Category Archives: Rebellion and Sin

Worship Wednesday – Temptation, Where It Leads, and How We Find Our Way – Before the Throne of God Above

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.1 Corinthians 10:13

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.James 4:7

We don’t really talk much about temptation. It’s real, and all. Just not something we want to think about. Because we might miss out on something…even if it’s misery.

“Let us learn more about the power of temptation in order to avoid it.”John Owen

I don’t always resist temptation, but Jesus did. So…if we want to be more like Jesus, that Lover of our Souls, that Saviour who left it all on the cross for us…then we seek to live like Him.

We are not without power to do so. The Holy Spirit indwells us and moves us toward a pure heart, righteous living, sound thinking, and self-less love. When we are tempted to sin…or we are drawn to a desire we aren’t even sure is sin, God has made a way out of that situation or desire so we can endure. [1 Corinthians 10:13]

“Steadfastness in believing doth not exclude all temptations from without. When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.”John Owen

Our struggle is that sometimes we want our way more than God’s way. We want pleasure, vindication, revenge, or the favor of others more than we want our holy God.

“Unwillingness to accept God’s ‘way of escape’ from temptation  frightens me. – What a rebel yet resides within.” – Jim Elliott

Photo Credit: Neil Anderson, Heartlight

Temptation to sin will come, and come again. It’s important for us to recognize it and deal with it with wisdom and restraint. We don’t want our hearts to be hardened by deceit [Hebrews 3:13], thinking it’s ok to sin…What does it hurt really? Or we’ve succumbed to the deceit of not even being sin. We’re saved and safe for eternity, right? Christ’s work on the cross covers us. We’re good to go!

Photo Credit: Charles H. Brent, Heartlight

The thing is God is holy and loving, merciful and just. Who would want to cozy up to temptation which draws us away from Him? Our Jesus is gentle and lowly. He endured every temptation without sin. Because we have the Spirit of God within, we can resist the pride of thinking our way is better and that we can handle what comes at us.

“The first step towards humility was to realise that one is proud…No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When we wrestle with the reality of temptation and its grip on us, we don’t take comfort in our “fire insurance”, treating Christ’s salvation like a ticket into Heaven.

What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? Certainly not!” Romans 6:1-2a

We live in the way He has called us to live – to submit our desires, our very selves, to God and resist the Evil One [James 4:7]. This isn’t by works, but by a mind and heart resolve…because we love Him.

Worship with me to the glorious anthem “Before the Throne of God Above” as sung by Selah:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect Plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upwards I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The King of glory and of grace

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God

*Lyrics to Before the Throne of God Above – Songwriter(s): Charities Lee Smith (1841-1923) and Vikki Cook of Sovereign Grace Music

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above – Kelli Kaufman

Worship Wednesday – We Who Are Forgiven ….Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West

[Revisiting Worship Wednesday – The Forgiven Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West – Deb Mills – Checking my heart.]

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  –                 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

“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.

To know the life-giving and eternity-saving forgiveness of Christ, we need to reckon with our own sinfulness. Yet, we are blinded to our need for Him by our disposition toward holding others’ sins against them. We can’t see our own need for forgiveness because our eyes, minds, and hearts are full of contempt for those we think need ours.

What a terrible and terrifying cost – to miss Jesus because we can’t forgive someone else. God have mercy!

This side of Heaven, we reckon with the presence of sin in our hearts and in that of others. It is a part of life in this fallen world. Just as we seek God’s face daily in confession and repentance, rejoicing in forgiveness, we have His grace and power to do the same for those around us.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

Forgiveness…such a lovely experience, for sure. We LOVE being forgiven. Forgiving others is the tricky part.Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Twitter

All my life, I have heard how essential 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

Christ Jesus, in 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 are 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, self-justification, or blame shifting. 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

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

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 makes a way. 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 begins.

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 to 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.

“The Christian is to proclaim and initiate an irreconcilable war against his choice sins.”William Gurnall

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

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song “Forgiven”

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

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

Forgiven to Forgive – Allen Webster

Forgiveness – First Presbyterian Church, Yorktown, NY

Photo Credit: FBC Yorktown, NY

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

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people.

In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

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

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

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

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

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

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

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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

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

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge*.]

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

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

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

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

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

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

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives – search blog under Holy Week for the description of the other days of this history-changing week.]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Silent Wednesday.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

YouTube Video – Is He Worthy (feat. Chandler Moore & Nate Moore) – Maverick City/TRIBL

 Photo Credits – Baptist Press

Worship Wednesday – Holy Water – We the Kingdom

Photo Credit: Holy Water, We the Kingdom, YouTube

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7

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

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Absolutely not!Romans 6:15

To be forgiven for wrong-doing is amazing! We know we sin against God and against people, and to experience forgiveness is the most beautiful thing we can ever receive. It’s cause for joyful noise, a humble heart, and great celebration.

We can play down our sin. We can even wrongly feel  justification for our actions…our unforgiveness…at times. However, if we have truly received Christ as Savior and Lord, we see sin differently. We want victory over sin. We want to live out His grace and display His glory.

I love We the Kingdom‘s song Holy Water. It’s a raspy, raw confession of grateful joy at being forgiven. It’s also a call to faith for those who don’t yet know Him.

There is nowhere to go except the Lord God for such forgiveness!

If we lose our joy…if we forget the deadening effect of sin…we can turn it around. In fact, God gives us repentance. It is a gift to each of us…by His power, He will grease the path for us to turn around to return to Him. His grace…always His grace draws us back to Him.

“Repentance is neither a suggestion nor an option. It is mandated by the Lord Almighty. Therefore, we should always be ready to repent and quick to do so. When we sin against God and man, we should be the first one to cast the stone against ourselves. We should find ourselves apologizing to our spouses, friends, and co-workers before they even have a chance to charge us with an offense. In that sense, we should be the greatest critics of ourselves, repenting of our sins not only to those whom we have offended but to all who knew of the offense. In doing so, we will not give our adversary any advantage to divide the body of Christ, for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Can we possibly imagine what might happen if we took God’s command to repent seriously? All of our works are seen by the watching world, and even when our light does not shine so brightly before men and when our works do not cause men to glorify God as they should, in our repentance and forgiveness of one another let us demonstrate to the world that we are followers of Christ by our love. – from The Gift of Repentance – Burk Parsons

Would you worship with me right now, if you can? [Lyrics/music in this link.]

God, I’m on my knees again
God, I’m begging please again
I need You
Oh, I need You
Walking down these desert roads
Water for my thirsty soul
I need You
Oh, I need You

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
Like holy water on my skin, hey!

Dead man walking, slave to sin
I wanna know about being born again
I need You
Oh, God, I need You
So, take me to the riverside
Take me under, baptize
I need You
Oh, God, I need You, oh-oh

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
Like holy water on my skin
On my skin

I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change
I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change
I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change, oh-oh-oh
I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
It’s like holy water
Your forgiveness
Oh, is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
Oh, it’s like holy water on my skin
Yeah, it’s like holy water on my skin
Oh, it’s like holy water*

*Lyrics to “Holy Water” – Songwriters: Edward Martin Cash, Andrew Bergthold, Franni Cash, Edmond Martin Jr Cash, Scott McTyeire Cash

The Story Behind We the Kingdom’s Song “Holy Water”

I Don’t Wanna Abuse Your Grace – Iain Dick

Worship Wednesday – Authority in Prayer – Come Alive (Dry Bones) – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Climbing up the steps of our church stage, I kept in the shadows. One of our pastors had asked me to close our service in prayer for two refugee families we were sponsoring for resettlement. We have been praying for them for weeks now.

Coming forward to the podium, I had a strange experience.

I became timid…almost afraid, preparing to talk to God…and not at all sure why.

As if standing in front of my own church family was a scary thing. I don’t know what was off-putting about it, but it has given me pause over these last few days.

When we pray we have only good before us in the person of Almighty God. He calls us to prayer and He bestows upon us the authority to pray believing in the One True God.

The Scripture is full of descriptions of the magnificence of Christ and the power of prayer, in obedience to God.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me [Paul] in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”Ephesians 6:10-19

When we pray, we enter into an arena where God shows Himself mighty on our behalf. Praying can be scary because it is the stuff of miracle and mystery.

As often happens in preparing to write Worship Wednesday each week, God gave me a song. Sometimes it’s the passage of Scripture first, but today it was a song. Lauren Daigle‘s “Come Alive (Dry Bones)”. Then I was carried back to the Scripture. The Valley of Dry Bones.

In Ezekiel 37, The Lord spoke to the prophet (Ezekiel) during the Babylonian captivity of Israel. God’s people had rebelled (again) and they were dead to Him…They felt the deadness inside themselves and cried out to God, even in their hopelessness…as if God couldn’t raise them back to life.

Yet He is the only one who could save them.

The passage below is long, but don’t miss the vision God gave Ezekiel:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’” Ezekiel 37:1-14

This vision was a metaphor, symbolic of what was to come. God would forgive the people of their sin. He heard their cries, restoring  them to Himself, and eventually restored them to their homeland. He pointed Ezekiel to what He would do for Israel…in that Valley of Dry Bones.

Prayer is our witness to the just and merciful authority of God. He speaks to us and we tune our ears to Him. He regularly does the miraculous in our lives, and we don’t want to miss it.

I was nervous praying in front of church family. Maybe it was because I was afraid the words wouldn’t come. The words I needed to ask God on behalf of these refugee families who had lost so much. God already knows what they need…maybe it’s what we need from Him that He calls us to settle…and to trust Him with.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship with me.

Through the eyes of men it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
One by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves

But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

God of endless mercy
God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter
Bring us back the wayward son
And By your spirit breathe upon them
Show the world that you alone can save
You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God, now breathe

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive, yeah
We call out to dry bones, come alive

Oh come alive!*

_______________________________________________________________________

So…if we struggle with timidity, or doubt, or even some unbelief… we know what to do. Come. Come alive. Wake up afresh to the saving power of Redeemer God.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

*Lyrics to “Come Alive” – Songwriters: Michael Farren & Lauren Daigle

What Is the Meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37?

The Meaning of the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones – Ezekiel 37:1-14, Part 3 – Joel Kine

Ezekiel: Valley of Dry Bones – Sean Koos

YouTube – Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe

Worship Wednesday – Epiphany or Three Kings Day – Kings of the Earth From “Saviour”

Photo Credit: Epiphany, Office Holidays

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled… – Matthew 2:1-3a

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Isaiah 60:1-3

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together, against the LORD and against His Anointed One…[Then He rebuked them] “I have installed My King on Zion, upon My holy mountain.” I will proclaim the decree spoken to Me by the LORD: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.  Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession.” – Psalm 2:2, 6-8

The celebration of Christmas 2021 actually draws out to January 6, 2022. 12 days of Christmas climaxing on Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. We are reminded of the kings (wise men) who searched out the young child Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we read of three different types of kings:

  • Jesus, only begotten Son of God, born King of the Jews…and King of Kings.
  • King Herod – one of the “kings of the earth” – serving his own ego, threatened by the news of King Jesus, responsible for the deaths of all those boys under the age of two, in his attempt to kill Jesus.
  • the Magi (Wise Men) who sought the prophesied birth of a king, following a star, until they found Jesus and worshiped him.

I personally love the 12 Days of Christmas because the parties and gifts are finished, and in the quieter days afterward, reflection is easier to come by.

The kings who did the work of study and watching for signs were rewarded by an actual visit with the Savior. They traveled a long way to see him, even altering their return visit to avoid betraying him to another king…Herod. We don’t know when, for sure, that they visited the Christ child. Their bringing gifts came just at the time needed for the flight to Egypt to avoid evil King Herod’s wrath.

How thankful we are to God for these persevering, worshipful Eastern kings!

What Does the Bible Say About the Three Wise Men (Magi)?

Did the Wise men (Magi) Arrive 12 Days After Jesus’ Birth? Or Was It Much Later? – Shari Abbott

How thankful we are also when we see the hardships caused by modern-day King Herods. We know from Scripture that the reigns of these kings of the earth will come to an end.

The Kings of the Earth – a brief and excellent study

In Revelation, the Apostle John wrote about the New Jerusalem where we hear one final time about “the kings of the earth”.

“I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory…And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. “Revelation 21:22-24, 26

As we celebrate the last day of Christmas 2021, a beautiful concert came to mind. In the performance of Saviour, we are reminded of (ok…not of the kings who visited the Christ child…but) the kings of the earth. Those rulers and authorities who wage war against the Kingdom of God. We are reminded that their days are numbered. Hallelujah!

May we reflect Epiphany – and those ancient Magi – seeking and receiving the Savior and celebrating the forever rule of the King of all Kings.

Worship with me.

[Saviour – written/created by Bob Farrell & Greg Nelson]

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

The kings of the earth and their power to rule the land
Was founded by the Lord in His covenant with man
But the kings of the earth would make their own decree
They set themselves above their God and His authority
They mocked their God

Their empires feed upon the souls of men
And their lust for power becomes their sacrament
They rail the people with their cries of peace
But there is no peace

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
But The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

Take heart, ye children of the Promise
For God will not be mocked
For the Lord will repay,
and His Kingdom remains

Blessed are His children.
Blessed are His covenants
Blessed is His mighty Kingdom
And blessed is the Name of the Lord

Blessed the name of Lord
Blessed the name of Lord
In power, in glory His Kingdom, His Kingdom will come!
His Promise is now and forever and ever Amen!

Blessed is the name of the Lord!
O, blessed is the name of the Lord!*

*Lyrics to The Kings of the Earth

Below is a performance of Saviour with Wintley Phipps as special guest – it starts at 9:45 minutes in. So powerful!!

Worship Wednesday – Blessed Assurance – Jesus Is Mine

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

This Sunday, our worship team (at Movement Church) led us in singing one of our family’s favorite hymns: Blessed Assurance by Fanny Crosby. The lyrics are powerful and the chorus, “This is my story; this is my song”, illuminates our shared experience of Christ.

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

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

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

Our story is framed by the great creative work of God and His redemptive work of a sinful people. In the first passages in Genesis, we are introduced to our Creator God and to our original parents, Adam and Eve. They were without sin, naked and unashamed.

The length of time  during which Adam and Eve lived in sinless fellowship with God and each other is not recorded in Scripture. The hymn “Blessed Assurance” could have been their song.

When tempted to sin by the Evil One (Genesis 3), the beauty of their lives was shattered. Satan, with great cunning, persuaded Eve that maybe God was holding something back from her. Maybe He wasn’t wholly good. Maybe He didn’t trust her, and then maybe (she surmised), she shouldn’t trust him.

Adam was right beside her, but seemingly did nothing.

In Genesis 3, it is recorded that they disobeyed the one thing God told them not to do. One thing. When they took of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were open (and not in a way that they could well handle). Then their nakedness became a point of shame.

They knew they had disobeyed God, and when He came near to them, they hid from Him. This would have been a good time to confess their wrong-doing to a God who had given them nothing but beauty. Yet they did not. Adam accused Eve as the cause, and Eve accused the Evil One.

I wonder how it might have gone if they had borne the responsibility of their sin before God. Would the consequences have been different.

When they ate the fruit in disobedience to God, they experienced the beginning of death as He said they would. Oh, they were still alive, but a dreadful scenario began to play out. Separation from God and a breach between Adam and Eve as well. Brokenness reigned.

The only solution for this sin debt was a sinless savior. Jesus, “slain from the foundation of the world”, would be our only hope to be restored to God. We are saved through our confession of sin (1 John 1:9) and surrender to Him (Matthew 16:24).

God knows us. He comes to find us. We can trust Him to deal with our sin as He has told us He would. He has given us a way back to Him. We have blessed assurance of all that in Jesus. Praise His name.

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

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

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

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

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

*Lyrics to Blessed Assurance – Fanny J. Crosby

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (with Lyrics)

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (Live)

Blessed Assurance by The Angelic Choir

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

Fanny Crosby: America’s Hymn Queen

Fan Photo by Brian Brown

Worship Wednesday – Being Known by God Himself – “Find You Here” – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Knowing Jesus

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble,
and He knows those who take refuge in Him.Nahum 1:7

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know MeMy sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” – Jesus – John 10:14; John 10:27

We know that “All of us possess knowledge”. This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know, but if anyone loves God, he is known by God.1 Corinthians 8:1b-3

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His.”2 Timothy 2:19

We long to be known. Truly known. Sought after. Pursued. Loved. I’m pretty sure this longing originated from God Himself, placed in our minds from the beginning. When God created Adam and Eve, they were both “naked and unashamed”. Before God and each other. When sin entered the picture, so did shame. They tried to hide but could not. God came looking for them. He knew them, and He knew they could choose sin, rebellion, at any time. He knew them, and He loved them still. Completely. He covered their nakedness, dealt with their sin, and made a way for them to be restored back to Him.

Photo Credit: St. Augustine, Slideplayer

We are filled with gratitude for the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. What a profound experience not just to know God but to be known by Him. The God of the universe. The Creator and Sustainer of all of life. This “being known” and loved still…amazing grace!

One of the most frightening passages in the Bible is found in Matthew. Jesus is preaching and he describes some who are would-be believers. People who are attracted to God, who even serve God and others as if they were believers, but have never truly received His salvation and lordship through Jesus Christ. They do not know Him, and therefore are not known by Him. Terrifying.

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’ ” – Jesus – Matthew 7:22-23

To be known by God is to experience His love in every circumstance of our lives. No matter how hard or hurtful our situation may be, we will find God there…with us. If this is not your experience, then wrestle out what that means. Is it the mean deceit of the Evil One that makes us think we know God when we only know of Him? Or is there some sense of entitlement we might have toward sin or an unrighteous relationship, elevating that above God? Or is it an arrogance on our part that we view ourselves as “good enough” while God sees us either dead in sin [rather than righteous and a new creation through His Son’s redeeming work on our behalf]?

If you’re struggling right now to walk with God, sort out what’s going on. Is it a spiritual attack of some kind that you’re meant to endure as you bring it to God, or is it possibly the fact that you do not truly know God…and are not known by Him? Because you choose being separate from Him. God will not impose Himself on us, yet He ever draws us to Him.

Three times in my life I felt compelled to seek God’s face on the question of whether I truly knew Him. Once as a 15 y/o, another time in my mid-20s and, a final time, in my mid-30s. All three times, I questioned my salvation. He comforted me and gave me peace all three of those times. Especially the last time. I have not questioned knowing Him or being known by Him since then.

Do not be lulled to sleep by a false sense of belonging to God when you have never fully given your life to Him. Remember His words:

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” – Jesus…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.John 10:14; John 10:27

Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb wrote the beautiful “Find You Here” in response to hearing her dad (Brown Bannister) had been diagnosed with cancer.

Worship with me (lyrics in link).

It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear
It’s not the road we would have chosen, no
The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead
But You’re asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead

And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me, with peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry us through everything
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fears, with peace

You say that I should come to You with everything I need
You’re asking me to thank You even when the pain is deep
You promise that You’ll come and meet us on the road ahead
And no matter what the fear says, You give me a reason to be glad

And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me, with peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry me through everything
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fear

Here in the middle of the lonely night
Here in the middle of the losing fight, You’re
Here in the middle of the deep regret
Here when the healing hasn’t happened yet
Here in the middle of the desert place
Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face
Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms
You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart

And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me with, peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry me through everything
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fear with peace

Rejoice, rejoice
Don’t have to worry ’bout a single thing, ’cause
You are overwhelming me with, peace!
Don’t have to worry ’bout a single thing
You’re gonna carry us through everything
Overwhelming peace*

This beautiful God who knows us – our longings, our fears, our struggles, our tears. He knows us and loves us deeply…and we have the incomprehensible privilege of knowing and loving Him back.

*Lyrics to “Find You Here” by Songwriters Benji Cowart, Ellie Holcomb, and Rusty Varenkamp

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Worship Wednesday – I Surrender All – Robin Mark – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Knowing Jesus

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, in Community, Not Afraid

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

[From the Archives]

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

Reading this passage recently, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. A year ago, we were brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

This time last year, a group of friends and I went through a Bible study together which turned out to be incredibly timely. We couldn’t be together so we met over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kinds of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62