Friday, March 21, 2014

Winter No More!

 Spring is starting to break through, she's peaking her beautiful head out of her hole, ready to make another appearance for the.........1145th....time? You know, something like that. Man, I just like the first feel of Spring don't ya? Colder weather starting to die down, being pushed out by the warmer; the birds are getting more chirpier. It's in the air; you can feel it in the atmosphere. The sighs of joyful relief can be heard from many people you talk to or interact with. Thank the Lord for Springs arrival!
 Yes, I did indeed thank the Lord as I was on my way to meet up with some dear friends for a fun evening. Specifically, I thanked Him for giving me and others the patience to endure through the winter. Ha! For as well all know, for much of the nation it's been one of most brutal and seemingly merciless winters to date! The bitter cold below zero temps, probably hundreds of feet of snow (of course I'm exaggerating), and not to mention the....dreaded crater-like potholes that appeared when the snow melted! It all made me cry out (along with thousands of others), "When will it end!". So, as you could imagine, my thanksgiving to the Lord for giving me, and others, that patient endurance through such a brutal winter was a heart-imbedded genuine one.
 I remember telling customers at Trader Joe's (which is my place of employment) that all this winter madness will come to an end, and Spring is coming!  Yes, there was indeed that hope, that I was reminded of! SPRING IS COMING!
 Now, after giving that thanksgiving to the Lord, a truth came to mind. The truth that this life is rough. Oh, the struggle, the pain, the roughness, the hardships, the heartaches, the longings, the sweating, the groaning, the tears! How far we have fallen, and how much we corrupted! Even creation under a curse, being subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20). Yes, we've all (all people on this God-created green earth) experienced in many ways the effects of the fall, and are effected by the effects of sin. Oh, to be rid of our sin, and the sin in this world!
 Here is our hope:

"And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." ~Rom. 8:23

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, 'Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there ne mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'" ~Rev. 21:3-4

 This hope is a hope that is not false or vain. It's a hope, a promise, and a guarantee that embrace in with faith. A gospel-hope, a gospel-promise that is a sure as the wind is as it blows against our faces. For it's because of the Gospel, that we are citizens of a kingdom that has come and is coming; a kingdom that won't be shaken (Heb. 12:28)! Indeed it's through the proclamation of the Gospel by the church that Jesus is on the move making righting wrongs, dispelling the darkness with the light of His glory, healing, restoring, & redeeming!
 So yea, there will be many a time where we become weary, worn, exhausted,  beat down, and overwhelmingly discouraged and distraught by all the sin, evil, darkness, & corruption in the world. It will makes us want to cry out along with the Christian band Tenth Avenue North, "Let me see redemption win! Let me know struggle ends!" Yet, I hear Jesus say, "The one endures to the end will be saved." That is our call to persevere, to endure, to press on against the tide of sin, the flesh, and the world. To look to and cling to Christ as we do so! Embracing the promises of our great Shepherd and Savior's return! The promises of future glory & grace (Rom. 8:18 & 1 Pet. 1:13)!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why Somalia?!

 "So why Somalia?" is the question people ask me when they find out that I want to be a missionary there some day (Lord willing). I use to answer that with, "You know, I don't know really.", then after a little pause I would add, "I guess over time the Lord has given me a heart for them.". Of course that was never an exciting or satisfying answer. Well sure, it's great to know that the Lord has given me a heart for them, but normally when a person shares about their heart for a particular country or people group there some story behind it.
 I remember my good friend Matt, back in the day, share stories he's heard of the turmoil and suffering Somalia. One I heard him tell at least twice, about how the state of Somalia is so bad that Somalia out of desperation try to swim across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia, but only to have Saudis see dead bodies of Somalis wash up on their shores. Well, I don't know if that's a true story or not, but it was from hearing stories like that one that have opened my eyes to the physical poverty and state Somalia was and is still in. Decades of civil wars, famines, droughts, and the terror of Islamist extremism have plagued this nation.
 So with this nation be 99.7% muslim and roughly 0.3% Christian, things are slowly and steadily starting to get better there though, with a recent inaugurated government, that has been dealing with Islamist extremists. Yet, the regions of Somaliland (in the north) and Puntland are semi-autonomous. According to Voice of the Martyrs there is a rough estimate of fewer than 200 Somali converts from Islam to Christianity, but in the past few years dozens of Somali believers have been executed by the radical Islamist group known as al-shabab, Although muslim conversion to Christianity not illegal in Somalia. In Somaliland it is said that believers have been imprisoned and even expelled. Other unspeakable acts have been inflicted on Somali believers.
  My heart aches as I think about all these things, along with the deeper and more sober reality of the spiritual darkness and poverty this people are in! Following the lies of Islam, and their own cultural beliefs, they're rushing headlong towards hell. Indeed, for the 99.7% of the nation that are outside of Christ before a holy God; it's a terrifyingly dangerous place for them to be! Yes, even at this moment heart is torn up as I think about all this and Somalia. It's like I feel the same way the apostle Paul does, as he expresses in Romans 9:

"I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit--that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." ~Romans 9:2-3

 Of course Paul is speaking of the Jews who are outside of Christ, but that's how I feel for Somalia at times. Just those moments when that burden for them weighs so heavy on my heart to the point where tears start coming from my eyes; to the point where there's this restless anxiety (so to speak) in my soul. Oh, how I wish that I could trade places with every single one of them! Where I can be accursed and cut off from Christ, and they in turn enjoy the rich grace and blessing that flow freely from the Gospel! Oh, how I'm willing to die, so that they may have life, and have it abundantly!

Lord send me! I'll go (Isa. 6:8)!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Owned By Christ

Been thinking much about, and have been encouraged by this truth lately....

I'm not my own
And belong to no one else
But to Christ Jesus
And Him alone
Purchased & ransomed
By His blood
A stray sheep
That He sought & brought
Back into the fold God
My name is engraved
On His nail-scarred hands
And inscribed
On His heart
My life is hidden
In Him
Therefore I'm safe & secure
From accusation & alarm
Who I am
I wrapped up
In the Savior
And when the storms come
On the Him, the Solid Rock
I won't falter or waver
I'm indeed His
Prized possession
For by His death &resurrection
He has made me
His own
So now I can
Live & die confidently
For I'm in Christ
And it's to Him
I'm belong

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blood Fellowship

 This past weekend was College Park Church's (my church) annual theology conference, THINK. We were blessed this time around to have John Piper exposit the book of Philippians with us this year. It indeed was a rich weekend feasting upon the Word of God with the family of God that left my heart full! Full with thanksgiving to God for saving me! Thanksgiving for bringing me into something spectacular and incredible! Bringing me into an eternal fellowship with the Himself, His Son, and everyone else who adopted in by the blood of the Son! So that we can have enjoy and delight in times of fellowship and worship with the saints and the Most High God!

"that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." ~ 1 John 1:3

Goodness! I submit to you that there is no greater joy, no greater place to be, than to be in the family of God! It's the blood of Jesus that brings us near to God, into His household, into the fellowship with Him and all the other blood-bought children (Eph 2:13-21). Indeed there is no more enmity between God and us, and against each other, for the Blood has also bought a peace we could obtain (Col 1:20 & Eph 2:14). To that we ought to shout...

"Hallelujah for the blood of the Lamb that was slain!" ~Tenth Avenue North

 Yes!What joy, what delight; that the we have with each other in the Lord, with our Lord, and heavenly Father! A fellowship of sweet dandyness we've been brought into by the precious blood of the Lamb!