Category Archives: Crucifixion

Worship Wednesday – the Small Virtue of Humility – the Grand Journey of Self-Forgetfulness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

I’m still making my way through a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Long over-due. Although the chapters are super short, each contains such a wealth of wisdom to think through and process.

In The Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is advising his nephew on how to draw away a young Englishman from his new-found faith in God, whom the demon calls The Enemy. The nephew is given strategies to muddle up “the patient’s” thinking on God and how one is to live, “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Chapter 14 (in just 3 pages) dissects the issues of humility, pride, and self-forgetfulness. We may think ourselves that humility is having and expressing a low regard of self, even self-deprecation. That is not humility. In the fullest sense, humility is a right understanding of God, other people and ourselves, in relation to all. God and others.

True humility is a growing awareness of how all things work together, including the hard things in life, and an appreciation of the good and glory in the world. Celebrating God, and His choosing to continue to display His goodness in all of life…in mine and yours, and throughout the natural world.

When we can pull our eyes off our own successes or, on the flip side, our challenges, perspective comes. Not puffing ourselves up or bringing yourselves down, but just seeing God everywhere. He purposefully and beautifully knit each of us together and His purposes are not thwarted.

Focused on God and others, we can live in a place of self-forgetfulness. Satan wants to destroy such peace by pressing us to ever compare, ever put ourselves down, or ever feel envy and longing regarding others’ good works. Or, if he can to even push us into pride, thinking more highly of ourselves, even though we operate out of the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

Here’s a bit of Screwtape’s instruction to Wormwood in the tempting of the young Christian:

“To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Let’s worship the God who frees us from self as we turn our eyes each day, and through the day, onto Him. Why this old song? It speaks to troubled hearts. If humility is not where we live, our hearts become troubled – either in some embattled state of self-loathing or self-obsessing. We can live free of all that.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Chorus

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus*

Why did I call humility “a small virtue”? Because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It points to God and to others. However, it doesn’t leave us out. We also get to be on this grand journey. We are flesh, so when God gives us the opportunity to do something amazing, we naively may say, “Wow, I did that!” Pride rears its head, even for a moment. We can then either beat ourselves for the pride and make ourselves small in some sort of false humility or…we regain perspective. “Wow, I got to do that! Thank You, God!” If it was someone else who “got to do that”, we rejoice the same. It is the beautiful sphere of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

Room for everyone on the podium in a very real way…because God is at the foundation of every podium we will ever encounter. Actually, forget the podium. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We’ve all heard this. Humility is where we live it.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself…True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”– Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

*Lyrics – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Songwriter: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Humble and Kind – Restless Pilgrim Blog & Podcast on The Screwtape Letters – Chapter 14

YouTube Video – Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller – Edited Synopsis – 7 Minutes

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship

Worship Wednesday – Revolutionary Kindness – Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:4-5, 8

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:43-45

Writer’s block. I have wanted to say so much…cry out against all the wrong in our world…in our country. Cry out against the hatred, the vitriol, the division. The Lord has shut my mouth and is in the process of stilling my heart. You see, I have struggled with all the same stuff that I want to cry out against in others. Sin has shaken my own heart…praise God for a Savior.
Why are we shocked in our country when the same kinds of trauma the rest of the world experiences we are experiencing now? Our outrage speaks to the content of our hearts. “We deserve better”. “We will not tolerate this”. “We will silence our enemies”. “We will put you in your place”.
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs. We may want to block or cancel the words or actions of others. Yet, we are confronted ourselves by the truth that we were all once the enemies of God…yet He forgave us. Do we presume that our indignation is more righteous than His? Do we consider our being wronged as more needful of judgment than His own? God have mercy!
I haven’t been able to write for a couple of weeks. That time has been spent in thinking, in conversation, in the Word, and in prayer. Sometimes also just in the mundane of daily work. What is the response of the believer toward our perceived enemies …toward those from whom we feel persecution? Or toward whom we are tempted to feel hate?

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

Only love. Spoken and acted out in kindness and mercy.

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that? Do we hold tighter to our stones? Do we give lip service to “forgiving” but everything in our actions and attitudes tells a different story?

How thankful we can be to a God who is all-wise and all-loving! He understands us completely. He walked among us, in the sandals of the incarnate Christ. He experienced hatred and persecution, even to His last breath on this earth. Yet…He forgave, He loved, He administered the greatest kindness possible – His life for ours.

In His loving mercy, He has taught us how to live in this life. Whether things are going our way or not, it matters so little.

We are to love. We are to forgive. We are to keep our own hearts from sinning against another. We are to remember that we and our neighbor (enemy or friend) are both made in the image of God. We are not to forget our own bent toward sin…the very sin that caused Jesus to take the cross upon Himself…for us. Not just for another.

When we lie down at night and struggle to quiet our thoughts, the Lord gives counsel, if we will listen. We aren’t to put our trust in a government but in God. We aren’t to put our own preferences over persons. God calls us to remember whose we are. He is at work in our hearts, in that of our neighbors (and enemies), and in the nations.

We can join Him…through a revolutionary sort of kindness.

I’ve just recently discovered the writing of Lois Tverberg. She teaches the Scripture in context, meaning within the culture of the world in which it was written. We might think Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies is hard. Yet, if we recall our own struggle with sin and how neighbors and enemies are not so different from us, we can access the grace of God to love…and show kindness.

Loving Your Neighbor, Who Is Like You – Lois Tverberg

Instead of striving to be right…what if we strove to be kind – loving, serving, and praying for those our flesh cries out to hate? This is the way of Jesus.

Josh Wilson (with a team of other songwriters) gave us the song “Revolutionary” in October 2019, having no idea what 2020 or 2021 would hold. It was a prophetic call to the church to love…all.

“It seems natural, almost effortless, to focus on our differences with others rather than our similarities. Drawing attention to those differences keeps us glued to the news and social media because of the moral outrage we feel towards the “other.” I think there’s a better way though, and that’s the way of empathy and understanding, the way of kindness….No matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, deep down I know that we are not as different as we are led to believe. There is peace to be made, there are names to be learned, meals to be had, chasms to be crossed, and it all starts with kindness.”Josh Wilson

Worship with me.

Maybe you’re not like me
Maybe we don’t agree
Maybe that doesn’t mean
We gotta be enemies
Maybe we just get brave
Take a big leap of faith
Call a truce so me and you
Can find a better way
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
I’m turning the TV down
Drowning their voices out
‘Cause I believe that you and me
Can find some common ground
See maybe I’m not like you
But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes
If it means I might see
The world the way you do
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
What would Jesus do
He would love first
He would love first, hmm
What would Jesus do
He would love first
Yeah, He would love first
So we should love first
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
God help us get revolutionary*
“‘Revolutionary’ is all about kindness,” shares Josh Wilson. “I believe that kindness matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the negativity we see in the world and on the news, and this song is a reminder that we are called to more than that. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us. I am so encouraged by the acts of kindness I’ve seen recently, even amidst a worldwide pandemic, even in an election year. In many ways, our struggles are actually bringing us together. We’re learning that we all have a lot more in common than we thought, and it’s beautiful to see the ways people are serving each other. The lyrics are a prayer for God, through us, to start a revolution of kindness. Will you join us?”Josh Wilson

Postscript:

Josh Wilson also wrote “Dream Small” which I covered here. He capturing how God has wrapped all commands into two – for our good and to the glory of our magnificent God:
Love God
Love others.
“Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers.”

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – When Earnestly Wrong – Behold! – Plumb

[A theme “Behold” – See! – continues this month in Worship Wednesday – last week’s blog Behold Him is found here.]

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” – Jesus – Matthew 5:43-44

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus – John 13:34-15

This week I oddly became the target of some Twitter hate, related to my politics and a comment I had made. It was nothing – social media stone-throwing doesn’t usually have an effect if you have nothing to lose. Plenty of folks reacted in my defense, but when the last person commented (to me) that what I expressed was “shameful” – and she was also a Christ-follower, I finally had to respond: “You don’t know me”.

With the greatest of earnestness, was I wrong? Was she?

How do we respond to each other when what we think or believe is contested? What goes on in our hearts when our reputation seems at stake? How do we process a situation when what we were longing for…what we had hoped would happen…didn’t. Do we throw in the towel on relationships that get complicated, or even hurtful, because we don’t want to do the work of reconciling them…or nurturing them back to health. Do we want our way more than God’s?

Could we be earnestly wrong about such things?

The Jews of Jesus’ day were earnestly wrong about the coming Messiah. Oh, not that they weren’t looking for him…but he was supposed to be a “conquering king on a white horse, not the suffering servant…. Should they have known about the Messiah coming first as a baby?”

Yes. The Scriptures are full of prophecies and promises about the Messiah…There would be those who received Jesus…and through the ages there will be…as Himself, not as we wish he would be…our own made-up messiah.

When we want something that doesn’t go the way we think it should, something dark can happen in our hearts. Something dark that we then take out on others…even on God Himself.

The real Jesus calls us to trust him even in the darkness of our current circumstances. He calls us to love when we would rather hate. He calls us to speak and live in the truth, when we would rather just give the perception of doing so, without the reality displayed in our lives.

Whether my Twitter foe knew me or not…God knows me…and loves me…and wants what’s better for me than even I want for myself. When I stated to her, “You don’t know me”, my own self-protective heart was exposed. She didn’t know me…did she see Jesus in me?

Singer, songwriter Plumb talks about Advent being the season of anticipation. When we set our hearts on who God is, who we are as His image-bearers, and whatever His purposes might be, we can look forward with joy…for the coming of Christ. This Christmas. This coming year. Into every circumstance and every relationship.

“We in our own lives anticipate things coming or happening and sometimes they don’t happen or they don’t come in such a way that we thought or we expect or we wanted. We can still trust in the same God who knew what we needed then in a Baby. He knows what we need now in our own lives, no matter what. Behold, He has come, and He knows exactly what we need, and we can trust Him.”Plumb

Worship with me to Plumb’s Christmas worship song “Behold”.

Years of silence
Waiting on a king
They thought they knew who you would be
A soldier, fearless and strong
A warrior, but they were wrong

In the darkest night
Came brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

So we pray
We ask and seek
When the answers don’t come easily
And when they’re not what we expect
Help us to trust you even then

In our darkest night
Be the brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

Unlikely Joy
Anticipated hope
Give us your peace
Undeserved love
Such relentless grace
You are our king

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world*

As we count down to Christmas and to the end of 2020, a hard year (harder for some of us than we ever thought), we have an opportunity to examine our own hearts. Have we been earnestly wrong in dealing with a situation? Have we taken our own counsel about a relationship and not God’s (the Scripture is bursting with His great wisdom)? Has our resoluteness in our own rightness (in politics, or any other stand) jammed a wedge between us and someone He also loves? If so, there can be forgiveness…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:5-8

“Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee.”

*Lyrics: Behold – Songwriters: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (Plumb), Christa Wells, and Jerrod Morris

YouTube Video – The Story Behind the Song “Behold” – Plumb

Isaiah 43:19 Commentaries

Advent and Christmas Music in the Midst of COVID-19 – Diana Sanchez-Bushong – includes the program of a Service of Lessons and Carols

Worship Wednesday – Behold Him – Francesca Battistelli

Photo Credit: Bible.org, Suzi Ciliberti

The word “behold” has fallen to disuse in popular literature, but it is a powerful word in the Scriptures. It is used to draw attention to something – to contemplate, to consider – to look at.

Certainly, the life of Christ, as Creator, God-man, Savior, and returning Conqueror is something incredible to behold.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us].
 – Isaiah 7:14

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord God comes… Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-10

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

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Matthew 28:5-9

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
  – Revelation 1:7-8

Christmas is a time for us to train our eyes, our thoughts, and our heart on the coming Savior. We look back to the prophecies…to his birth in the lowliest of circumstances…to his remarkable life…to his heartbreaking death…to his glorious resurrection and ascension. Then we look to the present Savior in our lives, transforming us as we walk with God…into people who have the power to love like He loves, to serve as His hands and feet, to give witness to His stunning presence in a sin-racked world. Finally, in Christmas worship, we look to the future, to His coming again to take His children Home.

He is present with us now. We will be with Him forever.

Behold.

Singer, songwriter Francesca Battistelli has given us a song that exposes the pain of this life for so many…and yet she also reveals the great peace and hope we can know even in the hardest of times.

So thankful we never have to go through whatever life in this world throws at us…alone. “Feel the thrill of hope; you (we) are not alone!”

Worship with me.

She put up the tree
Stockings one, two, three
They all know one is missing
It’s been a whole year
Without him right here
Won’t be the same kind of Christmas
Some years it’s wonder and lights in the sky
Some years it’s okay to cry

In your silent night
When you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold Him
Feel the thrill of hope
You are not alone
In this moment behold Him

December twenty-third
Four months out of work
And the bills just keep coming
Trying to stay strong
But he wonders how long
He’ll come home empty handed
In every prayer that you lift to the sky
In every tear that you cry

In your silent night
When you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold Him
Feel the thrill of hope
You are not alone
In this moment behold Him

Born to seek and born to save
Born to take our pain away
God with us, Emmanuel
In His arms, all will be well

In your silent night
When you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold Him
Feel the thrill of hope
You are not alone
In this moment behold Him

King forevermore
Come let us adore
Christ our Savior behold Him
Feel the thrill of hope
We are not alone
In this moment behold Him
In each moment behold Him
Behold Him*

*Lyrics to Behold Him – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli, Molly Reed, and Jeff Pardo

P.S. Years ago (before Dave), I sang this cantata with the choir at the First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. To this day, can’t hear the song below without tears coming into my eyes. Behold the Lamb!

Jesus was born for us…He came near. He lived a sinless life and carried our sins upon himself on the cross.

One day, we, with Mary, and all those around the cross, and through the ages past and before us…we who love him, and have eternal life through him, shall also behold Him!!

YouTube Video – We Shall Behold Him – New Rendition – Vickie Winans

Lent: Behold! Behold! Behold! – Leah Zuidema

Worship Wednesday – Son of God – Michael W. Smith

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.Isaiah 9:6-7

I really have no words today…just want to focus this busy mind of mine on the quiet exquisiteness of God. To reflect on His love and provision for us. To lean in and trust Him whom we know to be wholly trustworthy.

Songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s simple but majestic song Son of God centers us on the goodness and greatness of God.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.Philippians 2:5-7

Worship with me.

Son of God, purest light, Lord on high is here tonight
Stamping through, this sacred sky suddenly our eyes behold
Heaven’s perfect plan unfold, Son of God

Son of God, love divine, timeless one, steps in to die
Who could dream of such a thing with us now the King of Kings
Man and angels bow and sing, singing Hallelujah, Hallelujah

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(We’re singing Gloria)

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(Emmanuel)
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(Emmanuel)
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah

Our God is with us
Emmanuel, our God is with us
(We’re singing Hallelujah)
Singing Gloria*

*Lyrics to Son of God – Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday – East to West – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Piqsels

Did you ever play that game with your children or grandchildren when you asked, “Do you know how much I love you?” Then you stretched your arms out to the side as wide as you could…stretching, straining, reaching, responding out loud in a big voice, “THIS MUCH!”

One day, they will transfer that memory to the picture of the Cross and the unfathomable love of Jesus.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Lord executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed...The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.Psalm 103:6, 8-14

For a moment, let’s rest in this exquisite truth of who God is and what life is for us with Him.

Rest.

Rest from the punishing news cycle, the pull of need around us, the caught-shortness we feel in this protracted season of COVID. We are going to take our rest in Him right this moment.

Breathe in the love of God we find in Psalm 103. That great Psalm written by our elder brother King David – sinner and saved by the matchless grace of God. David knew what it was to live in sin and regret, and he knew the loving promise of God who cast away his sin “as far as the east is from the west”.

sky,wind direction,west,east,anemometer,weather vane,wal,sheet,metal,iron,stainless,patina,free pictures, free photos, free images, royalty free, free illustrations, public domainPhoto Credit: NeedPix

What a great truth we learn in this Psalm of David! Echoed throughout Scripture and brought to a crescendo in the life, death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read what David says further in the Psalm:

“…from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him, and his righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep his covenant, who remember to observe his precepts.”Psalm 103:17-18

As we play with and pray for our children (or grandchildren), we don’t have to give in to worry about their future. Ours is to stay faithful to a faithful God. He has our grandchildren in His sight… and in His care.

Worship with me to Casting Crowns“East to West”:

Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don’t want to end up where You found me
And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You’ve cast my sin as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before You now as though I’ve never sinned
But today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I start the day, the war begins, endless reminding of my sin
Time and time again Your truth is drowned out by the storm I’m in
Today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I know You’ve washed me white, turned my darkness into light
I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night
I can’t live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals
I’m not holding on to You, but You’re holding on to me
You’re holding on to me

Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don’t have to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
(Just how far, the east is from the west, just how far)
One scarred hand to the other
(You know just how far the east is from the west, just how far)
From one scarred hand to the other*

*Lyrics to “East to West” – Songwriter(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms, from the 2007 album “The Altar and the Door”

Casting Crowns Story Behind the Song East to West

YouTube Video – Matchless Grace of Jesus – Acapeldridge

YouTube Video – Matchless Grace of Jesus – The Cathedrals (a blast from the past)

What Does It Mean That God Has Removed Our Sins From Us “As Far As the East Is From the West” (Psalm 103:12)?

As Far as the East Is From the West – Kitchen Table Devotionals – Rita Macdonald

Worship Wednesday – The Forgiven Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West

Photo Credit: FBC Yorktown, NY

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”Matthew 6:12

Early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he preached out on a hillside to a great throng of people. This Sermon on the Mount set in motion the public teaching of Christ. In it, he focused on the hearts of men and women rather than on the religious law.

Toward the end of this sermon, he taught those in hearing how to pray. Within this beautiful prayer is the verse above:

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

In this short verse, we hear both our need for God’s forgiveness as well as our need to forgive others.

All my life, I have heard how important it is to forgive:

  • “Keep short accounts.” – my mama
  • “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
  • “Don’t retry people in the court of your emotions.” – Tom Elliff
  • “As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your mind.” – Isabelle Holland

The verse from the Lord’s Prayer calls us to ask God’s forgiveness for the debt of sin we owe and are unable to pay (thus needing Jesus as Savior). We ask God’s forgiveness as we forgive others – even if we are determined they owe us something (thus the word debts/debtors).

Seeking forgiveness for ourselves and forgiving others have high priority to God. They both relate to keeping our hearts pure before the Lord, keeping us from having a seared conscience, and acting for the sake of our brother/sister, restoring our fellowship with him/her (unity).

It is urgent that we ask for forgiveness and take action to forgive. Right away.

If we have sinned against another, leave our gift and go ask forgiveness.Matthew 5:23-24, also Mark 11:25

Leave Your Gift and Go – Life Action

As soon as we sense, or hear, or are made aware that we have sinned against someone, we need to move to make it right. Quickly. There is much at stake: our right relationship with that person, and guarding our own hearts from apathy, justifying ourselves, or shifting blame. In other words, sin heaped upon sin. When we remember how much God has forgiven us, we are tuned into the destructive nature of sin on ourselves and others.

Then, on the flip side, if someone has sinned against us, go to him and seek peace…be reconciled. – from Matthew 18:15-17

In my 20s, I had this great friend and roommate. She required very little from me. In fact, we got into a routine of her taking out the garbage and me letting her. It just seemed she preferred doing it, or so I wrongly thought. It may seem a small thing, but it grew big as sin does when it is left uncorrected. After some time, it became a point of contention, and she confronted me with my lack of care for her in this. I was truly sorry and asked her forgiveness.

She wasn’t ready to just let me off with my “I’m sorry.” We were both pretty serious Christ followers at that time, and I blurted out:  “You HAVE to forgive me.” We knew what the Scripture said on unforgiveness.

She forgave me, and that conversation was a turning point in our friendship. I am forever thankful for her courage in confronting my sin and forgiving me. We are still friends, many years later.

What To Do If Someone Sins Against You: the Teaching of Jesus – Mark D. Roberts

When Jesus told his disciples to pray for forgiveness as they forgive others did he not, then, mean that I should pray something like this: “Father, forgive me for my failure today to forgive [Dave]. I was irritable and wrapped up in myself and when he said what he said I flew off the handle at him and held a grudge all day, savoring in my mind how I might show him up, and keeping count of all the times he wronged me. My conscience smote me this afternoon when you reminded me of your constant mercy toward me. So I went to him and apologized (Mark 11:25). I do not desire to hold the grudge any longer. You have rid me of my selfish indignation and so I pray you will forgive my failure to forgive [Dave] earlier today and let me not fall into that temptation again.” Forgiveness is not a work by which we earn God’s forgiveness. It flows from a heart satisfied with the mercy of God and rejoicing in the cancellation of our own ten million dollar debt (Matthew 18:24). With man it is impossible, but not with God. – John Piper

Forgive Us Our What? Three Ways to Say the Lord’s Prayer – Jon Bloom

If I Fail to Forgive Others, Will God Not Forgive Me? – John Piper

It is not easy to forgive always. Some wounds are deep and reopened often. God gives grace. We cling to Him and to the amazing grace we have because of His forgiveness. Our emotions may lag behind and may take time, but we can forgive in an instant. Mark it down and remember it to God, ourselves, and (when necessary) the Evil One who accuses. We can forgive in an instant, and healing will begin.

Two songs come to mind in thinking about our hearts toward forgiveness. David Crowder’s Forgiven and Matthew West’s Forgiveness. They both take us to the very teaching of Christ – how much our sin separated us from God – and how we who are forgiven from our burden of sin will never want hold onto the sin of unforgiveness. The forgiven forgive.

Worship with me with the help of these two songs pointing us to a heart of forgiveness, a heart bent toward God. A heart He tenders toward those who need forgiveness, too.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this pattern of prayer that Jesus taught. Give me a gentle spirit and help me to be quick to forgive all those who have hurt or abused me… knowing that for Christ’s sake I have been forgiven of so much. I pray that I may maintain close fellowship with You, and be swift to forgive those who sin against me – in Jesus name, AMEN.” – Daily Verse

Precept Austin – Exhaustive study of Matthew 6:11-12

Forgiven to Forgive – Allen Webster

Forgiveness – First Presbyterian Church, Yorktown, NY

Worship Wednesday – Proximity to God and the Marginalized – Nearness – Nearer to God

Photo Credit: Heartlight

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:13

On the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we marvel at our first responders and health care workers. Running toward danger. Staying on the frontlines. For the sake of others.

We have a Savior who came close to us…who made a way for us to be reconciled to holy God. We could not redeem our sinful selves. We cannot, in our sinful conditions, draw near to the God of this universe. Except for a sinless savior who drew near to us, who bridged the distance, who made a way for us to be restored to God.

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

Earlier this week I watched the documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality. In this film, he uses the word “proximity” in a way that immediately reminded me of the life of Jesus…and the life to which he calls us.

Bryan Stevenson is an American attorney who works with some of the hardest cases in the court system. Predominately, he advocates for those who may not have received (did not receive) fair and right judgments and find themselves in long prison terms, some even on Death Row.

Bryan Stevenson at TED2012: Full Spectrum, February 27 – March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson – WikipediaRead some of what he says about “proximity”:

“We’ve got to find ways to get proximate to the poor and the vulnerable…There is power in proximity….I am the product of someone’s choice to get proximate.” – Bryan Stevenson, Fortune’s CEO Initiative

Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”  – Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
“The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.” –  Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality – 2019 HBO Documentary

Just Mercy – 2019 Warner Brothers film

In our current situation with COVID-19, proximity is not something we can as easily pursue as before now. Still, the kind of proximity that Mr. Stevenson urges has never been easy. It cost Jesus everything.

For the love of Christ and in obedience to him (for the sake of those around us), we seek creative ways to be proximate. Our proximity to others, especially to those suffering, must be grounded in and infused by our proximity to a loving and empowering God.

We are called to worship. Two songs come to mind: Bethel Music’s Jenn Johnson’s Nearness and Sarah F. Adams’ Nearer, My God, to Thee. Both videos below include the lyrics to these worship songs. Take one of these options to soak into your soul today as we draw near to the God who draws near to us. He calls us to proximity to Him, to His people, and to those not yet His people.

11 Contemporary Christian Songs That Are Perfect For When You Are Crying Out to God – Beverly Gard

Near to God – Song Resources

Just Mercy Quotes – Good Reads

“Do Some Uncomfortable and Inconvenient Things”: A Civil Rights Champion’s Call to Action for CEOs – Matthew Heimer (watch the video at start of the article)

TED Talk – We Need to Talk About Injustice – Bryan Stevenson

Resurrection Sunday of Holy Week – Day 8 – Risen Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Easter-Empty-Tomb.jpg

Photo Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. John 20:18

On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 saw him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walked with them, ate with them, taught them again…as he promised.

“He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.

With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!

The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!”* – Trevin Wax

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

Oh the joy…the indescribable joy of that reality. He died and yet he lives. We were dead in our sins, and because of him, we have life.

Take the time to read this amazing story yourself. The Gospel writers all have given detailed accounts of the risen Christ ( Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-29). The Apostle Paul also wrote about Jesus’ resurrection in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57

Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed.  This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.

I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and by his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.

For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19

“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

Holy Week – Day 8: Resurrection Sunday! – Thank you, Mary Fairfield for writing so well, so thoughtfully, and so thoroughly for Christianity.About.com.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

5 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Rose From the Dead – Adam4d

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

**The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People (1994) by Adrian Plass

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

YouTube video with lyrics – Before the Throne of God Above – sung by Selah

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

YouTube Video – Easter Song (Live) – Keith Green – (song starts 2 minutes in)

YouTube Video – Easter Song  (1974) – The 2nd Chapter of Acts

YouTube Video – He’s Alive – Don Francisco

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

عيد القيامة يسوع المسيح مبارك وكلّ عام وانت واعئلتك بالف خير! المسيح فام! حقّاً قام!

Photo Credit: Christian Books

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family…those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it relates to the threat to some of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

The tomb was sealed. Guards were placed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

“He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.”* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of this gripping poem here.

We today have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

“Because of the interval that is Holy Saturday, the hope of Psalm 139 is now grounded in Jesus’s own experience: “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:8). Jesus descended into death. He made all that darkness his own. Death captured Jesus as he entered it fully. But then, in the great reversal, Jesus captured death. In his rising, Christ filled that darkness with the light of his presence. He dispelled that gloom forever for those who trust him. So when we consider the crossing into of death, we can now hold fast to the truth, “Even darkness is not dark to you” (Psalm 139:12). Just as Jesus took our sins, so he has taken all our lonely dying as his own.” – Gerrit Scott Dawson

“Saturday is the “in between” day: in between despair and joy; brokenness and healing; confusion and understanding; death and life.” – John Ortberg

A dear friend of ours, Beth Wayland, shared with us this message by John Ortberg (quote above and passage below) from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. So what do you think they were doing on Saturday between the tragedy and the promise?

Most of life is Saturday. We`re in a terrible position, but we have a promise from God that we only half believe. It`s after the doctor tells us we have cancer, but before we`re cured or find a new depth of faith to cope with it. It`s after the marriage breaks up, but before God heals the grief. It`s after we`ve been laid off, but before God uses our gifts in a new place. Most of life is Saturday. It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good. Maybe you`re feeling a little unlovable because of something you`ve done or haven`t done. Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Garden-Tomb-from-imb.org-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: IMB Resources

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb – Mary Fairchild

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

Anxiety & Holy Week – Beth Wayland – With, Inc.

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 (starting 5 minutes in)

The Day Jesus Stayed Dead – Waiting in the Heartache of Holy Saturday – Gerrit Scott Dawson, Desiring God

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

Experience Easter – Somber Saturday – KLove

YouTube Video – Jesus Paid It All (lyric video) – Fernando Ortega

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend – with David Wesley

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty