Category Archives: God

10 Reasons Folks Show Up for Stuff – Something to Think About

2014 June SBC, Visit to Ga, SavetheDate pics 098

A good friend told me this weekend that I think too much. She may be right, and it set me to thinking….what else? I was reading this article by Ed Stetzer about trends in Christianity and the collapse of nominalism (i.e., being culturally Christian, or Christian “in name only”). This is not just an issue for Christianity but for many ideologies and organizations in today’s world. How we invest our time, money, influence, and social capital, in general, is very telling of who we are and what we value.

Stetzer points out that more and more people who may have previously considered themselves nominal in their beliefs are more straightforward in where they stand on faith. This is evident in the decline in church involvement among “nominal” Christians. This got me thinking about how we make decisions and what affects our choices in terms of “showing up for stuff”.

When we roll out of bed on a weekend morning (or any day, really), what motivates our choices? On a workday, you might be tempted to say, “Well, I have no choice.” Truth is, we choose all the time…sometimes, wisely, sometimes, not so much. What reasons most compel us?

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  1. Entertainment/Freebies/Perks – Adventure and travel are included in here, as well. So much to do….so little time. And the free stuff? We all know that “what’s in it for me?” voice in our heads. Nothing innately wrong with any of this, unless it becomes the driving force of our choices.
  2. Food/Fitness/Rest – Church potluck dinners are the best – like eating Sunday dinner at our grandmother’s (if she’s a great cook, that is). No food? Hmmmm…not as interesting. Same goes for sporting or other physical activities, for many of us. We thrive on stuff going on all the time. Rest can also be a draw, especially when we get to take a break from usual responsibilities (having access to a great children’s program, for instance).
  3. Good Cause/Purpose/Fulfilment/Right Thing to Do – We all show up sometimes for a good cause or because it’s the right thing to do (whether it’s working on a disaster relief team or going to see your folks at Christmas). For Christians, obedience to God’s Word comes in here.
  4. Learning, Training, Equipping – There are times, we don’t necessarily choose this (as in a job situation when we need a new skill whether it interests us or not). In a church setting, this is a draw if it’s meaningful for our particular life situation. This is also a choice out of our love for God and wanting to be equipped for His purposes.
  5. Inspired/To Be Inspired/To Be Inspiring – I love to worship God in the company of others who love to worship God. The sense of His presence and His pleasure during sincere, unified corporate worship is one of the dearest experiences of my life. Then there are the stories of God’s activity in people’s lives. This is definitely a reason that I choose to show up when the church gathers.
  6. Belonging – We all want to belong. Belonging is deeper and grander than community (although some may argue that they are one and the same). Belonging is knowing you have a place, that people receive you in with whatever quirkiness or imperfections you have. Belonging is being valued for the person you are without any frills and not needing to try to fit in. I choose belonging whenever I get the opportunity.
  7. Community – Community is a gathering of people who share similar loves or competencies or goals. Community is something we all need, as well, and we’re willing sometimes to do what we have to do to “fit in”. Community does not necessarily mean belonging in the deepest sense of that experience, but it’s a start in that direction.
  8. Desperation/Need – Sometimes we show up somewhere (church or wherever else) because we need what we hope to find there. Church should definitely be a gathering of people who are willing to be arms around the needy and kind hearts/clear heads for the sake of those in dire straits. We have all been there.
  9. Should Go/Show or Mandatory/Obligatory – Here’s a reason to show up that none of us want to acknowledge, and yet, it could be true. Can it be that there are days that the only reason we show for church is that icky feeling of “well, I guess I should go, since there’s nothing else really happening.”? Or, think of situations outside of church. Have you ever had a work retreat with “forced fun” built in? None of us really want to HAVE to choose an affiliation or activity out of guilt, shame, or obligation.
  10. Checklist/Approval/”Get Out of Hell Free” Card – and last is the grand experience of “checking it off my list”. Eat healthy – check. Pay the bills – check. Go to the gym – check. Call your grandmother – check. Some sort of religious activity? Check. Oh…there is no “Get Out of Hell Free” card, but you already knew that. Enough said here.

You hear it all the time about how short life is…if you have even read this far, you may very well forget the message by the time you next check your current social media. What I wish I could communicate better is that our lives matter – our choices matter – and where and how we show up matters.

[Joshua speaking] “If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods… We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.” – Joshua 24:15-16, 18b

Blog Pics - Tim Howard Soccer

Belonging vs. Fitting In

Amy Lee Crawford writes on belonging & the disillusionment of community

4 Trends in Christianity that Could Scare You, According to Ed Stetzer

 

Worship Wednesday – Let My Life be the Proof of Your Love – For King & Country

Blog - For King & Country

Proof

noun \ˈprüf\

: something which shows that something else is true or correct

: an act or process of showing that something is true

“Believe what you want to believe.” “That’s fine for you.” “I’m not convinced.” “You can’t really prove it.” “Whatever.”

What if our lives were the proof of God’s love? What if the existence…no, the very presence of God…could be shown irrefutably through our lives…by our love for God and for others?

I am so weary of the cultural call to tolerance and acceptance. It’s as if that is as high as we can aim in society. Even in the church, we can be lulled to sleep…groveling at the altar of “Live and let live.” May it not be so…never be so. The truth is that in the adage of “Live and let live”, in real life, some actually die. Unloved. Without a thought.

Living a smaller life is so attractive – taking care of my own, having plenty of time for me, preparing for my retirement…and so it goes. Being responsible in these ways is a good thing, of course, yet God calls us to a larger life…of true, and genuine, life-giving and life-saving love.

If we are true followers of Jesus, God transforms us into a people who can express His unwavering love to each other and each other and each other…not in our own strength, but His, as we daily give ourselves to His love and His purposes.

What a wonder if those around us see us not just as nice or moral but as proof of God’s love…that our very lives resonate with something altogether different…something so winsome that we are seen in shadow, and God is manifested in all His glory!

Oh to love like that….may it be so, God.

[Jesus taught them, saying] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  – John 15:13

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  – Romans 5:8

This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,  being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11

We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: as He is, so are we in this world. – 1 John 4:16-17  

Worship with me….

The Proof of Your Love

If I sing but don’t have love
I waste my breathe with every song
I bring, an empty voice
A hollow noise

If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don’t have love
I leave a bitter taste
With every word I say

(Chorus)
So let my life be the proof
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You
And what You’re made of
How you lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof
The proof of Your love

If I give to a needy soul
But don’t have love then who is poor
It seems all the poverty
Is found in me

Chorus

Ooh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
When it’s all said and done
Ooh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
When we sing our final song

Only love remains
Only love remains

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7, The Message)

Chorus

(Music & Lyrics: Joel Smallbone / Luke Smallbone / Mia Fieldes / Jonathan Lee / Fred Williams / Ben Glover)

The Proof of Your Love – Official Music Video

YouTube video of The Proof of Your Love with Lyrics

Inside Look at the Song and the Video

For King & Country Website

Definition of Proof

Photo Credit

 

The Season of Small Ones – Mothering, God, & Gandalf

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“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

All the years of mothering have stretching bits, but the season of small ones was my most challenging. I was struck all over again just this weekend at the exquisite work of parenting. At our house church gathering, there were all these little guys weaving in and out around the tree-like adults in their way. Little ones belonging to three moms, pregnant with their next precious babies. A houseful of life and love and breath-taking responsibility.

I woke up the next morning thinking about those moms and others like them – holding the future in their arms.  What a gift children are – a heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3) – and what an important charge we’ve been given in training them up (Proverbs 22:6).  As moms, every day is on-the-job training for us, too, as we sort out how to guide  our children in setting their feet on course with God. We disciples making wee disciples.

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When we brought our first-born home from the hospital, we basked in the miracle of her. Then a few days into mothering , I sat with her in my lap, crying my eyes out. Some of it, most probably, related to post-partum hormones, but mostly I was undone by the weight of responsibility of caring for her…and trying to do it “right”. My husband was sitting across the room, taking in all this mystery of a beautiful baby girl and a wife weeping. I asked him, “What if something happens to her?!” He leaned in, with newborn tenderness, and reasoned with me, “If we only had her for a week, it’s a week of more joy than we’ve ever known before. We have to trust her with God.” From that moment on, we have been daily doing that transaction with the Lord – praying for our children and laying them back in His arms. They are, after all, His.

God calls us to remember for a reason. In the remembering, He gives us the clarity to see that He is always with us and especially in this season of small ones. I want to write more on this, but for now, young moms, take courage. In all the craziness of your day, with all that pulls at your time and attention, God sees you. He stands in the battle for you. Be strong in the Lord. We fight for our children in an alien culture that we call home, and we are not alone. God is with us today, and He will be with them in their future. Remember that, and teach them that.

I picture us moms, in a small way, like Gandalf in the LOTR Fellowship of the Ring scene. He stands valiantly between his small band of “children” and the terrible Balrog. His words resonate with my heart to protect and prepare my children – not just for their sake but for their future – for the Kingdom purposes God has for them. At the end of that scene, when it appeared Gandalf lost his life in that battle, his charges, sad but safe, turned and pushed on with their mission.  They had learned well from their teacher. Moms, “you are braver than you think…for the Lord your God is with you wherever you [and your children] go.”

Lisa-Jo Baker’s Book Surprised by Motherhood

Youtube video of LOTR Fellowship of the Ring – Gandalf Faces the Balrog

 

 

Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – A Story of God and a Girl

 

Genessa & April

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US, and we all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

Genessa with team

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 13 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven…and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

 

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

 

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

 

Worship Wednesday – Everything You Are is Good – Jaime Jamgochian

Blog - Worship Wednesday - EverythingYouAre

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

Everything You Are strikes so many chords in my heart. It was written in 2012 by Hope Darst and Jaime Jamgochian. The story of the song speaks to a season when Jaime was disheartened by how God was answering some of her prayers, and her friend, Hope, spoke His truth into her struggle.

Thank God for friends like Hope and Jaime who love God and love each other…and then put that message into a song that encourages the Church.

I love worship songs that talk right to God…because that’s what worship is about. We are called to worship God, and to speak out His character and His promises through the words of this song ministers to my heart. I’m sure it pleases Him to hear His children agree together, in worship, that He is working everything out in us. He has our past, present, and future covered by His love and according to His purposes.

I love the friendship that speaks truth in love…and how this song sets us singing right to God. Lastly, I love how honoring it is to Jesus. It baffles me that the whole world doesn’t love Jesus…if anyone did a critical study of His life, they would see how good He is…and how GOD He is. Each of us has this life He’s given us…these moments passing through…to reflect Him to those who don’t yet know Him…and to lavish both truth and love on each other, like Hope and Jaime in the writing of Everything You Are.

Worship with me.

Everything You Are

You promise a hope and a future
You promise good
You’ve given life everlasting
You’ve spoken truthChorus:
Everything You are is everything I need, Jesus
Everything You are is good.
Everything You are is everything I need, Jesus
Everything You are is so good.You offer love and forgiveness
You offer peace
You’ve given strength for my weakness
You’ve rescued me

(Repeat Chorus)

(Bridge)
You’re my rock, My salvation
In You I’m not shaken
You work all things for good
There’s no shadow of doubt that can silence my shout
For I know that You are good.

Everything You are is everything I need

How I need You.
Whoa
Everything You are is everything I need Jesus
Everything You are is so good
I believe
Everything You are is everything I need Jesus
Everything You are is good
So good
I need You
God I need You
All your ways, all Your plans,
Everything is in Your hands.
You’re good, so good, so good.

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Everything You Are

Story Behind the Song Everything You Are

Jaime Jamgochian – Worship Leader

Piano/Guitar Chord Tutorial for Everything You Are by Jaime

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Blog - Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

I just finished re-reading Surprised by Motherhood, because I wanted to write about it,  When I first heard about this book, this Spring, it wasn’t a title that would have captivated me. My children are grown now. Yet, I am surrounded by mothers and see them doing battle to raise their children up to know God and to be honoring in their relationships and responsibilities. I also see the battle fatigue in parenting, in mothering. Lisa-Jo Baker wrote this book for you, Dear Ones. Surprised by Motherhood is not a “how to” book; it is a “go through” book –  a story of life and family and God in the midst. You will find it full of shared experience; wrestling with what’s important; discovering joy in the chaos; laughing and crying and resting in Him.

Lisa-Jo Baker is a real woman – bright, funny, intuitive, and capable. I also envision, from her writing and the images on her blog, that she struggles with our same messy stuff of life that comes with little ones. Sticky table-tops, full laundry baskets, and very public, sometimes embarrassing displays of emotion by our kiddos. Yet, as you read, she speaks grace on herself, and on you.

I like her. We both are third-culture adults (people whose hearts are knit to two continents, at least). We both see God in the craziness of our lives…and have grown closer to Him as moms. We both have two sons and a daughter, and our passionate second-born sons have taught us both the most about ourselves. We both had children in our later 30’s. Our hearts have also been broken by the terrible problem of human trafficking in the world, and we want to change that. We have both spent much of our lives without our moms, her more years than me, but I resonate with that heart-ache of missing them. Her mom-in-law and I are both Debbies and we both pray for our children. I’m glad Lisa-Jo has such a woman in her life.

If you’re not a mom, or if you’re a man who has actually read thus far, I hope you’ll consider this book as well. There is so much to gain from her story. I leave you with just a taste in her own words:

About her mom: “She made room for people, so I never noticed how the house looked or what food she was serving. I saw how they all wanted to be with her. People stayed. The kids swam. Watermelons were split for dessert.” (p.23)

About church: “When I was growing up, church was a consistent, resilient heartbeat for our family…Church was a love language that spoke peace and comfort and home over my childhood.” (p. 32-33)

About a friend who entered their grief at the death of her mom: “Alex blew into the kitchen where we were trying to decide if we were hungry. The world felt like it was underwater, and it was hard to stand up, impossible to make decisions…We sat around that old pine table…as he cut hunks of bread, spread out meats and cheeses and tomato slices, and fed our empty parts. I didn’t know I was hungry until he arrived.” (p. 48-49)

About her 2y/o Micah who clung to her at church (and most all the time): “I rocked him and sang praise for his Maker…And suddenly, all those great and powerful phrases like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘loves like a hurricane’ and ‘blessed be the name of the Lord’ took on Technicolor meaning. With this boy wrapped in my arms, clinging to me, I understood what the God parent feels for me. To die for this love – yes, it made sense…In the music, in the rocking of the baby who was becoming a boy, I poured out my gratitude. And my arms – how they ached with the weight of it.” (p. 128-9)

On lessons learned in parenting – “I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids…But I believe God loves us too much to leave us flailing in our self-centered universes, so He delivers these tiny reflections of ourselves into our homes with earthquake effectiveness…Oh God, how I need You.” (p. 187-188)

There is so much love in this book. So much acceptance. So much real. I hope you pick up a copy and read the story of Lisa-Jo’s journey into motherhood, and through motherhood to a deeper walk with God and a sweet healing place for herself and her family…that is available to all of us Surprised by Motherhood…or just life itself.

Meet Lisa-Jo Baker – your cheerleader, friend, sister

Surprised by Motherhood Book Club – First 3 Chapters Free

(In)courage – “A bit like a beach house – a place where women could feel welcome without pretense, valued just the way they are. A place where we could put our sandy, dirty feet up on the coffee table and tell our real, hard stories. A place where people would listen. A place where women were brave enough to be vulnerable.”

Mighty – Mother’s Day Video by JourneyBox Media

Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of GOD

Blog - Habakkuk 3, 17ff

A Hymn of Faith – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives me hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

When God Alone is Sufficient – A sermon by Jeff Miller, Trinity Bible Church, Richardson, Texas

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe?

 

 

Worship Wednesday – With Every Act of Love by Jason Gray & Jason Ingram

Blog - Worship Wednesday - With Every Act of Love

[Image from www.richmond.com/www.homewardva.org]

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”        – Matthew 6:10

In downtown Richmond, Virginia, you will see people standing on corners with cardboard signs. The signs tell stories of veterans needing jobs, homeless begging food, the down-and-out asking for spare change. Signs made out of pieces of cardboard held out to the drivers stopped at intersections. Those of us in the safe insulation of our vehicles size up these requests and wonder if they speak to real life. Do these sign-holders look needy enough? Is it real destitution born out of hardship thrust on them or is it out of circumstances they brought on themselves? We try not to look into their eyes as the seconds tick by before the light changes to green, and then we accelerate past them and our discomfort fades as they do in our rear-view mirrors. God forgive us.

There have been times I’ve responded with some money, or staples from a grocery store trip, or some food from the order I just placed at the drive-through window a block away. Still, a little money or food or conversation or prayer only scratches the surface of what must be going on in the lives of people willing to stand exposed, with a cardboard sign, on a city street. Responding in any way that “leans in” is at least moving in the direction of Kingdom living…Kingdom building…but we must not stop there.

Jason Gray explains how he came to write the lyrics of this song, “The Gospel is clearly a theology of deeper engagement and restoration and redemption ….Yes, the Kingdom will come, but the Kingdom is coming, day by day, moment by moment, and that we’re invited to play a part in that Kingdom coming, right now, right here, with every act of love we do…With every act of love, we get to be a part of God’s Kingdom coming. I love that.”

BLog - Jason Gray #2

Dear God, help us to know and practice authentic love for You and for “the least of these” whoever they are. Also we pray that we  infuse every moment of our lives with the love You’ve given us. Given not just for our pleasure but meant to bless the nations – our own children, and these whom You know and love on the streets of our cities…and in places far from us, but not far from You. Give us wisdom, God, and hearts like Yours.

Reaching out to the poor and displaced can be complicated, but we all were poor and displaced, and God reached out to us. My prayer is that we wrestle with this daily in a way that stirs our hearts to prayer and surrenders our hands and feet (and finances) to a good and generous God. If we build margin in our lives for the needy, God will grow capacity in us to serve them in ways that bring them the Kingdom.

Worship with me…

With Every Act of Love [Lyrics] – lyric video below

Sitting at the stoplight
He can’t be bothered by the heart cry
Written on the cardboard in her hand
But when she looks him in the eye
His heart is broken open wide
And he feels the hand of God reach out through him
As Heaven touches earth

(Chorus)
Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

There’s silence at the table
He wants to talk but he’s not able
For all the shame that’s locked him deep inside
But her words are the medicine
When she says they can begin again
And forgiveness will set him free tonight
As Heaven touches earth

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

Publishing: © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing, Nothing Is Wasted Music (ASCAP) / Sony-ATV Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music (SESAC)

Writer(s): Jason Gray, Jason Ingram

With Every Act of Love – Official Lyric Video

Life Will Have the Final Word album by Jason Gray

Story Behind With Every Act of Love

Derry Prenkert’s Notes from 2014 Global Leadership Summit – Brian Loritts on God’s intent for the Church in doing good

Baptist Global Response to the Tragically Displaced

Jason Gray Music

Worship Wednesday – Wholly Yours – David Crowder

Blog - A Collision Album by David Crowder Band

As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because as it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

 

How can we be holy like God? How is that possible? These verses, and others in the Bible, on holiness have filled me with wonder both at God’s complete holiness and our frail flesh.

The Apostle Paul even said, in his letter to the Roman church, that the things he wants to do, he doesn’t, and the things he doesn’t want to do, he does. His lament over this (in Romans 7) is followed immediately by a declaration of faith: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 

David Crowder wrote a song that revels in the holiness of God and His manifested holiness in us. It is Wholly Yours from the David Crowder*Band A Collision album (2005). The word holy means set apart, special, different from the world*. Being holy is not just about conduct or morality; being holy relates to who we are as Christ-followers. Saved from our sin by His death on the cross, and living transformed lives through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

 

Crowder’s mom actually gave him the inspiration for the lyric of Wholly Yours. She wrote him, in a letter, about her own wrestling with how to “be holy as [He is] holy”. Then she told David how a friend sorted it out: “Covered by grace we, being in Christ, are holy as He is Holy, and thus the only hope we have for holiness is to bring the whole of our lives under the coverings of Christ. To be wholly under Christ’s rule and reign is to be found holy, as Christ is Holy.”

 

The more surrendered we are to God, the more our lives are His, moment by moment, to radiate who He is – His love, His grace, His holiness. When we are wholly His, we can amazingly be “holy as He is holy.”

Worship with me:

I am full of earth
You are heaven’s worth
I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity
You are everything that is bright and clean
The antonym of me
You are divinity
But a certain sign of grace is this
From the broken earth flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt

You are holy, holy, holy
All heaven cries “Holy, holy God”
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to be holy like You are

You are everything that is bright and clean
And You’re covering me with Your majesty
And the truest sign of grace was this
From wounded hands redemption fell down
Liberating man
But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel
The depth of our fall and the weight of it all
And so this might could be the most impossible thing
Your grandness in me making me clean

Glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
So here I am, all of me
Finally everything
Wholly, wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly, wholly
Yours

I am full of earth and dirt and You.

 

Written by David Crowder ©2005 worshiptogether.com Songs / sixsteps Music (ASCAP) Admin by EMI CMG Publishing

Lyrics & Back Story

Crowder Music

What Does God Mean When He Asks Us to Be Holy as He Is Holy?

Destined to Be Holy – Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest

J.C. Ryle on Holiness

*Definition of the Word Holy in Scripture

YouTube Video – Wholly Yours w/ Lyrics

To My Younger Self

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 088 - Blog (3)I feel so tender toward that little girl and young woman that I used to be. There was a time, not so many years ago, that memories of my childhood through my twenties made me flush with confusion, anger and regret. I was hard on that younger self.  Growing older and deeper in love with God gives such glorious perspective.

If only I could go back and reassure myself then with what I know now….

To that school-age girlIMG_0008 (2)I would say, “God sees you. He is good. He will keep you safe. (Psalm 33)”

My parents divorced before this wee version of me was six. Lives turned topsy-turvy as Mommy sorted out how to care for four little children, and Daddy disappeared. She did take care of these little ones, and that was a glimpse for this mini-me of what I know now. God reached out to this little girl through strangers. Neighbors invited us to church, and there we learned of a good God who loved us and would never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). I gradually trusted this Father God.

To that high-school girl – I would say, “Look at yourself through God’s eyes, Girl. See how gifted and beautiful you really are. You matter to God, and that is all that really matters.” That teen-aged version of me had the usual adolescent angst and then some. She worked so hard to please others and sought approval from her peers, approval that would never be satisfied. Those years started a pendulum swinging between the church which she loved and the world where she wanted to be loved. I want to wrap my arms around that bewildered teenaged me and plant into her heart the sweet truth of her identity in Christ. Somehow she [I] missed that message in those years…of  who we are in Christ – His child, a new creation, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, and complete in Him (John 12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

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To that young woman in her twenties – I would say, “You don’t have to make things happen. See how God has already worked…trust yourself into His hands. He’s working everything out” (Romans 8:28). That 20-something me had done well academically and was situated in a challenging and fascinating job. Life was still a bit dizzying because, not having had this talk yet (or the one I would give my teenaged self), she was still of a mind that she was messed up somehow. Maybe it was the still present father wound, or the disappointments of her teen years, but she struggled with enormous self-doubt and deep guilt. She believed one day she would be “exposed” and everyone would see that she didn’t know enough, wasn’t good enough, somehow had faked her way through life. I remember vividly the strain of these years on that younger me. I am thankful for Godly women, in those days, who loved that younger me – so driven, restless, and searching. It took some convincing, but thanks to their not giving up on her, and the Holy Spirit stirring her heart, she [I] took hold of the God who had never let go all those years.

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Those early years of pain, loss, and confusion seem long ago now. Looking back, though, I find God there with that younger me. ..so gentle and patient. I am not able to speak to that younger self, but there are younger ones in my life today that remind me of her. Listening, I speak to them.

Your Identity in Christ