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.
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.