Category Archives: Finishing Strong

Worship Wednesday – Good, Good, Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 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 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 4:5-8

 We interrupt the bad news of the day, with a story of selfless generosity, reflecting the goodness of God and His people.

Last summer, Richmond’s Patterson Avenue Baptist Church (PABC) determined that their season of ministry was winding down. With over 100 years of service in the community, those remaining in this aging congregation determined, as a church, their race was run.

With that decision, what would they do with the beautiful structure and property that would be left behind? Prayerfully, they gave it away. They passed it on to a young church in the city. Glory!Photo Credit: Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, Bill Nieporte

August 20, 2017 would mark the last church gathering of PABC. The pastor, Dr. Bill Nieporte, graciously invited our church, Movement, to join them for their “benediction” and the passing of the baton.

Dr. Nieporte didn’t flinch as he talked about their church “dying…but dying well”. He, nor any of the sweet believers we met that day, had been able to turn around the seeming inevitable. As an older congregation, their numbers continued to fall even in the midst of committed ministry to their community.

With what Dr. Nieporte called “courageous faith”, they gave this magnificent old church building to Movement Church. Photo Credit: Daniel Sangjib Min, Richmond Times-Dispatch

That was August and now we are in May, 2018. This Sunday, May 6, Movement Church will have its “grand opening” at the Patterson Avenue campus. The outside of the building is the same, but the interior has been much altered. The worship and welcome centers, as well as the children’s ministry space, have all been updated and designed for increased capacity and functionality.

We hope our brothers and sisters formerly from PABC will approve of the changes. Either way, we hope more that they see our hearts, like theirs, are tuned to God being glorified in this space.

The place where we call home is far less important than the Person with whom we are home.

The song Good, Good Father speaks to the God of both Patterson Avenue Baptist Church and Movement Church. God brought PABC through a century of service, and He continues to work through His people, at this property, in this city, and across the world. He is a good, good Father.

Worship with me, please (words and music linked). Worship with us, a church gathered on Patterson Avenue, Richmond, Virginia, Sunday at 10:00am.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am

Oh, I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I’ve known we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am

Cause’ you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us, aah
You are perfect in all of your ways
Oh, you’re perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am
You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are
And I am loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am
You’re a Good, Good Father

You are perfect in all of your ways
It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
You are perfect in all of your ways
It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am*

This Sunday, May 6, 2018, we will gather to worship at 4301 Patterson Ave., Richmond, Virginia. One church family will be Movement Church and the other church family – former members of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church – that dear older congregation who so generously passed on this property to the younger church. Reflecting on that this morning, I was reminded of the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. In the film, Eric Liddell, a Scottish runner and devout Christian, is featured during the 1924 Summer Olympics. It’s a beautiful picture of his non-compromising life and devotion to God.

In the race scene here, he is not favored to win, but he is driven to run to the glory of God (start at 2:12 if time prevents watching it all). He explains to his sister:

“Shannon, I believe God made me for a purpose…He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, your great legacy as a church stands in memorial to God – not just in this building and property – but in all the ways you have honored God through the years…the last being to give this property to Movement Church – passing a baton of Gospel ministry to the next generations. You must “feel His pleasure”. For us, the Movement Church family, I pray we receive this sacrifice as one given to the Lord…and lavish it on the world He loves, as He loves us. May God find us faithful. For all of us, His church, there is still a race to be run. [2 Timothy 4:5-8]

*Lyrics to Good, Good Father – Songwriters: Pat Barrett & Anthony Brown

YouTube Video – Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin, ft. Pat Barrett

Church Disbands, Donates Building to a Younger Congregation – Tammie Smith

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Passing the Baton – Building and Leaving  a Legacy – DebMillsWriter

He’s Always Been a Good, Good Father – Mel Wild

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: More Famous Quotes

We talk about the need for prayer. We “send prayers” to those in difficult situations. The Scripture has prayer woven throughout. Below are just a few references to the powerful nature of prayer.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”Psalm 34:15

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”Jeremiah 33:3

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'” – Jesus – Matthew 6:9-13

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”Romans 12:12

Do you find praying challenging? It’s strange that it is, when it is challenging. We know that God invites us to be in conversation with Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He even taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). He tunes his attention to even our baby prayers. His desire is to show Himself faithful and loving and all-sufficient to his children. Even when our prayers get locked on what we want rather than whom we want…our Heavenly Father…that whom.

If the Scripture doesn’t settle for us why we pray, a little song I learned years ago might be an added help…especially when the answers seem delayed or denied. It is Babbie Mason‘s  Trust His Heart and the chorus follows:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand
Trust His Heart

The most beautiful part of prayer is that God meets us wherever we are…his faithful children and his prodigals coming to their senses:

“There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message… ‘Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way’. ” – The Chosen

For Christ-followers, we don’t even make that journey back to Him alone, maybe even frightened. When we belong to Him, the Holy Spirit draws us back to Him…and the Savior is with us every step of the way.

What would put you on your face before such a God right now?

Photo Credit: Shawn Gray

Were it not for pride, or the cares of this world, or our culture’s clawing at us with its lies? God has already set prayer in motion by stirring up that desire, by making us aware of that need, by fanning our small faith into flame.

Our delight is to turn our hearts toward God…to enjoy His company, to see His mighty works, and to share community with others longing for Him as well.

My Mom, my Mom-in-law, my husband…other family members, and many many friends have deepened my prayer life by witnessing and being the beneficiary of their own…and their walk with the God of this universe. I wage spiritual warfare with them for the sake of those we love…and for the world that God also loves.

Worship with me (link to lyrics & music)…to this song, When We Pray, by Tauren Wells.

People hurting, people broken
Beaten down and feeling hopeless
Wonder if it’s gonna always be this way
Who will speak up for the captive
Show some love and heal a past that
Binds the wounds we think will never go away

But what if we could be a people on our knees
As one before the King
‘Cause we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

I see revival rising
I see hope on the horizon
As a generation stepping out in faith

As one before the King
Yeah we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

Let Your kingdom come, Lord
Let Your will be done

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray, oh
When we pray, oh

In Jesus name (when we pray)
In Jesus name (when we pray)
When we pray, oh
When we pray*

Photo Credit: Pixabay

*Lyrics to When We PrayWriters: Tauren Wells, Colby Wedgeworth, Ethan Hulse

Worship Wednesday – My Hope Is In Jesus – David Crowder and Tauren Wells – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart – Cynthia Clawson – lyrics by Babbie Mason

When You Pray – Shawn Gray

When God’s People Pray – Jim Cymbala – Session 1 (of 4) – Vimeo

10 Most Important Verses on Prayer in the Bible – Lori Hatcher

Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:

Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach

Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.

In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.

Do you offer feedback?Photo Credit: Raquel Biem

Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.

It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.

A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.

Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.

Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.

Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.

I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.

There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.

I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).

  1. Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
  2. Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
  3. Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
  4. Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
  5. If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
  6. Don’t do anything…still.
  7. Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
  8. Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
  9. If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
  10. Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr

Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.

10 Common Mistakes in Giving FeedbackCenter for Creative Leadership (includes excellent infographic)

Don’t Ask for Feedback, Unless You Want It Ron Ashkenas

Before Providing Feedback, Ask This One QuestionLelia Gowland

Giving Feedback to Your Boss – Like a BossThe Muse

5 Friday Faves – TV Sitcoms, Communications, a Love Story, Intercession, and Recovery

Friday! Yep…here it is again…on a Saturday.  This week’s days have flown. The month of April has already been half-spent. Typical of Virginia Spring weather, we have enjoyed cold windy days and perfect sunny days. Dave has transferred our young vegetable plants into the raised beds outside, and the yellow pollen of the leafing oak trees is beginning to blanket our cars. It is as much a part of the rhythm of life as the five favorites you’ll find here.

1) TV Sitcoms – We all have our favorites. Just to hear the theme music from one of them can stir a flurry of happy TV-driven memories with quotable lines to match. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has posted his arrangement of some of our favorites.

For me, TV sitcom The Office is one of the best. As one of his patrons, we could suggest themes and I suggested the theme from The Andy Griffith Show, but it didn’t make the cut…this time. Enjoy!

Beyond the Guitar’s TV Sitcoms Sheet Music – Music Notes

2) Communications – When we added the “s” to communication, we ramped it up to a science. Communication itself is as old as humanity. We remain ever challenged in it but supremely motivated to get it right. In my career, communications have been a big chunk of my role – either through customer care, customer support, employee engagement, or community development. How about you? Even the most introverted of us, even those in product development or manufacturing working in your own singular workspace…our lives are peopled. We want to make our best efforts in clear and caring communication. You know the experience of finding out just how little a colleague cares by the lack of such communication. Toward the goal of clear and caring communication, I love finding little gems of succinct information. Here’s this one:

This One Question Will Improve How You Communicate to Everyone Marissa Levin

Without your having to click on the link, (which you should; it’s a quick read and excellent resource) here is Levin’s one question:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

By simply asking someone how they prefer to receive their information, and by telling them how you need to receive information, you’ve paved the way for abundantly clear communications and aligned expectations. – Marissa Levin

For a few fascinating years, I worked in the role of communications strategist for a new venture. It was an extraordinary experience to learn how to enhance communications between designers and then our communications with the parent company and our clients. Maybe we can’t always customize our communications…but if we don’t at least establish some variation in our communication streams, we will miss people – their input, their understanding, and their engagement.

Worth the work…people are too valuable to lose, especially if it’s because we use our own preferred communication processes… ignoring the preferences of others in the process.

3) A Love Story – First Lady Barbara Bush died this week. That’s actually too passive a description. Really, she closed the book, finished her race, and loved her God and family until the end. She was ready to go.

Mrs. Bush was the wife of U. S. President George H. W. Bush (72 years married) and mother to U.S. President George W. Bush. She was a tireless champion for literacy and that legacy will follow her.

More than anything else, she loved her husband and she loved her family.Photo Credit: Facebook

Her graciousness, wit, and command of life will be remembered fondly…along with her fierce love. She was a force of nature…and she exercised it for good.

“At the end of life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.“ – Barbara Bush

In her last days, at the age of 92, Mrs. Bush removed herself from the hospital arena of life-extending medical care, and returned home to be in the company of her family. Whatever privilege she knew in life, she lavished it on others. Hers was a beautiful life right to the end… holding hands with her love of 70+ years.

It was a glorious love story…epic.

Ex-Secret Service Agent: Barbara Bush’s Code Name Was Absolutely Perfect – Tranquility – Jonathan Wackrow

Remembering Barbara Bush – CNN Video

4) Intercession – This may be a word unfamiliar to some. Intercession is the deep and longing prayer for someone else. Only God knows fully what His answer means to us who want so desperately for Him to move on behalf of a loved one…or even a country. Only He knows.Photo Credit: Quotes Creator, Facebook

Right now, Dave and I are interceding for a dear church family in another state going through a difficult and dividing trial. We are lifting up a friend who has miscarried multiple times. We are also praying for some in our lives to come to faith in God – some, for decades. Even when our hearts cool over time,  God Himself seems to stoke up the coals, and we feel the anguish again of prayer not yet answered. Knowing He can and He will.

We’ve been praying for almost a year now for the American detainees being held in North Korea. As a meeting looms just ahead between our two countries’ presidents, we sense a hope and a possibility. This could fade…but one thing I know, with every beat of my heart: God is able. He calls us to pray. He loves his children.

When situations arise, and we feel utterly helpless in them, we might casually say: “Well, at the very lease we can pray.” No…at the very most, we can pray. We can call out to God even in seasons he seems silent and immovable. His answer might not always be our preference…but it is in the praying, the interceding…that we find hope, and even promise…and we experience the joy of finding Him in the midst of struggle…whatever way it goes in the end.

Free USA3

Be Heard Project – Praying also for Andrew Brunson, an American detainee in Turkey right now. Please pray with me for him and his family, along with the three detainees in North Korea…and their loved ones who wait for them to come home.

The Great Intercessor – David Brainerd

David Brainerd’s 300th Anniversary – Thomas Kidd

5) Recovery – A hard road stretches before the addicted person and those who love him. At some point, either because of imprisonment or shattered health and finances, the addicted person is forced to examine what is left of life for him…or her. At some point, recovery becomes the goal and returning to real life is the hope. Relapse is a constant risk and is often a detour on the road to recovery.

We feel fortunate to know our friends, Ryan and Ashley, who have come out the other side of drug addiction. Ryan gave me permission to post the pictures below. First is a series of arrest photos of Ryan, all related to consequences of his drug addiction. The second is a picture of his family reunited. Ryan is currently a case manager for Real Life in Richmond, Virginia. What an appropriate name for what is possible post-addiction. It is worth fighting for. Thank you, Ryan, for giving us glimpses of what can happen in a life turned around. We know it wasn’t easy, but so worth it.Photo Credit: Ryan Riggs

So…that’s my Five.

What happened in your week? Any notable mentions of your own? Please share in Comments. Enjoy the weather (whether it’s Spring or Fall, rainy season or dry – depending on your hemisphere or location)…and each other.

Bonuses

Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better Than Coffee or Naps Alone – Joseph Stromberg

 

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Worship Wednesday – Forgiven – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Crowder Music, YouTube

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; breaking up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”Hosea 10:12

“You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors.”Hosea 10:13

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”Hosea 12:6

“You are forgiven.” What a powerful statement…and even more transforming experience! How thankful I am for that forgiveness. Forgiveness from a God who persists in loving us no matter how undeserving we are.

I just finished reading the book of Hosea in the Scripture and marvel at the lessons we have in this prophet’s life and his obedience to God. How strange that God instructed him to marry a woman known for her immorality. God would use Hosea’s love for Gomer as a picture of the Lord’s love for his own wayward people.

Hosea did love Gomer. Even as she continued a destructive and dishonoring lifestyle. Even as she bore children who were not his own. He loved her and forgave her…over and over again.

Forgiveness cost Hosea. He suffered in his love for Gomer. Forgiveness cost God his son…it continues to cost as we, His people, turn to “other lovers”, forgetting the great love we already have in Him. However, God doesn’t forget us. He draws us back to Himself.

Sometimes it is hard for us to to do the same…to forgive those who hurt us…who betray our love. Yet, because we have known God’s forgiveness, we have a way through. We have been forgiven. We can also forgive.

“God can use that forgiving love to melt hardened hearts and change callused lives quicker than anything else in this whole wide world. That is the lesson of Hosea and Gomer, the lesson of forgiveness. God’s love and forgiveness pervade Hosea’s entire prophecy. Please do not misunderstand it. God hates sin; it grieves His heart; He cannot condone it; His perfect righteousness and justice demand that He deal with it. But He still loves sinners and diligently seeks them out and offers them His loving forgiveness.”Richard L. Strauss

“Forgiven”, a worship song written by David Crowder and Ed Cash, reminds us of our part in the crucifixion of Christ. It was for our sin that He gave His life. In the official YouTube video, we see a man and his young son crafting a guitar together. Then the scene shifts to that same man, aging in a prison cell…with pictures of this boy grown into manhood. There is a Bible on his cot. He writes to his son…but his son refuses to read his letters. You must watch the video to see the story to the end.

Maybe what we have done with our lives doesn’t merit a prison sentence. We still desperately need forgiveness. God is ready to receive us and restore us to Himself…in complete forgiveness…as we reckon with and repent of our sin.

Worship with me, please…through this song picturing the love and acceptance we have through the forgiveness of Christ.Photo Credit: PxHere

I’m the one who held the nail
It was cold between my fingertips
I’ve hidden in the garden
I’ve denied You with my very lips

God, I fall down to my knees
with a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

Forgiven, Forgiven
Child, there is freedom
From all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven

I’ve done things I wish I hadn’t done
I’ve seen things I wish I hadn’t seen
Just the thought of Your amazing grace
And I cry, “Jesus, forgive me”

God, I fall down to my knees
With a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

I could’ve been six feet under
I could’ve been lost forever
Yeah, I should be in that fire
But now there’s fire inside of me
Here I am a dead man walking
No grave gonna hold God’s people
All the weight of all our evil
Lifted away, forever free
Who could believe, who could believe?

Forgiven, Forgiven
You love me even when I don’t deserve it
Forgiven, I’m forgiven
Jesus, Your blood makes me innocent
So I will say goodbye to every sin
I am forgiven, I am forgiven*

Praise God for His forgiveness. His call to us is not unlike his call to Hosea. To live in forgiveness a life of forgiveness. If we are honest with ourselves and God, we know the wretched and wandering nature of our own hearts. To withhold forgiveness from those who have sinned against us goes completely contrary to the calling of God. Because we have been so loved and so forgiven, we can also love and forgive in like measure. Not from our own righteousness, but from His.

“Have you offered ‘redemption’ or forgiveness to those in your life who were once under your judgment? Not only does the book of Hosea provide an example of God’s love to a people who have left God behind, but it also shows us what forgiveness and restoration look like in a close relationship. The book of Hosea illustrates that no one is beyond the offer of our forgiveness because no one sits outside God’s offer of forgiveness. Certainly, God brings judgment on those who turn from Him, but Hosea’s powerful act of restoration within his own marriage set the bar high for those of us seeking godliness in our lives.” Chuck Swindoll

*Lyrics to “Forgiven” written by David Crowder and Ed Cash

YouTube Video – Crowder – Official Music Video – Forgiven

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song “Forgiven”

Soul Crescendo – Forgiven – Carolyn Majoran

Undying Love – the Story of Hosea and Gomer – Richard L. Strauss

Hosea – Chuck Swindoll

Song Devotional – Forgiven by Crowder – Devotional by Lindsay Williams

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness by Matthew West – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – This Is Gonna to Make You Stronger – Mandisa

Photo Credit: GodTube

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. – 1 Peter 5:10

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b

Some of my sweetest times with the Lord are driving in a dark car with the radio on. Last night I was on my way to a friend’s house and a string of songs came on all meant just for me…we’ve all had this experience, right? They were:

Every one of those songs highlights God’s work of grace in our lives. Mandisa‘s song especially spoke to the transforming nature of suffering. How God takes suffering and brokenness in our lives and perfects us through it. Perfects us in such a way that not only are we made stronger but our ability to comfort others is strengthened.

One of God’s gifts to this distractible daughter of His is how He speaks to my heart in waves to drive His message deep into my heart.

Last night, in a circle of women drinking tea and catching up with each other, the Lord spoke Mandisa’s message again through my friend. She told us a story about how her little daughter had a favorite doll that she always had with her. The mama even kept a second similar doll nearby for when the favorite occasionally went missing. That doll was a poor substitute. Her daughter’s favorite was her constant companion and because of that, this doll was dirty, worn, and well-loved. She had in some measure endured whatever that little girl endured.Photo Credit: Pixabay

…and was made perfect (in this little girl’s eyes) because of their shared experience

Even God’s sinless Son was somehow made perfect through suffering.

For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God–all things exist for Him and through Him–should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. – Hebrews 2:10

Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.Hebrews 5:8

When we suffer and bear up under it, with God’s help, we come out the other side stronger. What that does for us…and for those watching us…is give us a confidence and assurance that we will get through it. Just as we have seen Jesus suffer for our sake…and gloriously endure.

It’s not surprising that the song Stronger comes from Mandisa’s album What If We Were Real. It set me to remembering the childhood story of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. In the story, the Rabbit confronts the reality of what makes things “real”. In short, he discovered that love makes us real…and with that love comes suffering…but the love makes that suffering not matter.Photo Credit: Reddit

Suffering is a part of all our lives. I can understand, especially if your experience of suffering is very raw and current, that this talk of dolls and rabbits will feel frivolous.

What Jesus endured for us, however, is not a trifle. It is, in fact, the most real thing in my life…and hopefully yours, as well. That and His ongoing work in our lives transforming us to become more and more like Him.

Sometimes…that is through suffering.

Worship with me, if you will, through this song brought to us by our dear sister, Mandisa.

Hey, heard you were up all night
Thinking about how your world ain’t right
And you wonder if things will ever get better
And you’re asking why is it always raining on you
When all you want is just a little good news
Instead of standing there stuck out in the weather

Oh, don’t hang your head
It’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even if it’s hard to see Him
I promise you that He still cares

(Chorus)
When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me, this is gonna make you stronger
Gonna make you stronger, stronger, stronger
Believe me, this is gonna make you …

Try and do the best you can
Hold on and let Him hold your hand
And go on and fall into the arms of Jesus
Oh, lift your head it’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even when you just can’t feel Him
I promise you that He still cares

Chorus

‘Cause if He started this work in your life
He will be faithful to complete it
If only you believe it
He knows how much it hurts
And I’m sure that He’s gonna help you get through this

Chorus*

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore you, secure you, strengthen you, and establish you.”1 Peter 5:10

What do you make of this? Please comment below if you have a story of suffering you are willing to share. How did God reveal Himself to you…through you?

Lyrics to Stronger with Mandisa – song written by Christopher Stevens, David Garcia and Ben Glover 

Mandisa’s Album What If We were Real

Mandisa

YouTube Video – The Story Behind Stronger

“Stronger” – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis

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

Blog - Easter - Empty TombPhoto Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. John 20:18

On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 saw him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walked with them, ate with them, taught them again…as he promised.

“He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.

With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!

The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!”* – Trevin Wax

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

Oh the joy…the indescribable joy of that reality. He died and yet he lives. We were dead in our sins, and because of him, we have life.

Take the time to read this amazing story yourself. The Gospel writers all have given detailed accounts of the risen Christ ( Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-29). The Apostle Paul also wrote about Jesus’ resurrection in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57

Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed.  This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.

I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and because of his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.

For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19

“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

Holy Week – Day 8: Resurrection Sunday! – Thank you, Mary Fairfield for writing so well, so thoughtfully, and so thoroughly for Christianity.About.com.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

5 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Rose From the Dead – Adam4d

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

**The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People (1994) by Adrian Plass

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

YouTube video with lyrics – Before the Throne of God Above – sung by Selah

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

YouTube Video – Easter Song (Live) – Keith Green – (song starts 2 minutes in)

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

عيد القيامة يسوع المسيح مبارك وكلّ عام وانت واعئلتك بالف خير! المسيح فام! حقّاً قام!

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

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

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

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

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

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

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

Good Friday from popgodblogPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by S. M. Lockridge.]

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

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

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

Good Friday – Bible StudyPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

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

IslBGPhoto Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have an account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This particular Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refers to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would then enter the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who stole away during the meal. He bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden. Jesus prayed long into the night. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death] pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob but to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow). He would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross has begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day…

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

What Is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Jesus Pray for His Disciples…and For Us – Ralph F. Wilson

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

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me:

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

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

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

(Chorus)

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

(Chorus)

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

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

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

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

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

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

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

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

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