Category Archives: Wednesday Worship

Worship Wednesday – God Himself Came Down – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Blog - Condescension - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

[Adapted from the Archives]

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

 

There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”

Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it  has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

Hang in there with me as we go through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than me.

“God is condescending. It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.

If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.

The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”

If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way.

Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer

“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.”Jonathan Edwards

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.

Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery 2

Worship with me to Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery“.

Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!

Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*

In this season of celebrating Christmas, we marvel at the tenderness of God to come down for us, to condescend, in the form of a human…even a helpless baby. He came to us through Jesus to redeem us back to Himself. That redemption carried with it a death. A sacrifice for our sins. A payment for the debt we could not pay for ourselves. To be restored to the one true holy God. The high cost of our sins was covered by the Christ of Christmas – through His condescension to life with us and death for us. Words fail in view of His indescribable gift…Hallelujah!

Explore God – Is Jesus really God?

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa

God Condescends – Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

God Is Condescending by Jim Barringer

Messiah, the Condescension of God Transcendent

The Condescension of our Transcendent God by Lee Tankersley

The Condescending God?

Does Condescend-Condescension Always Have a Negative Connotation?

Lady Catherine’s Condescension

*Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery: Hymn Wednesday

“In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us”*

Worship Wednesday – a Thanksgiving Moment – God’s Enduring Mercies

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!Psalm 107:1

A heart for Thanksgiving this year took me all the way until the day before. Not that I am not grateful. There’s thanks in every breath. As the Psalmist proclaims, we have a multitude of reasons to be thankful to God. He is good to us. In fact, his love (mercy) endures forever. If you have a few minutes, read the whole of Psalm 107 to reckon the richness of how God’s mercies endure…through whatever we are going through.

This Thanksgiving, I have struggled to prepare my heart for a day of feasting. Until this morning, I had little stomach for it. Oh, I am looking forward to have all our children and grands around the table later today. Then on Thanksgiving itself, we’ve gathered a few neighbors and friends who, like us, won’t be with their families. It will be a sweet time.

Until this morning though, my thoughts struggled with the losses of late. Not my own, but that of some friends and extended family. The world’s a mess, isn’t it? Yet, within that mess, a good and merciful God is moving.

This morning, we said goodbye to dear dear friends who had passed through our home for a quick visit. They reminded us of other Thanksgivings spent together across the ocean. They stood in for family we would be missing, as we did for them.

Their making the time to visit lifted my heart. When I dropped them at the holiday-crowded train station and returned home, the list of preparations for this special day demanded attention.

Then in a moment…standing in this sun-drenched kitchen…

Thanksgiving came. As I began mixing the ingredients for cornbread dressing, my mom came to mind. I watched her for years doing this same action. Standing in the kitchen, mixing, adding love and sage to taste, no recipe. Years of comfort in that sweet memory.

My mom-in-law also came to mind…always preparing a loaded table of goodness for us to enjoy at Thanksgiving. Her table and company we will miss this time…as we wait until Christmas to travel home. Still, I know her. Even with a son and daughter-in-law cooking most of the meal, she will still scurry…still make her specialties…still lay a table fit for the family she loves.

Now as turkey and dressing bake in my oven, the fragrance calls to mind so many times of family together…food and football…hugs and laughter. Having adult children nearby, we are making a new set of memories with help in the kitchen…between this chef of a son of mine and two girls cooking in their homes as I am here.

There is a bond in that. In fact, there is a bond in this cooking for those we love…all over the world. What a blessing to think of being a part of that wonder today and forever.

Thanksgiving has come. God, in his enduring love and mercy, will get us through the dark times. He has done it before, and He will do it again. As for these shimmering bright moments of family coming and a table circled with love…I will be ever grateful.

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful – Deb Mills Writer

Not Feeling the Thanks in Thanksgiving? – Jesse Lyn Stoner

Struggling Toward Thanksgiving – Trevin Wax

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Worship

An Exegetical Analysis of Psalm 107 – Jake Hanson

Worship Wednesday – You Are Worthy of Your Glory – Jon Shirley (Austin Stone Worship)

“Consider how the lilies grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.” – Luke 12:27

“When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?” – Psalm 8:3-4

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20

On Sunday at Movement Church, we sang a song new to me that continues to move my heart to worship this week. Jon Shirley of Austin Stone Worship is the writer-composer of this song You Are Worthy. In the Story Behind the Song video, he mentions how a Victorian poet’s words inspired him to write the song.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God” changed, in the song, to “The earth is charged with Your great grandeur.”

During the Victorian era (following the Industrial Revolution), Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote poetry that extolled the glory of God as experienced in His creation. This was a time of tremendous prosperity and invention, where people were enamored with their own accomplishments. Hopkins gently shook his culture into awakening again to the astounding creative genius of God.

God’s Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. – Poetry Foundation
Today, we also find ourselves in an age of booming technology. So impressed with ourselves. Yet, when we clear our minds and re-orient to the extraordinary beauty and wonder of creation, we can do no other than worship the One who spoke it into being. Worship the One who fashioned us into His image. Worship the God who still wants a relationship with us in all our smallness, bowing down to our own inventions and missing the God of the universe. This Creator God is worthy of glory; worthy of a world of worship.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

How Has God Revealed Himself Through Nature? – Don Stewart

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin

Worship with me, through this little song that celebrates such a great God:

The earth is charged with Your great grandeur
The stars above shine for You
And the world below responds in wonder, God!
And we’re all lost in You
In all You say and do

You are worthy of Your glory
God Almighty, You are Lord – forever
You’re robed in honor, You’re armed with power
God forever, You are Lord – forever

The waves resound, they pound Your praises
The flowers bloom, and stretch to You
Let everything you’ve made now praise You, God
Let all creation sing!

Awake my soul and sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, You are Lord
Forever Lord!*

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects foreigners
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever;
Zion, your God reigns for all generations.
Hallelujah! – Psalm 146

*Lyrics – Written by Jon Shirley – Austin Stone Worship

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – You Are Worthy – Jon Shirley

A Short Analysis of Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur”

Analysis of Poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins – Andrew Spacey

Gerard Manley Hopkins – 1844-1889

Victorian Era Crisis of Faith – Veronica Johnson

Worship Wednesday – Loving Broadly Is God’s Path to Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Photo Credit: Desiring God

As a small child, I loved my mama with all my heart. She was the source of all the goodness in our lives. She was my hero.

Through the many deep and painful hardships in Mom’s life, she had lost her way spiritually and we were unchurched in the early years of our childhood. When kind and persevering neighbors finally won Mom’s trust, we accepted their invitation to church. It was in that small congregation with hearts full of love that we found God.

It was no time before I was ready to receive, as my own, this beautiful, persistently loving, perfectly holy Savior. I was ready because of my own failed attempts to be good for my mama – to take some of the burden off her shoulders through my own small efforts. The knowledge from Scripture that we could never do enough on our own, that we needed a sinless Savior, was the best news I’d ever heard!

In recent weeks, we have been studying 1 Thessalonians (the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church) through our church’s sermon series and in our home groups. The two short versions below were like a shock of glorious truth for me:

May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows, so that He may establish your hearts in blamelessness and holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Anything good in our lives comes through the hands of God. In fact, as Pastor Cliff said Sunday, “No matter how far away we feel right now (from being blamelessly holy), what God Almighty has declared so He will make so.

Pursuing holiness is a theme much talked about in Christian circles – almost to the point of it being an idol. God orders the pursuit of holiness secondarily to increasing in love. What if we went after loving first? Not in lieu of holiness, God forbid, but…on the path to it.

We know from the passage in 1 Thessalonians, and many passages in Scripture, that God means for us to be all about knowing and loving Him and, out of that, loving others. Not just others we like or those we want to like us…but ALL others. The “so that” in verse 13 gives us the context.

As we strive to love others, in obedience to the Lord, He empowers us in that love. Then as our hearts are filled with deeper and broader love, then we have less room, inclination, or desire for or toward sinful habits.

Until the day we go to be with God when He completes His work in us and we are then blamelessly holy because of what Christ’s holiness accomplished in us.

The stuff of cold chills and face to the ground in awe of Him.

Rev. David Scott describes this whole work of God so well:

“If holiness is a matter of being increasingly conformed to God’s law, and if as Paul says in Romans 13, love is the fulfillment of the law, then it makes sense that as we grow in love, we come more in line with God’s law, and thus become more holy. This dynamic also makes sense to us experientially, as we face our sin. For example, if you grow in love for your neighbor, you are less likely to covet your neighbor’s possessions. The more you grow in depth of love for your spouse, the less attractive becomes the prospect of adultery. The more you love your fellow man, the harder it is to harbor any malice towards them. If we perfectly loved everyone, there would be no sin! Chrysostom, the great 4th century preacher, put it this way, “Love to our neighbor does not suffer any entrance of transgression; there is not any sin, which the power of love cannot consume.” Love is the soil in which holiness grows toward perfection. Love is the means by which a person’s heart gets established blameless in holiness.”David Scott

[Much of how this kind of love can be cultivated is in marriage and relationships with family. My favorite book on this subject is Gary Thomas Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? The happiness comes as both of us love God in ways that leads to sweet overflow in each other’s life.]

My husband Dave often talks about the ways God shows up in our lives and the role we have in those divine appointments (Psalm 127:1, as an example). “Our part is necessary but not sufficient”.

We can’t love well enough on our own…but as we give ourselves over to how God loves through us, we can know what it means to actually love unselfishly and unreservedly. That’s the kind of love I wanted to lavish on my mom as a child. She was so worthy of it…but I didn’t understand how. Until God’s truth penetrated my heart. Through the rest of Mom’s years of life and mine with her, I loved her imperfectly…but more perfectly than I could have without God at work in me.

The same for loving all others. It’s easy to build a wall around ourselves and only allow in those easy for us to love. No wonder our hearts bend so easily to sin and selfishness if that is our default. What a world God opens to us when we surrender ourselves to His redemptive purposes.

You might say, my mom fit in the category of “easy to love”. You are right. Still, as I grew in loving God, yielding to Him and His help in seeing others as He sees them, then loving comes easier. Even those as hard to love as I can be sometimes. Loving broadly is becoming a whole daily renewing and consuming adventure. Out of that, I know from His Word, He lavishes our hearts with His holiness.

The more we love, the more God shapes our hearts toward holiness. Wow!

We usually have a song together on Worship Wednesday’s. I’ve put a couple in the links. Today seems more for glorying in God’s provision and praying to be available to Him to love generously and flesh out blameless holiness to a world that needs to see Jesus in us.

Love and Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – David Scott

What Does It Mean to Be Holy – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – John Piper

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty (Agnus Dei) – Michael W. Smith

YouTube Video – All to Jesus I Surrender

Praise & Worship Show “Holiness Themes”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog - martin Luther - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weak Man Behind A Mighty Fortress – Mark Galli

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

Luther (2003 film starring Joseph Fiennes)

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

The Reformation at 500 – Russell Moore

Can Catholics Celebrate the Reformation? – Jacob Kohlhaas

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

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

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Saved. What does that mean? Saved from what? For what?

I had been unchurched for most of my young life. When first exposed to the Bible, God drew me to Himself, and I was saved as a 9-year-old child. This holy and winsome God reached into the heart of a lost little girl and showed divine mercy. Saved was something my mom couldn’t do for me, nor could I do it for myself.

Even at 9, the wretchedness of sin was very real to me – both as a receiver of others’ sinful behavior and as a doer myself. People can be so hateful, uncaring, deliberately mean. Contrast that with a God who demonstrated such a love to us that in our most messed-up nature, He made a way for us to come back to Him…through the perfect, sinless Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the moment, I’m not going to deal with how it is one can be saved but you can find more here. Explore God is a great resource.

Since the day that I received God’s greatest gift, the life available only through Jesus, living for Him has always been my desire.

Seasons come, however, when my heart’s desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural messages that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely I have not always been faithful to speak the glorious truth of Him and His gift to us in salvation.

Oh…the silence of wanting my own comfort over care of one who doesn’t yet know God’s love. My heart breaks at this.

During worship at Movement Church, on Sunday, we sang a song new to me. The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. Then Cliff preached from 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (podcast here). The focus of this scripture, teaching, and worship was to encourage us, as church, as saved peoples, to “persevere and refuse to be silent”.

Photo Credit: Twitter

We are never too old or too far gone down the world’s path to return to God and His great cause.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What is the cause of Christ? We, who know Jesus, have been saved from the sin embedded in us from the first sinners and we have been saved from living ourselves in unbridled sin for all our lives. We are saved for God’s purposes – to live to serve Him and others in truth; to proclaim that saving truth in word and deed to all those God places in our lives. We are saved for fellowship (community) with God now and forever.

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Twitter

“…how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.  For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. – the Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

The Only Name (Yours Will Be) by Big Daddy Weave (words & lyrics by Benji Cowart)

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Worship Wednesday – O God Forgive Us – For King & Country

Photo Credit: Vimeo

“You should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts [our sins],
as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'” – Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)

Some things we will never make sense of…this side of Heaven.

The news every day has its fallout in our lives. It injects numbness into our hearts and minds. We just can’t comprehend what is going on around us sometimes.

We want to bring sense to bear on senselessness. To be able to blame someone. Or some natural force. Or we want to blame God.

Earlier this week, an unbelievable massacre took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. One gunman in his 60s rained down terror on an open field where thousands watched a concert. In a matter of 10 or so minutes, 50+ persons were killed and over 500 persons were injured.

Motives may be uncovered in future days. For now, all we know is the perpetrator fired at will on individuals he had no way of knowing. Random. Premeditated. Thoughtless. Evil.

We can’t make sense of such a thing.

For now, we pray for those families of the victims. We pray for those still in critical condition and for those recovering from their wounds. We thank God for first responders and for all those concert-goers who reached out to help others get to safety or to medical care. We also pray for our country to heal after another hard thing.

Besides praying, we also give blood and give other resources to help those in need.

What we cannot do…what we must refuse to do is to grow more numb to the brokenness of our world.

Jesus’ followers were in close proximity to him. They watched him do life. They saw him pull away alone to pray – to fortify himself for what he faced each day…and for what he would face before it was all over.

They asked him about this prayer thing he did so often and so deeply. I can’t even imagine what life must have been like for Jesus spending those years here on earth. How God was able to be both God and man at once can’t even be answered for us; our minds can’t hold such understanding. Yet, Jesus stole away often to linger with the Father; to counsel with Him; to be nourished by Him.

When he taught us how to pray, he gave a model which included the directive: forgive us our debts [our sins], as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].

Our world is rocked with evil…people choosing self over others, even to the point of neglect, betrayal, and violence.

Still…there is hope. God is not finished us yet. He has not forsaken us.

Nor are we meant to forsake each other.

The gunman above is dead. We can only speculate what happened to that man to plan out and execute such incomprehensible acts.

What we know is our own hearts…well, even our own hearts we can’t fully know (Jeremiah 17:9). Still we do know we are desperate to make sense of life and to pursue true community, real love and peace.

The band For King & Country (with the help of hip-hop artist KB) put out a single “O God Forgive Us“.Photo Credit: Flickr; Rapzilla

In the video interpretation of the song, we see the three principal singers with “younger versions of themselves”. Scenes are projected in front of the little ones – scenes of wrongs done in this world. A tear trickled down the cheek of one little boy. The message is that we all perpetrate wrongs against one another…and against God. We all need God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves and each other.

It may take us awhile to forgive this man who killed and injured so many. We may fall to fear and wonder is anywhere safe. However, what will probably happen is that we will forget. The screen of our memory will refresh to the news of the next day and the next. Numbness settles in, deeper and deeper.

In times like these, we are tempted to circle up and seek for safety and security within our own self-prescribed perimeter of comfort.

However…

We do not want to fall victim ourselves, as the songwriters warn, to doubt, uncertainty, unbelief…

No. Let us have the courage as Christ-followers to reach out, crossing whatever boundaries that separate us; to love each other as Jesus commanded us. It starts with the forgiveness God gives us which empowers us to forgive others.

Worship with me [music in link].

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
O, O God forgive us
Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive-through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
Rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing
O God forgive us
O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

[Spoken word – KB]Photo Credit: Rapzilla

Forgive us
Yes we have ignored you
So busy doing your work
That we forgot that this was
For
You

Arms wide to our homeless Savior
But arms crossed to our homeless neighbor
On bended knee
Unite us all
Set us free

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

O, O God forgive us
A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us.

Run wild. To risk everything. To hold nothing back.
To lay it all on the line: your reputation, your success, your comfort.
It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith. Live free.
It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want,
But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity
And finding freedom by connecting with the creator who conceived you.
Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time.
Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself
By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself.
Love strong. Because you were first loved. Because without love we all perish.
Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away, but love, love will always remain*

*Lyrics & Quote – Behind the Song: for KING & COUNTRY Shares the Heart Behind Their Single “O God Forgive Us (feat. KB)

Forgiveness – The Lord’s Prayer – an Eight-part Series Exploring Its Meaning Line by Line – Bill Kolb

Worship Wednesday – the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – A Pilgrim’s Progress – Matt Papa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: YouTube

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Air Force

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse,
    army and warrior.Isaiah 43: 1-3, 16-17

I have never lost my home to a flood or fire. Dear friends have had that experience, and I see something in them that I want. Rock-solid faith in a mighty and merciful God. Is trouble part of what gets us to unshakeable faith (tornado- and hurricane-proof faith)?

My life today is comfortable. Hurricane Harvey is far from us, but the ravages of that storm are felt across the US. I can’t imagine all the losses. Houses, businesses…and worse, family members and friends. Lost to a tropical storm system that poured torrential rains across Texas for days.

The pictures and video of flooded neighborhoods in Houston would be unbelievable except that they are real.

We in the US are so sheltered, cushioned from much of what rocks the rest of the world. When nature unleashes its most destructive forces, we usually watch that on world news…not on local.

This time, we are confronted with the transient nature of stuff…even life itself. We want to comfort and help, and there are ways to do that. My heart is thrilled by those on orders or inclined to go into the storm to help – the military and police and all the many volunteers.

For this natural disaster, the reality of all that’s happening hangs heavy in my mind. How would I deal with such a calamity in my own life?

My hope is that I would cling to the Lord. The God who promises that He is always with us. He has shown Himself faithful in other dark places in our lives – losing loved ones through the years, saying hard goodbyes to friends, miscarriages, cancer diagnoses. I know He is there…it has been my experience.

So how will the folks in Houston get through this difficult, difficult place? Either clinging to God or seeking help elsewhere. He is there…for any who would take His hand…to help them get through until the morning.

A couple of nights ago, I struggled to get to sleep. Like my mama before me, fears and stresses follow me to bed, and taunt me to sort them out on my own. Finally, exhausted and aching with loneliness, I pray.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!Psalm 30:5b, 11-12

Yesterday was better…as is today…in His grace and in the light of His truth.

Today, I want to share three old Gospel songs that minister to my heart. Always. Even more when Guy Penrod sings them. A solo artist now, he has sung with the Gaither Vocal Band and is also a featured artist on the Gaither Homecoming TV specials.

Then Came the Morning is new to me (hearing it for the first time the morning after that fitful night). It relates to experiences of Jesus’ mother and disciples after his death, and then when they discovered him alive again, as he had promised.

Then came the morning
Shadows vanished before the sun
Death had lost and life had won
For morning had come.*

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod – Written by: CHRIS CHRISTIAN, GLORIA GAITHER, WILLIAM GAITHER

*Lyrics – Then Came the Morning

It Is Well With My Soul is a song I’ve known since childhood. No matter what happens in life, it can be well with our souls. The story behind this song speaks to the relationship Horatio Spafford had with his God.

Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”–words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! – Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 27**

One of the verses of this tested and proven hymn of faith is:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.*

YouTube Video – It Is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod, David Phelps

*Lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

Lastly, a hymn that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote and has touched millions of lives: Because He Lives. Such a great song reminding us that because He lives we have no need to fear.

Worship with me:

YouTube Video – Because He Lives, Guy Penrod

Lyrics – Because He Lives – Bill & Gloria Gaither

You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.” – A.B. Simpson

No matter how dark the night, when the morning comes, we can find it is well with our souls, because He lives.

Guy Penrod

Gaither Homecoming

Floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal Kill 1,200 and Leave Millions Homeless – Chloe Farand

**Trials – Sermon Illustrations