Back to basics

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so no one can boast

So, I am back. I have been travelling to the highest mountains and deepest valleys in my mind, trying to grasp and picture and foresee a future that is not even my own, trying to chase after the Truth, just so that I could put it in a box. Did it work? Not at all. I have found myself exhausted, discouraged, anxious, chased after by the pressure of coming up with results and creating solutions. Because, as I have done so many times before, I was relying on my own strength, my own abilities to climb that mountain and pass through that valley, where I thought I would magically find the hidden treasures that hold the answers to my questions and fears. The map that I was using to give me direction is made up of those twisted and confusing half-truths of a world that offers solutions everywhere we look, yet each and every turn we take according to that map leads us further away from the only Treasure that is ever worth finding. And it is not even hidden, It is in plain sight, and it has found me a long time ago. I am the one who has been hiding behind complicated thinking and complex strategies to avoid having to trust.
God is doing a work in me
He’s walking through my rooms and halls
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light
And I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
Not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become
Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises that I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self, and my old mistakes
It seems easier Living out my life in Christ
For those do not know it
To hide the thorn stuck in my side
And all my secret faults
But you know me well
And it’s you I want the most to see
And recognize the changes
A word from you empowers me
To press on for my goal
Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises that I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self, and my old mistakes
When I feel condemned to live my old life
Remind me I’ve been given a new life in Christ
(Sara Groves - Help me be new)

So, I am back. Back here in this place where there is nothing else left to do but trust, and have faith. Back to the basics of relationship with the One Who holds all the answers that I could ever need. It is a good place to be. A peaceful one, full of grace.

 Ezekiel 34:6, 11-12:

My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: " I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all of the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness."

26.6.08 09:53

Life Saver and Island Builder

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
1 Samuel 20:41-42
After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.
Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.
Eccl. 4:10
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Friendship. With all its nuances, its definitions, its range of emotions, is still one of the simplest and most precious gifts of all. Because at the heart of it is a Christ-like love, the kind that enables you to let go of any selfish ambitions, the kind that let’s your heart break over tears that are not even your own, the kind that allows you to become more than you could ever be without that love in your life. If I would ever have to measure the quality of my life, I would pick “friendships” as the unit of measurement. It is the one area that, looking back, even years before I ever knew the Lord, I can see God’s provision and faithfulness most clearly. What I haven’t quite figured out is the letting-go part – the settling into the seasons that every friendship is naturally subjected to, the knowing when a lack of contact, a lack of connection, is simply a result of seasonal change or an indication that the purposes God had for this friendship have been fulfilled and it is time to move on.
It seems like every time I get comfortable in a place, in relationships, in the friendships that define particular seasons and challenges and growth periods of my life, God urges me to move on. I kick and scream and am ready to start a fight for defending the boundaries of my little comfort island, until that small voice starts speaking up, that gentle voice that wants to remind me of the sources of my identity. It is the voice of Him Who knows me so well as to foresee that I need to be lured away from my comfort island that's made up of people so close to my heart. The voice of the One Who throws me back into the open waters, so that I can remember that the only One to throw me a life saver or even build me a new island is not of flesh and blood.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.


24.6.08 14:23

Generation Y

Psalm 24
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
       the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
       and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
       Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
       who does not lift up his soul to an idol
       or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
       and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
       who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
When I look at my generation, so often I see a huge passiveness. Apathy. Defiance. We complain a lot, and we have opinions about everything, but we are not willing to invest effort into any kind of change. We, the children of the Babyboomers and Generation X’ers, who were defined by their political activity and involvement to rebuild a broken world after WW II, hide behind computer and TV screens and are proud of an “individualism” that slowly but surely kills any leftover social competence in us. That is NOT the community that God calls us to, and it makes me sad to see that my generation contributes so much to shape paths that so obviously lead away from the kind of life that we were designed to have. No wonder rates of mental disorders are sky-rocketing as the gap between the relational hearts that we were created with and the opportunities to have these hearts feed on one another’s compassion and empathy is getting wider and wider.
We cannot forget that we aren’t powerless. Each and every one of us has been equipped by God to make a difference, to have an impact, to change injustice. It is my fervent prayer – for my generation, and for the life that I am building with my fiancée, a wonderful man after God’s heart, to be a generation, to be a people who seek the face of God. That we might stop lifting up our souls to the false idols of this world, and refocus on the only One Who is worthy to sit on the throne of our lives. That we might honor this earth that has been given to us in all its beauty by the Lord Who “has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” A generation that can pass on blessings, and not curses, to its children. It starts today with the decisions we make. It starts with each and every one of us and our obedience to the Creator. But it doesn’t end there. Those small blessings, by His mighty Hands, are multiplied as we live our lives in community with and in selfless service to one another.


Vergesset nicht
wir reisen gemeinsam

besteigen Berge
pflücken Himbeeren
lassen uns tragen
von den vier Winden

Vergesset nicht
es ist unsre
gemeinsame Welt
die ungeteilte
ach die geteilte

die uns aufblühen läßt
die uns vernichtet
diese zerrissene
ungeteilte Erde
auf der wir
gemeinsam reisen

(Rose Ausländer)

20.6.08 11:19


Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
    according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned 
   and done what is evil in your sight, 
   so that you are proved right when you speak 
   and justified when you judge.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation 
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Renewal. A concept God brings my attention to quite often. Oh, we can ignore our sins so easily sometimes, qualifying them as “little” and justifying them in light of our overall, what we perceive as a “healthy”, spiritual life. Satan is constantly trying to distract us, to turn our attention away from God. And he is very smart, and sometimes very subtle and patient in his pursuits of distractions. The late TV night a couple of times a week that take the place of my prayer and bible study time. Ignoring that call from a friend because I just don’t feel like I can handle one more phone call, one more prayer request. The conversation about a co-worker that turns into a “can you believe she did that” gossip-fest. The seemingly fleeting thoughts of envy, judgement, and disapproval about how people around me live their lives that manifest themselves in my mind and that finally find expression in my speech and action. The “I-am-superior-to-you-because-I-have-overcome-that-struggle-years-ago” thinking that enters my complacent mind while I talk to a struggling brother or sister.
The problem here is that sin is sin, at least with regard to eternal consequences. And no matter how little it is, it’s big enough to keep us away from God. Romans 6:23 says that  “the wages of sin is death”. Sin takes on as many shapes and sizes as we allow Satan’s creativity to win the battle over our human insecurities. Our minds are spiritual battlefields, and they need constant renewal in Christ.
Who can “wash away all my inequities and cleanse me from my sin”? Only the blood of Christ, and He paid an immense prize for it. And it is only at the cross that we can find this renewal of mind, and only when we acknowledge the sacrifice that was made for it. Romans 6:23 has a second part to it: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Only an almighty and merciful God can create a salvation in which renewal, something so beautiful, is the result of the greatest sacrifice ever made.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

19.6.08 13:55

Children of light

I have been thinking a lot about the "how's" of Christianity lately. "How" are we to act, speak, think, live as believers? What are the responsibilities we carry walking this world as image bearers of a perfect Savior? Of course, one could write an entire dissertation on these things and still not provide a conclusive answer, but what came to mind were a few "live as" and "live for" phrases in Scripture.
Ephesians 5:8 says: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
We are to live "as children of light". That means living with a full awareness that we are shining His light if we allow Him to shine through us, and if we're willing to give Him the glory.
In Luke 11:35, Jesus warns us: "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness" because "the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble" (Proverbs 4:19). Fighting the darkness by letting God use us to be reflectors of His light, which is the hope in His Son.
1 Peter 2:16: Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.
We are to live "as free men", in a constant awareness of the freedom we have in Christ, yet not using that same freedom as an excuse to keep living in the dark, trusting that we have a place in Heaven. With our salvation comes a profound change of heart towards the things of God, and a conviction that makes it almost impossible to continue in the darkness. The freedom is in Jesus unlocking that door that previously kept us in darkness. It is in knowing the truth by faith, and radically living in the paths of that truth.
2 Corinthians 5:15: And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Jesus died SO THAT we "should no longer live for" ourselves! There comes that responsibility, and it goes right back to the OT commands. We are alive in Christ not for our own pleasure first and formost, but to bring glory to HIS name. The joy that comes with this is so much bigger than any self-centered motives could ever bring us.
Galatians 2:19: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Living for God. No commentary needed

1 Peter 2:24: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Living for righteousness. Not our own, but the one that was given to us in Christ.
Ok, these are by no means comprehensive ideas....just snippets of thoughts that are running through my less-than-organized mind. To be the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on this.

18.6.08 15:14

Hiding place

Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place;

you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I love this verse. And the beautiful symbolism of it. Lord, you are my hiding place. The place where there is always peace that transcends understanding. The place where we turn to when people attack us with the twisted half-truths of this fallen world, the place where we seek solace after we wake up from nightmares that we just don't seem to be able to shake off, even after hours of being awake.
This is one of the most powerful ways God speaks to me, by surrounding me with songs of deliverance. Reminders of Jesus' blood that covers my sins, reminders of the blood that bought me from a place of darkness to bring me into an evershining light. Reminders that I find in the Scripture, in prayer, in poetry, in music. Songs he puts in my heart when I need a hiding place.


18.6.08 15:11

Painting pictures of Egypt

As my time here in Basel is quickly drawing to an end, I find myself once again in this dichotomy of excitement for what's ahead and a sadness in the face of leaving behind the life that I know. Sara Groves' song "Painting Pictures of Egypt" is my constant mind companion because it describes this state of "in between" the not-yet and not-anymore so perfectly:

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable when you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I"ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

If it comes too quick I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

Saying goodbye to a church, to a people, that I hold so dear to my heart.
To a community that God put in my life at a time when I had no idea yet how many ways there are to serve, to be blessed, to grow. Heading into an unknown future that is entirely in God's hands. I have done this twice before, once holding on to God's promises, once when I didn't know Him yet. There was a world of a difference in these two experiences. To walk into a future that you know nothing about is scary, but knowing the One Who holds that future in His hands makes it a lot less daunting.

It makes me think of Moses and the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt. Moses was leading a people of more than 600.000, by nothing else than faith. He and his people endured hardship, and persecution, and famine, yet simply because God is who He is, He showed up more than once in incredible ways. He parted the Red Sea for them when they were surrounded by the pharao's army, with no option to escape. Yet, they quickly forgot about this miracle He had performed for them and found things to complain about. Sounds very familiar. Then, when they arrived at the mountain of God, He shows up once again - this time as an audible voice! - and makes a covenant with them. The kind of covenant I joined into when Jesus showed up in my own life. So - what exactly am I worried about? The same God who parted the Red Sea for the Israelites is the God who will build that bridge between my present and my future. The God who will provide space and opportunity for the things He's been teaching me, and continues to challenge me in.
Exodus 15:11, 13
Who among the godsis like you, O LORD ?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?
In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
18.6.08 15:11

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