Music Mondays- Who You Say I Am and an old classic :)

On Saturday I shared about my dream house and how my real dream house is in heaven. On Sunday I shared about God our heavenly father. There is song by Hillsong that I love that is about our identity in Christ and also has a reminder about our father’s house. The song is Who You Say I Am.

When I think about identity, I seem to have a few different ones.

To my students I am teacher and in fact they don’t say my name even long after they have finished my class. I can see them ten years later and they still say teacher when they see me which is how they show respect in many cultures I interact with.

Of course there are other ones like friend, brother etc but they use my name.

There are ways that I was identified in the past that I regret because of my mistakes and ones I used to resent because of things others did. I mean who wants to be known as son of an alcoholic or son of a mentally ill parent.

Ultimately the only identity that matters is the one God gives us because that is the one that will last forever. I won’t be teacher in heaven but there will be other roles there. Gladly I won’t have any identities I regret or used to resent in heaven. In God’s eyes, we only have one identity- His Child  thanks to Jesus. In John chapter 1 we read:

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

Jesus gives us the right, the birthright, to be children of God when we receive him.

I love the song Who You Say I Am because of the lyrics- “I am child of God, I am who you say I am” and “in my father’s house, there’s a place for me.” Beautiful lyrics that express such a wonderful truth. We are who God says we are. We are his children because he says so and he has a place for us.

Okay so for a golden oldie, a classic song from the 1970s. If you can remember that era in Christian music, then you are dating yourself 🙂 haha. There was a group called 2nd Chapter of Acts that was one of the first contemporary Christian music groups. It was a group of 2 sisters and 1 brother. Their harmonies were beautiful. They were pioneers in Christian music along with others.

The group had a song that I love because it reminds us that there is an eternal home waiting for us in heaven. I love the lyrics- “Why should I worry, why should I fret because I have a mansion builder….”

So here is Mansion Builder by 2nd Chapter of Acts. I hope you enjoy it and I hope your Monday is blessed. 🙂

 

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Father

What is a father?

I wanted to know if a father is someone who gets drunk and withdraws ignoring a person.

I wanted to know if a father is someone who abuses.

I wanted to know if a father is someone who doesn’t show up for important events and moments.

I found a father, not my birth father, but a father who has never and will never abuse, will always be there for not only important moments, but all moments.

My new father changed my life and adopted me because of his son Jesus and Jesus dying for me on the cross.

My new father empowered me to be able to forgive my earthly father and gave me the opportunity to help my earthly father make peace with God a year before my earthly father died.

What is my heavenly father like?

His love is so immense for us that he sent his one and only son to die for us on the cross, so that we could have forgiveness and eternal life.

His love for us is pure, empowering, never ending, always present, and passionate.

His love is jealous for us. He does not want to and will not share us with false gods.

His love for us endures pain, the emotional pain of letting his one and only son be crucified for us.

Our Heavenly Father WANTS you.

Our Heavenly Father WANTS us.

He wants to love us, cherish us, forgive us, protect us, heal us, free us, and empower us.

This song by a Catholic monk, John Michael Talbot, focuses on Jesus on the cross speaking to Our Heavenly father while Jesus was on the cross. Please listen to it and let the realization that Our Heavenly Father endured his son being tortured and crucified for us because he LOVES us. Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there.

 

My Dream House

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If I were to have a dream house, one that could be a place the both represents me and one that I would enjoy, it would be as follows:

1 big office for me with a map of the world on the wall, a big globe on a table, room for my books on bookshelves, a desk big enough for my computer and to study at, and of course a VERY comfortable chair for me and some chairs for guests.

1 room for entertainment with a big screen TV, a nice sound system, many comfy recliners, a small fridge for refreshments, and some game tables.

1 kitchen where someone else cooks for me because I am a terrible cook.

2 pools, one indoors for the winter and one outdoors for the summer

A big deck outside for barbecues

A large living room with many comfy chairs for conversation

A nice Master bedroom

Several Guest bedrooms

Okay, so that will not happen in this life. At least I don’t foresee it happening.

BUT

My real dream house, or home, is the one Jesus talked about in John 14 when he told the disciples:

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

This life is temporary and anything we have in this life is temporary. Even the nicest homes in this life will be gone someday. But the home Jesus is preparing for those who believe in him will be eternal and I am sure will BLOW our minds. We cannot fathom how awesome the home is.

An interesting aspect of the culture Jesus was speaking to was that when a man and woman were engaged, the father of the groom would add a room onto the house. When the room was ready, the father would tell the son it was time to bring his bride home. SO when Jesus spoke the words- “In my father’s house are many rooms” and I will come to take to where I am” it would have been a very clear meaning to his disciples.

Yes, it has been 2,000 years, BUT God doesn’t forget us or his promises. When the time is right in God’s eyes, he will say to Jesus, Go get my children, and Jesus will come for us. This post is not about the various views regarding it. This is only an encouragement that one day Jesus will come for us.

A song I love is midnight cry. It is about the moment when God the Father says to Jesus, “Go get my children.” I hope that day comes soon. Today would be great. 🙂 I love this video of the song being sung in a church. Hope you have a blessed weekend and remember that day is getting closer. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Never Too Old To Learn- Why I Studied Spanish in my 50s

8 years ago I went with a group from my church to Ensenada Mexico. My home church, First Free Lincoln, partners with a church in Ensenada. That trip may have been my least fruitful one while I was there due to problems with a tooth and developing bronchitis. But when we step out and follow God’s leading, nothing is wasted. In the midst of what was perhaps my most disappointing experience in missions trips, something happened while I was praying one morning.

As I was praying, I felt the Lord was showing me I should study Spanish. My first reaction was to wonder if it was for real because I was already in my early 50s. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy learning and experiencing new things, but to study Spanish in a college class seemed a bit crazy to me. So I prayed- “If you want me to study Spanish, the class has to be at the downtown campus and at 5:30 or I can’t do it because of my schedule.

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After I returned from Mexico, I went to visit my brother in Wisconsin for the 4th of July. As I was driving back to Lincoln from visiting my brother the persistent thought about studying Spanish kept coming to mind. So I went to the registration office for the college where I teach ESL to check on Spanish courses. I found out the Spanish class at the downtown campus at 5:30 in the evening had 1 more opening. I thought- “Confirmation of what God is telling me.” I signed up for the class.

That led to a year of discovery for me about myself and the beautiful Spanish language. I loved the classes and surprised myself at how well I did in the classes.

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Studying Spanish also opened doors of opportunities for me to share Christ’s love with my Hispanic friends in Lincoln. It has been a huge blessing to get to know friends from Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and Puerto Rico. It has been so much fun to join my friends for various celebrations.

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Studying Spanish also helped me be a better ESL teacher because while I was studying, I observed different techniques my profesoras used and also as I studied I gained new practical insights into language learning.

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A few things I learned from the whole experience.

1- If an idea comes to you while praying that seems a bit crazy, don’t dismiss it too quickly. Explore it and get confirmation. 

2- We are never too old to learn. 🙂

3- Enjoy the adventure of learning.

4- God will lead us to do things that others might wonder about.

The last point leads me to share that some of my friends wondered if I would be able to do well because the conventional wisdom is that language learning is more difficult the older we get. Well, in the three courses I took I got an A, A, and A+. God doesn’t care about “conventional wisdom” when he calls us to do something. All we need to do is read the bible and see how many times God called people to do something that went against so called conventional wisdom. A few examples:

1- He called a shepherd boy to be king of Israel.

2- He blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son when Sarah was in her 90s.

3- Jesus took uneducated fishermen and turned them into apostles who would start the church.

What adventures has God called you to?

Thanks for reading and God Bless 🙂

Music Mondays- Redeemer by Nicole Mullen

As I interact with other cultures and people from various religions, I realize there are teachings for living a good life in each religion. What is distinctive about Christianity?

What makes Christianity stand out is the person we worship and follow our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response of, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” prompted Jesus to say to him the flesh and blood had not revealed it to him. In other words, God had revealed to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the promised one.

What makes Christianity unique is the person Jesus. In Jesus we have the only person who has been resurrected from the dead. He defeated death for us.

When Job said I know my redeemer lives, he spoke those words in the midst of severe trials in this life. He suffered great loss and yet he spoke the words, I know my redeemer lives. His hope was not in this life. His hope was in the fact that he knew his redeemer lives.

Jesus said that in this life we will have many troubles but to cheer up because he has overcome the world. Whether it is a sickness-autoimmune for me, financial struggles, loss of loved ones, bullying, violence around us, whatever the problem is, our hope is not in this life. It would be terribly sad if we could only look for hope in this life that is so short and full of problems.

Our hope is in Jesus and his resurrection. Our hope is that there is a eternal home waiting for us, and that Jesus is with us in this life. He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. Our Redeemer lives. 🙂

So on this Music Monday I would like to share Nicole Mullen’s song Redeemer. I hope you experience Christ’s presence as you listen and that your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Also if you want to check out more of Nicole Mullen’s music her website is nicolecmullen.com

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

As Gandalf talked with Frodo in the mountain, he shared this advice with the young hobbit who was despairing the situation they were in, and even though it is from a book/movie, such advice is so valuable for us, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

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This picture is from a flower clock that I saw when I visited Geneva Switzerland in June 2004. Clocks are reminders that time continues to tick away. When I was young, I felt like I had all kinds of time. Now that I have more yesterdays than I will have tomorrows in this world, I realize how short the time we are given actually is.

I have been given time to live in this life at this specific time in human history. I do not want to waste my time wondering why I am living now as opposed to some other time in history. My time in this life has been appointed to me now. I have been given time to live out what was written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Each day I try to remind myself not to waste a day. I have today and that is all that is certain. My desire is to make each day count. As a teacher, it means looking for opportunities to encourage my students and instill a sense of hope for the future as they try to learn English. By doing so I can show them the love of Christ.

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As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others, and being ready to share about the eternal hope we can have in Jesus. More and more for me it means valuing the little things as well as the big things.

Opportunities are not found only on a ministry trip to another country, they are waiting for us each day as we go about our daily lives. We never know where, when, or how the small things for us can lead to something much bigger.

Last December I had a new Yazidi student start my class. She had only arrived in America a few weeks before she came to my class. I had learned how to greet my Yazidi students in their language. I greeted her with choyneh havalemah, phonetic spelling, which means hello my friend. It was a small thing to me but a huge thing for her to have a teacher say hello my friend in her language after what the Yazidis have been through. It opened the door to a wonderful friendship with her and her husband and yes I have had opportunities to share Jesus with them.

But even if it is only a small thing that does not seem to lead much, I try to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat……….. I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me.” As I try to show His love, Jesus considers it as being done to Him. That alone should be sufficient motivation to make each day count by showing the love of God to others whether in little ways or big ways.

A Birthday Surprise-Sort of

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Well it happened. Time marches forward. I hit my milestone birthday today. Most years I haven’t celebrated it and in fact had not for over 30 years until my birthday 10 years ago when my friends from my weekend groups at my church gave me an almost surprise party.

I love the picture from that day because it represents what my life has been about the past twenty years-sharing life with friends from many different countries. In the picture with me are friends from Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam. At that time my church had a map of the world on a wall and the room my groups were in was next to that wall.

My friends decided to throw me a surprise party in the room during our class time. They really went all out in decorating the room with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings theme, cake, balloons, and had the lights turned out. Only one problem, my friend Olivier from Congo. 🙂

I had a meeting at church that morning, so I had to be there early. I asked my friend Yoshio from Japan to pick up our friends Neil and Olivier from Congo because I needed to be at church early. When I got to church, Olivier came out to meet me in the parking lot, shook my hand, and carried my laptop bag in for me. That was at 8:20 and my class started at 9, so my first thought was, “Why is Olivier here are 8:20? He came with Yoshio and Yoshio would never be this early.” So the surprise was given away. I still acted surprised when I opened the door and they shouted, “Happy Birthday.”

I guess it is customary to share some sort of wisdom when one reaches a milestone birthday. I don’t really have anything to enlighten people with that has not been said before, but one thought I have from spending so much wonderful time with people literally from all over the world.

When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” he meant exactly that. God loves all people from every culture, race, ethnic group, language group etc. God LOVES US. My greatest blessing, after knowing Jesus of course, has been to experience a little of God’s great love for us as I interact with my immigrant and refugee friends. My role and what God created me for and called me to, is to show his love to those I teach, befriend, help, interact with etc.

When I was a child, I used to dream of seeing far away places that I read about in school. God has blessed me to have had the opportunity to travel to Romania seven times, Brazil twice, France and Mexico once each, and because of my trips to Romania to also visit Austria, England, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland. The reason for my trips was to share the love of Jesus.

Here in Lincoln I have met people from so many countries, I can’t list them all. They have enriched my life. They have changed me and my life. It has been through spending time with my refugee friends that I have come to understand and appreciate what Mother Teresa said when speaking of the people she helped, “each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”

We never know how many years God will give us in this life. I am actually amazed I lived this long after what I went through because of that I never made any real plans, but God led me to the life I have now, so I could show his love to diverse people. My desire is to continue to show and share his love until he takes me home to heaven.

 

 

 

 

Better Than My Best?

I can’t count the number of times I have been given the advice- You tried your best, that is all anyone can ask of you. As I write this, I sadly realize I have spoken those same words to others. Is doing our best all we can really ask for?

The first miracle of Jesus that was written about was changing water into wine in John chapter 2. There are some important aspects to ponder that get a lot of attention such as the interaction between Jesus and his mother Mary and that his disciples believed in him after witnessing the miracle.

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There is something else that really catches my attention in this account. That is what the master of the banquet said, who did not know Jesus had changed water into wine, when called the bridegroom over aside to chat.

The custom was to serve the best wine first and then bring out the cheap stuff after people drank the good stuff thus they wouldn’t notice the cheap stuff. Kind of like if at a wedding today they served imported wine from France first and then served the cheap box wine after everyone had a few glasses of the good stuff.

So the master of the banquet said of the wine Jesus made from water- “you have saved the best till now” after the people had consumed all of the wine they had before Jesus turned water into wine. In other words- What Jesus did was better than their best.

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This causes me to think about my life of trying to follow Jesus. Reading this account and intellectually understanding that what Jesus does is better than my best is one thing, but do I really count on that. Do I trust him to come through for me? Am I willing to wait on Jesus or do I try to rush things along?

I have to admit there have been too many times in my life that the answer to those questions have been no. The results have been okay at times, disastrous a few times, and who knows what could have happened at other times. The comforting thing is that in Romans 8 it says that God cause all things to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes. Even my times of impatiently trying to rush things God can cause to work for the good.

So perhaps the encouragement I should give is a question-have you asked Jesus? Yes, we need to put forth the effort such as study for that exam, or prepare for that presentation, or spend quality time with our loved ones. We should strive to do our best. But let’s remember to ask Jesus and invite him into the process. 🙂

 

Just Passing Through Hoping to Bring People Along

When I teach my classes and they ask me how old I am, my age is on a sliding scale. Whatever the age of my youngest student is, that is my age for that class. For example, in one of my evenings classes I have two young women who are 19 years old, so I say I am 19 too.

Here is a picture of me at the zoo.

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I tell my students I color my hair white to look like a teacher and this is a picture of me in disguise.

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For some reason my students don’t seem to believe me. 🙂

Whatever I look like in this life doesn’t really matter. This life is temporary. Our bodies in this world are ones that will get old and eventually die of something. If this life and how we look is all we have to go on, it is depressing.

But there is much more than this life. I love the way Paul teaches about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 4:

“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I have a certain milestone birthday coming up and it has me thinking about the fact that this life is so short, but there is so much more in store for us in heaven. We are promised resurrection bodies because of what Jesus did for us. We are all foreigners and strangers looking forward to a heavenly home like Hebrews 11 talks about.

Yes this life is short and is nothing compared to what can be in our eternal future if we come to Jesus. But this life is important to me in the sense that I want other people to enjoy that resurrection body too. As I get older and have battled autoimmune, I think more about what Paul said about absent from the body, home with the Lord but that being here means more fruitful ministry. There are days I wish Jesus would take me home to heaven, but there are refugees and immigrants who need help, need to hear about Jesus, and need someone to pray for them.

So I am just passing through in this life and hoping to bring people with me to that heavenly home.

I just hope the resurrection body for me will be more like the first picture not the second one. 🙂

Romania- Where It All Began For Me

In 1990 I read a book written by Rev. Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ. In the book he shares his imprisonment and torture at the hands of the communist regime led by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. When I read the book, there was something I just knew between me and God. I thought, “I must go to Romania.” I knew there was something for me to discover in Romania and also I greatly desired to show Christ’s love to the people there.

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After that I went to Bible College, became sick, returned to Lincoln to die, I didn’t die, I got better, all in the span of six years. In April 1996 the doctor told me, “Matt, you are now a healthy man. It is a miracle you didn’t die.”

In December 1996, it was announced at my home church that they wanted people to go to Romania again. There had been four previous trips. When I heard that, it was jolt of lightning in my spirit time, I knew I needed to go. I signed up to go and was accepted.

I ended up having 7 trips to Romania. My first one was in June 1997. I took to it like a fish takes to water. It felt so natural for me to be in another country and experience another culture. I knew during that first trip that God was calling me to work with another culture but nothing had come into focus yet.

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me with a Gypsy girl in the street in Constanta Romania in June 1997

What struck me the most was the people I met there. They had lived under the oppression of communism for almost 50 years. The country was so far behind the western world. Running water would be shut off with no warning. I saw horse drawn carts that used car tires. They still had so little, but the people I met in the classes and at the church had such big hearts.

That first trip I experienced something I will never forget. One Sunday afternoon we walked to the boardwalk area above the beach and at a corner there was a large group of people singing while a few people played guitar. The group was an informal gathering of young people who were Baptists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Nazarenes, and Orthodox Christians. They were singing worship songs in Romanian together enjoying their new freedom to be able to worship God out in the open. I prayed with some of them, but I was the one who walked away the most blessed. It struck me that they could not have done that a few shorts years before. I wish those of us who follow Christ in America could have the same spirit those young people had there that day and lay down our differences to do a few things together. I realize there are differences that would prevent us from having church together, but to have some activities together like those young people could be so meaningful.

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me with a Romania young man and a Turkish young man at the church in 2004

It was through my trips to Romania that God called me to the work I do now. I taught English for the first time during those trips. When I was there, I spent more time with my Romanian friends than I did with the Americans on the team. Simply put, I loved my Romanian friends.

Romania will always have a special place in my heart. I hope to return there someday just to visit and see some people. Of course I would like to walk the beach again, eat some sarmale again, but most of all just to see some people. I haven’t been there since 2005 due to God leading me in other directions, but I will never forget Romania and my friends there.

June truly is a month that God has led me to some adventures. It all started with Romania. I love Romania and my Romanian friend so much. If you are one of my friends from there and reading this, please know that I miss you.