Category Archives: Bible

Worship Wednesday – Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus – Time Under the Fig Tree

Photo Credit: Howard Carter

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”John 1:43-51

Philip found Jesus. The One. The Messiah. He followed Him…and he sought out his friend Nathanael to tell him the good news. Even as Nathanael mocked the news, Philip persevered.

“Come and see”.

As they approached, Jesus called out identifying Nathanael. It was shocking for Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) because they had not met before. Jesus called him “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.  Something about what and how Jesus spoke to him caused Nathanael to wonder aloud how Jesus knew him.

Then Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” What?! Of course, we remember this is God, this Jesus. Still, something in His seeing Nathanael under the fig tree meant everything to Nathanael…it meant that He was the One. The Messiah. Nathanael believed.

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Now, there are a lot of fig trees in Israel. Most probably, Nathanael sat under them from time to time. Something happened specifically under one of those fig trees that made it hugely significant that Jesus recalled it to him…and told him, “I saw you”.

In the TV series, The Chosen, we watch a story about Jesus, His followers, and His public ministry. We are reminded by the director and others that The Chosen is faithful to the truth of Scripture, but it also tells a story. We don’t know from the Word what was going on in Nathanael’s life “under the fig tree”, but that Jesus saw him was crucial.

The writers of the series have Nathanael wrestling with God over a failed hope. Nathanael had wanted to design buildings that would honor God, and he failed. Under the fig tree, he cried out to God in the words of Psalm 102:1-2:

“Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of distress. Incline Your ear to me; answer me…”

In reality, we do not know from Scripture what happened under the fig tree, but when Jesus told him that He saw him there…Nathanael believed. In the Son of God. The King of Israel.

[The scene below is 11 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth your time. Beautiful. Remember some is story, BUT the passage in John above is faithfully represented…and the emotion is there. The grand emotion of discovering that we are seen…we are known.]

We have all had those moments under the fig tree. Times we thought we were all alone. Times of anguish or fear. Times of feeling completely undone. To be reminded that Jesus sees us changes everything. It is similar, in a God way, to the pronouncement the Samaritan woman made after encountering Jesus at the well. “He told me everything I ever did!” So different from Nathanael but similar in that she met the Messiah who knew her…and still loved her completely.

Worship with me to Jeremy Camp‘s He Knows:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…*

As you get back to your day, you might want to bookmark the links below. Nathanael is a lesser known apostle, BUT we can learn so much in his conversion story…about Jesus…about the friend Philip who brought Nathanael to Christ…and about Nathanael, this righteous Jew, overcoming his prejudice and coming to Christ.

*Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp – Deb Mills

Jesus and Nathanael – D. Young

Snowballs and Bowling Balls – Jesus and Nathanael – Brian Rosner

Nathanael and the Fig TreeCharles H. Spurgeon

Under the Fig Tree…Jesus Meets Us Where We Are and Calls Us to Follow Him – Howard Carter

Under the Fig-Tree – How to Live a Holy Life – C. E. Orr

Worship Wednesday – Trouble – From The Chosen

Photo Credit: The Chosen, Season 2 Trailer, Christian Film Blog

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” – Jesus – John 14:27

“I have told you this so that through me you may have peace. In the world you’ll have trouble, but be courageous—I’ve overcome the world!”
 – Jesus – John 16:33

Trouble…Jesus brought a very different sort of trouble to this world of ours…He turned over the tables of religious tradition, world powers, and cultural mores. When we see Him, we see the Father. He served up mercy, justice, and humility, and He loved all the way to the Cross and beyond.

The Chosen is an online TV series created and directed by Dallas Jenkins. The statement of faith posted by Jenkins includes the following: “The Chosen is a narrative show, which means it’s not a documentary…it’s absolutely not a replacement for Scripture. It is not focused on religious tradition, but on Jesus. It’s a show…but it’s a high calling for me.”

The content of this series is faithful to the Bible. There are details, context, and cultural nuance which are adding nothing to Scripture but flesh out stories that we love. Again, not adding to the Bible but giving us an opportunity to understand more deeply the life of Jesus and what He experienced and the impact He had in His life in that time.

We know the impact He has had on our lives. In the show, Mary Magdalene has a line we all can understand: “I was one way, and now I am completely different, and the thing that happened in between was Him.”

I love the stories. They are reflective of Jesus and those closest to Him. They are plausible given what we know of Jesus in Scripture and what we know of the whole counsel of God in the Bible.

I have so many favorite scenes in this production (Season 1 and now Season 2 also). One of them is when Jesus calls Matthew as a disciple. Matthew…a Jewish tax collector – under the protection of the Romans – hated by his fellow Jews for the hardships he brings on them. In this treatment of this real person, he is shown as one who could be on the Autism spectrum…brilliant and different. Watch the scene here.

Jesus’ line, “Get used to different”, although extra-Biblical, is so in character with the person of Christ. So winsome, loving, and right.

Merch from The Chosen Gifts

We watch a lot on screens…all across the world. We have sampled some excellent Christian programming. Lots of renditions of Jesus. This is now one of my favorites. Maybe my favorite. The Chosen is available without any subscription. It is available on the app for free. It doesn’t promote any religious tradition. It is about the person of Jesus Christ. Every episode I’ve seen reverences Him and is honoring to what I know of Him, personally and Scripturally.

In the finale episode (8) of Season 1 of The Chosen, Jesus is shown talking with a Samaritan woman. He showed care for her and talked to her as no one else ever had. “He told me everything I ever did”, she would declare to everyone in her village. He also revealed to her that He was the Christ. At the end of this scene, we hear an upbeat, pounding snippet of a song entitled Trouble. It’s a crazy finish to this first season of The Chosen, and a powerful introduction to Jesus’ public ministry. Yet, there he is just walking down a hill with his disciples, a straw in his mouth. In the moment. Unaffected by what all this could mean. Just as it might have been with our Savior Jesus.

Here’s the song. The songwriters, Dan Haseltine and Matthew S. Nelson, reportedly will give us a fuller song in Season 2. Can’t wait.

Throw me like a stone in the water
Watch the mud rise up
Dress me like a lamb for the slaughter
Pour me in your cup
Should’ve known we’d bring trouble
Trouble gonna find you here
Trouble
Trouble

https://lyricstranslate.com

Akar: Bad Trouble, Good Trouble – Sarah E. Fisher, Hebrew Word Lessons – excellent article on various kinds of trouble in Scripture

Troubleby Matthew S. Nelson and Dan Haseltine

YouTube Video – Look Up Chosen: The Chosen Music Video (Fan-Made)

Worship Wednesday – Tyler Perry’s “Refuse Hate.” and Revolutionary by Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

The 2021 Oscars (Academy Awards Ceremony) this week delivered the lowest ratings in the award show’s history. It’s been a strange year. The highlight for us was actually the acceptance speech for this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The recipient is the filmmaker and benefactor Tyler Perry.

Watch his very different, almost politically incorrect, 3-minute acceptance speech below. [Full transcript here.]

An excerpt follows:

I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope that we would refuse hate.
So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you, too. God bless you and thank you Academy, I appreciate it.”Tyler Perry
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs of people who hate. 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…and 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!
What is the response of the believer toward those we are tempted to feel hate?

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

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that calling and command? 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.

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.

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 revolutionary acts 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.

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

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

Story Behind the Song “Revolutionary”

Worship Wednesday – Famous For (I Believe) – Tauren Wells & Jenn Johnson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

LORD, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Renew your work in the midst of the years. In the midst of the years make it known. In wrath, you remember mercy. – Habakkuk 3:2

He [David] said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.2 Samuel 22:2-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear…Psalm 46:1-2a

“My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him…” – Daniel – Daniel 6:22

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them…And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then 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, and you shall live…and you shall know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 37:1-6

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

When we read the great accounts in Scripture of the Lord’s showing up and radical things happening, we stand in awe of such a God. Our faith increases and our prayers follow. Displaying faith in a faithful God.

Here in this modern day, we have our own stories of God’s great deliverance. We, like the ancients probably, also struggle with hoping and praying He shows, but with little faith. I have a fantasy about Heaven. Borrowed from a friend, actually. With all of eternity before us, part of how we spend it could be in some sort of venue where we are able to see bits of our lives (on some sort of video screen) as God intervened in those bits… situations where He showed up, and we may not not have realized He was there. Some venue like Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater.Photo Credit: Uncover Colorado

I love thinking about Heaven. In my fantasy above, it’s like “Let’s watch the morning of [great catastrophe or miracle day – fill in the blank] – just to reminisce but more to see it how God saw it. Or any ordinary day….or so we thought, and God put together a seemingly random series of “coincidences”, as He does something glorious in the life of a neighbor, coworker, or stranger passing by.

“Small world”, right? NO…BIG GOD.

God is good. No matter what. He is also magnificent in power and perfect in love. We know this from His Word and from His transforming work in our lives.

Our prayers and praises should reflect the greatness of God. One day we will see clearly the final outcome of His movement in our lives and throughout history. Hallelujah!

Worship with me this faithful God. Tauren Wells & Jenn Johnson lead out in this song. The lyrics are packed with the truths of Scripture (seen in the passages above).

There is no fear ’cause I believe
There is no doubt ’cause I have seen
Your faithfulness, my fortress
Over and over

I have a hope found in Your name
I have a strength found in Your grace
Your faithfulness, my fortress
Over and over

Make way through the waters
Walk me through the fire
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
Shut the mouths of lions
Bring dry bones to life and
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
I believe in You, God
I believe in You

Release Your love inside of me
Unleash Your power for all to see
Spirit, come, and fall on us
Over and over, oh Lord

Make way through the waters
Walk me through the fire
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
Shut the mouths of lions
Bring dry bones to life and
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for

God of exceedingly, God of abundantly
More than we ask or think, Lord
You will never fail, Your name is powerful, Your word’s unstoppable
All things are possible in You
God of exceedingly, God of abundantly
More than we ask or think, Lord
You will never fail, Your name is powerful, Your word’s unstoppable
All things are possible in You

Make way through the waters
Walk me through the fire
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
Shut the mouths of lions
Bring dry bones to life and
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
I believe in You, God
I believe in You

There is no fear ’cause I believe
There is no doubt ’cause I have seen
Your faithfulness, my fortress
Over and over*

*Lyrics to Famous For – Songwriters: Tauren G. Wells, Krissy Nordhoff, Jordan Douglas Sapp, Alexis Slifer, Chuck Butler

Story Behind the Song Famous For – Tauren G. Wells

Monday Morning Moment – Worldly and Wordly Wisdom – Podcasts and Jesus

Wisdom…such a great treasure. I’m sure you can name people in your life who not only speak wisdom to you but who also live wisely.

Worldly wisdom is defined as “experienced in the ways of the world; understanding of the affairs of the world”. Wordly wisdom is a different take on that with God as the source of wisdom. “Wordly” being a play on words, meaning the wisdom that comes from the Word of God (both the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ).

Godly vs. Worldly Wisdom – Jennifer Sum

Both worldly and wordly wisdom can be extremely useful in maneuvering through life…no matter your religious beliefs. However, you will have to wrestle with the experience of conflicting “wisdoms”…when you have to choose which path seems most true; most appropriate. The popular “your truth”/”my truth” philosophy of today rarely works in facing conflict of reason. Thoughts?

Writer, storyteller Srinivas Rao, host of The Unmistakable Creative podcast, on his 43rd birthday, posted 43 quotes, things he’d learned, from some of his podcast guests. My 10 favorites of those are listed here:

  1. Don’t Wait to Spend time with the most important people in your life. – Frank Ostaseski
  2. Your life is the result of what you focus your attention on – Cal Newport
  3. Happiness is an input to a great life. Not a bonus you get at the end of one. – Nataly Kogan
  4. We are all amateurs at loving each other –Bob Goff
  5. You can’t cross the extra mile without going the essential mile. –
    T.K. Coleman
  6. You can find extraordinary joy in ordinary things. –Ingrid Fetell Lee
  7. If you don’t appreciate what you have now, you’ll never appreciate what you’ll get later – Tim Ferriss
  8. Choose Wonder over Worry – Amber Rae
  9. Don’t label people after the worst things they’ve ever done –
    Joe Loya
  10. A story well lived is told after the fact – Donald Miller

43 Things I’ve Learned From Podcast Guests – Srinivas Rao, Facebook

I love Srini Rao’s podcasts. As do I love several others (some linked below). They help me have a sense of both popular thinking and the wisdom of contemporaries.

What if Srini could interview Jesus of Nazareth? That would be something to listen to. We have the Scriptures to know what Jesus said or would say about anything we might encounter today (weighing out the whole of what is written in the Bible).

If Rao’s list of what he’s learned from podcast guests included Jesus, the following quotes might be considered wisdom. All from Jesus:

 “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.” – Matthew 5:37

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Matthew 6:27; Matthew   6:34

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” – Matthew 12:25

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” – Matthew 18:21-22

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-39

“Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” – Luke 6:27-28

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” – Luke 6:41

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” – Luke 12:21

“Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” – John 13:34

What worldly or wordly wisdom do you have to share? Please put any of your favorites in the Comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

Worldly Wisdom vs. Wordly Wisdom – Clay & Sally Clarkson

The Glenn Show – Glenn Loury Podcast

The Carey Nieuwhoff Podcast (Leadership)

Alisa Childers Podcast

Worship Wednesday – On Unity and Love – Hymn Medley – Maverick City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:28b-31

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”JesusJohn 13:34-35 

 “I pray not only for these [Jesus’ disciples], but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”JesusJohn 17:20-23

“Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:1-6

Unity in diversity. Not uniform but unified.

When the Lord speaks in Scripture, or when one of His faithful followers speaks in Scripture, we are meant to pay close attention.

Also when Jesus prays – speaking to the Father, borne up by the Spirit of God – we know He prays in the will of God. He will answer.

John 17 is the prayer of benediction over Jesus’ disciples and for all of us who would become His followers through the ages. They had finished their last supper together, and just hours later Jesus would be taken to be crucified the next day. This prayer speaks to the very heart of God for both His glory and for His people.

How do we glorify God in our lives? In our love for and obedience to Him in both word and deed.

Today’s social media can be both a platform for a witness of our experience of God or a public square for an exposé of others who violate our Christian sensibilities. Both Twitter and Facebook can be brutal in the treatment of both believers and unbelievers.

I’m so thankful for some of the great lights that penetrate the dark side of social media. Michael Catt and Jackie Hill Perry are just two. Here are three tweets from them this week that encouraged me (even in the harder one by Perry – it points to Truth and reminds us how to live).

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

 

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

 

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Twitter

I’m a follower of Jesus, as you know. And Baptist by doctrine. And Southern Baptist by church affiliation. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has come under fire of late for its origins prior to the American Civil War and subsequent race issues, its supposed political leanings, and the moral failures of some of its pastors. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the US. It has a voice, not always positive, and when notable members criticize it or even more dissociate from it, there is a public ripple effect.

I’ve never felt the need to leave Southern Baptists because I love that we love God and His Word (imperfectly but its foundational to belonging to these churches). I love that we try to be unified in purpose and mission. Again, not always peacefully but resolutely.

No Christian church or organization will be as it should be this side of Heaven because it is made up of saved sinners, still grappling with sin, and personal preferences and sensibilities. My husband sometimes quotes his childhood pastor, Richard Bailey who quoted Charles Spurgeon, when he says,

“The day we find the perfect church, it becomes imperfect the moment we join it.”

Today’s blog is not a defense of an organization…or a particular church. It is also not meant to be a dig at anyone else’s struggle to align with such an organization.

Today I just want to point to a God who loves us and who calls us to a unity, a unity in diversity. A unity that requires us to love across all sorts of philosophical and political lines. A unity that must be fought for in such a time as this – as Jackie Hill Perry’s tweet implores quoting from Paul’s letter to Timothy.

God, help us not to always be looking for the wrongs of others rather than Your rightness. Help us not to be so easily offended thus enabling ourselves to forget our own offenses. God, help us to see others as You see us all. In love. Forgiven through the substitutional death of Christ on the cross. Help us to rise to a newness of life that empowers love, gentleness, honor, long-suffering, and forgiveness. You, O Lord, are doing a great work in Your church. Thank You, Father, for not giving up on us. Help us never to give up on each other. For Your glory and for the sake of each other, and for those who don’t yet know. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Jesus prayed for us to be united. Why? So that the world would believe that Jesus was sent by God, and so that the world would know that God loves us. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus believed the unity of His church would communicate all of this to the world? – Francis Chan, Multiply, p. 69

I’d like to just close with Maverick City Music‘s “Hymn Medley”, featuring Chandler Moore. The medley includes “Great Is Thy Faithfulness“, “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus“, and “It Is Well“. Just spend this 16 minutes (sometime today) basking in the love of God who calls us to Himself and to be one with Him and with each other.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – God’s Purposes Are Not Thwarted – “Where Were You?” – Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-job-pray-write-growPhoto Credit: PrayWriteGrow

[From the Archives]

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…”Job 38:1-4a

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  – Job to God, Job 42:2

How can this be?! How could this have happened? No way could this be right. No way could this be God’s plan.

We are all given to platitudes. “It’s all good.” “It’s not your fault.” “God’s still on His throne.” They may be true but they’re not very satisfying.

When we’re hit by a strange and unsettling reality, we want to call it something else. We want to cry out that it’s not good and it’s got to be someone’s fault…we ache to point our finger at someone…anyone. At times, the blame ascends all the way to Heaven…to God Himself.

Job, a righteous God-fearer whose story is chronicled in the Bible, found himself in that very situation. He didn’t just wake up one morning to news that he couldn’t stomach; he was singled out for the most devastating personal loss – the deaths of all his children and his own health ruined. His questioning of the rightness of this unimaginable occurrence was understandable.

Having friends who offered all sorts of scenarios as to how this could have happened…gave Job no relief.

Finally, he took his case to God, objecting to how such a thing could happen. In God’s defense of Himself in the matter (Job 38-41), He opened Job’s eyes to the wonder and goodness of all that He does.

God is not put off by our questioning, our fears, our confusion…this God who lovingly asks questions Himself for us to see our own strange thinking about Him…this God who is the answer to every question that’s whispered or shouted from the depths of our beings. Where were you, Child? …Where were we?! How gentle He is with our self-righteousness and presumptuousness that we know better than He. We may not understand…but we can be assured that He is working out our good and His glory in every page turned in history. We can question, absolutely…but He calls us to continue following Him, even in our questioning…to love Him, to love others…with everything in us.

On this Sunday, four years ago, we gathered at Movement Church, and worshiped together. That Sunday followed the 2016 Presidential election, the outcome of which probably surprised every voter and non-voter in America…either joyfully or sorrowfully.

This Sunday, like every Sunday, was made for worship. No back clapping, or derision, or condescending opinions of any political ilk. Whatever hopefulness and whatever despair were set aside. Just voices raised in community to the God whose purposes are not thwarted…no matter what.

Worship, with me, through this great lyric Where Were You? (by Ghost Ship) – taken straight from the Job narrative.

I said, “God, I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but sufferingimg_0418

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?”
He said, “Where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?img_0423
Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show
Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth
Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

 

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?”

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?  Isaiah 14:27

Lyrics to Ghost Ship’s Where Were You?

The Plan of God – J. I. Packer

Worship Wednesday – Do Something – Matthew West – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You? – by Ghost Ship – Deb Mills

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: TheMadeShop – Tumblr

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail.Lamentations 2:22-26

Thomas O. Chisholm wrote the beautiful hymn-poem Great Is Thy Faithfulness in 1923. This hymn became a worship mainstay in Protestant churches. The lyrics remind us of the steadfastness of God, something we cling to in a world dizzy with change.

In dealing with all the disruptions and differing opinions, our own thoughts and beliefs may feel under attack. What is true? Who is right? Whom do we believe?

The singular truth in our lives that guides us in navigating through varied cultural changes and political ploys…the singular truth is God doesn’t change. In His truth, in His love, in His judgments.

“There is no shadow of turning with Thee”.

No shadow of turning. Praise God for that anchor. That foundation. That light in the darkness.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

Verses 2 and 3 of the Austin Stone version of this glorious hymn were written in 2018 by pastor/writer John Piper. He wrote it to further flesh out the God of faithfulness Chisholm lauded in the original hymn – to accentuate Piper’s sermon on Deuteronomy 29-30 (linked below).

“A Matter of Life and Death” – John Piper sermon on Deuteronomy 29-30

Let’s remember Moses’ words to the people of God from that passage in Deuteronomy:

 Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to his entire land. You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear...Be sure there is no man, woman, clan, or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations. Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous and bitter fruit. 19 When someone hears the words of this oath, he may consider himself exempt, thinking, ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’..Future generations of your children who follow you and the foreigner who comes from a distant country will see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses the Lord has inflicted on it...24 All the nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this intense outburst of anger?’ 25 Then people will answer, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord…’Deuteronomy 29:2-4, 18-19a, 22, 24-25

When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am commanding you today, then he will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you… The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live... 10 when you obey the Lord your God by keeping his commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to him with all your heart and all your soul.Deuteronomy 30:1-3, 6, 10

Worship with me the great God of faithfulness who will take us through this season as He has taken His people through every season before this. [Lyrics in the link.]

[Verse 1]
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Verse 2]
I could not love Thee, so blind and unfeeling
Covenant promises fell not to me
Then without warning, desire, or deserving
I found my Treasure, my pleasure, in Thee

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Verse 3]
I have no merit to woo or delight Thee
I have no wisdom or pow’rs to employ
And yet in Thy mercy, how pleasing Thou find’st me
This is Thy pleasure: that Thou art my joy

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Spontaneous]
Oh, how great You are
Oh, how great You are
Sing about this
As we sing this
He’s pardoned us
He’s given us an everlasting peace
We are thankful for that
Let’s thank Him together

[Verse 4]
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me*

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness w/ Austin Stone Worship Team

Great Is Thy FaithfulnessStory of John Piper’s extra verses for Thomas O. Chisholm’s classic hymn

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

Worship Wednesday – Taking Heart in the God of Psalm 34 – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: a worship service in Richmond, during recent protests Jared Burwell, Facebook

I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard [him] and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.Psalm 34:1-9
Our city has been rocked with shock and grief in recent weeks. The resulting waves of protests, vandalism, and looting have turned everyone’s attention to the brokenness here and elsewhere.
Some say the church has finally found its voice in this conversation. The church is finally showing up where it should have long ago.
We struggle. All of us. With understanding and a willingness to lean in where there is pain. Whoever caused the pain or was complicit in ignoring pain, we as believers come under the lordship of a God who leans in.
I am still without words (you who read my blogs, thank you. You noticed and I am grateful). Fortunately many more articulate people are writing and speaking about what is going on in our country and how we can respond…as Americans for some, as believers for others.
I want to respond as a believer, and I am listening.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir‘s Psalm 34 really touched my heart this week, and I wanted to share it with you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfW2mkkMTAg&feature=youtu.be
Our church is not very diverse in its congregation, but we have (or maybe want is a better word) a heart for loving all peoples. I am thankful for our leadership for nurturing that. Brooklyn Tabernacle, in New York City, has been multi-cultural for many years…as is its leadership.

The Pastoral Staff of Brooklyn Tabernacle

I think it’s safe to say that right now the church is trying to figure out how to show up for those hurting in our country and around the world. What that will mean in the days ahead…in the years ahead…is yet to be seen. How it turns out will be impacted by how we walk with the God of Psalm 34.

Worship together:

I sought the Lord
And He answered me
And delivered me
From every fear
Those who look on Him
Are radiant
They’ll never be ashamed
They’ll never be ashamed
This poor man cried
And the Lord heard me
And saved me from
My enemies
The Son of God
Surrounds His saints
He will deliver them
He will deliver them
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Oh taste and see
That the Lord is good
Oh blessed is he
Who hides in Him
Oh fear the Lord
Oh all you saints
He’ll give you everything
He’ll give you everything
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever…