Category Archives: Rebellion and Sin

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

Blog - Holy Week - Good FridayPhoto Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Jesus’ mockery of a trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the rangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

Good Friday from popgodblogPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – and We Worship

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. – Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.Hispanic celebration at Central High SchoolPhoto Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit – Baptist Press

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

Photo Credits – Baptist PressFREEDOM TO WORSHIPCHINA RELIGIONBlog - Holy Week Wednesday 4Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 2BLog - Holy Week Wednesday 3

Sunday Schooled: King David & Uriah the Hittite – a Bible Story for Adults Only

Blog - David's Mighty Men - Uriah - keywayPhoto Credit: Keyway

David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. – 1 Kings 15:5

The story of “David and Goliath” crosses cultures and religions. The small shepherd boy who brought down a giant warrior with just a slingshot and a single stone. From the time he was a boy through all his years as King of Israel, David would fight in the strength and for the glory of God. From all we read in the Psalms as well as what history tells us of him, David truly loved God. Even the LORD Himself declared David “a man after God’s own heart“.

However, we also see that David knew great sin and brokenness in his life as well. His betrayal of Uriah the Hittite was probably the darkest period of his life and a crossroads of historic proportions.

It begins here. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)

King David should have been away in battle, shoulder to shoulder with his great army, which included the “mighty men” loyal to him from the rough early years of his preparation for the throne. Instead, for whatever reasons, he was at ease in his palace.

[This whole account of what follows is found in full in 2 Samuel 11.]

Standing on his rooftop, King David allowed his eyes to rest on a scene he would later regret. A woman bathing. Bathsheba, her name. The wife of his warrior, Uriah.

Unbridled lust and adultery would follow, even as one of his attendants called his attention to the fact that she belonged to Uriah the Hittite. “Uriah the Hittite, O King!” This man had been with David, fighting for him, from their days of hiding in caves, enemies of King Saul, whose place David would one day take. This man Uriah was one of David’s “mighty men“.

Not even recognition of his loyal warrior would stop David from the evil in his heart.

Then…weeks later, Bathsheba sent the news that would betray David’s great sin against Uriah. She was pregnant. What would follow was a great scheme to get Uriah home from battle and in his wife’s bed, to cover David’s sin. Uriah did come, as beckoned, but would not enjoy company with his wife out of loyalty to those still in battle.

Finally, David would do a further unthinkable act. He had Uriah placed in the line of battle where his death would be assured. After he was killed and Bathsheba’s acceptable mourning period passed, King David married her…and they would NOT live happily ever after.

Faithful Uriah. Courageous Uriah. Man of integrity, Uriah. Sacrificed by the one he followed into battle for years. Essentially murdered by the one for whom he would die…and did die.

Psalm 51 records David’s great sorrow at his sin and subsequent separation from God. He longed to be restored to a right relationship with the Lord and he knew and owned the great wrong he had done both to Uriah and to God Himself.

I am so thankful for the long-suffering forgiveness and steadfast love of God.  We should never, however, think that without confession and repentance we can presume on God’s kindness toward us…

We must remember Uriah also…and mourn, with David, those who suffer when we choose our own way and we forget God.

Dr. Rick Taylor writes poignantly and hopefully about Uriah the Hittite. In his article David’s Mighty Men: Uriah, the Overlooked Warrior:

Uriah may be overlooked and forgotten by mankind. He has never been a big name in the Bible. He is almost never looked at as a hero or man of valor. But God made it clear that his warrior integrity will be memorialized. Even in the face of every major temptation to the contrary put forth by David, in God’s estimation, Uriah was a determined man of nobility, character, integrity, purity of heart and unwavering principle…God sees and remembers – for eternity.Rick Taylor

A Tale of Three Kings – a Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwardsone of my absolute favorite books

Movement Church – Pastor Cliff Jordan – Podcast on Psalm 51 – September 4, 2016

King David – a Man After God’s Own Heart – Jack Zavada

David, a Great King, Yet With a Critical Flaw – What is the Lesson for Us Today? – Msgr. Charles Pope

David’s Mighty Men – Stewardship in Action – Hugh Whelchel

David’s Mighty Men (and the stories behind them) [Infographic] – Jeffrey Kranz

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Faithful God to an Unfaithful People

Blog - Come THou FOunt - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?…Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.  Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power… Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.Psalm 106: 1-2, 6-8, 44-45

 When Pastor Cliff Jordan led the gathered Movement Church recently to turn to Psalm 106, we were reminded afresh of a remarkable truth – the faithfulness of God to his unfaithful people. [Podcast here].

The psalmist calls the people of God to remember his steadfast love even in the face of their murmuring, disobedience, and idolatry. Account after account, he writes of the history of Israel…not to focus on the sinfulness of humanity, as much as to display the faithfulness of God in delivering them.

We are no different than those of old. We are broken by our sinful nature and fall too often into that age-old pattern of rebellion, repentance, and restoration.

Praise God that he is ever willing to restore us to himself. How dreadful when we miss restoration because we refuse to reckon with our rebellion. I know my sinful heart too well. That is one of the many reasons I love God so much.

“Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

This lyric is from the great old hymn written in 1757 by another wanderer – Robert Robinson. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Like Psalm 106, it’s a great testament of a faithful God to an unfaithful people. I’ve written about this great old hymn before here.

Worship with me to the hymn sung by the David Crowder Band:

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:

O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.

Hallelujah!

Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.

Lyrics to Come Though Fount as performed by David Crowder Band

Story Behind the Song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come Thou Fount – Wikipedia article – interesting notation of the various lyric changes/additions

Did Robert Robinson Wander…as He Feared? – Dan Graves

Video of The Aeolians of Oakwood University singing Come Thou Fount, with directors Dr. Lloyd Mallory and Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand Don’t miss this!

Blog - Aeolians - cassmacenterprisePhoto Credit: Cassmacenterprise

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

Worship Wednesday – At the Cross – with Chris Tomlin

Blog - Worship Wednesday - At the Cross 2Photo Credit: YouTube

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.1 Peter 2:24

The holiness of God and His love for an unholy people required an act that only He Himself could accomplish for us to be restored to Him. A perfect sacrifice. A sinless Savior. God Himself in the person of His Son taking our sins upon Himself. Because of that death, that cross, and His resurrection that followed, we can know our debt of sin is paid and death has no claim on us. Amazing!

It leaves me without words every time I think about what God did for us to restore us to Himself.

Fortunately, God gives words to songwriters to express what we want to express to Him…our wonder, our gratitude, our love.

Worship with me:

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
Jesus

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God
And forgiveness

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You saved my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
Jesus

Blog - Worship Wednesday - At the Cross - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Lyrics: At the Cross (Love Ran Red) written by Matt Armstrong, Ed Cash, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – At the Cross (Love Ran Red) – Lyrics & Chords

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – Story Behind the Song At the Cross (Love Ran Red)

“You Are the Man!” – What if I Really Am That Guy? That Weaker Brother, That Hypocrite, That Proud Religious Guy

2015 Nov - Phone Pics - Sadie, Movement, Church, Sunset, Blob 002

During today’s worship and Bible teaching with Movement Church, God touched my heart again with the story of Stephen, the very first martyred Christ-follower (Acts 6-7). Stephen’s serving and prophetic ministry was short and effective. He was used mightily by God to confront the religious establishment of that day…the very people who were instrumental in Christ’s crucifixion. Stephen would lose his life as well at the hands of these defiant religious men.

Our first-born son was to be named Stephen after this man of God. My niece was pregnant at the same time and claimed that name first for her son. So we looked for another name of a man who loved God more than man, who spoke God’s truth no matter the cost. Our son was given the name Nathan, after a prophet that God used to wake up King David from a terrible self-deception. After David had taken another man’s wife, murdering that man to cover his own sin, Nathan told a story to David which brought him to his senses and caused him to repent.

David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul…'”2 Samuel 12:5,7

…Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 2 Samuel 12:13

I am deeply thankful for the prophets of the Bible and God’s prophets today. A prophet is defined as a messenger of God – “The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was “to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.”

When our pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached on Stephen today, I was reminded of how God draws us to Himself and the truth of His Word through others – these who become messengers of God in our lives.

My heart was pierced at the times I have read Scripture and chose to see myself as the one without fault…the one who was “in the right” as compared to that “other guy” who fell short…in my estimation, if not God’s. As Cliff preached on Stephen, that passage and two others resonated as to how we allow deceit in our lives. You may recognize these passages and persons…from one side or the other.

  1. The Weaker Brother – In this passage, Paul challenged the “stronger brother” to resist using his freedom in Christ as a stumbling block for the weaker brother who struggles with whether he’s free or not.

“Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Romans 14:20-22

Sometimes, we are that “weaker brother”. It helps to remember that…it keeps us humble and dependent on God and each other. He means for us to reason together in love to understand the ways of God and how to follow Him…together.

2. The Hypocrite – With the Log in His Eye – Jesus tells a story about judging each other unrighteously. There is a right judging – as we have seen through the prophets in the Word and in our lives. We usually think we are God’s messenger in others’ lives to get “the speck” out of their eyes..and sometimes to get the “log out”.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:3-5

Maybe we are the one with the log in our eyes. The most loving thing we can do for that brother or sister is to help them rid themselves of “the speck”, but we can’t help them until we get rid of our own “log”…or own sin, or hypocrisy, or self-deceit. In proceeding this way, we are given a priceless opportunity to walk humbly in community with each other.

3. The Religious Establishment – When Stephen faced the religious authorities of his day, he was in excellent company. Jesus had faced these same men in a hurried trial with his death as the goal of the proceedings. Stephen had to know that his life was at stake. In a riveting review of the history of Israel, he spoke forcefully to the pattern over the centuries of the religious rejecting the ones God sent to them. Such arrogance. God help us!

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”Acts7:51-52

2015 Nov - Phone Pics - Sadie, Movement, Church, Sunset, Blob 006

Stephen was martyred for his message, but he was not silenced. His witness to a holy God is as powerful today as it was that day he passed from life, through death, to be with God in Heaven. Hallelujah! We are called to be such witnesses to a living, loving God.

After Cliff closed the teaching in prayer, the worship team led us in singing “I Surrender All“. More than anything in my life, I want to live a life worthy of God – to be courageous, to love truth, to serve others, to always remember my need for a Savior – to live a life that points others to Jesus…not because I am perfect, far from it…but because He is.2015 Nov - Phone Pics - Sadie, Movement, Church, Sunset, Blob 007

[Have to include this YouTube video – of a time when celebrity Oprah Winfrey had a I Surrender All moment when she submitted a deep desire to God. Faith Hill belts it from her own experience.]

War Room – A Film and a Strategy – Praying Our Hearts Out for Those We Love – From the Archives

“May Yahweh answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary & sustain you from Zion. May He remember all your offerings & accept your burnt offering. May He give you what your heart desires & fulfill your whole purpose. Let us shout for joy at your victory & lift the banner in the name of our God. May Yahweh fulfill all your requests.”Psalm 20:1-4

Have you ever laid awake at night fretting or even despairing over a loved one’s situation or life choices? Have you felt the choking hopelessness not thinking you can do anything to help? God forbid, we deal with a request for prayer as new fodder for gossip, or we just click “Like” on Facebook and never really pray. Never really pray as if all the powers of Heaven might come to bear on a situation if we did. Pray.

A new film by the Kendrick Brothers opened in theaters in the US on August 28, 2015. It’s called War Room with the subtitle Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon. I had the opportunity to see a pre-release screening and it so lifted my heart. It’s a compelling story about a married couple, Tony and Elizabeth Jordan (T. C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer) whose relationship is crumbling by degrees. Ambition, pursuit of pleasure, entitlement, and unforgiveness have dealt mortal wounds to their marriage. Only a miracle would save their marriage.

This glimmer of hope arrives through the friendship of Elizabeth with an elderly woman, known only as Miss Clara. (Karen Abercrombie). This tiny old woman is a serious force of nature…wielding supernatural weapons, in her faith in God. She wages battle daily for those God places in her path. Unbeknownst to them at first, Elizabeth and Tony would soon see the very God of the universe draw near to them in response to His daughter’s cries for help. If you see this film, Miss Clara may remind you of your praying grandmother. So much love. So much power.BLog - War Room to publish 2

The film opens on a war room with military officers pouring over maps and coordinates as they planned strategy for battle. When Miss Clara enters the story, a very different war room is introduced. She prays all the time, out loud and confidently. Yet there are times during each day, she enters her war room – a tiny closet, with a chair and Bible, and notes taped up all over the wall. Those notes were prayer requests and Scripture promises. Complete focus on God and on the ones she was praying hard for…no distractions.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6

Some situations need excruciatingly intimate business done with God. Prayer requests in a meeting or through social media make a difference also. However, we don’t see answers to prayer sometimes because we think the problem is too great or the situation too far gone. Miss Clara kept her faith…whatever the outcome, this should be our heart toward God. He is able.

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When we battle in prayer for those we love, this moves the heart of God. What are you praying your heart out for right now?Blog - War Room to publish

YouTube Video – War Room – The Heart of the Film

War Room – Doing Battle with Prayer – WRBL Special Report

“The Three Battles” by Alex Kendrick

To join the conversation: WARROOMMOVIE on Facebook; @WARROOMMOVIE and @ANSWEREDPRAYER on Twitter

Putting on the Armor – Equipped and Deployed for Spiritual Warfare –  Dr. Chuck Lawless (pdf Bible study)

How to Pray Evangelistically – How to Pray God’s Heart – by Dr. Chuck Lawless

How to Pray when Someone You Love is Stuck in Sin by Erin Davis

Photo Credits – All images are from WarRoomTheMovie.com media materials.

Worship Wednesday – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Debbie - self-portrait

“I will restore to you the years of the locusts…” – Joel 2:25

If ever a song spoke to my deepest heart hurts, it’s this one. Laura Story’s Til I Met You. In my younger years, even after coming to faith in God as a child, I strayed far from Him. If you were a casual friend, you might not have noticed. I was in church, and fairly religious. That was the problem…I spent years tuning my affections toward the cheap shininess of the world, and missed a joy-filled intimacy with God…all at that same time.

He wasn’t the One who moved. I had walked away…deceiving myself that I was still following Him, serving Him, devoted to Him.

Then, like the Prodigal Son, I woke up to the darkness in my own heart and remembered where I belonged. By God’s grace, I crawled out of the pit dug with my own poor choices. Laura Story’s song Til I Met You could be my testament of a life restored – not by my own resolve or a force of nature but – a genuine encounter with God Himself.

I first met God as a nine-year-old. Unchurched until two years before, I was not schooled in the person of God. Even as a child, I became an eager student of Him. The Truth of God’s Word was so freeing for my little heavy heart. Even then, I knew the weight of sin – the wanting to be good and kind and helpful and the chronic tripping over myself in failure.

When I heard it was possible to be forgiven of that sin and to experience the power of God in my life, enabling me to become more and more like Jesus, I was completely captivated and drawn to Him.

Three different occasions I lost touch with God and my place as His child. Brief but significant periods in my mid-teens, mid-20s, and mid-30s. Sin and self-justification had wormed their way into my heart. For a season, even in the midst of being involved with church, I went my own way. The joy and peace that were mine in following Christ drained out of me as if I were a cracked vessel.

Then, like in Laura Story’s song, the darkness of my sin and deception was illuminated by the Spirit of God, and I saw what mattered. What really mattered. My relationship with the Lord.

It’s been many years now, and the Prodigal is home for good. I understand so well Peter’s response to Jesus, when Jesus asked His disciples if they would leave Him:

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-69

When we have an encounter with God, and receive Him in saving faith, He begins a transformation in us that trumps anything the world holds out there for us. He adopts us into His family; we are His. What happened before…the terrible choices, the regret, the brokenness – are carried away by His perfect love for His children.

Worship with me. If you are still struggling in some dark pit of your own choosing, He will set you free from that. I know. He did it for me.

I’ve known pain and deep regret
I’ve known the weight of my mistakes like the back of my hand
I’ve known deception and all its games
I’ve known the way it feels to drown in my own shame

But I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You.

I’ve known rejections
I’ve bought the lie that I could never overcome the hurt inside
With arms of mercy You reach for me
Tore the veil away and gave me eyes to see
You’re all I need

And I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (I’m accepting I was hopeless)
Till I met You (I was stumbling in the darkness)

I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release; You’re the one Who brought me through.
And I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You

Do You Know Jesus? – The Gospel in Four Minutes

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus – Spoken Word – Jefferson Bethke

Lyrics to Til I Met You

YoUTube Video – Official Lyric Video – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Story Behind the Song – Til I Met You

Laura Story Music

Worship Wednesday – Into Marvelous Light, I’m Running – Charlie Hall

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You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9

When we were kids, in summer, we would play until almost dark.  My brothers, our neighborhood friends, and I would own our quiet street on those summer evenings.

We would run, chase, and  evade being caught until we could almost not see in the fading light. Our moms would tell us “home before dark”, and we scattered, just in time, each to his own home.

The porch light brought us running home every time. No matter how dark it was out, we could always find home….because of that “marvelous light”.

The dark can be a scary place. We ran home gladly to escape the dark. Charlie Hall captures that run home (to God) in his song Marvelous Light. My childhood memory is nothing in comparison to  how God delivers us out of the darkness of our sin.

I resonate so deeply with the words of this song (lyrics follow). To know real shame because of hurtful choices or terrible decisions. Then to experience the forgiveness of God. To know, from His Word, that He sees us pure and lovely. It takes my breath away.

What life God gives us! To have the weight of our sin lifted off our lives through the sheer grace of God in Christ Jesus. No wonder Charlie Hall includes “arms in the air, spinning around” imagery. In the love we have as His redeemed and restored cbildren, we lose that adult self-consciousness. All that matters is His speaking into the dark, calling us into His light, and we run to Him, as His children, full of joy.

Sun through the clouds

Worship with me:

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

I once was fatherless
A stranger with no hope
Your kindness wakened me
Awakened me, from my sleep

Your love it beckons deeply
A call to come and die
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take Your life

Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Yeah
No more shame

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I’m free, now I’m free

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I’m free, now I’m free

Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Yeah
No more shame
No more shame

Now we show the world – Christ in you

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

It’s Christ in you

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found

Oh the marvelous light, marvelous light

whoa-oh-yeah
whoa-oh-oh

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Blog - Running into His Marvelous LightRunning on the Beach, Oualidia, Morocco

Marvelous Light Written by Charlie Hall

YouTube Video – Marvelous Light – With Lyrics – Charlie Hall

YouTube Video – Marvelous Light sung by Charlie Hall Band at Passion Conference ’05

Charlie Hall Band