Sailing with you, daddy

I’d like to sail to lands afar

Out on a boat that’s built for two

Beneath a canopy of stars

That would be just like a dream come true

Just to be with you

–“When We’re Together”, Mark Harris, from Courageous

Dad,

I look forward to sailing the lands afar with you.

I didn’t know until I was listening to this song one day . . .

I should have known, though, because your life in Christ was lived in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

. . . But I didn’t know until I was listening to this song one day . . . that you had, in all joy . . standing before the presence of God . . realized I was hopelessly lost to sea . . and appealed for me.

Until our boats meet,

Teej

Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NLT)

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Photograph by Chris Sinjakli, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/chrissinjo/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Read more: MARK HARRIS – WHEN WE’RE TOGETHER LYRICS http://www.metrolyrics.com/when-were-together-lyrics-mark-harris.html#ixzz1f3Z2ALfM
Lyrics copied from MetroLyrics.com
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Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grace Land

I wonder what the population of Grace Land is.

I’m not talking about Memphis, Tennessee.  I’m talking about that place where you realize God has forgiven you from your sins . . . and you have an eternity . . free.

That’s what I wish for you.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:6, NASB)

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Photograph by David Joyce, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/deapeajay/

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Parable of the Sower and Seeds

I remember leaving class one day at my small community college, and seeing men in suits on the pathways, handing out little Bibles.  (This was a long time ago for me, by the way, and I’ve reconstructed as best as I remember.)  I took one as I went by, thanking the men, and then I stopped to watch how other students reacted.

Most students took the Bible and went on their way, some smiling either out of courtesy or agreement, others just taking one to make peace.  I saw one student stop, shake his head in refusal, and then go on.  And then there was one student who stuck in my mind.  He said something sarcastic like, “Thank you so much!” and then, smirking and shaking his head, he threw the Bible with a large thunk into the trashcan on his way in the building.

I later realized God had given me an opportunity to observe the truth in the parable of the farmer sewing seeds.  All of these students were being given the one Word who could unlock the gates of Hell to let them out, and yet, most of them . . . didn’t even know it.

I ache for them to know what they are missing.

He taught them many things in parables, and in His teaching He said to them:  “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, this occurred: Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it sprang up right away, since it didn’t have deep soil. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it didn’t have a root, it withered. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce a crop.  Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop that increased 30, 60, and 100 times [what was sown].” Then He said, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!” (Mark 4:2-9, HCSB)

Then He said to them: “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones along the path where the word is sown: when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy.  But they have no root in themselves; they are short-lived. When affliction or persecution comes because of the word, they immediately stumble. Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the ones sown on good ground are those who hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop: 30, 60, and 100 times [what was sown].” (Mark 4:13-20, HCSB)

Image by Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons license.  Image available on http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/5532241837/  

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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Garbage City

Would I give up all my personal dreams to obey God’s dream?

Does my answer to that depend on what God’s dream is for my life?

. . . what if God’s dream was for me to share Him in Garbage City?

Photograph of a street in Moquattam Village, Egypt. Moquattam Village is also called Garbage City. Photograph used by permission from Ayoung Shin.

I can look at this photograph and brush it off as God would never tell me to go here . . . but what if He did?  What if He told me to live the rest of my life in Garbage City?

Garbage City?  GARBAGE CITY???  HOW COULD THIS BE GOD’S DREAM?  GOD ISN’T REALLY SERIOUS IS HE?  GOD COULDN’T ASK ME TO LIVE THERE, COULD HE?  I MEAN, HE KNOWS HOW I FEEL ABOUT GARBAGE.  HE KNOWS HOW SICK I WOULD GET.  GOD WOULDN’T ASK THAT OF ME, HE’D NEVER ASK THAT OF ME . . WOULD HE?

But God did ask.  God asked Father Samaan.

Photograph of Shubra, Cairo, where Father Samaan lived. Photograph used by permission from Andrew A. Shenouda.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  But Father Samaan lived in a normal city.  God would surely call somebody from Garbage City to witness in Garbage City, right?  Isn’t there a donation box where I can put my nice, sanitary money for Garbage City and then forget I ever saw the photograph?

The journey to Garbage City started when Father Samaan witnessed to man who collected his garbage in Shubra, Cairo.  That man received Jesus Christ.

What a victory: an event that broke class rank, broke socioeconomic rank, and broke the conventional witnessing “comfort zone boundaries”.  What a celebration to tell the church.  Surely after this, Father Samaan’s witnessing work was done, and he could retire into recollections of all the people he had led to Christ, right?  Right?

But when we follow after God, He doesn’t congratulate us for our steps in obedience nearly so much as He urges us on to bigger and faster steps.

Father Samaan had already been faithful to God in Shubra, Cairo.  Why couldn’t he just keep up his faithfulness there?  Already he had witnessed to those around him.  Already he had shared the good news about Jesus.  Already he did more than most people who call themselves Christians will do in their lifetime.  Wasn’t the scale already tipped in his favor?  Hadn’t he already done enough good works?

But Father Samaan’s life in Christ hadn’t started by good works, and it wasn’t going to be finished by good works.  Father Samaan had been saved by grace, and there was nothing he needed to add to the scale at all.  He’d already been forgiven of everything.  He’d already been promised a life in Heaven.  So why, why, why go to Garbage City?

Because Father Samaan hadn’t forgotten that his Salvation had chosen to be born into a trashed world . . . so He could carry every last speck of garbage away from us, to bury forever in His own grave.

So Father Shamaan went.

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20, WEB)

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Photograph of Garbage City (Moquattam) by Ayoung Shin from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trash_on_a_Street_in_Moqattam_Village.jpg, accessed November 27, 2011

Photograph of Shubra, Cairo by Andrew A. Shenouda, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/2007828/

Photographs are under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on November 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Words from one of my heroes . . .

And if I never marry . . .

At age 6 I had my first crush.  Kindergarten.  A boy sat next to me on the bus and gave me his red MacDonald’s Happy Meal prize comb.  And he drew tic-tac-toe on the back of the bus seat in front of us.  With chalk. He was daring that way.

I guess something happened, because suddenly I was in my late twenties and unmarried, my days of being romanced with Happy Meal toys over.  What happened?

Well, there’s a long story to that, of course.  There are some reasons, like how I missed out on finding somebody in my prime “finding years” because of my dad’s illness, or how I was socially way withdrawn for a long time, or how I didn’t even know how to love.  All those can be problems when you’re searching for the person God wants you to be with, I’ve found . . most especially if you don’t even know God.

But then there’s the real reason behind why I didn’t find somebody: God was waiting for me to find Him before sliding any other relationships into place.  It was the kindest thing He could have done, because I might have thought I was content; I might have thought I was completed . . and really been headed straight to Hell.

Now I know Jesus.  Now I love Him.  Doesn’t that mean it’s time for me to marry and start a family of my own?

Well, not really.  I have to wait on God for that.

If I had my way, yes, I would be on my way to marriage right now, but if I’d had my way about a lot of stuff in life . . . I’d be in real bad shape about now.  I’m not going to say it’s always easy, or write eloquent words about how I’ve learn to fully love singleness, but if I’m honest, I do have to say . . . it is pretty easy.

Not because I don’t long to be married, or (daily) add to my plans for my wedding.  But because Jesus is really more than enough.  Jesus is really more than I could ever hope for.  Jesus is really all the love I need.

I’m not happy with waiting.  I do keep track of how many single girls I know my age, and each time one of them gets married, I get a bit more scared.  I wonder if I’m the one who’s never going to find somebody, never have my own family, be a table of one on Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to be alone like that.  I was in a nursing home-like facility recently, and a woman was asking for help to put the handle back on a dresser drawer.

When I walked in her room, I saw this photo of a huge, giant family.  I said, “What a wonderful family.”

She said, “Oh, that’s not my family.  That’s my roommate’s.  I don’t have any family.”

I don’t want that to be me.  I don’t want to spend my life waiting for something that never comes.  And I don’t want to end my life without children or a husband.

But, you know what?  Even if I got married, even if I had children, there would be no assurance I would end life with their company.  I know a woman who lost her husband and her son.  She’s a family unit of one again.

I want a family of my own.  There’s no doubt about it: God created us humans to be in relationships: parents, children, brothers & sisters, grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, friends—the works.  But most of us are missing at least one person from that list. How do we live with that missing relationship?

Not the same as we would if that relationship was filled.  I’ll never be the same as when my dad was living here on earth.  I even miss having siblings I never even had.  And I do want to be married.  I do want to be that woman with a baby in her arms and a toddler at her side.  There’s no formula to make us stop missing those relationships, because God created us to love.

But there is a reason why I don’t have to spend my days in mourning for my dad, or stressed that I will become a lonely woman in a nursing home one day.  That reason is that, above all relationships we can have on earth, is the relationship we can have with our Heavenly Father, and Jesus who is our ultimate Friend and the best Brother anyone could ever have.  God even talks about wedding the church to Him, not in some crude sense, but in the sense that He is fully devoted to us and we to Him.

God is the ruler of love, and I am convinced that He can fill our lives with His love, even when we are missing relationships.  I really believe that.

Not always.  There are times when I struggle.  But then I look up to the cross, and realize that a God who is willing to be tortured for my sin . . is the greatest love I have ever known.

I can never be alone . . when Jesus lives in me.

And so, even if I never marry . . .

I will still have more than anything I could ever have dreamed.

But that promise isn’t just for me.

It’s for everyone who believes in Jesus, no matter what relationship they may be missing.

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NCV)

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The Bible’s First Homerun

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, ASV)

In the very same sentence that God tells us He created a universe we cannot wrap out minds around, He tells us He created our tiny earth!  That is the kind of God we have!

He pays attention to us!  He uses one word to sum up the entire marvels of the universe: heavens.  And then He chooses to tell us one itty-bitty place within that universe He made: the earth!!!!!!   But it’s not just that He made the earth.  In this verse, the very first verse of the Word of God, God tells us He made the Heavens, and, separate from that, He made the earth!

I used to be an avid baseball fan, and when I think about Genesis 1:1, I think of God stepping up to bat and, on the first pitch of the night, slamming a homerun. I mean He just slams a homerun.  The baseball goes out past the highest bleachers, never to return.  In one verse, in only one verse, God has already revealed His grand surprise for us:

He cares about us.

He cares about us!

And, just as the crowd goes wild when the first pitch results in the first homerun of the night for the home team, our hearts should go wild for the first verse of Genesis 1:1.  Our souls should be on their feet, applauding frantically, as we witness the first sign of God’s love for us in the very first verse He says.

God didn’t just get lucky at bat, either.  We have the profound feeling that God has planned out the whole game and, as He takes His first victory lap around the bases, we will see more runs to come.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, ASV)

“with only a wall”–from Ezekiel 43:8

“They put their idol altars right next to mine with only a wall between them and me.” (Ezekiel 43:8a, NLT)

God is talking about people who are supposed to be His people who have the audacity, in God’s Temple, to add their idols to God’s manifestation of glory . . . with a dividing wall between them.  As if God is going to be okay with that.

The Lord said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel. They and their kings will not defile my holy name any longer by their adulterous worship of other gods or by honoring the relics of their kings who have died. They put their idol altars right next to mine with only a wall between them and me. They defiled my holy name by such detestable sin, so I consumed them in my anger. Now let them stop worshiping other gods and honoring the relics of their kings, and I will live among them forever. (Ezekiel 43:7-9, NLT)

Isn’t that incomprehensible?  Isn’t that unbelievable?  First, that people would dare put their ridiculous little idols (and the word the Bible often uses in the Old Testament, the commentary in my NLT says, is thought to be connected to the word “dung”) . . . and then that God would forgive them?  That He would let them come back?

But the idols have to lose their place.

Now this seems crazy: God is willing to take back these lunatic people, and all He wants is for them to live in His holiness without accessorizing with their sin?  It’s a free gift.  It’s simply coming into the Presence of God and loving Him.  Who could possibly have a problem with that?

Me.

I don’t go to the Temple of God and put wooden idols in the room beside God’s majesty.  But the Scripture tells me that, when I accepted Christ, I became part of the Temple of God.  That means any time I allow idolatry into my mind and heart . . . I am placing an idol right next to the glory of God.  I may think I’ve carefully divided off that idol from the Presence of God . . . but that’s as crazy as thinking God will be okay with a man-made object of junk worship in the room next to Him.  That’s not how it works.  God doesn’t ask for 10% of us, or 50% of us, or even 90% of us.  God wants all of us to be purely devoted to Him.

That means if something’s standing in the way . . . if anything’s standing in the way . . . I have to put it outside the Temple.  I can’t allow it in my mind or heart.  No matter how tempting, no matter how seemingly innocent, no matter how world-approved, no matter how funny, no matter how secularly justifiable, no matter how pleasurable . . . it’s got to go.  And now.  Now of now.

God deserves better than for me to hoard my sin in the room next to Him and try to get by with a partition.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19a, NIV)

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Photograph by Tim Snell, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/timsnell/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Thoughts after reading from Ezekiel today

What a privilege to be loved by a holy God.

Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. (Ezekiel 43:2a, NLT)

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Photograph by Berduchwal, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/62136890@N02/

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Published in: on November 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Keeping Track

I think it was part of getting into kindergarten.  A lead teacher showed us 20 objects.  She said over and over, “You need to remember these things.  I’m going to ask you later what you remember. You need to remember them.”

Girls giggled all around me.  I stared at the platter of objects.  The teacher asked us, “Do you think you can remember all 20 of these things?”  All around me, girls promised they could.  I was a little worried.  I wanted to take longer to look at the things on the platter, but with all of them already so sure, turning away to go play again, I thought I must know, too.

“Are you sure?” I remember the teacher asking.

I gave my confident, “Yes,” like the other girls and turned away.  There were a bunch of teachers playing games with us, asking us questions, and I couldn’t wait to find out what was next.

We did other stuff.  And then the lead teacher called us back.

And I knew what was coming.

The lead teacher said, “Now I’m going to ask you what you can remember seeing.”

There were more squeals of protest than in a bathtub with pigs.

“But I didn’t know!!!” the girls whined, and then together, “But we didn’t know!”

The lead teacher looked like she’d heard this one before.

“But I told you I was going to ask you what was on the plate,” she said.

She had us there.

I remember one of the teachers pulling me off to the side as we broke into small groups again.  I badly wanted to remember all 20 things. I was sure I could do it.  But two things were working against me: I hadn’t looked for long enough when I’d had the chance, and I hadn’t kept reviewing what I’d seen.

I’d blown it.  I couldn’t go back and take another look at what was under that platter.  It was over.  Now I was stuck with a frighteningly vague recollection of the memory I needed to get into kindergarten.

I told her what I could remember.  I tried to hear what the other girls were telling their teachers.  And I guessed on a few.  And my teacher said something like, “All right, that’s pretty good.  You got 5 or 6.”

5 or 6.  Out of 20!!!!!!!!

I wanted another chance.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .    .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Following Jesus isn’t simply memorizing what He wants me to do with my life.  But for me to ever be able to follow Him, I desperately need to pay close attention to His Word.  Everything I need for my journey to Heaven is given to me in the Bible and by promise of Christ’s Spirit.

The question is, Am I listening?  Am I remembering His holy Words in my life  . . or am I losing track?

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:21, NIV)