Category Archives: Worship

Worship Wednesday – I Am Broken at Your Feet – Alabaster – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: The River Walk

Within two days of Jesus’ crucifixion, just hours before, a woman would anoint his body for burial… Here is the strange and glorious account of that event:

 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him.  “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”

While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:1-9

Our pastor Cliff Jordan’s sermon on Mark 14:1-11 brought this account alive again to us. [Listen to the podcast linked above.]

The woman who poured out her treasure – possibly all she had in the world – in worshiping the Lord – was no stranger to him. She was Mary, sister to Lazarus and Martha – friend and follower of Jesus.

Surrounded by the disciples at his host’s table, Jesus was enjoying the company of these men so close to him. Mary entered the room without ceremony and straightaway broke open an alabaster jar containing this expensive perfume. [That jar was like her security – equivalent to a year’s wages in that day – “compared to her love for Jesus, it was nothing”, Cliff preached.]

She would pour that extravagant oil over his head. She then took the dripping oil into her hands and rubbed it on his feet. Drying off the excess with her own hair. The men in the room took loud exception at what they considered her frivolous act…but not Jesus.

Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Two days later, Jesus would give his all on a cross. Beaten and bloody he would die…for us…holding nothing back. It was a Friday, and Passover. By the time his body was released to be buried, his followers had to rush, because of the late hour, laying his body in the tomb, wrapped but without anointing oils.

No worries. In the quiet of that Passover evening, Jesus’ body, caked with blood mixed with his sweat, the fragrance of Mary’s love offering must have remained…must have sweetened the stench of his death. He gave his all for us…she gave her all for him.

“Love is a laid-down life.” (Elisabeth Elliot) – We experience that in Jesus, those of us who know him. We see that in Mary.

Pastor Cliff asked the questions: “What is my alabaster jar? Where do we place our security? What can’t we imagine life without?”

I can’t imagine life without Jesus and knowing his love and his great gift of salvation. Everything else pales.

___________________________________________________________________________

From our years living in Egypt, we have kept two small alabaster votives. The light they emit is both enthralling and beautiful…so like the act of Mary’s giving all she had to her beloved Jesus.

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s Alabaster.

I am broken at Your feet
Like an alabaster jar
Every piece of who I am
Laid before Your majesty

I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet
Yeah

Oh, the gravity of You
Draws my soul unto its knees
I will never be the same, no
I am lost and found in You

And I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet

Oh, I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet.*

* Lyrics to Alabaster by Rend Collective

The AlabasterJar – The River Walk

YouTube Video – Alabaster Box – Cece Winans

Worship Wednesday – the Embattled Jesus – Withstanding Every Assault and Then Rest Comes

Photo Credit: Bruce Cooper

In the last days of Jesus’ time on earth, he was repeatedly accused of wrong-doing. He had done no wrong, and yet with powerful adversaries, his innocence and integrity were questioned over and over. He never faltered. Even with the most unscrupulous scheming of the religious leaders of that day. They hid their intentions behind questions on his authority and grasp of religious and civil law. Their attempts to trick him, day after day, must have been exhausting, but he never wavered. He had done nothing wrong.

Then a break came in the questioning. An unnamed scribe entered into the fray… He had heard his fellows hammer Jesus with question after question, and finally he asked one himself:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.Mark 12:28-34

Unbelievably this scribe actually spoke with reason. Jesus had answered his question so well the scribe could not sully him, even if he wanted to. He, in fact, repeated Jesus’ answer in affirmation.

Don’t you love when truth and reason prevail? When people who may be completely opposed on an issue can recognize and are willing to speak out in agreement when they find common ground. This scribe agreed with Jesus, the one his peers wanted exposed, even killed.Photo Credit: Christian Publishing House Blog

As winsomely as Jesus endured these tormentors and answered his accusers in ways that confounded them, he would still be put on trial and turned over to executioners.

He would die…for us. Innocent and without any guilt of wrong-doing. For us. No terrible mistake here. No win for the religious or political of that day. His death was on his terms. He died that we might live.

From the cross, one of the last thing Jesus said was telling:

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.  John 19:30

What he came to earth to do was done. He had healed and taught, prayed and worshiped, loved and laughed, and single-handedly shook up the status quo. The world would be forever changed.

Three days in the tomb, and then Jesus rose. He rose never to taste death again. Never before and never since did this happen in history.

After a season of days with his disciples, he ascended to the Father.

After the Lord Jesus had said these things to the disciples, he was taken back up to heaven where he sat down at the right side of God.Mark 16:19

where he sat down at the right side of God.

That passage is so beautiful. Just as God rested on the 7th day of Creation, Jesus rested after his work was finished. Did he need to rest? No. However, it is a beautiful punctuation mark.

We need rest. When we are faced with hard. When accusers bite at our heels. When loss or disappointment darkens the sun in our lives. When the work is just too exhausting…we need rest. Even when we know God has fought our battles for us, we are frail humanity. We stand against the onslaught, but a time comes when we are just done. When we withstand whatever has come against us, He calls us to rest.

Steve Green sings a beautiful song…almost a lullaby…to remind us that we can rest because God is with us and will fight for us always.

Worship with me:

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy his love

Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Rest the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong

Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace
Will calm your mind

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Call Him, if you grow frightened
Call Him, with loving care
He’ll lift the burden and you’ll

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love

Trust His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love*

*Lyrics to Rest sung by Steve Green (Lyrics and Music by Phil McHugh And Greg Nelson

YouTube Video – Rest – Steve Green (official music) from Joy to the World album

The Prayer of the Embattled Pastor – Joe McKeever

When Life Is Hard: 9 Reminders that God Fights for Us – Debbie McDaniel

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – a Reminder by Steve Green – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Jesus, I am Resting, Resting – Steve Green

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart with lyrics – Babbie Mason

YouTube Video – Like a River Glorious (Stayed Upon Jehovah, Hearts are Fully Blessed) – by Frances Ridley Havergal –  one of my favorite hymns growing up2009 April May Trip to Georgia 161IMG_0023 (2)

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed, to Bless a World in Pieces – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. Even those who don’t believe God is will use the expression of being blessed. I wonder, “by whom” and “why?”

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They both cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love that He loves them, also.

“[We need to] come out of Moral Superiority Castle, cross over the stagnant moat of separation and meet the kingdom of God where justice and mercy meet, where the never-ending stream is full of justice and goodness; where people are messed up and broken and dirty like old cracked pots that leak and feel pretty useless and that, that is where we are and where we are a part of the repairing and restoring and transforming of the world. It is a place of tension. It is a place of unresolved hurt.

No-one said that where justice and mercy meet was a comfortable place.” – Kevin Lewis

Worship with me.

Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame

You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces
We are loved, to love where love is not
We are changed, to be the change you promised
We are freed, to be your hands, O God

Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed
Bring flesh from your word, Lord
Bring truth where there’s spin
Bring risk where’s there safety
And grace where there’s sin

In the broken, we shall see restored
The image of our King

We are blessed…

Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere
Breathe new life in all who gather here

We are blessed…

Bring justice to profit
Bring patience to growth
Bring wisdom to progress
Plant trees on this road
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success

May we grow in the knowledge of you
Through every heart and face

We are blessed…*

Postscript: Andy Flannagan, in a town meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, at a local church, talked (in this video clip) about what we as Christians do well. He closed with “The harder thing is to go back to the Jericho Road to work out how to stop anybody else getting mugged.” (Luke 10:35-37)

*Lyrics to We Are Blessed – Songwriter: Andy Flannagan

Andy Flannagan Website

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Mike Pettengill

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Blog - good good father - timesofmaltaPhoto Credit: TimesofMalta

[Adapted from the Archives – on the occasion of Hurricane Florence moving toward the East Coast. Praying for mercy for those in its path.]

For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:3-4

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.Psalm 46:1-3

When we lived in Morocco, we loved walking along the coast – along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There were sandy beaches aplenty, but my favorite parts were the rocky outcroppings which stood as sentinels against the crashing waves. I will never forget one time, walking with a friend who prayed aloud as we stood by the shore on a stormy day. He said, “Lord, may the storms of our lives break on the rocks of Your mercy.”

Storms come to all our lives…shocks, interruptions and losses that shake our faith and cause confusion in our understanding of good…and God. We want to explain how such things can happen in the presence of a good God. However, our attempts at explaining fall pitifully short. How can we explain our experience of that good Father in the midst of every storm? He is present, even in His silence…we lean in, and we find strong support…through every storm.

Blog - Good Good Father - godisgreatitstruePhoto Credit: GodIsGreatItsTrue

“Life is hard and God is good.” – Marshall Shelley

These words were spoken by a father whose tiny son, Toby, lived 2 minutes in this world. Toby is short for Tobiah which means “God is good”. Shelley goes on to describe more of his wrestling with Toby’s brief life in a Christianity Today article.

“Why did God create a child to live two minutes?

He didn’t.

He didn’t create Toby to live two minutes…He didn’t create me to live 40 years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world). God created Toby for eternity. He created each of us for eternity, where we may be surprised to find our true calling, which always seemed just out of reach here on earth.”

I can’t explain the goodness of God but I know it. He is a good, good Father. He has brought me through hard places; He is with me through dark nights when I can’t sleep. How can we bask in His goodness in easy times and not believe, even when our hearts are broken, that His goodness extends into the hard as well? Because of His comfort thus far in my life…and that of beloved others…I determine to trust Him in the present hard…and with the future.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5

What a blessing to read the Psalms and rejoice with those inspired writers who give us pictures of God present in our storms. Our hearts are also gladdened by modern-day hymn-writers who remind us of the truth of God’s goodness. Casting Crowns’ Praise You in the Storm and Just Be Held, and then David Crowder’s I Am all remind us of God’s presence with us in the midst of storms.

Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett’s song Good, Good Father gives voice to my experience of the goodness of God. I hope you are encouraged by it, through whatever storms break over your lives today.

Worship with me.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching
For answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Cause You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
Oh, You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
You’re a good good Father

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways*

“This I recall to mind and therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. His compassions [his mercies] never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him.” – Lamentations 3:21-25

“Life is hard and God is good.” That is the meaning of Lamentations. That is the meaning of Job. You might say that is the meaning of the Bible. Life is hard and God is good…and many of you are right in the midst of proving it to be so now. At least if you would trust him, if I could persuade you that God is trustworthy in it, and if you held on to it, you would discover that life is hard and God is good.

O, that God would give us eyes to see his mercies in our lives and we would see them all the more clearly and know that they were mercies if we knew the price that he paid for them for us. He sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to die so that my guilt will be taken away, his wrath would be removed from me, and there would be a free, open course for his mercies to flow to me while he is just. Even though I am a sinner, I can be treated with mercy. That is a glorious thing that God has done in Jesus Christ. We would taste the mercies all the more sweetly if we knew the price.” – John Piper

BLog - Good good father - midspointofviewPhoto Credit: Midspointofview

Lyrics to Good, Good Father by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Good, Good Father – Housefires II (featuring Pat Barrett)

If This is Spring There Must Be a Tornado Somewhere – Tom Elliff

Blog - Good Good Father - onegirldesignshoppe

Photo Credit: OneGirlDesignShoppe

Wednesday Worship – the God Worshipper – Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

Worship. Such a tension to keep the focus on the Lord and not on our own preferences, our own pleasures.

King David had his own slippery slopes through life, but worship that pleases the Lord was clearly something he understood. Psalm 15 came up in my regular Bible reading this week and is still working its work on my heart.

Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
Who can live on your holy mountain?

The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his silver at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent—
the one who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Who is that person?! That person who lives a life of worship as if he enters the “holy of holies” as he would enter his house or his workplace or his church.

What we do briefly on a Sunday morning matters to God, for sure. What we are about through the week (including Sunday morning) is the substance of the life of a worshipper. There is no separation of sacred from secular. Of daily or divine. We all know this in our hearts.

Psalm 15 puts me on my knees. Let’s break it down. How does the psalmist describe one who essentially lives in the presence of the Lord?

10 rules are laid out in Psalm 15. The first three are in verse 2. These only God can see whether we live by them or not. Now others may see our actions but these verses pertain more to the content or motivation of our hearts. The other seven are listed in verses 3-5. These are straight-up actions toward those we encounter each day.

Here they are in Easy English*, these rules or habits that mark a true worshipper:

1) She “makes no mistakes”; lives a life of integrity and uprightness. Consistent. Honest. What you see is what you get.

2) She does what is right and fair. Practices righteousness. In fact, he works righteousness into every situation, as one would knead bread.

3) He speaks out loud what he knows to be true in his heart. She does not withhold the truth in timidity, but acknowledges the truth with courage.

4) She tells no lies about another. In fact, even if something seems true, she reminds herself that telling it won’t help the person or the situation. He refuses to speak ill of others. No slander. No back-biting.

5) He does nothing harmful to his neighbors. No mean intentionality. Nor cruel or indifferent neglect.

6) She does not harm others with words. She makes no slurs nor discredits them. He does not make slurs or gossip about others. [Similar to #4; the repetition shouldn’t be lost on us. Our mouths can betray what’s in our hearts which can disqualify us for true worship.]

[Sidebar: If we can determine to speak truth in love, the temptation to talk about others INSTEAD of to them would be less a problem. What do you think?]

7) He does not keep company with bad people. He despises those who show themselves despicable. She does not seek the favor of those who reject God.

8) He gives honor to those who fear God. She serves those who serve God.

9) She keeps her word no matter what it might cost her. He is dependable and trustworthy.

10) He uses money to bless not to profit. She is generous. He remembers the poor.

*A Place for You – Psalm 15 in Easy English – Gordon Churchyard

Psalm 15 – the Character of the One God Receives – David Guzik

We look at these rules and spiritual habits and wonder how we can offer pleasing worship to the Lord…ever. We are imperfect and follow Him imperfectly. The key is the aim of our hearts. If we tune our hearts toward God as a matter of life, we set our aim on Him. In such a way, that the arrow of our lives hits the center of the target of these habits…these disciplines…these practices.

I always loved Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God. He was a monk who struggled against the mundane of serving God and the brothers in his monastery. Then he caught onto the idea that God was in the mundane…as in any of the holy sacraments.

Writer and farm wife/mother Ann Voskamp wrote about this in her blog How to Practice the Presence of God. In her critique, she posed the question of how can you practice His presence. “God’s presence needs no practicing because God’s presence has no end. God presence needs no practicing because it’s perfect and it’s present everywhere.” 

What she says is true, but we are frail in our faith and too often distracted by the many tantalizing imperfections of life. We miss God if we don’t make seeing Him a practice. It’s less like practicing the piano and more like practicing medicine. Less works. More faith. Faith in a sure truth and great God. Worthy of worship in every aspect of our lives.

We know Him and we live in ways that reflect knowing Him.

No song today through which we might worship together. Songwriter Hoss Hughes has penned a sweet response to Psalm 15 (see link below).

YouTube Video – “Never Shaken” – Psalm 15 worship song personalized by Hoss Hughes

I do love how the psalm ends.

“The one who does these things will never be shaken.” Hallelujah!

How to Live the Psalm 15 Life – Kenneth Copeland

Singing with Jesus – Psalm 15 – Acceptable Worship

Worship Wednesday – Son of David, Have Mercy on Me – Ghost Ship

Photo Credit: Shelly Duffer, Bobby Nicolescu

They came to Jericho. And as he [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. Mark 10:46-52

Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

On Sunday, our pastor Cliff preached on the persistent faith of blind Bartimaeus. As you read in the passage above, this is a gripping story of a man who knew darkness too well. He also must have heard of the man Jesus. In this moment, in close proximity to Jesus, he cried out for help.

He must have sounded like a mad man in his desperation to be heard. Those around him tried to shush him, but he would not be silenced. He knew help was almost within reach…in the person of Christ. I can just imagine the pitch of his voice rising higher and higher, not caring if he sounded the fool. He was so focused on Jesus hearing him that he had to be told that Jesus had indeed beckoned him.

When he was brought near, Jesus asked him that incredible question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to see,” gasped Bartimaeus. I want to see!

…and Jesus gave him his sight.

[Catch Cliff’s sermon in its entirety via this week’s podcast. So powerful.]

We have times when we cry out to God to help us see. Or maybe we just want to see without having to face what keeps us blind…if we’re honest. Our God is a confessional God. When we are willing to say out loud what is going on in the darkness of our hearts, He will take the scales off our eyes.

Eyes opened, we will begin to see who God truly is, and who we are apart from Him. We will see clearly our need for Him and our need for one another. What comes after is what happened to Bartimaeus. He left the side of the road where he was bound in his blindness, and followed Jesus on the road.

When we can really see, there is nowhere else we would want to be.

Worship with me to the Christian band Ghost Ship‘s Son of David:

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

A king is coming to His city, and crowds around are following,
If I could see, I would follow too.

He heals the sick with His hands, as He walks by, they reach for Him;
If I could see, I would reach out too.

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see!
Son of David, have mercy!

I cannot leave this gate since I cannot see my way, but I can stand and call His name.

No I could never leave this gate but I will stand and shout His name, and I will count on His grace!

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see! Son of David, have mercy!

I was blind – now I see! Jesus saved me!*

Photo Credit: FaithHub

After Cliff finished the sermon on Bartimaeus, he had an altar call. For those unfamiliar with that, it is a call to action on the part of any in the church who sense their need for Jesus in that moment. It’s an opportunity to privately and publicly “get right” with God – dealing with some hard thing in our hearts, and setting a different course in our lives. This sort of thing seems unusual in the church today, but it is fitting. When we recognize our need, and realize that Jesus can, and wants to, meet us at that need…what would hold us back? Bartimaeus gives us an example of deep desperation and unbridled desire to get to Jesus. When he did, he was rewarded with sight…and a Savior.

Even as a believer, it is too easy to turn a blind eye…on our sin, on our neighbor, on the world. We could all use an altar call from time to time, where we shed our timidity, or self-importance and pride, and run to Jesus…

…and, like Bartimaeus…just keep walking, with our eyes on Him.

[Truth: I met that altar call with a heart deeply moved, a mind set on confession, and feet frozen in concrete. When we think of Heaven, God’s winsomeness and our eyes clear (1 Corinthians 13:12), every pretense will be gone. Silly self-consciousness won’t even be a memory. Maybe one day, in our church gathered, this side of Heaven, we will become “a people marked by confession”. Thanks, Cliff, for leading us in that way.]

*Lyrics to Son of David by Ghost Ship – written by Cam Huxford IV and Shay Carlucci

The Blind Won’t Gain Their Sight… – Shelly Duffer

Worship Wednesday – Thank God for Vacation Bible School & Those Strong Winsome Women Who Make It Happen

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”Luke 9:47-48

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

In the summer of my 9-year-old life, I came to faith in Jesus…at Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mom always worked outside the home so someone must have brought my brothers and me each day for 5 days. I have sown parts of that week deep in my heart and memory.

Strong winsome women leading the Bible School. A week of mornings packed with fun. Koolaid & cookies for snack. Pastor doing the Bible lesson for us like he did our parents on Sunday. Big songs I can still remember. Bible verses we memorized. Craft time. Friday night “graduation” service where we performed for our parents.

This was the Vacation Bible School of my childhood. I asked my daughter what she remembered about Bible School. Some similar memories…the songs stay with you. Here are some she remembers from her childhood:

Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind; Love Is Kind

Romans 16:19 – Be Excellent at What Is Good

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

For today’s Worship Wednesday, I just wanted to thank God for Vacation Bible School. Although having received solid Bible teaching as a child through Sunday School, preaching, and my parents, VBS sealed the deal for me that year I was 9.

We have young moms in our lives today who seek out Vacation Bible School for their children through the summer…sometimes more than one. The churches who have made VBS part of their DNA amaze me. It has to be very hard work to pull off that kind of programming (even if it’s shortened time-wise to 2-hour evening sessions).

Earlier today, I talked to one of those strong winsome women who make VBS happen at her church. She talked about how the success of the Vacation Bible School hinges on their volunteers. She is blessed to have workers who really love the children of their church…sounds like they follow how Jesus thinks of children.  I’m thinking this friend models that for her volunteers. VBS has to be led by a woman (or it could be a man) who casts this vision for other adults and gathers them to extend themselves farther than they might usually be inclined. Photo Credit: Midway Community Church

Vacation Bible School makes for an obvious outreach opportunity for kids within the church community, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for an extended and concentrated touch into the lives of the kids in our own churches.

I will spend eternity with the Lord because of a Vacation Bible School…because some strong winsome women did the hard work (including recruiting the pastor and other Godly men) to break up a long, lazy summer with a fun, penetrating, life application of the Word of God.

Every Breath I Take (lyrics & music)

All That Is Good (lyrics & music)

Deep Cries Out (lyrics & music)

God Is For Me (lyrics & music)

VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, Songs and Jason – Holly Hollman

10 Myths People Believe About VBS – Part 1 and Part 2 Lori Hatcher

What Jesus Thinks About Children – R. Kent Hughes

YouTube Video – Never Let Go of Me – Songs from Shipwrecked 2018 VBS

YouTube Video – Honest VBS Volunteer – John Crist

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Living All In, Cheryl

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.2 Timothy 1:7

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?Numbers 23:19

The most deceiful thing Satan does is to distract us from our love for God by tempting us to focus on ourselves. That “self” that is not enough, or is utterly broken, or is, in another direction, worthy of all good things. Satan even uses the first person pronoun such that it sounds like we are acknowledging those lies…those lies about ourselves that fill our minds and cloud the truth of both who God is and who we are in Him.

Anxiety and depression are both a storm of thoughts that draw us down and make us small. Not the small of we decrease such that He might increase…no. Small in a way that He is made smaller still.

Pastor David Jeremiah recently preached about how we lose ground emotionally and spiritually by taking our eyes off God…and believing lies about our situation or identity. He uses a study of Elijah’s life to demonstrate this. In his sermon, The Aftermath, Pastor Jeremiah recalls how Elijah in what should have been a triumphant time of his life was drawn down by exhaustion and fear (1 Kings 19). As Elijah struggled with discouragement, he was vulnerable also to the lies of Satan. He was convinced that he was alone and was right to fear…even for his life. Dr. Jeremiah referred back to a book he had read by Martin Seligman about how our problems can feel personal, pervasive, and permanent. When our eyes turn away from God and onto our selves, we lose perspective and our thinking turns negative and even abusive at times.

Lauren Daigle‘s song You Say is not one I would usually highlight because its focus is more on God’s view of us rather than our focus on Him. However, it has really touched my heart in the honesty of what happens when we lose sight of the great God we serve who loves us perfectly and completely.

Daigle tells the story behind the song here. This is an excerpt:

I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome. And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my every day life? When I feel inadquate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supercedes my inadequacies. This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.

That’s the story behind “You Say.”Lauren Daigle

Please worship with me…this good God of ours.

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You’ll have every failure, God, You’ll have every victory, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
I believe*

Oh God, today, I will believe what You say about me…and what You say about all of us…and more than that, I believe what You say about Yourself. Thank You, Lord, for the truth you wrap around us. I stand in that. We stand forever with You. You are enough.

*Lyrics to You Say – Writers: Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle – Story Behind the Song ‘You Say’

When God Fights Your Battles…the Good News Is That You Win – Anne Peterson

YouTube Video – David Jeremiah – July 24, 2018 – The Aftermath – Turning Point Radio

Sheryl Sandberg Says the ‘3 P’s’ Have Helped Her Become a Stronger Person After Her Husband’s Tragic Death – Shana Lebowitz

Worship Wednesday – Thou, O Lord, Are a Shield for Me – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: Christ Community Church Music

“The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead….I stretch out my hands to You.”Psalm 143:3, 6a

Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.”Psalm 142:3-5

“You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.” Psalms 3:3-4

This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out. God had anointed David to be king. Yet, here he is, hiding deep in a cave…hiding from the current king, Saul. Hiding for fear of his life.

In this desert cave Adullam, David retreated. He then cried out to God, as he sorted out his confusion. God meets us all in our caves – some we bring on ourselves and others we’re driven into by those who mean us harm. God enters the darkness with us and draws us to the truths of who He is and who we are in Him.

The darkness is pierced by His light. The fear and fretting are overcome by faith. A faith that is forged in emptiness, helplessness, and self-pity. As we pray, He reveals Himself. Our eyes turn away from our circumstances into His large presence before us.

The cold dark of our situation, when we see God in it, changes to something altogether different…beyond anything that’s just human. No darkness can extinguish the light God brings to us (John 1:5).

Crouching quiet in the blackness of that cave, David was able to get his sight back. As with many of his psalms, his woeful cry of distress turned into a shout of praise. He remembered God…he remembered that God never forgets His children.

David, in his humanness, hid from Saul, believing his life was in danger. The truth was that God had already anointed David king… David’s life was in the hands of almighty God. He was supernaturally shielded from anything a mere man might attempt against him.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sings a powerful rendition of this song Thou, O Lord, Are a Shield to Me. What a reminder of His care for us…wherever we might find ourselves.Photo Credit: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Worship with me, please. One day voices will be raised to Him – from every people, tribe and tongue – and it will be even more glorious than the mighty choirs of Brooklyn Tabernacle or Parkland Baptist Church (choir in the lyric video linked above).

Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God

But thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
(Repeat)

I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me

Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head (Repeat)*

Hallelujah!

After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell face down before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever! Amen. Revelation 7:9-12

*Lyrics to Thou, O Lord

From a Cave Named AdullahKaren Smith – Christ Community Church Music – so good! Don’t miss it.

Cave Principles, Practices, and Perspectives: Psalms 34, 57, 142 – Bob Stone – Eagle Flight – also really excellent!

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Every Day Is Special

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:3-6

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” – Luke 11:17

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.” This was the marriage advice given to Nathan and Bekkah by a couple of strangers. An older man and woman came up to Bekkah after one of Nathan’s concerts and just engaged her in conversation. Over the course of their chat, they gave this young couple a jewel of wisdom…not just for marriage but for life…

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.”

We live in a divided world.

Even in the church, the unity God means for us to have with one another is constantly under fire. By our differences, our ambitions, and our passions. How do we link arms when offenses and attitudes and preferences loom large? Sometimes larger, if we are all honest, than our calling in Christ.Photo Credit: Paul Lee, Heartlight

God help us…and He will.

In my regular Bible reading this morning, in Nehemiah 3, God displayed a beautiful picture of unity. Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, heard of the distress of the Jews in the broken-down city of Jerusalem. He was personally moved to action on their behalf and asked leave to go help them. He would undertake supervising the great task of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.

Throughout chapter 3 of Nehemiah, you read the phrases “after him” or “next to them”. Nehemiah recorded name after name of the men stationed one beside the other, doing the work of rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah 4, when the local authorities felt threatened by the work, they did all they could to demoralize the workmen. Even to the point of inciting fear for their lives. Nehemiah, for the sake of the workers and the work, assigned half of them to shifts repairing the wall and half to stand ready with spears. In fact, even those laboring on the wall would have their weapons at hand. Ready to fight for each other whenever necessary…whenever the alarm is sounded.

“In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” – Nehemiah 4:20

This is unity.

The determination to be one together…as in a part of the whole…as we see in the unity of God in Three (John 17:22). The conviction that division, no matter the worthiness of the reason, robs us of our power and influence Robs God of His glory in His people. The humility and courage to root out division – with our work tools in one hand and our weapons in the other.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – JesusJohn 13:35

In an era sadly in the past, churches would, as needed, call themselves into a solemn assembly. This wasn’t just a share around a campfire, or a “confess fest”. A solemn assembly provides the setting for a deep dealing with sin in the church. Division, unholy and self-serving, can only be rooted out by corporate prayer and repentance.

Each of us can make a difference in the lives of our families, our churches, our cultures by refusing to be divided against each other. If we are willing to walk humbly and biblically with each other.  Working with one hand and holding God’s Word (toward love and against division) with the other. We are rarely given the option, in Scripture, to just walk away. To be repulsed by what we think is wrong; to pull ourselves out of the work and relationships; to just walk away.

[If an enemy threatens…we have God’s instructions as well…and His power fighting for us. However, to just abandon one another, especially to an enemy…and weaken the work and our witness? This is not the answer. Dealing with an enemy that divides us takes great wisdom, faith, and both courage and humility. Pointing our fingers at another is part of the problem, and we all know it if we would open our eyes to it. However, confronting the enemy in wise and Godly ways, may be required of any or all of us at some point in our lives. Remembering also that our enemy is spiritual more than physical.]

When we are having a hard time in this work of being in unity, Dave and I sometimes run through the names of people who give us hope. Those whom we know will always hold the rope for us if we are dangling off the edge of a cliff. Those also for whom we would do the same. It’s an exercise that helps us remember that God calls us to fight for each other…for those most worthy and even those, in our estimation, least worthy… In actuality, we are not the judge of this, God is. It is God who is worthy and He calls us, in His strength, to stand with each other. Alongside each other. Undivided.

Take a moment to savor the singing of this song Undivided by the vocal trio First Call. In this rendition, they are joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all pioneers in contemporary Christian music.

[I get cold chills every time.]

Worship with me to Undivided by First Call:

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 us apart
We trust Him to unite us

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
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 out methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided*

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15

*Lyrics to Undivided written by Melodie Tunney, 1986

First Call Music

Don’t Give Up – Jon Bloom – Desiring God