Friday, 29 December 2017


Made any resolutions yet? I thought about a few... thousand. 

Somewhere in the middle of my list of go-to methods for becoming a better exercised, better read, better disciplined, better fed, altogether more chilled (!!) version of myself, I was relieved to remember that my hope for this year is not what I resolve to do or be, but the LORD.

He has made steadfast promises, and His unwavering resolve and delight in keeping them are my brightest hope for the New Year, the reason I can look forward to it with joy.

Here are a small selection of those things He has promised for the coming year: 

I will be with you. Whether this year is better or not, whether you shake free that belligerent, bessetting fault or not, whether you make it to the gym or not, whether you feel like I am with you or whether it feels like you are alone, every day and every night of this year, I will be with you.

I will love you. Abundantly, extravagantly, in ways that will stagger and surprise you. However you love me, be it in blazing flames or as a smouldering wick: I will love you. I will love loving you. Long before you've muttered a prayer or picked up the Bible, long before you've made it to church, long before you even want to love me, every day of this year: I will love you.

I will help you. When there's nothing left within- look to me: I will help you. When you think you're all over it- look to me: I will help you. When no one else will, or can, I will delight to be your strength and your hope. Every day of this year, I will be your ever present help in trouble.

I will forgive you. I will be faithful and just, and the cross will be enough- for the year's most floundering attempts at goodness and the year's most profound failures. Where resolve doesn't win and instead greed does or despair does or sleep does or selfishness does, I will remember the cross, I will remember the covenant, I will remember your Mediator, my Beloved Son and with pleasure, I will forgive you.

I will give you rest. I will. As you peer in to a frantic new year where countless demands yap at you to eat less, exercise more, scroll less, read more, introspect less, chill more, as you deeply desire to be a thousand things you are not now, as you try to carve out a peaceful path for yourself in being a better version of you, remember that whatever your resolutions might give you, I will give you rest.

I will make all things new. Tenderly, creatively, redemptively, exhaustively. When you feel like everything is predictable or miserable or futile; when you've tried and tried and feel like all you've made is a mess: I will make all things new. When this year looks like another year heavy with heartache and foolishness and oppression and pain, I will make all things new. When the world is breaking, when rulers are raging, when the wounded are weeping, I will be making all things new.

I will glorify my name by being who I am. I will bind up broken hearts. I will set captives free. I will hear prayers and answer. I will deliver. I will give food to the hungry. I will uphold the cause of the oppressed. I will be faithful because I cannot be anything else. I will love being faithful.

I don't know what I'll be doing in 2018, but I know what God will be doing: He has promised. 

These are the resolutions that matter. These are the resolutions that make for a Happy New Year. 

Happy New Year!

Check the promises: Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 46:1; Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 11:28-20; Revelation 21:5; Psalm 146 and many more... 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Brightest and Best: Advent Reflections on Jesus

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Happy Christmas, folks!

Thank you so much for following along with these advent blogs. For ease, I've put them all in one place, below,  so you can go back and read any (or all) you've missed, or re-read any you enjoyed. Each post is stand alone so dip in and out as it suits you and pass on to anyone who might be encouraged by them. 

I hope you all have a gloriously happy Christmastime, filled with Jesus, who is brighter and better than everything. 

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning; 

Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid!

Much love,


Jesus: God's Comfort. 

Jesus: Spring in Our Winter

Jesus: Giver of Rest 

Jesus: The Ultimate Garderner

Jesus: Son of Mary 

Jesus: Cousin of John

Jesus: The Brightest Dawn

Jesus: Our Brother

Jesus: Manger-Messiah

Jesus: Good News For All

Jesus: Song of the Angels 

Jesus: Wisdom of The Ages

Jesus: A Better King

Jesus: The Best King

Jesus: God Made Man

Jesus: The Salvation of God

Jesus: God With Us 

Jesus: Man of Sorrows

Jesus: Joy-Sharer

Jesus: Silent Saviour 

Jesus: Death- Defeater

Jesus: Hope of the Earth

Jesus: Eternal King

Jesus: God's Gift 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Unto Us a Child Is Born

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Read: Romans 8: 31-39 

Well, we've made it to the end of our advent journey. And what a joy it's been! Over the past few months as I've thought about Jesus and reflected on His kingship and His kindness, His wisdom and His willingness to become weak, His truth and His tenderness my heart has so often leaped with hope and joy and praise.

But I thought I'd finish the series reflecting on a truth that has probably made the biggest pastoral difference to my Christian walk my whole life long: He is given to us.

All that Jesus is, in His power and mercy and creativity and beauty and boldness and joy and justice is given to us by the Father. They are not just beautiful qualities; they are ours because we have been united to Him.

My favourite verse in the whole Bible is Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"

Now this verse is made up of two parts. A question (how will he not give us all things?) and a statement that is so glorious it takes God's Spirit to carry it to our hearts: God gave us Christ.

Unto us a child is born!

As another beautiful verse puts it:

"I am my beloved's and He is mine." (Solomon 6:3)

All that I am is relevant to Jesus.
And all that He is, is relevant to me.

I have been united to Him.

All that we've pondered and rejoiced over because of Jesus during advent we can delight in afresh in the knowledge that this Christ has been given to us.

A child born to us, given to us! And His Name shall be called: Wonderful Counsellor! Almighty God! Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace!

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ: not death, nor life, nor angels, not demons, nor things in the present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor depression, nor singleness, nor loneliness, nor unemployment, nor cancer, nor doubt, nor fear, nor relational breakdown nor (incase anyone is unsure Paul spells it out loud and clear for us here) ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION. No! We are more than conquerors because He loved us!

I am my beloved's and He is mine!

I don't know what you want most this Christmas. I know that often at Christmas our hearts can yearn with longing and nostalgia and hopes and heartbreak. But I also know that the Word made flesh is the greatest act of generosity in the history of mankind; unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given.

God's gift to you is Christ: the Christ who is all those things our hearts have rejoiced in this advent: Christ the King, Christ the Little Lord Jesus, Christ the Song of the Angels, Christ the Manger-Messiah, Christ the Grave-Conqueror, Christ the Hope of the Nations... this Christ is given to us. And to you.

Whatever is not mine this Christmas, there is deep and glorious reason to rejoice in what, or who has been given to me. And nothing in all creation will be able to separate me from His love.

I am my beloved's and He is mine.

Carol: Unto Us a Child is Born (Handel) 
           Unto Us (Hillsong)

Saturday, 23 December 2017

He Shall Reign Forever and Ever!

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Jesus will reign forever.

That’s the incredible promise of Isaiah 9: “the increase of his government and peace will have no end.”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has a wistful line in it: “from now on, our troubles will be out of sight.” I hear that line and my heart swells and yearns with longing: our troubles seem so very present, and so very long lasting.  Our burdens seem stark and harsh and weighty: war and injustice and frustration and the whole world is groaning.

Yes, there are joys- there is the King’s strengthening, there’s his kingdom growing, there’s ways his justice and grace and humility are triumphing in the world. And these are glorious reasons for joy.

But I don’t think I feel that my troubles are out of sight. Maybe slightly less in focus? But not out of sight.

But advent reminds us that we’re waiting. There is an event in our future that is an eternity defining moment- as eternity defining as the moment Heaven’s Beloved became a new-born King: Jesus is coming again.

He is on the throne now- but the power and influence of his reign will go on forever and ever and ever.

There will be a time when he returns and when he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Hallelujah!

But there will be more than that moment of comfort.

When a woman is pregnant and waiting, she is not just waiting for the birth day. Of course- there will be an excitement and drama and enormous change and relief in the moment the labour pains end- but the birthday is not the end of the story. After the birth day there are other birthdays, there are first burp days and first smile days and first step days and first word days and first school days and so on and so on.

Similarly, the whole earth is groaning with birth pangs.

But we’re not just waiting for the moment when the birth pangs end. We’re not just looking forward to the day Jesus returns, but to his reign: an eternal reign.

We’re looking forward to a new creation that is rich in all those things that fill our hearts with hope and yearning now: rich in diversity, in music, in climate and landscape, in health and happiness… there will be a new creation that will be tended to by the Ultimate Gardener, who is even now in the process of pruning and cherishing every new creation in his garden, including you and me.

We’re looking forward to an eternity of his perfect reign- of justice and peace and creativity and kindness and love and joy. The King will rule, but he will be with us. He will know us, and we will know him. The joy and love between groom and bride will be delightful and eternal and interesting and glorious and it will go on increasing in all of these ways forever.

We’re looking forward to future when the troubles of today, of this life, will be truly out of sight. There will be an eternity of peace and prosperity beyond our fathoming, fruitfulness and feasting beyond all comparison-  and our troubles will be so far in the distance that they won’t come to mind.

Jesus reign has begun already, and we’re looking forward to the day when the whole earth will see him and bow the knee. But we’re looking to an eternity, with Him, beyond that: and the increase of his government and peace will increase forever and ever.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Dear Desire of Every Nation

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Read: Psalm 96

Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Psalm 96 is a bold call for the whole of creation to worship the LORD. He is not only worthy, but the worthiest: sing for joy! He comes to bring justice to a world that is sick to its core for the lack of it: sing to Him!
And the psalmist calls out for diversity of praise: all the earth is called to sing, he is to be feared above all other gods, all of the world, all of the peoples, all of the seas, all of the fields, and all that is within them are called to rejoice in God.

If you have watched Blue Planet over the past weeks then perhaps, like me, you are still reeling in wonder at the rich, incredible and frankly weird variety of creatures there are lurking beneath our planet's surfaces. And those are just the ones we’ve found. The heavens, and the earth, and the seas declare the glory of God- and one of the things they declare most loudly, most clearly is His diversity.

David Attenborough talked us through a miriad of bizarre ocean-dwellers: flying stingrays, raver-eels, whales, sharks, whale-sharks, shark-whales, morphing fish, shell-cracking fish, neon-fish, see-through head fish, crowder-fish, loner-fish, lurk beneath the sand before executing you fish (at this point you can feel very grateful that someone other than me is responsible for the naming of these discoveries!). But each of them testify to the glory of God, long before the submarines found them: God’s excellencies are diverse, and as such he has created a diverse world to testify to them- in oceans, fields, mountains, skies- and beyond: in enormous expanses of planets and stars and galaxies. Every part of creation says something different about the Creator: “in this way he is glorious!”, they sing.

And Jesus is the joy of every longing heart, the dear desire of every nation.

The LORD Jesus comes to judge the earth, and he comes that every heart might sing. His is an invitation to all people- from every tribe, and tongue and nation.

One Christmas my family spent the day on a dirt red road in the equatorial December heat, giving out UNHCR food packages to refugees returning from Tanzania to Rwanda, after having spent the previous three years in enormous camps. Families carried everything they owned in their hands and on their heads, and gratefully took the flavourless biscuits that would likely be their only sustenance on their long journeys home. I say “home”, but they were returning to places stained with memories of slaughter: to torched houses, to mass graves, to communities that had been overturned by betrayal and brutality.

This is one of my most vivid memories of Christmas. Even as an eleven year old I was deeply struck by the undeniable injustice of the situation: why should I be able to go home to a warm bed, when they would spend Christmas on the roadside, beneath the stars, fearful for what might lie ahead?

As I thought about the words of this carol, this memory came to mind.

I am struck again by the fact that those Christians, on that road, would have sung praise to Jesus and glorified Jesus in a different way to me, with different notes to me. As they headed back to a country ravaged by war, trusting in the LORD for grace to forgive and rebuild, walking on with hearts full of praise for a promised King coming one day to execute perfect justice, they honoured him and declared his splendour in a very different way to how I would, heading back to the security of my life.

Jesus comes to make every heart sing: the same song of His glory, but each bringing a different tune sounding out unique ways they have enjoyed Him, unique ways they long for him, unique ways he has redeemed and fulfilled cultures- in places of prosperity and poverty, in times of peace and brutal war.

Across the world, Christians are celebrating at Christmas. And they celebrate the same Saviour, the same LORD- but each tribe, each nation, each individual tongue glorifies Jesus with a nuance that declares his excellency, sufficiency, generosity and grace in a way it could not be glorified by just one nation, or just one voice.

I write this blog because I want to declare the excellencies of Jesus; I want people to love him and for their hearts to explode with hope and joy and zeal for His glory. But then when I read Charles Wesley’s hymns, I could be tempted to think: why bother? He says it so much more eloquently and efficiently than me (especially today! Thanks for reading this far!). But because I am not Charles Wesley, I can honour Jesus in a different way.

Every believer, including you, glorifies Jesus in a unique ways. Some Christians will be able to honour Jesus by resisting the greed of their culture; some will honour Him by relying on Him every day for food to survive. Some will be able to honour Jesus by trusting Him in the day-to-day fearfulness of life in a war-zone; some will be able to honour Him by trusting Him in the day-to-day dullness of an unfulfilling job. Some will be able to honour Jesus by embracing the seemingly mundane 'smallness' of motherhood; some will honour Jesus by rejoicing in Him even though they do not have that privilege. All glorify Him, and glorify Him differently, and glorify Him all the more because of those differences. There are unique ways you, and I, are called to honour Him.

Jesus is a great God whose glories are best displayed by a multitude!

When Jesus comes again, there will be great singing and gladness among all who hope in Him. There will be countless languages, countless cultures, countless individuals all declaring the worthiness of the Lamb that was slain: and each individual voice will add something new to the chorus- a particular thread to contribute to the glorious whole.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Risen With Healing in His Wings

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace,
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings;
Risen with healing in his wings!
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald angels sing:
“Glory to the new born King!”

These words are probably my favourite words in the whole of Carolsville. Given how long I’ve spent hanging out downtown there these past few months, this is quite the accolade.

I just love how Charles Wesley so beautifully articulates the link between the birth of Jesus and his resurrection; he sees how fundamentally they are connected- both to one another, and to us, and he doesn't just know it: his words erupt in to poetic praise!

Yes, Jesus was born to die. He was born as a human to redeem humans, and every minute he lived, he lived so that at the cross his innocence could be substituted for my shame. His birth set him on the road toward the cross. But He was also born to be raised from the dead. In Bethlehem, it was glory, not the grave that was his goal. And gloriously, he was raised as the first born among the dead, leading others in his ascension train. That’s us!

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul explains how Jesus is a glorious representative of mankind, where the rest of humanity, epitomised by Adam, fell short.

I find, living in a world of gloom and despair and darkness, that in so many ways it is easy to feel like my life is characterised by my connection to the man of dust. I bear the likeness of my forefather: weak, perishable, dishonourable. I feel subject to toil and frustration and death.

But Jesus is born so that just as we have borne the likeness of the man of dust, so we might also bear the likeness of Him, the man from heaven.

Jesus came to a world that was under a curse, and lived under a curse, and died under a curse: and in embracing the curse, he defeated it. He plumbed the depths of our God-rejecting, futility-riddden, death-destined existence and became a curse for us, and our redemption. He mildly laid his glory by and came right down to meet us in our degradation and shame. He becomes a son of earth with us and experiences our death for us.

And then, like a Phoenix from the ashes, Jesus was raised.

On a specific morning in history, Jesus walked out of an actual tomb; on a specific morning history, he defeated death.

After the darkest of nights, the Sun of Righteousness rose; as Dawn broke light and life touched everything on the surface of the earth: there is healing in His wings.  

He became a son of earth with us, and endured the worst earth has to offer, so that we might become a son of heaven with him- and enjoy the best heaven has to offer.

As Wesley has so beautifully written, at Christmas we celebrate both that Jesus united himself to us in our death and darkness, and that Jesus has united us to himself in His conquering death.

And so: joyful all ye nations rise; join the triumph of the skies!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Silently The Wondrous Gift is Given

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

This season is so noisy.

There are crackers and pantomimes and those ties covered in elves or snowmen that will sing at you in increasing degrees of off-keyness as their batteries die and adverts that everyone has loud opinions on featuring that folk version of what used to be a normal sounding song and there are increasingly hideous Christmas jumpers and there's that house on the corner that looks like it has melting neon reindeers all over it and there is TV Christmas specials featuring what we refer to as “celebrities” trying to compensate for their lack of actual fame in volume and there is tinsel, a visual version of all of the above noise.

All this is going on over the top of a whole host of other loudnesses.

There's hatred, ignorance, heartbreak, persecution, desperate sickness, violence, war- and then countless, countless words being spoken about it. And what we need is Jesus. We need the Word made flesh; Light shining in the darkness; the Truth revealed.

And meanwhile, we sing:

How silently, how silently- the wondrous gift is given.

Part of me wishes that Jesus had come to earth more loudly. Part of me wishes that it didn't seem, from a worldly perspective, so insignificant.

But actually, as I sing these words I feel such deep joy; the silence of his coming is joyful news!

Because his silence is his laying aside of his glory, it's good news of great joy being secured.

Jesus was born to us. Jesus was a child, given to us. He became vulnerable, tiny, dependent- so that he might truly be with us, truly be for us, truly be on our side.

His coming seemed quiet because Jesus came to be a light in; the grimmest, most brutal, devastating darkness there is. His redemption comes through his embracing weakness and poverty and danger and rejection and violence and humiliation and shame and death. His redemption comes to us because when it came it didn’t look like glory; it looked like suffering and death.

Maybe your Christmas will feel like an anti-climax. As you sit around the left-overs of Christmas dinner in a crumpled paper hat, navigating the same old family squabbles, feeling like nothing has changed, remember that Jesus came quietly.

The wondrous gift is given in silence. He came quietly, and seemingly insignificantly, with glory and comfort and noise laid aside- but because he did, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.

He has taken on the quietness of our humanity completely, so that he might represent us perfectly, and give us Light eternally.

One day he will come, and it will not be so quiet.

But until then, the kingdom continues to grow quietly- with light shining in dark hearts, one by one by one.

(This choice is not ironic: I love it!)

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

He Shareth in Our Gladness!

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Read: Isaiah 9:1-7

Not only is Jesus acquainted with our sorrows, but he shares in our happiness too.
Our gladness matters to the Creator of the Universe! This is a beautiful thing to remember during a season that is often rich with good gifts.
Every good thing, Christmassy or not, is a gift from him- given for our delight and joy.
Frosty mornings and warming hot chocolates and the smell of pine needles and the warmth of log fires and candles flickering prettily and the cutest of nativity plays and the swell of a choir in full song and the goodness of mulled wine and mince pies and pigs in blankets and Terry’s Chocolate Orange and sherry and countless other blessings - in this and every season, are given to make our hearts glad.
We were made to have hearts that are brim-full, overflowing with gratitude to the Great Giver of all these things!
So often though, my heart is hard and shrivelled rather than glad. In fact, without the cross, each of these gifts would stand only as reminders of my lack of gratitude towards God- that though I have known his goodness, I have not acknowledged him or given him thanks.  
But the story of Christmas is a story of a God who is zealously committed to my joy: Jesus came to share the gladness of God with me.
From all eternity, Jesus has delighted in being the beloved of God, and through his life and death and resurrection- Jesus has shared his belovedness with us. He’s made a way for us to know God and in knowing him to find great joy!
In Isaiah 53: 12  it says that after the Suffering Servant has seen the light of life, “he will divide the spoils with the many.” Jesus is depicted as a mighty warrior who returns from a brutal battle as victor, carrying the bounty of his victory in his scarred hands.
And Jesus, wonderful Saviour that He is, intends for us to share his spoils.
I don’t know if you’ve ever read Zephaniah 3, and doubted that it could be about you. In it, the Lord says to Zion:

The LORD will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
 If I struggle to imagine God singing with such delight over me, I imagine him whooping and rejoicing and belting out a song of joy over Jesus- who though He was in very nature God made himself nothing, so that His Father would be glorified and His people would be redeemed. Of course I can imagine that! The Father is absolutely enthralled with Jesus!
And that’s the delight, the joy, “the spoils” Jesus invites us to share in; the gladness the Father has in Jesus has been won for us. And because Jesus shares his absolutely pleasing righteousness with me, all those other blessings- the beauty of nature and the richness of food and the preciousness of friendships- are no longer reminders of my lack of gratitude and cold heart, but rather they just pile high as monuments to the abundance of God’s inexplicable generosity!
Every gift comes to me through Jesus: above all, His belovedness.
Yes, he shareth in our gladness.
But incredibly- he invites us to share in his.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Our Weakness is No Stranger

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Read: Isaiah 53

He is familiar with grief.
That sledgehammer slam of loss, of shock-
He's stood beneath its blow.
He knows what it is to mourn,
to feel the sting of death,
to weep-
face to face with its concrete full-stop blockading hope for future goodness.
He is acquainted with the stench of decay,
He's cried tears of desperation.

He is familiar with pain.
With wounds, with aches, with the most destructive of disease-
He's buckled, he's been brought low.
He knows what it is to be weak,
to bare sorrows and to stumble;
to bleed
in a broken flesh, gaining scars that time won't heal.
He is acquainted with the stripes and the shame,
He's pled for another way.

He is familiar with rejection,
With standing shelterless in the storm.
He's been exposed; alone.
He's seen friendship without faithfulness,
family without home:
faces he loved turning away, one by one by One.
He is acquainted with nights of longing,
He's known dark and silent skies.

He knows our need; our weakness is no stranger.

He is familiar with waiting,
bearing the burden of precious promises,
he's known their fulfilment seeming slow.
He's had no hope but God,
no life but in resurrection.
He's relied upon on a Love stronger than death,

and he has been vindicated.
By a Power greater than the grave,
He has been led through the darkest valley,
and brought to a victory feast.

Now He's acquainted with glory,
He's known darkness turned to light-
He's ascended, with great power-
and he leads captives in his train.

If we have been united with him in a death like his, 
we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Romans 6:5

Carol: O Holy Night
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