Tag Archives: Savior

Worship Wednesday – Blessed Assurance – Fanny Crosby & Third Day

2014 May Blog 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:22a, 23

America’s Hymn Queen. Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) was an American songwriter. In fact, she’s considered American’s “hymn queen“. She wrote the lyrics to more than 8000 hymns. Many in church today do not sing the hymns of old, but even my millennial era children know all the words to Crosby’s Blessed Assurance.

The history of the hymn is a quick glimpse into Fanny Crosby’s life. She was visiting in the home of a composer friend who had just written a melody. The friend, Phoebe P. (Mrs. Joseph K.) Knapp, asked her what came to mind upon hearing the melody, and Fanny responded immediately, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” She then completed the rest of the lyrics shortly thereafter.

Fanny wrote both secular and sacred music and taught school. She was also profoundly concerned for the urban poor and lived most of her life in and around the poorest neighborhoods of New York City. She was a vocal protestor against slavery and testified before the U.S. Senate in support of education for the blind.

Blind all her life.  Her physical eyes were dark but her spiritual vision was crystal clear.  She commented often how if she’d been sighted she might have missed the depth of awareness of God and His nearness to her. [Autobiography of Fanny Crosby]

Her songs communicate strong emotion and deep devotion. I am thankful to have grown up attending summer revival meetings and church camps where these hymns were regularly a part of the program.  Some of my favorites are: I Am Thine, O Lord; Jesus is Calling; Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer; Redeemed how I Love to Proclaim it; and To God Be the Glory. Just remembering the titles of these great old hymns takes me back – to warm summer nights; women fanning themselves with paper fans advertising the local funeral home; preachers making passionate appeals as if a matter of life and death; singing “one more verse” of one of those Crosby hymns.

benevolence-ga-randolph-county-baptist-church-interior-funeral-home-fans-folklife-picture-image-photo-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-20121

Or at church camp, by a lake, around a huge crackling fire popping and sending sparks up to the dark night sky; all of us circled around, singing and praying…for our sinful teen-aged selves or for the friend on either side of us. Those were experiences deeply imprinted in my life’s story – those experiences, Crosby’s hymns, and the God of those hymns.

Some of my contemporaries write about those “contrived” experiences as emotional ploys to bring some weak soul to a public profession of faith. All I know is that God grabbed hold of me in a very real way through the music of those old hymnists like Fanny Crosby.

She was one who knew God – who saw Him with eyes that couldn’t see anything else. And at some point, early in her life, she became one who only had eyes for Him…and that intimacy is reflected in her hymns. God Himself is marvelously magnified in her hymns. Blessed assurance.

Worship with me (Third Day‘s rendition of this great old hymn):

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.*

*Lyrics to Blessed Assurance – Fanny J. Crosby

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (with Lyrics)

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (Live)

Blessed Assurance by The Angelic Choir

In Christ Alone – a contemporary hymn by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Fanny Crosby: America’s Hymn Queen

Fan Photo by Brian Brown

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

Blog - Holy Week - Good FridayPhoto Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Jesus’ mockery of a trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the rangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

Good Friday from popgodblogPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: Jeff Block

We had already been friends for years…never running out of things to say. Laughter poured as freely as the coffee we shared.

The days that our conversation turned more serious were tender and hang in my memory. We did not agree on this one thing that was as much a part of who we were as probably anything else in life. We didn’t agree about Jesus…who he was or who he meant to be in our lives.Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Then she asked me, “Why can’t you just believe as I believe?” She asked it in such a longing, loving, non-judgmental way… I knew she thought me terribly wrong in how I believed…she may have felt the same from me. Our love for each other restrained our conversation.

I thought about that question long and hard…and then I wrote a letter to my dear friend. Our friendship has endured our differences…and will in this life. I thought of her this morning and the letter. Maybe other friends are struggling with the question, “Who is Jesus? What do I do with Jesus?” Or maybe you’ve been asked to consider a religion or ideology that considers Jesus just a man…or even a fairy tale. Here is how I responded…once…to a dear dear friend.

Dearest Friend,Photo Credit: Safraz Ali

You’ve asked me why can’t I follow your way.  I know you spoke that from your heart, and you know I love you for it.  You also know how much I love you as you love me.  Since our conversation, your question has weighed heavily on my mind, and I want to try to give that question the answer you deserve.  Thank you for loving me enough to risk asking that question.  Now, I hope you will hear my love through this answer.  We think very differently on these things, but I don’t think I will be telling you anything that we haven’t already talked about. What I write below is the answer to your question, “Why?”  And it’s written with all my love.

  • My greatest desire is to know God and to surrender to Him in all areas of my life.  It’s been the pursuit of my life.  Following man-made religions is not enough.  My hope is to follow Him as He reveals Himself to me, both through His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
  • As I understand your question, to follow your way would require me to leave the way I now follow. That would be impossible for me.  I wasn’t born Christian.  I became a believer as I understood His revelation, and it’s a relationship with God that I would never or could never sever.  To remove a portion of Who I believe He’s expressed Himself to be both to and for His creation would be unforgivable.  He has come near to us, and I am thankful to know Him, as One both Holy and Humble.  I would be sad to believe in a God whose holiness and judgments separate Him far from His people.
  • To have to face the burden of a life of sin would be more than I could bear. Because I believe by His Word that He has forgiven me and continues to forgive me, as I confess my sins, repent of them, and live for Him.
  • To live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether I would spend eternity with God or in Hell would be very painful. His Word tells me that I can know – not because of my good works but because of His good work for my sake.  I take great comfort and joy in knowing that I will be in the presence of God forever.  It is also a great comfort to know I will see my Mom and Dad again, and others who have gone before me, confident in God’s promises to them through His Word.
  • To have to deny the sinless life of Jesus, the Messiah, to deny His teaching, His life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. To deny any of that would be the greatest dishonor to God that I could ever commit in life. I would never be willing to deny this, and if this is required to follow your way, then I am helpless to go that way.
  • I could not require my children to follow any religion. I do prefer for them to be believers in God by way of the Messiah, and I would be broken-hearted if they denied God in their lives.  It is up to God how He moves in a person’s life.  I cannot demand it, no matter how much I would wish it a certain way.
  • Last, but not least, is that to follow your way, I would have to give up parts of the Bible. I can’t do that.  It would be great sin, unforgivable, for me to deny any part of God’s Word.  I believe every word is true.  I know you think I am deceived.  All I know, is that there was a time in my life that I wasn’t a Christian, and it was a dark time for me.  God revealed Himself to me through His Word, through the person of Jesus, through the example of others whose lives had been changed by God, and through the movement of His Holy Spirit in my life.  Now, I know the experience of a changed life.  I am free, because His Truth has set me free.  It would be impossible for me to leave His Guide for my life.  This person that you know and love is that person, only because I am walking in the Light of His Word.  We all struggle with the presence of sin, but we can have victory through His Word and by His Power.  Since I believe what He says about His own Word, I cannot leave His Word, any more than I can stop breathing.

As I write this, my heart aches, because, of course, I would love for us to be on the Way together.  I have answered your question.  Maybe, you’ll answer the same question for me sometime.  No matter what, if you let me, I will love you all the days of my life.  You are my friend, my sister, and my daughter.  You are one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given me, and I am so grateful.  Sometimes His gifts require a price.  He gave Himself for us, that we may be with Him forever.  My hope is that our friendship won’t require a price.  I never want us to be apart…although we’re not exactly traveling on the same path.  My prayer will always be that we reach Home together….and I know you pray the same for me.  Only God can answer both our prayers…

Worship with me.

There is a truth older than the ages
There is a promise of things yet to come
There is one, born for our salvation
Jesus
There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us
Jesus, JesusWho walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus
There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus
Messiah, my Saviour
There is power in Your name
You’re my rock and, my redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name
You walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
God, you walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
Jesus
There is no one like you
Jesus
There is no one like you*

YouTube Video – Jesus – by Chris Tomlin – with prayer and praise video clips submitted especially for this video

YouTube Video – Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

YouTube Video – Is Jesus Really God? – Explore God

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

YouTube Video – The Gospel In Four Minutes – Pipeline generation

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place For His Coming

blog-peace-at-christmas-crosswalk-25-joyful-prayersPhoto Credit: Crosswalk

So it begins. December 1. Turn around…and Christmas will be done. NOOOOO! There are those out there who respect no day over another (Romans 14:5). I get that. Still, Christmas is such a sweet time of year. What’s not to love about it? All the bright colors and shimmering lights in the dark of winter (granted, this is in the Northern Hemisphere). The many expressions of generosity (gift-giving among family and friends and kindnesses to strangers near and far). The secular and sacred observances that we share within this holiday and holy day.

“Christmas is too big for one day”, writes Andreas Köstenberger, and I agree. As the years go by, some Christmas observances deepen while others diminish. I’m becoming a lack-luster gift-giver, but cherish times together more than ever. December weekends full of parties just make the month fly by, but quieter more intimate times are the experiences I long for.

Connecting with people, savoring the beauty around us, remembering Christmases past, and pondering the wonder of what it all means. This Christmas miracle…this Child who would usher in a redemption only He could provide…from before Creation through a coarse cradle all the way to a Cross.

I need to stretch time in December…to go as deep as is humanly possible into the reality of this Savior King…to think long on the incredible truth of what happened there – To hold a place for His coming…“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
blog-advent-christmas-for-unto-us-a-child-is-born-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Celebrating Advent (the “coming” of Christ) marks out the month of December in Sundays. If it’s not your tradition, you can search it out easily (here is one resource). For me, it doesn’t require prescribed readings and lighting candles…but I’m beginning to delight in those expressions of worship, as well.blog-advent-church-stage-design-ideasPhoto Credit: Church Stage Design Ideas

Advent, to me, incorporates prayer, meditation on God’s Word, worship in song…and quiet. A quiet that gives space for God to fill it with Himself. That is Advent. The coming of Christ into hearts made ready for Him.

Are there times in December when darkness attempts to extinguish the Light? Sure…I’ve known those times…that’s actually one reason I love Christmas so much…celebrating the coming of a Savior who shines light into the darkest of our nights…setting us free from what keeps us in darkness…because He came.

Not celebrate?

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

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. Ann Weems

In the hordes of shoppers and restaurants bursting with celebrants. In the packed candlelit churches and at boozy company parties. In the silence outside of celebrating Christmas as well as the quiet night within…

You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

Christmas Is Too Big For One Day – Why We Celebrate Advent – Andreas Köstenberger – Desiring God

Advent Begins Today – David Mathis – Desiring God

25 Joyful Prayers to Ready Your Heart for Christmas – Candace Crabtree

Good News of Great Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

Why Advent Is As Important As Christmas – Veronica Neffinger

Hark! The Long-Lost Verses Sing – David Mathis – Desiring God

The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs – Russell Moore

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

Transcendent Condescension – What Is That and Is It a Good Thing? Oh, Absolutely!

Blog - Condescension - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”

Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it  has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

Our most recent Advent service at Movement Church focused on the transcendent condescension of God. Pastor Cliff spoke on it and our worship team led us in singing Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (lyrics follow below). As we were catching up with visiting friends and their young adult children, we had this lively conversation on whether referring to God as condescending was correct or not.

Oh yes…in the fullest sense of that word!

Hang in there with me as I take you through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than I am.

“God is condescending.

It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.

If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.

The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”

If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way. Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer

“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.”Jonathan Edwards

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.

“To think that everyone was going about their own business, like today, and that in less than 24 hours, Jesus would have been born. In a place, not His family’s own. Among animals and strangers. To a young couple on a journey. No family around. That God broke through to say He loved us enough to CHOOSE to step out of His place of perfection into our deprived, poverty-stricken, self-absorbed places. As a Babe. On a mission. Born to die. So we might live. WOW… tomorrow. And the world didn’t have a clue.” – Stephanie Zimmerman Kuhn

Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery 2

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!

Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa

God Condescends – Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

God Is Condescending by Jim Barringer

Messiah, the Condescension of God Transcendent

The Condescension of our Transcendent God by Lee Tankersley

The Condescending God?

Does Condescend-Condescension Always Have a Negative Connotation?

Lady Catherine’s Condescension

*Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery: Hymn Wednesday

“In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us”*

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 007 (2)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Worship Wednesday – Be Born in Me – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - Christmas - Christmas Town (2)

The most common command in the Bible is “Fear not” and rightfully so. What a fearful thing it must have been for a young village girl when an angel appeared to her in the night long ago. He also told her not to be afraid:

“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” – Luke 1:31-32

In the briefest of terms, the angel Gabriel explained to Mary how, she being a virgin, would miraculously, gloriously conceive this promised one of God. She listened…and she submitted herself to the will of God…this Creator God who draws near to His creation.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:38

She had no idea, really, of what would come down the road for her…and for this child…but she recognized the Lord God in the message of the angel to her. She would trust God in this huge thing.

Sometime later, in the wonder of her carrying this divine child, she sang to God:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”Luke 1:46-55

This “song of Mary”, also known as the Magnificat, reminds us of the sacredness of Christmas…that wondrous birth of the Messiah. We are taken aback again at the willingness of this young girl to step into the mystery of this birth and the history marked by it.

Nichole Nordeman wrote a song about Mary and her Savior. This song, Be Born In Me, was part of a project entitled The Story, a film project using music to tell God’s story from Creation to Christ’s second coming.

I don’t cry easily, but I wiped tears away, watching the short film (linked below) and listening to Francesca Battistelli sing the song. I cried at God’s choosing Mary (choosing us) and at His provision of a Messiah at such great cost to Himself…for Mary, and for us. It humbled me all over again…coming face-to-face again with the holding-nothing-back love of God.Blog - Be Born in MePhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Worship God, our Provider and Deliverer, with me.

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior
If God is pleased with me, why I am I so terrified
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on it’s knees
Holy is He. Blessed am I.

(Chorus)
Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?

Chorus

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

Chorus

Lyrics to Be Born in Me by Nichole Nordeman and Bernie Herms

Story Behind the Song Be Born in Me

The Story – a collection of songs and films inspired by the Bible stories,  from Creation to the Second Coming of Christ

Music Inspired by The Story – CD

Blog - Worship Wednesday - The Music Inspired by The Story - Be Born in Me

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

YouTube Video – Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix

Worship Wednesday – I Am Yours, and You Are Mine – Oceans – Revisited

Blog - Kari Jobe - OceansKari Jobe, singing Oceans

[Adapted from a blog I wrote here.]

Thus says the Lord:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God…” Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters.Isaiah 43:1-2, 16

“Fear not” is the most frequent command of God found in His Word. “Fear not” – over 200 times. It’s not that hard to understand how it is He calls us not to fear but to trust Him in our circumstances.

There are times we just can’t see above the waves of our life…maybe it’s not our own storm but the storm others we love are passing through. The critical need to make a decision. The (re-)entrusting of work into the hands of God…or the hands of another. The walking into a future that’s shrouded from our sight… It always has been an unknown, but it seems more so today.

The truest reality is that there is still nothing to fear, really. God is with us. He went before us, preparing for where we are today. He will prepare for our tomorrows. He calls us to keep our eyes on Him.

My husband and his work team are going through such a glorious season (if I may call it that). There is nowhere to look but to Jesus.

It is such a season where God’s call to not fear and have faith stills our heart and steadies our resolve like no other time.

Dave wrote his team this email recently:

“I keep thinking of the account in Matthew 14 of Peter walking to Jesus on the water.  It is pretty amazing that Peter got out of the boat and walked to Jesus.  He actually got all the way across the water to Jesus.  As he was walking on water in the midst of that storm Peter must have been intensely focused on Jesus.  When he got to Jesus, it seems that he momentarily lost focus, turned and looked at everything around him.  At that point, his fear overwhelmed him and he began to sink.  As Peter cried out for help, ‘Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.’  When Peter’s faith failed, Jesus grabbed him and pulled him back.  In recent days, I have been thinking a lot about that story.  Like Peter, when I am looking at Jesus, I’m good to go.  When I look at what is around me, I become afraid and distracted.  When I call out to Jesus, He rescues me.  So the stresses and challenges make me recognize my dependence on the Lord and push me closer to Him.  For that I can be grateful.  Let’s keep encouraging each other to run well (Hebrews 12:1-2).  I thank God for all of you and for the privilege of running with such great brothers and sisters.”

I was also reminded recently of the Apostle Paul’s letter to his “son” Timothy where he encouraged him to be confident in this:

“It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work not because we deserved it but because that was His plan long before the world began — to show his love and kindness to us through Christ.” – 2 Timothy 1:9

We are in a time of making hard work decisions. In an organizational downsizing, some will be retiring soon. Many leave a work they love and face a very different future – both which they will  entrust to the God who will show Himself trustworthy. For those staying on the job, these may also see their work change. The phrase, “there will be lots of holes to plug” is something meant to comfort those remaining. It’s more how does anyone “fill the shoes” of those leaving? Those seasoned, revered “old” ones…

Tempted to fear…No, fear not.

I love words…and was delighted when my friend, Alicia, gave me a piece of art she made just for me. It is a line from the song Oceans sung by Kari Jobe. I didn’t know that song until we, together with other close friends, attended a night of worship featuring Jobe.

“When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace.”

Blog - Kari Jobe - Oceans 2

Lord, give us ears to hear You even amidst rolling waves and raging seas. Fill us with Your faithfulness.

Worship with me:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

(Chorus)
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

(Chorus)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

(Chorus)

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

Oceans Lyrics – song writers – Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, and Salomon Ligthelm

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United – Lyrics – Zion 2013

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United – with Lyrics – with powerpoint of ocean waves

From Recovery into the Real – A Letter on the Eve of Your Going Home

Blog - From Recovery to Real - Writing a Letter“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Hey Buddy,

We are so excited for you to be heading home. What an amazing transformation you have made through the work of Christ in your life and your faithfulness to Him! You have been such an encouragement to your whole family. In these two years you have been away, either in recovery or mentoring others recovering, we have seen such maturity in you. You’re still the old you – with all the fun, and your crazy sweet smile, and that infectious laugh of yours. Yet, you are altogether different as well.

You seem more at peace with yourself and others now and, definitely, more at peace with God. You seem content to be in the present with us, less restless, not needing to slip away to be with friends. You practice wise restraint and you show surprising grace to those around you. You understand more, now, the grace you have received. Maybe it’s out of that grace that you lavish love on others.

Seeing you with your mom and sister brings so much joy to our hearts. There’s a bond between you three that reminds me of that verse in the Bible: “If someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Like many families you have been through a lot, but your love for each other is stronger than any hardship you’ve endured.

I’ve been trying to write you a letter for weeks, but, ironically, I don’t know what to say. The page stares blankly back at me because of too many words rather than too few. There’s just too much to say. However, I am not sure I have earned the right to speak into your life…so I haven’t actually said much, except to occasionally cheer you on from the sidelines. Writing this blog will be my rough draft toward the real thing – that letter just to you…in an envelope, with a stamp, and so much love.

Here I practice what I want to say to you:

We will never forget how we could have lost you in those dark days when we didn’t know where you were going or how you were. How thankful to God we will always be for sparing your life then. Now you walk with Him. Whatever happens in the future, we know we will never forever lose you. This may sound morbid but the reality of this once took our breath away and kept us awake praying at night. Now, we can rest somewhat easier because you belong to God now. We trust Him with you.

In these two years of recovering and mentoring, you have learned what is at stake in your choices. You have seen so much more, than I,  of what substance use and abuse can take away from people…and from those who love them. You have seen up close what one hit, one bottle, one time use of a substance can do to a person…. Too often, it doesn’t stay at one. Sometimes, “one” becomes “done” in the worst way imaginable. We will be praying you stay wise in this…and safe.

When you return home, you change addresses, but recovering your life will continue. You’re probably looking forward to getting back into the “real world”. For those who love you, that’s a little scary. Not just because of your past struggle. It’s a scary world period. Excesses and addictions abound. We are all surrounded by more temptation than most of us can handle well. Having God in our lives helps so much. Just bear with us if we get anxious about your new beginnings and old acquaintances. Forgive us if we hover or meddle or ask “too many questions”. We’re learning, too, how to live well in the “real”. We can all gain from encouraging each other along the way.

You are so much more equipped now to fully live life, to serve others, and to keep your focus on what matters. So much will crowd in on your priorities as you experience new freedom. This is where we who love you are tempted to hold you close and try to guide you more than is necessary. Be gentle with us; it’s out of hearts full of love for you. We will be praying as you look for a new job, a church, and possibly new friendships (maybe you won’t be looking for new ones, but we’ll be praying for new ones, as well as the old). We know you will continue to use what you’ve learned, not just on your own decisions and life choices, but also for the sake of others. You have so much to give to help others step back from choices that can hurt them or those they love.

Last, and best of all, can I just rejoice with you, all over again, in your relationship with God? We all see Jesus in you. What a joy it is to be redeemed by Him, and we see that joy in you in profound ways. Ways different than I’ve experienced…because only you know what all He saved you from…as with all of us. Don’t ever let this so-called “real” world appear successful in extinguishing that light in your eyes.  It cannot. You belong to Him. Always remember that.

Love you forever…..

 

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”Titus 2:11-14

Understanding and Overcoming Substance Abuse

Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ

Addiction Recovery and the Burden of Self

Godly Intoxication: The Church Can Minister to Addicts – The Journal of Biblical Counseling

15 Bible Verses to Help with Addiction

A Biblical Approach to Addictions

10 Things to Stop Doing if You Have an Addictive Personality

No Longer Bound – “The Regeneration Program at No Longer Bound is a 12-month long, in-patient, regeneration process. This process differs greatly from a conventional rehabilitation program. By definition, the word rehabilitation means “to restore to a former state.” We believe that the former state of an addict before addiction is filled with wounds of rejection and pain. These wounds have lead to a life of addiction. We believe the process of regeneration, “to restore to a better state”, is the prescription for life long freedom from addiction.”

S.A.F.E. Ministries – Setting Addicts Free Eternally

Blog - Recovery to the Real - Setting Addicts Free EternallyPhoto Credit: BPNews.net