The Sandwich of Great Price

How far would you walk for a sandwich? Half a mile? Maybe a mile, for a great sandwich. Jimmy John’s delivers sandwiches, you know. Safe to say, I wouldn’t walk very far.

This, apparently, is where my dad and I differ.

It’s the early 70’s. Miami. A young student has just enough money each day for both lunch and his bus fare to get home from school. He’s a student at Miami Jackson High School, which is in Miami. My dad’s family had moved out of the city, but he didn’t want to change schools so he would catch a ride into the city with a neighbor and take the city bus back home. Apparently, there was a great food stand next to the bus stop and one day my dad was faced with a dilemma: spend the bus fare on the bus or spend it on a sandwich and walk home. He chose the sandwich.

Fast forward to 2012. Our family is in Florida for my grandmother’s funeral. While in the city, running errands and sorting out last minute details, we drive past my dad’s old school. The story of the Bus-Stop Sandwich resurfaces and my brother and I start to think “this seems a little far from home…”. We map it out when we get back. It was a little far from home.

Eight Miles.

Miami Map

Well, Google says 8.4 miles to be exact. Now, you’d expect the story would finish with “and that was the last time I did that”, but it doesn’t. This became routine. For forty years he never knew exactly how far he walked for that sandwich. I’m not sure knowing the distance would have made any difference. It was a Cuban sandwich after all.

Sometimes a sandwich is more than a sandwich. Sometimes what is ordinary to most turns out to be extraordinary to maybe just one person. Certainly a lot of people bought sandwiches from that shop, but I doubt many were willing to pay that kind of price. But, when it’s worth it to you, you’re willing to do whatever it takes.

It reminds me of a story in the Bible that Jesus tells. He says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one of great price he went and sold everything he had so he could buy it. That must have been some sandwich… I mean, pearl 🙂

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

The Pursuit

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” — Matthew 18:12-14

My life as a Christian didn’t begin with a decision. I didn’t pray a prayer or kneel at an altar. I never saw it coming. It was like I looked up, and there He was. To borrow a line from the wonderful hymn Amazing Grace, “I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see”. I didn’t find God; He found me.

At best, I was the prodigal son, coming to both the conclusion that I’ve made a mess of my life and the realization that things would be better if I went back to my Father. Unfortunately, just like the prodigal son, I focused on how I could earn God’s love; working my way back into God’s favor which isn’t actually possible (this is why Jesus died on the cross). Thankfully though, God isn’t passive. He is watching, waiting, and even pursuing. How happy is that lost little lamb to look up from total despair to see the loving and familiar face of the Good Shepherd! “You sought me! You found me!” And what a surprise and joy it must have been to the son, who was rehearsing his thorough plan of penitence on his way back home, to be intercepted en route by his loving Father!

Jesus was pursuing me. He sought me. He found me. He saved me. Amen! (If you’ve got a few more minutes, you can hear more of my story here).

Is He pursuing you? Is He calling out to you? How will you know unless you look up?

“Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is no other.” — Isaiah 45:22

Midnight, Christians

My favorite version of ‘O Holy Night’ is the original, based on the French poem “Midnight, Christians”. Because you (probably) and I (definitely) don’t speak French, this is the English translation of the lyrics:

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God as man descended unto us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,

It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken every bond:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.

People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

Words from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night

my story: sin & grace

I had the opportunity to share my testimony, my story, at church recently, and here’s the audio. I thought about writing it all out, or adding some clarifications or writing a brief summary, but it didn’t happen. So, hopefully you’ve got a minute (well, 40 minutes) to hear more about me, God and the wonderful things He’s done in my life.

For You Are With Me

The whole 23rd Psalm can be summed up in five words: for you are with me. Christian, the Good Shepherd, Jesus, is with you. He is near, close by, even tonight. Dwell on this truth.

Are you enjoying green pastures or do you find yourself beside still waters? You did not stumble upon them on your own. You weren’t told how to get there, you didn’t get a map in the mail. Sheep do not follow directions, they follow the shepherd. (Side note: They’ll also follow anyone with food and can be a bit pushy; I have a long weekend’s worth of experience caring for sheep, but that’s another story…). The Good Shepherd must be close by because he makes you to lie down in green pastures, and he leads you beside still waters.

Are you overwhelmed by worry, doubts, fear, anxiety? Don’t be afraid. Why? Because “God has it all under control”? While that is very true, it is usually not very comforting because we have very little capacity for comprehending God’s control over cancer, earthquakes, violence or a million other things that keep us awake at night.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

We need not be afraid because Jesus is with us! If you trust in Christ, there are a lot of things to rejoice in (salvation, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification) but what you may need to dwell on tonight to drive away your fears is the nearness of Christ.

Maybe you don’t feel that he is close by; trust him. These are not empty words. I would argue that the greatest distance he could possibly be is an arm’s length away. Verse five says: “You anoint my head with oil.” He doesn’t pour it on you from heaven, he doesn’t sprinkle it on you from across the room, he anoints you with oil; his hand is on your head. Believer, even if you don’t feel very close to him tonight, take him at his word, he is near, he is with you.