Category Archives: Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog - martin Luther - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weak Man Behind A Mighty Fortress – Mark Galli

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

Luther (2003 film starring Joseph Fiennes)

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

The Reformation at 500 – Russell Moore

Can Catholics Celebrate the Reformation? – Jacob Kohlhaas

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Twitter

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

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

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

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

How can we keep silent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Twitter

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

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

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

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

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

For the Cause – Getty Music

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

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

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

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New

Photo Credit: Pixabay

From the lips of babes and infants you have ordained praise, because of your adversaries, that you might silence the enemy and the avenger.
 –
Psalm 8:2

But the chief priests and scribes were indignant when they saw the wonders He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked. “Yes,” Jesus answered, “have you never read: ‘From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise’?”Matthew 21:15-16

Maybe singing in church is an uncomfortable concept to many… especially to those who don’t regularly attend a gathering of believers. How about those of us who are a part of a church? Is the choral worship time of the service a divine appointment where we meet with God? Or do we sometimes find ourselves standing awkwardly, not singing? Not sure of the words, the music; not having the inclination to join in.

When we think of uninhibited God-focused worship, we are reminded of King David, dancing in the streets, praising God among his people (2 Samuel 6:14). That David was the man grown from a young boy who composed songs of praise to God. We have come a long way from those days but not so far that we can’t learn from David’s worship.

Our children grew up, even overseas, with rich and varied opportunities to learn and practice worship. We sang at home and at church. I am so thankful for churches and schools where teaching children to worship was a priority.

The kids learned both silly songs and Scripture-rich songs – through Vacation Bible School, church camp, and the children’s program and church choirs. They still remember the lyrics to many of the songs they learned as children.Photo Credit: BP NewsPhoto Credit: BP News

How do we raise up worshippers? We teach them the greatness of God and we help them infuse their senses with who He is. Singing and movement are part of that. Could it be easier for children than adults to get out of their own way and worship God? The Scripture reflects the importance of guiding children to worship God. They can then grow into adult worshippers who understand the power of praise.

Our church is currently just in the beginning of teaching our children to worship. Starting just this summer, we bring them together to teach them songs and give them the experience of worshipping in this way. Many of you have been doing this very thing for so long you may take it for granted as part of the ministry of your church.

What songs are part of your church’s mentoring of young worshippers?

I’ve listed below the ones our children grew up with (some of which I even grew up with). Not all very rich theologically but all familiar – with memories attached of uninhibited singing to God shoulder-to-shoulder with other children. Are any of these a part of your worship up-bringing?

Jesus Loves Me

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Deep and Wide

Father Abraham

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah

A-la-la-la-la-la-leia x2 Praise the Lord

The Name of the Lord Is a Strong Tower (w/ Blessed Be the Name of the Lord)

Be Excellent at What Is Good

Be Bold, Be Strong, for the Lord Your God Is With You – bouncy, fun music with lyrics but no voice

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

King of Kings and Lord of Lords (in Arabic, too)

O Be Careful Little Eyes, What You See (Our children learned this in Arabic, too.)

Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho

The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock

My God is So Big – Traditional and an Updated, Scripture-rich version

Every Move I Make

Please share your standards in the Comments. Both the traditional songs you’re still using and more contemporary ones that have become a part of the music the kids in your church know and love. Our desire is to continue to raise up worshippers…mighty, fearless worshippers of a great and awesome God!Photo Credit: BP News

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

15 Awesome Christian Songs for Kids – Pamela Rose Williams

10 Bible Songs to Teach Your Children

The Songs We Teach Our Children – Ron & Nathele Graham

Pinterest – “I’m Gonna Praise You” – Praise and Worship for Kids – YouTube Videos with Lyrics

Pinterest – 25+ Best Ideas About Children’s Church Songs

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

Photo Credit: Vimeo

Today, the idea of legacy fills my thoughts. To think of how to build and leave a legacy…to pass a baton well…planting it firmly in the hand of the next runner…how do we prepare for such a thing?

Yesterday, two events stirred my heart and mind in how well we can leave a legacy. In the morning, during their worship service, an older church in Richmond gave its keys to a younger growing church.  Photo Credit: Chris Kollman

Such an example of selfless generosity caps the legacy of this church’s service to this community. Part of legacy, the passing of the baton, is for the second runner to take it and run hard with it…to finish the race…to win the race. For Patterson Ave. Baptist Church (the website is already down), the race is finished…and finished well…for Movement Church, there is still a race to be run. May we finish well, too.

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

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

The End of the Road – Last Service of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church – Bill Nieporte

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe – Deb Mills Writer

The second event yesterday was a small party for a couple of friends of ours – a celebration of 60 years married. These two have taught usmuch about marriage, but they have also taught us and walked us through to a deeper faith. They are a living legacy to all who are fortunate enough to know them.

So often when we think about legacy, we think of older ones, but legacy building can start in youth. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps started very young. He began as a young athlete pouring into the lives of children who hoped to grow into athletes like him.Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

Phelps was amazing to watch in the 2016 Summer Olympics, winning gold medal after gold medal. Then in the 100m butterfly final, he lost to Joseph Schooling, of Singapore, who met Phelps when Joseph was just 13 years old. 8 years earlier. Michael Phelps’ legacy of 27 gold medals may be what most will remember about him. However, his silver medal will be what Joseph Schooling will remember, after winning the gold medal himself in that event. Michael Phelps is still young and his legacy-building continues.

The Legacy of Michael Phelps Is As Much in two Pictures As It is in 27 Olympic Medals – Jeff Passan

My mom is in Heaven now…for 15 years so far. Her impact in my life and that of many others goes really deep. However, I’m not sure how long my children will remember the incredible good she poured into their lives. Their children won’t even know her. It is what it is with life in our youth-oriented culture. Still…my mom’s legacy is safe with me. I will never be the tireless servant or the big-hearted womanshe was…but it is my endeavor to grow in that direction. As long as my memory endures, her life blends with my own.

Leaving a legacy is on the minds of us moving into our senior years, but building a legacy begins much earlier. I have enjoyed reading about it in preparation for this piece.

Bart Astor wrote a piece on legacy for Forbes. He proposes four ways to leave a legacy:

  1. Provide a family history. – Websites and guides abound on this subject. Asking older family members good questions can start that process. I will never forget when my mom died that it wasn’t 5 minutes before something came up and my immediate response was “Mom would know”. Too late. Ask questions early; label pictures; build a family history. Even if others in the family may not seem interested. It’s worth doing.Photo Credit: Success
  2. Give to charity. –What do you care about? Leaving money to our children may help for a season. Giving to charities during our lives makes a difference in real time. Giving builds a legacy and models legacy-building for our family. We also believe in supporting causes that aren’t necessary considered charities ( crowd-sourcing, for instance, like Patreon helps us support a favorite musician).
  3. Write a legacy letter – In a way, I started blogging with this in mind. Writing a letter as if you knew you were going to die sooner than later may seem morbid, but it is really a beautiful way to speak the words you want to make sure get said before you’re gone. Whether it’s in months…or many years later. A legacy letter can be written over the course of years…almost like a journal. Some things are too precious to leave to an aging memory.
  4. Prepare an ethical will. This is something we can all do, whether young or old. A will is not a document we want to use to punish people or reward some and leave out others. A will is a final blessing we can give to others. Putting off writing a will is not helpful. We’ve encouraged our children to do wills while in their 20s. Wills can always be changed but they are an excellent way to provide for those we love during a terrible time of loss. When writing a will, it’s wise to do all we can to make our intent completely understandable and loving. We have tried to do just that with our wills.

4 Smart Ways to Leave a Legacy – Bart Astor

We do well to mark our position in the race before us…to grip our baton…and then run hard. Our race does not last forever. There comes a time we hand off our baton to that one waiting eagerly to grip the baton at our release. Hopefully that runner has done all she can to be ready for the next leg of the race. Hopefully we have done our part…well…building legacy and leaving it in good hands.

How to Leave a Lasting Legacy – Marelisa Fabrega

Those Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old – Lessons Learned in Life – I didn’t resonate with all of these, but some are embedded in my DNA for sure.

11 Quotes About Leaving a Legacy

Worship Wednesday – Only God’s Shoulders Are Big Enough – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2Photo Credit: YouTube

[Adapted from the Archives]

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

[After several days of grieving over a series of events meant to divide our country right now and a natural disaster and national catastrophe across the ocean, I needed the reminder that our shoulders are not strong enough to bear these burdens…only God’s shoulders can carry us through all our days.]

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & CountryPhoto Credit: www.forkingandcountry.com

A Kingdom Agenda Strategy for Community Transformation – Tony Evans

Baptist Global Response

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Underdog Movies, Tim Tebow, Church and Unchurched, and Vacation Food Memories

What a week! The news is full of mostly scary stuff. Thankful we made it to Friday. Below are five of my favorites of this week – mostly light-hearted – hope they make you smile mostly, and think a little, too.

1) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has done it again. His arrangement of Priscilla’s Song – from the highly acclaimed videogame The Witcher 3 – Wolven Storm – is just beautiful.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

So how convincing was my familiarity with this video game series? I know nothing more than what the website told me and how much-loved it is by those who commented on his YouTube video. Still, the whole world of video game music has become a new love of mine…since Nathan has taken to arranging some of his favorites for classical guitar. The composer of this piece is the brilliant Marcin Przybylowicz. Watch here.

2) Underdog Movies – For a couple of years, while we lived in North Africa, I taught a film class in an international high school. One of my favorite genres of film is the underdog movie. Teachable moments abound in films where an individual or group must battle to the top, on their own or with each other’s help.

Two of my current favorites are McFarland USA and Spare Parts. Photo Credit: McFarland USA, To the Flixs

Photo Credit: Spare Parts, To the Flixes

What are some of your favorites- either recent or from times past? Please share them below in Comments.

Best Movies About Underdogs

The 19 Best Underdog Movies that Fill Us With Hope

21 Underdog Movies You Must Watch

4) Tim Tebow – What comes to mind when you hear the name Tim Tebow? Heisman Trophy winner, football player, baseball player? What else that has to come to mind is unashamed Christian and all-around good guy. I wish I could find the Tweet this morning that pointed to a short and shaky homemade video by a proud mom, Ileanna Bosch. Her son, Seth, is a big fan of Tim Tebow, and he made his way through the fans to get within reach of Tebow just before he batted for the St. Lucie Mets. Tim was warming up but came over to the fence to shake Seth’s hand. Then he went on to hit a three-run homerun. Do NOT miss the video and story here.Photo Credit: NY Daily News

Tim Tebow, professional athlete and author of the book Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms Tim turns 30 this month (August 14) – happy birthday, Tim!

4) Church and the Unchurched – If you don’t love Jesus and aren’t interested in church, you may want to skip this one…but why not at least consider the question of what about church isn’t for you? For those of us who DO love Jesus and want to share that love (in word and deed) with others, we would do well to consider our Canadian pastor friend Carey Nieuwhof‘s words in his piece below.

7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People

If you didn’t click on the link, here’s what Carey raises as personal preferences of ours that might be turning away our unchurched friends:

  • Music
  • Politics
  • Style
  • Buildings
  • Money
  • Time
  • Our Lives

“When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences.”Carey Nieuwhof

[Don’t miss the comments section of his piece…good stuff also.]

5) Vacation Food Memories – Popovers at the Jordan Pond House, Acadia, Maine. Mmmmmm. My best friend, Paulette, and I did a road trip from Georgia to Maine one summer, a very long time ago. We camped in Acadia National Park. We drove all through the park and along the coast. The beaches of the Atlantic Ocean were covered with smooth stones. I probably still have some that I collected. It was a rainy, coolish afternoon in June. We pulled into the Jordan Pond House parking lot without knowing what we would find. We sat at a table inside. Little jars of flowers were everywhere – on all the tables and also on the ledges of all the windows of the restaurant. It had the effect of stained glass with all the colors, even on a cloudy day.Photo Credit: NPS

We ordered popovers and coffee. They were brought to our linen-covered table as if a part of a special ceremony – thecoffee service, the tall still-steaming popovers, and dishes of butter and strawberry preserves…Like it was yesterday.Photo Credit: stuart_spivack, Flickr

A day in the life of a popover chef at the Jordan Pond House

Have a sweet weekend. Savor every day. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. We live in troubled times…but God draws near.

Bonuses:

Chocolate Cake –  If you love chocolate cake, you do not want to miss this recipe or the buttered-with-Southern-charm video about this cake by Southern Living. You will be drooling, I promise you.

River City Movers – Don’t you love small businesses that demonstrate a strong work ethic, value customer satisfaction, and hold down the cost of services? If you have a move in your future, River City Movers take a lot of stress and expense out of the experience. They assist with moves all over the US. Jim Bragg (on the left) is both professional and amicable. These are just some of his guys and they were committed to finish the job and finish it well.

Declining Sperm Countsin the Western World and Around the World – Fascinating but not sure how correct all this is – Would love to hear what you think. It is not a fave in the usual way but in the actions men can take to help themselves to father children.

Global Leadership Summit – Missing this summit today – very sad face. I can depend on Brian Dodd to post best quotes from the Summit (watch his blog over the next several days). Here also.

Gray HairYouTube Video – Why My Gray Hairs Make Me Happy – Be That Person – The Stay at Home Chef

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe

Photo Credit: Into Weakness

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – Daniel 3:17-18

Any one of us who grew up in church has heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three young Jewish men exiled to Babylon. Three young men who were tasked to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. Three young men who worshiped the Creator God and Him alone.

In the historical account (Daniel 3), the Babylonian king ordered all in his realm to bow before a golden statue. Anyone who did not bow would be thrown to his death in a fiery furnace. These three would not bow. Their answer to the king (stated above) was a proclamation of their God’s ability to save them from death…and even if he did not save them, it did not matter. He alone would they serve.

What If the Worst Happens? – Desiring God – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

This past Sunday morning after the early service at Movement Church, we drove a few blocks away to attend the worship service of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.Photo Credit: Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, Bill Nieporte

That day we visited with a congregation who would gather two more Sundays and then disband as an organized church. We sat under the inspired and powerful preaching of Dr. Bill Nieporte. Dr. Nieporte didn’t flinch as he talked about their church “dying…but dying well”. He, nor any of the sweet believers we met that day, had been able to turn around the seeming inevitable. As an older congregation, their numbers continued to fall even in the midst of committed ministry to their community. They knew they would too soon get to the place they wouldn’t be able to manage the expenses of the facility itself.

With what Dr. Nieporte called “courageous faith”, they have given this magnificent old church building to Movement Church. Movement is rapidly growing out of our rented space, and you can imagine what an incredibly generous gift this is.

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

The congregation of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church is essentially passing a torch to our church to continue to be a light of God’s love to the community they have loved for so many years. One dear man we met, in his 70s, had been a part of this church his whole life (since “cradle roll”).

I’ve been so personally overwhelmed by this generous gift of those fellow believers…strangers until this past Sunday. Many shook our hands, some with tears in their eyes…welcoming us to what would become our own church gathering place. How humbling for us and how challenging as well.

As the pastor gently guided his church through their grieving, he talked of how God, throughout history has moved His people. In two Sundays, they would be “moved” from that location. He even soberly spoke of how a time might come, just as it did for them, when Movement Church could also be called by God one day to relinquish that property. The sanctuary was silent in the gravity of his words.

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

The most beautiful part of his message was that God moves His people, but He never leaves us. He is always with us wherever we are. Whether a palace or a furnace situation…He is with us.

“The next stage of our journey begins in two weeks. Stay on the path. Remain in the journey. God will walk with you every step of the way.” – Pastor Nieporte

[Your prayers are much appreciated for the dear church family of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church. Also for their pastor, Bill Nieporte, who not only loses his church family, but his work as their pastor, too.]

Now…back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

When Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, wrote the lyrics to Even If, he had to have been inspired by those young men who went through fire, believing God alone was worthy of their worship. That story is riveting because God did save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in fact, He, in some form, walked with them through the fire). However, God did not save them FROM the fire but THROUGH the fire.Photo Credit: YouTube, MercyMe

Millard’s own life and family experiences have at times been a saving “through the fire”.

“God is worthy long before any of those circumstances even showed up. In fact, what Christ has already done on the cross is probably the only thing we need to get through those circumstances. It’s a foundation that was built long before those difficulties came to be. This song is a declaration to God that even if He went silent and never said another word, He’s still worthy to be praised and that He’s our greatest hope in the midst of the trial.” Bart Millard

Worship with me, please.

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now
Right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage
Night after night
Reminding the broken
It’ll be alright
But right now
Oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now

But God when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength
To be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know the sorrow
I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

It is well with my soul*

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe – Heart Behind the Song

*Lyrics – Even If

Worship Wednesday – Why Singing Matters – with an Early Chris Tomlin Song

Photo Credit: BP News

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” – Ephesians 5:18-19

Okay…be honest. Do you ever get distracted during the singing portion of a worship service? Maybe you’re looking for a friend who hasn’t arrived yet. Perhaps, your attention has turned to those with their hands up, sweetly swaying to the music. Or, the song is new to you, and you are wondering who else is struggling with the lyrics.

Singing songs out loud in public (even among friends) is awkward for some. I totally get that. Still, it seems the comfort level of many in congregational singing has to do with growing up in a worshipping culture that they embraced early in life. [Now, don’t get me wrong – this is a totally casual observation. It does not include people who came to faith later in life and who can’t contain their joy because of it.] If you agree, or disagree, please respond in the Comments.

Our children had the privilege of participating in worship singing since they were tiny. Even living overseas for so many years.

I went through a season that children’s church choir programming was a benefit of larger more privileged congregations. That season was short, and now I’m over it.

Teaching children and youth to praise God in singing Biblical songs is essential to raising up worshippers. It’s not about performance; it’s about the heart-mind connection between us and God.

Although children’s choir programs may be right up there with elementary school piano recitals, think about the outcomes. Kids who love Jesus and express that love together, and for the encouragement of all the church…and beyond even.

My heritage is lots of choirs and lots of church events with singing. I will never forget the many times God met me at a youth camp bonfire, with someone with a guitar leading us in singing. We must have known those songs. No projected lyrics onto the nightime sky. No songsheets. We knew the songs.Photo Credit: BP News

In 1998, a young singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin released his second album, Authentic. He was just 26 years old. Just the year before, he was asked by Louie Giglio to join Passion Conferences where he continues to minister.

In those days, worship songs often looped or repeated the lyrics, so that’s one way we all learned them so well. Many worship songs also included Scripture verbatim, or the lyrics were essentially Scripture. Both (repeated Bible verse lyrics) were the case with Tomlin’s song Romans 16:19 on his Authentic album.

That song came to mind just yesterday…after all these years.

I remember that verse to this day because of Chris Tomlin and all the times singing it, dancing around with youth at bonfires or in crazy Friday night church rallies. Contemporary worship music has evolved and matured in many ways. Still a lot of the “old” early standards continue to minister to our hearts because they are in our heads.

For all of us, it is wisdom then to teach our children to worship (in other ways but also with singing). Why? Because we remember those songs the same as we remember Bible verses we learn as children. They go down deep in our minds. Also, and most importantly, worship should be as natural as breathing for God’s people. Learning to worship young helps us to seek Him in that way our whole lives…even, and especially, in the times when worshipping is not so easy.

7 Biblical Matters Why Singing Matters – Unlocking the Bible

Worship with me, please…to this great old song by our great brother Chris Tomlin. [I bet my kids still know this song.]

Romans 16:19 says!
Romans 16:19 says!
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
[Chorus:]
And the God of Peace will soon crush Satan
God will crush him underneath your feet!
And the God of Peace will soon crush Satan
God will crush him underneath your feet!
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil
Be excellent in what is good
Be innocent of evil[chorus 2x]Romans 16:19 says!

Next time you’re in worship with the church gathered, I hope you sing. Please put some of your favorite early worship songs in the Comments for us to enjoy reminiscing about…or to learn anew. Also I would love to know what songs your little ones are singing in your church’s children’s ministry…or what songs you’re teaching them.

[Below you will find a published playlist for this summer’s Fuge Camps. These could be the songs your youth will remember into adulthood.]

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

Leading Children in God-Centered Worship – Pam Grano

Teaching Our Kids to Be Worshipers – Kevin West

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

Wednesday Worship – Be Thou My Vision – Celebrating God with Rend Collective

[Adapted from the Archives]

The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families, from various Christian denominations, who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.

Photo Credit: Eurobishop

We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.

Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio a few years back. The song was Second Chance. I jotted down the group’s name and song and would later buy the album based on that one song. Have you ever done that?

Photo Credit: Amazon

When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshipers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Savior of the song.

We no longer “attend church” in various African countries. Today we are deep in the life of church, bringing our own stuff to the stuff of many others. All of us collectively love God, albeit imperfectly, of course, and want to express His perfect love in our communities.

This Sunday during worship at Movement Church we sang Be Thou My Vision, and I was reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known.

Worship with me through the lyrics and music of Rend Collective’s  You are My Vision.

You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.

You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.

You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.

I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart –  High king of heaven, my treasure You are.

High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Lyrics for You are My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube video of You are My Vision with lyrics

Rend Collective Albums with You are My VisionHomemade Worship by Handmade People and Campfire

Rend Collective Art of Celebration – Album & Tour

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Back Story of Be Thou My Vision

YouTube video of Second Chance from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People

YouTube video of  Build Your Kingdom Here from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People – another favorite for another day