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This was supposed to just be a short post on a couple of things God taught me during this week, but as it turns out, is not. 😉

1. Faith:

I finally learned what it means that Jesus is the author and “finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It’s a term my Dad used a lot in his prayers and sermons, but I don’t think I ever quite understood it too well until this week. I’ve been learning a lot about faith lately, and I clearly understand that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. I also understand that God has made it easy for us to have that faith because He Himself is the “author” of our faith. He Himself puts faith in us when we accept Him into our lives, which itself is a step of faith.

The Bible talks about us having faith as tiny as a mustard seed, and even that little faith being enough to move mountains. So I went with that thought. I imagined a tall transparent glass with just one tiny mustard seed in it – pitifully tiny, insignificant and incapable of anything big in that large glass. That’s how my faith is more often than not. However, this is what I learned… that no matter how small, insignificant or incapable of anything our faith is, God completes it for us, in other words, he is the “finisher” of our faith. It’s as if He fills that tall glass with Himself and thereby makes all things possible. I imagine the glass being filled up with water (symbolic of the Holy Spirit). Try it practically and see what happens… you will see that the mustard seed no longer remains at the bottom of the glass, but rises up bit by bit to the very top and floats there. So it is with our faith… no matter how small, when we realize that Jesus Himself completes it, our faith rises to meet the challenge. We are emboldened with courage just knowing that He completes our faith and we are not in the struggle alone… and suddenly ALL things become possible for us.

2. It’s not about us and our capabilities; it’s about Him and His infinite abilities:

This sort of goes hand in hand with what I learned on faith, and I’ve seen this happening through this last week as I’ve ministered to people with various needs, most of them beyond me and my own understanding. I’ve seen God use me despite my inability in certain situations, and give me the right words at the right time for people that He brought my way in His perfect time. I know that none of those were co-incidences or mistakes, but divine appointments. In one particular situation I didn’t feel very “knowledgeable” regarding the situation, but God gave me His wisdom to deal with it. All it took was for me to say, “Here I am, Lord. I’m available. Use me. If you can use anything, Lord, you can use me!”

I was moved by a dialogue towards the end of the film, Prince Caspian (yes, I am a HUGE Narnia fan, in case you don’t already know that). After the war is won, when Aslan meets with the children, he tells Prince Caspian that the time has come for him to be King and rule over the land. Prince Caspian is overwhelmed and says something like, “But I don’t think I am ready yet”, to which Aslan’s reply is, “It is for that very reason I think you are.”

God is not looking for people who think they have it all together and are content in their self-sufficiency. God is looking for people who know they are not capable in and of themselves, but He is able. We need to always remind ourselves that it is never about us and our capabilities, but about Him and His infinite abilities! And be available for Him to use.

3. Obedience:

1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice”. Along with faith, knowing that it’s all about God and being available for Him to use, goes obedience. We have often heard people say, “Delayed obedience is disobedience”. So true! I have been learning that too this week. It is better to obey God no matter how crazy it might seem.

Last night I heard God tell me something that sounded like He was out of His mind. I was like, “What??? No, no, no… there’s nothing I can do about it. Thank you for telling me, but I don’t see how I can help with that.” But I couldn’t bring myself to ignore God’s voice and eventually found myself doing the outlandish thing He told me to. Now, this involved another person too, and even if I had done my part in obedience, the buck stopped with her if she thought I was out of my mind. To my surprise, she not only took me seriously, but was also obedient to what she said was the Holy Spirit telling her not to just brush it aside as some nonsense like she would have normally done, but to act on it. What our obedience achieved, I am yet to find out, and I sincerely hope it saved a life. However, the point is not what we achieved, but that we were both obedient to God and his voice. John 10: 27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” What is God saying to you today? Are you one of His sheep? Are you following Him?

4. Look Inside Yourself!

The fourth thing I learned this week is something very personal, but I want to share it all the same, knowing that many struggle with this question. We often wonder why God doesn’t “show” Himself to us and reveal Himself visibly. Why is it that God shows Himself to some stranger who has never even heard of Him, ever, but won’t show Himself to me??? I remember reading once that God, more often than not, needs to show Himself to those that don’t believe and those who would find it hard to believe if He didn’t. However, for those of us that have a strong faith and believe in Him even without having seen him, it is not necessary for us to see Him. I made myself content for a while thinking, “Oh, I must have great faith that God doesn’t need to show Himself for me. Cool!” And that was cool… but there came a time not too long ago, when I asked the Lord to show Himself to me and He did in a very strange way, so much so that it freaked me out for a bit, wondering what the strange Presence in my room was. His Presence remained in my room several days, and I would see it every night. But after a while I stopped seeing it. Then the other night I asked the Lord to show Himself to me again, and this is what He answered, “Why are you looking here for me? Look inside yourself!” Whoa! That was pretty amazing to me, and a necessary reminder that He is inside of me, working in and through me. When others see me, I sincerely hope they see Jesus inside of me.

Now, I’d like to make it clear that God is very capable of showing Himself to anyone, and in different ways to different people. For me at this point in time, this is what He chose specifically for me. The only reason I am sharing it is because I know many people have the same question on their minds, and I hope to encourage you not to stop seeking after Him, but to wait patiently, spend time in His presence, and in His time, He will reveal Himself in His own way.

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This is a list of my favourite free social networking applications and recommendations for those who have a Mac and a Blackberry, and primarily use Facebook and Twitter (and possibly Tumblr) for social networking.

For Blackberry:
1. Facebook for Blackberry
facebook-logoFor now you can update status, see your friends’ latest status updates and comment on them right from the app, view latest highlights, receive real time notifications, upload photos directly from your Blackberry, sync your Facebook friends list, their profile pictures and contact info with your Blackberry address book, add friends, post on friends’ walls, send messages to friends, view friends’ profiles and their photo albums right in the app…!!! New features expected soon – can’t wait!

2. UberTwitter
_berTwitter_logoHaving tried Twitter Berry and reviewed several other similar apps, I settled for UberTwitter which totally rocks! Most other Twitter Beta apps for Blackberry take up a lot of space and slow your mobile down. They also take forever to load updates. UberTwitter does none of that. It is clean, easily installed, does not hang, does not slow down your system, has lots of preference settings that make it more user friendly, and you get notified every time you get a reply, direct message or are retweeted. You can also use multiple accounts using the same application.

3. Viigo
75X75_Viigo_LogoViigo is part of the Blackberry World application, but can also be installed separately. I must say that Viigo is rather slow and can take ages to load stuff. However, what I like about it is that you can receive all kinds of News & RSS feeds straight to your Blackberry and tweet them straight out of the Viigo app. Some of the standard services you can receive are News & RSS, Weather, Audio & Podcasts, Social Networks, Flights & Travel. Depending on your needs you can add services like WES 2009, CFL, Sports, Business & Finance, Local Interest, Shopping, Deals, Entertainment, Politics… and a whole lot of individual channels within each of these. For Social Networking, the sites that are supported are Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Laconi.ca.

For Mac:
1. Seesmic Desktop
SeesmicDesktopThis is my personal reccommedation for anyone who needs a desktop app that allows simultaneous posts to both Facebook and Twitter. Any review will suggest TweeDeck and Seesmic to you. Both of these use Adobe Air. I’ve tried TweetDeck and still have it installed, but prefer Seesmic for its simplicity. Besides, TweetDeck can only receive a certain number of updates per hour, while Seesmic doesn’t seem to have any such issues. I also like the single column capability of Seesmic, which receives feed from both Facebook and Twitter. The menu can also be adjusted to a slimmer width using just icons, and that works perfectly for me. Connectivity to both Facebook and Twitter is good, and the adding of accounts simple. It has all the regular features of adding URL and short URL, adding image and shrinking text. The only features Seesmic does not have compared to TweetDeck are probably TweetDeck Recommends, TwitScoop, 12Seconds and StockTwits – none of which I personally require. Seesmic Desktop’s brighter gray colour is also somewhat more appealing to me than TweetDeck’s harsh black.

2. Facebook Notifications
Desktop NotificationsThis new desktop application was rolled out only last week, and is still in its experimental stages, but is still a cool one. The application sits in your Mac toolbar and notifies you of updates using Growl. As of now, you can update your status directly from the application, and all other features open the respective window in your browser for you to proceed. These features include news feed, your profile, compose message, notifications and inbox. Used in tandem with Seesmic, I think it’s the perfect way to keep track of updates on Facebook without actually being online in Facebook.

3. Posty
postyIf you use both Twitter (or Jaiku or FriendFeed) and Tumblr, Posty is a desktop app that allows you to post to both. I haven’t used it much, having discontinued my use of Tumblr, but from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty cool.

4. Tumblenote Dashboard Widget
30415This dashboard widget works way better than Posty or any other desktop app for Tumblr and does not take up space. With it, you can post Text, Quote, Link, Chat, Video and Photo directly to your Tumblelog without having to open a browser window.

Twitterrific and Tweetie are probably the other two desktop applications for Twitter alone that I would recommend. I am aware that there are many, many more applications for different kinds of phones and computers. The best advice I can offer is to read reviews online, try what seems most suitable to you and then choose for yourself. One man’s food could very well be another man’s poison, so these are just my favourites. All the best finding what works for you. I just hope my suggestions have been somewhat helpful in that process.

To Jump Off a Cliff

Warning: This post might challenge your thoughts, commitment and decisions. Read at your own RISK.

A couple of days ago I posted this to my Facebook status:

“Will I ever have to jump off a cliff? …will God ever ask me to jump off a cliff?” – Missy, The Shack. What if God asked you to jump off a cliff? Would you? Good questions to ask. Difficult ones to answer. Of course, “jumping off a cliff” might translate into different things to different people, depending on their circumstances.

I have begun to read The Shack, apparently a book that has evoked many a debate. Seeing that people had much to say about it’s controversial content, I decided to read it with an open mind and slowly plough through it, taking time to chew the cud on every thought rather than just read it cover to cover. The quote above was the first of many interesting thoughts that I paused to ponder over.

I wonder how often we expect God to ask us to jump off a cliff, to take a risk. Not very often, I must admit. As far as most of us are concerned, we content ourselves with thoughts and songs of assurance of our safety and God’s protection over us – good things, no doubt, and very necessary. Here are a few lyrics I can think of immediately:

“I’m so secure, you’re here with me…

So close I believe, You’re holding me now

In Your hands I belong

You’ll never let me go…”

“Safe am I, safe am I

In the hollow of His hand

Sheltered o’er, sheltered o’er

With His love forever more

No foe can harm me

No fear alarm me

For He keeps both day and night.”

Often times I sing these songs to myself when I need assurance of God’s protection over me. It’s very comforting to know and feel that God has engraved me in the palms of His hands. But then, as I ponder over these thoughts, I also wonder about the practicalities of being in God’s hands and Him never letting go. I mean, doesn’t He have a zillion other things to do with His hands? Like fishing someone out of deep water or miry clay… or reaching out to touch and heal someone with leprosy… or holding his hands out against a storm… or breaking loaves of bread… or getting nailed to a cross??? These are just instances found in the Bible… and man, if I am to be in God’s hands with Him never letting go all the while, I really don’t think I would be as comfortable or “safe and secure” as one would imagine! Think about it! It’s going to get pretty uncomfortable for me… by placing myself in His hands, I am also making myself vulnerable to circumstances and situations that He chooses to use His hands for… and that undoubtedly means many great risks. Is that something I am willing to put myself through? Ha! Who would imagine that “security” in God’s dictionary is more often than not spelled R-I-S-K??? Are you even sure you want to be held so close in His hands right now? 🙂

I think it’s high time anyone who is serious about their commitment to Christ evaluate all that it truly involves and choose for himself/herself the road he/she will take. That is my challenge to anyone who might read this post.

I say this having faced my share of “risk” and having jumped off a cliff not too long ago. For me, it translated into leaving my comfort zone and stepping out into new territory without any idea as to how things would go or what the future held for me. For sure, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, and not everyone understood why I had to do what I had to do. I know that to date, some think I made a big mistake and may even be angry with me or hold ill feelings against me for the choices I made. Others who could see to the heart of the issues knew better and have supported me and prayed for me all along. For a long while I did not want to face the rest of humanity, save a handful of near and dear, for fear of what they would think or say and the questions I would be asked. If anything, my situation seemed to only go from bad to worse. In fact, at one point, every step I had climbed up to that point and every strong pillar in my life began to crumble and fall, so much so that I had no where else to reach out and cling on to for dear life but above.

P1010703

P1010704However, looking back, I can now see that God honoured me for the decision I made to do what He asked me to do unquestioningly. I don’t want to boast about my deeds, but God’s faithfulness to me despite my many mistakes and shortcomings. All it required was my obedience no matter what, and He worked all things (including those mistakes and shortcomings) out for my good although I could not see or know that then.

I can also testify that being in God’s hands has been as thrilling as a roller coaster ride, if not more. You never know what to expect, what God will ask you to do next, where He will send you, and whom or what you will have to encounter. If you’re an adventurous person, I’d say it’s the real deal!

Christine Caine from Hillsong Australia has been doing a series on “Stop Acting Like a Christian & Be One!” at LifeChurch. A lot of challenging thoughts, and this week’s challenge has been to be willing to take that risk, to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to go where God sends you and do what He asks you to do – no matter what it takes. She shared about how many times she herself has merely escaped bomb blasts and terrorist attacks with the kind of work she is involved in. Not quite what any of us think is part of our “calling” – something we prefer to leave to others with that kind of calling to do. “As for me, I’ll just sit here behind this desk… sure, I can pray for those who face such risks… isn’t that the best thing I can do?” Well, I hate to say that if God has truly called you, it is NOT without risk. There is always something we are asked to do that we are not quite comfortable doing… it’s a daily choice we make for ourselves, either to walk in obedience to Him or weave our own ways of folly and miss out on the wonderful things He has in store for us.

I remember vaguely reading this story about a guy who went rock climbing and as night came, lost his grip and fell. He hung on to his rope for many hours in the dark, always fearing the worst and praying God would somehow save him. To his surprise, He heard God audibly tell him to let go of the rope. “What??? You can’t be serious!” was his response, and he continued to hang on to the rope that would likely snap and give way to his weight any moment. And so he hung that way in fear and dread, almost freezing himself to death, not to mention starvation, all night long. When dawn finally broke, he looked around to see if he could find a way to safety, and much to his amazement, he found that he was hanging a mere 3 feet off the ground! If only he had listened to God’s voice and let go of the rope, he would most certainly have foregone the nightlong torture he had put himself through. How foolish he had been to discredit God’s voice and choose his own folly instead!

I’ll wrap up with that thought. I don’t know which person reading this post today might be standing atop a cliff, with God asking you to jump off. Like I mentioned in my Facebook status, it might translate to different people into different things, depending on their circumstances and situations. If you’re that person atop the cliff today, what would you do? Are you willing to take that leap of faith in obedience?

I am a VIP!

This is a post that ought to have been written on August 25th, 2009, when these thoughts first came to me, but I didn’t quite get the chance to. The exact same thing happened to me again last Friday, so I figured it was something I simply had to post before I forgot about it or the thoughts became too stale in my mind.

I was riding down from Ooty to the Coimbatore Airport in order to fly to Delhi on work. My regular driver, Wilson, was away on another trip so he sent me another driver with whom I had had a bad experience earlier because of his rash driving. Wilson reassured me that he had cautioned this driver to drive properly, and if that was not enough, my Mom told him to drive “slow” around the curves. He drove “slow” alright – so slow that a few minutes later, and I might have missed my flight! But part of that wasn’t his fault. All the way from hairpin bend #1 to the foothills of Mettupalayam, he had no option but to drive slow. Just ahead of us we had a VIP entourage of 6 vehicles – 5 SUVs and 1 sedan – that apparently belonged to some big-shot MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) of Tamil Nadu. The DMK flags flew atop the hoods of every one of the cars except the police patrol vehicle, and we were forced to follow with absolutely no option of overtaking them. My driver might have been frustrated, but was at least smart enough to take advantage of our white car and his white uniform. We tailed them as if we were part of the convoy, allowing for us to overtake other vehicles that had slowed down or pulled over to allow the entourage to pass. The other vehicles, of course, assumed that we were part of the convoy (I wish I had dressed more formally to add to the effect :p) and allowed us to pass without so much as a raised eyebrow. I did, at times, even draw the curious looks of those that might have assumed I was the MLA’s daughter or something. 🙂

Somehow, riding at the tail of that convoy made me feel very privileged and important, as if it demanded that I hold my head a little higher than usual and carry myself in a more dignified manner. I do not mean to sound arrogant or proud here, but with the look of awe that some people gave me, and the realization that they assumed I was a VIP, I couldn’t help but smile inwardly. Then, as has often been the case lately, I felt that check post drop in front of me yet again.

“I am a VIP!”

“Yeah, right! Posing as one, you mean.”

“Oh, come on… let me enjoy the thrill of it while it lasts!”

“Silly girl! Don’t you realize that you are more of a VIP than you think you are?”

“Huh??? Really?”

“Janie, have you forgotten that you are a daughter of the King of Kings, a Princess?”

So true and yet easily forgotten.

I recollected the first time that realization had dawned on me. I must have been about 15, at my rebellious worst and forced to attend a teens camp held by the church I grew up in but had long since stopped attending, simply because my Dad was one of the speakers and my Mom had volunteered to be one of the leaders for the girls. I was put in a group with girls much younger than me because the older group was full of college girls, and I was the only girl that was in between. As the oldest in my group, I had to take charge and be more responsible, setting a good example.

I remember I overcame my fear of large spiders that year. Yes, I had to work up the courage to kill not one, but two huge spiders (and chase out the third) that were contentedly boarding and lodging in our bathroom. And when I say large, I mean large – they were some 3-4 inches in diameter, no kidding. That’s beside the point though…

Back to the point – I don’t quite remember which of the speakers dealt with the topic of our Identity in Christ. I don’t even remember the rest of the sessions. I only remember the sessions my Dad taught, the topics he taught, his “gospel magic” performances that always awed the audience and got them arguing over dinner as to how the tricks were done, even begging him to teach them his tricks. I have always remembered most of my Dad’s sermons because I idolized him for one, and also because he always taught profound truths so simply and in ways one could easily remember, often using acronyms or words that began with the same letter. I ought not to digress yet again. :p

So… basically what one of the speakers taught us was about how important we are to God, how much He cares for us as individuals, and how unique he has made each one of us. I think that must have been the first time I heard about each of us having thumbprints that are so unique, and that there is not a single person in the world who has the exact same thumbprint as me. I thought that was pretty cool, and it sure did make me feel very special. Although I don’t remember much else, I do remember that on the last day when we were asked to share about anything that had impacted us deeply during the camp, I stood up and shared about how this one topic had touched me and ended my speech in tears! Lol! Ok, but seriously, it did mean a lot to me at the time because I had been going through issues of low self-esteem – something every teen encounters at some point, I suppose.

I suppose? No, I know for sure, thanks to the piles of research done by Metadigm for OneHope. Having sat through several “Strategic Planning” sessions to plan on new products for India based on Metadigm’s research, I know for a fact that the value of an individual is probably the #1 issue that comes up over and over in India. It’s so sad that most of us grow up here in India with little sense of value, more so for a girl child. Interestingly, I even found that there is no accurate way to tell someone, “You are valuable/valued.” in Tamil. (If someone well versed in Tamil knows a way to say that, do kindly let me know.) The common words for “value” in the language usually refer to value more in terms of price (vilai, madhipu). Any wonder why children don’t feel valued at all? Or why a child is more likely to feel like an “object” rather than a “person” who is loved and valued?

The topic is quite deep, and one that I could go on about endlessly, having been there-felt that myself many a time. Not that once we cross our teens such tendencies magically disappear either… certain situations and phases all our lives can get us to the point of feeling worthless. Although I wasn’t going through one of those phases, it was a good reminder to me twice in the last two weeks that I am a VIP in Christ… that as a child of God and His very own creation, I am accepted, loved and valued… that He loved me enough to go to the extent of sacrificing His own son’s life so that I could live my life abundantly and to the fullest… “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” I can’t help but break out into David’s beautiful Psalm at this point.

Psalm 139:1-16

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

These words never fail to assure me of my importance to God; these and His sweet words whispered to me in the stillness, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jer.31:3) I have betrothed you to myself…

“I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name. You are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

“You are precious and honoured in my sight… I love you…” (Isaiah 43:4)

More importantly, John 1:12 says, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” That assurance alone is more than enough for me to know no matter how I feel, where I’ve been or what I’ve done, I can hold my head up high and carry myself like a Princess, a child of the Most High God – and I don’t refer to pride, but the confidence that comes from knowing that I am loved and valued – and that I am indeed a VIP!

kite_runner

I’ve been catching up on all the reading I missed out on the last several years for a variety of reasons (mostly time, resources and other distractions) and just got done with The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Having already watched the last quarter of the film I imagined I had spoiled it for myself, but on the contrary I must say I quite enjoyed the latter half of the book. It has been one of the best-written fictions from the East that I have read in a while (that list including The White Tiger, Slumdog Millionaire or Q & A, and Three Mistakes of My Life). I must also add that I appreciate that Hosseini could describe rather dark incidents without the grossness that authors like Aravind Adiga thrive on, a grossness that completely puts me off.

The book to a large extent deals with the father-son relationship and the concept of redemption. Usually books affect my mind and sort of have a cathartic effect on me, particularly because I tend to identify with some character in the book. This time, however, the character I identified the most with was probably Sohrab who makes his entry only in the last few chapters of the book. The reason being, in the past I too have often slept my worries off, or chosen silence over communication… I too have merely resigned myself to my fate, like a lamb lead to the slaughter and felt “tired”, as in sick and tired of life, wishing I could have my old life back. But no, I have never attempted suicide or even considered it an option. I am thankful I no longer feel that way, my life having radically taken a turn for the better. Still, I could understand Sohrab’s character and emotions more than any other.

Quite a few times in the book I stopped to think about how different my values are compared to some of those related in the book, particular the concept of redemption that runs like a jugular vein through the entire story. The extent to which Amir had to go to redeem himself in the book is rather sad… sure, it makes a good story, and I applaud the fact that he was able to give Sohrab a new lease of life almost at the cost of his own, but Amir’s main motivation being one of self-redemption worries me.

The concept of being redeemed by our deeds is something I have never been able to bring myself to terms with. To me, it completely defies the very existence of God and His work in our lives. At the least, it makes God out to me a mean, unforgiving being who derives sadistic pleasure from our suffering – an image of God I simply cannot and will not accept simply because it is too bizarre to be true. I have always been taught and do firmly believe that Christ Himself redeemed us by shedding His blood for us on the cross, thereby paying the penalty of death for our sins once and for all. There is nothing more we can do to be “redeemed”, other than believing in what Christ did.

I found the following stuff on redemption on www.gotquestions.org:

Everyone is in need of redemption. Our natural condition was characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Christ’s redemption has freed us from guilt, being “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

The benefits of redemption include eternal life (Revelation 5:9-10), forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7), righteousness (Romans 5:17), freedom from the law’s curse (Galatians 3:13), adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:5), deliverance from sin’s bondage (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:14-18), peace with God (Colossians 1:18-20), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). To be redeemed, then, is to be forgiven, holy, justified, free, adopted, and reconciled. See also Psalm 130:7-8; Luke 2:38; and Acts 20:28.

The word redeem means “to buy out.” The term was used specifically in reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom. The application of this term to Christ’s death on the cross is quite telling. If we are “redeemed,” then our prior condition was one of slavery. God has purchased our freedom, and we are no longer in bondage to sin or to the Old Testament law. This metaphorical use of “redemption” is the teaching of Galatians 3:13 and 4:5.

Related to the Christian concept of redemption is the word ransom. Jesus paid the price for our release from sin and its consequences (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). His death was in exchange for our life. In fact, Scripture is quite clear that redemption is only possible “through His blood,” that is, by His death (Colossians 1:14).

The streets of heaven will be filled with former captives who, through no merit of their own, find themselves redeemed, forgiven, and free. Slaves to sin have become saints. No wonder we will sing a new song—a song of praise to the Redeemer who was slain (Revelation 5:9). We were slaves to sin, condemned to eternal separation from God. Jesus paid the price to redeem us, resulting in our freedom from slavery to sin and our rescue from the eternal consequences of that sin.

I am fully aware that to many minds, the idea of one NOT having to DO anything in order to be redeemed is practically unthinkable. There has to be SOMETHING I’ve got to do in order to redeem myself from my mistakes and my sins! Well, I’ve got both good news and bad news for those who think that way. The bad news first: there is NOTHING you or any other human can do on your behalf in order for you to be redeemed. The good news: “There is a way to be good again” – because Jesus has already done EVERYTHING that could ever be done to redeem you – it’s simply a matter of accepting that and walking in that faith. Too easy? Well, yes it is… And I thank God, He made it so easy for me to be free of my past, to no longer be bound by my sins, to be forgiven, to be redeemed! Today, no matter where I’ve been, no matter what I’ve done I can hold my head up high and live my life to the fullest, knowing that Christ has already paid the price and has set me free.

That said, I don’t mean to say that had I been in Amir’s position I would not have made the effort to rescue Sohrab and give him a good life. The difference would have been that my intention of doing that would not have been to redeem myself. Rather, I would be doing it simply out of love for another human, the same self-sacrificing love that Christ was an example of, the love that caused Him to lay Himself down so that I could be free, the love that Christ not only commanded to show a fellow-human but also flows through my very being, with Christ Himself as the centre of it.

I know all of this probably sounds strange to some. The other day I was confronted by someone on Facebook who commented on my friend’s status about having had a great talk with Jesus. Her comment was, “You make Jesus sound like a real person!” and my response was, “But He is a real person! He lives… He walks with me and talks with me… you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!” I was on fire that moment, and all I longed for was for the other person to see how true and real Jesus is to my friend and to me… I wanted her to experience it too. And that still is my prayer for the millions across the world who have never had that experience. I pray that people will be able to taste of it themselves and know it is true and real, to find forgiveness, release, acceptance, freedom, redemption, and a “way to be good again” in and through Jesus!

MercyMe – I Can Only Imagine

I spent a good morning just sitting in the Presence of the Lord, listening to good worship songs, singing aloud now and then, breaking down in tears more often than not, and just letting Him speak to my heart and minister to me. I cherish these times that I spend with Him alone in the quiet of my little attic and even long for solitude so I can forget all else and focus only on Him without any distractions and detractions. There’s nothing quite like resting secure and at peace in His embrace, letting Him breathe life and love into my spirit, strength and healing into my body. It always leaves me feeling fresh and free, kind of like having taken a long cool shower in the peak of summer, only much better.

The last couple of days He’s been speaking to me about “being still”. Stuff out of my old blog posts reminded me that I ought not to be anxious and worried, trying to make things happen the way I saw best, but rather to be still, stop trying to figure things out, and just let God be God. He often silences my folly saying, “My thoughts and ways are higher than yours.” So this morning as I listened to Don Moen’s “Still” (one of my all-time favourites), my prayer was, “Lord, let me soar with you on wings like eagles, far above all of my circumstances, my worries, my fears… Give me an aerial view… let me see things through Your eyes… and Father, not my will, but Your’s be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Heaven. Ah! Thoughts and songs about Heaven always make me teary-eyed these days. (Here we go again!) I just can’t help imagining that along with all the angels, Daddy must be singing, dancing, playing his harmonica or violin or saw (or whatever heavenly instrument fancies him), worshipping God before His throne. I am reminded over and over of the few lines I wrote to encourage him on his deathbed… He wanted us to sing him “In His presence is fullness of joy”, and not knowing any such song, I made up some lines and sent them to Him. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but I know they spoke of being in His presence, bowing at His feet, worshipping Him, joining the angels in a song, and finding rest and healing… little did I know then that that’s exactly what Daddy would be doing in a couple more days.

As much as I am thankful that Daddy does not have to suffer from his debilitating disease any more, I do miss his quiet presence back home. Home has just not been the same without him. Every time I travel on work and return, a feeling of dread comes over me at having to return to a home without Daddy. Although he spoke little, there was always his touch to everything at home – be it in the garden, or the kitchen or the living room. His knowledge and love of living things was a reflection of how God cares for his creation. I see the rotting bee-hive and wonder who will have the guts to brave the bees and extract honey now. I listen to the wood pigeon and wonder who will teach me to identify the bird not just by its song but by its plumage as well. I taste the passion fruit and wish so much he were here to taste it too. I’ve always boasted about a Dad who is good at jams, jellies, juices and wines… His jars of fermenting fruit still lie around like mementoes of his existence… as do his insulin syringes and numerous medications, for that matter.

One of my deepest sorrows is the fact that Daddy didn’t live to walk me down the aisle, or see me happily married, or be a loving grandpa to my children. Those were some of the desires I had and sincerest prayers I prayed, knowing full well that his health was fast deteriorating. I wanted Daddy to teach my children the songs, stories and tricks he taught me… a wish that must now be forgotten, or hopefully someone else like my brother can fulfil in his place.

It’s somehow hard to believe Daddy is no longer here with us, although it has been well over 7 months now. I still prefer to imagine he has just gone on a trip somewhere and we’ll see him again soon (which is true in a sense). I found a postcard he had written me while on his ministry trip to Amsterdam. He had gone to attend a Billy Graham conference along with other Christian leaders from around the world way back in 1986. I was only 4 then. The postcard had a picture of the plane he was flying on, and he wrote about how beautiful the sky and the clouds looked from up there, that he hoped I was being a good girl, that he missed me and loved me. I can only imagine him communicating similar thoughts to me right now… how beautiful heaven must be, how much he misses me and loves me…

I miss you and love you too, D’dy! I wish I could see you again soon… I wish I had had more time with you before you left… I wish I could have been by your side your last few hours instead of continents away… I wish God had worked a miracle and made you well, like we all prayed and believed… I wish He had even raised you from the dead… I wish soooooo… many things! There’s so much I wish I could tell you but I figure you probably know, being in heaven and all… like the last time I saw you alive… the last hug I gave you, as my tears expressed unspoken words of sadness at having to leave you, and regret at having disappointed you deeply… the last time we took a walk together on the street, as you struggled every few steps… the last wave goodbye as the train pulled out, and that gut feeling that told me it was the last time I would ever see you again. All I wanted to do right then was jump out the train and run back to you… but instead I just cried from sheer grief all night. I think I cried then what I could not cry once you had actually gone. I recall the last few nights I spent at home with you, and how you struggled through those restless nights, complaining of chest pain and discomfort in addition to your other ailments… if you heard me cry quiet tears you probably imagined I was crying over love lost, but I cried those tears simply knowing you were slipping away from us. Joel’s birthday dinner was the first time it hit me, that I might not have you around for very much longer… I recorded you playing the harmonica on my little digital camera, and remember feeling annoyed that no one paid attention to your playing and didn’t even realize the gravity of those moments. Something told me right then that those moments were precious and I would never hear you play again. I wonder why I couldn’t have taken more pictures of you with us before I left… I wish now that I had…

The wishes and why’s are many… I know I will never know the answer to some of them while on this earth… I know it is only God’s grace and strength that has pulled all of us through the last several months. Even as I write this, I refuse to accept the sight of your frozen, lifeless body in the casket, or the image of you buried 6 feet under. To me, you continue to live on in my heart and memories… and I’m thankful above all else, that I know for sure you’re in the Lord’s presence where there is fullness of joy – that was your testimony. I continue to grieve even as I try to reconcile myself to the loss because as a mere human, and as “Daddy’s girl” I miss you. You taught me so much through your life and struggles, and were a living example of faith against all odds. You have left behind a legacy with standards that measure way above anything I can imagine myself living up to. But I hope I can someday soar above them… I hope you will look down on me from heaven, smiling and a proud father. I owe you so much. I know you’re in a safe place and in safe hands, and the same hands that carried you now carry me towards my destiny and calling. What exactly that will be, and what challenges I will have to face to get there I do not yet know… but I know I’m in a time of preparation and healing… a time of filling so when the time is right I can pour out what has been poured in… a time to learn, cry, forgive, let go… a time to draw closer to Him, and let Him draw closer to me… to let Him fill the empty hole that was once my Daddy by taking over as my Abba Father, Almighty Daddy. I am aware that many things I do not know or understand now I will in the future… until then, I am content to rest in my Heavenly Father’s arms and let Him lead me through life’s path.

I had put off writing anything about Daddy all this while, knowing it would be a painful exercise, one that would bring forth an endless issue of emotions and tears, one that would needless to say be a difficult one for me. I don’t quite know how I ended up writing about this, having begun with quite another thing… but I feel a sense of relief, having given vent to myself and my pent-up feelings. I feel somewhat encouraged, just knowing that though Daddy is not around anymore I have my Abba Daddy to take care of me, provide for me, teach me far greater things than my own Daddy might ever have taught me (not to discount all that Daddy did teach me or the wealth of knowledge I missed out on)… I know it will take many more such writing sessions, and times alone with God to stop grieving… and I don’t know if I will ever completely stop grieving, really… just because there’s nothing that can completely replace Daddy and what he meant to me… but in time, I guess I will heal and stop feeling the pain as much… something only time will tell… for now perhaps I must end my rambling and go back to resting in His presence. Am not sure what to call this piece, so I think I will just title it, “Of a Good God and Grief…” since that’s what it’s about.

The Withered Sapling

sapling_new_life(Found this among some old files that I was looking through. I had probably written it some time in the year 2007 or 2008.)

Picture a relationship like this:

A little sapling that quickly sprouted and grew a few centimetres off the ground, but then it was cut off from air, water and light. Air being communication, light being closeness/togetherness/intimacy that comes from sharing good quality times together, and water of course being very biblical, and relating to time spent seeking God and in fellowship with Him… rooting the relationship firmly in the word.

As a result, like any normal plant, it will slowly dry up, wither and eventually die unless it is nurtured and allowed to grow.

At such a stage, expecting the little sapling to bud, blossom or bear fruit is unreasonable.

So how can we make the sapling grow, considering the dire circumstances? Sunlight once in 2/3 months… very limited air that is often polluted and does more harm than good to the plant… (due to misunderstandings so frequently caused by the limitations of communication through technology)…

  1. It would be good to make best use of the sunlight whenever it’s available rather than crib about the days without sun… look forward to days of fun in the sun… and save up whatever chlorophyll there is for such a time, so that the plant can grow in closeness/togetherness/intimacy…
  2. Filter the air of its pollutants because you don’t want the little air there is to cause harm… that means filtering communication… making sure one communicates clearly, honestly and in love…
  3. And of course water… the only thing that is readily available but seldom made use of… if only it is used, it is the elixir of life… Praying for each other is good, but each one needs to spend time individually rooting yourselves in God’s word, seeking Him for guidance and asking Him to make you what He wants you to be… so then when the two are together they can continue building on their firm foundation… both praying together can do wonders for any relationship.

Note well: Too much of sunlight and the sapling will dry up in the heat and die… too much of air alone and the sapling will probably get blown over in the storm and die… too much of water alone and the sapling will get washed away in the flood… so there needs to be an equal balance for the sapling to mature and grow.

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