Category Archives: Thanksgiving or Gratefulness

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

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:5-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe – Deb Mills Writer

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

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

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: More Famous Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Shawn Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As one before the King
Yeah we believe

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

Let Your kingdom come, Lord
Let Your will be done

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

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

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

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

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

When You Pray – Shawn Gray

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure

Photo Credit: Forbes, Jacquelyn Smith

Who ever aspires to become negative? No one out there wants to be considered a Negative Nancy, or, get this, a Debbie Downer. Sheesh.

The fact that there are names for people who struggle with negativism shows they are not fun to be around, even laughable for some. We stir up little compassion for the person inside of that moniker and what might have gotten them there.

Negativism  happens by degree…with time and practice.

Even the Eeyores in our lives, those darksome brooding outsiders, have our sympathy, even affection. We allow that they can’t help their personalities. It’s just how they are. Except for our Eeyore colleagues, friends and family members, we communicate little time or patience for negativism. In fact, we default to our culture’s no-skin-in-the-game of “you’re better off without them around you”.

Well…give yourself time. With enough life experiences and bumps along the journey, you might find yourself becoming that “grumpy old man”. Without even being aware it’s happening.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Peter ZieglerPhoto Credit: Flickr, Paul Waite

You can probably tell I care about this.

Not so long ago, people in my life considered me almost Pollyannaish (determined to be positive about everything that happens; always refusing to think ill of others). I still want to be that person, to be honest. Unfortunately…a few rough hits happened.

Abruptly having to leave a country through circumstances beyond our control. Our home, our friends there. [That story is for another day.] Watching family members go through extreme hard times. Having to leave a church we loved. [Also another story.] Retiring earlier than I wanted. Living day-to-day with this incredible man who has experienced more loss than he imagined or that others really know…squeezed into a few years. I could go on…but then you’d know I’m at risk of becoming a Debbie Downer.

[If you think it’s already happened…I refuse that…because it is not really who I am.]

Our kids have always been taught not to hold court in judging whether something’s fair or not. We did not want to raise a bunch of fairness police. However, we have had numerous round tables over whether something is right or not…and if not, what might our role be in righting a wrong.

The biggest initiator of negativism is figuring out how to respond to something that is just wrong. At home. At work. In our community. In the world.

If you are struggling with negativism, is it because you believe something is just not right?

You could be entirely correct about what is terribly wrong. Unfortunately, if you find you can’t fix what’s broken, then what can be altered are your own relationships, health, and well-being. Either toward the negative…
Photo Credit: Pixabay

or, hopefully, toward the positive.Photo Credit: Skilled Impact

[For those struggling right now with negativism…or maybe not struggling anymore but just living negative at the moment: remember what it was like before when your life was more like the caped crusader in the above image?]

We can flip our negativity to positive but it takes great effort… especially if we’re so drained from it, we can hardly get out of our own way. Just getting the job done or barely maintaining the relationship. This is understandable given what negativism takes out of a person over time. Photo Credit: Pixabay

[That’s one of the reasons I feel strongly about how others respond to it because they don’t see the toll it takes on the individual experiencing it. Not judging here, because I have been exhausted by someone else’s negativism as well. Just more understanding now… having gone through it and seeing those I love slog through it.]

As this has been weighing on my mind recently, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the topic. There is no small amount of writing about it. Very helpful pieces are linked below. My takeaways are bulleted with the link below it (take time to read more if you will, because I’ll be leaving a lot of great advice out of the bullet points).

Flipping Negative to Positive:

  • Don’t allow yourself to complain unless you also offer one or two possible solutions. Use complaining as a catalyst for positive change.
  • Be aware of the external environment, but don’t let it consume you.
  • Practice the art of “zoom focusing.” Tune out the negative voices, focus in on your choices, and start getting things done.
  • View your life as an inspirational tale, not a horror movie.
  • Make a gratitude list and start a success journal.
  • Don’t quit at Mile 20.
  • Trust in God, not the media (or other naysayers).

 15 Ways to Turn Negative Energy Into Positive SolutionsJon Gordon

  • Psychologists link negative thinking to depression, anxiety, chronic worry and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Almost all human beings contend with it — even those born with a positive outlook.

    It’s because of the way our brains are constructed. Our amygdala and limbic system are built to notice threats, to protect our survival. Today, the same parts of our brain are active even when physical threats are minimal. The threats we deal with today are more cognitive — involving finances, whether we’re loved, whether we’re succeeding at work. They can set our hearts racing. That’s why we can panic on a Sunday night just thinking about work.

    Rather than change the way you think, I recommend changing your relationship to your thoughts. Those thoughts that are negative are more likely to capture our awareness, or become “sticky.”

    I recommend learning to watch your thoughts, rather than engaging with them. Practicing mindfulness can take you away from the thinking experience.

    Mindfulness helps us program in ourselves a sense of that which is right. We can systematically notice what’s going well in the present. We can notice something favorable about each person we encounter. Words of admiration help us notice the rightness of things.

How to Turn Around Your Negative Thinking Scott Bea

  • Value the negative experiences.
  • Don’t rush judgment.
  • Take complete responsibility for your life.

3 Ways to Turn Negative Experiences AroundMatt Mayberry

  • A problem can only be resolved if someone brings attention to it but if you don’t plan to be constructive, keep your thoughts to yourself.
  •  If you, however, would like to be, known as a problem solver instead of a complainer, speak up. If you do it the right way, you will make a positive change that could do a lot to improve your work environment. Rather than raising your boss’s ire, you may instead be the recipient of his or her appreciation.

5 Tips to Help You Lose Your Negative Attitude at WorkDawn Rosenberg McKay

  • It takes a real effort a lot of the time to concentrate on the positive. I know there’s a direct link to positive thoughts and success. I have read about it, studied it, and tried to live it most of my adult life.

“The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism”Gary Weiner

[Again, the articles in full have more helpful info…when you have the time or inclination to read further. At the end are two links to HR and supervisors/managers.]

My own small observations (beyond the above excellent points):

  • If the workplace itself is fueling negativism, do what you can to shakeup where you work. Try a different venue for day-to-day work. Traveling can be a tremendous help (if you can financially and strategically make it happen – for yourself and others). Working remotely doesn’t fix what’s hard but it dilutes contact and interaction with what’s hard.
  • If others have judged you by this current season of life and don’t want to work with you, don’t let that deter you from your purpose. Mend relationships if you can. If not, embrace the “what is” in your life, and celebrate the healthy relationships you have and pursue work you love, wherever you can make a difference.
  • Stay in the present moment. The past, distant or recent, is where your negativism was birthed. The future either strikes more fear in your heart or stirs hope (as in a job change or some other imagined change) that you can’t be sure is real. For this moment, stay at task, nurture your current relationships, focus in.

An expression floating around the internet lately goes something like this:

“What you practice, you get very good at.”

As that relates to negativism, do we really want to get good at that? No. In fact, practice doesn’t always make us good at something. We can practice unhelpful, unhealthy habits and they can become ingrained….even permanent…unless we intentionally do the work to reverse them. Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

Where are you in all this? Please comment below. It would be helpful for us to hear from each other. This is a safe place.

Negativism is contagious, but so is positivity. Both have their own satisfactions. There may come a day that the new-honed habit of negativism turns on us and we see if for the robber it is. Then the work will begin to turn our lives around…before it’s too much damage is done.

If you don’t currently struggle with negativism, take note of those around you who do struggle. This is not something (or someone) to just avoid…this is someone who even the Apostle Paul determined to help…

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

3 Tips for Decreasing Workplace Negativity – [written with a Human Resources focus]

Turning Around Negative Attitudes [a must read for supervisors and managers]

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

Blog - Easter - Empty TombPhoto Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

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

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

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

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

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

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

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

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

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

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

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

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

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

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

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

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

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

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

Good Friday from popgodblogPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

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

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

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

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

Good Friday – Bible StudyPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

5 Friday Faves – Easter Reading, Classical Guitar Wonderment, Giving Place/Space/Voice, Touches of Whimsy, and Food for Thought

Happy Friday! Let’s jump right in – here are my favorite finds of this week…

1) Easter Reading – Every year during Lent, I pull out a small pile of books. One, in particular has been a companion of mine for 20 years: British author Adrian Plass‘ book The Unlocking: God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. Another book found a place in my pile just this past year, yet the author has many years’ influence in my life as well. This one is Preparing for Easter by another British author, C. S. Lewis.

Both of these books are meant to take us through an examination of our lives and the Lord with us, right up to Easter. Below are just two (very different) excerpts from these two books:

“When we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God…He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same king – the one you never do see, I mean, of course, yourself …You also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.

All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…God’s view [differs] – He loves the people in spite of their faults. he goes on loving. He does not let go. Don’t say, ‘It’s all very well for Him; He hasn’t got to live with them.’ He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.”C. S. Lewis

“Father, Do I hurt You with my fear? Do I cut You with my cries of desolation? Do You sigh and shake Your head when I cannot understand? Do You long to make it better? Do You seriously consider abandoning Your principles? Do You sleep? Do You lie awake and think of me? Does Your pain roll across creation like thunder? Is it really finished? Daddy, won’t it be good when it is? Amen.”Adrian Plass

Do you have favorite books for the Easter season? Please share with us in Comments below.

2) Classical Guitar Wonderment – I don’t know how he does it, but every Friday, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posts a new video. His arrangements and performances amaze us all – not just family but friends, both here and around the world. You know I could go on…but I won’t. Here are his two latest arrangements:

YouTube Video – Full Metal Alchemist: Brothers (Kyoudai)

YouTube Video – Civilization VI: Sogno di Volare

3) Giving Place, Space, & Voice – I just want to salute you people out there who give place to others – at the planning and decision-making tables, who give space to others to come at solutions or strategy from a different worldview or frame of reference, and who give voice to those who might not find their voice otherwise.

You are true leaders and true servants. You are the kind of people we want to follow and make proud of us. You are those who create a family, a workplace, a community and a world where we can all realize our God-ordained purposes. Ambition, territoriality, mistrust, personal preference turn some away from such practices. To those of you who guard this discipline in your lives…this three-fold giving…thank you. Thank God for you.

Monday Morning Moment – A Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills Writer

How to Help Emerging Leaders Find Their Voice – Ron Carucci

4) Touches of Whimsy – What a joy it is to be going through your day and then, stop right in your tracks at a glimpse of something beautiful. Or an amusing turn of phrase in a conversation causes you to laugh out loud. The world, as hard as it can be, is also still full of whimsy. Just last night I was at a first birthday party for a wee one who was born three months early and weighed in at just over two pounds.  He is every bit a miracle baby. We spent most of the evening just staring at him. Of course, there were doses of adult conversation and lots of shared laughter, but his little chuckles lifted all our hearts…at the wonder of his life.

This week also a friend took me to a belated birthday breakfast. We tried this new restaurant in our neighborhood. SB’s Lakeside Love Shack. It was breakfast all day in the most whimsical little place. Here are just a few pics of what made us keep smiling with delight:

[Sidebar: In case you are my neighbor and you give this restaurant a try on my recommendation, just be advised that it’s not a diner (with diner prices), and it’s small (so crowded depending when you go). The food was delicious and the whimsy was a definite highlight.]

5) Food for Thought – OK, to be honest, I couldn’t decide on #5, so I’m just putting all the “bonus” finds right here.

C. S. Lewis Daily Twitter – “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the light and out into the nothing.”

5 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t Get Seduced into Skipping Stones – Dan Lovgalia

7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know – Erin Canty

Photo Credit: Brene Brown Twitter

Screen Time Syndrome: Brain Images Explain Why Kids Are Moody, Impulsive & Can’t Pay Attention – Jacqueline

A Kick-starter Campaign by Composer Christopher Tin – the video itself is so beautiful.

This Restaurant Way Out in the North Carolina Countryside has the Best Doggone Food You’ve Tried in Ages – Shatley Springs Inn and Restaurant – Robin Jarvis

I am still buoyed by the incredible beauty of ice skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s performances in this year’s Winter Olympics to Notte Stellatathis one as part of the skating gala exhibition of all the medal winners:

The one below for us writers:

What’s So Bad About the Passive Voice?

That’s it for this week. Love you all. Be safe out there and gentle with yourselves…and each other. Please share below your favorite finds of the week. Thanks for following my blog. You are much appreciated at this house.

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