Tag Archives: Sin

Monday Morning Moment – On Being White in a #BlackLivesMatter America – in Remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery, Alpha Stock Images

I have never felt so white as in recent years. Even all the years we lived in North Africa weren’t like now. Being white, politically conservative and evangelical, some would say, in our current political and cultural climate, that folks like me come from a camp of perceived unsavories.

That reality is might be changeable as political parties come and go in power. What I would love is to have conversation with you…if you would engage with me in the Comments below…is about the realities of those whose skin and cultural experience is black.

No matter what my heart is toward people of color or my attempts to bridge the racial gaps of this city…is it too little, too late? No. I know it’s not too late, but what can I do definitively to help?

This is what I’m asking and searching out.

When the Rodney King arrest happened and became a cultural phenomenon, we were living in the hills of East Tennessee. Far from the struggles that poverty and racial tension bring to urban America.

With violence in the US on the rise, it is easy to see how edgy police officers could get. Police brutality is never the answer. It is, however, a part of the many problems we have in our country right now.

Don’t Just Blame the Cops: Who Is responsible for America’s Killing Fields? – John W. Whitehead – Huffington Post

[I couldn’t imagine someone I loved being in law enforcement and am grateful for these men and women who try to do right and try to keep us ALL safe.]

What stirred me to write today (besides it being MLK Day) was an account by a friend of mine who was pulled over recently by local police. This friend is well-educated, conservatively dressed, articulate, and kind. He lives in a part of the city that is being revitalized, doing work in a non-profit organization and he has a family. He is also black.

When we talked, he told me this was actually the fourth time he had been stopped for confusing reasons that could have put him in harm’s way, when he wasn’t guilty.

When he was in high school, he was among a group of students gathered by a police officer. The purpose of the class was to teach them “how not to get shot” if ever approached by law enforcement.

My friend has applied those lessons on these multiple “pull overs”.

When he and his wife shared the details of some of these encounters with police, it caused me to be scared for them…and for all those who experience this kind of profiling (because of their color?).

That conversation reminded me of my only experience that was anywhere close to his. [And then, it’s not even close.] Once when we lived in North Africa, a police officer pulled me over, took my papers and refused to return them to me until I paid him “a fee”. I had done nothing wrong, and I couldn’t leave without my papers. Stuck. It was the only time in all the years we lived overseas that I essentially cooperated with a bribe.

As infuriating and exasperating as that North African experience was, I still felt the benefit of white privilege. I had the money to pay him. I, an unaccompanied woman, was driving a car. I knew if I appealed (to anyone in our hearing that day), he may have probably backed off.

A big difference between my friend’s situation and mine was that I knew there was a way out. Not sure of his confidence of that…

Photo Credit: Flickr

The phrase “white privilege” feels wrong, to be honest, and I chafe in every conversation where it comes up. I wanted to be a person who has tried to be “color  blind”. The problem with that “color blindness” is our black neighbors, coworkers, friends don’t have that option. I’m beginning to see and acknowledge how privileged I am in so many ways. This is what I used to call “blessed” which had no color attached. Unfortunately, when my friend shares his experiences, I want to agree with him. There is privilege attached to my life. If there is privilege, then how do I use it for the sake of others?… This friend of mine has his own privilege through education and class, BUT the color of his skin trumps all of that.

YouTube Video – If Someone Doesn’t Understand Privilege, Watch This

On Sunday, at the start of our church service, I saw, sitting by our pastor, a person of color, wearing the “pastor’s mic”.  I’d been praying for some time that when we added to our staff, we would seek a black man or woman. When Rayshawn Graves was introduced as our speaker, I forgot for a moment that his presence was aligned with our observance of MLK Day. Initially my heart thrilled at the possibility that he was preaching “in view of a call”. Oh well (I would find out later)…he is contentedly on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond.

Rayshawn preached out of Ephesians 2:11-16 on the reconciling of Jewish and Gentile believers. He also preached on Galatians 2:11-16 on how racism can creep into even the most devout believers if we aren’t careful. His message was so encouraging to me as a white believer desiring to figure how to deal with racism in America (what could I do?). My takeaways from his assuring and equipping sermon follow:

  • Racism is a sin which will always be present. It separates and isolates us from God and each other.
  • Jesus died for that sin as for all other sins.
  • Through Him, we can have the guilt of that sin removed. We can all be free to live in unity with God and each other.
  • Our identity in Christ is above every other identity we may have.
  • We don’t have to live out guilt (as whites) or the hurt of racism (as blacks). We belong to Christ and we are called to live that out – loving God, loving others, making every effort to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
  • We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) – within the church and with marginalized peoples especially. Unless we come close to each other, and have heart conversations, how will we know what those burdens are?
  • Because our identity is in Christ, and we love Him and want to be like Him, we make a habit of being proactive in pursuing reconciliation.

You can listen to Rayshawn’s sermon in entirety here. So helpful.

#BlackLivesMatter: A Guide for Confused White People – Sarah Wotaszak

YouTube Video – A Biblical Response on Race – Sermon by Tony Evans

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

As we pause on Martin Luther King Day and reflect on the sobering issue of racism in our country, and world, we can be hopeful. The hope must be grounded in what has already been done for us to be unified…and what we can do, based on truth, towards racial reconciliation. Still thinking of my friend, somehow profiled by law enforcement, I am more resolved than ever before to reach out in as many directions as possible. May God open doors and bring unity.

Providence Is No Excuse: Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist – Daniel Kleven

Postscript: Below I have excerpted just a few of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations on what was happening in his day. He wrote these to a group of white pastors who had expressed concern about his actions.  He wrote from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.

[Bold emphases are mine. Read his letter in its entirety here.]

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…
I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Photo Credit: Flickr
I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”  Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?

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 – You’re Here – Nichole Nordeman

Photo Credit: YouTube

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me. This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night”— even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You. – Psalm 139:1-12

A friend of ours has been much on my heart and in my prayers of late. In our last conversation, as we were catching up after a few months separated by busy lives, he shared openly about his current thinking on God. This is a young man who the whole time we’ve known him has been deeply convinced of God, the validity of His Word, and His divine work in our lives and the world. Now…not so much. How can such a change occur in one’s thinking in so few months? I’ve been praying for him ever since, saddened that I let so much come between our friendship. Regretting.

This brings me to a recent encounter with God such that I know He will not let this dear friend of ours get too far from Him. I know because of His promises…and I know because He didn’t let me get too far…

Sunday was a tender time in our gathered church experience. New Year’s Eve. Pastor Cliff preached on going deep with the Lord and he used New Year’s resolutions as a tool for guiding us in that direction. [I just wrote about that here.]

One of the songs we sang during worship was Citizens & SaintsI Surrender All. This song is deeply meaningful to me because it was a favorite hymn in my early years in the church. We would often sing it after the sermon during the “altar call”. Photo Credit: Voice of Revolution

Those in attendance would be challenged to wrestle with God over whatever had been preached. If you sing the whole hymn you would say the words “surrender” 30 times and “all” like 45 times! It was sobering, and, in the end, brought great release, freedom, and joy. The band Citizens & Saints add the meaningful bridge which describes the realization that comes in surrender: – “Oh the joy of full salvation, sin and death defeated, glory to His name”.

As we sang, I was reminded of a time in my 20s that I was far from God. Oh, still going to church, you know…but in my heart, and my choices through the week…far. I will never forget one night, in particular, during a time I was really playing with fire, bedazzled by the world. After getting to bed very late, something gave me pause and I tried to pray. In that dark night, it was as if my prayers hit the ceiling and fell back to me. I was terrified.

From somewhere deep inside, the verse from Isaiah (59:2) came into my thoughts: “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Now, that was written in context to a gravely disobedient people, and because of Christ we live in much grace today. Still…that was all I needed. That reminder. Had to have come from the Spirit of God Himself.

It helped me alter my course in life. There would be other times where I didn’t choose wisely, but God never let go of me. Never.

Back to the present: New Year’s Day morning and I was driving to a friend’s house. Tuned into my current favorite radio station, and three songs in a row took me to the very throne of God, as He spoke to my heart through those lyrics.

I know you’ve been in a place…at home or somewhere else (for me, this time, it was in the driver’s seat of my car, dealing with toll roads)…and God demonstrates He is there. It’s just amazing, right?

Nichole Nordeman‘s song “You’re Here” was new to me. Would you take a moment and listen to or sing this song with me? We can worship right where we are.

In my younger years
I found You beneath the steeple
In the faces of Your people
Could hear You in the hymns
In my younger years
Then later on
I met You on a road, once winding
Seeking but not always finding
With the building gone
You still loved me later on

[Pre-Chorus]
Anywhere You are is sanctuary
Everywhere You are is where I’m free

[Chorus]
You’re here, You’re here
The only invitation that You need
Is the very air I breathe
You’re here, You’re here
I will never be alone
You will be always be my home
‘Cause You’re here

In the same small room
Staring at the life I’ve chosen
Hoping that the door’s still open
To give my heart to You
In this same small room
What could separate
Me from all the ways You love me?
Nothing below or above me
Could get in the way
This is what You say

[Pre-Chorus]
Anywhere You are is sanctuary
Everywhere You are is where I’m free

[Chorus]
You’re here, You’re here
The only invitation that You need
Is the very air I breathe
You’re here, You’re here
I will never be alone
You will be always be my home…

[Bridge]
You were at the altar, preacher’s hand upon my head
You were in the water, when I came up clean instead
You’re still in my story, when my tears fall on the dirt
You’re there in the morning, wrapping grace around what hurts
You were in the questions, in the silence on the phone
You were paying cab fare, making sure I made it home
I believed in too far, I believed in my worst fear
But You were never moving closer, You were only always here!

You will always be my home
I don’t have to be alone
Don’t have to be alone
You will always be my home*

Seriously, it’s like Nichole Nordeman has known my walk with the Lord. Well, she definitely knows the Lord and her lyrics cross generations and touches our hearts with truth, no matter our situation.

I hope you’re encouraged. I don’t know what you’re going through, but God does (as trite as this could sound though true the same). He is with you, no matter what. He won’t let you go. This…I know.

*Lyrics to Nichole Nordeman’s You’re Here

YouTube Video – Nichole Nordeman – You’re Here (Song Story)

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

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The consequence of our disobedience is death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of lords

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

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

I sing
Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

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

Photo Credit: Slideshare

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

Lyrics – I See the Lord – Writer: Chris Falson

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

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy – Jeremy Riddle

Holiness and Justice – R. C. Sproul

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

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

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

YVR0 20100225 VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA : Canada players huddle before their game against the USA in the gold medal women's hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter games in Vancouver, Canada at the Canada Hockey Place on Thursday, 25 February, 2010. Canada won the game 2-0.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece which I read this morning and want to point your way. He introduced this pursuit of belonging by referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance

2) The Inner Ring of Authority

3) The Inner Ring of Applause

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance

None of us are immune to one or more of these inner rings or social circles. Take the time to read his piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

Great Monday morning read…Go!

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing by Jeremy Writebol

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Photo Credits: BPNews.net – Hockey Team; Huddle; Men praying; Girls’ Bible Study; Women Worshipping

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

Worship Wednesday – Coming Clean, Starting Over, Making It Right – Lord, I’m Ready Now – Plumb

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If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. – James 5:16

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.Matthew 5:23-24

Have you ever found yourself in a deep pit? With seemingly no way out? While living in Cairo, we visited the Pyramids of Giza many times. Just once did we climb down the steep stairs into the burial chamber of one of them. It was so dark, and I found it even hard to breathe in that small room. “Dead space” is how it felt down there. It was a place never made to sustain life. Although it was all mental, and breathing was really not a problem, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Sin and selfishness can put us in such a pit. Whether we talk about it or not in today’s culture, both exist and both create havoc in our lives – creating isolation between us and others, and especially us and God.

I am so thankful that I grew up in an era when even people who did not have a personal experience of God still wrestled with “right and wrong”. Today, our actions and their impact on relationships seem so relative. We can so easily justify our choices, no matter the fallout.

One night when I was in my 20’s, something must have really been bothering me. I don’t remember the reason now, but I remember the night well. I tried to pray and it was like being in that burial chamber. There was so much going on where I had chosen my own way. My relationship with God had become such a casual thing…even a cast-off thing. I was living in deceit. Still in church, still professing belief in Jesus (when it was convenient and cost me nothing). Yet I was all about my own pleasure and popularity – pleasing others and pursuing personal success….until that night.

Again, I don’t even know what I needed from God that night, but I needed Him. Trying to pray, but still so full of self, was like speaking words into a vacuum. The deadness of those moments was terrifying. God is within hearing always, but if I didn’t confront my own sin first, how could I expect a tender response from a holy God? It was terrifying to feel my prayers fall all around me “unreceived” by the God of the universe. That night was the beginning of the end of a life of total self-indulgence…and the new beginning of a life reaching toward true life. The life He has for all of us – loving Him, loving others, with grace sufficient for all that comes our way, and a peace that passes all understanding.

Singer/songwriter Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (aka Plumb) penned a song titled Lord, I’m Ready Now. She could have been looking right into my heart. Her lyrics came out of a painful but also redeeming place. Her marriage was a wreck from her pursuit of fame, and she had a similar wake-up call to reality. She repented of her self-serving choices (her sin essentially) and chose God again and His way for her life. Healing came – both in her relationship with God and with her husband.

If you find yourself in a pit, there is a way out…not into more deceit, but to real freedom and real life. Turn around and climb out of that situation. There is light for the climb. Reach your hand to God, and you will find Him there… Breathe…………

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Worship with me:

I just let go
And I feel exposed
But its so beautiful
Cuz this is who I am
I’ve been such a mess
But now I can’t care less
I could bleed to death

Oh Lord I’m ready now
All the walls are down
Time is running out
And I wanna make this count
I ran away from you
And did what I wanted to
But I don’t wanna let you down
Oh Lord I’m ready now
Lord I’m ready now

[You called my name
I turned away
But now I
Am listening]
I was so caught up
In who I’m not
Can you please forgive me?

I’ve nothing left to hide
No reason’s left to lie
Give me another chance.*

YouTube Video – Lord, I’m Ready Now (Official Lyric Video) by Plumb

Story Behind the Song – Interview with Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (Plumb) by Kevin Davis, News Release Tuesday

*Lyrics to Lord, I’m Ready Now – KLove.com

YouTube Lyric Video – Need You Now – Plumb

YouTube Video – Who Am I? by Casting Crowns

YouTube Video – Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson

How Do I Come Back to God?

Photo Credits: Boomvisits.com and RealityPod.com