The gracious God who satisfies


“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows. But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything…

View original post 20 more words

Blessed with extravagant grace to bless others

Reposting from a few years ago . . . something I need to be reminded of.


Do you ever shake your head in bewilderment at God’s people in Old Testament days? Despite many blessings, God’s faithfulness and the repeated demonstration of His power and redeeming love, they refused to share the glory and knowledge of their merciful God with the peoples about them. Instead they chose to turn away from the true & living God to pursue the gods and lifestyle of the culture around them. How could they do this? (we ask!) I know I have thought this way in the past, but perhaps we need to examine ourselves here in 2012, as God’s blessed people.

Consider these words from David Platt: “God blesses His people with extravagant grace, so they might extend His extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth. This basic, fundamental truth permeates Scripture from beginning to end. . . (yet) we live in a church culture that has a dangerous…

View original post 308 more words

Syrian orchestra in exile: Changing the image of refugees | Music | DW.COM | 22.09.2015

Syrian refugees have created a symphonic orchestra of musicians in exile in Europe. Hoping to change the image of their war-torn country, they rehearse for their opening concert in Bremen.

Bremen - Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra, Copyright: Samih Amri

War, death, refugees – most people now associate Syria with devastation. “We want to change this,” says Raed Jazbeh determinatedly, “with our music.” The young double bassist initiated the “Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra” (SEPO) a few months ago.

The orchestra will be giving its first concert in Bremen on September 22. Most of its approximately 30 musicians are Syrian refugees. They have come from all over Europe and are rehearsing together for the first time.

The opening piece is the overture to Felix Mendelssohn’s singspiel “Heimkehr aus der Fremde” (Return of the Roamer). With its sad sounds, this concert piece conveys a strong longing for home. Flight and exile characterize the atmosphere of the program, but it also explores the themes of love and hope, selections ranging from classical European symphonies to lesser-known music by the contemporary Syrian composer Mayas Al Yamani.

Bremen - Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra, Copyright: Samih AmriRaed Jazbeh has been living in Germany for two years

Raed started dreaming of creating this orchestra two years ago, when he fled Syria to Germany. He corrects anyone who refers to his ensemble as a “refugee orchestra:” “We are an orchestra of exiles,” he says, gently running his hand over his double bass.

The orchestra practices until late in the night. There isn’t much time left until the premiere. “Even professionals usually need more than three days of group rehearsals,” says Naser, a horn player who now lives in Berlin and came to play with the SEPO, the first symphonic orchestra of Syrian musicians in Europe. They are hosted by German families during the rehearsals in Bremen.

Separated in Damascus, united in Bremen

Some of these Syrians had already performed together in their home country, at the Academy of Music in Damascus. Four years ago, civil war led the young musicians to new destinies – a forced exile in Europe.

Raed found some of his former colleagues over Facebook. It took him a long time to track down the violinist Michella Kasas, who now lives in France and pursues her music studies there.

“I can hardly believe that we are reunited after so many years,” says Michella. Playing with her former classmates in Bremen almost feels like a miracle for the 28-year-old musician. “It feels like we’re back in Damascus when we rehearse. It’s very emotional.”

Bremen - Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra, Copyright: Samih Amri‘Play music with your feelings,’ says conductor Martin Lentz

Michella was lucky enough to be able to bring her violin to France, but the trumpeter Dolama Shabah had to leave his beloved instrument behind when he left: “I just didn’t have enough space in my small backpack,” he explains. It was the only piece of luggage he carried with him when he fled via Turkey, the Mediterranean Sea, Serbia and Hungary to finally reach Germany. A German offered him a used trumpet. “That gave me new hope. I’ve found my strength and my ambition through this orchestra,” says Dolama.

Chaos meets harmony

When he heard about the SEPO a few months ago, conductor Martin Lentz did not hesitate to get involved. Enjoying working with international groups, he recently supervised a project in Ramallah with the Israeli-Argentine conductor Daniel Barenboim.

Lentz is very affectionate and understanding with the young Syrians but remains strict in rehearsals. He repeatedly stops, improves and corrects the musicians: “This must be softer, much finer,” he tells the violinist in English. Then he gives the cues and nods his head. Fingertips roll on a Mideastern darbuka drum while bows are drawn on violins: The musicians gradually create a balanced, fresh rhythm together. Yet combining Arab and Western music on the same concert program is not an easy task.

Bremen - Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra, Copyright: Samih AmriA musical statement with drums, trumpets and strings

Strange sounds keep popping up. Lentz interrupts once again. The musicians are nervous and insecure: Their performance is tomorrow.

They look up to their conductor for advice, and he tries to encourage them: “You don’t need to play as perfectly as the Berlin Philharmonic! Just play with your feelings.” Then he raises his hand and gives the cues: The rehearsal continues. There is no more time to lose before the opening concert.

The concert at the Radio Bremen broadcasting hall is sold out. Further concerts are planned: The next one will be on October 3 in Hitzacker.
Follow the link to better understand the Syrian refugees. And then pray.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength


Verse 1
Though tears may fall
My song will rise, my song will rise
To You
Though my heart may fail
My song will rise, my song will rise
To You
While there’s breath in my lungs
I will praise You, Lord
In the dead of night, I’ll lift my eyes
I’ll lift my eyes to You
When the waters rise, I’ll lift my eyes
I’ll lift my eyes to You
While there’s hope in my heart
I will praise You, Lord

The joy of the Lord is my strength!
The joy of the Lord is my strength!
In the darkness I’ll dance
in the shadows I’ll sing
The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Verse 2
When I cannot see You with my eyes
Let faith arise to You
When I cannot feel Your hand in mine
Let faith arise to You
God of mercy and love
I will praise You, Lord
Oh You shine with glory Lord of light
I feel alive with You
In Your presence now I come alive
I am alive with You
There is strength when I say
I will praise You, Lord


When sorrow comes my way
You are the shield around me
Always, You remain
Like courage in the fight
I hear You call my name
Jesus, I am coming
Walking on the waves
Reaching for Your light!


2015 – by Rend Collective and Ed Cash 

Grace… The decisive actor

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Paul realized that the first part of this verse might be misunderstood. So he goes on to say, “Though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

This text does not say that Paul is obeying Christ out of gratitude for grace he had given in the past. It says that, at every moment, the future grace of God enabled Paul’s work.

Does it really say that? Doesn’t it just say that the grace of God worked with Paul? No, it says more. We have to come to terms with the words, “Though it was not I.” Paul wants to exalt the moment-by-moment grace of God in such a way that it is clear that he himself is not the decisive doer of this work.

Nevertheless, he is a doer of this work: “I worked harder than any of them.” He worked. But he said it was the grace of God “toward me.”

If we let all the parts of this verse stand, the end result is this: grace is the decisive doer in Paul’s work. Since Paul is also a doer of his work, the way grace becomes the decisive doer is by becoming the enabling power of Paul’s work.

I take this to mean that, as Paul faced each day’s ministry burden, he bowed his head and confessed that unless future grace was given for that day’s work, he would not be able to do it.

He recalled the words of Jesus, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). So he prayed for future grace for the day, and he trusted in the promise that it would come with power. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Then he acted with all his might.


A Prayer for Father’s Day (Down Under)

I prayed this prayer last year on Father’s Day at our church. Praise God for his heavenly Fatherliness!

nativitystorythe_photos_1Dear Heavenly Father
Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to earth, entrusting him into the care of an earthly Father and modelling to us your sacrificial love and servant leadership. We give thanks for our own earthly fathers, for the love, provision and protection they have given us, even though imperfectly at times. Lord, forgive us for demanding perfection from our dads, which is only something you can give. Help us all to be prayerful for our fathers and appreciate the important role they played in leading and guiding us. Help us to show and express our love for our dads today.
We also think of the many children around us who live in a fatherless world, through absence or neglect or abuse. We pray that those children might find in you the father they seek. We pray children and families we connect with through Clubhouse and the Kids holiday program, that they might know your perfect Father’s love, that they might know you as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord that you are the Father to the Fatherless.
We pray too for those who have lost fathers in the last year, for your comfort at this time while others are celebrating the love of fathers. Thank you Lord for the good memories we can share at this time, and the many good things our fathers have contributed to our characters and lives.
Pray for all dads, that they can love and accept and affirm their children, showing wisdom and patience as they seek to teach their children about Jesus. We pray particularly for new dads, for the task of leading and guiding which they may feel so unprepared for. Thank you that no matter what experiences they have had, with a good, bad or absent father, that they can love like you because your holy and fatherly spirit lives in them, by faith.  We pray that your design for families to be led by Christ-following dads, would be lived out amongst us, and would influence the society around us, for good and your glory!

Dog Filmed Home Alone Gives His Parents A Surprise

This is too good not to share. It would be interesting to know what a dog actually hears when it hits those keys…..a much greater range of harmonics than we mere humans, I guess.