Category Archives: Reconciliation/Forgiveness

Worship Wednesday – Is It Luck or Is It Love? – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39

Who wouldn’t love a surgeon who calls to  check on you himself after you go home from surgery? That was my experience this afternoon. He had just removed 6 lesions (creepy word) from my face. Too much sun exposure in my reckless 20’s. I will know next week whether each is cancer or not (hopefully the non-scary type).

Some doctors are almost too professional – aloof, reserved, choosing words carefully, but this one is excellent at his work and also very human and approachable. Before we went into surgery, he sat down with Dave and me to review my medical history. In a few minutes, he would be doing multiple cuts and wound closures on this old face of mine, leaving me a bit Frankensteinish in appearance. Temporarily.

In that talk, he puzzled out loud at how I got lung cancer not ever having been a smoker. “Just bad luck…” he surmised.

All afternoon, I have thought about that odd observation. He didn’t know the whole of that medical workup which delivered a lung cancer diagnosis and surgery (Stage 1, by the way…sigh of relief). He would have considered it “good luck” then.  Another health issue had driven that workup, which turned out to be nothing. The testing, however, had fortuitously revealed the lung nodule. Luck…if you believed in that. I knew it was something much more.

What this latest favorite surgeon of mine casually observed as bad luck, I see as a good God. A good and loving God. Even when the diagnosis isn’t Stage 1…even when our calendars are filled with way too many doctors’ appointments and our hearts full of fear…the character of God shines through all that…if we look for Him.

Whether life is good or not so good, God’s care for us is unaltered.

These last several months have settled that in my heart over and over again. When we go through difficulties, God uses them in our lives in at least three ways.

  • To show us His love and faithfulness as we cling to Him through the scary unknowns.
  • To deepen our grasp of and wonder at His purposes for our lives.
  • To embolden us to extend His love to those around us, as He’s purposed us to do. To be His hands and feet to others, as He’s multiplied grace to us in our own hard places.

Luck doesn’t stir our hearts to take the lives God has given us (and health restored to us) and pour them out in service to Him and for the sake of others. Love does that.

Worship with me to Hillsong’s To the Ends of the Earth.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*

I go for followup next week to this dear plastic surgeon who took such good care of me. While he takes out all these stitches, I hope to share, even briefly (and not weirdly), the whole “not luck, but love” story of my life. Hopefully all the biopsy results will be nothing or not scary. Whatever happens, God’s love turns my heart to Him…and to those He’s placed in my life – who also walk through hard places but don’t have to walk through them without Him.

We are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3Photo Credit: Kuyamac

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

YouTube Video – To the Ends of the Earth – Lyrics Video (Just Lyrics) – Hillsong

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – Reminder By Steve Green

YouTube Video – Even If – Mercy Me

Lyrics to Even If

Worship Wednesday – We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

Photo Credit: ABC News

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.Hebrews 12:28

The longer we live, the more we have those stop-you-in-your-tracks, breath-catching experiences. Those “Do you remember where you were when……?” moments . Those consummately positive memories like our wedding day, the birth of a grandchild, or that time a guitarist son‘s music video goes viral.

These are not the experiences that take us to our knees (except in gratitude, for sure). What shakes our core are times we are faced with something so devastating we fear we cannot recover – a cancer diagnosis, the death of someone dear, or even what could have just happened in our lives this week.

When the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989 struck, it shook (literally and metaphorically) that community in California…and all of our nation. We had grown quite accustomed to a safe and settled America. A time of relative peace before the wars began again. Since then, we have had so many natural and international shakings, we wonder if the ground will ever again be still under our feet.

John Piper, after hearing the news of the 1989 earthquake, preached comfort and truth on the unshakeable Kingdom of God. As he started speaking, he prayed:

O Father in heaven, it’s times like this in the life of a nation when the voice of the Lord needs to be heard, and you have much to say, and we have little time in which to say it. So come, Father, boil everything down to the bare essentials, sharpen the arrow of your Word, may it sink home to do its appointed work of mercy in the lives of every person here. I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.John Piper

The Christian group Building 429 well describes our experience as Christ-followers when faced with confusing and faith-shaking times. In the song We Won’t Be Shaken, we are reminded of the great truth that whatever we face in this culture and the larger world around us, God is always in the mix. God’s purposes are never thwarted and His love and mercies will help us stand, even when the earth shakes all around us. This is not platitude. We know it, because we’ve experienced it. We know God, because we’ve experienced Him…with us. In the darkness and in the shaking.

Worship with me.

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know you go before me
And I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
This way seems so unclear
But I know that you go with me
I will trust in you

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
No we won’t be shaken

You know my every longing
You’ve heard my every prayer
You’ve held me in my weakness
Cause you are always there
So I’ll stand in full surrender
It’s your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than you and you alone
I will not be moved oh

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken

(3x)
We will trust in you
We will not be moved
We will trust in you*

Take time to read the transcript of Piper’s sermon. He closes with this appeal to those in his hearing who  do not yet know the God of the unshakeable kingdom:

Receive the kingdom that cannot be shaken. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you receive the kingdom like a little child, you will never enter it.” See how simple it is? What does “a little child” mean? It means you humble yourself and recognize that you can’t make a place for yourself to stand. You can’t cut it in life and make the future what it needs to be. You just humble yourself like a little child. You recognize that there’s a Father in heaven. You see the gift offered through his Son Jesus Christ—forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life and a firm kingdom that can’t be shaken—you extend your hands and say, “Sinner though I am, I receive it. This is now my portion forever and ever.” – John Piper

Photo Credit: Mariel Davenport

Lyrics to We Won’t Be Shaken by Building 429

YouTube Video – K-Love – Building 429 – We Won’t Be Shaken – LIVE

A Kingdom That Can Not Be Shaken – John Piper

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – When I’m With You – Citizen Way

Photo Credit: Family Life

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  – Psalm 34:18

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.  Psalm 140:12

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
 – Hebrews 13:3

How people get through hard places and tough seasons without God? His love fills the broken places in our lives.

Just this week I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film Resilience. It was such an “aha” experience for me watching this documentary on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their impact on adult health and quality of life.  [More about this here.]Photo Credit: GrowlerMag

As I sat mesmerized by that film, so many faces came to mind – children struggling to learn in my daughter’s classroom, adults with massive social and health issues in the hospital where I worked years ago, friends and family who have endured terrible things at the hands of others. How do we respond? How do we, as the film challenged, build resilience and help heal trauma?

Sometimes problems seem too big for us…what can we do to make a difference? What can we say to help? We can pray. We can get equipped. We can position ourselves beside those most vulnerable – be first responders if necessary – as Jesus became for us.

When Ben Calhoun, lead singer of the Christian band Citizen Way, talks about the loss of their son Jeremiah in miscarriage, you can still hear the pain…and the care he received from God. So much love. It inspired the song When I’m with You. Photo Credit: YouTube

Whatever struggle we find ourselves in…others may walk away, but God doesn’t. He won’t. Sometimes that terrible thing happens to us as a child…and I won’t begin to offer an explanation of why adults sin against children…but I believe with all my heart that God will enter in and rescue us sometimes…and other times, bring healing. He is the God of both justice and mercy. I have experienced Him that way many times over. We receive His mercy and sometimes we become an extension of it – through our hearts, our hands, and our words.

Whatever is going on in your life, I pray that you can feel God near …and worship with me.

These are the things
That I need to pray
‘Cuz I can’t find peace any other way
I’m a mess underneath
And I’m just too scared to show it
Everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
But it’s nice to know
I can come this way
When I’m with You
I feel the real me finally breaking through
It’s all because of You Jesus
Anytime anywhere any heartache
I’m never too much for You to take
There’s only love
There’s only grace
When I’m with You
Nobody knows me like You do
No need for walls
You see right through
Every hurt every scar every secret
You just love me
When everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
It’s nice to know
I can come this way
I’m breathing in
I’m innocent
It’s like my heart’s on fire again
I’m not afraid
I’m not ashamed
I’m safe when I am with You
So I’m here just as I am
Bruised or broken
I don’t have to pretend*

Photo Credit: Among the Pages

Lyrics to When I’m With You – Citizen Way

YouTube Video – When I’m With You – Citizen Way – Official Music Video

YouTube Video – Citizen Way – Story Behind the Song When I’m With You

God has Not Forgotten You – a 31-Day Devotional – Leslie J. Barner

Resilience – the Film

ACEs Connection – Join the Movement to Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, Heal Trauma, and Build Resilience

ACEs Too High

Finding Your ACE Score (pdf)

Christmas Newsletters and the God of Christmas

I love Christmas newsletters – that art of drawing all the particular happenings of a year into the confines of one page. It’s a delight for me to sit in front of the fireplace and read what friends and family report on their lives in this year – the highlights and the hard places.

Not everyone writes newsletters nor send Christmas cards, and that is understandable. Still, when we get a letter from a friend like David Martin whom we rarely see but whose friendship we will treasure forever…life takes a pause as we read the particulars of life in East Tennessee…and of his walk with the Lord in these days.

I asked his permission to share this portion of his newsletter with you. David has always been very clear, in our conversations of both the holiness and love of God, and our total dependence on Him as Savior. Allow his words to help clear your head…they did my own.

What a year! Many have said that this was the worst election in our history. Our country is more divided than any time that I can remember in my life. The world has never seemed more unsafe. As I write this, wildfires (something we used to read about in other parts of our country) are burning Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. There have been days here that the smoke is so thick that you cannot stay outside for long. You could say that the storm is raging around us, but a storm reveals what you trust in. The storm has always been a way for God to remind us that He is bigger than us and our surroundings and He is in control. God’s sovereignty is never subjected to our circumstances. Our response shows if we trust Him. “Life is hard when you are the biggest person you know.” (my friend Neil) It is easy to focus on the waves, wind, and rain and forget who can calm the tempest with a word. It is our relationship with the one who controls the storm that allows us to be life-changers. Through our relationship with Him, we can remain calm when all around us panic. We bear fruit, not out of effort, but out of identity. It is not our effort that redeems us, but God’s grace. “Christianity is not about learning how to live within the lines; Christianity is about the joy of coloring.” (Mike Yaconelli)

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

Sinclair Ferguson wrote, “Our greatest temptation and mistake is to try to smuggle character into God’s work of grace.” There is nothing we can do to earn this gift, before or after accepting it. To add anything to God’s grace diminishes the gift. By understanding the nature of God and His gift of grace, we can see it for the wonderful gift it is. However, we must also keep a view of the holiness of God. My friend Neil said, “Modern worship has lost its sense of the Holiness of God because we sing about wanting to see God, touch, God, be with God, be wrapped in His embrace; anything Taylor Swift can write about we have come to believe we can do with God. Whenever I hear that, I hear an insufficient theology of the Holiness of God. We have disconnected the Grace of God from the nature of God and in so doing; we have made God approachable in the worst of ways.” To view God as your best friend or to try to relate to Him as you would any other friend or family member is to build your own idol in your image. Think about it.

As we enter this season, John Stott reminds us, [in his book The Cross of Christ], “Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.” God’s gift of His Son as a baby in the manger who would grow to a man and be the sacrificial Lamb of God is God’s grace in flesh. Photo Credit: Vance Christie

We live in a culture that wants the Grace of God, but not the Person of God. Everyone wants a free will until something happens that they cannot handle. Then they ask why did God let this happen to me? Yet the question should not be why there is suffering in the world, but why does God tolerate us in our sinfulness. The answer is grace! God’s amazing grace.

Unless you can see yourself as one of those in the crowd, full of hostility, anger, and hatred for the holy, innocent Lamb of God, Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

you really cannot understand the nature and depth of your sin, the necessity of the cross, or the extent of God’s grace offered freely to us.

As you celebrate the birth of Christ this year, remember the Father’s grace that demanded the sacrifice of His Son, so that He could restore us into a relationship with Him. Celebrate your identity in Him and extend grace to others.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Lois and David

Christ’s Gracious Condescension For Us – Vance Christie

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love For us – Stuart Townend

blog-movement-church-how-deep-the-fathers-love-worship

Worship can be a deeply emotional experience. In fact, sometimes, we lose our focus on God Himself in the midst of the singing of a familiar song. Our minds wander as memories of other times and places take us out of the moment. Not a bad thing necessarily, but…

That happened to me as the praise band at Movement Church this Sunday opened the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. I love this Stuart Townend hymn. He published it in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjustment to a new life in another country. [This and another hymn of his – In Christ Alone.]

On Fridays, we would join other internationals and a smattering of Egyptian Christians, at Heliopolis Community Church, and we would sing and pray in English. Such a refreshment to our souls as we spent most of our week, learning and using Arabic in our work and with neighbors and friends. English was our worship language.blog-international-church-worship-how-deep-the-fathers-lovePhoto Credit: CCCLux

Sweet memories of hot Friday mornings, singing with believers from all over the world, as the call to prayer broke through from a nearby mosque. Sweet memories of a oneness with each other…and with God.

Then my thoughts sprang back to the present on Sunday, as we sang this lyric:

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

At what cost? Oh…we can imagine the considerable cost Jesus paid because our own flesh cringes at the excruciating pain of the cross. Yet, we also must take in, as much as we can, the cost to the Father. Such great love He has…for His own son…and for us…each one of us. The whole world, in fact.

When Stuart Townend was writing this hymn, he was very aware of the emotions that can be elicited in praise music. Just as I have described, the personal joy, refreshment, and happy memories that can be so satisfying in the experience of individual and corporate worship. His hope was to write in such a way as to help the worshiper get beyond himself and to a greater awareness of God.

“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Hymns like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us complement our prayer life and study of God’s Word. For those friends of ours who don’t yet believe…those who say, “That’s nice for you that you believe God. I just don’t believe like you do.”…we have a witness in worship.

It is not just that we believe…what Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

blog-how-deep-the-fathers-love-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

blog-movement-church-how-deep-the-fathers-love-worship-2

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Cover by Joy Williams

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

The High Cost of the Cross – Joe Crews

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

Saturday Short – The Judge – A Raw, Painful, Healing, Magnificent Film – and the Soundtrack that Sealed It

JUDGE, THEPhoto Credit: The Judge Movie

Here’s a film, released in 2014, that received mediocre reviews but drew me in tightly from the beginning scenes. Before filming, the original script of The Judge went through two re-writes by separate screenwriters. I wonder why…was it to make the story more gentle or more biting (most probably)?

The plot story focuses on a father and three sons. They come together for the funeral of the mother who, although only seen on home movies, was clearly the center of this family, holding them together. Now with the mom gone, the men wrestle with the sharp edges of their relationships. All this happening in the midst of a mesmerizing courtroom situations.

blog-the-judge-2-the-judgemoviePhoto Credit: The Judge Movie

There is so much to love and hate about this film. It seems to have no filters. The dialog is raw and unrestrained. Some of the lines cut to the heart, leaving little will to reconcile. Yet, the characters are bound together somehow. That’s the hope in the film, actually…and it doesn’t disappoint.

Four of my favorite actors star in The Judge – Robert Duval, Robert Downey, Jr., Vincent D’Onofrio, and Billy Bob Thornton. Every other actor in the supporting cast seems perfectly hand-picked also and they play out the story powerfully.

This film is R-rated which is usually on my no-watch list. Beware of the language and the intense dialog. I watched it because of the ensemble cast and the courtroom drama.

The music also is a gorgeous backdrop for the story. Hearing Willie Nelson singing the Coldplay song The Scientist was surprising and fitting to the film. [Our oldest son, in high school years, used to play and sing this song]. Another song, Holocene by Bon Iver, slowed down the tempo of the film in a couple of scenes, the same way that grief does. Beautiful choices for the soundtrack.

My family growing up was not so much like this family…yet there were similarities that pulled me into the film story. Our mom was the center of our home and our childhood. Where this father emotionally abandoned his family for a time, our biological father walked away from us (as children), never seemingly looking back. I had three brothers. We had loud, sharp-edged fights with each other. The memory of those fights and that father wound has colored our adulthood. Our mom died…too soon. Fortunately, because of our faith in God and our love for each other, the past doesn’t define us anymore. We have come to a peaceful and amicable place in our relationships…for which I’m eternally grateful – especially since it began just before we lost our oldest brother.

I’m not necessarily recommending this film (especially because of the R-rating and the language), but on this Saturday morning, it came to mind. Now it’s in my head again for a bit. Especially the powerful scenes, like this courtroom scene – where the one most alienated son is questioning his father, the judge, who is convicted of murder (you have to see the movie or read the spoiler for the details). Beautiful and sad and finally…closure, of a sort, in the end.

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Faithful God to an Unfaithful People

Blog - Come THou FOunt - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?…Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.  Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power… Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.Psalm 106: 1-2, 6-8, 44-45

 When Pastor Cliff Jordan led the gathered Movement Church recently to turn to Psalm 106, we were reminded afresh of a remarkable truth – the faithfulness of God to his unfaithful people. [Podcast here].

The psalmist calls the people of God to remember his steadfast love even in the face of their murmuring, disobedience, and idolatry. Account after account, he writes of the history of Israel…not to focus on the sinfulness of humanity, as much as to display the faithfulness of God in delivering them.

We are no different than those of old. We are broken by our sinful nature and fall too often into that age-old pattern of rebellion, repentance, and restoration.

Praise God that he is ever willing to restore us to himself. How dreadful when we miss restoration because we refuse to reckon with our rebellion. I know my sinful heart too well. That is one of the many reasons I love God so much.

“Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

This lyric is from the great old hymn written in 1757 by another wanderer – Robert Robinson. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Like Psalm 106, it’s a great testament of a faithful God to an unfaithful people. I’ve written about this great old hymn before here.

Worship with me to the hymn sung by the David Crowder Band:

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:

O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.

Hallelujah!

Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.

Lyrics to Come Though Fount as performed by David Crowder Band

Story Behind the Song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come Thou Fount – Wikipedia article – interesting notation of the various lyric changes/additions

Did Robert Robinson Wander…as He Feared? – Dan Graves

Video of The Aeolians of Oakwood University singing Come Thou Fount, with directors Dr. Lloyd Mallory and Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand Don’t miss this!

Blog - Aeolians - cassmacenterprisePhoto Credit: Cassmacenterprise

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

(CHORUS)

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

(CHORUS)

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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

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

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

Worship Wednesday – In Christ Alone – Townend & Getty

Blog - In Christ Alone - crosscardsPhoto Credit: CrossCards

And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” – Isaiah 12:4

Last night, a friend shared a video with me about God. The focus of the film was how we as followers of Christ have the privilege of proclaiming His glory to all peoples. All peoples. All nations.

I was gripped by my own neglect…neglect in spreading His renown.

How much God has done to transform my life, and I say so little. The joy He has lavished on me, and others see it as just “happy”. The extraordinary blessings He has given to me as one of His children which many may see as just “privilege”. The love I’ve known through His Word and His provision for “life and Godliness” and others call it being nice, or gifted, or generous.

It’s not me that’s generous…forgive me, God. It is He who has shown me so much love that it splashed over into the lives of those I love.

His love is the marvel. His goodness, patience, mercy…and forgiveness. What an incredible experience it is to be forgiven. How strange when we don’t see our need for forgiveness…when we mark our wrongs as mistakes or count ourselves as “born OK, the first time”. Blog - Born OK the First time - Bumper sticker - zazzlePhoto Credit: Zazzle

My life has been so altered by the love of God. What change has transpired from my life before Christ and after! Not perfect, not even close…but changed forever by the magnificence of God and salvation through Christ. Do I still struggle with selfishness and complacency and laziness and greed? Yes…but not without hope in or help from a God who genuinely cares for His children….and for all peoples.

Years ago, when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, In Christ Alone became one of our family’s favorite modern hymns. We all can probably still sing it by heart. In 4 stanzas, Stuart Townend lays out the Gospel – what it is to know Christ, as Savior and Lord.

Blog - Heliopolis Community Church - facebookPhoto Credit: Heliopolis Community Church, Facebook

In Christ Alone speaks to exclusivity in that God’s provision for us as His people to be restored to Him is through Christ alone. This is offensive to many and possibly the biggest stumbling block for some to come to faith in Him. However, there is a glorious inclusiveness in God’s love for all peoples.

“Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:8-9

How can I, day in and day out, keep this glorious God to myself? The good news of His great love and forgiveness just something I share among those who already believe?

Most all of us love the ocean – such beauty!Morocco sunset by Ingrid PullarPhoto Credit: Ingrid Pullar

How much more is the beauty of the One who created it? I am awakened again to the glory – the incredible beauty – of God.

Worship with me.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.*

*Lyrics to In Christ Alone Written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – In Christ Alone

YouTube Video – In Christ Alone – Passion 2013

YouTube Video – In Christ Alone – Keith & Kristyn Getty

The Earth Is The Lord’s – the Supremacy of Christ in Christian Learning – John Piper

“All Nations” Bible Verse List

Blog - In Christ Alone - YoutubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Worship Wednesday – Thy Will Be Done – Hillary Scott

Blog - Thy Will Be Done - Lord's Prayer - SlidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

We don’t try to explain God’s will at play when good things happen. It’s just celebration time. However, when bad things happen, we are caught off-guard. There must be some reason, something He’s teaching me, something wrong that He is righting, or some greater good. How do we as His children even imagine that we can explain or justify or normalize the activity of God?

Maybe because we are children. I think of my own children growing up and coping with a decision or direction change that caused them pain, disappointment, or confusion. After their questioning and attempts at convincing us of a better way, after the tears, came the surrender. We were always relieved when they let go of those exhausting emotions and would finally wrap their arms and legs around us, and lay their heads on our shoulders, to come close and be comforted. I remember those intimate times…grateful.

[It’s odd that my memories don’t go back to childhood and the same struggles with disappointments, seemingly caused by my own parents. Maybe you do remember times like that. Please share in comments. Maybe being grown, we have sorted it out enough times that the hurt has dissipated.  Or maybe the relationships, between child and parent, have proved to be trustworthy, and the disappointments just don’t matter in contrast.]

When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he modeled a prayer for them. Within the text of the prayer, there is an appeal to God, echoing a surrender, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” I have prayed that phrase over many countries, and over my own life, and that of our children.

Jesus was/is in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit…and the will of God. In that unity, unblemished by his years on earth, he embraced and lived within that will. Still, even for Jesus, there came a dark, awful night, when he wrestled with the sometimes costly nature of the will of God. The next day, sinless Jesus would take on the sins of all the world – dying willingly for us in order that we, in every generation, could be restored to a holy God…forever. It was the only way for us…His obedience, his surrender. In a moment of human struggle, Jesus raised the possibility to the Father of another way…but resolutely, he reaffirmed “Not my will, but Thine be done.” [Luke 22:42]Blog - Jesus prayed - Thy Will - redeeminggodPhoto Credit: Redeeming God

We wrestle with the will of God at times as well. Maybe we are less tempted to question him when we receive the scholarship, or the job offer, or the marriage proposal, or the healthy baby, or the clear medical report. It’s when things go terribly wrong that we struggle with the “why’s” of the will of God. I’m unwilling to try to explain God or answer for him. When I was younger, I tried, but it seems vain and inadequate for us, as children, to try to explain God or give rationale for something hard in our lives.

Terrible things do happen in this world…and I am sure they grieve the heart of God. How do we reconcile the fall-out of sin and brokenness in this life and how God works his will even in those situations? We can’t see with his eyes…nor can we know why. What we can know always is that God loves his children. If we suffer at the hands of others or because of some circumstance of a sin-sick world, we cling to a God who is good…always good.

We are not tossed and tattered by the will of some god who is distant or uncaring. When we face a difficult turn in our lives, we don’t face it alone. Just like our children crawled up in our laps for comfort when they didn’t understand, we do the same with our Father in Heaven. We may be confused by what we’re facing, but we can be sure that foremost in God’s will for us is to know that He loves us and will bring us through whatever situation we find ourselves. He will lovingly bring us through it.

Hillary Scott, singer-songwriter, of Lady Antebellum and The Scott Family, writes a song about this very process – this resting in the love and person of God, no matter the loss, or painful situation.

Worship with me.

I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord*

Blog - Thy Will - cocolaelle

Photo Credit: Cocolaelle

*Lyrics to Thy Will Performed by Hillary Scott and Scott Family

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Thy Will

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott Shares the Story Behind the Song Thy Will