Tag Archives: mercy

Worship Wednesday – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

Photo Credit: Primo Bible Verses

“I lift my eyes to you,
the one enthroned in heaven.
Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand,
like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand,
so our eyes are on the Lord our God
until he shows us favor.

Show us favor, Lord, show us favor,
for we’ve had more than enough contempt.
We’ve had more than enough
scorn from the arrogant
and contempt from the proud.” – Psalm 123:1-4

God’s Word is so rich…so real. It is, after all, God’s very word to each one of us. Even as the psalmist is speaking to the Lord, pouring out his heart to Him. His anguish. His fed-up-ness. God is already whispering the answers to the psalm-writer’s laments right into his weary dejected heart.

If you find yourself in a day where you are just done…remember that God isn’t.

Pull those beautiful eyes of yours up…away from the circumstances you find yourself in, away from those indifferent to your struggle, away from the burden weighing you down. Pull your eyes up to the Lord whose eyes are set on you.

Don’t let your peace be riddled with the holes of human arrows… sometimes even friendly fire. Remember His promise that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).

No matter how great the enemy or how insignificant we feel today, God has prepared armor for us that will withstand any attack.

We stand, we keep our eyes on Him. The battle belongs to the Lord.

The Lord Himself fights for us (Exodus 14:14).

In the confusion and chaos of battle, or the silence and longing of standing on the sidelines…we sometimes reel fainthearted in our anxious thoughts. Then as the Spirit speaks truth to our hearts, clarity is restored. We take a breath. We lift our eyes back up to Him…as a servant looks to his good master for favor.

We wait…“He’s in the waiting…He’s never failing.” Stand, breathe, re-frame your thoughts toward Him… No matter what the world says, the truth is that He will finish all He has begun (Philippians 1:6)…in you and through you.

Worship with me to Take Courage by Bethel Music (Kristene DiMarco):

Slow down, take time
Breathe in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget
His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep, Your promise to me
That I will rise, in Your victory
And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep, Your promise to me
That I will rise, in Your victory!

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
And hold onto your hope
Watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
And hold onto your hope
Watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing
He’s never failing!

He’s in the waiting…*

[Extended version of this beautiful song in video below]

*Lyrics to Take Courage – AZ Lyrics

Take Courage – Lyrics and Chords – Songwriters: Kristene DiMarco, Jeremy Riddle, Joel Taylor 

Story Behind the Song – Take Courage – Kevin Davis

Psalm 123:1-4 – a Matter of Where You Look – Philip W. McLarty

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

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

Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

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

We are blessed…

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

We are blessed…

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

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

We are blessed…*

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

*Lyrics to We Are Blessed – Songwriter: Andy Flannagan

Andy Flannagan Website

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Mike Pettengill

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

Blog - good good father - timesofmaltaPhoto Credit: TimesofMalta

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

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

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

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

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

Blog - Good Good Father - godisgreatitstruePhoto Credit: GodIsGreatItsTrue

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

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

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

He didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLog - Good good father - midspointofviewPhoto Credit: Midspointofview

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

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow – Trevin Wax

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

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

Blog - Good Good Father - onegirldesignshoppe

Photo Credit: OneGirlDesignShoppe

Worship Wednesday – a Thanksgiving Moment – God’s Enduring Mercies

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!Psalm 107:1

A heart for Thanksgiving this year took me all the way until the day before. Not that I am not grateful. There’s thanks in every breath. As the Psalmist proclaims, we have a multitude of reasons to be thankful to God. He is good to us. In fact, his love (mercy) endures forever. If you have a few minutes, read the whole of Psalm 107 to reckon the richness of how God’s mercies endure…through whatever we are going through.

This Thanksgiving, I have struggled to prepare my heart for a day of feasting. Until this morning, I had little stomach for it. Oh, I am looking forward to have all our children and grands around the table later today. Then on Thanksgiving itself, we’ve gathered a few neighbors and friends who, like us, won’t be with their families. It will be a sweet time.

Until this morning though, my thoughts struggled with the losses of late. Not my own, but that of some friends and extended family. The world’s a mess, isn’t it? Yet, within that mess, a good and merciful God is moving.

This morning, we said goodbye to dear dear friends who had passed through our home for a quick visit. They reminded us of other Thanksgivings spent together across the ocean. They stood in for family we would be missing, as we did for them.

Their making the time to visit lifted my heart. When I dropped them at the holiday-crowded train station and returned home, the list of preparations for this special day demanded attention.

Then in a moment…standing in this sun-drenched kitchen…

Thanksgiving came. As I began mixing the ingredients for cornbread dressing, my mom came to mind. I watched her for years doing this same action. Standing in the kitchen, mixing, adding love and sage to taste, no recipe. Years of comfort in that sweet memory.

My mom-in-law also came to mind…always preparing a loaded table of goodness for us to enjoy at Thanksgiving. Her table and company we will miss this time…as we wait until Christmas to travel home. Still, I know her. Even with a son and daughter-in-law cooking most of the meal, she will still scurry…still make her specialties…still lay a table fit for the family she loves.

Now as turkey and dressing bake in my oven, the fragrance calls to mind so many times of family together…food and football…hugs and laughter. Having adult children nearby, we are making a new set of memories with help in the kitchen…between this chef of a son of mine and two girls cooking in their homes as I am here.

There is a bond in that. In fact, there is a bond in this cooking for those we love…all over the world. What a blessing to think of being a part of that wonder today and forever.

Thanksgiving has come. God, in his enduring love and mercy, will get us through the dark times. He has done it before, and He will do it again. As for these shimmering bright moments of family coming and a table circled with love…I will be ever grateful.

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful – Deb Mills Writer

Not Feeling the Thanks in Thanksgiving? – Jesse Lyn Stoner

Struggling Toward Thanksgiving – Trevin Wax

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Worship

An Exegetical Analysis of Psalm 107 – Jake Hanson

Worship Wednesday – On the Holiness of God – I See the Lord – Chris Falson

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

[The account of King David returning the Ark of God to Jerusalem]

They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart  that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark.  David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God.  Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.2 Samuel 6:3-7

What a story! For the casual Bible reader, this story can spark one’s sense of “rightness”. Even David who loved God supremely was angry briefly with Him…but that anger quickly turned to fear (2 Samuel 6:8-9). It took David seconds to remember the holiness of God and can happen when we treat the presence of God casually.

Cliff Jordan preached on this passage at Movement Church recently, and I finally understood the significance of Uzzah’s seemingly well-intended action. [Sermon podcast here.]

Throughout the Old Testament accounts of history, we see the justice of God play out in ways we might consider harsh in our grace-filled experience of Him today. We need to remember, though, that God has NOT changed. His holiness is as real and remarkable as ever.

Pastor Cliff reminded us that Uzzah was of the priestly tribe of the  Levites, a Kohathite. These were the ones who cared for and carried the holy instruments of worship. The Art of the Covenant housed the very presence of God in those days. It was never to be touched by human hands. Never. God had given detailed instructions on this, and Uzzah knew them.

In a moment, Uzzah, thinking he was acting, I’m sure, in reverence to God, reached out to steady the ark, laying his hands on it. The consequence of that disobedience was death.

The consequence of our disobedience is death.

We forget that sometimes, because our own lives are so bathed in the grace of God through Christ Jesus.

What was so bad about what Uzzah did? We are tempted to raise our tiny fists to a holy God and question His actions. Our own daily acts of disobedience seem trivial to us as well…until we look at the cost of our disobedience. The cross.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We must not forget this tension: “God is graciously relational and unrelentingly and unyieldingly holy.” – Cliff Jordan

Creator God sets the terms for our relating to Him. He prescribes and He provides. In ancient days, He made Himself available to a sinful people – once a year, in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle (and later in the Jerusalem temple), behind a thick curtain – to the high priest who would make atonement for the people (Hebrews 9:7). A holy and loving God protected the people from death in distancing Himself from them in this way.

When Jesus died for our sins, the curtain was torn apart, from top to bottom.

Just as in Old Testament history, God made Him home with us in the ark, Jesus made us home with us, in human form (John 1:14).

“The ark points to Jesus. Our point of contact to Holy God is through Jesus. He fulfilled every prescription, every obligation, every law. He passed the test, secured the A, and gave it to us – graciously. He made Him who knew no sin become sin for us.” – Cliff Jordan

When you’re studying the Word, you come on these hard passages like Uzzah’s death, remember the holiness of God. Remember also His incredible grace toward us through Christ.

I grew up singing Holy, Holy, Holy – my young life was transformed by a burgeoning understanding of the wretched nature of my sin and the glorious nature of God, holy and loving, just and merciful. As our culture has changed over the years, my sense of God’s holiness has grown reckless…dulled by the world’s pull for both self-serving and self-rule. What audacity to think we know better than God, to think we are good enough for God, to think we don’t need God!

Holy God, have mercy on us. Lord, continue to have mercy on us…because of what Christ did for us. In His name…

Worship with me, please, with Chris Falson‘s song “I See the Lord”.

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne exalted,
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, and the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
It fills it with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory
With His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

I sing
Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

YouTube Video – I See the Lord – Chris Falson (with lyrics)

Lyrics – I See the Lord – Writer: Chris Falson

2 Samuel 6, Part 1 – Sermon Podcast – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy – Jeremy Riddle

Holiness and Justice – R. C. Sproul

Why Did God Strike Uzzah Dead For Touching the Ark of the Covenant? – Got Questions?

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong

blog-i-will-rise-rescue-squad-bakersfieldbside-shutterstockPhoto Credit: BakersfieldBSide, Shutterstock

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

I’ve ridden inside an ambulance as a caregiver and family member, but never as a patient…until this week.

Take one perfectly normal evening. Getting ready for bed. Last items of the day…and then…I can’t get my breath. Literally… Coughing and breathing hard and feeling like I just can’t get air.

For any of you with asthma or other lung issues, you may have experienced this. I now know how terrifying that can be.

Then you add a husband, already in bed and half asleep, who, in an emergency, can turn on a dime (i.e., move and think quickly and well)…and I was getting help.

Could I make it to an urgent care center? Yes…no! Feeling like I might lose consciousness, I had to sit down just as we were going out the door. Then he called 911. How many times have any of us ever even done that?

For me, I was just trying to breathe. The “what if’s” fly. What if this is it?…actually came to my mind in those moments. Sitting, sucking in air, I told him I loved him, and he said, “Let me pray for you.” …and God was near through it all. Did I feel Him near?…not every moment, but I knew it just the same.

Somewhere in those seeming seconds before the rescue squad arrived, some of the panic started subsiding. God. When they arrived, they took action, and my hope rallied.  Surprisingly, it actually took quite a few minutes before we drove off.

I could see Dave through the back window of the ambulance, in his car ready to follow us. Seriously, between him and them, it was like being attended by a host of angels. All I had to do was keep breathing.

The EMT’s were busy, too. Assessing, assessing, assessing. They fed me oxygen and encouragement, and finally off we went. Yet, the longer I lived, in those moments, with these professionals doing their job, the less it seemed I would die from whatever this was.

blog-emergency-room-i-will-rise-medscapePhoto Credit: Medscape

By the time, we were settled in the emergency room, the terror of not getting enough air had passed. It seemed everything the nurses, techs, and doctors did was magical. They were still searching for a cause all through the night, but the labwork, x-rays, and such were narrowing the field of possibles. They continued to assess and apply their knowledge to whatever was wrong with me – breathing treatments, more tests, antibiotics, more tests.

Finally, the scariest stuff was ruled out. It wasn’t a collapsed lung from cancer, or pulmonary edema from congestive heart failure, or bleeding from an aneurysm .

It was pneumonia…as best they could tell.

Admitted to the hospital, in the care of another set of angels…er, nurses, I began the process of getting better.img_8984

The better came quickly and I am so grateful. We all have had and will have dark days. What takes my breath away (in totally a good way) is that we never have to be alone in it. Either God sends angels…or God sends people. I have experienced that this week, and know it has happened in lives of others near me. Including my older brother’s situation…the day he too swiftly went to be with the Lord (that story is for another day).

Across our lifetimes, we have experiences of the severe mercies and tender graces of God. Sometimes, they come through the kindnesses of both strangers and loved ones. Sometimes, it’s in the quiet of a heart, through breathing hard in the back of an ambulance. We know we can count on Him from His Word…and from all these brushes with real and serious.

Just the day before I couldn’t breathe, we sang the following worship song during when gathered on Sunday at Movement Church. Over the last two days, the words and truth of God in the words have settled in my heart and mind.

Hillsong‘s Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) is a strong declaration of life knowing God through Jesus Christ. The songwriters took some of their ideas from the verse in Romans: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans6:4)

“I will rise” is my song today because what felt like a near-death experience two nights ago has just added my awareness of that “newness of life” we have in Christ. There will come a day for all of us that we won’t rise any more on this side of eternity…but because of Him, we will rise to be with Him, in Heaven…if we believe. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

This is my revelation
Christ Jesus crucified
Salvation through repentance
At the cross on which He died

Now hear my absolution
Forgiveness for my sin
And I sink beneath the waters
That Christ was buried in

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I stand a new creation
Baptized in blood and fire
No fear of condemnation
By faith I’m justified

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your lordship
And glorify Your name

Your word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
And on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now I rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now i rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)*

PS – For those few of you who knew what was happening with me these last two days, thanks for praying. For those many who don’t know me or my situation, thanks for reading…and for praying for those going through a challenging situation…and if you’re in the one going through that situation, believe that God sees and reaches in. Please comment, if you’re willing, about your own experience….

YouTube Video – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – with subtitles/lyrics

Song Story: Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Scott Ligertwood

*Lyrics of Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Writers Brooke Fraser Ligertwood & Scott Ligertwood

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Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

Worship Wednesday – My Story – Big Daddy Weave

Blog - My Story CoverPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Stories of people’s lives are so fascinating – the journey itself, the intersections of chance and providence, the losses and gains, and all the faces…all the faces and places along the way.

Mike Weaver, of the band Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Ingram have written this beautiful song My Story that illustrates something of how our story gets woven across time. There is actually very little “chance” involved. Even our failures and missed opportunities become priceless threads in the finished texture of a life.

If I told you my story it would include the bewilderment of a little girl abandoned by her daddy while still at home with us. I was second of four children, the only girl. My mother was beautiful in every way a child could understand. She loved us fiercely and cared for us alone…for what seemed a forever, for a child. Then my step-dad entered our lives, and I understood the love of a father for the first time.

Not long after that, we were welcomed into a circle of neighbors who invited us to their church. This was an altogether different experience for us, and it was among those people that I was introduced to God. It was then that something new and yet strangely familiar came to me…still a little girl. A God-love, an other-world kind of love that pulled me close…closer than even the tender protective hug of my sweet mama. A love that I recognized was present with me even, especially, in the years of hard. God.

He was there all along…and He didn’t give up on us. He will never abandon us.Blog - Worship Wednesday - My StoryPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).Ephesians 2:4-5

…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:6-10

My story, like that of the song My Story, is infused and bubbles over with a love that has altered my life forever…

Blog - My Story - mrsandyrossPhoto Credit: MrsAndyRoss

Worship with me:

If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

If I told you my story
You would hear victory over the enemy
If told you my story
You would hear freedom that was won for me
If I told you my story
You would hear life overcome the grave

If I should speak then let it be
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long*

Blog - My Story - Beautiful Offerings AlbumPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

What is your story? My prayer is that you also see that God has etched Himself into every circumstance of your life. He is here with us…always. I would love to hear your story…

[Postscript: The last line of the song My Story comes from the song Blessed Assurance, a great old hymn all our kids know and sing along with us. Don’t miss that one, if you don’t know it – in links below.]

*My Story – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis, New Release Today

YouTube Video – My Story (Lyrics) – Big Daddy Weave

To Tell You My Story Is To Tell You Of Him – Mrs. Andy Ross

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – CeCe Winans and Terrence Blanchard – Cicely Tyson Kennedy Center Honors

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – Third Day with lyrics

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