created all animals that are found in the sea–fish, whales, porpoises, aquatic reptiles, etc.–and all kinds of birds. (Scholars who have studied this passage extensively say the command to create bird life also included insects.). Then on the sixth day, he finished off the creation of the animal kingdom by creating all of the land animals. We know that He cared about His animal creations in part because Psalm 50:10-11 God tells us that “…every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.”

The creation account records Gods first three blessings. It is interesting that one of these should be to bless aquatic wildlife and winged creatures. It is also noteworthy that these creatures are the first things God blessed. Curious that God did not give a blessing to the land animals. I think that although God does not use the word “bless” for them, it is clear His blessing was on all the animals in every form. He blessed and sanctified them by both creating them and commanding them to multiply. Yes, God blessed them and prepared them as aids to the coming pinnacle of His creation. He loves them and cares for them. While we should not forget we are their superiors, we should remember that they are valued in the eyes of God. We should also not forget that God’s Word tells us that the life of one’s animal is regarded in the eyes of the righteous man (Proverbs 12:10, NIV).

Poles of Tension, Balance, and Nuance: Making Sense of Things When it’s Hard to Be Dogmatic

I recently wrote a tribute here in REO to Brother Leroy Forlines. There are so many of us who learned so much from him, both by his teaching and possibly even more so from his example.

Mr. Forlines frequently talked about “poles of tension” in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and probably beyond. This was to illustrate truths that often must be stated in more than one way in order to achieve balance. Mr. Forlines wrote in The Quest for Truth:

Life is not always simple. The complication presented by sin, the shortage of time, money, ability, help, etc. limit what we can do. We cannot do everything we would like to do. Frequently, we need to look at a situation from several different angles, and then make a decision. We are pulled at from many directions. We experience tension. The best is not always possible. We have to prioritize in the light of reality. Proverbs 26:4,5 illustrate for us what I call: “the principle of tension and counterbalance.” The first verse reads, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him.” The next verse reads, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

One verse tells you to not answer a fool. The other verse tells you to answer a fool. Obviously, you cannot do both of these in every situation. If that be the case, how do you obey these two verses? What you have to do is to consider what the greatest risk is. If the greatest risk is that you will be like him, you do not answer him. If the greatest risk is that he will be wise in his own eyes, you do answer him. It will not always be easy to decide which of these to do, but you must do one of them. It is a serious mistake to choose one of these and adopt it as your approach to every situation.

These verses help us develop an important principle of interpretation: There are some truths that cannot be set forth in one principle alone but must be set forth in two or more principles which counterbalance each other. Here we need tension. There is tension between the different sides or angles of truth. This tension is needed to keep balance. This principle of interpretation guides us in areas where we are dealing with what we might call general truth instead of absolute truth. As is illustrated in Proverbs 26:4 and 5, there is no absolute truth about whether and when to answer fools. This principle is similar to the principle, “There are two sides to the same coin,” or “There are many facets of truth.” I will call this principle of interpretation: the principle of tension and counterbalance.

It is important to remember that there are absolute truths such as the moral teachings of the Ten Commandments. These we must obey. But there are some areas of life for which we have general principles rather than absolute truths to guide us. In these cases, we are by the help of God to make wise choices.

As Mr. Forlines suggests, the answer is to found in the remainder of each verse. To blindly and thoughtlessly respond as a fool does is to become as foolish as he. On the other hand (v.5) there will be times when you have to call a fool out, because otherwise he will be wise in his own eyes, and assume he is right. The context determines the response.

Balance is frequently the best and wisest way. Or, as my son David likes to say “nuance,” to not simply take sides dogmatically. Avoiding extremes. We humans have a tendency to gravitate to extremes, and not see nuance, or an even slightly moderated position. We attack our opponent mercilessly and allow no room for compromise. We fail to consider time, place, historical perspective, and heart attitude.

Sometimes balance is not the response, of course. The exclusivity of the gospel, for examples, requires a fixed position, because that’s what the Scriptures state categorically. “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved,” allows for no deviation. The law of gravity is fixed. Mathematical formulas like two plus two equal 4. But many, if not most, things in life do allow more than one point of view.

By way of illustration, there’s an example I would like to share. I have long been intrigued by the phrase “a sinner saved by grace.” In fact, one of my favorites of the Gaither songs carries that title.

I’m just a sinner saved by grace
When I stood condemned to death He took my place.
Now I grow and breathe in freedom with each breath of life I take.
I’m loved and forgiven, back with the living,
I’m just a sinner saved by grace.

A “sinner saved by grace.” Some say we should not use that phrase, that if we are saved we are no longer a sinner, and that we are advocating license to sin by using it. I think we can legitimately use the phrase, as long as it’s properly nuanced, and we aren’t advocating continuing in sin while claiming grace. (See Romans 6)

1. There is a past and present perspective, or before and after. I was a lost sinner who has been saved by God’s amazing grace. Before meeting Christ, I was without God and without hope (Ephesians 2). After I am His and He is mine.

2. Being a sinner saved by grace does not mean continuing in sin. Absolutely not. At no time in this life am I perfect or sinless. But as a believer, I must, and do sin less.

3. Paul, the great Apostle, refers to himself in I Timothy 1:15 as the “chief of sinners.” To me, Paul’s referring to himself as the “chief of sinners,” even though he is an apostle, church planter, and long-time believer. This shows that it isn’t out of place when used properly and given nuance to refer to oneself as “a sinner saved by grace.”

4. We are now saints, holy ones. A sinner saved by grace is a saint of God. Both are true. Poles of tension. I am not what I was, though I’m not yet what I long to be. A redeemed, saved sinner, reborn a saint, a child of God.

James Gray was president of the Moody Bible Institute from 1904 until 1934. He wrote the hymn “Only a Sinner Saved by Grace.” (Also may be known as, “Naught Have I Gotten by What I Received.”) Gray wrote the lyrics and a member of the music faculty wrote the music. This hymn has been a great blessing in my life over the years:

Naught have I gotten but what I received;
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase;
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!

Only a sinner saved by grace!
Only a sinner saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory,
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!

Once I was foolish, and sin ruled my heart,
Causing my footsteps from God to depart;
Jesus hath found me, happy my case;
I now am a sinner saved by grace!

Tears unavailing, no merit had I;
Mercy had saved me, or else I must die;
Sin had alarmed me, fearing God’s face;
But now I’m a sinner saved by grace!

Suffer a sinner whose heart overflows,
Loving his Savior to tell what he knows;
Once more to tell it, would I embrace—
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!

Determining the truth in the most accurate way is vitally important. I’m thoroughly convinced that looking at all sides of an issue, striving for balance in matters that don’t require a dogmatic, inflexible stance, and nuanced position is generally the best way to go.

Aslan Is On the Move

Winter envelops Narnia. It is “always winter and never Christmas” as it has been for longer than anyone can remember. The White Witch holds all the land with an icy grip. The world is cold and gray and miserable. How long has it been since Narnia had any hope?

Rumors begin to spread. There is a feeling in the air. Something has changed. It is not a visible change – the world is still as bleak as it has been for ages, yet something is different. Hearts quicken. Souls stir. A presence that has been absent for so long is back. Hope rekindles. It is a faint hope. A hope built on desperate longing. A hope that is fragile and at risk of blowing away in the icy winds of the accursed winter. Yet the good animals and creatures of Narnia can feel it. They know. Aslan is on the move.

Aslan, the great lion, the creator and destroyer of worlds and kingdoms. Aslan, who brought the world of Narnia to life with a song. Aslan, whose very voice called the stars into existence. Aslan, who had full knowledge of the deeper magic before the world began. The deeper magic of sacrifice, grace, and redemption. This Aslan is on the move. The good animals know it. The rivers and trees can feel it. The grass and rocks quiver in anticipation.


In the here and now, our world aches. Darkness threatens to envelop all of creation. Every year, this darkness seems to grow stronger in power. Stronger in fear and in hate. What light there is seems to shine out in vain, pushing against a force that seems unstoppable. Entire lands are blanketed by this darkness. The Light is attacked from every side. The icy winds of evil threaten to weaken its power, limit its reach, and in the end, snuff it out.

Humanity feels the weight of this darkness. It is around us. It is in us. We fight against it, but it is in our very blood. We are conceived and born into this darkness – the curse of Adam. It is our birthright. Even worse, we have each of us chosen this darkness over the Light. It is in us and we are in it. We are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. We are broken and lost. We are without hope of escaping it through any means we can contrive. Our best efforts to defeat the darkness amount to nothing more than filthy rags. We cry out in despair. Who will listen to our pleas?

In Narnia, a great sin has been committed. A son of Adam has betrayed his brother and sisters. He has betrayed Aslan and the good animals of Narnia. His betrayal and wickedness demand payment. The White Witch demands what is rightfully hers. Blood must be shed for this iniquity. The Deep Magic makes this clear. There is no work around. No way out. This son of Adam has to die. His life is forfeit.


Unless there is another way. A way known only to one. The very One who was there before the foundation of the world. The One whose knowledge goes far beyond all beginnings. The One who knows the innermost workings of the Deep Magic and the even Deeper Magic upon which all things hold together. The One who knows that “when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead…Death itself would start working backwards.”

Aslan becomes that willing victim. Quietly, he gives himself over to torture and death. Yet death has no hold on him. His blood pays the price and in the morning, he defeats death.

What about us? What to make of Adam’s miserable and hopeless race? “Rejoice! And again I say, Rejoice!” Our “Aslan” has moved on our behalf. Jesus, the Word who was there in the beginning and the very one through whom all things are made, is our “willing victim.” Jesus, who “committed no treachery” has taken our place. He has “regarded our helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for our souls.” He shed his blood and death itself started working backwards. The curse of Adam has been defeated forever. Those who accept this great gift are welcomed into the Kingdom as sons and daughters. We are no longer His enemies but have been reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus. We are in the Light and the Light is in us.

Even still, lovers of the Light are “hard pressed on every side.” Even with our great hope, our world remains broken. The darkness seems to have no end. It is all around us, seeking a way to swallow us whole. We feel alone and afraid. God seems distant and uncaring. How long has it been since we had any hope?

In the darkest of lands, the Light shines all the brighter. Yes, the lovers of the Light are “hard pressed on every side” yet we are “not crushed.” We are “persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Our King leads the way. “He goes before us and levels the mountains, breaks down the gates of bronze, and cuts through the bars of iron.” Our Great King “is not dead nor doth he sleep.” He moves. He works. He calls and seeks for the lost sheep. He is not idle. He sees and hears. His Light breaks through the strongest cloud of darkness. His Church Triumphant marches on. In lands where the very mention of His name risks death, His Kingdom grows. Every day, every minute, every second, chains are broken and souls are rescued. Yes, there is great evil in the world, but the Light is greater still. Even when our eyes cannot see it, our hope is in the One who conquered the darkness. Sin and darkness are in their death throes – they impotently splutter and flail against the Light but it has already overcome. He stands victorious and He holds us all in His omnipotent hands. In the midst of our endless winter, we know that we are not alone. We can feel it in our bones. We hold our breath and wait in eager anticipation.

Our Aslan is on the move, as He has always been. We do well to remember it.

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.


On the End of God’s Leash

We dog sat this weekend for some friends who were out of town for a funeral. We are not “pet people” though at least one of our boys wishes we were. I will quickly add that if we were to get a pet, it would be a dog. We are most definitely not cat people.

We had a blast watching this little creature. She was friendly, playful, and mostly easy to manage. (She decided that our dining room was her personal bathroom, but even that wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.) The boys loved her and were sad to see her go when the family got back from their trip.

The things I will write from this point forward are not new. They aren’t breaking any new ground. I’m sure many others before me have made this point. Still, I felt like the reminder was important so I’m going to take a stab at it.

I woke up early one morning to take the dog for a walk. She had been inside all night and I was sure she needed to take care of business. I placed her collar and leash on her and out the door we went. Every time I walked her, she seemed overwhelmed by all the new smells and sounds so she had very little desire to answer nature’s call. She nosed and sniffed around every plant, fence, rock, and tree. It was cold that morning and we had been outside for about 15 minutes with no luck as far as the necessities were concerned, so I decided to call it quits. I called to the dog. She ignored me and continued sniffing. I called again. She ignored me again. I gave her leash a gentle tug. She refused to budge. I tugged again, a little harder this time. She decidedly paid me no mind. She turned her little head in the opposite direction and made sure to disregard me.

This dog is small. I have no idea how much she weighs, but I’m guessing it’s five pounds or less. I could be wrong about that but I’m probably not too far off in my guess. In other words, she is tiny and weak. I looked at her in all her stubbornness and I laughed. Did she actually think she could resist me? Did she really think she could hold her ground if I really wanted her to come with me? How absurd and foolish could she be to believe that she had any say in the matter at all? Long story short, we were back inside the warm house about two minutes later. We came to an agreement. I was a lot bigger and stronger than her and she had no choice but to obey. I was gentle with her, of course, but there was no doubting who was in charge. (I picked her up and carried her to the front yard and she got with the program from that point on.)

When I sat down that morning with my coffee, it struck me how often we behave like that dog in our relationship with God. God wants us to move, to take action, to do something He has called us to do, and we grow stubborn. We sit. We resist. We turn our heads away from His voice and we pretend that we have any real power in the relationship. Now, I am a firm believer in free will. I wholeheartedly believe that God will allow us to dig in our heels and refuse His leading. I also believe that when we do this, that sometimes God moves matters in such a way as to make our defiance pointless. He moves us even when we do not move ourselves. He closes doors. He pushes us by sickness, loss of jobs, other transitions in our lives. He is usually far gentler than even I was with the dog, but He leaves no doubt that He is in charge.

The prophet Isaiah asks “who can frustrate” that which “the LORD of hosts has planned? Who can turn back on His stretched-out hand?” (Isaiah 14:27). Job questions how anyone could “restrain” the Lord. How anyone could ask Him, “What are You doing?” (Job 9:12). Mary, the mother of Christ, after being told about her upcoming pregnancy says, “He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51). Who are we to say “no” to this God who moves mountains, who shakes the earth from its place, who speaks to the sun causing it to not shine? Ridiculously, foolishly, mind-numbingly stupidly, we say “no.” We pluck up our courage and we refuse to obey.

Yet, God is “slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness.” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2.) Over and over, Scripture describes God as “slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” That is not something we deserve and it is not a license to disobey or refuse. It is a testament to this great God we serve. He is patient even though we don’t deserve it. He is “abundant in lovingkindness.” That word, literally translated from the Hebrew means “covenant loyalty.” His love and kindness, His patience and mercy are based on His promises to us. Those promises are eternal. They are fixed forever. “He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:7).

He can move us if He wants to. He can take that leash and he can pull us, with our feet dragging underneath us. Thankfully, He is gentler than that most of the time. Thankfully, He is patient and kind and He leads and guides more than he pushes and pulls.

I could have overpowered that little dog with virtually no effort, yet God’s dominance and power over me is infinitely greater. Incomprehensibly greater. Yet He is gentle and loving, patient and kind. I forget that too often, to my shame and frustration. I am thankful I was given a reminder this weekend while I waited for that dog to pee.