A few weeks ago, Calvary Student Ministries embarked once again on our annual winter retreat, Blizzard. God did some amazing things over that long weekend and there is still much fruit being produced from the trip. There are many things that I absolutely love about this retreat, however, there is one thing that I find difficult to cope with every year. It is one thing I find difficult to cope with every winter season: cold temperatures.
I am actually quite amazed that I still live in a state that gets ridiculously cold every year. This is because I am a person who loves warm weather. I love being able to wear shorts and a t-shirt. I love it when I can go outside and be active without any fear of losing feeling in my body. Naturally, this is not easy with the brutal winters here in Minnesota that seem to last forever.
As true Minnesotans, we know that the weather gets brought up often in conversation. Every now and then in these conversations I will come across someone who actually enjoys winter. My typical response to this is “You’re crazy.” They usually give me a lengthy list of things that they enjoy about the frigid season. After all of these years in Minnesota, my list of things that I enjoy about winter has shortened to just a few things. Two of the things on my list are similar – pond hockey and broomball. As I stated before, I love being active. These are two things that allow me to be active in winter and are extremely fun. I get excited when I see good ice on the rinks around town. There is something amazing about the experience of being able to do these things outside in a natural state, rather than in an ice arena.
The other thing on my list is somewhat unique and usually catches people off guard. Are you ready? The other thing I love about winter is the fact that I can see my breath when I exhale. Ever since I was young I was fascinated with being able to see my breath. Now I know that’s weird, but stick with me here.
As I got older, the ability to see my own breath in the cold took on a new significance for me. When I exhale in the cold weather, I am reminded that God is showering His grace upon me. To me, being able to see my breath is visible grace. It reminds me that I have life and that God is sovereign over it. It reminds me that my Creator chose to breathe breath into my lungs and give me life. I am immediately reminded of the creation narrative in Genesis 2 where we read of God’s creation of man.
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
Do you see the intimacy involved in this creation act of man being created by God? These are vivid details that are not written for any other creation of God’s. He formed us and breathed life into us. We have “the breath of life” because of Him. We have breath because He sovereignly chose to give us breath and sustain our breath by His power; by His word. As you read this right now, you are breathing because God is upholding your breath by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).
This truth becomes even more miraculous after sin entered into the world. We have all fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Sin has created a great chasm between man and God. This separation between man and God means that without a mediator, man cannot dwell with God for eternity. Without a mediator there is eternal separation. Without a mediator, we fear death. But God acted:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Yes! Jesus is our mediator. He is, as John wrote,
“the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
For those in Christ, he takes away our sin and gives us his righteousness! What a great exchange; the best exchange the world has ever known!
I am reminded of this verse and these glorious truths every time I look at my visible breath. I am reminded that with each passing breath there is hope, not hopelessness; there is joy, not fear. I am reminded that I am loved; that I have a God who loved me, a broken and undeserving sinner, so much and wanted me in His family that he acted out of His great love and rich mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
Now I could ramble on and on about the truths that I’m reminded of when I see my own breath. Instead of taking that direction let me just simplify it for you in this way: I am reminded that I am always better than I ever deserve because of Jesus.
God has given me life. And even when my breath on this earth runs out, I know things are just getting started, because His intention in giving us life at the beginning was to give us life everlasting in Him and with Him.
Children of God, we are loved and cherished by the One who gave us breath. So the next time you have to go out and shovel the driveway because of the snowfall and you let out a sigh of annoyance, or the next time you slip on the ice and fall on your back and breathe out a breath of frustration, or the next time you get home from work or school and get out of you car letting out a breath of exhaustion, or even just when you go outside in the cold and exhale, look at your breath and remind yourself that God is showering His grace upon you.
In those moments remember that you are more loved than you could ever want or imagine. Remember that God is sustaining that very breath and will continue to until he calls you home to live with Him forever.
We are now making our way into the “Prophets Before the Exile” section of The Whole Story. I really like the way our Read Scripture plan breaks a bit here from the order of the books of the Old Testament in our common English translation of the bible. For the Read Scripture plan is more in line with how the story actually unfolded.
On Easter Sunday, the Calvary family got to witness God working in the lives of two men who publicly affirmed their faith through baptism. It was a joy to see!
As the Bible is an ancient text, it makes sense that much of it is a recording of history. But to respond by merely reading it as a textbook would be a mistake, for this is history written with a very particular purpose. Namely, it is a theological history — its authors, under the inspiration of God, make theological arguments by the way they tell the stories, and what they include in them.
King of My Heart (Samuel part two)
It’s a little hard to believe that we are already twelve sermons into our adventure through the Bible called The Whole Story. I have been very encouraged to hear from many of you how this pace of moving through the Scriptures week-by-week, book-by-book has helped you see things you’ve never seen before, and appreciate our Father and his Son, Jesus, so much more. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed preaching as much as I have this year, discovering how, as our friends at The Bible Project say it, “The Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.”
Eight Acts of Service on Easter
We’ve arrived once again to the glory of Holy Week. And as Easter Sunday draws closer, it is good to remind ourselves of ways we can bless those who don’t normally attend Calvary on this highest attended service of the year.
Samuel Part One
As Douglas Wilson has observed, these are fragile times. And when a nation finds itself in the kind of mess we find ourselves in, there is a kind of widespread longing for a leader who has the qualities, vision, and ability to show the way out. That makes sense. Who doesn’t want to find their way out of a mess? But it’s a dangerous spot to be in. It can leave one vulnerable to charlatans and pipe dreams.
Two weeks ago, we spent our Sunday morning gathering in the book of the Judges. It describes a time in the nation of Israel of great darkness, disobedience, destruction, and dystopia. It was a time, states the last sentence in the story, when “there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). It was very disturbing.