Category Archives: Word of God

Wednesday Worship – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Martin Luther – 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

Blog - A Mighty Fortress Is Our God - suwallsPhoto Credit: Suwalls

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”Psalm 46:10-11

In the dark days of oppression, the great Reformer Martin Luther would sing in the streets of Eisenach, Germany, both to encourage himself and those within hearing. He wrote many hymns, but this one, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, written in 1527, became his most well-known. Inspired by Psalm 46, it became the heart cry of the Protestant Reformation.

[This year, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The worldwide celebrations culminate on October 31.]

‘A Mighty Fortress’ so captured the spirit of the Protestant Reformation that when Protestant emigrants were forced into exile or martyrs went to their death, ‘A Mighty Fortress’ always seemed to be the song they chose to sing.” – Diane Severance

Blog - martin Luther - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Severance also wrote about Luther’s love of music:
“Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions…which control men or more often overwhelm them…Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to subdue frivolity, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate…what more effective means than music could you find?”Martin Luther

As Movement Church gathers, we sometimes sing this great hymn. In the past, this song was usually accompanied with pipe organ or orchestra. These days, electric guitar riffs and a measured drum beat remind us of the call to remember who God is…even in the midst of great struggle and the hard press of a changing culture.

This God is the Lord of the church…and we are His people…not just some seemingly silly church people clubbing together. His people are meant to be ready for whatever comes. Not because we are great or able, but because He is…He is our mighty fortress!

Worship with me in the way we learned this great hymn many years ago or in the more contemporary style of HeartSong (below).

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth:
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.*

*Lyrics and Hymn Story: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Tim Challies

The Weak Man Behind A Mighty Fortress – Mark Galli

Martin Luther Documentary (PBS) – Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World

Luther (2003 film starring Joseph Fiennes)

Approaching the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation – Thomas Ryan

The Reformation at 500 – Russell Moore

Can Catholics Celebrate the Reformation? – Jacob Kohlhaas

Worship Wednesday – What a Beautiful Name It Is – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Vimeo

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”Philippians 2:5-11

Considering the answer to questions is a part of how we learn, how we set a course toward knowing. We search out in our own minds the answer to a question. If we come up blank, we seek out other resources, those who show mastery, knowledge, or understanding that we lack.

Is there a most important question in life?

I’m posing this as the most important question: What will you do with Jesus?

The weight of evidence that Jesus existed is substantial. In fact, to say he didn’t would require more faith than not, given the historical documentation and his impact on history. Note one reference here.

What we do with this Jesus is partly determined on whether we see him as a man, a prophet, a revolutionary…or God.

During my early childhood years, my family was not religious. There were no rituals, no spiritual conversations, no sense of God or who he was.

I was eight years old before we ever went into a church building. This followed my parents’ divorce, a couple of house moves, and my mom’s remarriage to my sweet step-dad. Lots of ups and downs in there.

A student of mine once told me that he believed children just grow up in the faith of their parents…no personal wrestling of what to believe…or whom to believe in.

My family didn’t have any faith to speak of in those days. When friends invited us to join them in church, it began a journey for my mom, dad, and siblings. For my parents, it was a re-acquainting themselves with God…for me an amazing new discovery.

Everything I have learned about Jesus and know of him through personal experience has enriched my life like nothing else in this world. No human love, no accomplishment, no other adventure can compare with what has come to me through him.

There is no question for me that if there is God, then Jesus is God. It is difficult to wrap the mind around the reality of a triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have to take that by faith, but not a blind faith. The life and teaching of Jesus point to one linked so intimately to the Father, they are one. Thoroughly infused by the Spirit of God. No ordinary man, or woman, could live as he lived, love as he loved, spend himself as he did. He was human and divine… completely…and without sin.

As a child from a broken home, whose biological father’s neglect and disregard continued through our lives until he died…I longed for the love that only God, through Christ Jesus, offered.

He has never disappointed.

The Hillsong Worship song-writer team of Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood gives us a song that describes something of the beauty of the name of Jesus.

In a world where too often Jesus’ name is used as a derogatory exclamation, my heart is renewed in the company of those whose lives have also been transformed by knowing him…and praying to the Father, in his name. Jesus…God coming so close to us and making a way for us to come close to Him…now and forever.

Photo Credit: Phatmass

Let’s worship together…[click on the link; the lyrics are there.]

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great Your love was greater
What could separate us now

What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

What a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus
What a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus*

*Lyrics to What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship

Who Is Jesus? Video – Explore God

What a Beautiful Name (Song Story) – Hillsong Worship – Words and Music by Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood© 2016 Hillsong Music Publishing

50 Names and titles of Jesus: Who the Bible Says Christ Is – Debbie McDaniel

Jesus Christ’s Names, Titles, and Characters

Seven Questions Jesus Asked: “What Do You Want Me to Do For You?” – from Sermon Series JQ: Questions Jesus Asked

Worship Wednesday – the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For the first twenty years of my professional life, I was privileged to have close encounters with five life-changing realities. It was a season of caring for cancer patients and their families – when their diseases were raging and in the final days of life. These experiences galvanized my faith in God and how his image is embedded in us – his creation. These realities are:

  1. Courage in exceedingly hard places
  2. Deep enduring love across a harsh illness and when time is fleeting
  3. Hope mingled with humor
  4. Death isn’t final…our spirits go somewhere (for sure, they leave the body)
  5. Faith to believe

Caring for patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for life-threatening complications can prompt an intimate caring relationship. To watch patients (and families) deal with such hard and to be in a position to help them through it gave me a window to extend love and honor to dear ones in crisis.

Was there always courage? Was love always expressed between us all? Was humor or hope or faith a constant?

No…but remarkably, more often than not, this was what I observed… especially in those sustained by a relationship with God.

In the last couple of years, I personally have experienced a cancer diagnosis and a couple of respiratory emergencies that brought those same realities into my life. In such times, much in life gets clarity…a sharper focus, a deeper understanding.

Breathe has been a theme in my life for over a year now…put that together with the title of a film starring Andrew Garfield…and it caused me to NOT “skip the ad” on YouTube.Photo Credit: Breathe, YouTube

I was unaware of Robin Cavendish until I saw the trailer for the film Breathe. Cavendish was a Brit who developed polio at the young age of 28. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required a ventilator to breathe. In those days (1958), he would have been confined in a hospital for the remainder of his days. However, he nor his wife, Diana, would hear of it. After a year in hospital, he went home and adjusted to this very different life, as only Robin would. They had a child and he would be able to see him grow up (in fact, son Jonathan Cavendish produced this film). Robin was a pioneer in advocating for the disabled, especially those like him needing more extreme measures to live a more normal life. He died at 64.

[Since my years in graduate studies in rehab and cancer nursing…the courage I saw in so many patients and families…courage in struggle…never ceased to inspire me.]

I am always intrigued about “based on a true story” films. Reading up on Robin Cavendish’s story, my heart soared and then sank…fullstop at the short statement below:

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

I have never understood atheism. Even during spiritually flat and confusing times in my life, the existence of God has never been at question.

Especially watching beloved patients at the moment of death…their faces relaxing and their bodies emptying of who they really were. We don’t just stop existing…life here stops and starts at exactly the same moment…There.

Now that I know Robin Cavendish, he has my admiration and respect at how he took back his life and helped others do the same. I wonder if, before his life was done…if he had the faith to believe. One line in his obituary reads:

It is a strange irony that, though professing to be an unbeliever himself, he had a capacity for making other people feel closer to God.*

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

What a great gift is faith to believe. We don’t conjure it up. God Himself presents us the faith to believe…it is ours to reject or receive.

Worship with me. Below you will find two songs – Faith to Believe by Shane & Shane and Jesus Is Better by Austin Stone. Choose either or both in celebrating the God who gives us the faith to believe. [Then scroll down to the prayer at the end.]

YouTube Video – Shane & Shane – Faith to Believe – (with lyrics)

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the strength to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot see You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it**

There is no other so sure and steady, my hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule has shattered and broken the curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow, Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all***

Photo Credit: Flickr

Maybe this is the first step for atheists, too (it was for me)…so thankful for the faith to believe…to see the truth and beauty of Scripture. The Word of God walks us right up the staircase to be with Him – now and forever.

Thank You, God, for the faith to believe. With my whole being, I’m sure you daily, moment by moment, extend grace to all of humanity to know You, through one witness of Yourself or another. Help us to receive this grace. God, give us all this faith to believe.

**Lyrics to Faith to Believe – written by Shane Everett & Phil Wickham

***Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – written by Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

Worship Wednesday – A Pilgrim’s Progress – Matt Papa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

During a difficult period of life, Matt Papa wrote a song about our journey as pilgrims in this world. A worship leader, known for penning theologically rich modern hymns, Matt faced a time of emptiness when the Lord pressed him to “keep running”.

“The song arrived very late in the process of making the album (Look & Live). I was flying up to Nashville to record the rest of the vocals. This was January, and we just had our third child. Life felt as crazy as it had ever felt. The transition for us from 2 to 3 kids felt like a punch in the gut. I admit I have an artist’s temperament — my highs are high and my lows are low — so I’ve struggled over the years with depression. I was praying as I was flying up to Nashville and I kept hearing that phrase, ‘Keep running!’ I felt like the Lord was saying it, I felt like the cloud of witnesses was saying it, just put your head down and keep fighting. I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to finish the song and record it, and I worked hard over the next couple of weeks to finish it. I don’t know why, but my prayer for that song is this; I really want people who are contemplating suicide or battling depression to hear this song, and I pray that the Lord would use that in their lives to encourage them to keep going…to keep looking to Christ.”Matt Papa

Matt Papa – A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’) – Daily Play MPE

The Word of God is filled with encouragements for our heavy, dark times…when we just want to quit – to stop in our tracks, turn aside, and take an easier path.

During Jesus’ public ministry – a time of wonder and miracles – he lost followers because his way seemed too hard for them. Once (John 6) when he turned to his closest disciples, he asked them would they leave, too.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

We all have suffered different losses, struggles, difficulties in life, and compared ours as less or more doesn’t really compute. Whatever is hard for me (or you) is just that…hard. When life pins us down and we struggle to get out from under the weight, Peter’s words always come to mind for me. “To whom shall we go?”

For me, there is nowhere else to run but to Jesus. That’s not to say I do always. Disparaging of my situation, I may fall to complaining or searching for a way out, any way out…besides through Jesus’ grace and strength.

For the days we find ourselves slogging through, almost to a complete stop, God promises he is for us (Romans 8:31-38). He will never leave us, and we will reap the harvest he has prepared for us…if we don’t give up.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Today, if I had a literal race to run, it would not go well. Yesterday, I reached down to a low shelf in the refrigerator to pull out leftovers for lunch. In an instant, something happened in my back, and the pain was excruciating. This was my very first encounter of back pain the kind I hear others experience. It is still with me today – as I have to do everything carefully, at times in slow-motion. Whatever falls to the floor will have to stay there…today.

Fortunately, no literal footrace awaits my toe on the line. A journey does continue for this pilgrim. A race of faith and endurance still draws us, whatever our situation. Thankfully, the Lord’s call to “keep running” is never ever without His presence or His provision.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Please worship with me (lyrics below)…and let’s keep running.

Lord I’m tired, so tired from travelin
This straight and narrow is so much harder than I thought
On this path, I’ve met both doubt and pain
I’ve heard their voices say
“Yeah, you’ve given all you’ve got”

But there’s a crowd of witnesses,
the ones who’ve run this race
and even louder than my fears they’re crying
“Boy, you lift your face. . .!”

“. . . .keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t you give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

On this road, this fight for holiness
I’ve struggled and I’ve bled
through these dangers, toils, and snares.
And I have foes,
their siren voices call
saying “Boy, you’re about to fall,
with that heavy cross you bear”

I remember there was ONE who died to win this race
He took the cross, he crushed the grave
Oh I can hear my Saviour say . .

“Keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

Don’t turn aside
No compromise
Just lift your eyes
To the glory that’s comin’.
If you’re like me
you feel like you can’t go on,
you’ll never see the dawn,
and you’re just about to break . .
but don’t stop now
Know that every sacrifice
It’ll all be worth the price
when you finally see His face . . . . . . . .

Just keep runnin’
Don’t lose heart; don’t you give up now
Don’t turn around, you’ve got to find a way somehow
Dig deeper, run harder,
The pain cannot compare to the reward that will be yours; it waits in store for all who just keep…
So take my hand because we can’t do this alone
Until you hear “Well done”,
Until your race is complete
Find a way to just
Keep runnin’
Keep dreamin’
Keep darin’
Believin’
Keep workin’
Keep waitin’
Keep servin’
Keep prayin’
Keep movin’, keep tryin’, keep hopin’, keep fightin’, keep goin’,
He’s waiting
Arms open; He’s comin’
Keep runnin’*

Photo Credit: YouTube

None of this we do alone…we have God with us every step of the way. This is not a “do it in our own strength” thing. We are carried by His strength, and we run beside each other, encouraging and recalling the truth of His loving words to us…until we both reach the prize at the finish.

*Lyrics to A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’)

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New

Photo Credit: Pixabay

From the lips of babes and infants you have ordained praise, because of your adversaries, that you might silence the enemy and the avenger.
 –
Psalm 8:2

But the chief priests and scribes were indignant when they saw the wonders He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked. “Yes,” Jesus answered, “have you never read: ‘From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise’?”Matthew 21:15-16

Maybe singing in church is an uncomfortable concept to many… especially to those who don’t regularly attend a gathering of believers. How about those of us who are a part of a church? Is the choral worship time of the service a divine appointment where we meet with God? Or do we sometimes find ourselves standing awkwardly, not singing? Not sure of the words, the music; not having the inclination to join in.

When we think of uninhibited God-focused worship, we are reminded of King David, dancing in the streets, praising God among his people (2 Samuel 6:14). That David was the man grown from a young boy who composed songs of praise to God. We have come a long way from those days but not so far that we can’t learn from David’s worship.

Our children grew up, even overseas, with rich and varied opportunities to learn and practice worship. We sang at home and at church. I am so thankful for churches and schools where teaching children to worship was a priority.

The kids learned both silly songs and Scripture-rich songs – through Vacation Bible School, church camp, and the children’s program and church choirs. They still remember the lyrics to many of the songs they learned as children.Photo Credit: BP NewsPhoto Credit: BP News

How do we raise up worshippers? We teach them the greatness of God and we help them infuse their senses with who He is. Singing and movement are part of that. Could it be easier for children than adults to get out of their own way and worship God? The Scripture reflects the importance of guiding children to worship God. They can then grow into adult worshippers who understand the power of praise.

Our church is currently just in the beginning of teaching our children to worship. Starting just this summer, we bring them together to teach them songs and give them the experience of worshipping in this way. Many of you have been doing this very thing for so long you may take it for granted as part of the ministry of your church.

What songs are part of your church’s mentoring of young worshippers?

I’ve listed below the ones our children grew up with (some of which I even grew up with). Not all very rich theologically but all familiar – with memories attached of uninhibited singing to God shoulder-to-shoulder with other children. Are any of these a part of your worship up-bringing?

Jesus Loves Me

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Deep and Wide

Father Abraham

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah

A-la-la-la-la-la-leia x2 Praise the Lord

The Name of the Lord Is a Strong Tower (w/ Blessed Be the Name of the Lord)

Be Excellent at What Is Good

Be Bold, Be Strong, for the Lord Your God Is With You – bouncy, fun music with lyrics but no voice

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

King of Kings and Lord of Lords (in Arabic, too)

O Be Careful Little Eyes, What You See (Our children learned this in Arabic, too.)

Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho

The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock

My God is So Big – Traditional and an Updated, Scripture-rich version

Every Move I Make

Please share your standards in the Comments. Both the traditional songs you’re still using and more contemporary ones that have become a part of the music the kids in your church know and love. Our desire is to continue to raise up worshippers…mighty, fearless worshippers of a great and awesome God!Photo Credit: BP News

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

15 Awesome Christian Songs for Kids – Pamela Rose Williams

10 Bible Songs to Teach Your Children

The Songs We Teach Our Children – Ron & Nathele Graham

Pinterest – “I’m Gonna Praise You” – Praise and Worship for Kids – YouTube Videos with Lyrics

Pinterest – 25+ Best Ideas About Children’s Church Songs

Worship Wednesday – Only God’s Shoulders Are Big Enough – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2Photo Credit: YouTube

[Adapted from the Archives]

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

[After several days of grieving over a series of events meant to divide our country right now and a natural disaster and national catastrophe across the ocean, I needed the reminder that our shoulders are not strong enough to bear these burdens…only God’s shoulders can carry us through all our days.]

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & CountryPhoto Credit: www.forkingandcountry.com

A Kingdom Agenda Strategy for Community Transformation – Tony Evans

Baptist Global Response

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Worship Wednesday – Why Singing Matters – with an Early Chris Tomlin Song

Photo Credit: BP News

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” – Ephesians 5:18-19

Okay…be honest. Do you ever get distracted during the singing portion of a worship service? Maybe you’re looking for a friend who hasn’t arrived yet. Perhaps, your attention has turned to those with their hands up, sweetly swaying to the music. Or, the song is new to you, and you are wondering who else is struggling with the lyrics.

Singing songs out loud in public (even among friends) is awkward for some. I totally get that. Still, it seems the comfort level of many in congregational singing has to do with growing up in a worshipping culture that they embraced early in life. [Now, don’t get me wrong – this is a totally casual observation. It does not include people who came to faith later in life and who can’t contain their joy because of it.] If you agree, or disagree, please respond in the Comments.

Our children had the privilege of participating in worship singing since they were tiny. Even living overseas for so many years.

I went through a season that children’s church choir programming was a benefit of larger more privileged congregations. That season was short, and now I’m over it.

Teaching children and youth to praise God in singing Biblical songs is essential to raising up worshippers. It’s not about performance; it’s about the heart-mind connection between us and God.

Although children’s choir programs may be right up there with elementary school piano recitals, think about the outcomes. Kids who love Jesus and express that love together, and for the encouragement of all the church…and beyond even.

My heritage is lots of choirs and lots of church events with singing. I will never forget the many times God met me at a youth camp bonfire, with someone with a guitar leading us in singing. We must have known those songs. No projected lyrics onto the nightime sky. No songsheets. We knew the songs.Photo Credit: BP News

In 1998, a young singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin released his second album, Authentic. He was just 26 years old. Just the year before, he was asked by Louie Giglio to join Passion Conferences where he continues to minister.

In those days, worship songs often looped or repeated the lyrics, so that’s one way we all learned them so well. Many worship songs also included Scripture verbatim, or the lyrics were essentially Scripture. Both (repeated Bible verse lyrics) were the case with Tomlin’s song Romans 16:19 on his Authentic album.

That song came to mind just yesterday…after all these years.

I remember that verse to this day because of Chris Tomlin and all the times singing it, dancing around with youth at bonfires or in crazy Friday night church rallies. Contemporary worship music has evolved and matured in many ways. Still a lot of the “old” early standards continue to minister to our hearts because they are in our heads.

For all of us, it is wisdom then to teach our children to worship (in other ways but also with singing). Why? Because we remember those songs the same as we remember Bible verses we learn as children. They go down deep in our minds. Also, and most importantly, worship should be as natural as breathing for God’s people. Learning to worship young helps us to seek Him in that way our whole lives…even, and especially, in the times when worshipping is not so easy.

7 Biblical Matters Why Singing Matters – Unlocking the Bible

Worship with me, please…to this great old song by our great brother Chris Tomlin. [I bet my kids still know this song.]

Romans 16:19 says!
Romans 16:19 says!
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
[Chorus:]
And the God of Peace will soon crush Satan
God will crush him underneath your feet!
And the God of Peace will soon crush Satan
God will crush him underneath your feet!
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil[chorus 2x]Romans 16:19 says!

Next time you’re in worship with the church gathered, I hope you sing. Please put some of your favorite early worship songs in the Comments for us to enjoy reminiscing about…or to learn anew. Also I would love to know what songs your little ones are singing in your church’s children’s ministry…or what songs you’re teaching them.

[Below you will find a published playlist for this summer’s Fuge Camps. These could be the songs your youth will remember into adulthood.]

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

Leading Children in God-Centered Worship – Pam Grano

Teaching Our Kids to Be Worshipers – Kevin West

Wednesday Worship – Exhale – Plumb

Photo Credit: Chintermeyer, Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Our saving is not by our own works! Hallelujah! How is it then, that we trip ourselves up on a daily basis with trying to please others when God Himself is already pleased? He sees us through a grace-colored lens…not that His vision ever needed correcting. From forever, we were made in the image of God and, as His forgiven ones, He sees us as Christ-redeemed and Spirit-filled.

Why then are we wooed into thinking that we must perform a certain way to be accepted? Even from the beginning, as complete and perfect and beloved as Eve was, the persuasive other-than-God message of our needing to be more has been driven into our flesh (Genesis 3:4-5).

God saved me as a young child out of the bondage, even then, of wanting to be good for my weary mama. She was raising four children on her own, and I thought if I could only just be good for her it would lighten her load. She didn’t require it of me; I required it of myself. The Gospel message of Ephesians 2:8-9 above was so winsome to me, even at nine years old.

Unfortunately, through the years, I have listened to my own flesh and those not-of-God messages (whether from Satan or the world or church culture). I have often struggled with needing the approval of men and women over God. Needing my own approval (as if mine was more substantive than God’s…sigh).

A concept that became very real to me in my 20s was performance-based acceptance. Measuring myself up against others (or my own evaluation of those others) was a struggle. Then when those others are also Christians, it can get even darker. These are my brothers and sisters. Our gains individually and together reflect the work of God. Full-stop. Any measure otherwise discounts Him.

Even the Apostle Paul who all-out raised the bar on performance understood the error of that and how meager it was compared to knowing and enjoying the love and grace of God:

“…although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:4-10

The glorious life God means for us to have is drenched with His love and grace. No safe or controllable grace here…it is the magnificent, sufficient grace of God that breathes out of us in every circumstance of our lives…in our response to Him in us.

Tiffany Lee (Plumb) writes about this in the worship song Exhale. The physical act of breathing is a new interest of mine. We can all forcibly exhale (to blow out a birthday candle or set dandelion seeds in flight), but it isn’t a natural state. To exhale is the response to inhaling. It follows. It always follows.

Photo Credit: YouTube

What are we breathing out to the world, including to those we most love? It follows what we’re breathing in. No guilting here. It is the quiet reality of our lives. What we take in informs what we give out.

Worship with me.

It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here

No matter what you’ve done or who you are
Everyone is welcome His arms

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Spirit come tear down the walls
That only You can
That only You can
Reconcile this heart to Yours
Right now God
Right now

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Oh God we breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Oh God We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale*

Too often God’s grace is communicated as something we enjoy for ourselves. His grace is not meant to be kept for ourselves. The deeper we understand God…the more we experience His grace for our lives…the more we naturally want to lavish it (Him) on others. Not to please Him by our performance, but in our pleasure of Him.

Closing with John Piper‘s message on this (from over 30 years ago):

For some of you these are the very days in which for the first time the beauty of the gospel of grace is beginning to shine on the horizon of your soul. But others of you look back months or years or decades, to a golden era of faith when Christ was powerfully taking shape in your life. But something has changed. There has been a kind of settling into the world, and the vibrant sense of being an alien and an exile in the world has faded. And the powerful shaping forces in your life are not coming from Christ within but from the world without.

The word of encouragement and admonition to us all this morning is this: the Spirit of the living Christ can be poured into us afresh today… Therefore, I urge you, take your amateur hands off the clay of your life and yield yourselves into the sovereign hands of God. Disavow the praise of men and all your efforts to achieve it. Turn your hearts to Christ and say: I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory (Psalm 115:1). Amen. – John Piper

Breathe Him in, Dear Ones, and your exhale can refresh a weary world.

*Lyrics – Exhale – Written by Josh Silverberg, Matthew Armstrong, and Tiffany Arbuckle Lee

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – Exhale – Plumb

YouTube Video – Plumb – Exhale (Official Music Video)

YouTube Video – Behind the Music – Exhale by Plumb

Performance-based Acceptance – Richard J.

My Performance-based Story – a Synchroblog

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-based Acceptance – Deb Welch

O, That Christ Would Be Formed In You! – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Pentecost – Holy Spirit – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Jean II Restout, Wikimedia

When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.”  They were all astounded and perplexed…

But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them…“God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. …Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” – Acts 2:1-12a, 14a, 32, 36

We are in the season of Pentecost. Last night, the Jewish celebration of Shavuot began, and for the Christians, Pentecost Sunday is just ahead of us. For the Jews, it is a dual commemoration – one of the giving of the Torah (God’s Law) at Mt. Sinai, as well as the celebration of the wheat harvest (Festival of Weeks). For the Christians, Pentecost is the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ.

Because of the Jewish celebration and pilgrimage of old, the apostles (in Acts 2) had an audience of many unfamiliar with the Hebrew and Greek languages. This was essentially the first time the Gospel was preached to the nations, and the Holy Spirit’s grand entrance into our lives made it happen.

Depending on our church tradition, we celebrate Pentecost in various ways. How we see the Holy Spirit at work in the world, and in the church, also differs.

Completing the triune Godhead, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a mighty force in this world. Incomprehensible in His power and movement in the world and yet as intimate as that still small voice, almost audible to those who attend to Him. Almost audible and completely understandable in His gentle ways with God’s children.

How is it that we allow ourselves to be mesmerized with the seen and discount the marvelous and miraculous all around us?

After Jesus’ resurrection and before He ascended to the Father, he told the struggling apostles that He would not leave them alone. He would send to them a Comforter, an Advocate, of the same essence as He.

I usually pray to the Father as the model Jesus taught us, in His instruction to the disciples. It is in Jesus’ name, that come to the Father, because through Jesus’ righteousness and death for us, we have access to God. It is through the Holy Spirit, we pray rightly. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we find the words to pray.  Sometimes, when we can’t find the words, the Spirit lifts the contents of our heart to the Father…better than we can ourselves. What an incredible mercy of God!

Where do we see the movement of the Holy Spirit in today’s world?

  • making truth and the path to righteousness joyfully clear to us
  • convicting of sin in a world grown comfortable with it
  • healing in an impossible situation – be it disease or addiction, broken relationship, or a life of sorrowful decisions
  • opening shut doors to the Gospel – that we might serve in word and deed
  • calming anxious hearts and fearful minds
  • giving courage on the battlefield and compassion toward an enemy
  • restoring joy in the darkness of depression and grief
  • ministering to those deprived of human comfort – those in prison or isolated by other life circumstances
  • setting peace within our hearts through the hearing or reading of God’s great promises
  • moving in ways unseen across our world and across the ages that we will only know fully in Heaven.

Today, around the world the celebration of Pentecost begins. In this season, let’s quiet our hearts before God and hear the counsel of the Holy Spirit. He points us to the fullness of who God is – One in unity, and us with Him, through Christ (John 17:21).

Worship with me.

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

[Chorus:]
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

[Chorus]

[x4:]
Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

[Chorus]

Lyrics to Holy Spirit – as performed by Francesca Battistelli; Written by Bryan & Katie Torwalt, & Kari Jobe

As we think of Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit in our world today, we take heart. May God, by the power of the Spirit, waken us to Him and move mightily in our hearts today.

May His Kingdom come…on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Who Is the Holy Spirit? – Explore God

YouTube Video – The Bible Series – Day of Pentecost — Acts, Chapter 2

Pentecost – Father Alexander

Ushpizin a lovely and funny film about the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks (Tabernacles) – also on YouTube as Ha Ushpizin

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

Monday Morning Moment – That Thing That Doesn’t Need to Be Said – and If It Does

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Being an extrovert is a bit of a curse, isn’t it? Verbally-processing introverts struggle as well. That need…that compulsion…to get words out of our heads and in the open. We who suffer with this understand the wild nature of words. For those who don’t have this same impulse, you may also suffer under the weight of our words.

This is a public confession and redress of this particular conundrum.

[For those of you, like me, who feel sometimes your head might fairly explode if you don’t voice your thoughts so you can find resonance with a hearer, you are free to read the last two paragraphs first.]

I grew up with good teaching from an introverted mom who knew the power of words…and the importance of using them wisely.

This adapted from a past blog posting of mine:

My Mom raised us up with lessons on our speech from Scripture backed up by the cultural message of an old Walt Disney film, Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel. Only problem is the continuing conversation in our heads that color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions. These we still must wrestle down and be done with.*

First, this is not a guilting of any sort. For myself or anyone else. We who restrain words understand the risk we take in speaking… especially those things we feel almost an obligation to say. Those words we think will somehow right a tilting world. Those words we feel entitled to. The words that state our case or that of another.

Second, we know, often too late, that words not spoken are rarely misunderstood. Of course, silence can be deafening as well, but we have to put our own meaning into someone else’s silence. With spoken words, it’s clear what a person is thinking. So it needs to be worth speaking. The hearer may have a very different take on the matter. Thus the risk and wariness that must accompany speaking boldly.

Third, does what we think need to be said? Will it make a difference in the positive to what’s going on in our heads? Or will what we say only add to a problem, rather than bringing it closer to resolution?

There’s a pithy and true saying floating around the internet about thinking before you speak. Here is a visual of it.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Jo Quinlan

Along with this, these days, is Think Before You Post. How many times have we deleted a Facebook or Twitter post put up in haste, hoping it came down before being read by those significant in our lives who would be hurt or offended by it? Sigh…Photo Credit: Flickr

Is our opinion so valuable as to cause pain to those who matter to us? Not. At. All.

Photo Credit: Hannah W. Potter

All that being said, finally, what do we do with the words building in our heads about massive concerns, witnessed injustices, shifts in worldview or mission drifts? There are words, as I see it, that have to be expressed almost to understand the whole picture of a thing going on. These words, raw and impassioned, we don’t speak randomly or post publicly (except in the rare occasion of stopping harm). These words if expressed may only yield spiritual reprimands, or hurt silences, or long tirades from disagreeing hearers/readers. The words that must be said, words that you know may have disastrous consequence, might need the hearing only of a trusted friend…at least at first. This sort of friend will hopefully help guide you to sort out that which does not need to be said and what does – to whom, in what manner, and on what occasion.

Oh the wisdom in thinking before we speak. How thankful I am for those trusted friends who refuse to think ill of me when words spill over! Friends, and family, who know my heart is not meant to wound, who help me sort out my words and what to do with them. Friends who know I take no joy or satisfaction in anything bordering on gossip or slander. Friends who listen, and may agree and resonate, but counsel with me – about what must be shared and what is best left unsaid. Friends who pray with me and remind me to pray. In my book, that is never spiritualizing…prayer is as real a thing as all those thoughts that can rob me of sleep…but so much better.Photo Credit: Flickr, J. D. Hancock

Anybody out there have the same struggle? Or a different struggle with words? Any helps you want to share? Shoot us some of your words in Comments below.

*Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills Writer

Speech, Power and Significance of