Category Archives: Church

5 Friday Faves – Common Purpose, Safeguarding Your Marriage, Being Different, Hard Seasons, and Small Beginnings

Happy Friday! Here is my gift to you today – so many glorious finds I’ve tried to compress into 5 Friday Faves.

1) Common Purpose – Every year, Glassdoor, a website that assists employers and potential employees to find each other, posts a Top 50 of Best Places to Work.

Photo Credit: SAP

Glassdoors’ 2017 Best Places to Work

In his LinkedIn article, Barry Sanders talks about one of the characteristics of what makes a “best place to work”. This characteristic is “common purpose”.  He writes:

Common purpose is essential to driving organization-wide adaptability, which is key to succeeding in today’s fast-paced business world. A shared set of values and goals across the organization allows leaders and individual contributors to achieve widespread alignment, manage uncertainty, and guide decisions in times of turmoil and change.

Without establishing common purpose, companies risk a lack of motivation, lower levels of commitment, less loyalty, and decreased alignment amongst their employees—not to mention negative Glassdoor reviews.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

He also quotes from his CEO General Stanley McChrystal’s bestseller Team of Teams which gives this summary of the importance of common purpose:

“Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose…Individual SEALs have to monitor the entirety of their operation just as soccer players have to keep track of the entire field, not just their own patch of grass. They must be collectively responsible for the team’s success and understand everything that responsibility entails.”

When you can see the entire field, not just your patch of grass, your organization becomes more effective—and a better place to work. – Barry Sanders

I sure hope senior leaders get this message. Just communicating the purpose is not enough. That “patch of grass” must be given to that soccer player. He must own it and own his part of the entire field. Leaders who genuinely believe in and nurture common purpose cultivate a “best place to work” for their personnel.

15 Things I Learned From Truett Cathy [Founder of Chick-Fil-A]– Paul Sohn

2) Safeguarding Your Marriage – Infidelity or unfaithfulness in our marriage relationships is not just about sexual betrayal. Infidelity can happen when we allow our hearts to become more bonded to someone or something else more than to our own spouses.
Dave Willis defines infidelity as “broken trust or broken loyalty”. He has posted a tremendously helpful article entitled The 9 Forms of Infidelity in Marriage (Hint: 8 of Them Don’t Involve Sex). Willis is a pastor,counselor and founder of Stronger Marriages. Single or married, you will benefit from his article because too often we “fall” into infidelity by letting ourselves be deceived in thinking it’s nothing. Safeguard your relationships!

3) Being Different – Matt Damico has written an excellent piece for Christ-followers. It is The World Needs You to Be Different. If you are reading this and you aren’t keen on the teachings of Jesus, you may already think that Christians are a quirky lot of people. What Damico says in this article is to call us to the rhythms, the routines, the practices of the church that work a peculiarity in us that’s a good thing.

Piano scales make a pianist. Hours behind the wheel make a driver. Weightlifting reps make muscles, and lots of miles make a runner. Routine and repetition aid us in so many ways, yet a lot of us seem allergic to similar habits in our weekly church worship gatherings.

But just as these individual habits do something to us, so it is with our congregational habits: they’re making us into something. God willing, they’re making us the right kind of peculiar.

We’ll bear fruit in this life when our roots are firmly planted in the coming new earth. As C.S. Lewis said, history shows that “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” One of the main ways this happens is through the rhythms and repetitions worked into our weekly gatherings.

So, as your church gathers for worship this weekend, appreciate anew what’s happening, how the strange rituals — the “rhythms of grace,” as Mike Cosper calls them — are making you more faithful and more fruitful. – Matt Damico

Photo Credit: Wikipedia; Wikipedia

[Cliff Jordan, teaching elder at Movement Church, in Richmond, Va. preaches on this very thing for several weeks in a series entitled Grace On Display. Seriously transformative stuff!]

4) Hard Seasons – I’m not going to wax on here about hard seasons – we all know what ours are. I just always want to keep Syrian refugees on my radar so here’s a photo piece that dramatically displays their reality…in a way that has stayed in my mind all week.

Click the Black Background and Switch on Their Reality – Politiken

Photo Credit: Flickr

Then I also wanted to share a piece by Aaron Brown. I know his family. He grew up in Chad where his father was a physician. His reflects on a very difficult time and its oddly positive impact on his life…renewing his hope after the very difficult year of 2016.

The Do-Over Year – Ruminate Magazine – Aaron Brown

5) Small Beginnings – In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people, “Do not despise small beginnings.” They had the huge task of rebuilding the Temple, and Scripture tells us, this great work began in the mundane but extraordinary act of Zerubbabel picking up the plumb line. Any beginning may seem small and inadequate for the grand vision that stretches in front of us. However, we never know when the small explodes into wonder.

Chip and Joanna Gaines (HGTV stars of Fixer Upper) have an incredible story of small beginnings which grew into a huge, phenomenally successful business. They started out flipping houses as a young couple and often had just the cash in their pockets. Now they have their own TV show, a real estate business, home goods store, and “The Silos” – a refurbished commercial venue in Waco, Texas.

HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines Reveal ‘We Were Broke!’ Before Fixer Upper

Photo Credit: Flickr; Flickr

Another example of small beginnings is pastor and author Tim Keller. Just this past week, Keller announced he was stepping down from the senior pastor position of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He pastored there for almost 30 years and it now is a multi-site 5000-member church.  [This is a planned succession and he will be teaching in a seminary.] A friend of mine here in Richmond “knew him when”. Years ago, before his NYC church role he was her pastor, in a small church near here – West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Small beginnings…

My Tribute to Tim Keller – Scott Sauls

Whether you are examining a small beginning as a Christian or from a different worldview, there is excellent counsel to be had…both in Scripture and in articles (such as those linked below).

Just yesterday I was trying to encourage a young man about what he viewed as a small beginning in his career. Not sure I made sense at all. Then today, my husband emailed me this great article – about the exact same subject.

Don’t you love when you read someone else’s brilliant words that essentially describe the counsel you just gave someone?! Benjamin P. Hardy is way more studied and eloquent than I, so please don’t miss his piece titled The 2 Mental Shifts Every Highly Successful Person Makes.  He talks about:

  • the power of choice (“you stop playing the victim to external circumstances and take responsibility for your life – the private victory“) and
  • the power of context (“In everything you do, there should be collaborative and synergistic elements. Of course, there is work which is your work. However, that work should be embedded within a group of others and toward something much bigger. – the public victory”)

Hardy’s full article is excellent (even includes components of the assist we get from brain plasticity which I wrote about earlier).

6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular and Profitable – Patrick Allmond

8 Highly Effective Habits That Helped Make Bill Gates the Richest Man on Earth – Minda Zetlin

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, and More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms – Benjamin P. Hardy

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get up and get on with this amazing life we’ve been given…it’s never too late.

Bonuses (for your listening pleasure)

#TheFighter

Posted by Keith Urban on Thursday, May 12, 2016

Banjo Brothers

9-year-old plays banjo… Just wait til his brothers join in! Courtesy of Sleepy Man

Posted by InspireMore on Sunday, September 18, 2016

12-Year-Old Crushes Sia's "Chandelier"!

This girl's voice gave me CHILLS & her story is even more powerful. Tune in this Sunday 8/7c on NBC, Little Big Shots is back!

Posted by Steve Harvey on Friday, March 3, 2017

Elha from the NBC TV show Little Big Shots

How Elha Nympha Got on ‘Little Big Shots’

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Redeemer, New Paltz

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”– Jesus – John 17:9, 11b, 20-23

Years ago, on a hot summer evening, I went with a friend to a church deep in Coptic Cairo. We took on the challenge of the choking downtown traffic and dusty dry heat to hear a Christian radio team perform. “A Verse and a Story” – [“Aya wa Hekaya”] – was the name of the humorous program on the radio. The actors present a situation from life and weave Scripture through the story. As inadequate as my understanding of Arabic was, I could get the meaning of the stories and loved being a part of that group of Egyptians that evening. There was also a time of worship – singing and prayer…also in Arabic. As the ceiling fans moved the hot air around and we all glistened with sweat, there was such a oneness there…of sheer enjoyment of Jesus in our midst and the pleasure of being together.

All were welcome that night. Foreigner and local person. Varying doctrines…yet no divisions, in this moment, on style or substance. The love and unity of spirit in that great gathering hall was a sweet glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 7:9).

Enjoying a sense of unity for an evening with like-minded strangers is one thing…determining to live daily in the bond of love, as Christ-followers, is on an altogether higher order… Yet, Jesus prayed to the Father for us to live in those kind of unity…for our own sakes and for the sake of those who peer into our lives. Do they see Jesus when they see us?

John Piper, in his piece on What Is Christian Unity?, quotes Francis Schaeffer:

It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father. – Francis Schaeffer (Complete Works, vol. 4, 201)

My husband rides his bike on a trainer for exercise. Several evenings a week, I know what he’s doing by the playlist that filters through the house at different parts of his ride. There’s an old Gospel song (popular in the 80’s) that pops up which I love. It is First Call‘s Undivided.

Here are two YouTube videos of this group singing – Undivided with the original First Call (in 1986) and again more recently. The second performance comes 30 years after the first (and at 2:12 into the video, First Call is joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all who gave us wonderful worship songs from early in the Contemporary Christian Music era).

Worship with me (with either of the versions above)…undivided:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him and yet spend
All of our days living life divided
But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep up apart
We trust Him to unite us

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image
And in His eyes we are all the same
And though our methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided*

As much as I love contemporary worship, I miss the harmonies of another era – the four-part harmonies of these Gospel singing groups as well as just the corporate hymn-singing of my childhood. There is a unison of singing the melody line led by today’s worship teams, but the unity Jesus prayed for us is more symbolized in the many different voices heard in the old Gospel harmonies.

It’s not just unity longed for in the “Why can’t we all just get along?” lament. It’s a unity in Christ that is an answer to His prayer…a bond between us that transcends our many political opinions, cultural preferences, and national loyalties. It is a bond of love that begins with Christ and extends to the nations…a unity that holds believers together in an inclusive circle that opens its arms to all comers.

*Lyrics to Undivided

What Is Christian Unity? – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Where Were You? – Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-job-pray-write-growPhoto Credit: PrayWriteGrow

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…”Job 38:1-4a

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  – Job to God, Job 42:2

How can this be?! How could this have happened? No way could this be right. No way could this be God’s plan.

We are all given to platitudes. “It’s all good.” “It’s not your fault.” “God’s still on His throne.” They may be true but they’re not very satisfying.

When we’re hit by a strange and unsettling reality, we want to call it something else. We want to cry out that it’s not good and it’s got to be someone’s fault…we ache to point our finger at someone…anyone. At times, the blame ascends all the way to Heaven…to God Himself.

Job, a righteous God-fearer whose story is chronicled in the Bible, found himself in that very situation. He didn’t just wake up one morning to news that he couldn’t stomach; he was singled out for the most devastating personal loss – the deaths of all his children and his own health ruined. His questioning of the rightness of this unimaginable occurrence was understandable.

Having friends who offered all sorts of scenarios as to how this could have happened…gave Job no relief.

Finally, he took his case to God, objecting to how such a thing could happen. In God’s defense of Himself in the matter (Job 38-41), He opened Job’s eyes to the wonder and goodness of all that He does.

God is not put off by our questioning, our fears, our confusion…this God who lovingly asks questions Himself for us to see our own strange thinking about Him…this God who is the answer to every question that’s whispered or shouted from the depths of our beings. Where were you, Child? …Where were we?! How gentle He is with our self-righteousness and presumptuousness that we know better than He. We may not understand…but we can be assured that He is working out our good and His glory in every page turned in history. We can question, absolutely…but He calls us to continue following Him, even in our questioning…to love Him, to love others…with everything in us.

On this past Sunday, we gathered at Movement Church, and worshiped together. This Sunday followed the Presidential election, the outcome of which probably surprised every voter and non-voter in America…either joyfully or sorrowfully. This Sunday was made for worship. No back clapping, or derision, or condescending opinions of any political ilk. Whatever hopefulness and whatever despair were set aside. Just voices raised in community to the God whose purposes are not thwarted…no matter what.

Worship, with me, through this great lyric Where Were You? (by Ghost Ship) – taken straight from the Job narrative.

I said, “God, I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but sufferingimg_0418

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?”
He said, “Where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?img_0423
Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show
Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth
Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

 

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?”

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?  Isaiah 14:27

Lyrics to Ghost Ship’s Where Were You?

The Plan of God – J. I. Packer

Worship Wednesday – Do Something – Matthew West – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You? – by Ghost Ship – Deb Mills

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: TheMadeShop – Tumblr

Reformation Day – A Halloween That Changed the World

blog-martin-luther-reformation-day-prae-huPhoto Credit: Prae.hu

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

On October 31, 1517, Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed a document known as his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. In this public stand against the Catholic practices of that day, he would divide Christianity into at least two camps – that of Protestants (the Reformers) and the Catholics.

Now we are on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Today, October 31 is known as Reformation Day…and, of course, Halloween.

October 31, for most, is a family/community cultural event (very different from the historical Halloween). Parties, dress-up, spooky decorations, and sweet treats.blog-halloween-2016

For those of us who are Christian, identifying more Protestant than Catholic, we wouldn’t want to miss the historic significance of this day as well.

Justin Holcomb‘s piece on the five solas lists the fundamental elements of the Christian faith (as put forth by the Reformers) and the substantiating Scriptures. Below are the five (see article for commentary and Bible verses):

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.*

[See links below for articles/resources on the full relevance of this day for us personally, for our families, and for culture, in general.]

Something else happening today that is redemptively newsworthy is the visit between Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, head of the Lutheran World Federation. They are meeting today for an ecumenical prayer service in Lund, Sweden.blog-reformation-day-radiovaticana-munib-younan-and-pope-francesPhoto Credit: Vatican Radio

Pope Francis calls Christians, Catholic and Protestant, to lay down the division between them. He recently even commended Martin Luther for rebelling against a Catholicism that, at that time, was “no model to imitate”. He called for unity for the sake of peace-keeping efforts and humanitarian work and for the benefit of those experiencing religious persecution.

In all you might savor in this day, this 31st day of October, consider how Martin Luther changed a world, by taking a stand… Some of our children will choose to dress-up in super-hero costumes – taking on larger than life personas for the good of those around them. They are more like Martin Luther, in that, than they may know.

blog-halloween-martin-luther-costumeblog-martin-luther-legos-pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest; Pinterest

*5 Points From the Past That Should Matter to You – Justin Holcomb

5 Bible Verses to Read on Reformation Day – Andy Rau

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up and Reformation Day Stand-up – DebMillsWriter

Reformation Day: Resources to Help Us Remember – Desiring God

Man Between God and the Devil: Martin Luther and the Reclamation of Halloween – William E. Flippin, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The High Cost of the Cross – Joe Crews

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

The US Presidential Election: What Drives Me to the Polls

blog-vote-thunderclap

Photo Credit: Thunderclap

I will vote. I will vote for the issues, more than for the candidates.

Fear does not drive me. Responsibility drives me. There’s a certain measure of remorse that I have done so little for our country – paid taxes, yes, obeyed the laws, prayed sometimes for those in leadership. We have this opportunity in voting for our country’s highest leaders…not just for our generation, but for the next. This one thing I can do…add my vote to the American many.

No matter the outcome, I will pray for the President. The icky, divisive arguments for various candidates that have darkly colored this election year…will fade. Friendships will continue. After the election, everyone will get back on social media. There will be a handful of congratulatory “told you so” blogs and articles alongside the somber doomsday pieces. Then life will go back to normal…and our country and culture will continue to lean further right…or further left.

What drives me to the polls? Primarily 3 issues.

  1. Life – In graduate school years ago, I took a required statistics course. There was only one textbook – a tiny primer entitled How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. This set me on a worldview to question all statistics. They, like the political polls of late, can be manipulated to suit the researcher. Having said that, even on the issue of abortion, statistics are complicated because not all states report in the same way. Since the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973, there have been 59,456,623 documented abortions in the US so far (check out the live abortion counter). blog-abortionPhoto Credit: LifeNews

Planned Parenthood just had its 100th birthday. The largest abortion provider in the US, they have reported 7,220,011 abortions, since 1973. Being pro-life doesn’t mean just being pro-baby; it means being pro-human all across the lifespan. I get that, and embrace that. Too bad there aren’t statistics about the life-long impact of abortion on the women and men who conceived. Their choice is protected; the baby’s right to live is not.

Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Abortion Argument: ‘No More Euphemisms’ by Amanda Prestigiacomo

The Most Important Question About Abortion – Video

2. Supreme Court Justices – and all the Federal judges who will be appointed in the next 4-8 years. When the US Supreme Court began their Fall session, I wondered if Chief Justice Scalia’s empty chair was still shrouded. This election is a fight for the right to appoint these incredibly influential men and women.The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s Bench Chair and the Bench in front of his seat draped in black following his death on February 13, 2016. Credit: Franz Jantzen/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.Photo Credit: National Law Journal

A Scalia replacement would be instrumental in deciding the fate of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, in determining the boundaries of religious freedom, the extent of LGBT and abortion rights, the nature of political speech and campaign finance, the strength of labor unions, the extent of congressional delegation to executive bureaucracies that regulate the environment, the workplace, private property, the schools, and much more…With so much at stake, it seems reasonable to conclude that his replacement will take the bench only under conditions of unified government. Ironic: Throughout his career Justice Scalia warned against an overreaching judiciary that replaced democratic judgments with its own. Because his warnings were not heeded, the Court grew into a leviathan that touches all aspects of American life, determines where self-government ends and rule by bureaucrats begins.” Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon

3) National Debt – I’m no expert on economy. However, our family has always tried to live within our means. It is a strong value for us. With the debt where it is now – $19.7 Trillion and counting (watch the numbers fly on the debt clock) – it seems not to even be an issue anymore. It’s just too great…too impossible to bring down… Not meaning to be a downer here…I just can’t fathom the numbers. Maybe one of our candidates can become the president who will bring us into fiscal integrity and still find ways to serve our nation well. blog-national-debt-culture-warPhoto Credit: Culture-War

US Day of Reckoning? – United States Government Debt to GDP (1940-2016) – even I could understand our economic situation and peril. Also listed is our economic standing related to other nations.

Finally…

This year I have probably studied more about the candidates than any year before. The mainstream media, even with its clear candidate preference, has been motivating in turning me into a fact-checker, on all candidates. I am grateful for the few out there who write and podcast that think somewhat like I do…it has kept me from occasionally questioning my own sanity, truly. The two major political platforms are also helpful, whether the candidates line up completely with their platforms or not – it’s not clear (here is a brief summary of both).

[Sidebar: Although this image is from a WSJ/NBC poll – and you can surmise that polls are suspect for me – it is a quick look at some of the platform issues and values of voters – that is, if it’s correct. Sigh..]

blog-party-platforms-vote-wsjPhoto Credit: Wall Street Journal

There are seven other issues that matter to me. Neither of the major party candidates have defined plans that would compel me to vote for either of them.

  • Refugees/Immigration
  • A President for All Americans
  • Poverty/Joblessness/Racial Divide
  • Religious Freedom
  • Economy/Smaller Government
  • Health Care
  • National Security

However, I will vote. It will be a vote that counts, whether it makes a single vote’s difference or not. It will not be about a lesser or greater evil. I will not be distracted by sensationalism or corruption. I completely get that candidates promise things they can’t deliver (in some situations, I’m counting on that actually). I will not risk or withhold my vote – either by voting for one who has little chance of winning or, by not going to the polls, respectively. Nor will I be put off by those who don’t agree with me and vote differently (or not vote at all). This could be a year when not voting, for some, is the only choice…that conscientious objection to what choices we have.

This, at the deepest level, is stewardship. I’m not proud of my inactivity in civil matters. As a Christian, my efforts to make a difference in the world have been more through the church in my own city and in global communities. This year, more than ever, I see that more has to be done – either by the church…or by collectives of people who truly care about our nation’s people…and the peoples of the world. Government is not enough…and making it bigger may not be the answer.

I don’t know…but this I do know. Voting for all of us has come at a high price…of one sort or another. So…it’s the very least we can do.

…and pray…the most.blog-unknown-soldier-national-security-herobox-on-facebookPhoto Credit: HeroBox on Facebook

Saturday Short – Explore God – Tackling the Hard Questions

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Who is God? …Really. What difference does it make for me to believe in God or not? Isn’t my path set anyway? In the religion of my parents?
We have so many questions as we go through life. I have had my share…and yet still come back to the profound difference God has made in my life… Even in a world that is broken, we see glimpses of beauty, and order, and love outside ourselves. Glimpses of God’s touch and movement in our lives and throughout the world.
Wisdom is to seek answers to our questions. To wrestle with them with friends and family we love and are sure of their love for us. Or strangers even who appreciate an opportunity to sort out these questions together…respectfully and decently.
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Over the next seven weeks in the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area, a large group of churches (of various denominations and leanings) are cooperating in tackling some of our questions.

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The Explore God website will help you find a Richmond area church or discussion group focusing on these questions. Also the same website has videos, articles, and resources by topic if you want to explore on your own a bit. Explore God can also be followed on Facebook.

My plan is to join the discussion at Movement Church tomorrow (Sunday morning) and then gather with a small group during the week continuing to sort out answers to these questions. No pressure kind of experience. Very stranger-friendly…meaning, no in-your-face weirdness.

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**Please note – Movement now has 2 gatherings on Sunday mornings – one at 9:00am and one at 11:00am.**

If you’re like me, you have questions…even if you think you’ve already sorted out the answers yourself. For me, as the world and culture change…and as I get older, my questions have changed. The God I’ve come to know can handle our questions and meets us in the answers, too.

Monday Morning Moment – A Look at Power with Andy Crouch

 Blog - Andy Crouch = Playing God - thegospelcoalition
Just recently I heard a friend quote from the book Playing God – Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch. It struck me as odd that he was reading such a book because, although he is a powerful man in his own circle, he doesn’t seem vulnerable to such a phenomenon. Wisdom is to mark such a supposition and guard against it. This friend does that. My husband has also been reading Crouch’s book, so I am persuaded to add it to my list of reads.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find thanks to Good Reads. It is often where I start with a book given my long list of wanna-reads. Andy Crouch makes a strong case for our need to wrestle with our temptation to “play God” in our relationships, institutions, and culture. See for yourself….
On Power in Creating Good or Evil – in Work and Culture
“It is a source of refreshment, laughter, joy and life—and of more power. Remove power and you cut off life, the possibility of creating something new and better in this rich and recalcitrant world. Life is power. Power is life. And flourishing power leads to flourishing life. Of course, like life itself, power is nothing—worse than nothing—without love. But love without power is less than it was meant to be. Love without the capacity to make something of the world, without the ability to respond to and make room for the beloved’s flourishing, is frustrated love. This is why the love that is the heartbeat of the Christian story—the Father’s love for the Son and, through the Son, for the world—is not simply a sentimental feeling or a distant, ethereal theological truth, but has been signed and sealed by the most audacious act of true power in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Son from the dead. Power at its best is resurrection to full life, to full humanity. Whenever human beings become what they were meant to be, when even death cannot finally hold its prisoners, then we can truly speak of power.”
Power at its worst is the unmaker of humanity—breeding inhumanity in the hearts of those who wield power, denying and denouncing the humanity of the ones who suffer under power…This power ultimately will put everything around it to death rather than share abundant life with another. It is also the power of feigned or forced ignorance, the power of complacency and self-satisfaction with our small fiefdoms of comfort. Power, the truest servant of love, can also be its most implacable enemy.”
“Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus interrupts his agenda for those who have nothing to offer him but need everything from him.”
On Power and Information
“I am also practicing cello to wean myself from power and accomplishment, to place myself back in the posture of a learner, cultivator, and creator. To become a bit like a child. To detoxify from the too-ready recognition and privilege that accompany even the most modest forms of success, to become available again for something surprising and new. Just as children flourish by growing into adults, so adults flourish by cultivating childlikeness, avoiding the spiritual hardening of the arteries that comes with competence and experience.”
On Poverty and Privilege
How many times have I been put at the front of the line without even knowing there was a line? How many times have I walked through a door that opened, invisibly and silently, for me, but slammed shut for others? How many lines have I cut in a life of privilege?”
Poverty is the absence of linkages, the absence of connections with others…”
“Benevolent god playing happens when we use the needs of the poor to make our own move from good to great—to revel in the superior power of our technology and the moral excellence of our willingness to help. Benevolent god playing makes us, not those we are serving, the heroes of the story. It happens whenever technological and financial resources are deployed in such overwhelming force, and with so little real trust building or relationship, that we maintain a safe distance between ourselves and the recipients of our largesse.”
“The poor are poor,” Jayakumar said to me, “because someone else is trying to play God in their lives.”
On Idolatry and Injustice
All idols begin by offering great things for a very small price. All idols then fail, more and more consistently, to deliver on their original promises, while ratcheting up their demands, which initially seemed so reasonable, for worship and sacrifice. In the end they fail completely, even as they make categorical demands. In the memorable phrase of the psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover, idols ask for more and more, while giving less and less, until eventually they demand everything and give nothing.”
“God hates injustice and idolatry because they are the same thing.”
Crouch’s book just got moved to the top of my reading list. Have a great Monday! Let’s exercise our power wisely today…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah!

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

Lyrics to Come Though Fount as performed by David Crowder Band

Story Behind the Song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

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

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

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

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Worship Wednesday – No More Night – David Phelps

Blog - Walk in the Light - Truth for LifePhoto Credit: Truth For Life

This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7

This has been one of those weeks where the sheer weight of the hatred in this world seems to bear down on us all – in excruciating loss, deep grief, and beliefs in crosshairs.

Facebook and other social media are filled with caustic and accusatory comments, pointing fingers of blame at various religious and political groups. One brief item on my Twitter-feed raised the possibility that random costly hate crimes were becoming a new normal.

No. I won’t receive that. Not yet anyway.

God calls His children to shine His light into the dark places of the world. His light, not our own. His light that radiates love and life. If we hole ourselves off in church buildings where prayer and serving, praise and preaching are carefully hidden inside the walls, the world continues broken and unaltered. Something has to change…truly.

Jen Hatmaker wrote yesterday on her Facebook page about the Christian response to the horrific domestic terror attack this past week: “I’ve seen Christians everywhere promising to pray for the victims and their families and their communities. I wonder what might happen if everyone actually does? What might God do if millions of Christians begin praying for comfort and love toward the LGBTQ community? Relational healing? Crazier things have happened.

Perhaps instead of saying “we’re sad” this week, we should begin with “we’re sorry.”

Not: We’re sorry but…
Not: We’re sorry if…
Not: We’re sorry as long as…

Just: We’re sorry. Full stop.

I believe glory would inhabit that sort of humility and repentance, like it always has. NOBODY should be able to out-love God’s people. We should be Grand Champion Lovers of People, and everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone should know it, see it, feel it, experience it, bask it in, and be drawn to it.

When my youngest son re-posted this on his Facebook page, I responded:

We are sorry…deeply sorry for this and all atrocities around the world done in the name of some idea or religion that took hold because we were not so revolutionary in love as the One who first loved us…even us.

These days, when someone says, “I’m sorry”, the usual response is “It’s not your fault.” Or “You didn’t do anything.” Aha! Maybe that’s exactly what the “I’m sorry” means here. “I’m sorry we didn’t do anything. I’m sorry you didn’t know how much Jesus loves you and me both…because you didn’t see it in my love for you.”

It may be complicated to love (or even identify with) people different from us…whether different by religion, political party, or racial/sexual identity. Still, as followers of Jesus, He calls us to love – extravagantly – even those who consider us enemies.

We have no excuse.

A young acquaintance of mine during this week of shock and shaming added his own voice to the situation. I know him from our church, but he has since moved away, back home to a distant city. He posted that he only came to church for the people not for God. How  could the church be winsome, and God not be? How did we manage to love him in such a way that he would miss falling in love with God?

Jenn Hatmaker, in a later post, would apologize for lobbing a possible “shame grenade”. That is also not my desire. The Christian community sadly  should be used to friendly (and not-so-friendly) fire by now, especially related to how we are perceived as not showing love to one minority or another. What matters is not what we do with attacks or shaming,  but what we do with the very Word of God, and the wholly loving life of Jesus.

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This is what’s been banging around in my head over the last several days. What a gift God has given us in this life of ours…until we are here no more, He calls us to love loud, to live boldly, and to speak His healing and reconciling Word not just to and with other believers…but to a world of all sorts of people whom He also loves

Until Heaven…this is our calling.

Worship with me to this old song about Heaven. Sung by David Phelps, it reminds us of a day when pain will truly be over for those who have put their lives in the care of a Redeemer God. As we look to that day, may we be more resolved than ever to boldly and tirelessly share truth and love with all those around us. It is His desire for us all to be with Him forever

The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there’s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there, there’s a mansion
Oh, that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

All praises to the great “I AM”
Were gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb*

*Lyrics to No More Night – Songwriter – Walter S. Harris

Be the Church – A City on a Hill – Powerpoint Presentation – FPBC

David Phelps and His Daughter Sing the Most Breathtaking Duet – Agnus Dei

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