Category Archives: Wednesday Worship

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

5 Friday Faves – Great Neighbors, Beyond the Guitar Sheet Music, For the People, Rising Tide Startups, and a Different View on MLK50 Conference

Friday! Let’s jump right in…because Friday flew by this week. Here are my favorite finds:

1) Great Neighbors – Rarely does a day go by that I’m not reminded of what excellent neighbors I have. They treat you like a long-lost friend, home for a holiday, just when you show up for a walk with them on an early morning. [Hopefully that’s not just because I don’t walk enough.] They are quick to celebrate, and even quicker to lend a hand or an ear in a crisis or hard situation. Photo Credit: Jim Casey, QuoteHD

One of our neighbors daily walks another neighbor’s dog for him while he is dealing with chemotherapy. Another regularly surprises us with special treats or whimsical gifts.Photo Credit: Rainbow Symphony Store, QTM Windchimes

The day I had surgery (and cancer would be the doctor’s news), a dear neighbor came to with with Dave for the news. Like I said… great neighbors. Do you have some great neighbors? Please use the Comments below to tell some of your stories. It’s no small thing, is it?

2) Beyond the Guitar Sheet Music – It’s been a crazy week for those of us who follow Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills. Approaching 3 million views and counting on his arrangement of Fortnite Dances on Guitar. This past week, his sheet music is now being sold on Music Notes. I’m sure it will take awhile for all his arrangements to be available, but that’s where you can find it. Check out his latest piece from the video game Monster Hunter World. I still can’t get over the lovely music in the background of video games.Photo Credit: Nathan Mills, YouTube

Music Notes – Beyond the Guitar Sheet Music

YouTube Video – Monster Hunter World – Relaxing Classical Guitar Music (Beyond the Guitar)

Spotify – Beyond the Guitar

3) For the People – I love courtroom drama and For the People is a 2018 ABC series that has exceeded every expectation. It has a great ensemble cast and terrific writing.Photo Credit: KTUL TV

This past week’s episode had to do with mandatory minimum sentencing even for non-violent crimes. When we consider how much we are willing to pay for safety, the law today can overreach to protect that safety. We don’t even seem to mind…until, maybe, we are the ones caught in that overreach. If you aren’t watching this series, just catch this episode. I would love to hear what you think.

For the People – Season 1, Episode 5 Recap

The snippet below is a spoiler. The acting is penetrating. The message has sparked several conversations. I believe TV like this could actually have a much-needed social impact.

4) Rising Tide Startups – My favorite podcast is Kevin Prewett‘s Rising Tide Startups. This week, his guest was criminal attorney turned chocolatier Shawn Askinosie. During the podcast, he talked about his pursuit of a midlife career change. I was fascinated by his determination to go after something meaningful…and what that meant to him. Especially given his prayer for God to just give him something else to do…anything?

Have you ever been in that situation where you know, for your own sake, you need to do something else?

I was captivated by his story and plan to start reading his book this week. You can listen to this podcast here.

Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul Shawn Askinosie

Askinosie Chocolates

5) A Different View on MLK50 Conference – My Friday Faves of the previous week included the MLK50 Conference.  The messages of this conference racial reconciliation and racial unity were transforming for me, as a middle-class white woman. I am very thankful for it and now follow many of the speakers on Twitter. I want to keep learning. Following #MLK50Conference, I discovered one of the participants in the conference, Darrell B. Harrison. He is an African American and a theologian. He did not agree with all the language/messaging used at the conference. I was actually caught off guard by his take on the conference.

In a related situation, two groups of people in my life cannot agree on a direction. It is heartbreaking for me to watch them go through this. They both have good reasons for their thinking. That is how Harrison’s view has affected my thinking this week. I continue to greatly value the content of the MLK50 Conference.  Now, Darrell Harrison, in his writing and podcasting, has brought another argument to the table. Both sides are riveting and thought-provoking. His podcast on this topic is here. In a way, it is not easy to listen to…especially since I’m still so close to the MLK50 Conference. Just a different, studied, and thought-provoking viewpoint. So grateful to know him now, too. I still have a way to go on the journey toward racial reconciliation…and I want to get there…wherever “there” is.

Photo Credit: iTunes

Jupiter Hammon, 1787, An Address to Negroes in the State of New York

Photo Credit:  Relg250, History Is Now Magazine

These are my Friday Faves…on a Sunday. Hope your weekend was a delight!

Bonuses:

14 Ideas for a Cross-Cultural-Stress-Busting Laugh Break – Emily Jackson

Photos taken at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

10 “Secrets” to a Long Marriage

Boundaries, routines and early bedtimes: 13 habits that raise well-adjusted kids

Raising Honest Children

Photo Credit: Kathryn Whitt Visneski

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

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

You know how to break a kid’s heart? Uproot him from his friends and the familiar, and move him far away to a new and strange place. Then over the course of a childhood, move him/them several more times – not just between cities and states, but countries and continents.

Because of Dave’s work, our children went through these heartbreaks of life. With every move, we would sit by their beds as they cried out their hearts at losing friends and packing up their lives. You can imagine how their tears mimicked my own grownup Photo Credit: Max Pixel

emotions, tucked deep inside. Less visible…but still there. I could feel them more through the sharp ache of our children’s grief.

What was even more profound than their heartbreak (and I sure hope they remember this) was the peace…and even joy…that came after. The grace of God gently rubbed onto their wounded hearts and weary little bodies. Prayers of their parents answered. A loving, all-knowing heavenly Father who came alongside in their sorrow…and ours.

We have all experienced broken hearts…wounds that shape our lives and responses to others…and to God. Men and women, as well as children. We women don’t struggle at least in using words for what breaks our hearts. For men, it seems they bury that sort of pain deep…and move on. Albeit changed.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Having grown up with all brothers and now married over 30 years, mothering sons, I have seen men close to me wrestle with wounded hearts. Disappointment, bewilderment at betrayal, loss. We, as women, want to make it all better…we probably have no idea really how deep hurt goes for our men. They are excellent in disguising and disregarding pain…bearing it too often alone.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Then the women in our lives come to mind. We friends and sisters, mothers and daughters…we get it. Partly because we’ve experienced wounded hearts together. Loneliness. Infertility. Miscarriage. Loss of a child or widowhood. Unfaithfulness in marriage. Betrayal of a friend. Powerlessness at work. Insignificance. We talk together about these things…and yet, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on in our thoughts alone, and into the night.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay

When our hearts are wounded or downright broken, we pull away. Who, after all, wants to be around someone grieving?…we figure.

In my own life, and as I’ve watched others regain their equilibrium and return back to life and place, one constant has been clear.

Jesus is the friend of a wounded heart. We can lean in and lean hard on him. Even with small faith. Without any judgment.

The Scripture reminds us of the truth when we see there’s nowhere else to go…once we’ve been with Jesus. During a time of great persecution for Jesus and his disciples, there were those followers who counted the cost and left him. When he asked those closest to him if they would leave, too,

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.John 6:68
Another favorite account for me is that of the woman accused of adultery and facing those who would stone her to death. Jesus intervened with the captivating statement: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  That woman, that day, found mercy…in the presence of Jesus. May it be so for all of us.
Photo Credit: YouTube
Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:5-8
The song that came to mind and birthed this Worship Wednesday was written for an album 30 years ago.It is Wayne Watson‘s Friend of a Wounded Heart.
Photo Credit: Wayne Watson
When Watson talks about Jesus as friend…it is far from the casualness of some in our culture today. This friend Jesus is Savior friend – one who will never leave or forsake us. He knows our deepest pains and greatest joys. He keeps watch over us in dark times and he celebrates without reservation in our joys and victories – no matter how small or large. Jesus will be our constant in this roller coaster of life…if we let him in and lean on him.

Worship with me (lyric video in link):

Smile, make them think you’re happy
Lie, and say that things are fine
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don’t ever show it, just keep your heart concealed

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you’ll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes

CHORUS
Jesus, He meets you where you are
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you’re longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Joy, comes like the the morning
Hope, deepens as you grow
And peace, beyond the reaches of your soul
Comes blowing through you, for love has made you whole*

Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.Psalm 30:5

I pray we can also be hands and feet of Christ for one another in woundedness and brokenness. Watch for these precious hurting ones in your workplace, church, and community…lean in and come alongside. Hopefully, they will see this Jesus in you.

[In the links below you will also find the versions performed by Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir) and by Avalon. Enjoy. I’m thankful we have them on YouTube because this song is little-sung today…although we need the message as much as ever. It’s one of those songs and messages which draws my arms up in praise…every time I hear it. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend to our wounded hearts.]

*Lyrics to Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Newton

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Avalon

10 Comforting Scripture Verses for the Broken Heart – Aimee Imbeau

YouTube Video – Jesus Christ – Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

Worship Wednesday – All My Hope Is In Jesus – with David Crowder and Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Twitter; The Promise FM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-6

My family didn’t start our lives going to church. I was probably 6 years old before God even came into much of our conversation or routines at home. By then, my mom had long felt the weight of caring for four kids by herself. My father (not the sweet step-dad I write about but my biological father)…my father just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. Unemployed and uncaring. By the time I started school, we had moved several times, and Mom finally divorced my dad (for my Mom at that point, weary and without hope, it was just “one less mouth to feed”).

When neighbors persisted in inviting us to church, we finally accepted their invitation. It was then that we discovered something bigger than what we’d known before. A God who loved us…even more than our Mom did…and her love was fierce. A God who truly cared for us and who had been there all along for us…and we just didn’t see it.

The church* through which we discovered God was a little congregation, situated between two small Southern towns. Those folks extended love to a wildish little family that had no upbringing in the whole God thing. We soaked it up – all the Bible stories, all the hymns about God’s character, and all the love.

When David Crowder sings, along with Tauren Wells, I am reminded of those early days in that church. My older brother and I got saved the first summer we were there. We were also baptized together in a sawmill pond. I remember singing songs on Sunday nights or during protracted revival services…songs that seemed to go on forever, or at least until the Spirit got hold of our hearts.

Crowder’s song All My Hope Is In Jesus reminds me of the songs of that day. The lyrics are full of sin and redemption…of where we once were, far from God, and need be no more…of lives changed when surrendered to the Savior. There’s a load of hope in those songs.Photo Credit: YouTube

Earlier this week, just driving back home from doing errands, some memories flashed back into my consciousness…memories of a rougher time in my life. A time when I had allowed myself to stray from the nearness of God and the hope He’d given me.

Those memories of a wayward time wrapped tightly around me, in that moment, like the bondage of sin I knew in those days. It was so real…and terrifying. The shame of it…and the deceit. For a season, I had believed lies and chose the world over the One who had chosen me.

Praise God…those memories, like the sins He forgave, are not today’s reality. Today, “all my sins are forgiven; I’ve been washed by the blood”.

If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:7

If you will, worship with me the God who holds us, who forgives us, and forgets what separated us from Him. That yesterday is gone! Today we can be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”…for us. [1 Peter 1:3-4]

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to that river
And I ain’t the same, a prodigal returned

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

I’m no stranger to the prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
I’ve been freed and forgiven (yes, I have)
I’m not going back, I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes, Lord, but He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man

So I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone (it’s gone, yes)
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

Oh I’ve been washed by the blood

Thank You, Jesus**

*Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Duluth, Georgia

**Lyrics to All My Hope – written by David Crowder & Ed Cash

YouTube Video – Crowder – Story Behind the Song All My Hope

Love Atlanta – Rising Together to Serve Our City

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

Worship Wednesday – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee

Photo Credit: A Christian Pilgrim

In the dark and confusing times of my life, I have clung to these words in 2 Timothy 1:7 and taken comfort. The Apostle Paul wrote them to his young friend and son in the faith Timothy. Paul had experienced all the persecution of that day and was in what he knew would be his last imprisonment before being executed. His words to Timothy were deeply personal and rang with faith and hope…even in the face of suffering.

We are but frail humanity…very like this one, Paul. He was chained and isolated in his imprisonment, yet his spirit was free because of what he knew to be true. He was no longer a slave to a religion or a political entity. His current situation was brought on by tenacious obedience to the call of Christ. Therefore, he took confidence in the unseen – the presence of God Himself in that darkness, the work of God in his life, and the continued Gospel influence he had, even from prison. His identity was in Christ…he was a secured child of God.

That truth helped him endure the cold dungeon, the isolation from those closest to him, and the storm of his own thoughts.

Whatever our situation today, we have the same provision of God as did Paul years before us. As did the children of Israel, when they stepped onto the dry bed of the Red Sea, parted by almighty God.

Fear presses in on us and speaks lies. Fear tells us our situation is hopeless. Fear mocks the work of God in our lives. Fear takes what is seen and magnifies it over the magnificent work going on in the unseen of our lives.

The very good news is that fear will not prevail. It does not displace truth. It does not cancel faith. It may waylay us for a time, or sideline us for a moment, but God in His great goodness draws us to Himself and speaks love to our wearied hearts and minds.

[Sidebar: I find women more than men talk of the struggle with fear. My husband concurred that men think about fear as having to do with physical danger…If physical danger isn’t a present cause for fear, then men wrestle more with their private battles…alone. God knows our hearts…that fear of failure, or fear of being stuck somehow…the mental struggle that takes away our joy. He wants to restore that joy…and the peace that comes in remembering His love and provision.]

The songwriters of Bethel Music have given us a great anthem to God’s truth as demonstrated in His deliverance from fear. We are His children, and He is a father like no other.

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6

Worship with me (link to lyric video) to No Longer Slaves, performed by the Voices of Lee. [A HD version of the song is here, with lyrics below.]

[Verse 1]
You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Verse 2]
From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me
Your love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Bridge]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You split the sea so I could walk right through it)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(My fears were drowned in perfect love)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You rescued me so I can stand and sing)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
(I am a child of God)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
He breaks every chain, He breaks every chain
He breaks every chain
We’re no longer slaves, we’re no longer slaves
We’re no longer slaves
He broke every chain
We’re no longer slaves
We’re children of God

[Chorus]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love (perfect love)
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God (hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
I am a child of God (hallelu-hallelu-hallelujah)
(We’re no longer slaves!)
I am a child of God*

In the official lyric video**, the song plays against a visual background of a well-trodden path on the edge of a mountain. To the right, as the viewer moves along the path, there is a sharp decline which seems to fall down to the deep valley. For someone with a fear of heights, my eyes are drawn away from the path down that steep cliff. This is the struggle for those of us who fear. That’s why God calls us to keep our eyes on Him, and on the path He has provided for us…and to remember the truth. “Stay on target!” is an adage (from Star Wars) that our family uses to remind ourselves. Stay on target!

*Lyrics to No Longer Slaves as Performed by Voices of Lee – written by Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case (Bethel Music)

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee – Lyrics

**YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves –  Official Lyric Video – Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves (Song Story) – Jonathan & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – a Valentine’s Day Reflection

Photo Credit: Gauton Photography, Daily Mail

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.Psalm 36:5-7

I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the many gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.

The funny thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in them. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.

On this Worship Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.

Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned,  in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.

Please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*

The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.

He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. – Psalm 91:4

Photo Credit: Kensington Gardens

*Lyrics to O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – S. Trevor Francis

Postscript: Another favorite hymn of mine is How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – below find Selah’s version of this one as well.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Selah – YouTube Lyric Video

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember?

Photo Credit: BeliefChangers, Pinterest

“…He commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.”Psalm 78:5-8

“…they flattered Him with their mouths;
    they lied to Him with their tongues.
 Their heart was not steadfast toward Him;
    they were not faithful to His covenant.
Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity
    and did not destroy them;
He restrained his anger often
    and did not stir up all His wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh…”Psalm 78:36-39

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

When we are anything but steadfast, God remains so.

I read the verses above as part of my guided devotional reading (trying to get through the Bible in a year). God would act as judge, at times, with His people (those too-human children of Israel). More than not, however, He restrained Himself and continued to show mercy. This mercy borne out of a steadfast love.

I can’t read Lamentations 3:22-23 without an old praise chorus coming to mind. The lyrics of the song are the verses of Scripture themselves.

A memory of this song rises up, from years and years ago, when I was still in my 20s and single. I was sitting at the piano, at night, singing this song, over and over, in tears. Whatever  was the reason for the tears is gone from my memory, but the deep sense of God’s love and mine, in return, for Him is still very much with me.

Worship with me, if you will…to this little chorus, repeating the great truth of God’s character.

In Psalm 78, God’s people are charged with remembering how He led the children of Israel out of captivity into the wilderness which would mean freedom for them. A land of their own possession. No longer slaves.

The psalmist also charges us to teach the next generation of God’s many acts of wonder on behalf of His children. We are also to warn them of how prone we are to settle for less than God…to settle for complacency and comfort. To seek for gods of our own making rather than the one true God.

God help us.

How thankful I am for the rock-solid steadfast nature of God’s love toward His people. How amazing is our God to show Himself, day by day, moment by moment…faithful, patient, steadfast. Perfectly loving a perfectly unlovely people. Praise His holy name!Photo Credit: Pinterest, Bible Verse Art

On Sunday, Pastor Cliff preached on thin places – those places and situations when the space between Heaven and earth is thin and God seems especially near. Moments when we experience that wonder and delight of God’s love in a powerful and physical way.

Do you remember a time? A time when you were held tightly, securely, by God? In the steadfastness of His love? Please share in the Comments below.

YouTube Video – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases (Lyric Video)

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

The Incredible, Unfathomable, Steadfast Love of God – Stephen Altrogge

Mark 1:14-15 – Thin Places – Sermon/Podcast – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Top 7 Bible Verses About God’s Steadfastness – Jack Wellman