Category Archives: Sacrifice

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-day Lenten Road to Easter

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would be a survey course on Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism.]

My first experience with Lent, for instance, was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to (or if I should) incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Ash Wednesday and Lent as Means of Grace – Ryan J. Pelton

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily until Lent from A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Lent Resource Guide – Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Marc Martel with Downhere

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[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

As to Christmas songs…there are so many beautiful ones – both standards and newer ones. Songwriter Marc Martel‘s How Many Kings, out since 2009, performed by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one such song. My favorite radio station pops this one up often during the Christmas season. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

Worship Wednesday – Is He Worthy? He Is – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: The Henry Luke Journey

“Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. I wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Look, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne… He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne.

When he took the scroll…they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:1-9

So much of Scripture is plain and clear in its teaching such that any of us could follow it and apply it to our lives. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, written by the Apostle John under the direction of the Holy Spirit…is not like any other text. It is full of the mystery of God and yet can yield great truth to the least theological of us.

The passage above from Revelation 5 is derived from a God-infused vision that John experienced and then transcribed for us to learn from it.  We don’t know for sure what the scroll represents – is it the purposes of God? Is it the finale of world history? Is it the judgment for the sins of all humankind? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know, is the scroll could not be opened…except by One worthy. Not just able to open it, but worthy to open it.

Jesus, the sinless Savior, was worthy. He is given many names in Scripture. The spotless Lamb of God is one. The perfect sacrifice. He alone could give His life for ours. He alone could pay our debt to a holy God. He, without sin, gave Himself in our place for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah. One day He will come for us in the might and majesty of a conquering king – this lion of God, unmatched by any foe, wholly able to deliver us to the Father.

Earlier this year, we were in Tennessee visiting our home church in Kingsport. Indian Springs Baptist Church (ISBC) has two campuses. The Hill Rd. campus is the larger of the two. It is our home church. Our family grew to five in that church. We love the people there. The Glenwood Church campus is new to us. It is now under the ISBC umbrella, although originally it was the mother church.  We worshiped happily at both campuses that weekend. It was at Glenwood that we heard and sang the song, “Is He Worthy?” for the first time.

In this beautiful old church building, being led by a praise team (and a Baptist Hymnal sweetly propped up in a window), Dave and I worshiped God as intimately as we would have in our own church. God was present…and this small congregation sang this song as, I’m sure it will when we are in His presence in Heaven..

When I came home, I looked up this song and its writer, Andrew Peterson. He wrote this song for a congregation to participate as deeply as the worship leader would. The responsive reading or singing of this song is liturgical in form…something I’m not used to.

“One of the things I like best about liturgy is the more or less constant involvement of the congregation. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” It’s not so much about us coming to sit while the pastor and the elders do everything, but about all of us together rehearsing the story of redemption, edifying each other by reading Scripture aloud, reaffirming what we believe, embodying worship by kneeling or singing together—all of it culminating, of course, in the Lord’s Supper. I can’t overstate how much I crave the moment at the end of the service when I kneel at the front and a friend of mine places the unleavened bread in my open hands, looks me in the eye and says, ‘Andrew, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.’

Every week my wayward, hungry soul is confronted by the love of Jesus. Like clockwork.” – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: GodTube, Andrew Peterson

Let’s worship together with this glorious anthem by Andrew Peterson.

[Verse 1]
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

[Verse 2]
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Refrain 1]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

[Verse 3]
Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Bridge]
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

[Refrain 2]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!*

[Sidebar: If you worshiped God with the help of this video, you saw a sea of white faces as the singers. Andrew Peterson wrote an apology worthy of your time. Let’s none of us falter from what he calls a misstep and miss the larger message of this beautiful song.]

Jesus…You are worthy.

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.”Revelation 5:9Photo Credit: The Rabbit Room

*Lyrics to Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson

Story Behind the Song Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson – Kevin Davis

Waking Up to Is He Worthy?: an Apology – Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson’s New Song for the People – The Gospel Coalition – Andrew Peterson

Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll – Commentary – David Guzik

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

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

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

Concealing

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

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

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

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

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

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

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

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

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

Confessing

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

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

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

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

Covering

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

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

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

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

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

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

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

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

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

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

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

5 Friday Faves – A Happy Place, Preventing Generosity Burnout, Whistle-blowers, Spotify, and Beautiful Documentaries

Happy Weekend…without further ado, here are my Friday Faves, before it gets too much farther into the weekend. Enjoy.

1) My Happy Place – “My happy place” has usually been a phrase that makes me cringe when I hear it. What does that really mean? Then it came to mind this week as I strolled through a local business. RVA Antiques. This huge space is a showcase for all things 20th Century, upcycled and updated for today’s customer. Artful and lovely. Having just picked up a prescription at the pharmacy next door, I had some time on my hands so popped in…just on a whim. It was a real refreshment for my soul. I like old things…the stuff of my mom’s era makes me think of her…and that makes me happy. Words also just bring smiles …those words worthy of being painted on a canvas or splashed on a piece of wood. Just strolled around the different vendors’ booths. Even met one of the owners, Dean Lewis, who made me feel welcome. Now that my understanding of such “a happy place” has been enlarged, what’s one of your “happy places”?

2) Preventing Generosity Burnout An article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele got me thinking this week about generosity burnout. Beat Generosity Burnout confronts the crucial fine line between effectively helping others and giving so selflessly we lose our joy and capacity. We burn out. If we base our helping on “the need”, we won’t build in safeguards, boundaries if you will, to determine how best to meet that need. Serving our communities is definitely something we need to always consider, but we serve best by applying sustainable, capacity-building planning and practice.

Photo Credit: Adam Grant, Reb Rebele, Craig Ellis – LinkedIn

Think of the ways you serve your various communities across a typical week or month. Are you all-in or holding back out of fear of too great a commitment or fear of burnout? Or what else? We definitely want to rise above the latter but what might “all-in” look like to be sustainable? For you personally and for the sake of the community you serve?

I would love this sort of dialogue with you.  Either in Comments below or via email.

[Sidebar – for those of you who flew through this, already cynical and shut down from demands/needs of your organization or community, please reconsider and lean in. People very close to you may be teetering on generosity burnout and could use your thinking on sustainability.]

Beat Generosity Burnout –  Adam Grant & Reb Rebele

Generosity Burnout – Selflessness Exhaustion – Craig Ellis

The Invisible Costs of Giving: How to Combat Generosity Burnout at WorkNicole Abi-Esber

Harvard Business Review – List of Articles on Generosity Burnout

3) Whistle-blowers – Who are these people? These who bring unethical or illegal practices into the light? These who risk reputation and career…even more at times…to expose wrong? This was a big news week in America. One of those related to Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and a whistle-blower. Wylie revealed an incredible, yet not-surprising abuse of Facebook user data by the political consulting company Cambridge Analytica. This company has probably had influence on presidential elections in the US, Kenya, Argentina, and other countries.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
First, the company secured Facebook user data by claiming it would be for academic research purposes rather than commercial purposes. Then the company used an app (a pop-up quiz on Facebook) to glean more data about the user’s personality. This was multiplied through the users’ friend lists…resulting in millions of Facebook users manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. Based on their findings, CA would then post “fake news” to these users’ pages that would move them to possibly vote in a certain way. This is essentially “weaponizing the internet”.
I’m not sure of Christopher Wylie’s motives in whistle-blowing at this time, but it definitely gives pause to every request we consider in clicking yes to an app having access to our data.
What is also thought-provoking is how this practice goes much farther back than just the 2016 presidential election.
Something to ponder…thanks to Christopher Wylie, previously the perpetrator, now a champion for truth.
4) Spotify – So many of you may already use Spotify, this music service for smartphones and computers. I’m a late adopter but now I’m a happy consumer of this free medium. Especially since Beyond the Guitar has his first album on the site. So nice just to be able to click on, and listen to Nathan’s music while I’m driving or working.
His first published original composition, Evenglow, is also available on Spotify.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar
Be a Patron – Support Beyond the Guitar music creation on Patreon.
5) Beautiful Documentaries – Documentaries are becoming film favorites of late…especially when they focus on documenting the beautiful and redemptive sides of life.

Jay Lyons Productions partnered with Topher Hall to create this amazing piece with current and vintage footage for Prison Fellowship. This documentary tells the story of how people who committed unspeakable crimes found a sustaining and redeeming faith in Christ while in prison.

Prison Fellowship – Video Review

Another of Jay’s documentaries that is coming out soon is The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story. Kara died 3 years ago this week. She was a magnificent woman, full of love and faith.  Watch for this film.

 Have a rich weekend. Every day is a gift, right? Love on those people around you. Love you.
Bonuses: 

The Man That Came After – Michelle E. Steinke

Little Marlana – My Story

Salvation Army Launches Nonprofit Supermarket To Help Low-Income Families Buy Quality Food

Photo Credit: FrankSonnenberg Online

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5 Friday Faves – Favorite Book of 2018, the Courage of Rachael Denhollander, Good News, Love Across a Lifetime, and a Hint of Spring

It’s Friday! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute! Where is Beyond the Guitar?!” I know he’s on here every week, because he’s definitely one of my faves. Right? No argument. This week, Nathan is meeting up with some folks in various segments of the music industry. No video this week. You can watch his latest video here. I did manage to have other Faves for the week…so here they are…just for you.

1) Favorite Book of 2018 – It’s only January, but this 2016 book has already become my strong favorite for the year. It is Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch.

Crouch talks about how so much in life is both/and not either/or. We can find ourselves somewhere on this 2×2 chart below, depending on how much authority we have and how much vulnerability. He defines authority as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is defined as “exposure to meaningful risk”.  In his book, Strong and Weak, Crouch talks, as if face-to-face, to the reader about how to move “up and to the right” to do life, flourishing. How we get there is through bringing others along with us, using our authority and vulnerability, not just for our own sake, but for that of those around us, as well. We have all known suffering, but we can hopefully avoid falling into withdrawing or exploiting. Such a good read!

Photo Credit: Acton Institute, Joseph Sunde

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

The Best Quotes from Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch – Barnabas Piper

Strong and Weak Quotes – GoodReads

[Playing God by Crouch is also on my short list for starting out 2018 reading. Then, too, his The Tech-Wise Family. Has anyone else read any of his books? Please comment and let us know. Thanks!]

The Tech-Wise Family: Every Day Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place – Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family – The Matt Lewis Show – Interview with Andy Crouch

2) The Courage of Rachael Denhollander – This past week the news has been packed with the victim statements and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics team doctor who molested over 155 girls in his care. I say 155 because those were the ones who gave statements prior to his sentencing. The last one who spoke was actually the first one who got heard about his abuse. See stories below. Rachael Denhollander – you are our hero…with all those precious girls who can hopefully heal from this terrible situation.

The Incredible Testimony as a Former Gymnast Confronts Her Sexual Abuser in Court (Justin Taylor)

Photo Credit: Neil Blake, MLive.com

How the Indy Star and Rachael Denhollander Took Down Larry Nassar – Eric Levenson

In Larry Nassar’s Case, a Single Voice Eventually Raised an Army – Juliet Macur

*7 Lessons Learned From Larry Nassar Sentencing – Dwight Adams

  1. Believe children when they report abuse.
  2. Anyone can be an abuser.
  3. Reporting of child abuse must be improved.
  4. Child molesters strive to win victims’ trust.
  5. Children must speak up about abuse.
  6. Police must take on tough cases.
  7. Investigative journalism is crucial.*

3) Good News – Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, began a series of sermons, this past Sunday, on the good news, or the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcast here.   The Gospel is the very best news I have ever heard and received.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine wrote about good news in the midst of a horrific situation. She gave me permission to post this. I hope you will read some of her story below…it’s our story, in one way or another.

YOU ARE THE ONE – In December of 2004 we were fighting for our two-year-old daughter’s life. She had been diagnosed with a rare (1 in a million) liver cancer earlier that year and had received multiple rounds of chemo in addition to a liver transplant. We spent weeks in the hospital (in two different States) and the Ronald McDonald House. Our “normal” days revolved clinic visits and medicine schedules–no play groups or playgrounds for us. No public places. At all.

So much time, so much effort, so much money, so many prayers, so many tears… for one little girl. No one outside our small circle of family and friends knew her. She had never been on Youtube. She wasn’t Instagram famous. Those things didn’t exist. She was just one little girl, but to me she was THE ONE. She was the one worth all the time, effort, and money. She was the one worth saving.

On December 26, I watched in horror as the news poured in from Southeast Asia. I learned what a tsunami was and what it could do. The loss of life was staggering. 280,000 people gone in a matter of minutes. No time to say goodbye. No time to prepare. Just gone. While I was fighting for the one, 280,000 people were gone without a fight. Nameless, faceless rows of bodies covered in tarps. Each one was someone’s daughter. Each one was someone’s son. Each one was THE ONE to someone.

While I was sad for their families, I didn’t know those 280,000 and I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of the loss. All I could do was say a prayer and continue trying to save the one—the one I knew and loved. The one I would have done anything to save. And I asked myself, was her life any more valuable than theirs?

I didn’t know those people when they were alive. I wouldn’t miss them when they were gone. They were the 280,000. She was THE ONE. But GOD knew every one of them. He knew their names, their stories, their hopes and their dreams. He was there when they were born. He watched them grow. He was there when they died. To him they were not just one of 280,000 or even 1 of 7 billion. To him they were THE ONE. He cared about each of them as much as I cared about my daughter. I can’t fathom a love big enough and great enough to care about each one of us… all 7 billion of us… as if we were the one.

Paul called it a love that surpasses knowledge and prayed that we would be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it is.
God knows us and loves us even more than I knew and loved my daughter. I would have given my life for her. He gave his life for us. I am limited by my humanity to the number of people I can love as much as I loved the one. God is not limited. His love has no limits, no boundaries, no cut off point. He is not willing that any should be lost. To Him, we are all THE ONE worth saving.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt 18:12-14)

You are not a nameless, faceless, one of 7 billion. You are God’s precious child. You are THE ONE. – Marlo Salamy

Good News Network – a secular website with the goal of posting good news every day

Gospel – Explore God – several articles on various topics related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What is the Gospel? – Norman Herbst – Explore God

4) Love Across a Lifetime – My birthday was this past weekend, and we had very special guests come in for it. Dave’s parents. I’ve written about them before, but in this Friday Faves, I wanted to highlight their love and devotion toward each other. Throughout their marriage, John took care of Julia. He worked hard, affirmed her in all she did, and romanced her in sweet ways for almost all the years of their marriage. Today, Parkinson’s has robbed him of much of his memory and strength, but I know she remembers him regularly bringing her little bouquets of flowers from the garden.

These days, Julia cares for John, as she promised him and God over 60 years ago. I am so thankful for our times together as family. It is a great heritage for our children and grandchildren to see the kind of love they have for each other. What a blessing to see our 2 y/o granddaughter help guide PopPop’s walker as MomMom brought him to the dinner table each day of their visit. What love we all witness!

How about you? Please take the opportunity in the Comments below to give a shout-out to the people in your lives that demonstrate to you and yours what love really means.

5) A Hint of Spring – In recent days, the temperatures have been a bit warmer. The bulbs in the garden are quick to respond. A dear neighbor friend even gave me a Spring-themed birthday present. I actually love winter, but this one has been a cold one. Spring will be welcome when it comes around!

Hope you have a beautiful weekend surrounded by people you love…or maybe you have the opportunity to surround those you love who have a harder time (because of age or infirmity) doing the same. Don’t miss them…don’t let your children miss them. What a blessing!

P.S…tomorrow I am finally seeing the movie The Greatest Showman with some friends. So excited. Love the music already (yep…as you already know, Nathan arranged a medley for classical guitar from this film).

Bonuses:

Amish Sayings

Disabled by Design – My Abundant Life Without Arms – Daniel Ritchie

Cracker Barrel – Lunch with one of my kiddos, Valentine’s Cards, and Rocking Chairs

Monday Morning Moment – Is What We Do Enough? Are We Good Enough? No Matter. Jesus Is Good…and Good Enough

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable [unspeakable] gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

The countdown to Christmas can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Last shopping trips. Last online ordering. Lists checked off. Presents wrapped or bagged.

Is it enough? Is it good enough? If there is any holiday that coaxes out our need to please people or to perform well, it’s Christmas. Our motives are well-intended. We love those whom we shop for…otherwise we wouldn’t spend all that time and money searching for that special something to put under the tree for them.

The dilemma comes when we look back over our lists and look under the tree and wonder, is it really enough? What would be enough anyway? There’s always one more thing that would just be the perfect gift…one more thing that would make you the best. mom. ever. Or not….

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable, indescribable gift in the Lord Jesus Himself! Brooding over whether I’ve sufficiently displayed my love for family and friends through these Christmas gifts adds nothing to what we’ve already been given.

What fun to see the joy a wisely-chosen treasure brings to someone I love on Christmas morning. Yet that is nothing, less than nothing, compared to the glorious gift of Jesus…His very nature God, His human birth, His perfect life of love, His sacrificial death for our sins, and His amazing resurrection. He is the Best. Gift. Ever.

2014 Phone pics July-December 118

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  – John 3:16

God gave…God already gave. It is enough.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! – Matthew 7:11

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17

What God gives is good, and what God gives is enough. Even Jesus bore witness to this, when He said, from the cross, “It is finished.”

It’s enough, Friend. Take a deep breath, and let Christmas wash over you with the peace of God. Jesus is good. Jesus is enough.

2014 Phone pics July-December 023

Image – Christmas card front – Anton Raphael Mengs’ Nativity Scene

YouTube Lyric Video of Indescribable written by Laura Story and performed by Chris Tomlin

What does “unspeakable” gift mean? 

10 Reasons Jesus is Enough by Jarrid Wilson

God’s Unspeakable Gift – Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, January 8, 1893

YouTube Lyric Video Christ is Enough by Hillsong Live

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe

Photo Credit: Into Weakness

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – Daniel 3:17-18

Any one of us who grew up in church has heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three young Jewish men exiled to Babylon. Three young men who were tasked to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. Three young men who worshiped the Creator God and Him alone.

In the historical account (Daniel 3), the Babylonian king ordered all in his realm to bow before a golden statue. Anyone who did not bow would be thrown to his death in a fiery furnace. These three would not bow. Their answer to the king (stated above) was a proclamation of their God’s ability to save them from death…and even if he did not save them, it did not matter. He alone would they serve.

What If the Worst Happens? – Desiring God – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

This past Sunday morning after the early service at Movement Church, we drove a few blocks away to attend the worship service of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.Photo Credit: Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, Bill Nieporte

That day we visited with a congregation who would gather two more Sundays and then disband as an organized church. We sat under the inspired and powerful preaching of Dr. Bill Nieporte. Dr. Nieporte didn’t flinch as he talked about their church “dying…but dying well”. He, nor any of the sweet believers we met that day, had been able to turn around the seeming inevitable. As an older congregation, their numbers continued to fall even in the midst of committed ministry to their community. They knew they would too soon get to the place they wouldn’t be able to manage the expenses of the facility itself.

With what Dr. Nieporte called “courageous faith”, they have given this magnificent old church building to Movement Church. Movement is rapidly growing out of our rented space, and you can imagine what an incredibly generous gift this is.

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

The congregation of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church is essentially passing a torch to our church to continue to be a light of God’s love to the community they have loved for so many years. One dear man we met, in his 70s, had been a part of this church his whole life (since “cradle roll”).

I’ve been so personally overwhelmed by this generous gift of those fellow believers…strangers until this past Sunday. Many shook our hands, some with tears in their eyes…welcoming us to what would become our own church gathering place. How humbling for us and how challenging as well.

As the pastor gently guided his church through their grieving, he talked of how God, throughout history has moved His people. In two Sundays, they would be “moved” from that location. He even soberly spoke of how a time might come, just as it did for them, when Movement Church could also be called by God one day to relinquish that property. The sanctuary was silent in the gravity of his words.

The place where we call home is far less important than the Person with whom we are home.

The most beautiful part of his message was that God moves His people, but He never leaves us. He is always with us wherever we are. Whether a palace or a furnace situation…He is with us.

“The next stage of our journey begins in two weeks. Stay on the path. Remain in the journey. God will walk with you every step of the way.” – Pastor Nieporte

[Your prayers are much appreciated for the dear church family of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church. Also for their pastor, Bill Nieporte, who not only loses his church family, but his work as their pastor, too.]

Now…back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

When Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, wrote the lyrics to Even If, he had to have been inspired by those young men who went through fire, believing God alone was worthy of their worship. That story is riveting because God did save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in fact, He, in some form, walked with them through the fire). However, God did not save them FROM the fire but THROUGH the fire.Photo Credit: YouTube, MercyMe

Millard’s own life and family experiences have at times been a saving “through the fire”.

“God is worthy long before any of those circumstances even showed up. In fact, what Christ has already done on the cross is probably the only thing we need to get through those circumstances. It’s a foundation that was built long before those difficulties came to be. This song is a declaration to God that even if He went silent and never said another word, He’s still worthy to be praised and that He’s our greatest hope in the midst of the trial.” Bart Millard

Worship with me, please.

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now
Right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage
Night after night
Reminding the broken
It’ll be alright
But right now
Oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now

But God when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength
To be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know the sorrow
I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

It is well with my soul*

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe – Heart Behind the Song

*Lyrics – Even If

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

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The High Cost of the Cross – Joe Crews

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

Worship Wednesday – I Am – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Woodland Baptist Church

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”Exodus 3:13-15

[Jesus speaking] “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:56-58

In Pastor Rick Ezell‘s sermon on What’s In a Name? – Exodus 3, he describes the name of God – Yahweh – The LORD. In the Scripture, when the phrase “I am” is used in an identifying way regarding God, it identifies his presence with us. He is the LORD, and He is ever with His children. When Jesus responded to the religious leaders of his day with the curious sentence, “Before Abraham was, I am”, he was intentionally communicating who he was and his larger identity – The LORD. One with God and ever and always present with his children.

David Crowder and Ed Cash wrote the song “I Am” for the Neon Steeple album. The lyrics of this song speak to me in two ways. When I sing “I am, holding on to you”, it communicates both:

  1. “I AM”, God identifying Himself, is holding on to me, and
  2. I am holding on to Him, the “I AM”.

Photo Credit: New Release Today

Crowder and Cash really touch a cord in this song because don’t we all have days that we feel adrift and wonder where God is in our situation? He is right there. Whether we can hold on or not, He is holding on. He never lets go. He never leaves our side. Hallelujah!Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship with me.

There’s no space that His love can’t reach
There’s no place where we can’t find peace
There’s no end to Amazing Grace
Take me in with your arms spread wide
Take me in like an orphan child
Never let go, never leave my side.

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am

Love like this, Oh my God to find!
I am overwhelmed what a joy divine!
Love like this sets our hearts on fire!

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am

This is my Resurrection Song
This is my Hallelujah Come
This is why to You I run
This is my Resurrection Song
This is my Hallelujah Come
This is why to You I run
There’s no space that His love can’t reach
There’s no place that we can’t find peace
There’s no end to Amazing Grace

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to you.
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on,
I am

Lyrics to I Am – Songwriters: David Crowder, Ed Cash

YouTube Video – I Am Official Song Video – Featuring Son of God Film

Story Behind the Song I Am – Video Interview with David Crowder

I AM Who I AM – John Piper – Transcript and Audio FIle

The I Am‘s of Christ

Worship Wednesday – You Are Faithful – From David Crowder’s Neon Steeple Album – Deb Mills Writer