Category Archives: Word of God

Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl

[From the Archives]

Today marks the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 18 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – Singing in the Dark – Hymns, Psalms, and Worship Songs

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Years ago, we would play outside until dark. Especially in summer. I remember those evenings fondly…until the moment we started being called inside. My house was farthest away. Walking that dark street home alone was sometimes scary for this youngster. It was then that I would quote verses of Scripture or sing some hymn chorus or two. That practice would remind me of the nearness and protection of God… even in the dark.

Fast forward to today, and this came across my Twitter feed:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Matt Smethurst

[When you click on the link in the photo credit, you will find numerous comments answering the question. Some humorous, some serious. So many songs listed, old and newer. Some you may not only recognize but that will gladden your own heart.]

There’s probably not a person reading this who hasn’t been comforted by the singing of a hymn or worship song. Alone in the dark. At the dying of a loved one. Or during an unsettling time of another sort.

When my mom was dying, a friend of ours came and sang  Above All just for her. She loved that song and the young man who sang it to her.

So back to that tweet above…We all have cell phones now, and, if need be, can look up any song (if we can remember its title or searchable lyric)…to sing in the dark…To sing over someone we love…or to comfort our own hearts.

How wonderful, though, to have songs tucked away in our hearts and minds. Songs we can recall – to remind us of truth; to recall the Lord of Light; the Lord of our salvation (Psalm 27:1).

A church acquaintance of ours is teaching her children some of the great hymns of old. I heard them (5 y/o and younger) sing recently. The song was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (Solid Rock) written by British pastor Edward Mote in 1834. Loved it!

This is one of those songs that would come to mind when I was a child, singing in the dark, on my way home.

This same song actually also stirs many more memories. One, in particular, was hearing it sung by Filipino teens from a shanty town church group in Surigao City, Philippines. A team of us from the States would spend our summer there with the goal of helping that small congregation have its own church building. The pastor and family would make their home in the loft of the building. It was a long journey for us to get there. Flying into Manila, and then boarding a ship to the island of Mindanao. When we arrived in Surigao, we were transported on a bus to the building site. It was a tiny lot with more tidal pool than land showing. Seeing the seemingly insurmountable task before us, we were encouraged by their singing in English. A song familiar to all of us. Especially as they sang out the chorus: “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

At summer’s end, a church building was standing on that site.

Worship with me, to this great old hymn as true today as then:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
And I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

His oath
His oath, his covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

When he shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!

Yeah, You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
You are rock
You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
Jesus
Yeah, Jesus

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand*

Do you have a playlist for those “singing in the dark” times? What Psalms help? Other Scripture verses that have become your own heart songs? What hymns or worship songs? Please comment below.

*Lyrics to On Christ, the Solid Rock, I Stand – Written by Edward Mote, as sung by Charlie Hall

10 Songs to Play on Repeat to Get Through Fear & Worry

Worship Wednesday – We Must Go – Justice of God – Tim Hughes

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

For several weeks now, I’ve been reading the Scripture with God’s justice on my heart. It’s strange how I missed that in the past…sort of read over it. Struggled with it, so just chose (without thinking) to ignore it. In thinking about salvation, I had made it a matter of mercy rather than justice. My sins had separated me from God. Apart from relying on what Jesus did for me, those sins would have forever separated me from a holy God. What God did on the cross was justice… and mercy. Jesus who was without sin took my sin, all of it, upon Himself. Because of him, before God, I am justified. “Just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. Because of him, I can now live forever knowing God and being with Him…forever. It is an incredible reality this justice and mercy woven together.

God says something like this: Because I have saved you from Egypt, you should live like people who have been saved from Egypt. In the New Testament, Paul teaches the same way. He says that Christians are ‘dead to sin.’ Because they are ‘dead to sin,’ they should live like people who are dead to sin by putting sin to death (Rom 6:1-11). What God has done for us is the basis of what He commands us to do. The basic command is: Be the kind of people that the Lord has made you; live up to who you are. [Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), 79]

Micah 6:8 gives us direction on what God calls us to be and to do – He has given us so much – forgiveness of sins, abundant and eternal life, a right relationship with Him and the possibility of the same with each other, and work on this side of Heaven to point others to Him.

What does that look like? Micah 6:8 – Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. He calls His people to be like Him and to be His image-bearers in this world. To “be the kind of people that the Lord has made [us]; live up to who [we] are.”

How different our world might be if we as individual believers and the church at large walked humbly with God, acted justly toward others and loved mercy?

British songwriter/worship leader Tim Hughes has given us some great worship songs, including Here I Am to Worship. His call to justice and the God of Justice in the song below was new to me until this week.

Let’s worship together.

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry

Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord (x4)

Acting humbly
Loving mercy
We must go, we must go
To the broken
And the hurting
We must go, we must go

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go*

Whatever the “go” means for our lives each day, it can’t just be out of duty or self-interest. We go in obedience to God, and out of a deep love and gratitude. Oh Lord, thank You, that we can know you, and love others because You love them.

Let’s pray:
O God, you are always more ready to hear us than we are to call on you.
Hear us now as we turn to you.

We pray that you will help us truly be your church by seeking to serve
those who are little, last, least and left behind.

We pray for our world in which many starve and struggle to survive
while others have far, far more than they need.

We pray for our nation and our leaders, that the cries of injustice
will be heard above the clamor of corporations,
the needs of the vulnerable will come before the desires of the lobbyists,
the priorities of the poor will come before the positions of the powerful.

We pray for our communities, that we move from complacency to caring and action.
We pray for ourselves, for the courage to care when discouragement overtakes us,
for the energy to act for justice when day-to-day demands occupy us.

Ever present God, you have heard our prayers in the silence of our hearts and you hear us now.
We confess that we have dulled our ears to the cries of all who are hungry.
We confess that we have hardened our hearts to the plight of millions
living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet.

We confess that we have dimmed our hopes for a more just world
and our ability to make a difference.

Sharpen our ears we pray, to hear the voices of injustice and your call to us.
Sharpen our hearts to show compassion to all who are struggling.
Raise our hopes for how we can help bend the arc toward justice
and work for the world that you intend. 

These things we ask in the name of Jesus who sided with the poor
and reflected your intentions for the reign of God.
Amen.

Prayer adapted from “How Long Must I Cry for Help Bending the Arc for God’s Vision of Justice for Children” Children’s Sabbath, Children’s Defense Fund

*Lyrics to God of Justice/We Must Go – written by Tim Hughes

What Does It Mean to Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly (Micah 6:8)?

The Politics of Confrontation and Promise – Micah 6:1-8 – Benjamin Kautzer

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