Category Archives: Jesus

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

[Adapted from the Archives]

Worship can be a deeply emotional experience. In fact, sometimes, we lose our focus on God Himself in the midst of the singing of a familiar song. Our minds wander as memories of other times and places take us out of the moment. Not a bad thing necessarily, but…

That happened to me recently as the praise band at Movement Church opened the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. I love this Stuart Townend hymn. He published it in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country. [This and another hymn of his – In Christ Alone.]

On Fridays, we would join other internationals and a smattering of Egyptian Christians, at Heliopolis Community Church, and we would sing and pray in English. Such a refreshment to our souls as we spent most of our week, learning and using Arabic in our work and with neighbors and friends. English was our worship language.blog-international-church-worship-how-deep-the-fathers-lovePhoto Credit: CCCLux

Sweet memories of hot Friday mornings, singing with believers from all over the world, as the call to prayer broke through from a nearby mosque. Sweet memories of a oneness with each other…and with God.

Then my thoughts sprang back to the present, as the gathered church at Movement sang this lyric:

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

At what cost? Oh…we can imagine the considerable cost Jesus paid because our own flesh cringes at the excruciating pain of the cross. Yet, we also must take in, as much as we can, the cost to the Father. Such great love He has…for His own son…and for us…each one of us. The whole world, in fact.

When Stuart Townend was writing this hymn, he was very aware of the emotions that can be elicited in praise music. Just as I have described, the personal joy, refreshment, and happy memories that can be so satisfying in the experience of individual and corporate worship. His hope was to write in such a way as to help the worshiper get beyond himself and to a greater awareness of God.

“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Hymns like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us complement our prayer life and study of God’s Word. For those friends of ours who don’t yet believe…those who say, “That’s nice for you that you believe God. I just don’t believe like you do.”…we have a witness in worship.

It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

blog-how-deep-the-fathers-love-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

blog-movement-church-how-deep-the-fathers-love-worship-2

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Cover by Joy Williams

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

The High Cost of the Cross – Joe Crews

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that experience of events converging and what was foggy before becomes crystal clear? I just had that kind of week. A series of non-random things happened that caused a chain reaction of a magnitude that launched me out of my  creative doldrums.

Here’s what happened.

Backtracking a bit, I’ve been thinking solidly for several weeks on social capital – what kind of resource that is and what it takes to have it (or restore it).

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. Simple English Wikipedia

I wrote about social capital twice – here and here. After posting that last blog, the following events had huge impact on how I’ve been doing life.

  1. The right book landed in my hands. Literally.

It was Jeff Goins‘ latest book that was just released. His 5th book and already a best-seller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age came in the mail.

I tore into it and was so encouraged and empowered by his stories and counsel for artists, like him. No, not like him in the best-selling author part…but like him in the before “possibility-season” of his life.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.Photo Credit: Jeff Goins

Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons From My Latest Launch) – Jeff Goins

2) Significant conversations followed. After posting my last blog, a writer acquaintance suggested we get together. Ann Lovell is a seasoned writer and currently employed as a Communications Director. Not only that, she continues busy with her own writing and is editing the manuscript of another incredible author. We talked about writing, and she offered her help. That was huge for me and right out of Jeff Goins’ book. Then another author friend Kevin Prewett with whom I share workspace some weeks also gifted me with good and thought-provoking questions about my writing. So helpful. Finally, through one more conversation, I realized how my own focus had been more on guiding and encouraging younger  writers and artists around me without noticing my own craft had gone untended. That conversation, with our guitarist son Nathan Mills,   was much illuminating. This time I benefited from a younger artist.

Significant conversations all.

3) A “Come to Jesus Moment” happened with my best friend. The one person in my life who has read all the blogs and has celebrated every high and encouraged me through every low is that husband and friend of mine, Dave. I am sometimes guilty of giving counsel too quickly (ok, advice…really. Unasked for advice. Dang it!). It’s much easier to look in others’ lives and suggest a small tweak than to face full on what totally needs rerouting in our own lives. In the last couple of years, taking early retirement and being too much on the outside looking in, I have time to come up with a prescription for anyone else’s problem. [Yes…guilty.] Not that I’m wrong, necessarily, but the situation is not mine. Most probably, Dave, or Nathan, or whomever it might be knows far more about where he/she is on that trajectory toward next steps than I could possibly conjecture. So here’s the “Come to Jesus Moment”. Over the weekend, Dave and I were talking about this season of life. We resonated together about lost social capital…those strong influencer groups with whom we once were a part and now not so much. In that brief conversation, when I would usually cheer on Dave to rally, the proverbial light bulb went off. Not just for him but for me as well. It is still possible to reclaim ground lost. Now was the time to act.

4) I applied for a job. I’d been toying with this for awhile. Until my dad died, I was making so many trips to help care for him, it seemed impossible for me to work anywhere. I would toss around options with family and friends (teaching ESL, hospice, school nursing), but nothing seemed to fit. Then for several months, I would hear of friends being hired into the coolest jobs and struggled to have unreserved joy for them. It was time for me to either continue with contentment in my current state of not working or take aim in one direction or another and do something. One job caught my eye. One job. I did the hours of updating my resume, pulling together samples of my writing, and crafting a cover letter. If I don’t get that job, I’ll apply for another.

5) I took the Social Capital Challenge.  A couple of months ago, I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on…weeks ago for a month-long challenge…and then did nothing.

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

Until today…

Today I created a written goal and posted it somewhere public.

I joined the Facebook page for The Art of Charm Challenge just now, and here was my first posting.

“Hello, everyone. I signed up for the challenge weeks ago. Even though its email reminders, baby to bigger steps, have been feeding my inbox, I wouldn’t even open them. Until today. Today I am ready. My goal is to have a manuscript with the art work publish-ready by the end of the year. My co-author and I had our first sit-down today, to share story idea and flesh it out some and to do the beginning photographer for the illustrator. Whew! There it is.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Jess_the_VA

I’m taking a deep breath…and we’ll see where this all lands. Whatever lies ahead, I’m so grateful for good counsel, courageous and creative friends and family, and clarity. It’s a very good Monday.

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – When Connections Are Lost – a Rant, a Resolve, and a Request – Deb Mills Writer

6 Things You Need to recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

6 Things You Need to Recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Outpouring of a Thankful Heart

Photo credit: Womensministry.net

Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.

Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.

This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.

Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us.  A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.

Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.

For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.

So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).

  1. Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
  2. 1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
  3. Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
  4. Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
  5. A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
  6. Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
  7.  Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
  8. A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
  9. Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
  10. A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
  11. The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
  12. Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.

I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.

Worship with me to the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (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!

How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.

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

Counting Your Blessings – 21 Inspirational Bible Verses – Bible Reasons – Fritz Chery

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

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount – A Faithful God to an Unfaithful People – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – I Wanna Go Back – David Dunn

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

You Tube 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

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Recognizing Doublespeak, On Distraction, Uncelebrated Moms, and Colored Glass

On this quiet, rainy Friday morning, I’ve looked back on another week of days. Days that can transform our thinking as we brush shoulders with people like us and not so much. Days that introduce different ways of thinking that require us to check our own. Days that arrest us with their beauty and days that move us to note beauty where it seems lacking…but it isn’t. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. Your thoughts, please? In the Comments below.

1) Beyond the Guitar – Over the last few months, I have discovered a strange dichotomy in my experience of video games and beautiful music. In my mind, those two things did not exist together. I was wrong. Not a big fan of video games, I am now drawn to the music of many. Thanks to the arrangements of classical guitarist Nathan Mills.  His most recent arrangement and YouTube posting of Yearnings of the Wind composed by Yasunori Mitsuda is hauntingly beautiful. This song is from the music score of popular video game Chrono Trigger: 600 AD. Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Patreon

His arrangement begins almost like a melody you would find opening a turn-of-the-century music box. Pure and lovely. Then it moves to a romantic rendering of Mitsuda’s piece, such that you might hear in the background of a small café in Italy.  Just wow!

Funny thing: I love this piece and have not one bit of sweet nostalgia from playing this game…as so many will have growing up with this game.

Listen here.

YouTube Video – Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect – #NathanTalks – Beyond the Guitar

2) Recognizing Doublespeak – From the time our children were small, we tried to teach them how to cut through messages that seemed true but were not. We wanted them to be critical thinkers and not take the things they heard as fact just because they were spoken with authority from authorities. We wanted them to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion.

Photo Credit: Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal

Doublespeak is defined as language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.Wikipedia

“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it, and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.”Edward S. Herman

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Whether there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” – George Orwell in Politics and the English Language

When we gather around the dinner table these days, our children are adults and have their own ideas and tolerances about doublespeak. We still talk about current events under the microscope of discerning the doublespeak, what the intention of the speaker is, and what bias I bring to the interpretation.

A high-ranking government official in the US was sacked this week. For weeks prior to his dismissal, his firing was insisted upon by one political party. Immediately after his firing, the action was deemed suspicious by the same party. Whatever was warranted in that action, we struggle with determining what is true and noteworthy in our present political climate.

What we believe about something can be affected by cleverly crafted messaging. I really loved The Oatmeal comic You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You . It’s a graphic illustration of how we might be made to change our mind on something. The key here is the compelling nature of the message and our core values. Our core values inform our worldview. Our worldview can change as we absorb a changing culture’s views. That is why revisiting such things with people you trust, whether they share your worldview or not, is important. Otherwise, we begin to believe the messages – the doublespeak – without thinking critically what we are really buying, and giving up, in believing/accepting the message. Something to consider…

You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You – Classroom VersionThe Oatmeal – Comics

The Psychology Behind That Popular New Comic From ‘The Oatmeal’ – by Austin Cross and A Martínez with Lori Galarreta

Good Leaders Persuade. They Don’t Manipulate. – Harrison Monarth

3) On Distraction – I struggle with distractions, always have. Long before the various diversions found online became my struggle. Photo Credit: Flickr

This week, David Mathis posted a great piece entitled You Can Defeat Distraction. He talked about the importance of “setting our minds” on what matters. Where our mind is “at home” is also a factor. I want my own thoughts to return to God and the things of God. Just this week, an ancient Scripture verse has been on my mind: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) This consideration follows Mathis’ take on defeating distraction. If I can truly say “I love God” with how I spend my time and who and what I invest my time in, then the issue becomes a non sequitur – Distraction is checked.

What do you think?

If you prefer a less-spiritual take on this, check out Marcel Schwante’s article Neuroscience Says Doing These Activities Will Help Keep Your Brain More Focusedhe prescribes such helps as power naps, scheduled downtime, gratitude, and end-of-the-day wind-down rituals.

4) Uncelebrated Moms – Mother’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world (not on the same date but remembered still). As Mother’s Day looms here, we prepare in the US to celebrate and be celebrated – fueled by TV commercials, social media blasts, and sometimes wild expectations of our own.

It got me thinking this week about the moms who aren’t celebrated. Let’s celebrate these moms here. I want to celebrate my youngest son’s birth mother who could have aborted him in a culture where she would have been shamed if her pregnancy became public. I celebrate the foster mother who loved him for 14 months until he came home to us (see pic).

Let’s celebrate the moms who aren’t in positions of being celebrated this week – those moms who miscarried; those moms who lost children to accidents, wars, or other calamity; those moms who care for children unable, by physical or mental challenge, to celebrate them; those moms whose children have walked away from them…for reasons they don’t understand.Photo Credit: Soldiers Magazine

Not all of us have moms who are easy to love. I did and still do in my mom-in-law. Still for our own sakes, and that of the next generation, finding something to celebrate in these moms can be so redeeming…for them…and for us.

Remembering, Honouring Our Unsung and Uncelebrated Mothers

YouTube Video – Mom Crush

5) Colored Glass – To close, I want to tell you about a joy from my childhood. My mom grew up just after the Great Depression. She knew a level of poverty I can’t begin to understand. Because of it, and maybe because of her own inclination, she surrounded us with beauty growing up. In the small house where she raised four children, she and my step-dad built open shelves across the windows in the kitchen and dining room. On this shelves she displayed mid-century whiskey decanters which she filled with colored water. I wish I had a picture from those days…it was so beautiful to my little-girl eyes. Walking into those rooms, on waking from sleep, with the early morning sun streaming in, seeing those decanters was like looking through stained glass windows.

Because of this, because of my mama, I have always loved colored glass.

My kitchen window

Tiara Exclusives Glassware – In the 70’s and 80’s, Mom became a sales agent for this glass. She sold a lot of it, and bought (or was awarded) lots which she passed on to all of us. Beautiful colored glass.

Welcome to the weekend y’all. If you’ve had some favorites this week, please comment on them below.

Bonuses: A Quote on The Love of God/the Like of God, and Ducklings

When you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. While Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.

It was at Jesus’ feet that Mary learned she was deeply and dearly loved. But she also learned something more. At Jesus’ feet, Mary learned that Jesus liked her. And when you know that you are liked…it changes everything…in Christ we are the apple of God’s eye, he takes great delight in us, he rejoices over us with singing… – Scott Sauls, Befriend – Create Belonging in An Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear

Photo Credit: Amazon

Video – Family of Ducks Jump Into Water – Jukin Media

 

Worship Wednesday – I Am – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Woodland Baptist Church

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”Exodus 3:13-15

[Jesus speaking] “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:56-58

In Pastor Rick Ezell‘s sermon on What’s In a Name? – Exodus 3, he describes the name of God – Yahweh – The LORD. In the Scripture, when the phrase “I am” is used in an identifying way regarding God, it identifies his presence with us. He is the LORD, and He is ever with His children. When Jesus responded to the religious leaders of his day with the curious sentence, “Before Abraham was, I am”, he was intentionally communicating who he was and his larger identity – The LORD. One with God and ever and always present with his children.

David Crowder and Ed Cash wrote the song “I Am” for the Neon Steeple album. The lyrics of this song speak to me in two ways. When I sing “I am, holding on to you”, it communicates both:

  1. “I AM”, God identifying Himself, is holding on to me, and
  2. I am holding on to Him, the “I AM”.

Photo Credit: New Release Today

Crowder and Cash really touch a cord in this song because don’t we all have days that we feel adrift and wonder where God is in our situation? He is right there. Whether we can hold on or not, He is holding on. He never lets go. He never leaves our side. Hallelujah!Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship with me.

There’s no space that His love can’t reach
There’s no place where we can’t find peace
There’s no end to Amazing Grace
Take me in with your arms spread wide
Take me in like an orphan child
Never let go, never leave my side.

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am

Love like this, Oh my God to find!
I am overwhelmed what a joy divine!
Love like this sets our hearts on fire!

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am

This is my Resurrection Song
This is my Hallelujah Come
This is why to You I run
This is my Resurrection Song
This is my Hallelujah Come
This is why to You I run
There’s no space that His love can’t reach
There’s no place that we can’t find peace
There’s no end to Amazing Grace

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am

Lyrics to I Am – Songwriters: David Crowder, Ed Cash

YouTube Video – I Am Official Song Video – Featuring Son of God Film

Story Behind the Song I Am – Video Interview with David Crowder

I AM Who I AM – John Piper – Transcript and Audio FIle

The I Am‘s of Christ

Worship Wednesday – You Are Faithful – From David Crowder’s Neon Steeple Album – Deb Mills Writer

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

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Blog - Holy Week - The Olivet DiscoursePhoto Credit – slidesharecdn.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

When He [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”Matthew 21:23

On this long day, Jesus would demonstrate in one situation after another that he spoke and acted with the authority of God Himself. The barren fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before had indeed withered and died. The disciples saw it themselves that morning as they walked again from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke to them of faith, which they would need all the more in the days ahead.

Again in Jerusalem, in the Temple and on the busy streets during Passover, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders. They were determined to trap him in some sort of blasphemous teaching or interpretation of the law. It would not happen, yet they were set on his destruction one way or another.

In an attempt to test Jesus’ understanding of the law, a legal advisor to the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the law. The Pharisees emphasized strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, all 613 of them! I don’t think they were prepared for Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –   Mark 12:29-31

Two commands: 1) Love God with your whole being; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Some might say that a third is presumed in that you must love yourself in a right and wholesome way in order to truly love others. Jesus’ love for the Father and his love for all people were in perfect unity. Loving God, with all we are, gives us perspective and capacity to love those around us, whomever they are, as we have experienced love ourselves, from the God we love.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders grew more angry at Jesus and were vexed as to how to destroy his popularity and influence with the masses of Jews loyal to him. All their trickery that day failed. Jesus was not intimidated by them, and in fact, spoke some of his strongest words against them while teaching that day. His 8 “woe to you” pronouncements against the Pharisees are listed at bottom of this page. When I read them, the song from the original Godspell film comes to mind as the Jesus character stands against the religious “machine” of his day – those “hypocrites”, those “blind guides” of the people. Blog - Holy Week PhariseesPhoto Credit –www.faithbibleministries.com

Finally, leaving Jerusalem that day, Jesus stopped on the Mount of Olives (Olivet) to speak about the future. He talked at length, to his disciples and all those who followed, about the end times, cautioning them about false teachers and the evil that would rise up in those last days. What it must have been to listen to Jesus, the Messiah, filled with a mixture of faith in him and fear of what could lie ahead for them, and the generations to come.

When Jesus and his disciples returned for the evening to Bethany, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, stole away and met with Jesus’ enemies. [Matthew 26:14-16] He would betray Jesus to them in the dark of night, away from the crowds who would have objected to this…in just two more days…for 30 pieces of silver…Judas would seemingly take history into his own hands, but the clock was already ticking, and Jesus would finish what he came to earth to do.

Postscript:

8 “Woe’s” Spoken by Jesus Against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-30)

1- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men.

2- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and pray at length as a pretense.

3- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

4- Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”

5- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

6- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

7- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

8- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”*

Holy Week – Day 3: Tuesday in Jerusalem, Mount of Olives

YouTube video Alas for You from the original film Godspell

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

Jesus and the Pharisees

*8 Woes Upon the Pharisees

Great Texts of the Bible – The Two Commandments – commentary by James Hastings

613 Laws of the Torah

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about Two Future Events

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Blog - fig treePhoto Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

Jesus was left still physically hungry and then also spiritually hungry  – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship.Blog - Jesus Cleansing the TemplePhoto Credit:Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple” by Luca Giordano

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. I know the Jesus Film is just another director’s film rendering, but in this scene, Jesus showed great restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one sold –  for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

Monday of Holy Week

The Righteous Anger of Jesus

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross – Day 1 of Holy Week

Blog - Palm Sunday & CrossPhoto Credit – inexplores.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

For anyone who considers herself a critical thinker, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter your religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything you may think of God. You will better understand the core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known to you as Christian. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, you will see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. I encouraged them to study each one, 1) trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then 2) to break down each belief/tenet of faith critically. We all benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

He knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowds did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

Holy Week Timeline

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts, as well as buying them ready-made.

Holy Week – Each Day of that Week in the Life of Jesus – Right Through to His Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Blog - Holy Week - fumcamesPhoto Credit: FUMCAmes

[From the Archives]

“The resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for all His people. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence.  Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”Clarence W. Hall

This week coming up is not like any other in the calendar. Through the centuries, this week has been considered holy. We note each day as significant because of what happened for the sake of all humanity in the space of 8 days…8 days that changed history forever.

Many writers commemorate Holy Week. I wrote a series of articles myself (links are below). Desiring God also has a great series on Holy Week…and Mike Mobley’s Events of the Holy Week. Then there’s Tom Elliff’s beautiful piece on The Easter I’ll Never Forget. You can find much to read on these incredible days of Jesus’ life.

In all the busyness of this month, with school assignments, work deadlines, and Spring vacations, don’t miss Holy Week.

Don’t miss Jesus of Nazareth…whose life is set in history and who sets us into His Story.

Day 1 of Holy Week – Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – a Long Day teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Jesus and Holy Week – Wednesday, Day 4 – a Day of Quiet Before the Storm – and We Worship

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

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

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 8 – He is Risen! Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection of Jesus – Slideshare

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.”  – the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:3–7

Blog - Holy Week - resurrection - the gospel coalitionPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition