Tag Archives: Worship

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Photo Credit: Flickr

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

In my late teens and 20s, my mom endured a hard and painful-to-watch season. A few of my other friends’ moms went through what then was called “a nervous breakdown”. Somehow, my mom pushed through. She felt tremendous responsibility to get her four children grown and established in our adult lives. She worked hard at her job and served well in her church and community. Mom was unshakeable in her love for God and for us.

Yet the demons were real. I will never forget sitting beside her as she lay weeping on her bed. Deep, shaking, inconsolable cries. She was never able to say what the tormentors were – regret? worry? There were times she described how it felt like something was in her throat (that proverbial “lump”) that she couldn’t get down – literally like she couldn’t swallow (or stomach) whatever was going on.

In those days, holding my mama who I loved most in the world, I promised myself I would never let that level of misery happen in my life…I would figure out how not to be taken down by fear or the threat of the future…especially such that my children would not have to see me in such pain.

It was sometime in my 20s that my own tears dried up. After watching my mom cry so much, I just didn’t have any tears…maybe I didn’t want to go to that hard place…

Praise God there is always more to the story. My mom survived those years and lived more joyfully and peacefully after that, right through the day she went Home to be with the Lord. Thanks to my mom, I did learn how to cope with the stressors of life…not always well, but I know how.

Mom and I both learned through our lives how to cast our cares on God. There may have been times in Mom’s later years that she wrestled with anxiety just between God and her. There are times, as well, that I wrestle, especially in the night hours, before sleep.

Right now, anxiety seems to be gripping the hearts and lives of some dear friends of mine. I’m not sure how to counsel but am absolutely sure how to pray.

Anxiety is not the same as fear. It is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil…It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. It is a distinction between future and present dangers which divides anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused. It is the mental state that results from a difficult challenge for which the subject has insufficient coping skills.

Photo Credit: SketchPort

God never meant for us to live in anxiety.

For clinical helps on dealing with anxiety, Debbie Hampton has written a concise and practical piece (linked below) entitled Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain. She takes it from the book You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding. The 4 steps are written from more of a Buddhist mindfulness orientation, but they actually easily translate to Biblical wisdom.

For today, I just want to express my profound gratefulness for the God who meets us in the dark nights of the soul and reminds us of what is true and restores our joy and peace. He is faithful, and His Word never fails.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

By the way, I seem to have gotten my tears back, for which I’m grateful. Also, for those of you, like me, who struggle with anxiety, it’s a battle. We must be gentle with ourselves but, at the same time, disciplined in dealing with the lies with which our mind hammers us. For you who love us “sometimes anxious ones”, thank you…especially when you don’t default to anxiety…thank you for trying to understand, and for loving, and for guiding us gently to the truth, and for praying. You are the face of Jesus to us.

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

12 Christian Songs to Ease An Anxious Mind – Victoria Rondinelli

7 Christian Songs That Help With Feelings of Depression – Crystal McDowell

Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain – Debbie Hampton

Four Steps – Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s Four Steps – Hope 4 OCD – Dr. Ada Gorbis

You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More – Dr. Susan Heitler

Worship Wednesday – At Your Name, God – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: Lisa Delay

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord,
    Give praise, O servants of the Lord.

Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
    Your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. Psalm 135:1, 13

So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands.Psalm 63:4

Ten years ago, a father raised his arm over his son’s high school graduating class and spoke a blessing on them. In this American school, the program was made fit for all the students in this diverse setting – a Quranic reading, speeches from student-picked favorites, an address from a US Embassy representative, and a benediction from this parent.

As this father beamed, looking at the class, he quoted the poet Hafiz, “This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” He offered for these young graduates the blessing God gave Moses to bless His people:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

There is so much noise in the world today. So many opinions spoken as truth. So much gossip and name-calling. So much harkening to the latest and greatest wares – to satisfy our pleasure, our longings. The noise is deafening.

We lived for many years in places where a call to prayer rose above the noise in the streets. Although I believed differently, it was a call for me to pray as well. To remember the great God of Heaven who condescends to enter the experience of His children.

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Sometimes I felt like shouting the name of Jesus where we lived. Off our balcony and on the streets. With all the noise of city and village life…no sound of that name…Jesus. Shouting his name would not be the answer…living and loving like Jesus would…and speaking his name as I could.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Where we now live in the States, there is no call to prayer ringing from a loud speaker. No call to prayer. In a nation where we still have religious freedom, too often the name of God is spoken in our streets (and through our media) in the form of an expletive…a curse word. God have mercy on our souls.

May we be people who bear the name of God in all ways meaningful – in our speech and through the reach of our hands.

What extraordinary power exists in God Himself, absolutely, and even in His name! I remember one time, while living in North Africa, a friend asked us for money for her mother to have surgery on a badly broken leg. The fracture was complicated and she needed surgery not available in the public hospitals reserved for the care of the poor. Dave expressed his willingness to help with the hospital expenses, but he then asked if he could pray, in the name of Jesus, over this dear mother. As we stood around her bed, Dave touched my shoulder as I touched her casted leg. He prayed for healing. In the days and weeks ahead, the doctors determined she would not need the surgery, the healing completed with what they had already done.

Was it the good doctoring of the team in the public hospital? Maybe. Was it Dave’s faith and prayer? Possibly. Was it God moving in love for this mother and daughter…with pleasure at His name being called by a mere man in simple faith? Absolutely.

At Your name, God…

We live in a world where a vacuum exists…a vacuum that begs filling with the love of God…with the name, the life, and the teaching of Jesus.

God calls us to speak his name over our world…in both word and deed.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you, He [Jesus] answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.” … And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:39-41)

Worship with me.

At Your name
Mountains shake and crumble
At Your name
The oceans roar and tumble
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

(Chorus)
Lord of all the earth
We shout Your name, shout Your name
Filling up the skies
With endless praise, endless praise
Yahweh, Yahweh
We love to shout Your name, oh LordPhoto Credit: Pexels

At Your name
The morning breaks
In Your glory
At Your name
Creation sings Your story
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

Chorus

There is no one like our God
We will praise you, praise you
There is no one like our God
We will sing, we will sing (X3)

Chorus (X2)*

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

*Lyrics for At Your Name

YouTube Video – Phil Wickham – At Your Name – Story Behind the Song

10 Things “Yahweh” Means – John Piper

30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God – pdf – Navigators

Worship Wednesday – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Explore God

Worship Wednesday – All I Have Is Christ – Sovereign Grace

Photo Credit: YouTube

The LORD appeared to him from far away. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”Jeremiah 33:3

How do we stand against the mean-spiritedness of this world? How do we pull ourselves out of the cycle of shaming, blaming and blame-shifting? How do we still the voices in our own heads and hearts… voices that tell us we don’t deserve love or honor? Or maybe it’s someone else who we have decided doesn’t deserve our love or honor?

We turn our eyes off of those we think betray us and off our own betraying hearts, and we look to Jesus.

To set the foundation here, I am deep in the book Befriend by Scott Sauls. Its byline is Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Sauls writes about real friendship and spends twenty-one chapters unwrapping the beautiful possibilities of going deep with others. This book came at the perfect juncture in life for me as I shake off a sense of judgment (whether it’s true or not, it feels true) and the isolation that comes with it.

We get crossed-up in life by either the expressed opinions of others or our self-shaming sense of others’ take on our lives, our choices, and our preferences. My default is to go straight to fear…fear of losing place in the lives of those who differ with me. For some reading this, it may seem nonsensical. After reading Sauls’ chapter “Befriend the Shamed and Ashamed”, I am convinced we all deal with shame. It may be covered well by pride, (un)righteous indignation, or self-justification. Still…it is as present with us as in the original garden when Adam blamed Eve (and even God) for his sin, and she blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13).

We want to self-protect. The pain of our own failings, and sin outright, is too much for us so we blame others…we shame others.

God knows us, through and through, and loves us. Full-stop. Not in a pitying way but in the purest, life-giving way of a faithful parent. A Heavenly Father…who came down and came close to show us how much He loved us…through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

We lose sight of that sometimes. Lost in our own self-imposed dark thinking, we forget He loved us first (1 John 4:19). We forget that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39). We can’t earn and don’t deserve His love. His love is ours, always and forever, for the taking. The God of that kind of far-reaching love transforms us…our thoughts, our actions toward others, our understanding of who God is and who we are in Him.

We see more clearly that those who judge and isolate others are just like us. We are reminded of our own capacity to do the same. Hurt people hurt people. As we see what is true through the eyes of a God who loves, we can humble ourselves and love in return. In fact, we can love first, as God loves us, and stay on ready to do so. What glorious peace is in that possibility!

“The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.” (Billy Graham and others).

Jordan Kauflin wrote the song All I Have Is Christ (Sovereign Grace Music), with input from his dad, Bob. We sang this at Movement Church this past Sunday, and God touched my heart, all over again, with the stripped-down truth of His love for us. Gospel Truth. Good news that can change a world – a heart and household at a time. Because of His love for us…there is no more shame. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life*

Story Behind the Song All I Have Is Christ – Interview with Bob and Jordan Kauflin

*Lyrics to All I Have Is Christ – © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Explore God – Questions About God, Jesus, Christianity, and More

Worship Wednesday – Is It Luck or Is It Love? – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39

Who wouldn’t love a surgeon who calls to  check on you himself after you go home from surgery? That was my experience this afternoon. He had just removed 6 lesions (creepy word) from my face. Too much sun exposure in my reckless 20’s. I will know next week whether each is cancer or not (hopefully the non-scary type).

Some doctors are almost too professional – aloof, reserved, choosing words carefully, but this one is excellent at his work and also very human and approachable. Before we went into surgery, he sat down with Dave and me to review my medical history. In a few minutes, he would be doing multiple cuts and wound closures on this old face of mine, leaving me a bit Frankensteinish in appearance. Temporarily.

In that talk, he puzzled out loud at how I got lung cancer not ever having been a smoker. “Just bad luck…” he surmised.

All afternoon, I have thought about that odd observation. He didn’t know the whole of that medical workup which delivered a lung cancer diagnosis and surgery (Stage 1, by the way…sigh of relief). He would have considered it “good luck” then.  Another health issue had driven that workup, which turned out to be nothing. The testing, however, had fortuitously revealed the lung nodule. Luck…if you believed in that. I knew it was something much more.

What this latest favorite surgeon of mine casually observed as bad luck, I see as a good God. A good and loving God. Even when the diagnosis isn’t Stage 1…even when our calendars are filled with way too many doctors’ appointments and our hearts full of fear…the character of God shines through all that…if we look for Him.

Whether life is good or not so good, God’s care for us is unaltered.

These last several months have settled that in my heart over and over again. When we go through difficulties, God uses them in our lives in at least three ways.

  • To show us His love and faithfulness as we cling to Him through the scary unknowns.
  • To deepen our grasp of and wonder at His purposes for our lives.
  • To embolden us to extend His love to those around us, as He’s purposed us to do. To be His hands and feet to others, as He’s multiplied grace to us in our own hard places.

Luck doesn’t stir our hearts to take the lives God has given us (and health restored to us) and pour them out in service to Him and for the sake of others. Love does that.

Worship with me to Hillsong’s To the Ends of the Earth.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*

I go for followup next week to this dear plastic surgeon who took such good care of me. While he takes out all these stitches, I hope to share, even briefly (and not weirdly), the whole “not luck, but love” story of my life. Hopefully all the biopsy results will be nothing or not scary. Whatever happens, God’s love turns my heart to Him…and to those He’s placed in my life – who also walk through hard places but don’t have to walk through them without Him.

We are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3Photo Credit: Kuyamac

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

YouTube Video – To the Ends of the Earth – Lyrics Video (Just Lyrics) – Hillsong

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – Reminder By Steve Green

YouTube Video – Even If – Mercy Me

Lyrics to Even If

Worship Wednesday – We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

Photo Credit: ABC News

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.Hebrews 12:28

The longer we live, the more we have those stop-you-in-your-tracks, breath-catching experiences. Those “Do you remember where you were when……?” moments . Those consummately positive memories like our wedding day, the birth of a grandchild, or that time a guitarist son‘s music video goes viral.

These are not the experiences that take us to our knees (except in gratitude, for sure). What shakes our core are times we are faced with something so devastating we fear we cannot recover – a cancer diagnosis, the death of someone dear, or even what could have just happened in our lives this week.

When the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989 struck, it shook (literally and metaphorically) that community in California…and all of our nation. We had grown quite accustomed to a safe and settled America. A time of relative peace before the wars began again. Since then, we have had so many natural and international shakings, we wonder if the ground will ever again be still under our feet.

John Piper, after hearing the news of the 1989 earthquake, preached comfort and truth on the unshakeable Kingdom of God. As he started speaking, he prayed:

O Father in heaven, it’s times like this in the life of a nation when the voice of the Lord needs to be heard, and you have much to say, and we have little time in which to say it. So come, Father, boil everything down to the bare essentials, sharpen the arrow of your Word, may it sink home to do its appointed work of mercy in the lives of every person here. I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.John Piper

The Christian group Building 429 well describes our experience as Christ-followers when faced with confusing and faith-shaking times. In the song We Won’t Be Shaken, we are reminded of the great truth that whatever we face in this culture and the larger world around us, God is always in the mix. God’s purposes are never thwarted and His love and mercies will help us stand, even when the earth shakes all around us. This is not platitude. We know it, because we’ve experienced it. We know God, because we’ve experienced Him…with us. In the darkness and in the shaking.

Worship with me.

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know you go before me
And I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
This way seems so unclear
But I know that you go with me
I will trust in you

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
No we won’t be shaken

You know my every longing
You’ve heard my every prayer
You’ve held me in my weakness
Cause you are always there
So I’ll stand in full surrender
It’s your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than you and you alone
I will not be moved oh

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken

(3x)
We will trust in you
We will not be moved
We will trust in you*

Take time to read the transcript of Piper’s sermon. He closes with this appeal to those in his hearing who  do not yet know the God of the unshakeable kingdom:

Receive the kingdom that cannot be shaken. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you receive the kingdom like a little child, you will never enter it.” See how simple it is? What does “a little child” mean? It means you humble yourself and recognize that you can’t make a place for yourself to stand. You can’t cut it in life and make the future what it needs to be. You just humble yourself like a little child. You recognize that there’s a Father in heaven. You see the gift offered through his Son Jesus Christ—forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life and a firm kingdom that can’t be shaken—you extend your hands and say, “Sinner though I am, I receive it. This is now my portion forever and ever.” – John Piper

Photo Credit: Mariel Davenport

Lyrics to We Won’t Be Shaken by Building 429

YouTube Video – K-Love – Building 429 – We Won’t Be Shaken – LIVE

A Kingdom That Can Not Be Shaken – John Piper

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – When I’m With You – Citizen Way

Photo Credit: Family Life

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  – Psalm 34:18

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.  Psalm 140:12

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
 – Hebrews 13:3

How people get through hard places and tough seasons without God? His love fills the broken places in our lives.

Just this week I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film Resilience. It was such an “aha” experience for me watching this documentary on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their impact on adult health and quality of life.  [More about this here.]Photo Credit: GrowlerMag

As I sat mesmerized by that film, so many faces came to mind – children struggling to learn in my daughter’s classroom, adults with massive social and health issues in the hospital where I worked years ago, friends and family who have endured terrible things at the hands of others. How do we respond? How do we, as the film challenged, build resilience and help heal trauma?

Sometimes problems seem too big for us…what can we do to make a difference? What can we say to help? We can pray. We can get equipped. We can position ourselves beside those most vulnerable – be first responders if necessary – as Jesus became for us.

When Ben Calhoun, lead singer of the Christian band Citizen Way, talks about the loss of their son Jeremiah in miscarriage, you can still hear the pain…and the care he received from God. So much love. It inspired the song When I’m with You. Photo Credit: YouTube

Whatever struggle we find ourselves in…others may walk away, but God doesn’t. He won’t. Sometimes that terrible thing happens to us as a child…and I won’t begin to offer an explanation of why adults sin against children…but I believe with all my heart that God will enter in and rescue us sometimes…and other times, bring healing. He is the God of both justice and mercy. I have experienced Him that way many times over. We receive His mercy and sometimes we become an extension of it – through our hearts, our hands, and our words.

Whatever is going on in your life, I pray that you can feel God near …and worship with me.

These are the things
That I need to pray
‘Cuz I can’t find peace any other way
I’m a mess underneath
And I’m just too scared to show it
Everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
But it’s nice to know
I can come this way
When I’m with You
I feel the real me finally breaking through
It’s all because of You Jesus
Anytime anywhere any heartache
I’m never too much for You to take
There’s only love
There’s only grace
When I’m with You
Nobody knows me like You do
No need for walls
You see right through
Every hurt every scar every secret
You just love me
When everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
It’s nice to know
I can come this way
I’m breathing in
I’m innocent
It’s like my heart’s on fire again
I’m not afraid
I’m not ashamed
I’m safe when I am with You
So I’m here just as I am
Bruised or broken
I don’t have to pretend*

Photo Credit: Among the Pages

Lyrics to When I’m With You – Citizen Way

YouTube Video – When I’m With You – Citizen Way – Official Music Video

YouTube Video – Citizen Way – Story Behind the Song When I’m With You

God has Not Forgotten You – a 31-Day Devotional – Leslie J. Barner

Resilience – the Film

ACEs Connection – Join the Movement to Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, Heal Trauma, and Build Resilience

ACEs Too High

Finding Your ACE Score (pdf)

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

Worship Wednesday – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Casting Crowns

Blog - I Heard the Bells - Worship Wednesday

Photo Credit: CastingCrowns.com

Adapted from the Archives

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given the continuing wars and hardships of our day, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful. When you hear the bells ring where you are this Christmas season, take heart in that. We must continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

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 – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters

blog-thanksgiving-songs-quote-addictsPhoto Credit: QuoteAddicts

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.Psalm 100

Have you ever had a time when you couldn’t breathe? Either had your breath knocked out of you, or because of asthma or allergic reaction, you couldn’t get your breath. Or maybe after surgery.

Even more than that surgery, earlier this year, having trouble getting my breath recently was a frightening thing.

The shortness of breath was so sudden, I thought for sure that my time was done. When the rescue squad administered oxygen, my breathing began to return to normal. It turns out I had pneumonia. Once antibiotics were begun, health was restored.

There are so many things to be thankful for God for – family, friends, work, beauty, freedom, salvation…and the list could go to forever. I’ve thanked God for health…sure. It’s when our health is interrupted that we realize how much there was, exactly, to be thankful for.

When I first heard the song Great Are You, Lord by All Sons & Daughters, you can imagine how much the line “It’s Your breath in our lungs” meant to me. Breath! I hope never to take it for granted.

The best part of a scary situation like that is how near God comes to us. We don’t have to be afraid. I knew whatever happened, I would be with Him…either here or there. He makes brings light into every darkness.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 4:6

blog-light-out-of-darkness-chip-brogdenPhoto Credit: Chip Brogdan

In this week of Thanksgiving in America, many of us will pray together and sing songs to God for His great goodness to us. In the links below are both traditional and contemporary Thanksgiving songs. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Worship with me, now, if you will…worshiping the God who is our very breath.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only
[x2]

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord
[x3]

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only
[x2]*

Do you have a favorite song of thanksgiving? Please share in Comments below. Have a blessed Thanksgiving – whether it’s a holiday where you are…or a season of praise out of a grateful heart, no matter your circumstances.

*Lyrics to Great Are You Lord – – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, David Leonard, Leslie Jordan

YouTube Video – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters (Official Video)

Story Behind the Song – Great Are You Lord – Kevin Davis

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Medley – We Gather Together, For the Beauty of the Earth, Come Ye Thankful People Come

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Song – Mary Chapin Carpenter

YouTube Video – Now Thank We All Our God – arr. John Rutter

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving PlayList – [Wild mix of genres – You will find something to love here!]

The View – Garth Brooks’ Singing What I’m Thankful For by Trisha Yearwood