Category Archives: Worship

Worship Wednesday – God Himself Came Down – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Blog - Condescension - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

[Adapted from the Archives]

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

 

There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”

Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it  has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

Hang in there with me as we go through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than me.

“God is condescending. It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.

If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.

The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”

If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way.

Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer

“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.”Jonathan Edwards

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.

Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery 2

Worship with me to Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery“.

Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!

Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*

In this season of celebrating Christmas, we marvel at the tenderness of God to come down for us, to condescend, in the form of a human…even a helpless baby. He came to us through Jesus to redeem us back to Himself. That redemption carried with it a death. A sacrifice for our sins. A payment for the debt we could not pay for ourselves. To be restored to the one true holy God. The high cost of our sins was covered by the Christ of Christmas – through His condescension to life with us and death for us. Words fail in view of His indescribable gift…Hallelujah!

Explore God – Is Jesus really God?

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa

God Condescends – Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

God Is Condescending by Jim Barringer

Messiah, the Condescension of God Transcendent

The Condescension of our Transcendent God by Lee Tankersley

The Condescending God?

Does Condescend-Condescension Always Have a Negative Connotation?

Lady Catherine’s Condescension

*Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery: Hymn Wednesday

“In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us”*

5 Friday Faves – Thanksgiving Edition – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and Thanksgiving Day Naps

It’s Friday! The day after Thanksgiving. Otherwise known as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the US. Personally, I try not to even enter a store on this day. If you did, then you’re in better shape with your Christmas gift-buying than I am, so congratulations. For me, just one more day of Thanksgiving reflections. Another day of being thankful to God for this life…and for traditions that help us hold tight to each other…in the best of ways.

1) The Gathering – Our celebration of American Thanksgiving always involves some sort of gathering. When children grow up and start their own families, we parents are obliged to share them with their greater extended families on various holidays. I’m very thankful for the inlaws/in-loves I inherited through marrying Dave and we’re also thankful for our children’s inlaws. Whatever configuration you had this week, either for Thanksgiving Day or another occasion this week, I hope you had sweet times.

2) Family Recipes – It’s all about the food, right? My mom-in-law lavishes many lovely traditions on us with each holiday. One yummy one is her strawberry salad (a dessert, disguised as salad) served with the meal instead of after it. This year, we had Thanksgiving at home instead of at MomMom’s. Our youngest son Daniel followed her recipe and served up that dish of goodness, full of sweet memories for us. Also on our table this year was my mom’s turkey dressing and a sweet Southern cornbread from our daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s recipe.

The dilemma is when the recipe is a bit sketchy…as in this video below (so reminded me of how my mom cooked – a little bit of this and a little bit of that…to perfection).

Do you have any favorite family recipes you’d be willing to share? Even if it’s just the story? Please! In Comments below.

3) Table Talk – With so many around the table, the conversation is never dull. There’s always some variation of the theme of “what are you thankful for” – and then we turn to topics as varied as the feast spread before us. We hear about new girlfriends, new babies, new jobs, etc., etc. Always fascinating and occasionally we learn something outside of the good news category. This time, I learned about this thing called net neutrality. It’s defined as the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Basically, in the U.S., we have been able to access any type data we choose (whether it’s live-streaming, or an online game community, or an uploaded video of your nephew’s Christmas program). What puts net neutrality in the news is that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is moving to deregulate the internet such that internet service providers can have more say in their treatment of data. We may have to pay more for some services, internet speed could be affected, and we might not have the final say on what is available to us (data-wise). It’s an interesting issue because there’s big money companies on both sides.

My husband and I were talking about it today as to what the motives would be on wanting net neutrality vs. wanting to get rid of it. He brought up the issue of privacy and how willing we are to give up personal information over the internet. Right now, for instance, Facebook is free…or is it? Dave quoted someone in regards to this:

“If something is free, you are the product.” Are the internet service providers after our money or our information  (personal data)? It is one or the other. Later this month the FCC will make their decision, and we’ll see what comes out of the loss of net neutrality…if that happens. What are your thoughts?

What Happens When ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules Bite the Dust? – Tali Arbel

A Primer: Just What Is Net Neutrality – and Why All the Fuss? [Here’s What You Need to Know About the Fight for an Open Internet] – BillMoyers.com Staff

A Net Neutrality Primer: Should the Internet Be Regulated Like Ma Bell? – Ryan Radia and Jessica Melugin

Net Neutrality – Why Are Americans So Worried About It Being Scrapped? – Alex Hern

4) Living Room Sprawls – After we leave the dinner table, and the dishes are washed and food put away, it’s find a place to sprawl in the living room. Either for a football game or a nap (see #5).

What favorite activity do you have besides those I listed? A walk outside? Table games? Talking family history with the old ones? Playing with the babies?

One activity I would love to add to Thanksgiving is singing around the piano. We do that at Christmas time, but the video below, by People and Songs, below got me excited about pulling folks together to sing at other times of the year as well.

People & Songs – Revelation Song – FB Live living room

Hear this popular worship song like you've NEVER heard before! Eight distinct voices worshipping God in a living room!

Posted by Sean Carter on Tuesday, November 14, 2017

YouTube Video – People & Songs – Revelation – FB Live Living Room

5) Thanksgiving Day Naps – My husband has a gift for naps. Not just after a big meal. He is one of those work hard/play hard kind of guys, and when he finally sits down…sleep can quickly overtake him.

It’s sweet to watch…until I, too, nod off.

Also, by the way, it turns out that tryptophan, the supposed sleep-inducing culprit in turkey, is actually found as much in chicken as in turkey…so tryptophan is not the agent bringing on sleep every Thanksgiving Day. What causes us to sleep after dinner this day – the HUGE carbohydrate load, right? Something along the order of 3000 calories in one meal for most of us. Makes me sleepy just thinking about it.

YouTube Video – Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? – Dr. Daniel Barone

Verify: Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? – Abigail Curran

Now that Thanksgiving is properly celebrated it’s on to Christmas! Cranking up the radio for 24/7 Christmas music! Just heard Josh Wilson’s Jesus Is Alive for the first time today. One of these days, our son Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) will hopefully acquiesce to our badgering for a classical guitar Christmas album…so stay tuned. Also on the weekend post-Thanksgiving, Christmas lights seem to magically appear on houses all around this city (see Tacky Light Tour). How about yours?

Bonus: The Dennehy Family (here in Virginia)- “Family Is Adoption.”

Loving Parents Adopted 9 Special Needs Children

‘That Armless Guy’: Guitarist George Dennehy’s Inspirational Journey

Worship Wednesday – You Are Worthy of Your Glory – Jon Shirley (Austin Stone Worship)

“Consider how the lilies grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.” – Luke 12:27

“When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?” – Psalm 8:3-4

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20

On Sunday at Movement Church, we sang a song new to me that continues to move my heart to worship this week. Jon Shirley of Austin Stone Worship is the writer-composer of this song You Are Worthy. In the Story Behind the Song video, he mentions how a Victorian poet’s words inspired him to write the song.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God” changed, in the song, to “The earth is charged with Your great grandeur.”

During the Victorian era (following the Industrial Revolution), Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote poetry that extolled the glory of God as experienced in His creation. This was a time of tremendous prosperity and invention, where people were enamored with their own accomplishments. Hopkins gently shook his culture into awakening again to the astounding creative genius of God.

God’s Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. – Poetry Foundation
Today, we also find ourselves in an age of booming technology. So impressed with ourselves. Yet, when we clear our minds and re-orient to the extraordinary beauty and wonder of creation, we can do no other than worship the One who spoke it into being. Worship the One who fashioned us into His image. Worship the God who still wants a relationship with us in all our smallness, bowing down to our own inventions and missing the God of the universe. This Creator God is worthy of glory; worthy of a world of worship.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

How Has God Revealed Himself Through Nature? – Don Stewart

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin

Worship with me, through this little song that celebrates such a great God:

The earth is charged with Your great grandeur
The stars above shine for You
And the world below responds in wonder, God!
And we’re all lost in You
In all You say and do

You are worthy of Your glory
God Almighty, You are Lord – forever
You’re robed in honor, You’re armed with power
God forever, You are Lord – forever

The waves resound, they pound Your praises
The flowers bloom, and stretch to You
Let everything you’ve made now praise You, God
Let all creation sing!

Awake my soul and sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, You are Lord
Forever Lord!*

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects foreigners
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever;
Zion, your God reigns for all generations.
Hallelujah! – Psalm 146

*Lyrics – Written by Jon Shirley – Austin Stone Worship

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – You Are Worthy – Jon Shirley

A Short Analysis of Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur”

Analysis of Poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins – Andrew Spacey

Gerard Manley Hopkins – 1844-1889

Victorian Era Crisis of Faith – Veronica Johnson

Worship Wednesday – In the Eye of the Storm – Ryan Stevenson

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ludolf Backhuysen

On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.”  So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him.  A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.  But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?”

 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”

And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”Mark 4:35-41

I am spent and it’s only Wednesday. We’ve all had weeks where the hours of the day didn’t cover what we needed to accomplish. Last night I couldn’t sleep thinking of what was done yesterday vs. what needed to be done, and what would have to be finished today.

Just so tired.

Then besides what was on my too-long to-do list, there were the pings to pray. Friends calling out with thrilling news of a new baby; other friends asking for prayer for their sick children or sick puppies. Prayers for their own storms to pass sooner than later.

And I prayed. What didn’t happen was taking a meal to a friend whose husband and children had flip-flopped for days, sick from one thing or another, and she the only caregiver. What didn’t happen was a quick visit to the newest addition to another friend’s family. What didn’t happen was Fall bucket list items I wanted to accomplish with a daughter. What didn’t happen…what didn’t happen…

Sheesh!

What DID happen was the to-do list got accomplished, at least enough for the next step of a huge project. What DID happen was sitting down exhausted to dinner with friends in our mid-week community group, and the load lifted a bit for all of us. What DID happen was that true friends, fierce friends, knew my neglect of them wasn’t because of a lack of love but a circumstance that kept me from them. What DID happen was God, in His mercy, provided for the needs of those dear ones, by other hands. Precious other serving hands.

What DID happen this week, in the storm of responsibilities and interruptions that nearly tipped my boat, was a much-needed remembering. God reminded me, through His Word, through songs, and through the encouragement of others, that none of us are in that storm-tossed boat alone. He is ever and always with us.

We will make safe harbor.

Worship with me to Ryan Stevenson’s “In the Eye of the Storm“.

When the solid ground is falling out
From underneath my feet
Between the black skies and my red eyes
I can barely see
When I realize I’ve been let down by my friends and my family
I can hear the rain reminding me
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds, me in the eye of the storm
When my hopes and dreams are far from me
And I’m running out of faith
I see the future I pictured slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache are pouring down my face
I find my peace in Jesus’ name
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm
When they let me go and I just don’t know
How I’m gonna make ends meet
I did my best
Now I’m scared to death
That we might lose everything
And when a sickness takes my child away
And there’s nothing I can do
My only hope is to trust You
I trust You LORD
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.*
My struggle this week was small compared to many of you – with pressures I can only imagine. However, whatever the season, we can lean hard on God’s true word for us. In Him, we will lack for nothing. In Him, we have nothing to fear. In Him, there is “goodness and faithful love…all the days of [our] lives”.
 The Lord is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live. – Psalm 23

In every storm, Jesus is in the boat with us.

*Lyrics: In the Eye of the StormWriters: Ryan Stevenson, Bryan Fowler

Praise Through the Pain: 5 Worship Songs When Times Are Tough – Alannah Francis

Christian Songs for Hard Times – Kim Jones

11 Songs to Get You Through Hard Times – Elise Cleary

Calming the Storm – Mark  4:35-41 – Gregory Crofford

Monday Morning Moment – Lost In Translation – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Photo Credit: Revive Our Hearts

Monday morning, Y’all! Last night’s sleep was done way early for me. I’m not super pumped for the day, but the day is here, so onward.

Tomorrow (October 31) marks the grand finale of a year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Writer pastor David Mathis posted a fascinating article on A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: Discovering the Power of Luther’s Original Lyrics.

The lyrics that we in the US church call to mind as Martin Luther’s are actually a translation from German to English by Reverend Frederic Hedge. American-born, Hedge was a German scholar therefore his handling of the lyrics of this great hymn should be supposed as honoring of the original.

Still, Hedge was a Unitarian minister. His particular theology, in Unitarianism stresses the oneness of God, without the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – three persons in One being). This thinking did, in fact, shift some of the meaning in the translation of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

David Mathis’ 7 points on what was lost in translation help us appreciate the hymn even more, in its original form. Read those lyrics re-translated from German by John Piper and Matthias Lohmann in Mathis’ article.

  1. God is not only our safe refuge but He is also our strong offense.
  2. God doesn’t just help in some of our woes but in ALL of them.
  3. Compared to Hedge’s strong statements abut God’s power and our weakness, Luther’s original lyrics were extreme descriptions – ALL-powerful God and our total defenselessness.
  4. In Luther’s words: All that happens is according to God’s plan.
  5. Hedge speaks of God’s sufficiency in our day-to-day, and Luther further clarifies that even in our worst situation possible, we are secure in God’s sovereignty.
  6. Hedge’s claim that God never changes is true, but Luther stressed that there is no other God. Full stop.
  7. Hedge closes the hymn with the great truth that God’s “Kingdom is forever”. Luther personalized it more stating that His “kingdom must remain for us.” For us. Hallelujah!

The nuances are worthy of note. Hedge’s translation brought the hymn to English for many more of us to enjoy. His translation left intact the hymn’s power in speaking to the greatness of God and the church’s confidence in Him. Yet, Luther’s original lyrics were even more emotive of the glorious nature of God, His working out His purposes in the world, and His complete provision for us.

I know it’s Monday (when I usually write about leadership), but as the year closes on the grand celebration of the Reformation, can we worship together? Hedge’s English translation will more than suffice.

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

[Movement Church‘s Trunk or Treat yielded our own Martin Luther.]

Happy Reformation Day tomorrow!

Worship Wednesday – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation – Deb Mills Writer

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World – Eric Metaxas

The Real Story of the Reformation – Eric Metaxas – Wall Street Journal

Luther (2004) DVD

YouTube Video – Martin Luther in Rome – film clip from above film

Worship Wednesday – Loving Broadly Is God’s Path to Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Photo Credit: Desiring God

As a small child, I loved my mama with all my heart. She was the source of all the goodness in our lives. She was my hero.

Through the many deep and painful hardships in Mom’s life, she had lost her way spiritually and we were unchurched in the early years of our childhood. When kind and persevering neighbors finally won Mom’s trust, we accepted their invitation to church. It was in that small congregation with hearts full of love that we found God.

It was no time before I was ready to receive, as my own, this beautiful, persistently loving, perfectly holy Savior. I was ready because of my own failed attempts to be good for my mama – to take some of the burden off her shoulders through my own small efforts. The knowledge from Scripture that we could never do enough on our own, that we needed a sinless Savior, was the best news I’d ever heard!

In recent weeks, we have been studying 1 Thessalonians (the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church) through our church’s sermon series and in our home groups. The two short versions below were like a shock of glorious truth for me:

May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows, so that He may establish your hearts in blamelessness and holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Anything good in our lives comes through the hands of God. In fact, as Pastor Cliff said Sunday, “No matter how far away we feel right now (from being blamelessly holy), what God Almighty has declared so He will make so.

Pursuing holiness is a theme much talked about in Christian circles – almost to the point of it being an idol. God orders the pursuit of holiness secondarily to increasing in love. What if we went after loving first? Not in lieu of holiness, God forbid, but…on the path to it.

We know from the passage in 1 Thessalonians, and many passages in Scripture, that God means for us to be all about knowing and loving Him and, out of that, loving others. Not just others we like or those we want to like us…but ALL others. The “so that” in verse 13 gives us the context.

As we strive to love others, in obedience to the Lord, He empowers us in that love. Then as our hearts are filled with deeper and broader love, then we have less room, inclination, or desire for or toward sinful habits.

Until the day we go to be with God when He completes His work in us and we are then blamelessly holy because of what Christ’s holiness accomplished in us.

The stuff of cold chills and face to the ground in awe of Him.

Rev. David Scott describes this whole work of God so well:

“If holiness is a matter of being increasingly conformed to God’s law, and if as Paul says in Romans 13, love is the fulfillment of the law, then it makes sense that as we grow in love, we come more in line with God’s law, and thus become more holy. This dynamic also makes sense to us experientially, as we face our sin. For example, if you grow in love for your neighbor, you are less likely to covet your neighbor’s possessions. The more you grow in depth of love for your spouse, the less attractive becomes the prospect of adultery. The more you love your fellow man, the harder it is to harbor any malice towards them. If we perfectly loved everyone, there would be no sin! Chrysostom, the great 4th century preacher, put it this way, “Love to our neighbor does not suffer any entrance of transgression; there is not any sin, which the power of love cannot consume.” Love is the soil in which holiness grows toward perfection. Love is the means by which a person’s heart gets established blameless in holiness.”David Scott

[Much of how this kind of love can be cultivated is in marriage and relationships with family. My favorite book on this subject is Gary Thomas Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? The happiness comes as both of us love God in ways that leads to sweet overflow in each other’s life.]

My husband Dave often talks about the ways God shows up in our lives and the role we have in those divine appointments (Psalm 127:1, as an example). “Our part is necessary but not sufficient”.

We can’t love well enough on our own…but as we give ourselves over to how God loves through us, we can know what it means to actually love unselfishly and unreservedly. That’s the kind of love I wanted to lavish on my mom as a child. She was so worthy of it…but I didn’t understand how. Until God’s truth penetrated my heart. Through the rest of Mom’s years of life and mine with her, I loved her imperfectly…but more perfectly than I could have without God at work in me.

The same for loving all others. It’s easy to build a wall around ourselves and only allow in those easy for us to love. No wonder our hearts bend so easily to sin and selfishness if that is our default. What a world God opens to us when we surrender ourselves to His redemptive purposes.

You might say, my mom fit in the category of “easy to love”. You are right. Still, as I grew in loving God, yielding to Him and His help in seeing others as He sees them, then loving comes easier. Even those as hard to love as I can be sometimes. Loving broadly is becoming a whole daily renewing and consuming adventure. Out of that, I know from His Word, He lavishes our hearts with His holiness.

The more we love, the more God shapes our hearts toward holiness. Wow!

We usually have a song together on Worship Wednesday’s. I’ve put a couple in the links. Today seems more for glorying in God’s provision and praying to be available to Him to love generously and flesh out blameless holiness to a world that needs to see Jesus in us.

Love and Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – David Scott

What Does It Mean to Be Holy – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – John Piper

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty (Agnus Dei) – Michael W. Smith

YouTube Video – All to Jesus I Surrender

Praise & Worship Show “Holiness Themes”

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

Worship Wednesday – O God Forgive Us – For King & Country

Photo Credit: Vimeo

“You should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts [our sins],
as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'” – Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)

Some things we will never make sense of…this side of Heaven.

The news every day has its fallout in our lives. It injects numbness into our hearts and minds. We just can’t comprehend what is going on around us sometimes.

We want to bring sense to bear on senselessness. To be able to blame someone. Or some natural force. Or we want to blame God.

Earlier this week, an unbelievable massacre took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. One gunman in his 60s rained down terror on an open field where thousands watched a concert. In a matter of 10 or so minutes, 50+ persons were killed and over 500 persons were injured.

Motives may be uncovered in future days. For now, all we know is the perpetrator fired at will on individuals he had no way of knowing. Random. Premeditated. Thoughtless. Evil.

We can’t make sense of such a thing.

For now, we pray for those families of the victims. We pray for those still in critical condition and for those recovering from their wounds. We thank God for first responders and for all those concert-goers who reached out to help others get to safety or to medical care. We also pray for our country to heal after another hard thing.

Besides praying, we also give blood and give other resources to help those in need.

What we cannot do…what we must refuse to do is to grow more numb to the brokenness of our world.

Jesus’ followers were in close proximity to him. They watched him do life. They saw him pull away alone to pray – to fortify himself for what he faced each day…and for what he would face before it was all over.

They asked him about this prayer thing he did so often and so deeply. I can’t even imagine what life must have been like for Jesus spending those years here on earth. How God was able to be both God and man at once can’t even be answered for us; our minds can’t hold such understanding. Yet, Jesus stole away often to linger with the Father; to counsel with Him; to be nourished by Him.

When he taught us how to pray, he gave a model which included the directive: forgive us our debts [our sins], as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].

Our world is rocked with evil…people choosing self over others, even to the point of neglect, betrayal, and violence.

Still…there is hope. God is not finished us yet. He has not forsaken us.

Nor are we meant to forsake each other.

The gunman above is dead. We can only speculate what happened to that man to plan out and execute such incomprehensible acts.

What we know is our own hearts…well, even our own hearts we can’t fully know (Jeremiah 17:9). Still we do know we are desperate to make sense of life and to pursue true community, real love and peace.

The band For King & Country (with the help of hip-hop artist KB) put out a single “O God Forgive Us“.Photo Credit: Flickr; Rapzilla

In the video interpretation of the song, we see the three principal singers with “younger versions of themselves”. Scenes are projected in front of the little ones – scenes of wrongs done in this world. A tear trickled down the cheek of one little boy. The message is that we all perpetrate wrongs against one another…and against God. We all need God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves and each other.

It may take us awhile to forgive this man who killed and injured so many. We may fall to fear and wonder is anywhere safe. However, what will probably happen is that we will forget. The screen of our memory will refresh to the news of the next day and the next. Numbness settles in, deeper and deeper.

In times like these, we are tempted to circle up and seek for safety and security within our own self-prescribed perimeter of comfort.

However…

We do not want to fall victim ourselves, as the songwriters warn, to doubt, uncertainty, unbelief…

No. Let us have the courage as Christ-followers to reach out, crossing whatever boundaries that separate us; to love each other as Jesus commanded us. It starts with the forgiveness God gives us which empowers us to forgive others.

Worship with me [music in link].

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
O, O God forgive us
Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive-through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
Rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing
O God forgive us
O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

[Spoken word – KB]Photo Credit: Rapzilla

Forgive us
Yes we have ignored you
So busy doing your work
That we forgot that this was
For
You

Arms wide to our homeless Savior
But arms crossed to our homeless neighbor
On bended knee
Unite us all
Set us free

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

O, O God forgive us
A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us.

Run wild. To risk everything. To hold nothing back.
To lay it all on the line: your reputation, your success, your comfort.
It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith. Live free.
It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want,
But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity
And finding freedom by connecting with the creator who conceived you.
Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time.
Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself
By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself.
Love strong. Because you were first loved. Because without love we all perish.
Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away, but love, love will always remain*

*Lyrics & Quote – Behind the Song: for KING & COUNTRY Shares the Heart Behind Their Single “O God Forgive Us (feat. KB)

Forgiveness – The Lord’s Prayer – an Eight-part Series Exploring Its Meaning Line by Line – Bill Kolb

Worship Wednesday – What a Beautiful Name It Is – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Vimeo

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”Philippians 2:5-11

Considering the answer to questions is a part of how we learn, how we set a course toward knowing. We search out in our own minds the answer to a question. If we come up blank, we seek out other resources, those who show mastery, knowledge, or understanding that we lack.

Is there a most important question in life?

I’m posing this as the most important question: What will you do with Jesus?

The weight of evidence that Jesus existed is substantial. In fact, to say he didn’t would require more faith than not, given the historical documentation and his impact on history. Note one reference here.

What we do with this Jesus is partly determined on whether we see him as a man, a prophet, a revolutionary…or God.

During my early childhood years, my family was not religious. There were no rituals, no spiritual conversations, no sense of God or who he was.

I was eight years old before we ever went into a church building. This followed my parents’ divorce, a couple of house moves, and my mom’s remarriage to my sweet step-dad. Lots of ups and downs in there.

A student of mine once told me that he believed children just grow up in the faith of their parents…no personal wrestling of what to believe…or whom to believe in.

My family didn’t have any faith to speak of in those days. When friends invited us to join them in church, it began a journey for my mom, dad, and siblings. For my parents, it was a re-acquainting themselves with God…for me an amazing new discovery.

Everything I have learned about Jesus and know of him through personal experience has enriched my life like nothing else in this world. No human love, no accomplishment, no other adventure can compare with what has come to me through him.

There is no question for me that if there is God, then Jesus is God. It is difficult to wrap the mind around the reality of a triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have to take that by faith, but not a blind faith. The life and teaching of Jesus point to one linked so intimately to the Father, they are one. Thoroughly infused by the Spirit of God. No ordinary man, or woman, could live as he lived, love as he loved, spend himself as he did. He was human and divine… completely…and without sin.

As a child from a broken home, whose biological father’s neglect and disregard continued through our lives until he died…I longed for the love that only God, through Christ Jesus, offered.

He has never disappointed.

The Hillsong Worship song-writer team of Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood gives us a song that describes something of the beauty of the name of Jesus.

In a world where too often Jesus’ name is used as a derogatory exclamation, my heart is renewed in the company of those whose lives have also been transformed by knowing him…and praying to the Father, in his name. Jesus…God coming so close to us and making a way for us to come close to Him…now and forever.

Photo Credit: Phatmass

Let’s worship together…[click on the link; the lyrics are there.]

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great Your love was greater
What could separate us now

What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

What a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus
What a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus*

*Lyrics to What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship

Who Is Jesus? Video – Explore God

What a Beautiful Name (Song Story) – Hillsong Worship – Words and Music by Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood© 2016 Hillsong Music Publishing

50 Names and titles of Jesus: Who the Bible Says Christ Is – Debbie McDaniel

Jesus Christ’s Names, Titles, and Characters

Seven Questions Jesus Asked: “What Do You Want Me to Do For You?” – from Sermon Series JQ: Questions Jesus Asked