Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Worship Wednesday – On Unity – With One Voice – Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo Credit: Mosaic Church

“I pray not only for these [His 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.” – Jesus – John 17:20-23

Most everyone around the world probably knows the US is embroiled this year in a severe battle for the Presidency.

The various news networks and social media sources broadcast our biases. One candidate or the other is blamed for the condition of our country – whether the sitting president or the party or person of the candidate making his bid for the office.

We align ourselves as the Church in America. On one side of the argument or the other. Some will take the less gnarly position of a third candidate or just not vote this year.

Here’s the insight God gave me this week. When people I deeply love and respect pull for a candidate that I can’t abide or when they hear me out on my decision so different from theirs, we find ourselves at an impasse.

I will not influence them nor will they me. Our reasoning is human, and neither of us can know for sure we are right or we are wrong.

What matters more? That we continue in the unity of love together.

The last night Jesus spent on earth, before His crucifixion, He prayed the exquisite prayer we find in John 17.  It was an intimate discourse with His Father, and thankfully we are privy to it thanks to the Holy Spirit-inspired Gospel of the Apostle John. In His prayer, Jesus prayed for Himself; He prayed for his disciples, and He prayed for all believers.

Jesus prayed that we would be one as He is one with His Father. One in the unity of love. That He prayed this before His death for us demonstrated how much it mattered to Him.

How much this unity must matter to us!

In David Guzik‘s commentary on John 17, he states: “The unity Jesus prayed for among His people has a pattern. Even as the Father and the Son are one yet are not the same, we do not expect that genuine Christian unity will mean uniformity or unity of structure. It will mean unity of spirit, unity of heart, unity of purpose, and unity of destiny.”

Guzik also quotes Charles Spurgeon on unity as different from uniformity: “Beloved, those in whom Christ lives are not uniform, but one. Uniformity may be found in death, but this unity is life. Those who are quite uniform may yet have no love to each other, while those who differ widely may still be truly and intensely one. Our children are not uniform, but they make one family.”

Some will say the issue of who Christians can morally choose as our US President requires some order of uniformity…and so it does. However, the division between us in this matter should sound an alarm in our spirits.

This is not what Jesus wanted for us.

“It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father.Francis Schaeffer

We may differ on how we see “compromise”. That is its own struggle, but we cannot enjoin that struggle with whether we can love one another.

We love each other, because we are His. No matter our political party. No matter the outcome of this election.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus John 13:35

Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman published a song many years ago entitled With One Voice. This is our highest call.

Let’s worship together.

We come together with a holy purpose
We come together for the highest cause
We speak one language from a heart of worship
Gathered to bring a song to the world
For Your glory

With one voice we will sing
Every tribe and every tongue
Brings a harmony
With one voice we will bring
Heaven’s beautiful melody down to this earth
As we sing to our King
With one voice

Oceans divide us
But we sing together
Now what defines us is our love of You
From every nation and across all borders
Gathered to bring a song to the world
For Your glory

With one voice we will sing
Every tribe and every tongue
Brings a harmony
With one voice we will bring
Heaven’s beautiful melody down to this earth
As we sing to our King
With one voice

Come on come on and join the song
Our God our God is on the throne
Come on come on and join the song
Hallelujah hallelujah

Come on come on and join the song
Our God our God is on the throne
Come on come on and join the song
Hallelujah

Hallelujah, our God reigns
Let us all rejoice

With one voice we will bring
Heaven’s beautiful melody down to this earth
As we sing, sing to our King
With one voice
With one voice

Hallelujah, our God reigns
Let us all rejoice
Sing hallelujah
Sing His praise
Let us all rejoice

Sing hallelujah, our God reigns
Let us all rejoice
Sing hallelujah
Sing His praise
Let us all rejoice*

In closing, one of my other favorite passages in the Gospel of John is John 6:68. Jesus was weary with the struggle of public ministry, dealing with the contempt of the religious leaders of the day and the fickleness of followers who came and went. In a moment of weakness (human but without sin), Jesus turned to His twelve disciples and asked if they wanted to leave also.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.” – John 6:68

We know as believers, no matter our politics or our preferences, we are transfixed by the person of Jesus Christ. To know His life, His teaching, and His love…no one else…no place else would satisfy.

Our days and destinies are linked with Him and with each other. Our hearts are knit together. Everything else will fall away in the end. We are His. He is ours. We are meant to live in that reality…even (especially) in this season.

*Lyrics to With One Voice – Songwriters Steven Curtis Chapman & Matt Redman

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song With One Voice

John 17 – Jesus’ Great Prayer – David Guzik

Unity in Christ – Charles Spurgeon

Monday Morning Moment – Forgive Me

Photo Credit: Paul Sableman, Flickr

Twitter has actually been a help to me. I follow (and therefore learn from) people of influence, excellent thinkers, and soldiers in the battle for good. At times, our values are not in lock-step. At times, especially in today’s culture wars, even these voices point to other voices way more stern or biting than their own.

I fell into this myself this weekend, and for that I’m sorry.

Someone I follow re-tweeted another who had really strong emotions about something that happened this weekend. It related to the death of President Trump’s brother and how some were treating his death in a hurtful, political way.

How far our culture has fallen!

I hit the “like” button because I agreed with the wrongness of such actions. The writer closed his tweet with something like, “Jesus, help them.”

When Dave saw the “liked” tweet, he gently reproved me based on the content of the whole tweet. I had totally read “over” the f-word planted angrily in the body of message.

That four-letter word that turns a movie rating from PG to R. That four-letter word we would never use in polite company. That four-letter word that intends anger, hatred, contempt.

Yipes!

Have I grown insensitive to that word? Seeing it written in graffiti all over our city. On posters in riots. Chanted loudly on video in news reports.

Have I grown cold to it?

NO!!! Yet, it is possible in that moment I had become blind and for that I ask forgiveness. To any who might have seen my “liked” tweet from another. To any more near who might experience blindness in me.

Forgive me.

Years and years ago, I used to listen to Steve Brown on the radio. Doing chores at home or on the many errands peopled by small ones. He encouraged me. He said something one time that has stuck with me. Not verbatim, but something like this: “If you’re moving away from God, He will grease the tracks. Same, if you’re moving toward Him.” Both those experiences have been mine over time.

May our worldly culture never have to be used of God to open our eyes to depravity…especially creeping into our own hearts.

Help us to always have eyes to see.

Truth matters. Foulness mixed in may not taint what is true, but it distracts from what is true. It can change the truth-bearers and truth-hearers. I never want to be a partner in that.

Forgive me. I will be more watchful in the future.

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

Monday Morning Moment – Searching Out the Truth in All the Voices

Photo Credit: Dunk, Flickr

I was talking to a friend recently about longing to be in dialogue where I can actually sort out what is true in all the public outcry.

She said, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” It went right to my heart. I would find out later that this quote is credited to social activist Maggie Kuhn.

My shaky voice has kept me from writing, and even speaking on some of the issues we are facing today. Yet, the voices all around us are getting louder and louder.

We are in a season (I’m determined it is a season and not a new normal) where voices on the streets, messages on signs, even on facial masks are persuasive and divisive.

I’m committed to listening and searching out the truth of what people are saying…but.

Here’s the but:

As long as I’m still free to choose, I can’t support an organization or movement that seems to stir up hatred as part of its strategy. That might not be the intent, but…hatred bubbles up. Hatred for those seen as enemy, as culprit, as guilty with no presumption of innocence.

In the last month, my understanding of our society has grown enormously. Too many times, I’ve had to acknowledge: “I didn’t know.”

Watching the documentary 13th was riveting. This feature-length film exposes how after the passing of the 13th amendment on the abolishing of slavery, and then, decade after decade, the governmental and cultural undermining that decision right through to today. [If you aren’t inclined to watch “13th”, then take 10 minutes and watch Ryan DavisThis Is America.]

I have started realizing that the truth is although I wasn’t consciously racist, somehow culturally and spiritually, I have enjoyed privilege and have been indifferent to many in our country who are hurting.

This broke my heart. Even after years of working in a large public hospital in Atlanta, years working in community development, and years of what could be called Christian service. I lacked the compassion and critical thinking that, ironically, should have been clear and obvious in a life of following Jesus.

So where does that leave me…us? Have you struggled with the cultural messages you are hearing…about yourself, in particular, if you’re white? Have you wholeheartedly agreed with the messages? That we are at fault for all the terrible suffering we are seeing now (if we didn’t see it before), and we have to make it right? I don’t have an answer here…only more questions.

Systemic Racism Explained – Ryan Davis

I am so ready for an advancement of good in our country.

Dialogue. Civil discourse. Reasoning together. Searching for solutions…sustainable, dignifying solutions.

Here’s where I am right now. Listening to friends. Asking questions. Watching news reports and reading commentary. Looking for people who are speaking on the problems in our country, without power or profit agendas. People who seem to care, truly care, for the hurting, but who refuse to go the way of hatred.

An example of what helped to clear confusion for me was discovering the operating strategy of cultural Marxism.

“A collectivist application of Marxist class warfare along a far broader spectrum of identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, as opposed to solely along class lines; intersectionality.
First, Marxism only spoke to the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but now men oppress women, whites oppress blacks, heterosexuals oppress homosexuals, the able-bodied oppress the disabled, & cisgendered folk oppress trans folk; WHO you are is irrelevant, all that matters now is WHAT you are, which groups you are a member of, your personhood reduced to your arbitrary characteristics, to that of an object; this is Cultural Marxism. –  Urban Dictionary

That is what I’m seeing in the loud and angry voices in the public arena right now. Class warfare. One group against another group. This is not the disruption that will enlarge any of us as Americans. We are all objectified by this kind of identification/definition. No justice in this. Only destruction and disunity.

The video below by theologian educator Dr. Voddie Baucham was enormously helpful for me to understand cultural Marxism. [I will warn you: he takes issue with the politics of a very popular US president.] His teaching actually gave me hope. Truth sets us free.

Be encouraged.

We can be a part of a redemptive work. Even with shaky voices and shaky knees. Our only recourse is NOT what the loudest voices call for…but we do need to listen to those who genuinely represent the hurting. And, most urgently, the hurting themselves.

Before closing, here are some of the voices that have encouraged and emboldened me in recent days. They are not all alike in their message, but they speak reason, love, and hope.

Rayshawn Graves. Bryan Stevenson. Scott Sauls. Anthony Bradley. Rolland Slade. Glenn Loury. Bevelyn Beatty. Senator Tim Scott. Darrell B. Harrison. Virgil Walker. Karen Swallow Prior. David Lyle. Jackie Hill Perry. Coleman Hughes. Jared Burwell. Tim Keller. Shelby Steele. Michael Catt. Keith Smith. John McWhorter. Voddie Baucham. Just to name a few.

I’d love to close with a few of the lyrics of Andrew Peterson‘s A White Man’s Lament for God’s Beloved:

“…the mercies of the Lord
Will be the chords to every song…
…it begins as I repent
And bow my head as I lament this broken world
‘Cause every victim, every villain
Was a precious little boy or little girl
This is me and this is you
This is the truth, if you believe it or not
You have always been beloved
They have always been beloved

George, Breonna, Ahmaud
All beloved of God

5 Ways Christians Are Getting Swept Into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment – Natasha Crain

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…

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

Photo Credit: FBC Yorktown, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave Your Gift and Go – Life Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiven to Forgive – Allen Webster

Forgiveness – First Presbyterian Church, Yorktown, NY

Worship Wednesday – Revive Us Again – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: His Inscriptions, Deborah Perkins

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants and my blessing on your offspring.”Isaiah 44:3

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. –  Psalm 24:3-5

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Late last night a friend sent a video to me vai Facebook Messenger. It was rare for her to do this, and when I woke this morning, I watched it first thing.

It was a story told during a sermon by Dr. Clarence Sexton. He spoke in loving awe of the movement of God which resulted in an astonishing revival. We call it today the Hebrides Revival, in Scotland, 1949-1952.

The Hebrides Revival (1949-1952) – Some Observations by R. T. Kendall

As Dr. Sexton tells the story, he links generations (to the present day). Two Scottish sisters in their 80s were key to this movement of God as they came under terrible conviction of the need for revival. They began praying for hours at a time, and after a time, several joined them in prayer. In a tiny village on the Scottish island of Lewis.

Revival on the Island of Lewis: 1949-1952

The generations linked are from these old aunts to a niece who immigrated, in her late teens, to the US. then she met and married an American man. They had four children – one of whom is the  45th President of the United States.

Desperate Prayers by Trump’s Great Aunts in ‘Sanctuary’ Cottage said to Spark Hebrides Revival in Scotland

Sometime during this president’s childhood, the old Scottish aunts sent their niece a Bible. This particular Bible had significant meaning during their prayer vituals leading up to the Hebrides Revival. At some point, this niece gave this Bible to her son.

Dr. Sexton says this Bible is now in the Oval Office of the White House. One Bible given to this President by his mother was used as part of the swearing in ceremony. Whether it was the Revival Bible or another Bible given by his mother…it is unclear from what I could find. Either way, one of our current President’s Bibles, the one used in the Inauguration, is now in the Museum of the Bible, in Washington, DC.

So we don’t really know (at least I don’t) if this treasured old Bible is in the Oval Office –  this revered text, prayed through and around by a small group of believers in Scotland in the mid-20th century. That’s not really what this story is about.

We do know that great-aunts of the President of the United States sought and saw the miraculous movement of God over their town, their island, and beyond.

That connection stoked the fire in my heart of the possibilities – not just in this President’s life, but in the lives of all of us who can follow in the steps of those Godly old ones.

What if we prayed instead of complained? Prayed instead of reviled? Prayed instead of bemoaning a current situation?

Oh God, help us. We believe; help our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Let’s worship together to Phil Wickham‘s song “Revive Us Again“. Let’s pray for our President and all who lead in our country and pray revival for our own hearts and for this nation.

When You move, hearts awaken
Broken lives will be redeemed
Here and now, as in Heaven
Let revival be released

Hear our cry
Heal our land
Oh God, we pray for revival
What You’ve done before
You can do again
Oh God, we pray for revival

God of grace, God of salvation
We are desperate on our knees
You can save this generation
Let revival be released

Hear our cry
Heal our land
Oh God, we pray for revival
What You’ve done before
You can do again
Oh God, we pray for revival

Oh God, we pray for revival

Like a river running through the barren land
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Move in power, save us by Your mighty hand
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Like a river running through the barren land
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Move in power, save us by Your mighty hand
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Revive us again

Hear our cry
Heal our land
Oh God, we pray for revival
What You’ve done before
You can do again
Oh God, we pray for revival

Oh God, we pray for revival
Oh God, revive us again*

I would like to close with this prayer from author Deborah Perkins who senses a great urgency in God moving us toward revival:

“Father, please show me what You are doing right now on the earth and what I can do to partner with You. Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it already is in heaven!

“Jesus, please open my mind to understand the times and seasons in which I live. Interpret and explain everything to me concerning YOU and how you move in the Scriptures! Inscribe your laws in my mind and on my heart so that I obey You perfectly. Forgive me for anything that stands in the way of Your glory manifesting in my life.

Holy Spirit, show me how to pray according to the will of God. Please show me what I need to do right now to get ready for the incoming harvest. What do I have in my house (natural or spiritual) that you can use? Who do you want me to reach today? How will I do that, practically? Thank you for working with me personally to produce the fruits of repentance: righteousness, peace, and joy!”

*Lyrics to Revive Us Again – Songwriters: Jonathan Smith, Phil Wickham

‘God Seemed to Be Everywhere’ on Island Trump’s Mother Called Home – Rev. Gareth Burke

YouTube Video – Phil Wickham – Revive Us Again: Song Session

Revive Us Again! – Deborah Perkins

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Interrupting the Silence

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

You yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me. – Psalm 56: 3-4, 8-9

When I am afraid..when I am afraid…when I am afraid…I will trust in You, God…This I know: God is for me.

There’s a lot of fear in the air these days as the Coronavirus pandemic makes its way across our states and the world’s nations. We hear a lot about flattening the curve of the new cases and mortality rates. What we need to flatten as well is the strangling fear that rises up with the COVID case numbers.

Fear is an enemy to our health and to our hearts.

Fear may also look more like anger when people politicize the problem or rail at the why’s of this disease we are facing.

Blaming, fault-finding, nay-saying.

Both fear and anger have negative impact on our immune systems and sense of well-being – both of which are vital to staying healthy.

How about our faith? Is there a way we can flip fear as believers?

Absolutely. When we shake ourselves out of the “what-if’s” and into the “what-is”, our thinking clears. Our shoulders drop. We breathe. We remember.

Whatever the enemy…human foes or COVID-19…God is present with us and He is for us.

Psychologist Gregg Jantz Ph.D. reminds us that Gratitude Is an Antidote for Anger and Fear. In his article, he states,Gratitude is an antidote for fear. Fear focuses on all the things that could go wrong. Gratitude focuses on all the things that have gone right. When our gratitude is based upon the power and promises of God, we have an abundance of things that have gone right!”

This morning I came across the Reba McEntire 2017 song Back to God. Early in the video, she sits in an empty church.Photo Credit: GodTube

The story in the video begins in a cemetery and then moves to an empty church (which looks normal to us now with COVID). As Reba sings, we see individuals and small groups dealing with losses. There is sadness, isolation, anger, fear. Something like we are feeling in our current situation.

When we find ourselves, because of this pandemic, without work or school, facing ruined plans, or worse…unable to delay deaths of people we love…we are prone to default to fear.

Throughout Scripture, God calls us to remember. Remember who He is and how He has moved throughout history and in our own personal lives. To pull ourselves up out of fear and take a longer view of gratitude for a good and gracious Father God. He is for us. He stands with us, in whatever feels like it is overtaking us.

Reba’s song is an anthem for us who say we believe…to pray like we do…whatever it takes to turn our fear, anger, loss…and unbelief…to a loving God. We want to hold this life, our loves, our preferred “normal” tightly in our hands…but.

Because He is good, and we remember, we open our hands, and trust Him with what He gave us in the first place. Whatever comes, He is faithful in His love and at His word.

Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn and remember that God is ever and always faithful:

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 wilt be.

Refrain:
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!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

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! [Refrain]*

At the end of Reba’s video, the church building goes from her alone to being filled with all those who had experienced anguish and loss… a church filled with worshipers. People praying and praising God. All together.

That’s who we are and who He calls us to be. We may, for a season, be physically distanced from each other, but we are still in this together, and Him always with us.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:3-4

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Songwriters: Thomas O. Chisholm and William Runyan

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Worship Wednesday – No Matter What I Will Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

When He [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”Matthew 21:23

On this long day, Jesus would demonstrate in one situation after another that he spoke and acted with the authority of God Himself. The barren fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before had indeed withered and died. The disciples saw it themselves that morning as they walked again from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke to them of faith, which they would need all the more in the days ahead (Matthew 21:21-22).

Again and again…in Jerusalem, in the Temple and on the busy streets during Passover, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders.

[It’s amazing that he even gained entry to the Temple after overturning the market the day before. Again, another sign of his authority. He was untouchable, until he gave himself over to his own death on the cross…for us.]

They (again the religious leaders) were determined to trap him in some sort of blasphemous teaching or interpretation of the law. It would not happen, yet they were set on his destruction one way or another.

In an attempt to test Jesus’ understanding of the law, a legal advisor to the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the law. The Pharisees emphasized strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, all 613 of them! I don’t think they were prepared for Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; 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 12:29-31

Two commands: 1) Love God with your whole being; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Some might say that a third is presumed in that you must also love yourself in a right and wholesome way in order to truly love others. Jesus’ love for the Father and his love for all people were in perfect unity. Loving God, with all we are, gives us perspective and capacity to love those around us, whomever they are, as we have experienced love ourselves, from the God we love.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders grew more angry at Jesus and were vexed as to how to destroy his popularity and influence with the masses of Jews loyal to him. All their trickery failed that day. Jesus was not intimidated by them, and, in fact, spoke some of his strongest words against them while teaching that day. His 8 “woe to you” pronouncements against the Pharisees are listed at the bottom of this page. When I read them, the song from the original Godspell film comes to mind as the Jesus character stands against the religious “machine” of his day – those “hypocrites”, those “blind guides” of the people.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Blog-Holy-Week-Pharisees.jpgPhoto Credit –www.faithbibleministries.com

Finally, leaving Jerusalem that Tuesday, Jesus stopped on the Mount of Olives (Olivet) to speak about the future. He talked at length, to his disciples and all those who followed, about the end times, cautioning them about false teachers and the evil that would rise up in those last days. What it must have been to listen to Jesus, the Messiah, that day. Filled with a mixture of faith in him and fear of what could lie ahead for them, and the generations to come.

When Jesus and his disciples returned for the evening to Bethany, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, stole away and met with Jesus’ enemies. [Matthew 26:14-16] He would betray Jesus to them in the dark of night, away from the crowds who would have strongly objected…in just two more days…for 30 pieces of silver…Judas would seemingly take history into his own hands, but the clock was already ticking, and Jesus would finish what he came to earth to do.

Postscript:

8 “Woe’s” Spoken by Jesus Against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-30)

1- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men.

2- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and pray at length as a pretense.

3– Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

4- Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”

5- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

6- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

7- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

8- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”*

Holy Week – Day 3: Tuesday in Jerusalem, Mount of Olives – Mary Fairchild

YouTube video Alas for You from the original film Godspell

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Jesus and the Pharisees

*8 Woes Upon the Pharisees – Curtis Kittrell

Great Texts of the Bible – The Two Commandments – commentary by James Hastings

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about Two Future Events – Ronald W. Leigh, Ph.D

Worship Wednesday – On the Peace of God – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Do you ever have nights when sleep is interrupted way too early? Last night was one of those for me. At 1:30am, my body and mind decided that we were done with sleeping. Two days ago, I took a bad fall. Walking with a friend, I tripped on an uneven bit of sidewalk and face-planted on the sidewalk. No breaks, few scrapes, praise God! However, the soreness yesterday and last night was a bit unnerving and debilitating. Once awake, then the thoughts come, and the emotions follow.
Did I need to go to urgent care? No. Did I need to risk Coronavirus in such a place or just stay home and wait the soreness out? What if I get Coronavirus anyway? Then the thoughts go to Dave, the kids and grandkids, the rest of the family, friends, and neighbors. Then the mental rollercoaster takes me to God’s purpose for my life – have I walked with Him? He will welcome me Home because of Jesus, but has my life turned out as He had meant for it to be?
Crazy, right?
So…not able to sleep, I quit the fight and fitful thoughts and prayers at 3:30am and got up. With a mug of yesterday’s coffee, and the fireplace going, candles lit, I was ready to keep vigil until morning came.
Picking up a book our community group is studying, I turned to the chapter we would tackle next. The book is Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure by physician/pastor Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The chapter? The Peace of God.
In this chapter, Lloyd-Jones unpacks Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian church… This beautiful letter written by the Apostle Paul in his last days…full of joy…peace…even in the tyranny of his circumstances.
Lloyd-Jones describes the “tyranny of circumstances” as that cascade of pressure or stressors that wash over us individually. They are personal and they feel overwhelming.
Paul, in the passage Philippians 4:6-7, gives us a pathway to peace with God. It’s less prescriptive than descriptive, but we can use it in a way that guides our prayer.

  • Don’t worry. – In his book, Lloyd-Jones acknowledges that anxiety can happen pretty much without our control. Borne out of our mind (thoughts) and heart (affections) and fueled by our imagination. The world shames us with pithy advice about worry. What Paul counsels is to acknowledge that we are prone to worry…but to take immediate steps and roll back the anxiety, remembering who God is. Those steps follow.
  • Pray. – In this action, we refocus and reset our minds and hearts off our circumstances and onto a good and loving God. In crying out to Him, we leave off our petitions and start with worshipful prayer. Recalling the truth about God and the greatness of His love and provision. Reminding ourselves of what He has already done for us and the promises to come…the promises that He will fulfill. My S.O.S. cries to God in the thick of sleep-deprived fitfulness were met by His mercy. He did not let me rest until we had this healing time of prayer.
  • Petition. – He wants us to cry out to Him. We acknowledge He is the Only One who knows what we really need and is wholly able to provide it. We need Him, first and foremost. After that, our petitions, following worship, rise out of hearts and minds tuned to the Lord. Ready for whatever comes from the hands of a loving God.
  • Give thanks. – Always. In everything. No matter what. The gratefulness will follow.

Out of all that…comes peace. Not just any sort of peace, but peace that “surpasses all understanding”.  The kind of peace that those in the world, without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, must marvel at. We marvel, too, when we see it in each other. Brothers and sisters, some in great trials or hardship, filled with the peace of God. We marvel when it happens to us.

Like in this pre-dawn morning.

God guards our peace. He keeps us, garrisons us, inside Himself. Surrounds us with His love. It is what He promises to those whose minds are fixed on Him, because we trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).

When sleep fails, and worry or anxiety creeps in, we know what to do. May we always remember to correct course and settle back into His peace.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength!Habakkuk 3:17-19a

[Footnote: As we, all over the world, confront the the Coronavirus pandemic, we may, at some point, have to shelter in place. No better place to be than in Him…in His peace.

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels – Deb Mills

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

You Are My Peace – Housefires – YouTube Video

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise