Tag Archives: Gospel

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

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

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Saved. What does that mean? Saved from what? For what?

I had been unchurched for most of my young life. When first exposed to the Bible, God drew me to Himself, and I was saved as a 9-year-old child. This holy and winsome God reached into the heart of a lost little girl and showed divine mercy. Saved was something my mom couldn’t do for me, nor could I do it for myself.

Even at 9, the wretchedness of sin was very real to me – both as a receiver of others’ sinful behavior and as a doer myself. People can be so hateful, uncaring, deliberately mean. Contrast that with a God who demonstrated such a love to us that in our most messed-up nature, He made a way for us to come back to Him…through the perfect, sinless Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the moment, I’m not going to deal with how it is one can be saved but you can find more here. Explore God is a great resource.

Since the day that I received God’s greatest gift, the life available only through Jesus, living for Him has always been my desire.

Seasons come, however, when my heart’s desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural messages that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely I have not always been faithful to speak the glorious truth of Him and His gift to us in salvation.

Oh…the silence of wanting my own comfort over care of one who doesn’t yet know God’s love. My heart breaks at this.

During worship at Movement Church, on Sunday, we sang a song new to me. The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. Then Cliff preached from 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (podcast here). The focus of this scripture, teaching, and worship was to encourage us, as church, as saved peoples, to “persevere and refuse to be silent”.

Photo Credit: Twitter

We are never too old or too far gone down the world’s path to return to God and His great cause.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What is the cause of Christ? We, who know Jesus, have been saved from the sin embedded in us from the first sinners and we have been saved from living ourselves in unbridled sin for all our lives. We are saved for God’s purposes – to live to serve Him and others in truth; to proclaim that saving truth in word and deed to all those God places in our lives. We are saved for fellowship (community) with God now and forever.

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Twitter

“…how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.  For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. – the Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

The Only Name (Yours Will Be) by Big Daddy Weave (words & lyrics by Benji Cowart)

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire

Photo Credit: Amazon

Whew! Just had my coffee and was fixing to get up from the computer and getting on with the day…and an intriguing video came up. As I watched the video and listened to the words, my heart felt like it went up in my throat, and tears flowed. This is no sentimental, puppy dog, country music song. It was a commentary on our lives today…and what the solution is for the what’s wrong with our world.

I may be buying my first Reba McEntire album. Sing It Now – Songs of Faith & Hope (Release February 2017) is McEntire’s first Gospel album. 2 CDs. One is described as songs from her childhood – hymns she sang in church growing up. The other CD is comprised of new songs from various songwriters. Back to God, written by Randy Houser and Dallas Davidson, is mesmerizing. View it right here:

Have you looked around, have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away when you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days are you not afraid
That it’s too late?

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

We can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love? Do you feel like giv’n up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay? Will they come home safe?
And do you lie there hoping?

You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
It won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
Gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best, make a wish, the only answer is
We give this world back to God

Gotta give this world back to God
Give this world back to God*

Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

I did struggle with one line, at first: “We’re still worth saving”.

There is too much emphasis today on us and me…rather than He. God. I watch the mean-spirited attacks on one another in media today (“social” and mainstream)…and am dumbfounded. Especially when the attacks are Christian against Christian. Not how Jesus taught us. However…and it’s a big however – God has placed value on us…on all of us. It’s not what we think about ourselves (our significance, our political ideology, our messaging eloquence…whateva). It’s what He says about us…and what He is willing to do for us.

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! – Romans 5:7-9

This is the magnificence of the Gospel. This is what brings tremendous hope to any struggle…including the struggle that we, in this world, find ourselves at this time in history.

Now…on with the day with this reminder that our battle won’t be won in social media or the pain and bitterness of our hearts…but on our knees with hearts of faith…in a faithFUL God.

Postscript: It would be easy to just get on out the door, with hearts resonating with the message of this song…without taking the words not just to heart…but to our knees. I needed that P.S. and am on it.

*Lyrics to Back to God – Songwriters: Randy Houser & Dallas Davidson

Reba McEntire Turns ‘Back to God‘ In Breathtaking New Music Video

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Redeemer, New Paltz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undivided,
Undivided

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

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

Undivided,
Undivided*

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

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

*Lyrics to Undivided

What Is Christian Unity? – John Piper

Christmas in a Verse, a Prayer, & a Poem

Blog - Christmas - Christmas Town (2)

[From the Archives]

A Christmas Verse

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6

[And One More]

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  – Matthew 1:23

A Christmas Prayer

O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.

As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?

I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.

Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen. (The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

A Christmas Poem

Not Celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto you that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to you. – Ann Weems

Worship Wednesday – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Debbie - self-portrait

“I will restore to you the years of the locusts…” – Joel 2:25

If ever a song spoke to my deepest heart hurts, it’s this one. Laura Story’s Til I Met You. In my younger years, even after coming to faith in God as a child, I strayed far from Him. If you were a casual friend, you might not have noticed. I was in church, and fairly religious. That was the problem…I spent years tuning my affections toward the cheap shininess of the world, and missed a joy-filled intimacy with God…all at that same time.

He wasn’t the One who moved. I had walked away…deceiving myself that I was still following Him, serving Him, devoted to Him.

Then, like the Prodigal Son, I woke up to the darkness in my own heart and remembered where I belonged. By God’s grace, I crawled out of the pit dug with my own poor choices. Laura Story’s song Til I Met You could be my testament of a life restored – not by my own resolve or a force of nature but – a genuine encounter with God Himself.

I first met God as a nine-year-old. Unchurched until two years before, I was not schooled in the person of God. Even as a child, I became an eager student of Him. The Truth of God’s Word was so freeing for my little heavy heart. Even then, I knew the weight of sin – the wanting to be good and kind and helpful and the chronic tripping over myself in failure.

When I heard it was possible to be forgiven of that sin and to experience the power of God in my life, enabling me to become more and more like Jesus, I was completely captivated and drawn to Him.

Three different occasions I lost touch with God and my place as His child. Brief but significant periods in my mid-teens, mid-20s, and mid-30s. Sin and self-justification had wormed their way into my heart. For a season, even in the midst of being involved with church, I went my own way. The joy and peace that were mine in following Christ drained out of me as if I were a cracked vessel.

Then, like in Laura Story’s song, the darkness of my sin and deception was illuminated by the Spirit of God, and I saw what mattered. What really mattered. My relationship with the Lord.

It’s been many years now, and the Prodigal is home for good. I understand so well Peter’s response to Jesus, when Jesus asked His disciples if they would leave Him:

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-69

When we have an encounter with God, and receive Him in saving faith, He begins a transformation in us that trumps anything the world holds out there for us. He adopts us into His family; we are His. What happened before…the terrible choices, the regret, the brokenness – are carried away by His perfect love for His children.

Worship with me. If you are still struggling in some dark pit of your own choosing, He will set you free from that. I know. He did it for me.

I’ve known pain and deep regret
I’ve known the weight of my mistakes like the back of my hand
I’ve known deception and all its games
I’ve known the way it feels to drown in my own shame

But I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You.

I’ve known rejections
I’ve bought the lie that I could never overcome the hurt inside
With arms of mercy You reach for me
Tore the veil away and gave me eyes to see
You’re all I need

And I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (I’m accepting I was hopeless)
Till I met You (I was stumbling in the darkness)

I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release; You’re the one Who brought me through.
And I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You

Do You Know Jesus? – The Gospel in Four Minutes

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus – Spoken Word – Jefferson Bethke

Lyrics to Til I Met You

YoUTube Video – Official Lyric Video – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Story Behind the Song – Til I Met You

Laura Story Music

Nepal Earthquake – Disaster Response, Faith-based Organizations, & Love in Action

Blog - Nepal

Jesus teaching: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” – Matthew 25:34-36

The news this weekend of Nepal’s devastating earthquake was heartbreaking. Thousands dead; tens of thousands losing family and friends, many injured, without shelter. Nearly a million children affected. Just hearing the news and seeing the images, in the aftermath, we are compelled to pray for the Nepali people and to give toward care of the survivors. Many will even travel internationally to add hands to the on-the-ground efforts.Blog - Nepal 3

In the face of tremendous need, I am thankful for the resilience of the Nepali people as they respond to the needs of their neighbors so woefully impacted by this natural disaster. It is also gratifying to see all the governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) cooperating together for the sake of these people reeling from their losses.  They are the ones that matter right now. These survivors.

This is why I was dumbfounded by the venomous attacks on faith-based organizations that started shortly after the earthquake. Twitter and other social media were peppered with angry charges against relief agencies whose motives were questioned by these individuals. I won’t mention the hash-tagged slur not wanting to fuel this fire any further. After such a catastrophic event, any who really care for the Nepali people would want help coming from any source possible.

We were living in Morocco  when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook the northern coast on February 24, 2004. It was my first close-up experience of such a disaster.  We didn’t live close but we had friends with families in that area. There were over 600 killed, over 1000 injured, 2500+ families were displaced when their homes were destroyed, and over 10,000 more homes in the area were damaged. Although not as severe in terms of the losses Nepal has experienced thus far, for a rural area of Morocco, this was overwhelming.

We watched the rapid responses of international agencies coupled with local government and charities. The school our children attended became very involved, as families and faculty traveled to the area to help in whatever way we could (assessing damage, delivering goods, translation). We were encouraged to see how others showed their care for these Moroccans, so unknown to the world at large until hit by this earthquake. When you are trying to get tents, blankets, food and water to families left with nothing, you don’t deem one helping agency more preferable than other. The need is too great for such concerns.

When I wade through the hash-tagged outcries against faith-based organizations helping the Nepali survivors, I marvel at such insensitivity. On many levels. First, we must, all of us who believe in a God who loves humanity, respond to such agonizing human need. We must respond. Second, to imagine a government or people accepting aid from one group over another in such a crisis is incomprehensible. Wisdom is to cooperate and mobilize resources as much as possible early on, because the recovery period will be a long one. Third, to encourage rejecting aid from faith-based organizations for fear of conversions is such a disservice to those hurting – 1) it takes away their voice in accepting what help they need for their own families, and 2) it presumes they would trade their beliefs for aid. Such madness – to think this way about people.

We do support both faith-based organizations and other humanitarian aid organizations. Our preferred disaster relief agency is Baptist Global Response  (because of their judicious use of funds, their cooperation with local agencies, and their faith foundation of wise compassion-driven aid and education) . BGR is not just there when disaster strikes. In fact, a BGR training for local agencies was held just weeks ago in Kathmandu, Nepal for just such a time as this. Hopefully the fruit of that training will mean a more collaborative response acutely and, in the long-term, a more stable recovery for the Nepali people.

Blog - Nepal 2I pray we can take the boxing gloves off and put the work gloves on – serving together to alleviate the suffering of these people whom God loves.  It is a mandate from Jesus Himself for those of us who are His followers.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. ” – John 13:34

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:16-18

Donate: Nepal Earthquake & Baptist Global Response

50 Amazing Facts About Nepal

Amid the Destruction of the Nepal Earthquake, Grace and Hope are Found

2004 Al Hoceima Earthquake in the Rif Mountains, Morocco

In Pictures – Morocco Quake Aftermath

Losses in the 2004 Earthquake, Al Hoceima, Morocco

Jesus Sayings About the Poor

Photo Credits: Baptist Global Response and IMB Resources

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  – James 1:17

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football. In those days of living overseas, watching football on T.V. on Thanksgiving Day was a bit challenging, but these days, it seems, all things are possible.

Now, back in the States, the old traditions are changing. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter back home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. After so many years being away, we find ourselves needing to re-work our own traditions as well.

Last night, we participated in a community Thanksgiving dinner for international students. This is our fourth year, So I’m thinking it’s a new tradition for us. As we visited with new friends from Iran and Colombia, we marveled at how small the world has become. Enjoying Thanksgiving yummies together with them took us fondly back to our years in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Blog -  International Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Thanksgiving is, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in my life. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a tableful of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in that season of life young people pass through of searching out what I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching Godspell, of all things, was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010

Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends

 2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute.

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a blessing…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

 

The Bond of Brothers – Gospel Transformation & Reconciliation

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“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers…For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” – Philemon 4, 7

Brothers. That word can vary greatly in its meaning, depending on the relationships it represents. For the apostle Paul, being “brothers” meant having Christ in common and loving each other as He intended. Also inferred is to follow Christ together, in obedience to His Word and through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to Philemon, a brother in the faith, to ask a favor, or rather to ask his favor.  In this brief, carefully worded letter, Paul commended Philemon for his walk with the Lord and his Godly influence on the Colossian church that met in his home. Philemon had come to faith under Paul’s teaching, and his faithfulness was an encouragement to Paul.

In his letter to Philemon, Paul makes the surprising announcement that he is well-acquainted with a man who had severely wronged Philemon. The man, Onesimus, was a slave, or bond-servant, in Philemon’s household. Some time earlier, he had fled (stealing provisions) and made his way to Rome, where he met Paul. Under Paul’s teaching, he also came to faith in Christ. Two men, once in the same household, and then estranged, are now brothers. Could they be reconciled?

Philemon’s Dilemma – As a Godly believer, Philemon was most probably a benevolent master. When Onesimus ran away, Philemon could have easily felt betrayed and bitter at his loss, not just the loss of a servant or property, but the damage to his reputation or witness as a believer and leader in the church. Why would Onesimus leave unless he was mistreated, or so people would think. This rift between these two men would be what Paul addresses in his letter. Given the news that Onesimus had become a believer, could Philemon forgive him and receive him back, both as a slave and a brother?

[Paul doesn’t speak to the issue of slavery which was a common practice in the Greco-Roman world. This letter was not about the rightness or wrongness of Christ-followers having slaves in their households. Paul wrote to Philemon about relationship and Gospel transformation.]

Onesimus’ Dilemma – Onesimus’ costly decision to leave Philemon’s household would put him in a precarious situation with the authorities. He sought to hide himself in the bustling city of Rome, but he, in fact, was found by the Lord Himself. He thought he could save himself, but discovered the only Savior who could truly make him free. As Onesimus grew in his faith and in knowledge of Christ, he became a trusted friend and helper to Paul. The day came, however, that he and Paul must have agreed that an unresolved matter had to be made right. Onesimus must try to reconcile with Philemon.

Paul’s Dilemma – Paul was spiritual father to both of these men. In discipling Onesimus in being obedient to Christ, Paul must have been very clear about the need for confession of sin, God’s forgiveness, and then reconciliation – of the offense and with the offended. By the tone of Paul’s letter, Onesimus was ready and willing to return to Philemon. Paul could have been forthright in compelling Philemon to take Onesimus back. However, Paul wanted Philemon to desire it, not because Paul asked him, but because Onesimus was now his brother. “Receive him as you would receive me….Refresh my heart in Christ.” (Philemon 17, 20)

Do you think Philemon received Onesimus back…as a brother? We do not know from Scripture, but we can imagine, as we read this letter.

Often, if not daily, we encounter one or the other of the dilemmas these three brothers faced. We are the one who offends. We are the one offended. We are the brother who could intervene or intercede for the two others.

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There was a time when I gravely hurt a Christian friend of mine who finally confronted me with my wrong-doing. Shocked at my own insensitivity, I was immediately repentant and asked for forgiveness. The wound was still so raw, my friend momentarily refused to forgive me. I appealed with, “But you HAVE to forgive me.” As believers in Christ, we are obliged to forgive each other, if not out of obedience, then in gratitude to Him for our own forgiveness. I think if there had been a brother Paul in our lives, I would have seen my sin earlier and sought reconciliation more quickly, lessening the pain for that friend, who did, by the way, forgive me.

Take a moment with me to examine our lives. Is there a brother (or sister) whom we’ve wronged and we alone must take steps toward righting that wrong? Or are we in position to forgive another and to take the steps publicly to receive that one back into our lives? Or, lastly, and most counter-culture in today’s world, are there those with whom we have influence who need help reconciling. Do we love them enough to extend ourselves to them? Do we love God enough – to put ourselves on the line – for an Onesimus and a Philemon?

This bond of brothers – Philemon, Onesimus, and Paul – is one of life’s great lessons on how the Gospel transforms us. Reconciliation follows as we see each other as Christ sees us, and act accordingly – obeying Him in word and deed and lovingly encourage each other to do the same.

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Tom & Jeannie Elliff – Faith, Family, Friends

Tom & Jeannie Elliff front of prayercard

Have you ever watched a video clip of someone’s family reunion on Facebook or some other social media, and you just wanted to tag yourself right in there? That was my experience yesterday, as a family gave us the chance to see them welcome home a beloved mom and grandmother. Well, they welcomed the dad/grandfather, too, of course, but the surprise was for the mom. To see the joy in Jeannie’s face, as she saw all those loves of her life (all her “favorites”), was precious to all of us who love her and Tom. 4 children (and their spouses) gathered from around the globe with almost all of the 25 grandchildren (two away at college). What a welcome home!

The day of great welcome and joy was a day of quiet reflection for me as their arrival back home was their leaving from here. Tom and Jeannie Elliff have been friends of ours for years, and 3 of those years we were in the same city…until yesterday.  In a way, we are an unlikely friendship because their lives are full of pastor friends (pastors of large churches), denominational leaders, seminary presidents and professors, and decades-long church relationships across the US. We are none of those. Yet, they invited us into their lives, as they do the countless strangers they meet and get to know in the minutes they would be together…waitresses, mowers, doctors, electricians, store clerks.

Tom and Jeannie Elliff are consummate encouragers*. They genuinely care about the people God has placed in their path. We know that because God has used them in a big way in our lives. They even pray for our children. How amazing is that? People who have seen God in all their life’s circumstances (no matter how hard) have a joy in them that goes right to the bone. Not only all the way in, but all the way out – refreshing those around them. I won’t recount here the stories of how Tom and Jeannie have seen God work in their lives. Hopefully you’ll hear those stories directly from them. They are always ready to give reasons for the hope that lies within them (1 Peter 3:15).

Today, I just want to thank GOD for them, as Paul did when he wrote his letter to the Philippian church: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,  for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6a).

Our walk with God has been deepened in having had the opportunity of watching the lives of these dear ones. So many Scripture passages come to mind in thinking of them and their passion for God – for Him to be known and loved and glorified.

“Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB).

As they return to their home in Oklahoma, we pray for what they’ve asked us to pray. If you know them, too, you are probably already praying the same. If not…would you pray right now?

Tom & Jeannie Elliff back of prayer card

Love you, Tom and Jeannie. See you down the road.

*Greek meaning of word “encourage”

A Passion for Prayer by Tom Elliff

Unbreakable – The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family by Tom Elliff