To Sit by His Side

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Him and said, “Teacher, we want You to do something for us if we ask You.”

“What do you want Me to do for you? He asked them.

They answered Him, “Allow us to sit at Your right and at Your left in Your glory.”

~Mark 10:35-37

 

With a shout Jesus descended, His angels around,

And gathered His faithful from the sea, sky, and ground.

 

“Who will sit by His sword-pierced side?”

Was a question raised far and wide.

 

James turned to John, “Dear brother, surely that honor belongs to you.

Many years you toiled, the gospel to carry,

And to you Jesus entrusted the care of His beloved mother Mary.”

 

“No brother,” John replied, “that honor is far too great for me,

To sit next to our Jesus, the slain Lamb so holy.”

John looked at James, his eyes tender and true,

“But my dear brother,” he exclaimed, “may it be you!

You were killed by King Herod’s sword

For boldly following our dear Lord.”

 

James simply shook his head,

“But remember, John,” he said, “that Passover night I turned and fled?

Our Jesus was taken, beaten, mocked, and tried,

Yet all I could do was run and hide.

Oh no, I am not worthy to sit by His precious side.”

 

So James and John went to their friend Peter.

“Old friend,” John said, “many years we spent as fisherman by the sea,

Until that day when Jesus called you, James, Andrew, and me.

Right then we cast our nets aside

And abandoned that familiar shore’s tide.

We walked and talked as Jesus healed and taught.

Oft’ we were terrified and confused,

And you, dear Peter, never stopped and mused.

Yet the true identity of Jesus you were the first to unlock,

And from that day you were known as Peter, the ‘Rock.’

Sometimes you did get on our nerves,

But to sit next to His side, you truly deserve.”

 

Peter instead boisterously cried,

“Friends, my dear brothers in Christ,

Don’t you remember not once, not twice, but thrice

My Lord I did deny.

That seat is far too great for a lowly fisherman such as I.

But there is another whose eyes the Lord did open

And for our Savior he was beaten and broken.”

 

 

Peter, James, and John then approached Paul,

The man who once was formerly known as Saul.

 

 

Peter spoke on behalf of the group when he said,

“Paul my friend, fellow servant of Christ,

For His great name you suffered and bled.

You counted all things as loss

Except to know the One who hung from that cross.

Much time you spent with Timothy, Mark, and Luke

And you boldly spoke when I needed a sharp rebuke.

You proclaimed the good news to both Jews and Gentiles

And for this reason you traveled thousands of miles.

Dear Paul, you faithfully wrote the churches letter after letter,

So for these reasons, to sit next to Christ, no man could be better!”

 

Paul faced them, “May it never be,”

He replied. “For I am unworthy to sit next to one such as He.

‘Tis true, all my sins are forgiven by the gift of God’s grace

And for many years I did run a good earthly race.

But brothers, don’t you remember how the early church I did persecute?

This honor should go to the one who praised God with harp and lute!”

 

Paul then left that company of three

And went to find David, the King,

Who before the Lord would dance and sing.

 

“David,” Paul said, “from the time you were a shepherd boy

The Lord was your strength and your joy.

Out of all of your brothers, the Lord chose you,

So young and handsome, so brave and true.

Your music was beautiful when on the harp you did play

So King Saul sent word to your father to demand that you stay.

By faith you defeated the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone.

The Lord was with you and the light of victory shone.

Saul became jealous so you had to flee for your life.

But the Lord’s hand protected you from spear and knife.

Your victories were great and you reigned forty years.

During that time, the Lord you did truly love and fear.

To sit next to our Jesus’ side, no man could be held more dear.”

 

“Oh Paul,” David answered, “you never did marry, your passion controlled.

You proclaimed Jesus’ message, single and bold.

But my lust ran wild, and I slept with another’s wife.

She conceived my child, so I took that innocent man’s life.

My Lord, I do love with all my heart,

But to sit by His side I’m not fit for the part.

Instead this honor should go to the man who approached Pharaoh’s throne

And patiently led Israel with all their moans and their groans.”

 

David left Paul and headed for Moses,

Whom he found smelling the roses.

 

“Dear Moses,” David said, “your life began in a basket on the river Nile.

Discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter you did live a life of ease for awhile.

But one day from a burning bush to you the Lord spoke

And told you to lead His people out from Egypt’s heavy yoke.

To Pharaoh you went, but his heart was stubborn and hard.

Many plagues were inflicted but he would not let down his guard.

The blood of the lamb protected Israel’s firstborn

While all of Egypt wept and mourned.

After this final deathly blow,

Pharaoh did command you, ‘Just go!’

With your staff you parted the Red Sea’s waters.

Every Israelite passed through, men and women, sons and daughters.

The Lord gave to you His ordinances and Ten Commands,

While the Israelites never ceased their whines and demands.

By faith you left the wealth and treasures of Egypt behind,

And told Israel to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind.

The Lord’s servant, so faithful and humble, no other man like you can I find.

So please sit next to our Lord, dear Moses, because you’re one of a kind.”

 

“Oh David,” Moses replied, “the Lord I did daily seek

While wandering in that wilderness week after week.

But years before in a burst of anger, I lost my head

And struck an Egyptian man down dead.

In the wilderness, the Lord once I did not trust

So I twice I struck the rock with a might thrust.

That honor I must decline,

But I can think of another much more fine.

The one whom the Lord first made His covenant

Is the best choice from His faithful remnant.”

 

Moses told David goodbye

And went to Abraham to say hi.

 

“Father Abraham,” Moses said.

At the word of the Lord, you went out not knowing where you were going

And your offspring were promised a land with milk and honey flowing.

You passed a very great test

When you were told to sacrifice your son Isaac at God’s request

Your son was spared, your faith proved strong

So for you to sit by Jesus’ side is my song.”

 

Abraham smiled and replied,

“By faith to the land of Canaan I did roam

With my eyes fixed on heaven my true home.

But when the land became very dry

To Egypt I went and “Sarah is my sister” I did lie.

I had a son by my wife’s slave

Not trusting the Lord to fulfill His promise in His timing and way.

Thus I am unworthy by my behavior

To sit next to our sweet Savior.”

 

None worthy by works to sit next to Jesus’ side could be found

For it is by God’s grace upon grace that we abound.

 

But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses.  By grace you are saved! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

~Ephesians 2:4-9

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Petty Pebbles

Oh Abba Father, in my fist clenched tight

I cling to pebbles, small and trite

 

The longer that to them I hold

The heavier in my hands they do grow

 

I am weak but You are strong

The blood of Jesus cleanses me from all wrong

 

To You, Father, I do implore

In Your love may I abound more and more

 

Help me lay these petty pebbles down

In exchange for a precious jewel in my crown

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

~Matthew 11:28

Gospel Planter versus Salvation Dispenser

I remember one of my favorite bow-tied college professors continually telling us that once we left the world of academia the first question that we would be asked when meeting a new person would be “What do you do?”  

Perhaps this was meant to instill fear in his English students notorious for having a most impractical major or perhaps he was just gently reminding us to soak in those last few days of carefree student-hood, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time.

Like much of what that professor said, his words later rang true.

As my friends and I have all entered into the world of adulthood with the poplar #adulting at every turn, our answers to this question are different: teacher, nurse, adviser, engineer, etc.

When asked that question, I have never once said “seed-planter” (and if you’re a guy that could have a different innuendo entirely so I’d really suggest not giving that response), yet that is what I am.

As Christians, God gives us the privilege of having a job in His kingdom.  Jesus makes this pretty clear when He tells His disciples the parable of the sower planting seeds in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.  What are the seeds?  The Word of God.  Who is the Word?  Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  What is it we are supposed to share?  JESUS!  Jesus, who came to the earth, lived a sinless life, yet died on a cross bearing the weight of ALL of our sins so that we might have the opportunity for a relationship with God and eternal life through Him (1 John 5:11)!

It’s so simple really.  The message is simple.  My job is simple.  If Jesus is truly Lord of my life, then I will share Him with those I meet.  I used to think that it was up to me to determine if the state of a person’s heart was right for receiving the word, if a situation was good, finding the perfect words and timing etc. before sharing.  It’s not.  Just because I know that I won’t be able to invest and disciple a person who I have only briefly met, it is no excuse for not sharing the heart of the gospel and praying that another believer will come along who can guide him or her further.   If I am given the opportunity, then it is my job to sow generously.

I have read Philippians over and over again, but recently as I have been memorizing chapter one I was struck by the number of times Jesus Christ, Gospel, and imprisonment are used.   Paul’s whole focus is on Christ and the gospel and his imprisonment is not an inconvenience but rather a tool used to further the message of grace.

Not every encounter with someone is going to lead to sharing the gospel, but my new year’s challenge to myself is that the focus of every encounter is Lord, if possible, allow me to share about Your Son with them.”  This drastically changes the focus of a situation from one of annoyance and irritation to gospel-centered, Christ focused one and puts the pressure on to “live a life worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).   After all it’s hard to share about the love of God to your seatmate right after you have just been very vocally complaining about the stupidity of the flight attendants  (ummm yes this is spoken from personal experience).

BUT, this is where our job ends.  And this is where I have a problem with some evangelism methods.

I was so blessed to be in Bible-based churches growing up.  One thing we were taught when it came to evangelism was to succinctly present the gospel (which is great!) and then we were taught to follow that up with a question if the person would like receive Christ in their heart and lead them in a prayer of salvation if they answer was yes.
NO, NO, NO.

The Gospel is a seed.  So much of the images used in Scripture are those of a plant, illustrating growth over time.  Salvation is a one-time event, but just as sanctification after salvation is a daily process of growth, so is the time leading up to salvation.

The danger with this method is that it turns us into salvation dispenser instead of gospel planters.  Then we leave somebody who knows basically nothing of the Word-Jesus-with the idea that they are saved.  Salvation is huge.  Salvation is life and death.  Salvation is not something to be checked off the list with “Person X said the prayer.”

There may come a time when we have invested deeply in somebody’s life, sharing the Word with them, and after having the seed of faith take root in their heart and grow they are ready to believe and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior and we might get to be with them when it happens.  And hallelujah!  Or their time of salvation might happen when we are not present, when all of the sudden that budding seed sprouts from their heart’s soil and the angels rejoice and we could be snoring in our bed when it happens.  It doesn’t matter.  Salvation is God’s work.  For some unfathomable reason to me, God entrusts this incredible message to us frail, weak, sinful humans and commands us to go carry it to the ends of earth.  We plant the seeds but it HIS power working in hearts that saves.  My favorite verse to help unravel the mystery of salvation is Ephesians 3:7 when Paul writes, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”  

God’s power.  The Cross of Christ.  That’s what it all comes back to.

Easy Answers and Smooth Transitions

“This one is for all you girls, about 25

In little apartments just trying to get by

Livin’ on, on dreams and spaghettios

Wonderin’ where your life is goin’ to go”

I remember listening to the Martina McBride song as a child and thinking, “Wow, 25, that’s so old!  Shouldn’t these girls already know where their life is going to go?”  

Now, at age 25, change ‘spaghettios’ to rice and noodles, and this verse sums up my life.

Recently a friend made a comment about how life doesn’t happen with the “easy answers and smooth transitions” that we would like.  That phrase stuck out to me.

I have been reading in 1 Samuel and am struck by how David is constantly fleeing from Saul.  Here he has clearly been selected by the Lord through Samuel to be Israel’s king, yet prior to his kingship his life is spent on the run.  If I was David, I would be saying, “Excuse me Lord, but am I really supposed to be king?  If so, why is my life constantly in danger at the hands of foreigners and my own people, why did you allow my best friend Jonathan to die, why must I always be hiding and hanging out with a band of discontent, desperate, in-debt men?  Doesn’t being a future king mean a free pass and an easy ride?”

In 1 Samuel 23, David asks the Lord if he and his men should go to Keilah to rescue the city from the invading Philistines.

God says go!

David and his men rescue the city but the plot thickens as Saul hears of David’s whereabouts and seeks to kill him.  David then inquires of the Lord if the citizens of Keilah will hand him and his men over to Saul.

The Lord says yes.

At that point, I would be questioning the Lord about bringing me to rescue a city where the citizens would traitorously turn me over to my enemy.

God reveals the plan to David one step at a time.  David was a man with no easy answers and smooth transitions that most of us long for.  And as a result, we get some of the most beautiful cries of man to God in the Psalms.  These Psalms come out of the heat of the fire not from a flower-lined garden path.

Like my friend, I am yearning for easy answers and smooth transitions.  The second half of 2017 will be much different from the first half.  I will be leaving my China life and heading to where I know not and be surrounded by whom I know not.

So many of the Psalms proclaim, “Sing a new song to the Lord.”

Like David, I want to learn how to sing a new song to the Lord in part 2 of 2017!

Watching His Garden Grow

“The kingdom of God is like this,” He said.  “A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises–night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows–he doesn’t know how.”  ~Mark 4:26-27

Year two in China.  How different from the first.  This time around I packed my bags and boarded the plane not bursting with excitement but filled with the peace that passes understanding.

No doubt ever entered my mind that China is where I am supposed to be but the reason remained obscured.

Why, Lord, oh why?  

I am a child of running water, green grass, quietness.

My city is a place of horns honking, dodging cars, cement, and dirt.

Yet as I talked with a student, the reason became clear.  Watering HIS garden and having the privilege of watching a seed grow is infinitely worth a lack of exercise and strange foods.

One person is worth coming back for.

Why?

 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8

My life was of such value that Christ shed His perfect, innocent blood for me while I was still a sinner, undeserving of God’s grace!  

Rejoicing in year two and the joy of watching God’s garden grow!

Very, very Extra Ordinary: Year One in China

To put into words a year of humbling moments, ordinary events, and extraordinary growth painted against the backdrop of an overwhelming array of new sights, sounds, smells, language, and culture is like trying to fit back into your favorite outfit when you were five.

Nearly a year ago,  I didn’t recognize coming to China as a response to God’s calling, but now, through hindsight, I see that God had a plan, purpose, and place prepared for me here in Baoding, China, apartment 405.

From an impromptu root canal days before I left, to last minute discovering that my flight was two DAYS earlier than I had thought, to getting my visa less than 24 hours before I was supposed to be on a plane, to staying up the entire night to pack, somehow God got me to China.

And oh, what a journey it has been!

Our stories are so much more beautiful once we allow God to write them.  

One of my students, in an introduction poem, wrote this:

“I am ordinary and extraordinary.”

Simple and simply profound.

God takes the day-t0-day ordinariness of life and transforms it into something extraordinary.  

My days are ordinary: I eat three meals and my usual midnight snack, run dreaded errands to the grocery store, sweep my floors, and sit for hours at my computer to plan for classes.  Nearly every day there is a knock or two on my door and people to see.

Then there are those moments, after I have studied the Word with a precious little “seed,” that I pause, stare out my window, and in silent awe, thank God for watching growth as His Word gradually transforms hearts and the privilege of being a part of that extraordinary process.

I am ordinary. God working through me is extraordinary.

I see parts of myself in each of the heroes of faith-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses.  Not in their greatness, but in their weakness, in their doubts and in their questions:  “Why Lord, did you send me?”

Constantly I have been reminded that I am Yahweh, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that His grace is sufficient for me.  

His grace is sufficient for me when a forty-year-old woman comes to ask me for advice with a friend; His grace is sufficient for me when I am tired of smiling and talking for 12 hours straight, His grace is sufficient for me when my well of ideas has run dry; His grace is sufficient for me when I think I will scream if I get another stare or ‘hello;’ His grace is sufficient for me when my chain falls off my bike once again and I’m frustrated and irritated arriving to class.

His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness.  

I have come to rejoice in this season of life God has given me: a season where I do dishes every three days, laundry every 2 weeks, and cook lunch or dinner every….well almost never.  His grace has equipped me during this season with the time and quiet moments I need to come and drink deeply from the Word.

Every season is different.  Every season is perfect in its time.

The Lord had good works prepared in advance for me to do in China.  The Lord knew exactly what I would need this year before I even knew or asked.  He knew I would need the steady comfort of having a close friend a floor away as well as the challenge of becoming an active member of His kingdom without somebody’s shadow to stand behind.  He provided grace and support exactly where I needed it to accomplish His good purpose.

To God be the glory.  

Come

Constantly I am drawn back to the same chapters and verses in the book of Isaiah. They ring and resonate with my own heart. As I was reflecting on who I was and who I am now, I thought of how these passages I love are not only Israel’s story but they are my story and they are your story. This is a testimony of relentless love and amazing grace.

Spinning whirlwind
Rushing madness
High laughter
Painted smiles

In night’s Darkness I cowered
From the pang of morning’s Light

Caught in Death’s dizzying dance
Selling my soul for
A casual kiss, the flame in his eyes
One embrace here, a few drink over there

Noise, sound, work, words, madness, and folly
All mingled together
Gilt-covered pleasures
Killing my life

Unwilling to let go
Fearing the fall
Bound by my chains
There seemed no hope at all

But then into the Darkness,
He whispered,

“Come.”

I looked, I turned
Yet like a magnet was drawn back to Death’s ways

Again softly called He,

“Come.”

Trembling I put
One foot into Light
But a seductive cry clamored,

“Don’t go!”

Still His tender voice pierced
Through the Night

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
Come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.”

Starved was my soul
Parched was my spirit
And so He asked me,

“Why spend money on what is not bread,
and you labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

A tempting voice said in my ear,
“My way is fun! My road is easy!
His call is hard; His path is suffering.”

Alone, away from the noise
Crawled I to His quiet voice
A battle was raging
When to the Light I drew near

He broke me, He destroyed me,
He crucified my flesh
Tears I shed
For the pain was immense

Through fire and water went I
Yet my side never left He

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savoir;”

“My Lord, I love You!”
Was all I could cry

By His death I am free
Through His wounds I am healed
Out of the ashes and rubble rose I
Alive, new, a pure spotless bride!

Such love! Such grace!
I scarcely can comprehend.

“My Lord, my life for Thee,”
‘Tis all I can give.

An Inheritance of the Lord

He did not give any inheritance to the tribe of Levi.  This was its inheritance, just as He had promised: the offerings made by fire to the LORD, the God of Israel.  ~Joshua 13:14

Rings on left hands.  Rounded bellies.  Roots.  Stability.  Homes.  Community.  Turning my eyes away from Jesus, the source and perfecter of my faith to the inheritance of my brothers and sisters, my feet are quick to falter (Hebrews 12:2).  But I have been delivered from death, even my feet from stumbling to walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56:13).  

But Moses did not give a portion to the tribe of Levi.  The LORD, the God of Israel, was their inheritance, just as He had promised them.  ~Joshua 13:33                      

 Quiet morning hours.  Dishes (in fact, all dishes) in the sink.  Dinner at 10 pm.  Immersed in words of life.  Eating fully and drinking deeply without money and without cost (Isaiah 55:1).  Reluctant partings from my Bridegroom, yearnings that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, that the king would bring me to his chambers (Song of Solomon 1:1,4).  Closed doors, precious times.  For my husband is my Maker–His name is Yahweh of Hosts. (Isaiah 54:5).     

Still days.  Exhausting days.  Sweetness of friendships forming.  Time to ponder, think, reflect. A season to sit in the presence of my Savior. Freedom for long lunches to turn into dinners.  Called where I am.  An inheritance that looks different from others.   

But he gave no inheritance among them to the Levites. ~Joshua 14:3                                                                                   

Unsettled temporariness.  Why Lord?  Look at what you have given your other children.  Can’t you see my desires, my plans?  I want You as well as everything else.

No portion of the land was given to the Levites except cities to live in, along with pasturelands for their cattle and livestock.    ~Joshua 14:4                                                                  

A longing to know.  What’s next?  Oh Lord, I gave you my life that was not my own but never thought you might ask me to wander.  That you might nestle me between the crevices of two worlds.  Remove me far from familiar friends, a known way of life.  But I am a foreigner and temporary resident on the earth, seeking a homeland, aspiring to a better land– a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:13-16). 

But the Levites among you do not get a portion, because their inheritance is the priesthood of the Lord.   ~Joshua 18:7                                                                                                                                           

To all His children, beautiful blessings from above.

He alone is enough.  He alone is the richest inheritance.

Come Lord Jesus!    

                        

Chinese Students

It has been a fun, humbling, rocky, wonderful first semester of teaching.  My students taught me so much and laughter helped pave a lot of the bumps in the road.  Here are but a few stories.

From the first day, one student in particular would always stay after class to talk and his quotes and commentary on life were simply hilarious.  Students themselves were my best teaching tool, so at my request he would sometimes offer me suggestions and then proceed to tell me, “But Teacher Anna, you’re the man!” This same delightfully quirky student would always bow to me before leaving.  Traditional ancient China still lives on.

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Kathryn had to tell Edison to scoot closer to me. He left a good foot between us haha.

Sometimes language can cause funny situations.  I had one student who came to me to tell me that another student would not be in class for several weeks because “she broke her ass.”  Um, what?  And what do you say to said student when she returns?  Asking them about their rear end just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Texting students is also a normal, great, and efficient means of communication.  Until in your haste you accidentally send a winky face instead of a smiley face to one of your young male students.  It’s amazing how one little emoticon can change the whole meaning of “Nice to meet you too!”

One time I gave students an assignment to finish as homework and told them they were welcome to go ahead and leave whenever they were finished.  They sat and stared at me.  About five minutes later, I repeated the same thing.  They still sat and stared at me.  Finally when the bell rang I repeated my directions and asked if they understand and they vigorously nodded.  It made me want to sing Semisonic’s “closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

Because I taught all freshman this semester, their general shyness and lack of confidence in English made it sometimes difficult to truly forge connections.  However, one of my student would frequently stay after my class ended at 6:10 (my stomach was always growling at that point) to talk for a little bit.  This same student had the curse of technology trouble when she was trying to do a presentation for class.  When she stayed after, she began crying and could not be comforted despite numerously assuring her that I was not at all upset, her grade would not be affected, and we would come up with a solution.  Trying to move past somewhat of a language barrier and see if there was something else provoking this onslaught of tears, I asked if she had been very busy the past week.  She then proceeded to tell me about a party she had gone to where the boys drank a lot and she drank some.  A teaching moment, but where do you go with that statement?  I thought she was going to tell me about test woes not weekend activities.

For Thanksgiving, I asked students what they knew about the holiday.  Chinese students have some difficulty pronouncing the ‘th’ sound and often make a ‘s’ sound instead, so when one student responded with ‘thanks’ I heard ‘sex.’ “Anna, get your mind out of the gutter!” some of you might be thinking but my mind started to instantly race with how to delicately correct him…maybe he’s confused this with Valentine’s Day….fortunately he repeated himself twice and I heard “thanks” the second time around.

Also, I would highly recommend investing 20 seconds of class time to show your students the “Scary Car Commericial” YouTube video.  If nothing else, it will liven them up for bit.

 

Another time I got a Chinese student to text my class group in Chinese on my phone pretending to be me.  Maybe not the most professional move but certainly a fun one.

Teaching Chinese students has been a wonderful mix of teaching adults (well kinda) who have childish delight simply because you are a foreigner and therefore new and exotic.  Don’t get me wrong, Chinese students still show up late for class, text in class, cheat in class, and fall asleep in class, foreign teacher or not.  Yet the awe factor that comes from having blue eyes and very pale skin makes it unique teaching experience.

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Taking numerous pictures with your students is part of the job description.  

 

Light and Truth

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. 

Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.

Then I will come to the alter of God, to God, my greatest joy.  

I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God.

Psalm 43:3-4

Dear readers, let us pause and think about the power of these words!  How incredibly blessed we are as New Testament believers.  We can see the very fulfillment of this psalmist’s plea in the form of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When the psalmist ask God to send His “light” and “truth” we know as New Testament Christians that Jesus Himself has said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and He has also claimed “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Thus from our post-cross experience, we can see the answer to the psalmist’s plea to God to send His light and truth found in Jesus Christ.

This leads us to a second important truth in this Psalm: Jesus Christ is the One who must lead us to our God.  Jesus has said that “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  We cannot come to the Father on our own.  We cannot come to the Father with only our best friend.  We cannot come to the Father with only our spouse.  We cannot come to our Father with only our mother or father.  It is ONLY the light and truth found in Jesus Christ that will lead us to our God.

Next the psalmist tells where He ask of God to send His light and His truth to lead him.  He asks to be brought to God’s holy mountain, to His dwelling place.  “Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place” could read as “Let Jesus bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.”  And here we uncover a third truth.  Our plea for God to send Jesus to lead us is so that we may meet God ourselves.    We do not ask for Jesus to lead us into a Costco warehouse of spiritual and material goods that we can pick and choose what we deem best for ourselves.  We simply ask God for Jesus to lead us to God.

Another important nugget of truth found in these verses is that our God is our joy and our greatest reward.  Because of this truth, Jesus can lead us to God from prison walls from hospital beds from abusive homes and from these dark places we can find our greatest joy.  Coming to God, our greatest joy, is not dependent upon our circumstances.  Hallelujah for this!

From these verses we discover that when we come to the holy mountain, the dwelling place of God, we then proceed to go to the alter of God.  The psalmist and Old Testament readers would have been well aware of what an alter entails more so than the 21st Century Christian.  An alter is a place of sacrifice for the purpose of worship.  Sacrifice consist of pain and blood for the outcome of pure worship.  So not only does the psalmist plead to be led to God’s mountain, he also asserts that once he is in the holy dwelling place he will not come for any gains for himself but rather to sacrifice to his God.  The psalmist is willing to undergo death and pain because God is his greatest joy.

The result of sacrifice at the alter of God is praise to God.  How often we might think that if we sacrifice to God He will then reward us but how false that view is!  Our sacrifices are never meant to made for a future reward in mind but with the intent to purely praise our God once we have surrendered what we hold fast to.

What does this practically mean then for the modern day Christian?  How can these two verses be lived out in our everyday lives?  After all we cannot literally climb with Jesus the holy mountain and dwelling place of God nor can we literally go to the alter of God.

Day by day we need Jesus and we find Him through our prayers to our Father.  Doing God’s will and standing on the mountaintop does not mean that it is easy.  Jesus Christ must first bring us to a place of sacrifice.  This sacrifice can be in the form of a future career we had planned, a person we desired to marry, a child we wanted to bear.  We come to God to give all to God and sacrifice is not painless.  Yet from the pain of these high places we then can sing praises to God and our King and our joy.

So let us embrace the upward climb and pain of the Christian life for the joy set before us!