The Ship Has Landed

As I end my years of college and watch this chapter come to a close, I can’t help but think of many good memories. My mind is flooded with all of the awesome moments where the lights came on and I learned something new about Jesus, the Church, or myself. I also realize that as a new chapter is about to unfold in my life, this chapter deserves a proper conclusion, and thus, this blog itself is seeing its last hoorah! I don’t have bitter feelings towards this blog, in fact, it has been one of those things that has helped me through some really difficult moments. No, I’m laying this blog to rest because it is a marker of these years in my life. It has accompanied me from the day I knew I would be going to CCU, until now, and I graduate in a week. It won’t disappear off the map (I don’t think at least), but my creativity (if you can call it that) will be driven towards new adventures and possibly just another blog. With all of this said, I wanted to recap what this blog has been about from day one.

As you are probably well aware of, this blog is titled “Sailing on a Ship.” I get the name from Acts 27 where Luke tells of Paul’s journey to Rome and how he is taking the Gospel there to reach the ends of the earth. It’s such a captivating story too. Storms rage and nearly kill Paul and the rest of the crew. Reading through the story, it seems that the Gospel is going to drown somewhere in the Mediterranean, but it doesn’t. In fact, the Gospel reaches Rome, and it continues to reach even the most unlikely places two millennia later. The forces of nature can’t even stop the Gospel from moving forward. In fact, all of Acts displays many forms of opposition trying to thwart the efforts of this movement, but the Gospel always overcomes these obstacles. Here is what I have learned over the past four years about Christianity: it has always been about making Jesus known through submission to Him. That is the goal right there. That is the basis from which we work and everything else we do flows from that sacrificial lifestyle. The Gospel will continually move forward and we see that in Acts. Don’t be troubled when a few things go wrong. Not even tragedy, mistakes, or political powers could stop the Gospel from reaching far and wide. This book clearly displays that the life one lives for Christ is difficult, but it is life filled with joy when laying everything down before Him. As a guy who has witnessed many highs and some big lows, I can testify to the greatness of our God.

Friends, the ship has landed. Thank you for all of your feedback over the past few years, and maybe there will be new opportunities to talk over a new blog. It’s time to travel by different means, probably on foot. Making Jesus known is the greatest joy to be had, so let’s make our lives about Him.

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~T.S. Eliot

Love you all!
Daniel

‘Tis the Season

Let’s not be distracted from the cross this week. Anybody else on board with that? It’s a bummer that we sometimes only take a week out of the year to really honor Jesus in this way, but at the same time, we really go deep in recalling the incredible landmark that changed history during this week. So in light of that, let’s put aside that major issue we are warring with our neighbors over. I’m not asking that we ignore difficulties and struggles, but rather that we focus on the cross, and let our response to His sacrifice navigate our lives. To look upon the one who was completely innocent, yet beaten, bruised, and crucified on behalf of us, who did not deserve a drop of that blood to be spilled for our forgiveness. And yet He did embrace this suffering to bring about redemption for mankind who so desperately needs Him. When we come to that place again and remember the suffering He endured for guilty people (i.e. you and me), we come to be awestruck and profoundly grateful that He would do such a thing. That is where our focus needs to be (ideally a lot more than once a year). This goes to say, unless Jesus returns tomorrow, that whatever issue we are debating now will be there next week. Again, I’m not trying to communicate that those matters are trivial, but that this week is all about Jesus. He comes first, and when He does, we have a stronger foundation to have discussions with others. Celebrate His death and rising. You’ll be glad you did. “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Love you all!
Daniel =)

Dribbling a Basketball 101

I remember how often I would have thoughts that conflicted with what my dad would tell me growing up. This came to fruition most on the basketball court. There are vivid memories that I can recall in the fourth grade where he would only let me dribble the basketball with my left hand. I despised that season! I hardly scored a bucket for the first half of the season and I was inconsistent for the rest of that time frame. I was disappointed. The other guys on the team (who were all right-handed) weren’t being forced to dribble with their left hands by their fathers. Of course I interpreted that to mean that my teammates must be loved by their dads more than I was loved by mine since I was doing a chore I had no desire to do. What resulted from all of this? I ended up being able to dribble with both hands decently well. I look back on it and I’m grateful. I realized that my father genuinely cared and wanted the best for me, even if it cost me a few games with poor outputs. He saw the big picture, which at that time I was unwilling to view.

As I think upon the phrase, “God loves you just the way you are” I start to think that God loves us a lot more than that. Here’s reason number one: because saying that sentence, to me, appears to display that God’s love is limited to a particular moment in time. True love sees the big picture, and Paul showed in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is something that is ongoing, or something that can be seen over time. Love is “patient,” it “endures,” and it “bears.” These all have to stand a test of time to be true. Here is my second problem with this phrase: it seemingly places acceptance as the highest form of love. I’m going to tread carefully here so I’m hopefully not misunderstood. The concept of acceptance is something most Christ-followers struggle with daily and sometimes we unfortunately avoid it. I am a strong advocate of acceptance, but I do not think that this virtue alone defines love, nor should it be considered the highest form of love. Rather, I’m more inclined to think that having a sacrificial disposition is what Paul seems to be talking about in 1 Corinthians 13 and what Jesus so humbly lived and breathed.

My issue with this idea is that love does not end with acceptance. God does accept us (sinful and in desperate need of Him), yet it’s only the first step and I believe God loves us more than that. If I want Jesus to accept me without any growing pain (transformation), it’s not love I want, but mere kindness. It’s just like my story before. I could have assumed that my dad loved me if he heard my plea to not have to dribble left-handed and he simply said, “Okay, good enough.” Who would I be kidding though? I would not have become a better athlete, nor helpful to my team overall. He accepted me as a basketball player who needed to gain some new skills because I was nowhere near the best, but it did not end with that acknowledgment. It was only the start to a process, sometimes painful, of me developing skills that would eventually benefit myself and my teammates. That’s just the thing about life. Sure, the process is difficult and even painful, but it is worth it. It’s not that I don’t believe that phrase (God loves you just the way you are), but I’m not sure that it really captures the big picture: That God loves us so much that He not only accepts us in our frailty, but He offers us the opportunity and equips us to become more like Him, through one incredible sacrifice. That is an amazing picture of love, and I’m probably not even scratching the surface of how deep that love is.

Love you all!
Daniel =)

Hope in the Harbor

So there is a story of a guy who is living out his teenage years by himself for the most part. He goes out to a dock every day to wait for a ship that is bringing home soldiers, in hopes that one day the ship will arrive with his father or at least news of his whereabouts. This habit had been held by the kid for over three years. Naturally there is going to be an added dose of conflict (other than being fatherless at the time). He goes to the dock as always one morning, only to look into a horizon that displays a sinking ship- the very ship that brought soldiers home. So this object that was a manifestation of hope had suddenly vanished and was heading towards the ocean floor. What is there to feel? Where is hope now? As anyone might suspect, the boy wept on the dock and vowed never to return to the place that seemingly sealed the fate of his father. Time passed, seasons shifted, and the boy grew up and even became a father himself. One day, the son asks his dad to take him by the sea because he had never seen a real ship before outside of books. Reluctantly, the man took his son to the dock he had once called home. And gazing out into the sea, the man saw a ship that looked all too familiar. It bore the same name, it wore the same paint, and it even hoisted the same sail as the vessel he watched sink several years before. Then suddenly, a rush of possibilities overcame him, for hope had just sailed into his harbor.

It’s a nice story isn’t it? The story doesn’t indicate whether that guy was reunited with his father or not. I mean, I hope that he was. It really struck me the other day how much is going on in this story. On the surface, the boy was fatherless and his life continued in that manner. Yet as we dive below the surface, we see that the boy depended on that ship. Even if it didn’t bring his father back, it still contained that remote possibility of his father’s return. That was enough to keep him going. When it sinks though, so does the hope of being reunited with his dad. The hope was broken, shattered into pieces. Do you think the disciples of Jesus felt the same way? Even though Jesus (especially in John 12-17) reassures them that He will return. It doesn’t change the fact that they watched Him die. Who else had ever brought his or her self back from the dead? No one. Their hope seemingly vanished just like this kid’s disappeared the day he saw that ship sink. Where is the common ground though? It’s not just that in both scenarios hope is lost/broken, but that hope is restored. The boy, now grown up, sees a ship that quite possibly could bring his father home, and the disciples see their Lord who had just conquered death. That is the one thing these situations have in common.

So what does that mean for me and you? It means that if we’re being honest with ourselves, we lose hope from time to time. Strong evidence (a ship sinking before your very eyes) points to loss. Here’s the good news: we are sons and daughters of a King who is greater than that. He did the one thing that was impossible, bringing about a hope in us that transforms us. A hope that gives us purpose. When Jesus came back from the grave, hope sailed into our harbor, and that hope will become a reality when He returns. That my friends, is the best news we have ever heard.

Love you all!
Daniel =)

The Abundant Life

For some odd reason, I was thinking about pain in the context of transformation earlier. Not necessarily pain of a physical nature I might add. I’m thinking of the stuff people deal with on a daily basis. Stuff like receiving news that a loved one was diagnosed with cancer, or that your best friend was just killed in a car accident. I don’t say this to be morbid, but to really dig deeper into what makes painful situations like these so unbearable. Here’s the thing though: in most of these situations, when you receive that news, somehow there’s a boost of strength in that moment. To expand on that, things haven’t quite registered yet. Surely it’s not that exact moment you receive the news that causes agony. No, I’m more inclined to think that it’s the time we spend with that pain. When someone is in prison, the most pain experienced isn’t the second the key turns and hope is sealed. Rather, the most agonizing part is the time spent in that cell, awaiting escape or the end of the sentence. The truth is, if we’re being transparent, time holds us captive in many ways. Think about it. What are you waiting for right now? My guess is probably something. Something like graduation, marriage, a shot at marriage, or you might even be awaiting healing from a painful event in your past. I think we often come to the conclusion that waiting is always painful. That time is a mechanism that mostly dishes out pain or it causes eagerness that is scarcely satisfied.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no health and wealth guy (far from it), but what about the abundant life Jesus promises? I read Galatians 1, for example, and I see how this Pharisee named Saul, later Paul, receives a vision from Jesus to share the Gospel with Gentiles, yet he waits years before he even goes to Jerusalem. He spends time growing. When I hear that I need to grow and how much time that will probably take, I kinda freak out. Then I go back to Paul and there is no sign of whining about his time he spends growing in Christ. I even read about his sufferings in Philippians, yet he still has joy and displays how he is content in all situations. I look at all of these situations of one Christ-follower amongst plenty, and I see where I have gone wrong. Sure, it is painful to be in school when you would rather be sharing the Gospel with others. It is tough to await healing from the death of a father. What I have started to discover is this: abundant life does not give you the option of fast forwarding. It doesn’t even dodge pain, but it stares down pain and endures. The abundant life found in Christ transforms us. It demands time and growing pains, but it does transform us, and it can be summed up in these words: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Much love and God bless!
DanG

Does This Bread Have an Expiration Date?

Two nights ago I came across a passage of Scripture that I truly consider to be one that must be wrestled with in some way at some point. It’s one that, if I’m being blunt, I really just wanna avoid sometimes. Here’s why- it deals with a problem that a lot of us try not to look in the eye. It really is concerned with the heart and who or what actually brings about satisfaction in us. It was challenging for the people two millennia ago to hear and I think it is also very tough for us embrace. The passage is John 6.

In the beginning of the chapter, we read about Jesus feeding the 5000 in a miraculous way. The people genuinely experience a mighty work of God before their very eyes, but Jesus calls out a heart issue starting in verse 26. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of loaves.” Wow! It blows me away that He sees their motivation for seeking Him instantly. This verse alone is enough for me to wrestle with for a very long time. Jesus sees right away that these people aren’t necessarily interested in laying down everything to follow Him, but they’re just hungry. To these people, He’s the man that gave them lunch and not much more. Let’s be real, how often do we seek Jesus when it’s convenient, or when we think He’ll “bestow many blessings upon us”? It’s not wrong to approach Jesus in those times, in fact, I’d encourage that. The problem is, if that’s all we bring and if we find our satisfaction elsewhere, then I’m not convinced you and I are being the best disciples we can be and we ignore what He says next. “Do not labor for food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27).

So what is the major point I’m trying to drive home? I’m certainly not telling you what to eat for dinner tonight, though pizza sounds phenomenal. It’s simply that we only find true satisfaction in Jesus. That sounds like an easy concept to grasp. I’ll be the first to admit that it really is not so simple. We often think, “If I have this and this and I get my act together with him or her, then I’ll finally have that extra space to place Christ.” That’s wrong and I can explain. The reason that stuff should never take priority over Jesus is due to the fact that all of it has an expiration date, and it will never live up to who He is. In the matters of time and quality, nothing else compares to the glory of who God is, so why waste our time and energy on other things? Don’t waste your life seeking fame, money, or a spouse with all of your energy. Those things have the potential to be good even and can be used to advance God’s Kingdom, but when they become our all, we’re not really experiencing true satisfaction. Focus upon the Bread of Life, not the food that perishes.

To Him be the glory,
DanG

Immeasurably More

I was reading Ephesians the other night and I came across a passage in the middle of the letter that I’ve encountered quite a few times recently. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). There’s two biggies that stood out to me- “able” and “immeasurably more.” Quite frankly, I was a little bothered. Not steering off-road, and not distracted; but I was bothered. I think this is my disease, and possibly the disease a lot of us face. You know I mean? I don’t know about you, but when I hear “immeasurably more,” I get a little heated. Yeah sure, it might happen for some other person, but really? In my life? In my congregation? I’m not sure “immeasurably more” is something we have seen. Sometimes, it really feels like life is mundane; the same routine each waking moment. Going to the same job and the same class make “purpose” appear to be absent from our lives. If you feel this way, I get it. “Immeasurably more” does not seem to apply to my life or yours when excitement and adventure has seemingly abandoned us.

Yet I won’t end there. I simply can’t settle for that conclusion. That a verse in the Bible somehow seems irrelevant or out of reach. Do you want to know why I can’t settle for that? Because it’s a lot more than ink on a page. It’s truth. How do I know it’s truth? Well, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, and I still do to this day. Yeah, I was bothered by that verse because I have days where “immeasurably more” feels impossible. However, just because I qualify, based on my emotions or what I see, “immeasurably more,” that does not make it false. It’s Christ that is doing immeasurably more than I can imagine or I can ask and not me. Job found God to be his comfort in a heap of ashes, after he had lost everything. That sure sounds like a lot more than I could imagine. God made a great nation from Abraham’s descendants. That sure sounds like a lot more than I could think to ask. But you don’t want to just hear about these guys. If you’re like me, you want to know what “immeasurably more” means right now. It means that in the present, we as followers of Jesus are living as “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). The old has passed away, and the new has come. What that really means, is that we can finally experience the true joy of being in God’s presence. Not only in this moment, but forever. Jesus overcame the world through suffering, dying and rising again. We too get to experience rising again. Now that, is “immeasurably more” than anything my mind can truly embrace. Whether life appears mundane or filled with adventure, God is doing a lot more in us than we can possibly imagine. Rest in that truth, and let it propel you to advance His Kingdom.

Much love and God bless!
DanG