Category Archives: Bible

Worship Wednesday – Ascribe Greatness to Our God the Rock – Don Moen

Photo Credit: Bible Screen, Pinterest

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!  “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. – Deuteronomy 32:3-4

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

This is going to be a little random and ranging…but throughout this day, over and over, I was reminded of the faithfulness of God.

This morning, first thing, I routinely get up, quick stop in the bathroom, and make the bed. While making the bed, that amazing old hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness wafted through my thoughts… out of nowhere.

Soon, it’s out the door to pick up one of my grandsons for Play ‘n Pray at church where we gather, kids in tow, and pray while they play.

Do you ever have those times in the car that God seems to speak through something on the radio? That happened briefly this morning across two great songs on my favorite Christian radio station.

First, David Crowder‘s song Red Letters came on. Red Letters refers to the words recorded in Scripture that Jesus spoke. Crowder tells the story of how the Lord gives us freedom though we deserve death because of our sin. Then right after, Lincoln Brewster‘s jumping version of Everlasting God… If a car could rock with praise, mine was rocking! You know how you see some people at traffic lights with their arms raised, or drumming their steering wheel, or heads bobbing…that sort of car-rocking praise.

By the time, my grandson and I arrived at Play ‘n Pray, my heart was so full of the faithfulness of God.

While the kids played on the playground, we moms and grams sat, watching, talking, and finally praying. Between gummy bear snacks, sorting out rows between the kids, and rounding up the scattering crawlers. We prayed. God is faithful to draw near to us in all the chaos of mothering small ones.

I had to leave after our scheduled time was over, but one of the young moms lingered to continue talking to moms from the neighborhood who had joined us on the playground. It was the very thing we hope happens each week…connections, bridges, neighborly links to the very love of God.

On my way to the next thing, with a content little guy in his car-seat behind, an odd memory surfaced. Both sad and lovely. Something I hadn’t thought of in years…

It was a memory that goes back over 20 years to a church for internationals in Cairo, Egypt. Heliopolis Community Church. Living in Cairo in those days, we loved being in the English-speaking congregation of HCC. It was an oasis of sorts where we didn’t have to think or speak in Arabic and we all had in common that we were, most of us, foreigners and we loved Jesus.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Heliopolis Community Church, Cairo, Egypt

Rotating teams of laypeople led the worship part of the service each week. A young man from South Asia led our worship from time to time. Although I do not remember his name, but I’ve never forgotten him…or his story. He was originally of a different faith and had come to receive Jesus as his Savior gradually. First through dreams, then in chance meetings with Christians, in minority where he lived. Finally, he received a Bible and devoured it…especially the red lettered words of Jesus.

He told us that his conversion to Christianity was very hurtful for his parents. He was their only child. His father rejected him and would die still estranged from him. His mother also became fatally ill at some point. In her faith, if her son did not return to the faith of the family, it could create too great an impediment for her to be able to enter Heaven. I didn’t understand how that worked, but for his mother it was a terrible, horrifying belief. She begged him to give up his faith in Jesus…but he could not. She died with that bitter plea on her lips…and that painful dagger in his heart.

He closed out his story by giving witness to the great faithfulness of God in his life…to seek him out, to save him, to love him even when his parents could no longer.

We were all mesmerized by his story and his own faith in God.

He then led us in singing Don Moen‘s chorus Ascribe Greatness. It is a simple song, lyrics repeated (as the praise songs often were in those days – 1990) – taken from Deuteronomy 32:3-4.

Worship with me and consider the faithfulness of God to each of us – His children.

A God of faithfulness without injustice
Good and upright is He
Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock
His work is perfect
And all His ways are just
Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock
His work is perfect
And all His ways are just

A God of faithfulness without injustice
Good and upright is He*

As I write, it’s the end of the day. Housework, cooking, community group and the hours passed by. My heart continues full…reflecting on the happenings of today…and the memories of others whose stories we know…stories of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God even in the most difficult of situations.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

*Lyrics to Ascribe Greatness to Our God the Rock – Songwriter: Don Moen

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

Yesterday we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this.

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a “shining model” of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as our Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we created a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just easier to do it myself, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. This is a regret for me today. There were moments, however, – bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to help our grown-up children model and teach serving to their grands. Can’t wait to see them, growing up to adulthood, discover the continuous joy of serving others.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 1 – Responsibility Is Two Words

[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference. Part 2 – Raising Adults – Creating a Culture of Serving can be found here.]

Being a parent is a humbling work…one way or other, it takes us to our knees at some point. In thinking about how we shape our little ones and raise them into adulthood, I was driven to prayer…a lot.

“Oh God, You have given us such crucial work in raising our children to adulthood. Help us to be faithful to live in the tension of remembering they are still small/young and yet pointing them to their place in this world and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

In the book of Genesis, we have a beautiful picture of God’s work – His eye for detail, His gift of order – He provided everything that was needful…including work for us.

God has given us all work to do. It was His plan from the beginning… In training up our children, we will always push against the counter-pressure of entitlement in our kids’ lives (and in our own)… but we are not alone. He’s already promised that “His yoke is easy, and His burden’s light”.

The Scripture is full of wisdom pointing us toward teaching our children to become responsible adults…understanding the importance of showing up, working in whatever capacity they can.

So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.Nehemiah 4:6

Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters.Luke 16:10

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.”Colossians 3:23-24

What goes into raising adults? Teaching our children and giving opportunity to see the value of work, to treat people and possessions appropriately, and to see themselves as a responsible part of a larger community. When does it start? Very early.

Author and parenting coach Reggie Joiner talks about the key to raising responsible adults is to give them responsibilities…now.

Raising Adults – Reggie Joiner

We are called, by God, to work…from the beginning…to have dominion…and to essentially clean up our own messes. As we learn to do that at home – caring for ourselves and contributing to our family – we can quite naturally expend the effort, and extend that, toward our larger community.

Joiner defines responsibility and counsels parents how to train it:

“Responsibility is an interesting word.
It’s actually two words.
Response and ability.

Do you see the link between the two concepts? If you want to raise kids to become responsible, then lead them toward a life where they develop the right attitude toward work and tasks. Give them chores at every stage.

  • Lead so their response reveals their ability.
  • Lead so their response matches their ability.
  • Lead so their response grows their ability.

Think about it this way:
Home should be the first job every kid ever has. What kind of experiences are you giving your children to prepare them to be responsible adults?”
Reggie Joiner

Raising Adults – Reggie Joiner

Just last week I was listening to a podcast from Liberty University. The guest was writer, thought leader, and world-shaker-upper Karen Swallow Prior:

She talks about this being the anxiety generation. Some of that anxiety revolves around the pressures coming out of social media. “There is an existential anxiety that goes with having so many choices in front of you and being afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice and miss out and go down the wrong path.” – “Everything you do in life [marriage, work, weekends] is supposed to be this huge self-fulfillment…such that you can post it on social media.” Too often, our experiences aren’t fulfilling and then the anxiety comes, “did I make the wrong choice?” – Notes from the podcast with Karen Swallow Prior

Dr. Prior supports education as a help in correcting the “tunnel vision and distorted vision” that can evolve in young people’s thinking. Work throughout our children’s growing up years can also impact thinking as well…restoring perspective.

One of my favorite books on this topic is Escaping the Endless Adolescence by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen. The Allen’s write about the “failure to launch” generation. Teens who are exhausted at what seems required of them to be adults and therefore resist doing more than the minimum, coasting through life.

Instead of asking: “What will keep our teens out of trouble?” “What will make them happy?” or “What will get them into college?”, we need to switch our focus to a different set of queries: “How can we introduce realistic elements of adulthood into their worlds?” What activities best provide real feedback about their effort and skill?” and “Which other adults can we recruit to help pass our values on to them?” In short, we need to switch our focus from activities that reflect living happily as a teenager to activities that let our young people actually use their energy, connect with adults, and make choices that matter in order to begin moving successfully into adulthood.Allen & Allen

In their helps for parents of teens (and younger children), the Allen’s coach how to guide kids to become contributing members of the family, how to give genuine, real-world feedback toward maturity, how to connect their kids with role model adults (including the parents themselves), and how to positively stretch their kids toward skill- and confidence-building.

Writer and stylist Jo-lynne Shane shares a ‘raising adults” system she uses with her three children.

 [Her] system based on the following principles:

  1. logical consequences vs discipline and anger
  2. choices vs commands
  3. questions vs lectures
  4. no nagging
  5. no idle threats
  6. no yelling

You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders.  Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems.  Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing. 

By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey.  The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through. 

Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning. – Jo-lynne Shane

Raising Responsible Kids – a Series – Jo-lynne Shane

Finally, writer and parent Cara Sue Achterberg offers this exercise:

List the abilities and qualities you hope your children will have by the time they are eighteen.

Back track from that point and begin thinking of chores and responsibilities you can give your children now which will help them attain those abilities and qualities before they leave home.

Instead of thinking in terms of what they can’t do, begin to see them as the capable human beings they are and discover what they can do.Cara Sue Achterberg

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

…and then they were grown.

All our children are, bit by bit, becoming adults. [Like we are often told, it comes faster than we can imagine.] We as parents recognize the adult inside each one and build scaffolding, just enough support, to help each child grow into that adult. At every age, they can see it matters that they show up. It matters.

15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child Dr. Laura Markham

Are You Teaching Your Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges To Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

Practicing What You Preach – Raising Responsible vs. Entitled Children – Marsha B. Sauls

The Goal Is Not to Raise Good Kids, but Great Adults – Dave Ramsey

I Took ‘Adulting Classes” for Millennials – Andrew Zaleski

Worship Wednesday – Surrendering What’s Precious in Exchange for the Doubtless…the Supernatural Movement of God

Photo Credit: Berea Project, Joshua Batchelor

He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
 – Psalm 126:6, King James 2000 Bible

Two Sundays ago, I was visiting family in Georgia. We didn’t go to church that day but we watched Jentezen Franklin on TV. He is my brother and sister-in-law’s pastor. His sermon was entitled The Power of the Precious. Its impact still continues on my heart.Photo Credit: Jentezen Franklin

Power of the Precious – Blog – Jentezen Franklin

Listening to sermons by mega-church pastors is not my usual…but I’m so glad I heard this sermon.

What Pastor Franklin focused his teaching on that morning was what happens when we surrender our “precious” to Him. “Doubtless” (in the King James version of the Bible) we will have a fruitful harvest by sowing precious seed.

When we give God what we consider most precious, He will do what only He can do in our lives.

The Scripture gives so many accounts of such surrender:

  • Abraham was willing to give his son, Isaac, in obedience to God and God provided a ram instead (Genesis 22).
  • Jacob gave his precious son, Benjamin, into the hands of his other sons for the sake of the family (Genesis 43:12-14), and God takes care of them through 5 more years of famine. Besides that, He restored Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph, to him again.
  • When God gave barren Hannah her son, Samuel, she remembered her promise to God, and gave Samuel back to Him to serve Him (1 Samuel 1:9-28)…and God used Samuel mightily to bring in the Davidic Kingdom. God did not forget Hannah either – giving her 5 more children (1 Samuel 2:21).
  • Stories abound in the Bible and in history since the writing of Scripture about of the supernatural return on our giving to God what is most precious.
  • He did the same for us…giving His only Son that all of us who believed in Him would be saved (John 3:16)…restored to our Heavenly Father through this sinless Savior. Jesus was given to us and gave Himself to us (Philippians 2:5-8).

What is precious to each of us? We all have that precious person or persons that we struggle even to say their names out loud if it means we surrender them to God.

Or maybe it’s our health or our career or our dreams or our hope of purpose or influence. Whatever it is, God is trustworthy, and He will do so much more, so much more beautifully, with that which we call precious, than we ever could.

Take a moment, in worship, as I did two Sundays ago, to again place that which is most precious to me, into the loving and capable care of a good God. I say “again”, because we have all had opportunity to do that with every good gift God has given us… Still, it’s important to revisit that which is precious to us to make sure we aren’t clutching it to our own selves but giving it to God…every day, in every way. So much better for them, for us, and for the glory of God.

There’s an account in Exodus where God was calling Moses to speak for Him as part of a divine plan for the Israelites to be set free from their Egyptian bondage. In Exodus 4, Moses questions his ability to do such a thing. God then uses Moses’ grasp of his most precious possession, his shepherd’s staff, as an object lesson. A lesson on what He can do in and through us when we surrender that which is most precious to us…to Him.

Singer/songwriter Ken Medema has put this story to music. It is one of my most favorite pieces of music. The lyrics come out of Exodus 4 with a heart-stopping challenge at the end. Listen to it all. 6 minutes into this beautiful and powerful song/story of Moses’ encounter with God, you will hear the lyrics below.

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;

With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;

With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, Give it up, let it go, let it go,
Throw it down.*

YouTube Video – “Moses” – Ken Medema in concert at Azusa Pacific University 3/18/13

*Lyrics to Moses by Ken Medema

5 Friday Faves – Nicest Place in America, Combating Anxiety, Accountability Partners, Christmas Shopping, and Heart-thrilling Music

A rainy Friday here. Fall has definitely come to our part of the world. The folks who seem to know tell us we won’t be seeing a lot of color, with leaves just turning brown before they fall…oh well. I will capture what I can and share with you.

Here are my Friday Faves:

1) Nicest Place in America – On one of the morning TV shows this week, the winner of a national contest was announced. It was Reader’s Digest Nicest Place in America. Now, if we were asked what we considered “the nicest place in America”, there would probably be a myriad of answers. This year’s winner of the contest was Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tennessee.Photo Credit: Square

Tennessee Falafel Shop Named Readers Digest Nicest Place – Good Morning America

Yassin is a Syrian refugee who loves people and loves America. He also has both the gift of Syrian hospitality and Syrian food sense. Next time, I’m in Knoxville, I will be eating there for sure.Photo Credit: Yassin’s Falafel House

This year Richmond, Virginia had its first Egyptian Food Festival. I would love to see a falafel restaurant in Richmond. So…if we don’t have Syrians like Yassin in Richmond, maybe we have some Egyptians with the same knack for good business. I sure hope so.

[What would you say is the nicest place in America? Comment below.]

2) Combating Anxiety – It’s such a crippling experience…anxiety. I’ve written about it before – here and here. Counsel helps – from professionals and as well as those who have figured how to pull themselves out of crippling anxiety. Here is a piece I found helpful.

Eleven scriptures to combat anxiety

What have you found to be helpful when anxiety creeps in?

3) Accountability Partners – Accountability can be uncomfortable…too much push. However when you find yourself in accountability partnerships where everyone wants the same thing and are all figuring it out together…that’s the best.

I recently met two women who without their knowing have become strong influences in my life…accountability partners in a way because they inspire me to move out of my comfort zone on to meaningful action.

Shelby Brown with Mission From the Heart and Wendy McCaig with Embrace Richmond, author of From the Sanctuary to the Streets, are those two women. I am thankful for their lives and their example.

Two friends have also become accountability partners. Together, we did a 6-week course on justice. Arise – a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Now we’re done, but not really. In a month, we will gather again to see how it is going in applying our new knowledge and greater awareness to some real life situations. Accountability in its most fundamental application is the “ability” to “account” for…filling in the blank for whatever is at stake. I’m grateful for the partnership we have because it takes the passion already present and turns up the heat to move passion to action.

What God does in guiding us to opportunities to “do justice” is something I strongly anticipate…for myself and all of us.

5 Steps to an Effective Accountability  Partnership, and 2 Things to Never Do – Marissa Levin

4) Christmas Shopping – It’s still weeks away from Christmas, but some of you are already out there checking off your lists. You are my heroes. As I’ve gotten older and with the changes in our culture, Christmas shopping has become tricky. We all want to give those we love something special for Christmas, but it isn’t easy. Now with our more minimalist younger generation, challenges abound. Fortunately, we are getting help through online lists (like the ones below). Many families want experiences for their children more than toys. We have gone the route of a small toy and then money toward college. These lists help guide conversations and then buying. What would you add?Photo Credit: Lena @WhatMommyDoes

50 Non-Toy Gifts For Every Age – Becky Mansfield

5) Heart-thrilling Music– Our whole family are music enthusiasts. With a son who is a professional classical guitarist, we are beyond blessed with rich beautiful music on a regular basis. I love choral music as well, and although I’ve tried to get Nathan to sing on some of his pieces, it hasn’t happened…yet.

Below you will find two very different choral artists who have given us heart-thrilling performances.

Pink (with her tiny daughter) and Ken Medema.

Enjoy!

___________________________________________________________________________

Have a sweet weekend. Be gentle to those around you…and to yourself. Good memories are to be made…right in front of you.

Bonuses:

Pastor John Piper’s Favorite Bible VersePhoto Credit: ScriptureMe

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir – Roz Chast (a hilarious and poignant book with incredible illustrations on the subject of aging)

Love Chast’s illustration below – one of many from her book (my kids all the time tell me, “Mom, don’t run!”)

30-Day Declutter Challenge – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Light FM

Artist: Jan Priddy

Wednesday Worship – the God Worshipper – Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

Worship. Such a tension to keep the focus on the Lord and not on our own preferences, our own pleasures.

King David had his own slippery slopes through life, but worship that pleases the Lord was clearly something he understood. Psalm 15 came up in my regular Bible reading this week and is still working its work on my heart.

Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
Who can live on your holy mountain?

The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his silver at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent—
the one who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Who is that person?! That person who lives a life of worship as if he enters the “holy of holies” as he would enter his house or his workplace or his church.

What we do briefly on a Sunday morning matters to God, for sure. What we are about through the week (including Sunday morning) is the substance of the life of a worshipper. There is no separation of sacred from secular. Of daily or divine. We all know this in our hearts.

Psalm 15 puts me on my knees. Let’s break it down. How does the psalmist describe one who essentially lives in the presence of the Lord?

10 rules are laid out in Psalm 15. The first three are in verse 2. These only God can see whether we live by them or not. Now others may see our actions but these verses pertain more to the content or motivation of our hearts. The other seven are listed in verses 3-5. These are straight-up actions toward those we encounter each day.

Here they are in Easy English*, these rules or habits that mark a true worshipper:

1) She “makes no mistakes”; lives a life of integrity and uprightness. Consistent. Honest. What you see is what you get.

2) She does what is right and fair. Practices righteousness. In fact, he works righteousness into every situation, as one would knead bread.

3) He speaks out loud what he knows to be true in his heart. She does not withhold the truth in timidity, but acknowledges the truth with courage.

4) She tells no lies about another. In fact, even if something seems true, she reminds herself that telling it won’t help the person or the situation. He refuses to speak ill of others. No slander. No back-biting.

5) He does nothing harmful to his neighbors. No mean intentionality. Nor cruel or indifferent neglect.

6) She does not harm others with words. She makes no slurs nor discredits them. He does not make slurs or gossip about others. [Similar to #4; the repetition shouldn’t be lost on us. Our mouths can betray what’s in our hearts which can disqualify us for true worship.]

[Sidebar: If we can determine to speak truth in love, the temptation to talk about others INSTEAD of to them would be less a problem. What do you think?]

7) He does not keep company with bad people. He despises those who show themselves despicable. She does not seek the favor of those who reject God.

8) He gives honor to those who fear God. She serves those who serve God.

9) She keeps her word no matter what it might cost her. He is dependable and trustworthy.

10) He uses money to bless not to profit. She is generous. He remembers the poor.

*A Place for You – Psalm 15 in Easy English – Gordon Churchyard

Psalm 15 – the Character of the One God Receives – David Guzik

We look at these rules and spiritual habits and wonder how we can offer pleasing worship to the Lord…ever. We are imperfect and follow Him imperfectly. The key is the aim of our hearts. If we tune our hearts toward God as a matter of life, we set our aim on Him. In such a way, that the arrow of our lives hits the center of the target of these habits…these disciplines…these practices.

I always loved Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God. He was a monk who struggled against the mundane of serving God and the brothers in his monastery. Then he caught onto the idea that God was in the mundane…as in any of the holy sacraments.

Writer and farm wife/mother Ann Voskamp wrote about this in her blog How to Practice the Presence of God. In her critique, she posed the question of how can you practice His presence. “God’s presence needs no practicing because God’s presence has no end. God presence needs no practicing because it’s perfect and it’s present everywhere.” 

What she says is true, but we are frail in our faith and too often distracted by the many tantalizing imperfections of life. We miss God if we don’t make seeing Him a practice. It’s less like practicing the piano and more like practicing medicine. Less works. More faith. Faith in a sure truth and great God. Worthy of worship in every aspect of our lives.

We know Him and we live in ways that reflect knowing Him.

No song today through which we might worship together. Songwriter Hoss Hughes has penned a sweet response to Psalm 15 (see link below).

YouTube Video – “Never Shaken” – Psalm 15 worship song personalized by Hoss Hughes

I do love how the psalm ends.

“The one who does these things will never be shaken.” Hallelujah!

How to Live the Psalm 15 Life – Kenneth Copeland

Singing with Jesus – Psalm 15 – Acceptable Worship

Saturday Short – Getting From “O Lord, How Long?” …to “Yet, I Will Rejoice”

Photo Credit: Slideshare; Sammie G. Smith

It’s been a week.

One of those where you’re praying hard, and yet, at every turn, you’re not sure God is on the same page…or you, with Him.

On happy, normalish, carefreeish weeks, we skip along, through time in the Word, time in prayer, time with friends and family. Even time at work and play. God’s got this, right?

Then there are weeks like this…no end in sight on some struggles. It is easy to wonder if we have lost favor with our heavenly Father. It’s way too easy to cry out to God, like the prophet Habakkuk did:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?Habakkuk 1:2a

I am so grateful to God that even His “little faith” children are beloved. He is a good, good Father. That isn’t just some praise song embedded in my brain. That is what I’ve come to know through decades of following Him…ever how imperfectly.

The Holy Scripture also reveals His character and the journey of His children over and over. We can know and anticipate that there will be weeks like this…even years like this for some…through His Word.

What else we can know is that God is present in all of this. We also know that, as frail humanity, we cannot possibly know or see or explain the thinking or activity of God. His ways are not our ways.

Trust comes to play in weeks like mine. Truthfully, it comes with wrestling before the Lord in prayer and staying in His Word and the company of His people.

In the brief narrative of Habakkuk, as he struggled in prayer with God, he went from complaining to worshipping.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

This has been a hard week. Most of the situations continue unresolved. God continues quiet to my dull ears. Still…He speaks. In ways that I can hear.

Habakkuk was the topic of reading in my read-through-the-Bible calendar for yesterday. I read through – from the first verse of his cry almost against God to the last verses of his restored peace and joy with God. I read through…and God did the same to my own heart.

Are my circumstances changed today? No. My heart is changed. Even last night, I was recounting, to my mom-in-law, one joyful finding. It was an ultrasound followup on a potential problem for our in utero granddaughter who turns out to be growing and wonderfully healthy after all. And my Godly mom-in-law’s response? “Praise God, another answer to prayer.”

Another answer to prayer…

This morning I am rejoicing in the Lord. Is everything made right? Not yet. Not that I can see…but I know it will be.Photo Credit: Ben Steed, Precept Austin

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

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

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

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

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember?

Photo Credit: BeliefChangers, Pinterest

“…He commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.”Psalm 78:5-8

“…they flattered Him with their mouths;
    they lied to Him with their tongues.
 Their heart was not steadfast toward Him;
    they were not faithful to His covenant.
Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity
    and did not destroy them;
He restrained his anger often
    and did not stir up all His wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh…”Psalm 78:36-39

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

When we are anything but steadfast, God remains so.

I read the verses above as part of my guided devotional reading (trying to get through the Bible in a year). God would act as judge, at times, with His people (those too-human children of Israel). More than not, however, He restrained Himself and continued to show mercy. This mercy borne out of a steadfast love.

I can’t read Lamentations 3:22-23 without an old praise chorus coming to mind. The lyrics of the song are the verses of Scripture themselves.

A memory of this song rises up, from years and years ago, when I was still in my 20s and single. I was sitting at the piano, at night, singing this song, over and over, in tears. Whatever  was the reason for the tears is gone from my memory, but the deep sense of God’s love and mine, in return, for Him is still very much with me.

Worship with me, if you will…to this little chorus, repeating the great truth of God’s character.

In Psalm 78, God’s people are charged with remembering how He led the children of Israel out of captivity into the wilderness which would mean freedom for them. A land of their own possession. No longer slaves.

The psalmist also charges us to teach the next generation of God’s many acts of wonder on behalf of His children. We are also to warn them of how prone we are to settle for less than God…to settle for complacency and comfort. To seek for gods of our own making rather than the one true God.

God help us.

How thankful I am for the rock-solid steadfast nature of God’s love toward His people. How amazing is our God to show Himself, day by day, moment by moment…faithful, patient, steadfast. Perfectly loving a perfectly unlovely people. Praise His holy name!Photo Credit: Pinterest, Bible Verse Art

On Sunday, Pastor Cliff preached on thin places – those places and situations when the space between Heaven and earth is thin and God seems especially near. Moments when we experience that wonder and delight of God’s love in a powerful and physical way.

Do you remember a time? A time when you were held tightly, securely, by God? In the steadfastness of His love? Please share in the Comments below.

YouTube Video – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases (Lyric Video)

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

The Incredible, Unfathomable, Steadfast Love of God – Stephen Altrogge

Mark 1:14-15 – Thin Places – Sermon/Podcast – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Top 7 Bible Verses About God’s Steadfastness – Jack Wellman

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Day – Resolved

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.

Today we started another sugar detox to deal with those few extra pounds from all the great holiday eating. Also started a gentle-on-the-heart decluttering project. Will deal with exercise at some point.

What I’m most excited about are the resolutions that were actually spurred on by our pastor during his sermon Sunday [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. Cliff challenged us to commit to some to the Lord…together.

In fact, before the end of the service, we were to think, pray, and write down our resolutions and place them in a self-addressed envelope. He will mail them back to us in three months to encourage us back to resolve if we have faltered at that point.

Cliff preached from 1 Corinthians 1 about the callings God has placed on our lives…and with the callings He empowers us, providing all we need to be successful. Our responsibility…privilege, really…is to resolve to enter into the life God intends for us, rather than play around with something much less. God calls us into deep relationships with him and with each other. We can miss that by paddling around in the shallows of life…choosing superficial over the supernatural.

Anyway, I was resolved, before that sermon, to go deeper with God this coming year and to surrender myself to Him in my relationships with others as well. Cliff’s encouragement came at just the right time. I especially appreciated a phrase he used about God being the “first voice” in our ears each morning. Not our phones, not email, not social media, not any other distractor. Just His voice…first.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example to us of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Monday Morning Moment: Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer