Category Archives: Word of God

Worship Wednesday – Be Thou My Vision – Noel Richards

[Adapted from the Archives]

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects resident aliens
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. – Psalm 146:5-9

What an experience to have our vision restored! In the 8th century, an Irish poet, Dallán Forgaill, penned the words of what would become the hymn Be Thou My Vision. He was blind. The legend goes that his vision was miraculously restored later in his life.

Whatever our visual capabilities, oh to have the vision that only God can give! To see the world as He sees it.

“God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7b

Hear this, you foolish and senseless people.
They have eyes, but they don’t see.
They have ears, but they don’t hear.

These people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
They have turned aside and have gone away. Jeremiah 5:21, 23

The strongest memories I have of this song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families, from various Christian denominations, who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.

Photo Credit: Eurobishop

We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” traditional church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.

Today we no longer “attend church” in various African countries. Nor are we a part of a house church. Today we are deep in the life of a larger church, bringing our own stuff to the stuff of many others. All of us collectively love God, albeit imperfectly, of course, and want to express His perfect love in our communities.

This Sunday during worship at Movement Church we sang Be Thou My Vision, and I was reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known. In places where we prayed to see people as He sees them…and to love them as He loves.

Worship with me to the rendition performed by Welsh singer Noel Richards. A bit slower than I’m used to but it allows us to soak up the words in worship. Also, all five verses are included which is important.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.*

*Lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision” – an old Irish hymn (in the Celtic Christian tradition) – translated into the English above by Eleanor Hull in 1912

10 Steps to Developing God’s Vision For Your Life – J. P. Jones

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Hymn Story to Be Thou My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube Video – Be Thou My Vision – Nathan Pacheco

Photo Credit: UTubers

5 Friday Faves – ‘Toy Story’ Nostalgia on Classical Guitar, Best Marriage Advice, Reparations, Letter-writing, and Papa’s Garden

Friday Faves on a Sunday. Not too late to find a favorite for yourself.

1) ‘Toy Story’ Nostalgia on Classical Guitar – Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) has just posted his latest arrangement. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Written by composer singer Randy Newman, it is the musical theme for the Toy Story movies. Nathan’s arrangement is so fun – a little funk, a little blues. Hard to keep still when listening. Check it out below:

2) Best Marriage Advice – Many of us have benefited from good marriage advice through the years and seasons.Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life

My favorite marriage advice actually comes out of Bible verses not usually considered for this purpose:

“You have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent [return] and do [repeat] the first works.” – Revelation 2:4b-5a

If you’re in a season when your marriage just feels flat, like you’re a couple of roommates, like the love you have seems faded…then:

  • Remember what it was like in the beginning. What were you like? [Focus there NOT on what your spouse was like.]
  • Repent or return/turn around.
  • Repeat what you did/were like in the beginning.

I was a lot funnier than I am now. More positioned for him to protect me (which was what he is wired to do and it’s lovely). More spontaneously affectionate. More generous with praise and encouragement. When I remember, return and repeat (in action and attitude), something sweet happens. Worth giving it a try…

Lastly, a piece of advice was given to our son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. It came from an older couple who had been in the audience of one of his concerts. They came up to meet him. When they discovered he was soon to be married, this was their advice:

“Make love often. Always pull from the same end of the rope.”Photo Credit: Twitter, Gold Medal Mind, Joe Afremow

3) Reparations – This week on Juneteenth, reparations was a heated topic in Congress. It is defined as “the idea that some form of compensatory payment needs to be made to the descendants of Africans trafficked to and enslaved in the Americas as part of the Atlantic slave trade.”

The terrible history and aftermath of slavery hangs over our country like a shroud. How do we move forward? I am so thankful for those who are helping us to make strides in racial reconciliation…and, at its most basic element, truly truly caring for one another.

Writer/musician Coleman Hughes spoke against reparations during the hearing on the proposed bill #HR40. His testimony follows:

I don’t know the answer for those descendants of slaves in America…or for the rest of us with such a wrongful legacy. It is a painful issue…needing much wisdom and sound reason.

Should the U.S. Give Cash Payments to the Descendants of Slaves to Atone for Slavery? Here’s What Experts Are Arguing – Emily Hoeven

Everyone Wants to Talk About Reparations But For How Long – Adam Harris

The Impossibility of Reparations – David Frum

Only Black GOP Senator Tim Scott Calls Reparations a ‘Non-Starter’ – Alexander Bolton

Actor Denzel Washington won the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement award. His acceptance speech has nothing to do with reparations but a lot to do with healing a nation:

[Denzel Washington, in his acceptance speech,] shared a 30-year-old video of his father-in-law talking to the camera and preaching a message of love. “God intends for us to love all mankind and by being in a loving mood, caring for one another, that’s our purpose for life,” his father-in-law said in the clip. “We should care for one another and we should help one another.”

Washington closed by reflecting on and reinforcing this message, saying, “In this Twitter, tweet, mean, mean world that we’ve created for our children, the least we can do is consider what we’ve done and think about the young people, the future, and individually, collectively, we can try and do the best we can. I blame no one; I look in the mirror. On the other side of it, what an opportunity we have because tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of our lives, so what an opportunity we have to practice what he preached.”Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

4) Letter-writing – I used to be a prolific letter-writer. Not so any more, but it was fun for me to receive a letter in the mail this week from one of my very best life-long friends. She and her husband have been emptying her mom-in-law’s house, preparing it for sale. Her mom who I’ve know all my life is/was a very sentimental woman. She must have kept many of the letters I’d sent her over the years. Some of those found their way back home to me. It was fun to re-read them. Have you ever been a letter-writer? Letters to ones we love must certainly be treasures…and I have always loved Mrs. Hazel.

5) Papa’s Garden – Total feast for the senses. How is it that we can smell tomatoes grow (corn, too)? I’ll look that up but for now, just wanted to share pictures from this early summer garden. Growing through the work of my gardener husband.

Even the compost pile has its own stuff growing!

That’s it for me this week. I would love for you to share your favorite finds or your thoughts from anything above. It is a joy to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

World Refugee Day

How Much Coffee Is Safe to Consume? Research Says Up to 25 Cups Per Day

11 things you need to know in tech today

Donald Trump Donates Salary to Department of Transportation – USA Today, Jessica Estepa

ABC’s of Life: 26 ways to live our lives more deeply…Photo Credit: Facebook, The Art of Learning

 

Photo Credit: Facebook, Pet Assist

Worship Wednesday – Scandal of Grace – Hillsong United

Photo Credit: SlidePlayer

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast.Ephesians 2:8-9

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.Romans 1:16

Recently I was in a conversation with someone very dear to me. Our conversation turned to spiritual things and I confided to him how I can’t but believe God as His word because He has been completely faithful in all His word and deeds toward me.

He drew back from the stream of conversation, and said, “Well, it’s your choice to believe that way.”

My heart was broken in a couple of places at his response. How could we not know each other so well, and yet he didn’t see in me the transformation that Jesus made in my life, on a daily basis, over the years we’ve been close? On his part, how could he actually think it is a mere choice to believe God…like we might believe in luck or fate or fairies?

You see, I’ve known from early childhood that my heart was messed-up. That sin was as much a part of me as breathing. We started going to church when I was 6 or so, That was when I heard for the first time about Jesus…this historical Jesus. The God-man who lived a sinless life, in obedience to his Father God. The only one who could take our sin upon himself, thus restoring us to God the Father, if we receive His substitute for us. The one who would die, that we might live. Savior. Redeemer. Lord.

The Atonement of Jesus: Why the God-Man – R. C. Sproul

This past Sunday at our church, the worship team led us in a song that was new to me. It was Hillsong United‘s Scandal of Grace. What an odd title, I thought at the time. Then the lyrics on the screen burned right through to my heart.

Jesus’ death on the cross – the only truly righteous one dying for sinners – is something I wholly embrace and yet don’t understand how or why.

The scandal in this is two-fold. 1) Jesus, the perfect one, one of three in unity in the Trinity, the God of the universe…had to die for sinners. What a scandal of grace. He was the only one who could restore us to the Father…and he took it upon himself to make that happen. 2) Our scandalous sin that required his sacrifice for us is “treason” against holy God. Yet, we treat our sin like it is nothing. Like we aren’t so bad. That we measure ourselves against each other… thinking we have the capability of measuring rightly. That is scandal.

Jesus doesn’t require us to measure ourselves against his own life. If he did, we would realize the absolute futility of our trying to live our lives based on our own goodness. Praise God, He doesn’t require that of us as we take on his righteousness through receiving his forgiveness for our sins.

We should be shouting this to the rooftops!

“So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.2 Timothy 1:8-12

I am not ashamed of Jesus… but related to the conversation above, I don’t express clearly with my words or deeds how very needy I am for a Savior and how eternally grateful I am for him. I could make no other choice. Once the scales fell from my eyes at my own sinful condition, even as a child, I received his salvation, and continue to do so every day of my life. Humbled. Grateful. Joyful.Photo Credit: Dave Jeffers, Salt and Light Blog

More than ever, I hope it shows…

Worship with me. He is more than worthy of our worship.

Grace, what have You done?
Murdered for me on that cross
Accused in absence of wrong
My sin washed away in Your blood

Too much to make sense of it all
I know that Your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart

Death, where is your sting?
Your power is as dead as my sin
The cross has taught me to live
And mercy, my heart now to sing

The day and its trouble shall come
I know that Your strength is enough
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart
[x2]

And it’s all, because of You, Jesus
It’s all, because of You, Jesus
It’s all, because of Your love that my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart.*

*Lyrics to Scandal of Grace – Songwriters: Joel Houston & Matt Crocker

The Scandal of Grace – Dave Jeffers (Blog/Bible Study)

The Scandal of Grace – Understanding This Changes Everything – SlidePlayer

YouTube Video – Scandal of Grace – Song Story

Worship Wednesday – My Fear Doesn’t Stand a Chance When I Stand In Your Love – Bethel Music

Photo Credit: Flickr

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.  1 John 4:18

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan. He was the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Aslan – Is He Safe?

We so often default to fear. It will look different for each of us, but it rises up from the deep dark places of our minds. Where the “what if’s” set up camp. These squatters make homes for themselves in our thoughts – worry, doubt, anxiety, fear. They don’t belong but act like they do.

When I’m afraid, there is a short list of what helps:

  • Reading/quoting Scripture.
  • Praying, especially praying Scripture.
  • Journaling (or writing like right now).
  • Talking out the fear with someone who knows me and knows God.
  • Singing and listening to worship songs.

Some of the songs that help me battle fear are songs from childhood in church. They have long been a comfort to me.

Our church does not as yet have a children’s music program. We sing a few songs from our kids’ curriculum, but they are different each quarter, so the rhythm of worship songs that our young ones know is not a part of their church life…yet. Maybe their parents teach them strong spiritual songs at home; I don’t know.

7 Reasons Singing Is Essential to the Christian Life – Tom Olson

When “Stand in Your Love” came on the radio this morning, it made me think immediately how great it would be to teach it to our children. To remind them that they don’t have to be afraid when they belong to God. Performed by Josh Baldwin of Bethel Music, this song declares the powerlessness of fear in the presence of God.

Nothing we fear…nothing we can imagine…has the capability of thwarting God’s purposes. He is so much bigger than our fear.

Worship with me.

When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow tries to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken (Cause)

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

Shame no longer has a place to hide
I am not a captive to the lies
Not afraid to leave my past behind
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

There’s power that can break off every chain
There’s a power that can empty out a grave
There’s power that washes every stain
(No) I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

(chorus)
(Cause) Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love*

God is worthy of our praise…including the praise that casts our fears…our cares…on Him…because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Do fearful things happen in life? Of course. Is God able to take us through those fearful things…?

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

There is a fear that we do want to hold in our minds – one fear. That fear of the Lord Himself. For those who are kept in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, God withholds His wrath forever. Jesus, who died in our place…took our sin on Him sinless self…making us forever forgiven.

We are not to trifle with the goodness of God. His hatred for sin is perfectly balanced by His fierce love for us. We were never meant to be able to explain God or put Him into some sort of box we can be comfortable with. God is beyond anything we can comprehend this side of Heaven. More. Greater. Unfathomable. Yet knowable.

Photo Credit: A. W. Tozer, Facebook & One Way Through Jesus

The same fear of God (that strikes reverence and awe in our hearts and keeps us amazed at His movement in our lives and this world) – that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom for us.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”Proverbs 9:10

I pray we are able to stand in His love as the song above says, and let go of the small fears of our lives. Replacing the small fears with wisdom and understanding…of Who He is instead. Hallelujah!

*Lyrics to Stand In Your Love – Songwriters: Rita Springer, Mark Harris, Ethan Hulse, and Josh Baldwin

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – Stand In Your Love – Josh Baldwin & Ethan Hulse

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

Resurrection Sunday – Risen Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

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

Photo Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

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

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

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

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

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

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

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

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

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

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

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

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

Worship Wednesday – God With us – MercyMe

Photo Credit: ASU Now

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.Psalm 96:11

“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,’ His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I become weary of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” – the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:9

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you,” He answered, “If they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”Luke 19:38-40

But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heart.”Acts 4:20

The Scripture speaks over and over again about how God is always present with us. Always present. How do we respond to such a phenomenal truth? The accounts in the Bible resonate our own experiences – we are moved to worship this amazing ever-present God and we are loosed in speaking of His greatness. We can’t but speak.

“He is here. Right now. Fully, completely. He is in you, around you, with you, over you, about you, for you, on time, in the middle of, surrounding you and the ones you love, in complete power, communicating as clearly as any time in history, doing perfectly to you, for you, by you, thinking about you every moment, walking directly into the middle of your worst day, your worst moment, your worst fear, your pain, your loneliness, your doubts, your insecurity, your sickness, your tragedy, your fragileness, your hope, your joy, your peace, your dreams, your relationships, your love, your longing to have your life count. He is here. He is champion and author of every beauty you find yourself longing for. He is the one who stands over you in the darkest hour. He is lifting you up, when you are too exhausted, too devastated, too hopeless, too failed, too compromised, too far gone. He is in this season.” – John Lynch

Immanuel by John Lynch – Mundane Faithfulness

In Genesis 37-50, we marvel at the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph – sold into slavery by his own brothers, wrongly imprisoned, and then… forgotten? No. Not forgotten. Not by God.

Joseph lived as a slave and a prisoner for a total of 13 years. Always faithful to a very present God. Then in a providential, “for such a time as this” moment, the Lord brought him out and he was placed in the highest position of authority under Pharoah. It would be another 9 years before he would see his brothers again, but when he did, he would be able to come to their aid, and that of all the peoples of that day.

We are moved by the God who is always present with us. We are riveted by what we find in the Scriptures about how He works in the smallest details to bring about our good and His glory (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Then we are taken to our knees when we see Him do the same in our lives today.

“God glorifies himself towards the creatures also [in] two ways: (1) by appearing to them, being manifested to their understanding; (2) in communicating himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying the manifestations which he makes of himself. . . . God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. . . . [W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it; his glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.”Jonathan Edwards

We can do nothing less than worship. It is our complete joy to do so. Out of that worship, we understand God and His purposes more, and we rejoice. It becomes a joy to walk with Him wherever He takes us…right?Photo Credit: Media Shout

[We all have times when we feel alone…that no one cares; that we are invisible. Truth is…that is not true no matter how real it feels. Hold on to the “each others” that God brings to you…hold onto Him.]

MercyMe with lead singer/songwriter Bart Millard has delivered two of my favorite contemporary worship songs: I Can Only Imagine and Even If. This song God With Us reminds us of His loving constancy in our lives. It also reveals how it is that we can’t help but lift our voices about Him and raise our hands because of Him. He is with us!

Worship with me.

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release
From the grip of these chains

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

CHORUS
All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel . God with us

My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel . God with us

Lord . You know
Our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
Still You show
A love we cannot afford

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

CHORUS

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
But nevertheless
We lay it at your feet

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
But nevertheless
We lay this at your feet

CHORUS

O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!

     He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.                      –   Psalm 103:1-5, The Message

*Lyrics to God With Us – Songwriters: James Philip Bryson, Nathan Fay Cochran, Barry Earn Graul, Bart Marshall Millard, Michael John Scheuchzer, Robin Troy Shaffer

Story Behind the Song God With Us – Kevin Davis

The Place of Preaching in Worship – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Oh God, You’re Near – Citizens

Blog - Romans 8 - Love of god - Franklin Rodriguez TwitterPhoto Credit: Franklin Rodriguez

[Adapted from the Archive]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-39

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

What fills that blank in your life right now?

A couple of years ago, a huge storm came through Richmond, Virginia, with thousands of us losing power for four days. That first night, when the lights went out, it was weirdly quiet. Then, one by one, generators clicked on throughout our neighborhood. For days, we had this post-apocalyptic buzzing sound all around us.

Finally we got power back, and it was quiet again. Beautiful ordinary quiet.

I’ve become more and more thankful how we can sense God’s presence both in the noise and in the quiet…

On Sunday, our worship team led us in singing the Citizens & Saints song, Oh God. It was a quieter version than the Citizens band does, but I recognized the deep heart-cry to God. Those lyrics resounded what we have experienced lately of the nearness of God.

These days are full of the graces and mercies of God. In that storm that took out our lights, in the journey to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, in the birth of new grandchildren, in the loss of old friends, and in the difficult journey of loved ones going through health issues, job loss, miscarriage or divorce…we have seen and experienced the nearness of God. How else could we go through?

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

We don’t have to….

Worship this great and loving God with me – to this song by  Zach Bolen inspired by Romans 8:

In the valley, Oh God, You’re near
In the quiet, Oh God, You’re near
In the shadow, Oh God, You’re near
At my breaking, Oh God, You’re near
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
In my searching, Oh God, You’re near
In my wandering, Oh God, You’re near
When I feel alone, Oh God, You’re near
At my lowest, Oh God, You’re near
Height nor depth nor anything else
Could pull us apart
We are joined as one by Your blood
Hope will rise as we become more
Than conquerors through
The One who loved the world
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life*
Blog - God will never leave you - bibleinspirationsPhoto Credit: Bible Inspirations
This morning, the Lord reminded me all over again of how no matter our situation, He is with us. It wasn’t much past the time of the picture below that my mom gave up on her first marriage. The stress and strain of my biological father’s neglect and the weight of responsibility on a young working mother pushed her to make the decision to finally leave him. My earliest memory was my big brother Robert (who couldn’t have been more than 9 or maybe 10) placing our infant brother on my lap in the backseat of the car. Our toddler brother was already beside me, and Robert finished helping mom pack the car. We drove away into the dark unknown.
It was not long, maybe a year, maybe less, that neighbors invited us to attend church with them…and we found the love of God in Jesus. We didn’t have words for it before then, but His love had kept us through those difficult early days…
…and has ever since.

Worship Wednesday – Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”  Isaiah 41:13

I follow close to You; Your right hand holds on to me. – Psalm 63:8

A recent episode of the ABC TV show The Good Doctor was striking in the portrayal of the doctors’ lives outside of work. The connect and disconnect of their relationships. In the last scene, the viewer was touched by the hopeful awkwardness of relationship, but more so the aloneness of the characters.  The final scene of this episode is poignant, both in the images of the various characters as well as the song chosen to highlight the background. British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs‘ song Hold On caused me to hit rewind a few times.

There is a Gospel choir feel to the song itself…but no Gospel.

“We hold on together” is the message. If you are unfamiliar with the TV show, then you don’t know the various story lines knitted together in that final scene. It depicted a running theme of “holding on” – through complicated relationships, harrowing work situations, diseases and disorders, and grief and loneliness.

The question came to me: “What exactly are they holding onto… together?” Like most TV shows these days, the narrative is completely secular. The characters are beautiful and brilliant…it is just completely unclear what they are holding on…to…

Turning the TV off, my mind went to friends all over this city with their own challenging life situations…and family members in other states, the same. Much of life isn’t hard…but when it is, we pull ourselves together, and we hold on.

To each other, for sure. What a beautiful thing it is to be a part of a community that surrounds those struggling. The church has its frailties, but when it operates as God intends, “holding on together” can be a true picture of the love Jesus called us to… “loving one another as He loves us” (John 13:34).

Our “holding on together” extends beyond our relationships with one another. We can’t always be there for each other, even when we wish we could…BUT we can hold onto God who holds onto us.

He holds on to us even when our grip slips.

Songwriter/singer Steven Curtis Chapman describes what I’m talking about way better:

On God giving him songs of worship after a time of terrible loss: “These songs have come out of my own journey, particularly of the last seven years of learning the life-giving power of hearing my own voice and the voice of other believers around me declare what is most true and most real,” he says. “What God says is true — even when pain, doubt, grief and confusion are very real as well. There’s an incredible power in agreeing with each other, and especially with God.

Worship with me to Chapman’s song “Hold On to Jesus“:

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I’m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I’ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Hold on for life*

My older brother lived with our parents for a season, after a series of losses that could have crushed him. Mom, in her wisdom, had placed a painting by Alan Grant on his bedroom wall. It was this one:

Photo Credit: Alan Grant, Amazon

The God of the universe extends His hand to us. All we have to do is take hold. He then will never let us go. So we hold on…we hold on together.

*Lyrics to Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

YouTube Video – Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

YouTube Video – Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave