Wholeness that knows no end

SCRIPTURE:

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.

STORY:

I was going to save this scripture for Christmas time in a few weeks, but in light of the heartache across the globe recently, I just felt like I needed a reminder now of who Jesus is. Honestly, I have just felt burdened for humanity lately.

I feel burdened on a global level. 129 killed in Paris. 37 in Beirut. 26 in Baghdad. The number of refugees and internally displaced people in the world is the highest it’s been since World War II. There are about 27 million slaves in the world today. These are big numbers and they’re big global issues that can feel so far away from our every day Western lives, but these are people we’re talking about.

I feel burdened on a local level. I watched as thousands of people signed letters of resignation from the LDS church in Salt Lake City on Saturday — a reaction to a recent controversial church-wide policy. People are burned by religion and angry with a God they’ve misunderstood because His heart for them has been misrepresented by imperfect people. They’re leaving faith behind entirely because they don’t want to get wounded by the church again.

I feel burdened on a personal level. I’ve walked with friends through some really hard, broken situations these last few weeks. Struggling marriages. Unexpected deaths. Scary medical conditions. Being a human is a messy thing, and life is really hard sometimes, and in those times I’m really thankful that God didn’t make us to do it alone.

I needed to be reminded this week that this Isaiah 9 prophecy of who Jesus would be is true. It says in The Message that there will be no end to the wholeness he brings.

Wholeness. I love that word. It’s the remedy for all that’s been broken.

Come, Lord Jesus. Be the God of the kind of wholeness that knows no end.

SONG:

“Wonderful Counselor”
Antioch LIVE
Our God Comes

Listen:
Apple Music  |  Spotify

Playlist from previous weeks:

Apple Music  |  Spotify

Empty Handed. Not Forsaken.

SCRIPTURE:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (The Message)

So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It’s as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us.

STORY:

This year, I got two baby nieces. They are THE. BEST. There aren’t many things I’ll just drop anything for, but a FaceTime call from one of my sisters is one of those things — because I know there’s a smiling baby girl on the other side of that call. I’m SO thankful that technology makes seeing their faces an option. It makes living thousands of miles away so much easier.

I love everything about being “Aunt Sarie.” I can’t wait until they’re old enough to really know me. And for as much as I love being an aunt, there is something in their little faces that always makes me think about the boy I thought I’d be watching grow up at the same time as them.

The younger of the two girls, Charis, was born on September 14. It was a Monday morning, and I woke up at 6:30 am to a FaceTime call from my sister Stephanie, wanting me to get to be one of the first people to meet her. It was the sweetest wake up call. She was perfect, and Steph somehow looked amazing for having just given birth.

After a few minutes of ooh-ing and aww-ing over her, I got off the phone and I just wept. I wasn’t sure if it was ache from being so far away or ache from the reality that both of their girls were officially here, and my boy was with Jesus. I’m sure it was a little of both — but I remember telling God, “Abba, I need a word from you this morning. I miss my family. I miss my boy. Either way I look at it, I feel empty handed.”

I felt like He told me to read 2 Timothy. The thing about Paul’s letters to Timothy is that they’re sort of a pep talk for hard times. Paul tells Timothy, in a nutshell, to be bold. Be brave. Endure the fight and the race set before him, because it’s worth it.

When I got to verses 13-14 in 2 Timothy 1, I stopped. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit. The version I was reading at the time said, “Guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

There I was feeling empty handed, and there God was to remind me that He has entrusted something to me in the spirit that is meant to be given away to His people.

Because everything that’s given to us by Him is meant to be given away.

So we press on. We boldly carry the things He’s given us to carry and we trust that it’s worth every bit of suffering it might cost us.

Maybe we’re empty handed, but we’re definitely not forsaken. And somehow when we choose to just keep trusting Him, we always have something to give.

SONG:

“Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)”
Hillsong Worship
No Other Name

Listen:
Apple Music  |  Spotify  |  YouTube

Playlist from previous weeks:
Apple Music  |  Spotify

Therefore, we hope.

SCRIPTURE:

Lamentations 3:21-24

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

STORY:

I have learned to lament this year in ways I’m not sure I ever thought I would in my entire lifetime. Certainly not ways I hoped I ever would. I don’t think anyone ever sits around and thinks, “Gosh, I really hope I go through something so tragic that the mark on my life would be that I know how to grieve well.”

What I’m learning, though, is that leaning into pain these last six months has actually expanded my capacity for hope. Loss leaves gaping holes in our hearts and somehow when we hand them over to Jesus, they end up becoming greater spaces for hope to live.

A few weeks ago I was walking to a coffee shop to meet some girls, and it was still kind of dark outside. I could just barley see light beginning to come up behind the silhouette of the Wasatch Mountains on the east side of the city. I was praying for a friend of mine as I walked, asking God if He had any encouraging words for her that day.

I felt like He directed my attention to the mountains, and the way the sun was rising behind them. “Mercies new,” I thought. “They always rise, even over the mountains in front of us.”

I love the way these words are tucked right into the middle of Lamentations, a book in which the title literally means, “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.” We grieve and we ache and we lay it all out at the feet of Jesus, because He can handle it. He’s so familiar with our suffering. He already went there for us.

And then we have that “but” moment.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. His love never ceases. His mercies never end. He is faithful. I will hope in Him.

I don’t know what your mountain of impossibility is, but I sure know the feeling of staring up at it. Here’s what I’m certain of, though: His mercies will rise, even over our mountains.

So we write these words like a promise on our hearts. He never ceases to make beauty from ashes. His love is endless.

SONG:

“Constant One”
Steffany Gretzinger
The Undoing

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Music from previous weeks:
Spotify Playlist  |  Apple Music Playlist