The Sands of Life

 

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Oregon Coast image – Tami Yeager

I fear we are living in a time where society as a whole suffers from a form of ADHD, (no disrespect intended, I’m only using this as a word picture). Attention spans are short, and distractions are easy, and forgetfulness is chronic.

We as people, gravitate to short snippets of the world around us. The technology of our times allows us to grab a snippet of our world news, politics, religion, and even the lives of our family and friends. That’s all we need. We’re then “up to date” and ready to run the race we fondly, call life.

We’ve received our ‘truths’ with little to no verification of solid and respectable sources. If the headlines, status, or tweets, lean the direction of our slant — we grab it. Resulting in half-baked judgement calls — at best.

We then embrace our freedom and share our “profound truths” across every form of social media available to us. By “sharing our wealth,” others are then able to do as we have, and grab or reject the snippets we’ve shared.

For example: Mother Nature is outraged, that’s why the world is being pelted by natural disasters at warp speeds. President Trump is to blame for the hurricanes and flooding and devastation.  If Obama was in office he would be to blame. God is mad at us, and His judgement is being poured out on our nation. This is the end of times. Global warming is the problem….. You can fill in the blanks, it goes on and on. What’s the truth?

My heart breaks as untold numbers of people — women, men, children, elderly, poor, rich, and all in-between, are suffering greatly. I’m left wondering what to do. The needs are great.

I believe God speaks in the storms of life. I’m listening for His whispers……. and wondering what He’s saying. I’m leaning into His chest and resting in His arms. Safety. Acceptance. Grace. Extravagant love. Pure salvation. Great purpose.

Amidst the torrential rains of suffering on this side of eternity, — there is a place of perfect peace. Our dark nights and the rainstorms of our souls will be met by blue skies and refuge.

God may choose to quiet our storms and open the skies for us in different ways. Some we’ve never dreamt of. In Randy Alcorn’s book, Safely Home, Li Quan’s storm was silenced…. by the opening of the heavens to him.

“As he was once born from a secret intimate warmth into a world of cold confusion and blaring noise and painful artificial lights, Li Quan was now born out of cramped shadowy quarters (a jail cell), into a wide-open realm of gentle warmth and natural light. His first instinct was to say to himself, “At last, the real world!”

“At last, the real World!”

Our world — one in which we are all connected — and equally created, in the image of a great BIG God, — is steeped in suffering.

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV

Take heart. He not only carries you above the flood waters, and the fires and smoke, — He tenderly and graciously….. sends people to walk with you. Dare to look behind you, into your story, for as far back as you can see, it is there you will see many footprints in the sands of your life. I know I do. The sands of my life are littered with footprints where friends, family, strangers, and angels have walked. Places where only He and I have walked also.

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The Sands of Life image – Tami Yeager

In the torrential rains and the darkest of nights, — what is He saying to us?

Living in my corner of the world, I pray that I won’t be ignorant, or become numb to suffering. Like someone who has been exposed to radioactive material. I’ll work hard at de-contamination of my soul. I know the antidote, — God’s truths. Not opinions, even well intended as they may be. Not religious systems as suffocating as they may be. Not the sea of snippets I digest daily in every form of media I utilize. Simply God’s truth. I’ll find it, even if I have to dig painfully deep.

I’ll close my eyes, and live…… in wide- open spaces of Grace. A place to be — to rest — in His extravagant love. Inhaling deeply heavenly clarity, — resting in His peace.

I’ll stay grounded — right there. Being. Then feet first, I’ll ever so gracefully, ease myself deep into the world around me — and, within me. One filled with aching, broken, hurting, and lost people. My focus in the storm? His great commandment. Love. Sure I will miss it, and have to stand up, brush myself off, and re-focus. It’s okay. Love always believes the best and sees the best. You only loose the race, when you stop standing back up…. Or, God forbid, you deny your own vulnerability.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others]. – Matthew 22:36-39

I’m going to power through and love, — other centered love. Sacrificial love. Broken and poured out kind of love. Jesus kind of love.

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Middle Eastern women and baby from poor village. image – Tami Yeager

 

My prayer is that we would be storm chasers. Looking to God for how He will change us and use us to in the hurricane forces of our lives and our world.

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, 
when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, 
when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. 

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, 
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life, having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity, and in our efforts to build a new earth, 
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. 

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes, 
and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. ”

― Francis Drake

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Scars Worn Without Shame

jakob-owens-259159 by Unsplash

 

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” 27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas.

“Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” John 20:26-27 the Message 

Each and everyone one of us have inherited a broken world, — one steeped, in chronic pain and suffering. Along your beautifully choreographed journey, you will undoubtedly stumble across deep valleys, make your way through fiery trials, push against torrential rains, and endure long dark nights. Somehow, someway, we manage to persevere — but, not without scars.

     Our scars tell our story. 

     Jesus wasn’t ashamed of His scars. He shared them with His friends. He even allowed others to touch those places. The scars on Jesus’s hands and body were vivid demonstrations of God’s amazing love. His scars give me strength. They are a guiding light to my feet, and anchor to my soul, and a beautiful reminder, — that God wins!

The scars we bear, — you, and me — are road maps to victory.

     The scars we bear tell our story. They’ve helped mold us into who we are today. We never know who may need our scars, — our story — to help illuminate the path before them.

Wear your scars without shame.

 

Ramadan Prayers

 

According to the lunar calendar the month of Ramadan is May 26th – June 24th this year. It is duirng this time of the year that Muslims fast and pray from sunrise to sunset. It is a time of reflection and seekinig God for cleansing of sins. In light of the month of Ramadan, I would like to share the followng blog written by guest blogger, Miriam Eva.
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I will never forget my introduction to the Middle East. After accepting an invitation to visit, I pictured what it would be like to meet those who called that region home. I remember peering excitedly from the airplane window as we began to descend toward the city lights below.

Unfortunately, my luggage was not the only baggage I carried on that trip. I also took my preconceived ideas of Muslim people. My perception of them was formed and shut up tightly within the framework of my Western understanding.

Once there, my senses were immediately overwhelmed. I saw beautiful women covered from head to toe in traditional Islamic dress, called hijab and niqab, and I heard the sounds of the Adhan, or call to prayer, from mosques that seemed to be everywhere. Being in that country was a new experience for me, one that I eventually fell in love with.

We arrived during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims rise early to eat before the sun is up and then fast and pray until the sun sets. The fast of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

With a desire to greet Muslim people, I learned two simple Arabic words that helped me bridge the barriers. I loved watching eyes brighten as I exchanged smiles with Muslim people for the first time in my life. Of course there were also Muslims whose faces showed disdain for me. My love for them is blind. I only see people God loves enough to give His life for. With each call to prayer that I heard announced from the mosques, — I prayed. As I watched men standing in the trains that we shared chanting Quranic verses, I prayed for them, too.

I was surrounded by a people I feared — and loved.

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Guards were assigned to escort us in remote areas of the country. They became our travel companions as we visited poor villages. We were honored to be invited into the homes of Christians. Over steaming cups of tea, and through the voice of our interpreter, we shared with them our love for God.

I remember one such visit on a hot day. I watched our guard dutifully follow his Ramadan fast, which included avoiding drinking or eating in the 100-degree desert heat. It was during this visit that a member of the family we were visiting asked me why I follow Jesus. I was given the perfect opportunity to share my love for a God who first loved me. I shared about the truth of a Savior whose love and acceptance I can never earn. Our guard listened intently. I pray this was the beginning of this man’s encounter with God.

In many areas of the world, this month brings with it increased persecution. On the first day of Ramadan this year, 28 Christians lost their lives in Egypt, when the bus they were traveling on was ambushed.  Let’s remember our Christian brothers and sisters in prayer during Ramadan, which began May 26 – June 24th.

While Muslims fast and pray in hope of encountering God, we can pray for them, too More Muslims are said to be coming to faith in Jesus Christ today than at any other time in history. A friend of mine who is a former Muslim once said, “What if Muslims all over the world are being visited in dreams and visions by Jesus because we are too afraid to go to them?” In many parts of the world, persecuted Christians are boldly sharing the love of Jesus with their Muslim neighbors — even when doing so endangers their lives.

Today, the mission field has spilled over into our backyards. It is no longer necessary to board a plane to extend the love of God to our Muslim neighbors, — one only need to go next door.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NLT

 

 

 

People Made of A Different Substance

People Made From A Different Substance

 Palm Sunday proved to be another blood stained day in Egypt’s history. Attacks on two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt’s Nile Delta area killed more than 40 people and injured more than 100.

St. Mark’s Cathedral was host to one of the attacks that day. Located in the Abbassia district of Cairo, St. Mark’s Cathedral is the largest in Africa. The building is named after the apostle Mark who is the author of the New Testament book bearing his name. It’s also the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Egypt. Sadly Egypt’s Christians are no stranger to persecution. In fact, the land where St. Mark’s Cathedral stands today is the same place where Christians were persecuted and buried centuries ago. Early church history tells us that Mark died a martyr’s death in Alexandrea, Egypt. He is credited with founding the Coptic Christian church.

Standing guard outside of St. Mark’s Cathedral on Palm Sunday was a gatekeeper by the name of Naseem Faheem. Video footage from moments before the blast shows Naseem refusing entry of a young man trying to enter the grounds by bypassing the metal detector. Moments later the explosive laden man detonates the explosives he wears strapped beneath his clothing. Killing himself, — a martyr of a different kind.  Naseem saved untold lives by his actions that day.

For the families of those who perished the pain and suffering is raw and painfully real. A familiar cloud of grief settled into the country that day, — once again. The blood of the martyrs is not unfamiliar to Egypt, or the Middle East. It’s the same ground that soaked up the living blood of Jesus Christ so many years ago. The birth place of Christianity — people of “the way,” are well acquainted with the price of their faith.

Old Cairo Cemetary

Cemetery in Old Cairo

 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2 the Message

 Following her husband’s death, Naseem’s widow sat down with Amr Adeeb, a prominent talk show host in Egypt. What Amr listened to as the young widow spoke took his breath away — literally. Listening to Naseem offer forgiveness to her husband’s killers left Amr speechless. Viewers listened, and watched, along with Amr as Naseem offered forgiveness, to those responsible for the death of her husband.

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said Naseem. Sitting with her children beside her she continued, “I’m telling him, May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.” 

“Egyptian Christians Are Made of Steel. They are made of a different substance.”

– Amir Adeeb, Egyptian talk show host.

Naseem, shared words similar to the words Jesus spoke while suffering and dying on the cross, “ Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34-35 the Message.

Shortly after Amir Adeeb aired the interview with Naseem, The Bible Society of Egypt added subtitles to the clip and shared it with millions more.

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Bible Society of Egypt

 

 

 

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” Corrie Ten Boom

 

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Palm Sunday attacks and called Egypt’s Christians “our priority and our preferred prey.” God’s people are “made of a different substance.” In the face of evil — they retaliate with forgiveness.

In 2015 Libyan Islamic State militants released video footage of the martyrdom of Coptic Christians in Libya. The footage of their martyrdom included a caption that read — “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” The 21 men who knelt before their executors that day refused to recant their faith, even when faced with death by the sword. The world watched as the 21 martyrs for Jesus Christ uttered their last words on earth; “Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Their martyrdom sparked the Bible Society of Egypt’s biggest campaign ever. A Bible tract was created and sent to print within 36 hours following their public executions. Titled “Two Rows by the Sea,” it carried a message of hope, comfort, and forgiveness. The tract was a sought after resource in bringing comfort to both Christians and Muslims alike.

Shortly after the death of all 21 Coptic Christian men, a brother of two of the men spoke to a reporter with Sat 7 during a weekly worship program. He thanked his brother’s killers for including the men’s declaration of faith in the video released of their execution. He went on to call the martyred men, — “a badge of honor to Christianity.”

Upper Egyptian women 2009

Egyptian mother of six

 

 

Yes, “Egyptian Christians are made of a different substance.” The fires of persecution have produced the finest of gold. Their’s is forgiveness in the face of great evil and deep sorrow. A material death’s sting cannot touch. Jesus rose from the darkness of death in sweet victory, — so it is with our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.

Precious in the sight of the LORD, is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15 ESV

 

 

 

 

Shame’s Seduction

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Shame. The word alone makes me want to inhale deeply, before preparing myself for confrontation. The fallacy is, that shame comes in like a thick fog — daring you to defy it, to confront it, — while taunting you with the notion that you are worthless, and no match for its power.

The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” – Genesis 3:1 the Message

Since the dawning of time, shame has tragically makes it’s abode in the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Once its venom enters the victim’s life blood, it takes up residence, even being passed on from one generation to the next.  A skilled master of disguise. He greets his targets in a variety of different forms. Even those who don’t believe he exists. In his ever cunning way he’ll convince his prey that he is holy, just, and righteous, — one’s lot in life, and even a birthright. It’s sufferers having lived with it for so long, are often unaware of its toxicity spreading throughout their soul.

13 “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 the Message

Shame has exercised and honed his seductive skills to near perfection — if that were possible.

21 God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them. Genesis 3:21 the Message

Thankfully, shame underestimated its greatest opponent — the King. As He did in the Garden of Eden, — so He has done to this day. With His very own hands, He’s crafted new clothing for us to wear. No two are alike. Once this clothing is embraced it carries with it the antidote to disarm shame at every level. Shame actually shrinks away from the King and His grace woven clothing.

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. Psalm 91”14 NLT

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Go and Make Disciples

I wrote the following blog post in August of 2014. In wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels yesterday it seems fitting to share it again. While the names — known, and unknown have grown exponentially since then — the conclusion remains the same.

From August 2014 – My heart is heavy after being assaulted by the evil depicted across the internet last week of the American journalist being beheaded. The morning after I had the following thoughts:

As followers of Jesus Christ we must not be deterred by evil. Our mission remains the same as the day it was given to us—Go, and make disciples.

Now is not a time to halt; and count the costs. We counted the cost when we joined. We do not serve a God who revokes His call when the news is horribly grim. He is greater than the terror-filled words being screamed at the world by evil and demonic men. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s response to terrorists who taunt His people.

To many of us, the brutality we are seeing depicted on every media outlet may seem like a “new” kind of evil. While it is indeed brutal, it is not new. Christians have faced this enemy throughout the ages, and all over the world. I am struck by the fact that while I can turn off my TV, and avoid U Tube clips of the barbaric murder of our American journalist, many do not have that luxury. For many these acts are being played out in vivid color right now. If ever a time to pray, and take action, it is now. I believe today is a time for the church of Christ to step up its game. We are in, or we are out. We are hot, or we are cold. We are willing to give our life for our cause, or we are not.

Christians in refugee camp in Turkey receive a care package

photo credit – The Voice of The Martyrs USA

 

We must guard against walls of false protection being built up around our hearts, a deceptive fortress deceiving us into thinking we can hide behind it. When confronted by those whose culture and religion are unfamiliar to us, we need to reach across the self-imposed boundaries and love.

In light of the flames of persecution spreading across the globe I feel an urgency to stand up and do my part. Now is a time to run, and not walk—to be sober and alert. It’s a time to step up our efforts and give, pray, go, speak, and do whatever God calls each of us to do. We must live our faith out loud. We have no time to waste.

photo credit Milada Vigerova via UnSplash

Perhaps the façade we have cloaked ourselves with—the one that said to us “persecution only happens to ‘them’”—is being removed for our own good?

I pray we will redeem the times, and finish well.

Stand steady, and don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Bring others to Christ. Leave nothing undone that you ought to do. (2 Timothy 4:5)

Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world. (Matthew 28:19-20)

I am mindful of the One I follow — Jesus — this holy week. He was well aware of the danger, and pain, and suffering He would soon face. He never waivered from God’s plan, and call on His life. The carnage the world is being assaulted with today has not taken Jesus by surprise  — to the contrary — He told us this would happen. May we finish well.

21-23“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.  Matthew 10:21-23 The Message

For more information on how to help those suffering Christian persecution please see – http://www.persecution.com

Also posted at Eternal Perspective Ministries blogs – http://www.epm.org/blog/2014/Aug/22/face-evil-faith