Sunday, March 31, 2013

Redeeming Love Has Been My Theme and Shall Be Till I Die.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,I’ll sing Thy power to save,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.
~Praise for the Fountain Opened, William Cowper

Easter Sunrise Service: He is risen!
   There was still a little bit of bite in the air as we hunkered down in our folding chairs this morning, towels draped over our knees to keep warm.  How does one dress in the desert?  It's cold only while the the sun hangs his head behind horizon, but once he rises, it's quite H-O-T.  This morning the faithful, bleary-eyed but joyful, assembled on a beach in Jumeirah to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the son of God. It was glorious-- we gathered in the darkness-- a nod to the darkness that descended upon the earth at the hour of Jesus's death (Matthew 27:45)-- but then Hope returned, and the sun rose, and we were reminded of the moment that Jesus rose from dead, victorious over death.  What a wonderful way to ring in Easter.

  I've included above the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns.  Those opening lines are epic.  And this: Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be until I die.  William Cowper, one of the most popular poets of his day, wrote this hymn shortly after his first major bout of depression.  He's a man that interests me because he clearly clung to the cross, and yet he struggled throughout his whole life with depression, attempting suicide at least three times.

  I hope on this Easter day that you turned to God and thanked Him for sending His son to die for you that you might live.  Read the Gospels and fall in love with Jesus.
Good Friday Service: It is finished!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Five Things I'm Thankful For Friday

Yea, once Immanuel’s orphaned cry His universe hath shaken--
It went up single, echoless: ‘My God, I am forsaken!’ 

It went up from the Holy’s lips, amid His lost creation,
That of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation!”

~ excerpt, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Cowper's Grave

This week I'm thankful for:

1. Jesus dying on the cross.  Today Christians around the world are celebrating Good Friday.  We call it Good Friday because it is the day we celebrate Jesus dying on the cross.  Ironic isn't it?  That we celebrate the dying of a man we call our Savior and we call it good.  "Why is it good?" you ask.  It's because on the first Good Friday the holy God died to rescue people whose hearts were and are wicked.  Without his atoning death, I could not be reconciled to a holy God, whose very holiness demands justice.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

2. Two worship services this week.  In the Middle East, Friday is the holy day, and so church meets on Friday rather Sunday (which is the first day of the work week).  (P.S. It's really hard for me not to call Friday School Sunday School.)  So, we had our usual Friday gathering today- yay! and on Sunday morning at 5:30am (before the work day starts) we will gather on the beach for an Easter sunrise service.  This week I seem to be doubly blessed.

3. Christian community.  After church today, about 20 of us went out to lunch after church, and some of us lingered until 9pm.  After leaving that group, I joined other Christian friends.  And encouragingly, our conversation was peppered with what the Lord has done in our lives and how good He is.  I find it ironic that I come from a so-called Christian nation, and I have to travel to the Middle East to find the most vibrant Christian community I have ever known.  I love them, and I feel loved by them.

4. The conviction that God has plans for me.  Being in Dubai has been a bit of struggle financially because I'm finding that the work environment has changed a lot since last I was here.  So far, this venture in my coming here has lost me money.  And yet, I do not despair, because I am convinced that He has me here for other purposes than my job.  God has brought me here to bring me back to Him and to bring me into Christian fellowship.  (This makes sense, as well, when I think how my prayers over the last months have always been, "Lord, draw me closer to You.")  For this, I thank Him.

5. The two families I am surrounded by.  I said this last week, but it bears repeating.  I.Am.So.Thankful that in God's infinite mercy he has placed me exactly where I am.  Years ago, when I was alone in Dubai, an American man said to me, "We are your family in the Middle East.  Rely on us shamelessly."  Surprisingly, because I come from a world where people don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean, he meant it.  I can't for the life of me understand why complete strangers love me, but I am deeply touched and moved beyond words.  It is this love that points to a God that I also can't understand why He loves me, but I humbled and am thankful.  "The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the Lord loved you."   Deuteronomy 7:7-8

Do you know what He has done for you?  Do you know how much God loves you and desires for you to be close to Him?  I pray that you would turn away from the things which take you away from Him, and turn to the living God.  He is so beautiful, and He desires for you to know Him.  Turn away from your sin and be reconciled to God.  He is incredible, full of majesty and beauty.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Things I'm Thankful For Friday

It's been quite a while since I've done one of these, but here goes...

This week I'm thankful: 

1. That God has me exactly where he wants me.  If you're wondering where that is (it's been a while since I checked in on here), I'm in the Middle East right now, staying with an amazing God-fearing (read God-loving) Christian family.  I'm in Dubai (see the map below) in the United Arab Emirates.  I am so blessed to be here.

2. For random friends.  Do you remember when you were a kid and you'd meet another kid and in seconds you were fast friends?  It was magical, wasn't it?  Well, in my line of work, I'm often thrown into foreign worlds (hence Dubai) where I'm largely alone and on my own, and I meet other people in the same situation.  That sort of situation creates the perfect circumstances for that sort of childhood friendship to form.  Last night, new friend, Victoria, and I went to Bastakiya to wander around the narrow passageways of merchants selling their goods.  We had a blast and it was like we'd been friends for years.  (I had the added treat of getting to chat with her in German-- she's from Dusseldorf-- while we bargained with the shopkeepers.)

left to right: shoe shopping in Bastakiya, the shopkeeper, and narrow passageways in the old town
3. For my church community here.  Ever since I first set foot in this country in 2007, I have been blessed by the Christians that I've found in this city.  They have sheltered me, fed me, encouraged me, loved me, instructed me... the list goes on and on.  It's amazing to loved and cared for in the way that I do.
Some of the women from my church after Women and the Word, a class on reading the Bible

4. For the family that I'm staying with here.  It's wonderful to see what loving and serving one another looks like.  I love being welcomed in this home-- seeing the father read his Bible at the kitchen table, and his daughters respecting him, and the mother as she makes the house a home.

5. For my next door neighbors.  Our back door leads to a courtyard which is shared with the neighbors, and it's not uncommon for them or us to wander through each other's back doors.  And like my family here, they've also taken in a few "strays."  Tonight I came home to find one of them (a person, not a pet) settled in on our couch watching tv.  It's very communal, and I like it a lot.  The neighbors, by the way, are also an amazing family who love God, each other, and the people around them.  I'd say I'm doubly blessed to be engulfed by two such families.