Tag Archives: faith

Worship Wednesday – Belief and Unbelief – Jesus Is Better – Austin Stone

Photo Credit: Slideshare

He [Jesus] marveled because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6

“…if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” “If You can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who believes!” Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”Mark 9:22b-24

My ambition has never been to make Jesus marvel at my unbelief. In fact, I’ve written about believing here and here. It is what I want in life. To know Him and to make Him known.

This past Sunday, our pastor, Cliff, taught on Mark 6. It was the account of Jesus’ return to his hometown to preach and heal. The townspeople who knew Jesus from an early age called into question his authority and ability to do the miracles which characterized his public ministry. They chose to be offended by him…they chose not to believe.

Cliff described belief as where our aim is. “[God] takes even small faith aimed at Him (in belief) and does great things with it and for those who believe.”

When we choose to be offended by Christians, or the church, or the religion of Christianity, we turn away from all things Christ.

In unbelief.

In unbelief, we lose Jesus – that beautiful representation of God Himself. Too great a loss…too great.

I’ve had seasons when the aim of my life shifted away from Jesus…and it showed…in my decisions, my relationships, my character.

Before I got too far down any of those roads away from God, He drew me back to Himself. Unbelief will not characterize my life! “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”

The song Jesus Is Better (by Austin Stone Worship) is a great testament to the excellence of knowing Christ. He is better than any other person, pleasure, or pursuit. He is perfect in love and life.

After Cliff’s message on Sunday, I asked someone close to me, “If you believe that Jesus was truly good and only did good, what keeps you from believing Him and wanting to know all you can know of Him?”

What keeps us from Jesus? Unbelief.

Jesus is worthy of our faith and our belief. We deceive ourselves if we refuse Him, reject Him…to our eternal peril. Choosing separation from Him in this life and the next.

This is both sobering and terrifying.

Believe.

Worship with me.

There is no other
So sure and steady
My hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble
And breath is fleeting
Upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory glory we have no other king
but Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem
Our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule
has shattered and broken
the curse of sins’ tyranny

My life is hidden
‘neath heaven’s shadow
And your crimson flood
covers me

Glory glory
we have no other king
but Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem
Our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all*

So little in life we can control really, BUT we can control where we fix our aim…where we set our minds.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…As God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.  Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Colossians 3:1-2, 12-15

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis; The Time-Warn Wife

*Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – Songwriters: Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

YouTube Video – Jesus Is Better – Story Behind the Song

YouTube Video – Jesus Is Better (Live) – Jimmy McNeal

Movement Church – Podcast on Unbelief/Belief – Mark 6:1-6 – Pastor Cliff Jordan

Movement Church Facebook Live – Worship May 20 2018 – Mark 6:1-6 Sermon

Case Study: Too Late for Salvation? – Journal of Christian Nursing – Deborah Stephens Mills & Kathleen T. Flynn

Jesus Is Better – Melissa Kruger

Sermon Slide Deck – “I Believe; Help my Unbelief” – Luke 9:37-45 – SlideShare

Worship Wednesday – I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: David Joyce, Flickr

Yesterday, driving to an appointment, an old Chris Tomlin song came on the radio. It touched my heart in an unusual way. Familiar words, I Lift My Hands stilled my thoughts for the moment. God drew me to Himself, and worship flowed. Not even thinking, one hand on the steering wheel, my other hand rose… I made a note on my phone of that old song and didn’t think about it again. Then early this morning, the Bible reading for today was in Psalm 63.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.Psalm 63:3-4

I wanted to write on joy today. Especially after reading Psalm 63-65. That unquenchable joy at all the good in our lives. New babies. Graduations. Weddings. Health. Milestones. Victories.

Then my newsfeed on Facebook brought the news that a friend’s sister died yesterday. Heidi Lodenstein – 47 years young. Adored by her husband. Two children at home. Glioblastoma. Devoted daughter of an all-loving God who chose not to heal the cancer here but received her Home, healed There. Sad? For that sweet family and friend group. Joy in grief?…abundantly so.

A Lament for Heidi – Cindy DeBoer

We lost a dear friend to glioblastoma a couple of years back as well. He left behind a much-loved wife and three darling little daughters. As we prayed through those months of his disease, while he fought for his life, we asked for miracles of healing. On this side of Heaven, it wasn’t meant to be.

At his funeral, Dave and I sat, tears on our faces, along with his family and friends. Sad with the loss of him. Yet, there was also something else. Something from so deep in us all, it had to push up and out. It was a strange and magnificent joy. How grateful we were to have known him. To have been a part of something bigger than all of us…with him. To be connected forever with each other by the God he trusted…and we trusted.

Joy. Even in that awful grief.

At that funeral, we lifted our hearts to the God who brought us all together…to be comforted together…and especially by Him. To breathe in the peace that we would see our friend again…whole and himself.

Whatever your situation is right now, my prayer for you is to know joy… May the object of your joy be the Lord Himself, who turns our weeping into dancing…our sorrow into joy [Psalm 30].

Worship with me.

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak
Let faith arise
Let faith arise

[Chorus]
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me
So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

[Chorus]*

Sometimes our thoughts take us place we weren’t aiming to go. Today I wanted to write about joy. It flowed out of sorrow…but it flowed full. 

Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help,
when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary…May the Lord be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed. Save Your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:2, 6-9

[Postscript: Presently reading Rob Morgan‘s The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times. It came at a good time.]

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – I Lift My Hands – Official Lyric Video

*Lyrics to I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher

Story Behind the Song I Lift My Hands – New Release Today – Kevin Davis

God Gives Us Joy in Grief – John Piper

YouTube Video – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times – Robert J. Morgan

Heath Has Finished His Race… – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Desperate Faith – Healing Is In Your Hands – Christy Nockels

Photo Credit: Everyday Theologian, Rod Ovitt

When Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the sea. 22 One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet and kept begging Him, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay Your hands on her so she can get well and live.”Mark 5:21-23

Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had been afflicted for twelve years by an issue of bleeding. She had suffered greatly under the care of many physicians and had spent all she had, but to no avail. Instead, her condition had only grown worse.…Mark 5:24-26

The Biblical accounts of two desperate daughters are found in three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). In Mark 5, we see Jesus in a throng of people pressing in to be close to him. Jairus, the local religious leader, manages to get to him on behalf of his very ill 12-year-old daughter. Jesus agrees to go home with Jairus. He would heal this beloved child.

Then the drama escalates as a woman, plagued with a bleeding disorder for 12 years, also pushes through the crowd to get to Jesus. For all those years, she had tried everything to be well, to have the sentence of “unclean” removed from her daily existence. Just imagine being this woman. Refused admission into any religious service. For 12 years. Known and avoided by all in her village. For 12 years. If married, even unable to cook for her family or have the nearness of their company.

In desperate faith, this unnamed woman, having heard of Jesus, believed in his ability to heal her. She reckoned that all she needed to do was to touch the edge of his robe, and she could be healed.

She squeezed through the crowd, surely having to conceal her identity…and reached just far enough…to touch the hem of his garment. She was healed immediately.Photo Credit: Magdala

The riveting account of this divine encounter goes on to reveal to us that Jesus knew power had gone out of him. In the teeming crowd, he recognized one, in particular, had touched him. When she came forward to identify herself, he greeted her with the tenderest of words:

“Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.” [Mark 5:33]

Desperate faith is not about working up to enough faith for God to move in a miraculous way. The most critical factor in faith is its object. Both Jairus and this afflicted woman had faith in Jesus – they believed he could heal and they leaned on him in their struggle.

Photo Credit: Preparing the Way

Did we forget about Jairus? No we did not. However, within this story there is another truth. Sometimes, we have to wait…what seems an eternity…but not really. Even in the short delay to get back home, his little daughter had died. While he waited on Jesus’ encounter with this woman (whom he surely knew and knew she was unclean), he must have been aghast at how her touch would make Jesus unclean.

No…that isn’t how it goes. Nothing we bring to Jesus changes his nature. Jesus transforms our uncleanness. He moves us, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, from death to life. In our desperation, when we know there is nowhere to go but to him, he is there. Present. Ready to release his power on our behalf…because he loves us. In turn, we love him…and whatever is causing heartache in our lives fades in comparison.Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

Jesus didn’t keep Jairus’ daughter from dying, but he brought her back to life. Neither she, nor her father, nor anyone else who witnessed this would ever be the same.

One last thought…what about all the rest of the crowd jostling Jesus? Only two pushed through in faith. Only two had life-changing encounters with him. The rest must have been merely curious. May it never be so for us. When our struggles leave us grasping desperately for help…may our reach find the One who knows exactly what we need and responds with love and power.

Worship please with me to the song Healing Is In Your Hands by Christy Nockels:

No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know
Could keep us from Your love
No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough
To keep us from Your love
To keep us from Your love

How high, how wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands

Our present, our future, our past is in Your hands
We’re covered by Your blood
We’re covered by Your blood

How high, How wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands

In all things we know that
We are more than conquerors
You keep us by Your love*

Dear Ones, if you find yourself in a desperate situation right now, lean on the One who would go to a cross for you. Don’t give fear or evil pin you down…push through and, in faith, in belief in Him…touch your Healer. He is just that near to us.

*Lyrics to Healing Is In Your Hands – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Matt Redman, Nathan Nockels

YouTube Video – Healing Is In Your Hands – Christy Nockels

What Is the Meaning of the Story of the Woman With an Issue of Blood? – Got Questions

The Tale of Two Daughters – Mark 5 – Betsy Barber

The Woman With the Issue of Blood – Luke 8:43-48 – Shane Martin

YouTube Video – All I Need – Brian Courtney Wilson

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

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ludolf Backhuysen

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

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

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

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

Just so tired.

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

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

Sheesh!

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

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

We will make safe harbor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Songs for Hard Times – Kim Jones

11 Songs to Get You Through Hard Times – Elise Cleary

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

Worship Wednesday – the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

For the first twenty years of my professional life, I was privileged to have close encounters with five life-changing realities. It was a season of caring for cancer patients and their families – when their diseases were raging and in the final days of life. These experiences galvanized my faith in God and how his image is embedded in us – his creation. These realities are:

  1. Courage in exceedingly hard places
  2. Deep enduring love across a harsh illness and when time is fleeting
  3. Hope mingled with humor
  4. Death isn’t final…our spirits go somewhere (for sure, they leave the body)
  5. Faith to believe

Caring for patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for life-threatening complications can prompt an intimate caring relationship. To watch patients (and families) deal with such hard and to be in a position to help them through it gave me a window to extend love and honor to dear ones in crisis.

Was there always courage? Was love always expressed between us all? Was humor or hope or faith a constant?

No…but remarkably, more often than not, this was what I observed… especially in those sustained by a relationship with God.

In the last couple of years, I personally have experienced a cancer diagnosis and a couple of respiratory emergencies that brought those same realities into my life. In such times, much in life gets clarity…a sharper focus, a deeper understanding.

Breathe has been a theme in my life for over a year now…put that together with the title of a film starring Andrew Garfield…and it caused me to NOT “skip the ad” on YouTube.Photo Credit: Breathe, YouTube

I was unaware of Robin Cavendish until I saw the trailer for the film Breathe. Cavendish was a Brit who developed polio at the young age of 28. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required a ventilator to breathe. In those days (1958), he would have been confined in a hospital for the remainder of his days. However, he nor his wife, Diana, would hear of it. After a year in hospital, he went home and adjusted to this very different life, as only Robin would. They had a child and he would be able to see him grow up (in fact, son Jonathan Cavendish produced this film). Robin was a pioneer in advocating for the disabled, especially those like him needing more extreme measures to live a more normal life. He died at 64.

[Since my years in graduate studies in rehab and cancer nursing…the courage I saw in so many patients and families…courage in struggle…never ceased to inspire me.]

I am always intrigued about “based on a true story” films. Reading up on Robin Cavendish’s story, my heart soared and then sank…fullstop at the short statement below:

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

I have never understood atheism. Even during spiritually flat and confusing times in my life, the existence of God has never been at question.

Especially watching beloved patients at the moment of death…their faces relaxing and their bodies emptying of who they really were. We don’t just stop existing…life here stops and starts at exactly the same moment…There.

Now that I know Robin Cavendish, he has my admiration and respect at how he took back his life and helped others do the same. I wonder if, before his life was done…if he had the faith to believe. One line in his obituary reads:

It is a strange irony that, though professing to be an unbeliever himself, he had a capacity for making other people feel closer to God.*

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

What a great gift is faith to believe. We don’t conjure it up. God Himself presents us the faith to believe…it is ours to reject or receive.

Worship with me. Below you will find two songs – Faith to Believe by Shane & Shane and Jesus Is Better by Austin Stone. Choose either or both in celebrating the God who gives us the faith to believe. [Then scroll down to the prayer at the end.]

YouTube Video – Shane & Shane – Faith to Believe – (with lyrics)

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the strength to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot see You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it**

There is no other so sure and steady, my hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule has shattered and broken the curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow, Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all***

Photo Credit: Flickr

Maybe this is the first step for atheists, too (it was for me)…so thankful for the faith to believe…to see the truth and beauty of Scripture. The Word of God walks us right up the staircase to be with Him – now and forever.

Thank You, God, for the faith to believe. With my whole being, I’m sure you daily, moment by moment, extend grace to all of humanity to know You, through one witness of Yourself or another. Help us to receive this grace. God, give us all this faith to believe.

**Lyrics to Faith to Believe – written by Shane Everett & Phil Wickham

***Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – written by Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

Worship Wednesday – A Pilgrim’s Progress – Matt Papa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

During a difficult period of life, Matt Papa wrote a song about our journey as pilgrims in this world. A worship leader, known for penning theologically rich modern hymns, Matt faced a time of emptiness when the Lord pressed him to “keep running”.

“The song arrived very late in the process of making the album (Look & Live). I was flying up to Nashville to record the rest of the vocals. This was January, and we just had our third child. Life felt as crazy as it had ever felt. The transition for us from 2 to 3 kids felt like a punch in the gut. I admit I have an artist’s temperament — my highs are high and my lows are low — so I’ve struggled over the years with depression. I was praying as I was flying up to Nashville and I kept hearing that phrase, ‘Keep running!’ I felt like the Lord was saying it, I felt like the cloud of witnesses was saying it, just put your head down and keep fighting. I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to finish the song and record it, and I worked hard over the next couple of weeks to finish it. I don’t know why, but my prayer for that song is this; I really want people who are contemplating suicide or battling depression to hear this song, and I pray that the Lord would use that in their lives to encourage them to keep going…to keep looking to Christ.”Matt Papa

Matt Papa – A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’) – Daily Play MPE

The Word of God is filled with encouragements for our heavy, dark times…when we just want to quit – to stop in our tracks, turn aside, and take an easier path.

During Jesus’ public ministry – a time of wonder and miracles – he lost followers because his way seemed too hard for them. Once (John 6) when he turned to his closest disciples, he asked them would they leave, too.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

We all have suffered different losses, struggles, difficulties in life, and compared ours as less or more doesn’t really compute. Whatever is hard for me (or you) is just that…hard. When life pins us down and we struggle to get out from under the weight, Peter’s words always come to mind for me. “To whom shall we go?”

For me, there is nowhere else to run but to Jesus. That’s not to say I do always. Disparaging of my situation, I may fall to complaining or searching for a way out, any way out…besides through Jesus’ grace and strength.

For the days we find ourselves slogging through, almost to a complete stop, God promises he is for us (Romans 8:31-38). He will never leave us, and we will reap the harvest he has prepared for us…if we don’t give up.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Today, if I had a literal race to run, it would not go well. Yesterday, I reached down to a low shelf in the refrigerator to pull out leftovers for lunch. In an instant, something happened in my back, and the pain was excruciating. This was my very first encounter of back pain the kind I hear others experience. It is still with me today – as I have to do everything carefully, at times in slow-motion. Whatever falls to the floor will have to stay there…today.

Fortunately, no literal footrace awaits my toe on the line. A journey does continue for this pilgrim. A race of faith and endurance still draws us, whatever our situation. Thankfully, the Lord’s call to “keep running” is never ever without His presence or His provision.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Please worship with me (lyrics below)…and let’s keep running.

Lord I’m tired, so tired from travelin
This straight and narrow is so much harder than I thought
On this path, I’ve met both doubt and pain
I’ve heard their voices say
“Yeah, you’ve given all you’ve got”

But there’s a crowd of witnesses,
the ones who’ve run this race
and even louder than my fears they’re crying
“Boy, you lift your face. . .!”

“. . . .keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t you give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

On this road, this fight for holiness
I’ve struggled and I’ve bled
through these dangers, toils, and snares.
And I have foes,
their siren voices call
saying “Boy, you’re about to fall,
with that heavy cross you bear”

I remember there was ONE who died to win this race
He took the cross, he crushed the grave
Oh I can hear my Saviour say . .

“Keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

Don’t turn aside
No compromise
Just lift your eyes
To the glory that’s comin’.
If you’re like me
you feel like you can’t go on,
you’ll never see the dawn,
and you’re just about to break . .
but don’t stop now
Know that every sacrifice
It’ll all be worth the price
when you finally see His face . . . . . . . .

Just keep runnin’
Don’t lose heart; don’t you give up now
Don’t turn around, you’ve got to find a way somehow
Dig deeper, run harder,
The pain cannot compare to the reward that will be yours; it waits in store for all who just keep…
So take my hand because we can’t do this alone
Until you hear “Well done”,
Until your race is complete
Find a way to just
Keep runnin’
Keep dreamin’
Keep darin’
Believin’
Keep workin’
Keep waitin’
Keep servin’
Keep prayin’
Keep movin’, keep tryin’, keep hopin’, keep fightin’, keep goin’,
He’s waiting
Arms open; He’s comin’
Keep runnin’*

Photo Credit: YouTube

None of this we do alone…we have God with us every step of the way. This is not a “do it in our own strength” thing. We are carried by His strength, and we run beside each other, encouraging and recalling the truth of His loving words to us…until we both reach the prize at the finish.

*Lyrics to A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’)

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe

Photo Credit: Into Weakness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now…back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

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

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

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

Worship with me, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is well with my soul*

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

*Lyrics – Even If

5 Friday Faves – Kids in Costume, Infographic for Learners, Words, Eric Metaxas, and Walking to School

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It’s Friday! Another week finished… I’m looking forward to catching up with some family this weekend. How about you? Choosing favorite finds for the week was difficult – lots to choose from, but some were most note-worthy negatively rather than friendly favorites – political commentary, etc. I decided to stay more upbeat with the faves posted. So here they are.

1) Kids in Costume – Don’t you love kids in costume? When our children were preschoolers, we had a toy-chest full of dress-up clothes thanks to grandmothers who made or found fun outfits for them. Some of those costumes ended up overseas with us. [See below.}img_9943With Halloween around the corner, I’m sure we’ll see kids of all ages in their favorite character wear. It’s nice when there are more opportunities to dress-up besides just this one day of the year (like superhero day at school). We didn’t celebrate Halloween when our kids were growing up, but I do love the costumes….well, and the candy (but that’s another topic). There’s sometime transformative when kids put these kinds of duds on… Let the bravado begin!blog-kids-in-costume-bourdoff-familyPhoto Credit: Aaron and Jamie Burdorf

2) Infographic of Usual Tips for All Types of Learners – Two of my favorite things to discover are 1) infographics and 2) helps for various types of learners. Here it’s two-in-one. Design Taxi created a study guide to aid four types of learners – the visual learner, the auditory learner, the read and write learner, and the kinesthetic learner. I’m a blend of visual and read/write learner. Check out the infographic, especially you students out there – could help you change gears through your heavy reading assignments and exams. As an example, a visual learner comprehends more information off a printed page rather than a screen. Highlighting words in my notes also helps me focus on key concepts. Lots of great study hacks.blog-lachlan-brown-infographic-of-useful-tips-twitter

Photo Credit: Lachlan Brown, Twitter

3) Words – Gary Chapman has written several books around the theme of love languages. Here’s one. Chapman defines love languages as the ways we most clearly experience love from a spouse, a friend, a coworker. He lists five love languages – touch, words of affirmation, gifts, time, and acts of service. Words are definitely one of my love languages. I really appreciate when people affirm something they see in me that they love.

My mama was always encouraged by the gift of words.  In 2002, the cancer she had already had for two years was getting worse. She died in November 2002. Some time afterward, I was one of the family responsible for packing up her personal belongings. In the drawers of her computer desk, she had hundreds of cards.img_9942

I just couldn’t throw them away. That day, too near to her dying, I just put them all in a box.  Just this week I pulled them out and went through them. It was a huge and healing experience. All the words – cards chosen by friends and family in the year of her fiercest battle. All the words that they also wrote to her to express their love and to remind her how strong she was…and how big her God was. As I read through card after card, I could feel the deep love between these card writers and my mom. Some of these friends have also died since Mom died. So grateful for the legacy of these words and the love they expressed so beautifully. Thankful for them…and for you who took the time to share them with her.

That era when people sent cards…I miss it. What a blessing to have folks in my life who still write and send cards. Those words fill my heart and lighten the load.

4) Eric Metaxas – Do you know him? His writing and speaking have been excellent company for me this year.  Eric Metaxas is a historian, writer, lecturer, and social commentator. His books include Bonhoeffer, 7 Men, 7 Women, and most recently If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Metaxas has been a strong conservative voice in this election year. I have learned from him.President Barack Obama stands with keynote speaker Eric Metaxas as Vice President Joe Biden takes their photo during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.blog-eric-metaxas-eventbritePhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Eventbrite

What has been especially gratifying for me this year is Metaxas’ take on what is happening in our country. I am ignorant about so many things and he has aided my understanding of some of the cultural changes we are experiencing.

[A sidebar on Metaxas is that he was once a wary and restless intellectual. Then at the age of 25, he had a dream that drew him to a personal faith in God. He describes more about his faith in the I Am Second video. Still a studied intellectual, he is focused, fearless, and empassioned…a Christ-follower and patriot.]

5) Walking to School – This week, on Facebook, I saw a video short entitled School The World: Journey. It compared two children’s very different experiences of getting to school each day. One was a young Guatemalan boy whose trek to school took him 2 1/2 hours.

I then discovered another film by French director Pascal Plisson. This documentary, On the Way to School, follows four children (in Kenya, India, Morocco, and Argentina) on their difficult paths to schools far from their homes. We take easily accessible education so for granted in the West.  Tymm Hoffman, a regular guy, who works for Compassion International decided to do something about this…at least for one community, for now. He and his wife, Laura, spearheaded a great effort called Brighton Their World. One of the goals of this was to fund a school in Ethiopia. Brighton Academy is a reality today, thanks to them and those who help support this great work. By the way, Brighton is the name of one of their children – all of whom were born in Ethiopia, but he died before coming home to them in the States.

On the Way to School – Film Review

Bonus: 16 Personalities – The Myers-Briggs [Personality] Type Indicator(MBTI) is a fascinating look at our differences. It’s not really about putting us in some behavior box; it’s about seeing what our preferences are how we are energized, how we take in information, and how we make decisions. I’ve enjoyed knowing coworkers’ personalities (based on the MBTI)…it’s helped me better understand them and how to communicate to them in ways they prefer. Cuts through a lot… Anyway, here’s a free test with good commentary.  In case you’re interested, I’m an ENFP – a “campaigner”. What is your personality type?

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Photo Credit: Snapcraft

Have a sweet weekend…be safe. Share your favorites with us in the Comments. Thanks!

Worship Wednesday – God Who Moves the Mountains – Dustin Smith

blog-mountain-pixabayPhoto Credit: Pixabay

“…Truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Jesus – Matthew 17:20

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”  – Jesus – Matthew 13:31-32

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Jesus – Luke 17:6

Jesus taught about faith many times to his slow-to-understand disciples. Like them, we can get things backward, thinking that if we only had greater faith, we could pray more effectively and act more powerfully. It’s not about the mustard seed-size of our faith. It’s always been about the object of our faith.

What a relief and what a challenge. If my faith has to be big enough to deal with cancer, a job for a friend, the poor health of our dads, or this world’s woes, the focus is on me. That won’t get us far at all.

With eyes on God, there is no limit to the majesty or sufficiency of His presence and provision in our lives. Eyes on God.

When we look just for what we pray, we try to put almighty Creator God into a small box of “here and now”, while He is working out His purposes for both today and forever. Yet, He calls us to trust Him for the smallest desire of our hearts, at the same time, drawing us to the greatest love possible…in Him.

blog-healing-st-james-united-methodist-churchPhoto Credit: STJConnect

I trip over wanting to have a greater faith in God than I have at present…but it’s not about going after more faith, it’s going after God Himself. He is more than big enough for whatever situation we are facing today…and He is good…and He loves us. Hallelujah!

You demonstrate faith not by what you say but by what you do. Faith shows up in your feet, not just in your feelings. That is why Paul instructed us to “walk by faith,” not to “talk by faith.” Faith is an action. Jesus said that whoever has faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain into the sea. The power of faith isn’t based on who you are, it’s based simply on who God is. Your faith is as big as the God you believe in. Like David facing the giant, sometimes God gives you a bigger-than-life problem so that He can show you His bigger-than-Goliath solution. Keep your eyes on Him…He is faithful. Tony Evans

Worship with me to Dustin Smith’s God Who Moves Mountains. He wrote this song as part of his Healing Is Right project. Within the song performance, there is space, for the singer/worshipper to pray. Pray in your worship today for that deep hurt in your heart today…for that undone thing…for your eyes to be fixed on God who loves you and is working out His will in this thing…Whether you see it yet or not…see Him. Eyes on God.

He is not confined, He confounds
He will not resign, He resounds
He is not restrained, hear the sound
Oh hear the sound

Rocks are falling, the broken calling
To the God who moves the mountains
The Earth is shaking, the weary waking
To the God who moves the mountains
You’ve gotta move this mountain

He is not surprised, he surrounds
He can not be stopped, he astounds
He is drawing near, hear the sound
oh hear the sound

You say speak, so we say, “Move!”
You say watch what You can do
You say, trust, and then You prove
You’re the God who moves the mountains
You’re the God who moves the mountains*

*Lyrics to God Who Moves Mountains – Writers: Dustin Smith, David Leonard, Richie Fike

YouTube Video – God Who Moves Mountains (Live from Dustin Smith)

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart (with Lyrics) – Babbie Mason

You Are Meant to Move Mountains – Desiring God – Jon Bloom

How Jesus Helped His Disciples to Increase Their Faith – Desiring God – John Piper

The Confidence of Faith – Tony Evans

Saturday Short – Explore God – Tackling the Hard Questions

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

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

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

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

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