Tag Archives: salvation

Worship Wednesday – God of All My Days – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Vevo

My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!Psalm 139:15-17

Throughout Scripture, we hear the message that we are all given a number of days. More importantly, God is the God of all those days.

Lately, my favorite radio station has been regularly airing Casting Crowns‘ song God of All My Days . It’s been a great encouragement to me.

We get to a certain age and realize there are a lot more days behind us than in front. It can set a person to reflecting. And, on occasion, regretting. The truth is regret doesn’t change anything. It can lead us to seek forgiveness and to make restitution when possible. Its other benefit is to stir up a greater resolve to keep a sure course in life.

[By the way, for you younger ones…seeing life spread out infinitely before you…take note. As you’re aware of aging parents and grandparents, life whips by…yet still measured in days. Take hope and confidence in the God who gives you each and every day.]

Yesterday, we had the delight of having lunch with some dear friends, a bit older than us. They live out of town so our visits are rare and sweet. As we caught up on each other’s lives, we swapped stories about marriage, children and grandchildren, friends, and work. Their joy and faith are a constant marker for us in this life of days. We laughed and laughed…in fact, just laughing was its own sweet element of our visit. It reminded us of how easy in today’s serious world, we forget to see and experience the joy God gives.

One highlight, in particular, during our long, leisurely conversation was our salvation experiences. To go back over the experience of how God persistently drew each of us to Himself was a joyous reminiscence. I responded to God’s wooing as a nine-year-old, with a 9 y/o sensibility and understanding. Three other times in my life I was struck with the question of was I truly saved or was I still separated from God by the sin in my life. As a teenager, in my 20s, and then in my mid-30s. That last time I questioned whether I truly belonged to God or not, it was settled, once and for all…during a sermon by Richard Owen Roberts. It’s a small detail when it happened and under whose influence, but for me it was the tenderest touch from God.

I have never questioned His work of salvation in my life since…

There are days when I don’t sense His presence in my life…but I never wonder about it. I know He is with me because of His many promises from Scripture… After all these years of knowing Him, my mental wiring has been altered, so to speak. He truly is the God of all my days.

That’s why this song has been such a blessing – a reminder of the great truth that, no matter what, God is present and is working good out of whatever happens in our lives…not because we deserve it to be so, but because He is wholly good and loving and merciful.

Worship with me:

I came to You with my heart in pieces
And found the God with healing in His hands

I turned to You, put everything behind me
And found the God who makes all things new

I looked to You, drowning in my questions
And found the God who holds all wisdom

And I trusted You and stepped out on the ocean
You caught my hand among the waves

‘Cause You’re the God of all my days

CHORUS:

Each step I take
You make a way

And I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stay the same

You’re the God of all my days

I ran from You, I wandered in the shadows
And found a God who relentlessly pursues

I hid from You, haunted by my failure
And found the God whose grace still covers me

I fell on You when I was at my weakest
And found the God, the lifter of my head

And I’ve worshiped You
And felt You right beside me

You’re the reason that I sing

‘Cause You’re the God of all my days

REPEAT CHORUS

In my worry, God You are my stillness
In my searching, God You are my answers

In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom

In my weakness, God You are my power

You’re the reason that I sing

‘Cause You’re the God of all my days

REPEAT CHORUS

In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom

All my days*

*Lyrics to God of All My Days – Songwriters: John Mark Hall & Jason Ingram

YouTube Video – God of All My Days – Casting Crowns – Official Lyric Video

YouTube Video – God of All My Days – Live with Testimony (so good!)

God’s Sovereign Plan for Your Most Unproductive Days – John Piper

Photo Credit: Life in the Spacious Place

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration & His Last Supper Before the Cross

IslBGPhoto Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have an account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This particular Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refers to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would then enter the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who stole away during the meal. He bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden. Jesus prayed long into the night. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death] pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob but to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow). He would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross has begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day…

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

What Is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Jesus Pray for His Disciples…and For Us – Ralph F. Wilson

Worship Wednesday – Whiter Than Snow – an Old Hymn and Chris Tomlin’s At the Cross

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.Isaiah 1:18

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.Psalm 51:7b

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,…to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.Revelation 1:5-6

The snow outside has me all distracted. Although Spring is officially here, a day-long snowfall has turned everything white again. Our daffodils have bounced back from an earlier snowfall, a wind storm, and rain over the last couple of weeks. The weight of this snow and the freezing cold may, this time, close out this early season of blooming.

What else came to mind this morning is an old hymn I learned as a child. Whiter Than Snow. We would sometimes sing it at church, after the sermon and during the “invitation”. That call to the altar for those gathered to worship. The lyrics dealt with our sinful hearts and serious need for a Savior. Also within the message of the song was God’s promise and power to take our sins away, through Christ’s sinless life and death on the cross.

As the Scriptures say, He can indeed make us “whiter than snow”…or as white “as wool”.Photo Credit: Max Pixel

We don’t talk about sin as much today. Even when we did, in my childhood, it was easy for us to get caught up in legalism, looking for latitude in our service in church…rather than wrestling with the condition of our hearts before God.

That old hymn by James L. Nicholson served me well in the waywardness of my youth. The first-person lyric actually gives the image of someone who knows the experience of being cleansed by God, through Christ, and then falling back into sin. There is an earnest longing to be “perfectly whole”. Some would find the theology lacking in this song, because what Jesus did for us, in cleansing us from “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9) was completed on the Cross. The presence and power of sin will be something we wrestle until Heaven, but He has made us clean by His blood.

That demands a sacred pause…and this snow day has given it to me.

The version I know of Whiter Than Snow, from my childhood, is here. Updated versions of this  can be found here and here.

It may be just too old to engage some of you, but a bit of the lyric follows:.

  1. Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
    I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
    Break down every idol, cast out every foe—
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    • Refrain:
      Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
      Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  2. Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
    I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet,
    By faith for my cleansing, I see thy blood flow—
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  3. The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
    Oh, glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
    My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
    The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.*

Chris Tomlin‘s At the Cross may best serve us today to worship the Lord. At the  cross…at the cross…where Your love ran red, and my sin washed white.”

Worship with me please…

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
Jesus

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God
And forgiveness

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You saved my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
Jesus**

I’d like to close out today with part of a poem by John Whittaker Watson. It is entitled Beautiful Snow. At some point, after it was published, a last stanza was added. I don’t know how you will read it, but I read it as a prodigal might…one separated from God…who was received home again…washed white as the beautiful snow:

Once I was pure as the snow, but I fell,

Fell like the snow flakes from Heaven to Hell;

Fell to be trampled as filth in the street,

Fell to be scoffed, to be spit on and beat;

Pleading — Cursing — Dreading to die,

Selling my soul to whoever would buy;

Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,

Hating the living and fearing the dead,

Merciful God! have I fallen so low!

And yet I was once like the beautiful snow.

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow

Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!

How strange it should be when the night comes again

If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!

Fainting — Freezing — Dying — alone,

Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan

To be heard in the streets of the crazy town,

Gone mad in the joy of snow coming down;

To be and to die in my terrible woe,

With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.

[Following lines added by an unknown author]

Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,

Sinner, despair not! Christ stoopeth low

To rescue the soul that is lost in sin,

And raise it to life and enjoyment again.

Groaning — Bleeding — Dying — for thee,

The Crucified One hung on the cursed tree!

His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,

“Is there mercy for me? Will He heed my weak prayer?”

Oh God! in the stream that for sinners did flow

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

The End***

Photo Credit: Tobias Van Der Elst, Flickr

*Lyrics to James L. Nicholson’s Hymn Whiter Than Snow

**Lyrics to At the Cross – Chris Tomlin

***Christ Washes Us Whiter Than Snow – Pastor Mike Storti

P.S. …and they’re pushing back up one more time. Glory!

Worship Wednesday – All My Hope Is In Jesus – with David Crowder and Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Twitter; The Promise FM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-6

My family didn’t start our lives going to church. I was probably 6 years old before God even came into much of our conversation or routines at home. By then, my mom had long felt the weight of caring for four kids by herself. My father (not the sweet step-dad I write about but my biological father)…my father just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. Unemployed and uncaring. By the time I started school, we had moved several times, and Mom finally divorced my dad (for my Mom at that point, weary and without hope, it was just “one less mouth to feed”).

When neighbors persisted in inviting us to church, we finally accepted their invitation. It was then that we discovered something bigger than what we’d known before. A God who loved us…even more than our Mom did…and her love was fierce. A God who truly cared for us and who had been there all along for us…and we just didn’t see it.

The church* through which we discovered God was a little congregation, situated between two small Southern towns. Those folks extended love to a wildish little family that had no upbringing in the whole God thing. We soaked it up – all the Bible stories, all the hymns about God’s character, and all the love.

When David Crowder sings, along with Tauren Wells, I am reminded of those early days in that church. My older brother and I got saved the first summer we were there. We were also baptized together in a sawmill pond. I remember singing songs on Sunday nights or during protracted revival services…songs that seemed to go on forever, or at least until the Spirit got hold of our hearts.

Crowder’s song All My Hope Is In Jesus reminds me of the songs of that day. The lyrics are full of sin and redemption…of where we once were, far from God, and need be no more…of lives changed when surrendered to the Savior. There’s a load of hope in those songs.Photo Credit: YouTube

Earlier this week, just driving back home from doing errands, some memories flashed back into my consciousness…memories of a rougher time in my life. A time when I had allowed myself to stray from the nearness of God and the hope He’d given me.

Those memories of a wayward time wrapped tightly around me, in that moment, like the bondage of sin I knew in those days. It was so real…and terrifying. The shame of it…and the deceit. For a season, I had believed lies and chose the world over the One who had chosen me.

Praise God…those memories, like the sins He forgave, are not today’s reality. Today, “all my sins are forgiven; I’ve been washed by the blood”.

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.1 John 1:7

If you will, worship with me the God who holds us, who forgives us, and forgets what separated us from Him. That yesterday is gone! Today we can be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”…for us. [1 Peter 1:3-4]

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to that river
And I ain’t the same, a prodigal returned

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

I’m no stranger to the prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
I’ve been freed and forgiven (yes, I have)
I’m not going back, I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes, Lord, but He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man

So I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone (it’s gone, yes)
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

Oh I’ve been washed by the blood

Thank You, Jesus**

*Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Duluth, Georgia

**Lyrics to All My Hope – written by David Crowder & Ed Cash

YouTube Video – Crowder – Story Behind the Song All My Hope

Love Atlanta – Rising Together to Serve Our City

Saturday Short – This Blood – with Rachel Chapman

Photo Credit: Flickr

Probably the greatest offense of Christ to a disbelieving world is the cross. Why? Surely, the God of the universe could have orchestrated another way…a gentler, more palatable way to reconcile a wayward people back to Himself. How can we, mere mortals, prescribe to Creator God, a better way? God have mercy.

In our small understanding of the costly nature of sin and the priceless redemption available to us through Jesus, we are undone. A sinless savior. Paying our debt that we had no way to do it. To a holy God. God the Father, restoring us back to Himself, through the death of this precious One, Jesus.

Songwriter Rita Springer wrote a song entitled This Blood that exquisitely describes what Jesus did for us. There is something about this song that also brings together generations. Don’t miss how Springer describes the inspiration of this song and her personal experience of God in the process (here). She also talks about her heritage of parents and grandparents who loved God deeply and raised her up in the tradition of choirs singing of this great love.

Get ready for goosebumps. This song. This choir. This girl. This God:

There is a blood
That cost a life
That paid my way
Death its price
When it flowed
Down from the cross
My sins were gone
My sins forgot

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

There is a Blood
That sights the blind
That Heals the sick
The lonely finds
It has the Power
To free the bound
As chains they fall
Upon the ground

So pour it out and
To cleanse my soul
And let’s liquid Glory flow
Because it lives
To make me whole
I owe my life
I owe my soul

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing, nothing, nothing,

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus (x2)

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One*

[Postscript: I LOVE choirs. Grew up with them, singing in them. In recent years, praise teams have also affected for me an avenue to worship God. The thing is: it’s easy to just be caught up with the singers, the sound and the solace…and stop short of worshiping the God who inspired such singing. May we never stop short. Hallelujah!]

*Lyrics to This Blood – Songwriter Rita Springer

YouTube Video – Rita Springer – This Blood Song Story – listen to Springer’s testimony of how God gave her this song and how it resonated for her with the generations before – the hymn-singing generations – her parents and grandparents who loved God so.

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Church, Minden, Louisiana (this video features Rachel Chapman (embedded above)

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Jacksonville – with Soloist Terette Mitchell

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

[Adapted from the Archives]

Worship can be a deeply emotional experience. In fact, sometimes, we lose our focus on God Himself in the midst of the singing of a familiar song. Our minds wander as memories of other times and places take us out of the moment. Not a bad thing necessarily, but…

That happened to me recently as the praise band at Movement Church opened the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. I love this Stuart Townend hymn. He published it in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country. [This and another hymn of his – In Christ Alone.]

On Fridays, we would join other internationals and a smattering of Egyptian Christians, at Heliopolis Community Church, and we would sing and pray in English. Such a refreshment to our souls as we spent most of our week, learning and using Arabic in our work and with neighbors and friends. English was our worship language.blog-international-church-worship-how-deep-the-fathers-lovePhoto Credit: CCCLux

Sweet memories of hot Friday mornings, singing with believers from all over the world, as the call to prayer broke through from a nearby mosque. Sweet memories of a oneness with each other…and with God.

Then my thoughts sprang back to the present, as the gathered church at Movement sang this lyric:

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

At what cost? Oh…we can imagine the considerable cost Jesus paid because our own flesh cringes at the excruciating pain of the cross. Yet, we also must take in, as much as we can, the cost to the Father. Such great love He has…for His own son…and for us…each one of us. The whole world, in fact.

When Stuart Townend was writing this hymn, he was very aware of the emotions that can be elicited in praise music. Just as I have described, the personal joy, refreshment, and happy memories that can be so satisfying in the experience of individual and corporate worship. His hope was to write in such a way as to help the worshiper get beyond himself and to a greater awareness of God.

“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Hymns like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us complement our prayer life and study of God’s Word. For those friends of ours who don’t yet believe…those who say, “That’s nice for you that you believe God. I just don’t believe like you do.”…we have a witness in worship.

It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

blog-how-deep-the-fathers-love-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

blog-movement-church-how-deep-the-fathers-love-worship-2

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Cover by Joy Williams

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

The High Cost of the Cross – Joe Crews

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”Joshua 4:24

In a stressful week and a spiritually dull time, it’s been good to reflect on the work of GOD in our lives. 12 stones of remembrance are piled on my kitchen windowsill. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) Sometimes God’s might and gentle care both shine through a seemingly insignificant situation. After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was incomprehensible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

[Since writing this blog originally, we’ve also lost our dad. He had both Alzheimer’s and colon cancer that was spreading. We had prayed for months that he would not be afraid as he lost his memories and that he would not be in pain in the end. God gloriously answered those prayers for us. We know it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with Alzheimer’s. We are so grateful.]

10) Losing my mom was especially hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving miraculously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills – Classical Guitarist, Composer, Arranger of Themes from Films, TV Shows, and VideoGames

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in North Africa, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. One very dramatic time was when we came back to the US. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

Right now, as we are days away from this year’s Easter celebration, I am once again riveted by God’s reach into our lives. Just in this past year alone, He has been with us through great joys and great losses, a cancer diagnosis, much change in our work, and the birth of a precious grandchild. The handprint of God is everywhere…even on days when I have to get my heart quiet and my eyes focused to see. He is always near…it just takes us looking…and then remembering all the times before.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13

Will there be days we forget? It happens… Fortunately, for us, even when we forget, He never does.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – DebMillsWriter

Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 1)

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[Adapted from the Archives]

“Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.Joshua 4:5-7

My mind has been troubled by many things in recent days – loved ones who are sick, friends losing jobs or stressed in their current work situations, young adults struggling with addictions or alienated from their parents, our country’s political battles, and how the world’s gone mad.

This is not anything new…but I am left a little dull spiritually in the most beautiful season of the year. We are counting down to Easter Sunday…meditating on what the Messiah did for us all…in his last teachings and healings, his surrendering himself to die for us, and his glorious resurrection. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

It is in remembering God and all He has done for us and continues to do for us, out of love and mercy, that my dullness dissipates.

On my kitchen windowsill, I keep a small pile of 12 stones. They are a reminder to me of the promises of God and how He faithfully, over and over again, delivers his children.

I want to share just 12 of those very personal occasions here…12 remembrances of how God has shown Himself mighty in our lives.

1) God brought my husband and me together in a remarkable way. I was finishing paperwork to go overseas to work as a nurse and Dave was working on his doctorate almost 1000 miles away. Through a series of God-shaped events, I ended up, not overseas, but in his city teaching in the same university. We met in a tiny church, became close friends…and the rest is [our] history. I did get to work overseas…so nothing lost, and so much gained.2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

2) Our always-happy little girl at 4 years old became very sick. She didn’t seem sick to the pediatricians and so was misdiagnosed for several days. She was always a very stoic little kid when dealing with pain or sickness, and we knew something was terribly wrong.  Finally on the 4th day of taking her to be seen by the doctors, and just in time, she was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix, peritonitis, and sepsis. Through this harrowing experience, God showed Himself mighty in her life, and ours, as we prayed over her and persevered in a messed-up situation…and she was healed.Blog - Christie

3) Our 3rd child came home to us from South Korea. He had a rough start in life, and we knew giving him the care he needed would be a challenge for us. We also knew he was meant to be part of our family. As we boarded the plane to retrieve him, I had one of those moments of “what if’s”. What if we got ahead of God in our desire to add to our family? What if he wasn’t meant for us? A little late for what if’s…but that was the condition of my heart for that moment. Looking out the window of the plane on that damp late summer morning, the sun broke through. Against the mist shone a double rainbow. Not just one promise…but two. Peace stilled my heart. Through all of our son’s struggles and triumphs over these many years, I look back to that defining moment…and am settled.Baby pics of Dan.5Blog - Daniel 2

4) Sometime in my 30’s, I had one of those crises of belief. This wasn’t a unique situation, but it was severe. No power in my life. No place, seemingly in God’s kingdom. Outwardly, all seemed well (active in church, occupied with children, friends, work). Inwardly, I was terrified that somehow I had missed God. Somehow,  someway, what I had done to walk with God wasn’t enough. Then…a small group of us attended a conference on revival with Henry Blackaby and Richard Owen Roberts speaking. As I listened to Dr. Roberts speak, my thinking was transformed. Blog - Richard Owen RobertsPhoto Credit: Matt Henry

He was small behind the podium, and yet his whole countenance reminded me of what Moses must have looked like…after meeting with GOD Himself. I can’t tell you what he said, really, but there was a moment when the Holy Spirit touched my heart with the great truth of His work in my life. Tears flowed uncontrollably, and in silence, I worshiped the Savior of my life. There has never been a moment of doubt since for me regarding salvation and being a child of GOD.

5) Our nephew, Chad, died over 20 years ago. One day, I will write about him, but for now, suffice it to say he was a shining star in our family. Loving, funny, accepting of all his crazy family. He died instantly in a car accident at 23 years forever young. We were in deep shock at his death…all of us. When the time came for us to view his body, in the casket, I remember thinking, “Well, God, this will be a big test of the sufficiency of Your grace.” As his mom, dad, only sister, grandparents and the rest of us circled that casket, a miracle happened. Grace abounded. All there was in those moments was deep love and amazing grace.

6) There did come a day for our family that we would take a job overseas. It’s one thing for me to decide to go as a single person. A whole other thing transpires when two people determine to gather up all the grandchildren and take them continents away from the grandparents. When we first told our parents, it was heart-wrenching…we felt their sadness as if it were our own. Then…the Lord worked… Not 24 hours after the weight of this news, my father-in-law fetched his world atlas, and we poured over it together…and God moved again, and knit us all closer together even than we had been before.

We would go overseas…and the grandparents came. So grateful for them…and for the GOD who moves in our hearts.

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…last 6 stones of remembrance in tomorrow’s blog.

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24

Richard Owen Roberts – Blog by Matt Henry on his own encounter with him

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Assurance of Salvation

Worship Wednesday – What I Stake My Life On – Now and Forever – This I Believe – Hillsong

Blog - Believer's Creed 2 - Hillsong - MovementFor I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.1 Corinthians 15:3-6

I cannot begin to adequately describe what it is like for me to know God.

An image that keeps coming to mind is that first deep breath, and those breaths following, after holding your breath or not being able to breathe. Or when black-and-white TV went to color. Or that hand pulling you up or out of danger. Still…all of these analogies fail.

As young children, we had no religious education or indoctrination. I wasn’t “born” a Christian. In fact, the word “Christian” as it is used in society today pales in the experience of God in the life of a person.

Jesus wasn’t the founder of a religion. It was never about religion. In the unity of the Godhead, He has always been. He entered our history, as a man,  sent from the Father, to bring the character, the very person-hood of God, up close to us. He came to give us the way to come close to God.  To be restored. To be His child.

For me, knowing the abandonment of a father, to be sought after by God, was inconceivably kind. To know His forgiveness, when I faced the weight of my own relentless sin, was to experience unimaginable freedom – as if pardoned from a prison of my own making.

I thank God for what He did for me…and what He is to me today.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a song from Hillsong entitled This I Believe. It got me thinking about how we all have belief systems of some sort or another. “That’s fine for you” is a statement that often precedes “, but I believe…”

There are so many opinions about God out there…including opinions that deny the existence of God altogether. The writers of Scripture didn’t just pen their beliefs. They heard God speak and watched Him act in miraculous ways (Old Testament). They saw Jesus speak with supernatural authority, and engage with people in gripping, loving and compelling ways (New Testament).

The Apostle’s Creed is a centuries-old description of the faith of those who follow Christ. It’s taken from Scripture, from Jesus’ life and teaching, and his apostles’ own witness. It was adapted by Hillsong, as the Believer’s Creed, in the song This I Believe).

Blog - Believer's Creed - Hillsong - Movement

Man-made religions separate and label people…dividing us into camps of varying beliefs around 4 universal questions – Origin (Where did we come from?); 2) Purpose (Why are we here?); 3) Morality (How do we determine right or wrong?); and 4) Destiny (What happens when we die?). Religion answers these questions in varying, inconsistent ways.

Jesus does not bring us to a religion. He brings us to a relationship – with God Himself. Through His life, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus has answered my questions. Some things I won’t understand until Heaven…but what I do understand now in this journey with God colors everything…and gives me peace and hope.

Rich Mullins, singer/songwriter, like Hillsong, wrote about God in his song Creed. The chorus so resonates with where I am today:

“And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man” – Rich Mullins, Creed

If you have read this far, you probably have a similar understanding of God. Or maybe, you are searching for truth yourself… search it out. You won’t find it in my opinion or someone else’s (as you have already discovered)…but you can find it…you can find God. This has been my experience…for which I’m eternally grateful.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
 – Romans 10:9

Worship with me.

Our Father everlasting
The all creating One
God Almighty
Through Your Holy Spirit
Conceiving Christ the Son
Jesus our Savior
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus
Our Judge and our Defender
Suffered and crucified
Forgiveness is in You
Descended into darkness
You rose in glorious life
Forever seated high
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus
I believe in You
I believe You rose again
I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord
[x2]I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus
[x2]
For I believe in the name of Jesus
For I believe in the name of Jesus
I believe in life eternal
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saints’ communion
And in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again
For I believe, in the name of Jesus
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus
[x2]For I believe in the name of Jesus.

[Songwriters – Ben Fielding & Matt Crocker – No Other Name album]

YouTube Video – Hillsong Worship – This I Believe (The Creed) Story Behind the Song

What Is the Apostles’ Creed?

The Creed According to Hillsong – Sacred Wrightings – Insightful article on what’s left out of the Apostles’ Creed in Hillsong’s lyric & should it have been

YouTube Video – Creed by Third Day with Brandon Heath (a Tribute to Rich Mullins)

YouTube Video – Rich Mullins Creed

Worship Wednesday – Breathing In Your Grace, Breathing Out Your Praise – Your Grace Finds Me by Matt Redman

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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

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. – 2 Timothy 1:9

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.2 Corinthians 12:9

“Grace means undeserved kindness. It is the gift of God to man the moment he sees he is unworthy of God’s favor.”Dwight L. Moody*

The fact of God’s grace overwhelms me this morning. A friend is in the hospital in labor, a month early, preparing to give birth to her baby girl. Another dear one is daily receiving friends to lavish her with love in her battle with a raging recurrent cancer. Family members come to mind who have landed their dream job, while others endure difficult job situations, or no job at all right now. I watch friends celebrate long years of marriage and pray for others whose marriages are interrupted by a spouse dying or leaving.

There is grace for all of us. God’s grace. Undeserved…but full and free…His strength in our weakness.

blog - grace 5Blog - Grace 13 Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 023

I grew up in church singing hymns about grace. One we all know is Amazing Grace. Another one is Grace Greater Than Our Sin. What an incredible gift that God gives us – this grace that covers all the darkness (and illuminates all the good) in our lives and fills all the gaps between us and God. Rejoice in this last stanza of that old hymn:

“Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?” – Julia H. Johnston

Worship with me now, if you can, with the lyrics of a contemporary hymn of grace by Matt Redman:

It’s there in a newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me
Yes, Your grace finds me

It’s there on the wedding day
There in the weeping by the gravesite
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

It’s the same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

Lyrics – Writers: Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me with lyrics by Matt Redman

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me (Life from Lift – A Worship Leader Collective

Story Behind the Song Your Grace Finds Me

Photo Credit:  Matt Redman

Grace Quotes – Precious Grace

Top 12 Quotes on Grace

*8 Enlightening Quotes on God’s Grace

17 Awesome Christian Quotes About Grace

Clear Winter Nights – an Interview with Author Trevin Wax

A Dispenser of Grace by John Ortberg

Grace Greater Than Our Sin (Grace, Grace, God’s Grace) – great old hymn

Grace Greater Than Our Sin by Bart Millard on the album Hymned AgainBlog - Grace 3