Category Archives: Lives Full of God

Worship Wednesday – Take My Life – Here Am I – Chris Tomlin

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Don’t you love answered prayer? Even if it’s surprisingly different than what you were thinking. A week ago, in our community group (home group of Movement Church), I shared a struggle during the prayer time. My request was for God to restore a season of influence in my life…that I might influence others for good as had been my experience in times in the past. I was looking back and not forward, and my sense of what a life should be at my age and situation was different than how I saw it at present. Different and lacking?

Sigh…God have mercy…and…He did.

Those dear friends of mine listened, empathized, loved and prayed.

Then Sunday, at our time of corporate worship, there was great singing…and great revelation. The songs included How Wonderful, How Marvelous; Take My Life/Here Am I (which I’ll come back to); and To the Ends of the Earth. These were the kind of songs that call a people to revival…to hearts and lives poured out to God and for the nations.

On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking about that longing of my heart to be an influence for good, but God must have been. When our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached, I sensed the movement of God in my heart so strong, it was as if the message was just for me.

Cliff preached out of John 21 where Jesus appeared to His disciples during the days after His resurrection. Sitting around a cook-fire, Jesus ate fish with His friends, fish they had caught in a miraculous fashion (John 21:3-6). In a tender moment, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him…to which Peter answered in the affirmative. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. The awful memory of his previous three denials of Jesus must have burned in Peter’s throat. Each time, Peter answered yes that he loved Jesus, and then Jesus told him to feed His sheep. No fanfare, no illusion of Peter’s excellent abilities to do so. Just a simple command, in the end, to follow Him.

In those quiet moments of intimate fellowship between sinner and Savior, Peter had to have felt the love of Jesus. Still in his impetuous, striving nature, he posed a question to Jesus about His will for another disciple (John 21:20-22). Again, Jesus drew Peter’s attention, not to what that disciple would be about, but what Jesus’s call was on Peter’s life. “You follow Me.”

Through Cliff’s sermon and those three words, the answer to my prayer rang from Heaven. It doesn’t matter my season of life or even what others, in my age or situation, are doing or how they are being used by God. I am to be about loving and following Jesus.

Even tonight, a friend reminded me of the story of the Apostle Paul’s incarceration which he entrusted himself into God’s hands. In Paul’s letter from prison to the church at Philippi, he spoke these words:

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Philippians 1:12-18

That friend who spoke truth into my heart has also struggled, as have I, with a season where it seems God has put us on some sort of shelf, or on the sideline. Oh, glorious truth, in every season, He calls us to follow Him. Paul, for months, chained to a prison guard, saw the truth. His ministry was not diminished in the least. It was only different…and his focus? Ever on the Lord. That is the key…for me.

Since Sunday’s gathering of our church right through tonight, I have been in revival. That old time revival where God’s Spirit would shake the rafters of a building or the folds of a big tent with the prayers, singing and preaching of His people. Where, of course, we would “sing another verse” until He had finished whatever work He was doing in the lives of every person present.

Photo Credit: Milanoapi

My children do not have revival meetings as part of their heritage. I wish they had…and maybe they will sometime in their future. I am thankful for growing up in the South when protracted revival meetings broke up hot summers into joyous returnings of hearts to follow Jesus.

Hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lyrics to Take My Life and Let It Be in 1874. She along with Fanny Crosby and others wrote the hymns that stirred our devotion to God. In fact, these hymn-writers’ lyrics flamed the fires of revival across our world. The deep prayers of the faithful and the strong preaching of the churchmen in the 1800s and 1900s were all part of that.

Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio adapted the lyrics and melody of Take My Life and Let It Be for the worshipers of this generation.

Worship with me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee*

*Lyrics to Take My Life/Here Am I – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin & Louis Giglio; adapted from the hymn composed by Frances Ridley Havergal

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let it Be – Tim Challies

Songs & Scripture: “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” (Chris Tomlin, Frances Ridley Havergal, Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, Louie Giglio) – Scriptural foundations to hymn lyrics

Photo Credit: Baptist Hymnal, Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – At Your Name, God – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: Lisa Delay

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord,
    Give praise, O servants of the Lord.

Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
    Your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. Psalm 135:1, 13

So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands.Psalm 63:4

Ten years ago, a father raised his arm over his son’s high school graduating class and spoke a blessing on them. In this American school, the program was made fit for all the students in this diverse setting – a Quranic reading, speeches from student-picked favorites, an address from a US Embassy representative, and a benediction from this parent.

As this father beamed, looking at the class, he quoted the poet Hafiz, “This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” He offered for these young graduates the blessing God gave Moses to bless His people:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

There is so much noise in the world today. So many opinions spoken as truth. So much gossip and name-calling. So much harkening to the latest and greatest wares – to satisfy our pleasure, our longings. The noise is deafening.

We lived for many years in places where a call to prayer rose above the noise in the streets. Although I believed differently, it was a call for me to pray as well. To remember the great God of Heaven who condescends to enter the experience of His children.

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Sometimes I felt like shouting the name of Jesus where we lived. Off our balcony and on the streets. With all the noise of city and village life…no sound of that name…Jesus. Shouting his name would not be the answer…living and loving like Jesus would…and speaking his name as I could.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Where we now live in the States, there is no call to prayer ringing from a loud speaker. No call to prayer. In a nation where we still have religious freedom, too often the name of God is spoken in our streets (and through our media) in the form of an expletive…a curse word. God have mercy on our souls.

May we be people who bear the name of God in all ways meaningful – in our speech and through the reach of our hands.

What extraordinary power exists in God Himself, absolutely, and even in His name! I remember one time, while living in North Africa, a friend asked us for money for her mother to have surgery on a badly broken leg. The fracture was complicated and she needed surgery not available in the public hospitals reserved for the care of the poor. Dave expressed his willingness to help with the hospital expenses, but he then asked if he could pray, in the name of Jesus, over this dear mother. As we stood around her bed, Dave touched my shoulder as I touched her casted leg. He prayed for healing. In the days and weeks ahead, the doctors determined she would not need the surgery, the healing completed with what they had already done.

Was it the good doctoring of the team in the public hospital? Maybe. Was it Dave’s faith and prayer? Possibly. Was it God moving in love for this mother and daughter…with pleasure at His name being called by a mere man in simple faith? Absolutely.

At Your name, God…

We live in a world where a vacuum exists…a vacuum that begs filling with the love of God…with the name, the life, and the teaching of Jesus.

God calls us to speak his name over our world…in both word and deed.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you, He [Jesus] answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.” … And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:39-41)

Worship with me.

At Your name
Mountains shake and crumble
At Your name
The oceans roar and tumble
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

(Chorus)
Lord of all the earth
We shout Your name, shout Your name
Filling up the skies
With endless praise, endless praise
Yahweh, Yahweh
We love to shout Your name, oh LordPhoto Credit: Pexels

At Your name
The morning breaks
In Your glory
At Your name
Creation sings Your story
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

Chorus

There is no one like our God
We will praise you, praise you
There is no one like our God
We will sing, we will sing (X3)

Chorus (X2)*

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 2:9-11

*Lyrics for At Your Name

YouTube Video – Phil Wickham – At Your Name – Story Behind the Song

10 Things “Yahweh” Means – John Piper

30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God – pdf – Navigators

Worship Wednesday – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Explore God

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire

Photo Credit: Amazon

Whew! Just had my coffee and was fixing to get up from the computer and getting on with the day…and an intriguing video came up. As I watched the video and listened to the words, my heart felt like it went up in my throat, and tears flowed. This is no sentimental, puppy dog, country music song. It was a commentary on our lives today…and what the solution is for the what’s wrong with our world.

I may be buying my first Reba McEntire album. Sing It Now – Songs of Faith & Hope (Release February 2017) is McEntire’s first Gospel album. 2 CDs. One is described as songs from her childhood – hymns she sang in church growing up. The other CD is comprised of new songs from various songwriters. Back to God, written by Randy Houser and Dallas Davidson, is mesmerizing. View it right here:

Have you looked around, have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away when you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days are you not afraid
That it’s too late?

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

We can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love? Do you feel like giv’n up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay? Will they come home safe?
And do you lie there hoping?

You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
It won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
Gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best, make a wish, the only answer is
We give this world back to God

Gotta give this world back to God
Give this world back to God*

Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

I did struggle with one line, at first: “We’re still worth saving”.

There is too much emphasis today on us and me…rather than He. God. I watch the mean-spirited attacks on one another in media today (“social” and mainstream)…and am dumbfounded. Especially when the attacks are Christian against Christian. Not how Jesus taught us. However…and it’s a big however – God has placed value on us…on all of us. It’s not what we think about ourselves (our significance, our political ideology, our messaging eloquence…whateva). It’s what He says about us…and what He is willing to do for us.

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! – Romans 5:7-9

This is the magnificence of the Gospel. This is what brings tremendous hope to any struggle…including the struggle that we, in this world, find ourselves at this time in history.

Now…on with the day with this reminder that our battle won’t be won in social media or the pain and bitterness of our hearts…but on our knees with hearts of faith…in a faithFUL God.

Postscript: It would be easy to just get on out the door, with hearts resonating with the message of this song…without taking the words not just to heart…but to our knees. I needed that P.S. and am on it.

*Lyrics to Back to God – Songwriters: Randy Houser & Dallas Davidson

Reba McEntire Turns ‘Back to God‘ In Breathtaking New Music Video

Reformation Day – A Halloween That Changed the World

blog-martin-luther-reformation-day-prae-huPhoto Credit: Prae.hu

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

On October 31, 1517, Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed a document known as his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. In this public stand against the Catholic practices of that day, he would divide Christianity into at least two camps – that of Protestants (the Reformers) and the Catholics.

Now we are on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Today, October 31 is known as Reformation Day…and, of course, Halloween.

October 31, for most, is a family/community cultural event (very different from the historical Halloween). Parties, dress-up, spooky decorations, and sweet treats.blog-halloween-2016

For those of us who are Christian, identifying more Protestant than Catholic, we wouldn’t want to miss the historic significance of this day as well.

Justin Holcomb‘s piece on the five solas lists the fundamental elements of the Christian faith (as put forth by the Reformers) and the substantiating Scriptures. Below are the five (see article for commentary and Bible verses):

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.*

[See links below for articles/resources on the full relevance of this day for us personally, for our families, and for culture, in general.]

Something else happening today that is redemptively newsworthy is the visit between Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, head of the Lutheran World Federation. They are meeting today for an ecumenical prayer service in Lund, Sweden.blog-reformation-day-radiovaticana-munib-younan-and-pope-francesPhoto Credit: Vatican Radio

Pope Francis calls Christians, Catholic and Protestant, to lay down the division between them. He recently even commended Martin Luther for rebelling against a Catholicism that, at that time, was “no model to imitate”. He called for unity for the sake of peace-keeping efforts and humanitarian work and for the benefit of those experiencing religious persecution.

In all you might savor in this day, this 31st day of October, consider how Martin Luther changed a world, by taking a stand… Some of our children will choose to dress-up in super-hero costumes – taking on larger than life personas for the good of those around them. They are more like Martin Luther, in that, than they may know.

blog-halloween-martin-luther-costumeblog-martin-luther-legos-pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest; Pinterest

*5 Points From the Past That Should Matter to You – Justin Holcomb

5 Bible Verses to Read on Reformation Day – Andy Rau

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up and Reformation Day Stand-up – DebMillsWriter

Reformation Day: Resources to Help Us Remember – Desiring God

Man Between God and the Devil: Martin Luther and the Reclamation of Halloween – William E. Flippin, Jr.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

(CHORUS)

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

(CHORUS)

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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

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

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

A Year Missing Our Friend Jeannie Elliff – Remembering

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Homegoing of our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff. She died on July 20, 2015, after a long battle with breast cancer – a young 69 years old. I wrote before about her here. Remember her with me and all who knew her…and loved her.Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: Facebook

What I also want to point you to today is her husband, Tom, and what he wrote this week about her. In his blog he writes eloquently and lovingly of those last days before her Homegoing.

What a year it must have been for him. Marking special days and trips he would have spent with her and those closest to them. Experiencing the many graces of God that come in the painful loneliness of losing a spouse like Jeannie. Of course, he wouldn’t probably describe these days as losing her altogether. She just arrived Home ahead of him.

Besides his blog, I also wanted to give you a heads-up about his latest book coming out in September. You can pre-order through Amazon.com and others. In The Unwanted Gift, Tom reflects on the relentless cancer Jeannie experienced (and he, with her). Then, in the book, he expands it to any personal trial we might be having, and how God can penetrate and infuse that hard place with His great grace and strength.

Blog - The Unwanted Gift by Tom Elliff - clcpublicationsPhoto Credit: Amazon

We have read all of Tom’s books. He writes as a dear friend might, your own pastor maybe…coming alongside with encouragement and care…with humility and trust…as one who has been in a similar place…confident that God will meet us there, as He did with Tom and Jeannie.

Postscript: Like you maybe, we have a full week with little time for much extra reading or viewing. For this reason, I wanted to point you to two easy-to-use resources to help you know and reflect on the life of Jeannie Elliff. One is a video and the other is audio (with transcript) – listen in the car or working at home – you will be blessed:

Tribute to Jeannie Elliff   Jeannie’s husband, Tom, and all four of her children spoke at her memorial service. It was the most worshipful service and loveliest tribute I’ve ever seen honoring a woman who loved God and all of us so completely. The video of the service is still available on Vimeo – so beautiful. Revive Our Hearts Radio also posted a two-part tribute (October 1 & 2, 1015) entitled Faithful to the Finish: The Life of Jeannie Elliff. Nancy Leigh DeMoss moderated the tribute, using audioclips from the memorial service.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future 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 4:6-8

For us…there is still a race to run.  For God’s glory and for those He’s placed in our lives…as Jeannie so marvelously showed the way.Blog - Tom & Jeannie Need You NowPhoto Credit: Facebook

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the God She Loved So Well – Debmillswriter

Worship Wednesday – No More Night – David Phelps

Blog - Walk in the Light - Truth for LifePhoto Credit: Truth For Life

This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7

This has been one of those weeks where the sheer weight of the hatred in this world seems to bear down on us all – in excruciating loss, deep grief, and beliefs in crosshairs.

Facebook and other social media are filled with caustic and accusatory comments, pointing fingers of blame at various religious and political groups. One brief item on my Twitter-feed raised the possibility that random costly hate crimes were becoming a new normal.

No. I won’t receive that. Not yet anyway.

God calls His children to shine His light into the dark places of the world. His light, not our own. His light that radiates love and life. If we hole ourselves off in church buildings where prayer and serving, praise and preaching are carefully hidden inside the walls, the world continues broken and unaltered. Something has to change…truly.

Jen Hatmaker wrote yesterday on her Facebook page about the Christian response to the horrific domestic terror attack this past week: “I’ve seen Christians everywhere promising to pray for the victims and their families and their communities. I wonder what might happen if everyone actually does? What might God do if millions of Christians begin praying for comfort and love toward the LGBTQ community? Relational healing? Crazier things have happened.

Perhaps instead of saying “we’re sad” this week, we should begin with “we’re sorry.”

Not: We’re sorry but…
Not: We’re sorry if…
Not: We’re sorry as long as…

Just: We’re sorry. Full stop.

I believe glory would inhabit that sort of humility and repentance, like it always has. NOBODY should be able to out-love God’s people. We should be Grand Champion Lovers of People, and everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone should know it, see it, feel it, experience it, bask it in, and be drawn to it.

When my youngest son re-posted this on his Facebook page, I responded:

We are sorry…deeply sorry for this and all atrocities around the world done in the name of some idea or religion that took hold because we were not so revolutionary in love as the One who first loved us…even us.

These days, when someone says, “I’m sorry”, the usual response is “It’s not your fault.” Or “You didn’t do anything.” Aha! Maybe that’s exactly what the “I’m sorry” means here. “I’m sorry we didn’t do anything. I’m sorry you didn’t know how much Jesus loves you and me both…because you didn’t see it in my love for you.”

It may be complicated to love (or even identify with) people different from us…whether different by religion, political party, or racial/sexual identity. Still, as followers of Jesus, He calls us to love – extravagantly – even those who consider us enemies.

We have no excuse.

A young acquaintance of mine during this week of shock and shaming added his own voice to the situation. I know him from our church, but he has since moved away, back home to a distant city. He posted that he only came to church for the people not for God. How  could the church be winsome, and God not be? How did we manage to love him in such a way that he would miss falling in love with God?

Jenn Hatmaker, in a later post, would apologize for lobbing a possible “shame grenade”. That is also not my desire. The Christian community sadly  should be used to friendly (and not-so-friendly) fire by now, especially related to how we are perceived as not showing love to one minority or another. What matters is not what we do with attacks or shaming,  but what we do with the very Word of God, and the wholly loving life of Jesus.

Blog - No More Night - Shine - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

This is what’s been banging around in my head over the last several days. What a gift God has given us in this life of ours…until we are here no more, He calls us to love loud, to live boldly, and to speak His healing and reconciling Word not just to and with other believers…but to a world of all sorts of people whom He also loves

Until Heaven…this is our calling.

Worship with me to this old song about Heaven. Sung by David Phelps, it reminds us of a day when pain will truly be over for those who have put their lives in the care of a Redeemer God. As we look to that day, may we be more resolved than ever to boldly and tirelessly share truth and love with all those around us. It is His desire for us all to be with Him forever

The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there’s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there, there’s a mansion
Oh, that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

All praises to the great “I AM”
Were gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb*

*Lyrics to No More Night – Songwriter – Walter S. Harris

Be the Church – A City on a Hill – Powerpoint Presentation – FPBC

David Phelps and His Daughter Sing the Most Breathtaking Duet – Agnus Dei

Blog - No More Night - YouTubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong with Amazing Grace

Blog - Finishing Strong 2 - Tim MilburnPhoto Credit: Tim Milburn

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, 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 12:1-2

Finishing strong is something we all want for our lives, right? To see it happen in the life of another spurs us on to that same possibility.

Yesterday, I attended a celebration of a man’s life – 40+ years of faithful service in the same organization. 40+ years. As we heard the many accolades of his work and character, he sat quietly, listening, too. In years we’ve known him, he never aspired to that center stage spotlight…and yet, for these moments, grateful friends and colleagues shined that light on him.

He was compared to a son of Issachar (understanding the times, discerning) with the wisdom of Solomon, the passion of Paul, and the meekness of Moses. As different ones spoke of his impact and influence on their lives, he was described as a strong leader, faithful servant, friend and mentor.

This is certainly my experience of him – even in a leader role much of his career, he sought to work in the background doing what he could to make others successful. When I read the Hebrews passage above, it usually makes me think of how each of us has our own race, our individual course…but maybe we’re meant to think of it as a relay sometimes.

With our friend, he has, many times over, handed off his baton to another. Planting that baton squarely into the next runner’s hand. Giving way to another’s time to run. Selflessly releasing his hold…for the sake of the finish…for the winner’s crown, in a relay, doesn’t go to one, but to all on the team who run. This is how our friend leads and lives his life.Blog - Finishing Strong - Tim MilburnPhoto Credit: Tim Milburn

What does it take to finish strong like this? It takes proven character infused by amazing grace.

I have seen the mighty hand of God at work in this friend’s life. An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives. This is certainly evident in this faithful, humble man.

Another example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about their relationship:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Like with our friend celebrated yesterday, and like Newton and Wilberforce, we all have the opportunity to finish strong through the amazing grace of God. I want, with all my heart, to reflect the magnificent glory of God by not only breaking the tape at the finish of my own race, but handing off the baton entrusted to me for others to finish what God started in their lives.

Worship with me to Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone):

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Blog - Finishing strong - Amazing Grace - johnnewtonPhoto Credit: JohnNewton.org

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Amazing Grace film (2007)

YouTube video of Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace with clips from film

Brief & thrilling summary of the life of John Newton who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace

Film Clip from the Film Amazing Grace – 2006 drama of political & spiritual life of William Wilberforce and his battle against slavery

Blog - Finishing Strong - John Newton - fministryPhoto Credit: Fministry

Moms, Mothering, and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God

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[From the Archives]

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she informs much of how I live life still.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have still other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t. My children are grown and I am not supposed to “mother” them now – a heart habit hard to break. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years. Still, like my mom, I will encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering. I pray that I will have a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. With the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May yours, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s dearest wisdom and deepest kindnesses.

Blog - Mother's Day

“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,

Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.”Gigi Graham Tchividjian

“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!”Jill Briscoe

“Father, You said that You would contend with those who contend with me and You will save our children (Isa. 49:25).

Television, magazines, the classroom, and now the Internet – all are filled with “contenders,”

But I am relying on Your promise.”Ruth Bell Graham

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers

“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.”Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?”Ruth Bell Graham

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May today not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners out. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same.MomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

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Worship Wednesday – Knowing You, Jesus – Graham Kendrick

Blog - Knowing You - surpassing worth of knowing Christ - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:7-12

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he wrote from prison. He loved this church and wanted to encourage them to stay true to the teachings of Christ, in humility and unity together. As he wrote about the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, he listed out some of his own qualifications of renown(Philippians 3:3-6) …and counted them as rubbish, filth, dung in comparison.

Cliff Jordan, lead pastor of Movement Church, taught on this passage this week (podcast here). At one point, Cliff pointed us to the things we value in life and how sin relates to that. If we kill an ant, we don’t consider that as much because of the value of the ant. Then he moved to higher and higher objects of value and our level of loathing when we sin against those (a museum piece, a neighbor’s pet, a child…the Lord Himself). It was a powerful teaching.

Our tendency is to discount our sin, or even how we spend our time, other resources, or our words… It’s not so bad… When we are lavished with the opportunity and experience of truly knowing and experiencing God through Christ, the Messiah…how can we squander that? How can we allow the lesser of this life to crowd out the greater?

We, as a family, first sang Graham Kendrick’s song Knowing You as newcomers to Cairo, Egypt, in 1995. We sang it along with Brits, Australians, Egyptians, Americans and a smattering of other internationals at the Heliopolis Community Church. Blog - Heliopolis Community Church

Photo Credit:  HCC Cairo

Our experience of Jesus, through this song and this Scripture, was deepened more when our young friend Genessa led worship in our house group. She would sit at a keyboard, singing that song to Jesus, tears flowing down her face, as if no one else was in the room but her…and Him. As young as she was, she understood the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. Genessa would not be long in this world, dying months later in a bus accident in the desert of the Sinai. Genessa with team

Her love for God is her legacy still in all of our lives who knew her. Now her joy is complete as she worships the Lord face-to-face. We remember her…and we understand God more…in this song.

Today, I see the worth of Christ much more clearly…thanks to Cliff, and Genessa, and others’ lives full of God. I also see His worth through His Word and the testimony of those who knew Him personally…who saw Him, witnessed His greatness, and wrote it down for the generations to follow. the best part of all is I see His worth because of His own sweet presence in my life. The more we seek and savor Him…the more we see His perfect love and generous goodness…and everything else in our life? In its place…lesser in the face of His greater, all-surpassing worth.

Worship with me:

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Lyrics to Knowing You by Graham Kendrick @1993 Make Way Music

Story Behind the Song Knowing You (All I Once Held Dear) by Graham Kendrick