Category Archives: Reconciliation/Forgiveness

Monday Morning Moment – Eating Together – at Work, at Home, Across Racial Divides

Photo Credit: President’s Choice, YouTube Video

Eating dinner together was just normal when I grew up. Maybe we all couldn’t be there, with differing work schedules, school sports, and the like. Whoever was home, though, got a call to the dinner table. Our family was a rowdy bunch and our conversation could erupt into loud disagreements on any number of things. Still, we were together. We were family. It kept us bonded in many ways.

Eating together…crowding adults and their families around a long table…is still a delightful, much-anticipated tradition…at least for this mama. That delight of eating together spreads also to friends and to the workplace.

This weekend, I caught a YouTube video that really touched my heart. Especially given the events of this weekend in our state where a racist political rally turned deadly. Not that this little video produced by a major food company in Canada could help bring meaning to this violent weekend…but there’s a message.

YouTube Video – #EatTogether – President’s Choice

In a time when we have the capability of being more connected with each other than ever, we can remain disconnected. Not seeing, not hearing, unaware of those around us or how we might engage with each other.

Eating Together as Co-Workers

In the busiest of days, there is nothing more delightful than breaking from work to eat with colleagues…says the extroverted, “loves people” person. Early in my career, working in a huge inner city hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, it was an effort to get off the patient floor down to the cafeteria. My co-workers used to tease me that once we got our trays and settled at a table, I would always sigh…like, out loud. It was just a relief to stop working for a few minutes…with good food to eat and surrounded with people I both liked and respected.Debbie & Grady nurse buddy

Susannah Snider lists three reasons why we should be eating lunch with our co-workers:

  1. It boosts production.
  2. It’s a networking tool.
  3. It makes you happier.

3 Reasons to Eat Lunch with Your Co-workers – Susannah Snider

This was just one of many articles (both scholarly and popular press) related to the benefit of folks who work together eating together.

Eating Together as Family

People are so very busy these days that eating “on the run” is more the usual than not. Or everyone, exhausted, just eating in their various spaces around the house – in front of the TV or other screen. There is something almost magical in the habit of eating around a table. It is the same reason why couples with children need date nights – just getting across a table from each other does wonders for the conversations neglected in the wear and tear of parenting.

Cody Delistraty posts on the broad positive ramifications of families who eat together and what happens when they don’t. Eating together as a family can actually decrease addictive tendencies, enhance academic performance, and build closeness and community – with the family but also beyond the family.

The Importance of Eating Together – Cody Delistraty

Eating Together as a Family Has Multiple Benefits – Timi Gustafson

Eating Together Across Racial Divides

“Have you ever had a person of another race in your home for dinner?” Two US senators, Tim Scott and James Lankford, have been asking this question to constituents for some time now. They were not surprised at how segregated the American dinner table was.

Out of this, they developed something they call Solution Sundays…where they encourage people to invite persons of another race to their homes to share a meal.Photo Credit: CNN

“For me, it’s hard to hate what you know,” Scott said. “And it’s just so simple. It’s hard to hate what you know.”

I want to be successful at this. Sure, I have friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are of a different race, but somehow I’m intimidated to mess with their Sundays. Why is that?!

Even Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about “11:00 on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours if not the most segregated hour in Christian America”. Maybe we could shake up Sunday dinner.

For some of you, this is “so yesterday”. For co-workers and family, we all are going all kinds of different directions. Slowing it down to have a meal together may take work and habit change…so worth it! As for crossing racial divides – maybe that is no issue for you. For example, we have family of “different races” so it’s part of our DNA. Still when something like this past weekend’s violence happens here, I think of where we can start to mend. Protest…sure. Pray…absolutely…and maybe also just lean in, across the table, over some food we both enjoy…and eat together.

Healing Race Relations Over Dinner – CNN –

The Lessons of an Inner City Hospital – God Loves Us All the Same – DebMillsWriter

President’s Choice – #EatTogether Campaign – #150Canada

PC Gets the Country to #EatTogether

TEDx Talk – The Importance of Eating Together – Karen Hickson-Smith

Worship Wednesday – On the Holiness of God – I See the Lord – Chris Falson

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

[The account of King David returning the Ark of God to Jerusalem]

They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart  that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark.  David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God.  Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.2 Samuel 6:3-7

What a story! For the casual Bible reader, this story can spark one’s sense of “rightness”. Even David who loved God supremely was angry briefly with Him…but that anger quickly turned to fear (2 Samuel 6:8-9). It took David seconds to remember the holiness of God and can happen when we treat the presence of God casually.

Cliff Jordan preached on this passage at Movement Church recently, and I finally understood the significance of Uzzah’s seemingly well-intended action. [Sermon podcast here.]

Throughout the Old Testament accounts of history, we see the justice of God play out in ways we might consider harsh in our grace-filled experience of Him today. We need to remember, though, that God has NOT changed. His holiness is as real and remarkable as ever.

Pastor Cliff reminded us that Uzzah was of the priestly tribe of the  Levites, a Kohathite. These were the ones who cared for and carried the holy instruments of worship. The Art of the Covenant housed the very presence of God in those days. It was never to be touched by human hands. Never. God had given detailed instructions on this, and Uzzah knew them.

In a moment, Uzzah, thinking he was acting, I’m sure, in reverence to God, reached out to steady the ark, laying his hands on it. The consequence of that disobedience was death.

The consequence of our disobedience is death.

We forget that sometimes, because our own lives are so bathed in the grace of God through Christ Jesus.

What was so bad about what Uzzah did? We are tempted to raise our tiny fists to a holy God and question His actions. Our own daily acts of disobedience seem trivial to us as well…until we look at the cost of our disobedience. The cross.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We must not forget this tension: “God is graciously relational and unrelentingly and unyieldingly holy.” – Cliff Jordan

Creator God sets the terms for our relating to Him. He prescribes and He provides. In ancient days, He made Himself available to a sinful people – once a year, in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle (and later in the Jerusalem temple), behind a thick curtain – to the high priest who would make atonement for the people (Hebrews 9:7). A holy and loving God protected the people from death in distancing Himself from them in this way.

When Jesus died for our sins, the curtain was torn apart, from top to bottom.

Just as in Old Testament history, God made Him home with us in the ark, Jesus made us home with us, in human form (John 1:14).

“The ark points to Jesus. Our point of contact to Holy God is through Jesus. He fulfilled every prescription, every obligation, every law. He passed the test, secured the A, and gave it to us – graciously. He made Him who knew no sin become sin for us.” – Cliff Jordan

When you’re studying the Word, you come on these hard passages like Uzzah’s death, remember the holiness of God. Remember also His incredible grace toward us through Christ.

I grew up singing Holy, Holy, Holy – my young life was transformed by a burgeoning understanding of the wretched nature of my sin and the glorious nature of God, holy and loving, just and merciful. As our culture has changed over the years, my sense of God’s holiness has grown reckless…dulled by the world’s pull for both self-serving and self-rule. What audacity to think we know better than God, to think we are good enough for God, to think we don’t need God!

Holy God, have mercy on us. Lord, continue to have mercy on us…because of what Christ did for us. In His name…

Worship with me, please, with Chris Falson‘s song “I See the Lord”.

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne exalted,
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, and the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
It fills it with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory
With His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

I sing
Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

YouTube Video – I See the Lord – Chris Falson (with lyrics)

Lyrics – I See the Lord – Writer: Chris Falson

2 Samuel 6, Part 1 – Sermon Podcast – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy – Jeremy Riddle

Holiness and Justice – R. C. Sproul

Why Did God Strike Uzzah Dead For Touching the Ark of the Covenant? – Got Questions?

5 Friday Faves – Journaling, What Ends All Marriages, Cell Phone Addiction, Trauma Healing, and Neighborhood Gelato

Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).

Productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy strongly encourages journaling as a daily early morning habit.

Do you write or journal? It’s worth a try. You never know what you might discover through writing out what is bouncing around inside your head.

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Can Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

2) What Ends All Marriages –
Meg Marie Wallace writes a chilling piece on the one thing guaranteed to end all marriages. In her article, she talks about marriages that survived adultery and other betrayals, as well as marriages that didn’t survive. Then she gave what she saw as the difference.Photo Credit: Edvard Munch, Wikipedia

Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.

“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” Meg Marie Wallace

Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.

Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.

3) Cell Phone Addiction – Jesse Lyn Stoner posted a powerful article, by Victor Prince, on the intrusion of cell phone technology in the workplace. The piece is Want Your Team More Engaged? Remove the Weapons of Mass Distraction . If we were honest, many of us struggle with this. I know I do. Take a minute to read Prince’s take on how to shake-up the workplace by confronting the distraction of our phones. I’m motivated. On both personal and professional fronts.Photo Credit: Andres Rodriguez, Flickr

4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews

or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.

Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.

The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.

Healing the Wounds of Trauma – Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill, Richard Baggé, Pat Miersma

5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.

Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.

Worship Wednesday – the Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, I want to make it a priority to discover the black church in the same neighborhood as our white church. To find those who love God as I do…and this city in a way that can stretch my own love…and maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

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

[Adapted from the Archives]

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 recently as the praise band at Movement Church 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 adjusting 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, as the gathered church at Movement 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

Wednesday Worship – Exhale – Plumb

Photo Credit: Chintermeyer, Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Our saving is not by our own works! Hallelujah! How is it then, that we trip ourselves up on a daily basis with trying to please others when God Himself is already pleased? He sees us through a grace-colored lens…not that His vision ever needed correcting. From forever, we were made in the image of God and, as His forgiven ones, He sees us as Christ-redeemed and Spirit-filled.

Why then are we wooed into thinking that we must perform a certain way to be accepted? Even from the beginning, as complete and perfect and beloved as Eve was, the persuasive other-than-God message of our needing to be more has been driven into our flesh (Genesis 3:4-5).

God saved me as a young child out of the bondage, even then, of wanting to be good for my weary mama. She was raising four children on her own, and I thought if I could only just be good for her it would lighten her load. She didn’t require it of me; I required it of myself. The Gospel message of Ephesians 2:8-9 above was so winsome to me, even at nine years old.

Unfortunately, through the years, I have listened to my own flesh and those not-of-God messages (whether from Satan or the world or church culture). I have often struggled with needing the approval of men and women over God. Needing my own approval (as if mine was more substantive than God’s…sigh).

A concept that became very real to me in my 20s was performance-based acceptance. Measuring myself up against others (or my own evaluation of those others) was a struggle. Then when those others are also Christians, it can get even darker. These are my brothers and sisters. Our gains individually and together reflect the work of God. Full-stop. Any measure otherwise discounts Him.

Even the Apostle Paul who all-out raised the bar on performance understood the error of that and how meager it was compared to knowing and enjoying the love and grace of God:

“…although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:4-10

The glorious life God means for us to have is drenched with His love and grace. No safe or controllable grace here…it is the magnificent, sufficient grace of God that breathes out of us in every circumstance of our lives…in our response to Him in us.

Tiffany Lee (Plumb) writes about this in the worship song Exhale. The physical act of breathing is a new interest of mine. We can all forcibly exhale (to blow out a birthday candle or set dandelion seeds in flight), but it isn’t a natural state. To exhale is the response to inhaling. It follows. It always follows.

Photo Credit: YouTube

What are we breathing out to the world, including to those we most love? It follows what we’re breathing in. No guilting here. It is the quiet reality of our lives. What we take in informs what we give out.

Worship with me.

It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here

No matter what you’ve done or who you are
Everyone is welcome His arms

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Spirit come tear down the walls
That only You can
That only You can
Reconcile this heart to Yours
Right now God
Right now

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Oh God we breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Oh God We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale*

Too often God’s grace is communicated as something we enjoy for ourselves. His grace is not meant to be kept for ourselves. The deeper we understand God…the more we experience His grace for our lives…the more we naturally want to lavish it (Him) on others. Not to please Him by our performance, but in our pleasure of Him.

Closing with John Piper‘s message on this (from over 30 years ago):

For some of you these are the very days in which for the first time the beauty of the gospel of grace is beginning to shine on the horizon of your soul. But others of you look back months or years or decades, to a golden era of faith when Christ was powerfully taking shape in your life. But something has changed. There has been a kind of settling into the world, and the vibrant sense of being an alien and an exile in the world has faded. And the powerful shaping forces in your life are not coming from Christ within but from the world without.

The word of encouragement and admonition to us all this morning is this: the Spirit of the living Christ can be poured into us afresh today… Therefore, I urge you, take your amateur hands off the clay of your life and yield yourselves into the sovereign hands of God. Disavow the praise of men and all your efforts to achieve it. Turn your hearts to Christ and say: I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory (Psalm 115:1). Amen. – John Piper

Breathe Him in, Dear Ones, and your exhale can refresh a weary world.

*Lyrics – Exhale – Written by Josh Silverberg, Matthew Armstrong, and Tiffany Arbuckle Lee

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – Exhale – Plumb

YouTube Video – Plumb – Exhale (Official Music Video)

YouTube Video – Behind the Music – Exhale by Plumb

Performance-based Acceptance – Richard J.

My Performance-based Story – a Synchroblog

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-based Acceptance – Deb Welch

O, That Christ Would Be Formed In You! – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Take My Life – Here Am I – Chris Tomlin

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Don’t you love answered prayer? Even if it’s surprisingly different than what you were thinking. A week ago, in our community group (home group of Movement Church), I shared a struggle during the prayer time. My request was for God to restore a season of influence in my life…that I might influence others for good as had been my experience in times in the past. I was looking back and not forward, and my sense of what a life should be at my age and situation was different than how I saw it at present. Different and lacking?

Sigh…God have mercy…and…He did.

Those dear friends of mine listened, empathized, loved and prayed.

Then Sunday, at our time of corporate worship, there was great singing…and great revelation. The songs included How Wonderful, How Marvelous; Take My Life/Here Am I (which I’ll come back to); and To the Ends of the Earth. These were the kind of songs that call a people to revival…to hearts and lives poured out to God and for the nations.

On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking about that longing of my heart to be an influence for good, but God must have been. When our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached, I sensed the movement of God in my heart so strong, it was as if the message was just for me.

Cliff preached out of John 21 where Jesus appeared to His disciples during the days after His resurrection. Sitting around a cook-fire, Jesus ate fish with His friends, fish they had caught in a miraculous fashion (John 21:3-6). In a tender moment, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him…to which Peter answered in the affirmative. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. The awful memory of his previous three denials of Jesus must have burned in Peter’s throat. Each time, Peter answered yes that he loved Jesus, and then Jesus told him to feed His sheep. No fanfare, no illusion of Peter’s excellent abilities to do so. Just a simple command, in the end, to follow Him.

In those quiet moments of intimate fellowship between sinner and Savior, Peter had to have felt the love of Jesus. Still in his impetuous, striving nature, he posed a question to Jesus about His will for another disciple (John 21:20-22). Again, Jesus drew Peter’s attention, not to what that disciple would be about, but what Jesus’s call was on Peter’s life. “You follow Me.”

Through Cliff’s sermon and those three words, the answer to my prayer rang from Heaven. It doesn’t matter my season of life or even what others, in my age or situation, are doing or how they are being used by God. I am to be about loving and following Jesus.

Even tonight, a friend reminded me of the story of the Apostle Paul’s incarceration which he entrusted himself into God’s hands. In Paul’s letter from prison to the church at Philippi, he spoke these words:

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Philippians 1:12-18

That friend who spoke truth into my heart has also struggled, as have I, with a season where it seems God has put us on some sort of shelf, or on the sideline. Oh, glorious truth, in every season, He calls us to follow Him. Paul, for months, chained to a prison guard, saw the truth. His ministry was not diminished in the least. It was only different…and his focus? Ever on the Lord. That is the key…for me.

Since Sunday’s gathering of our church right through tonight, I have been in revival. That old time revival where God’s Spirit would shake the rafters of a building or the folds of a big tent with the prayers, singing and preaching of His people. Where, of course, we would “sing another verse” until He had finished whatever work He was doing in the lives of every person present.

Photo Credit: Milanoapi

My children do not have revival meetings as part of their heritage. I wish they had…and maybe they will sometime in their future. I am thankful for growing up in the South when protracted revival meetings broke up hot summers into joyous returnings of hearts to follow Jesus.

Hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lyrics to Take My Life and Let It Be in 1874. She along with Fanny Crosby and others wrote the hymns that stirred our devotion to God. In fact, these hymn-writers’ lyrics flamed the fires of revival across our world. The deep prayers of the faithful and the strong preaching of the churchmen in the 1800s and 1900s were all part of that.

Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio adapted the lyrics and melody of Take My Life and Let It Be for the worshipers of this generation.

Worship with me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee*

*Lyrics to Take My Life/Here Am I – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin & Louis Giglio; adapted from the hymn composed by Frances Ridley Havergal

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let it Be – Tim Challies

Songs & Scripture: “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” (Chris Tomlin, Frances Ridley Havergal, Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, Louie Giglio) – Scriptural foundations to hymn lyrics

Photo Credit: Baptist Hymnal, Hymnary

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

Blog - Easter - Empty Tomb

Photo Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

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, walking with them, eating with them, teaching 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 almost 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 and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Blog - Holy Week - Black SaturdayPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

“Saturday is the “in between” day: in between despair and joy; brokenness and healing; confusion and understanding; death and life.” – John Ortberg

A dear friend of ours, Beth Wayland, shared with us this message by John Ortberg (quote above and passage below) from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. So what do you think they were doing on Saturday between the tragedy and the promise?

Most of life is Saturday. We`re in a terrible position, but we have a promise from God that we only half believe. It`s after the doctor tells us we have cancer, but before we`re cured or find a new depth of faith to cope with it. It`s after the marriage breaks up, but before God heals the grief. It`s after we`ve been laid off, but before God uses our gifts in a new place. Most of life is Saturday. It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good. Maybe you`re feeling a little unlovable because of something you`ve done or haven`t done. Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

Blog - Garden Tomb from imb.org - Holy Week - Black Saturday

Photo Credit: IMB Resources

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Jesus and 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 rangling 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 Caiaiphas, 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.

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!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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

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

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 Study