Category Archives: Lives Full of God

Worship Wednesday – Being Known by God Himself – “Find You Here” – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Knowing Jesus

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble,
and He knows those who take refuge in Him.Nahum 1:7

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know MeMy sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” – Jesus – John 10:14; John 10:27

We know that “All of us possess knowledge”. This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know, but if anyone loves God, he is known by God.1 Corinthians 8:1b-3

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His.”2 Timothy 2:19

We long to be known. Truly known. Sought after. Pursued. Loved. I’m pretty sure this longing originated from God Himself, placed in our minds from the beginning. When God created Adam and Eve, they were both “naked and unashamed”. Before God and each other. When sin entered the picture, so did shame. They tried to hide but could not. God came looking for them. He knew them, and He knew they could choose sin, rebellion, at any time. He knew them, and He loved them still. Completely. He covered their nakedness, dealt with their sin, and made a way for them to be restored back to Him.

Photo Credit: St. Augustine, Slideplayer

We are filled with gratitude for the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. What a profound experience not just to know God but to be known by Him. The God of the universe. The Creator and Sustainer of all of life. This “being known” and loved still…amazing grace!

One of the most frightening passages in the Bible is found in Matthew. Jesus is preaching and he describes some who are would-be believers. People who are attracted to God, who even serve God and others as if they were believers, but have never truly received His salvation and lordship through Jesus Christ. They do not know Him, and therefore are not known by Him. Terrifying.

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’ ” – Jesus – Matthew 7:22-23

To be known by God is to experience His love in every circumstance of our lives. No matter how hard or hurtful our situation may be, we will find God there…with us. If this is not your experience, then wrestle out what that means. Is it the mean deceit of the Evil One that makes us think we know God when we only know of Him? Or is there some sense of entitlement we might have toward sin or an unrighteous relationship, elevating that above God? Or is it an arrogance on our part that we view ourselves as “good enough” while God sees us either dead in sin [rather than righteous and a new creation through His Son’s redeeming work on our behalf]?

If you’re struggling right now to walk with God, sort out what’s going on. Is it a spiritual attack of some kind that you’re meant to endure as you bring it to God, or is it possibly the fact that you do not truly know God…and are not known by Him? Because you choose being separate from Him. God will not impose Himself on us, yet He ever draws us to Him.

Three times in my life I felt compelled to seek God’s face on the question of whether I truly knew Him. Once as a 15 y/o, another time in my mid-20s and, a final time, in my mid-30s. All three times, I questioned my salvation. He comforted me and gave me peace all three of those times. Especially the last time. I have not questioned knowing Him or being known by Him since then.

Do not be lulled to sleep by a false sense of belonging to God when you have never fully given your life to Him. Remember His words:

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” – Jesus…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.John 10:14; John 10:27

Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb wrote the beautiful “Find You Here” in response to hearing her dad (Brown Bannister) had been diagnosed with cancer.

Worship with me (lyrics in link).

It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear
It’s not the road we would have chosen, no
The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead
But You’re asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead

And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me, with peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry us through everything
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fears, with peace

You say that I should come to You with everything I need
You’re asking me to thank You even when the pain is deep
You promise that You’ll come and meet us on the road ahead
And no matter what the fear says, You give me a reason to be glad

And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me, with peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry me through everything
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fear

Here in the middle of the lonely night
Here in the middle of the losing fight, You’re
Here in the middle of the deep regret
Here when the healing hasn’t happened yet
Here in the middle of the desert place
Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face
Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms
You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart

And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me with, peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry me through everything
You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fear with peace

Rejoice, rejoice
Don’t have to worry ’bout a single thing, ’cause
You are overwhelming me with, peace!
Don’t have to worry ’bout a single thing
You’re gonna carry us through everything
Overwhelming peace*

This beautiful God who knows us – our longings, our fears, our struggles, our tears. He knows us and loves us deeply…and we have the incomprehensible privilege of knowing and loving Him back.

*Lyrics to “Find You Here” by Songwriters Benji Cowart, Ellie Holcomb, and Rusty Varenkamp

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Worship Wednesday – I Surrender All – Robin Mark – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Knowing Jesus

Worship Wednesday – Look What You’ve Done In Me – Tasha Layton

Photo Credit: YouTube

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” – Proverbs 28:13-14

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no root of bitterness springs up to cause trouble and defile many.Hebrews 12:15

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

We have immeasurable gifts in our life!

Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord, and His life, love, and example in all things. The Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide, indwelling us. The faithful Word of God. The Church standing eternal as God has promised. The call to prayer and the ear of a just and loving Heavenly Father.

How is it then that we struggle so with voices that say “Not so”. Conviction of sin is one thing, but shaming is not a voice we hear from our Father. We shame ourselves, the world tries to do the same, and Satan, the Father of Lies, is a master in accusing us. When we listen to these voices, we deal with our shame by justifying ourselves, or burying our true redeemed selves in regret, or hardening our hearts in bitterness, or daring not to believe we can forgive or be forgiven…again. No more, Dear One!

If we tune our ears to the Lord, we catch His tone, His truth, His love.Photo Credit: Heartlight

Tasha Layton speaks to this in her song “Look What You’ve Done”. Her first verses speak the accusation and shame. Then, it is as if she shakes her head and comes back to her senses. She remembers God. She stands in His presence. She hears Him speak over her. She reflects on all He has done in her life…and she worships.

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

Worship with me…as we all have been saved from sin and shame. No longer ruling over us…or our relationships…anymore… because of what He has done…and who He is…and who we are in Him.

Look what you’ve done
How could you fall so far
You should be ashamed of yourself
So I was ashamed of myself

The lies I believed
They got some roots that run deep
I let em take a hold of my life
I let em take control of my life

Standing in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done

Suddenly all the shame is gone
I thought I was too broken, now I see
You were breaking new ground inside of me

Standing in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all my roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done

On the cross, in a grave
With a stone, rolled away
All my debt, it was paid
Look what You’ve done

In my heart, in my mind
In my soul, in my life
With my hands lifted high
I’m singing

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what you’ve done

On the cross, in a grave
With a stone, rolled away
All my debt, it was paid
Look what You’ve done

In my heart, in my mind
In my soul, in my life
With my hands lifted high
I’m singing
Look what You’ve done*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Look What You’ve Done – Songwriters: Tasha Layton, Matthew West, AJ Pruis, and Keith Everette Smith

Story Behind the Song “Look What You’ve Done” – Kevin Davis

Tasha Layton’s “Look What You’ve Done” – Truth of Scripture Hidden in Today’s Popular Christian Music

Remembering 9/11 – 20 years Later – and the Day Before – a Story about God and a Girl

Genessa (l) and April, Cairo, Egypt

[From the Archives – “Remember 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl”]

Today marks the eve of the 20th 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, walked into the elevator. His face strained (me thinking it related to the patient with me). Then he said, “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 had traveled instantly from the States about the 9/11 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 of 9/10, 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, our Egyptian friend, 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 20 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 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. Toward the end of the song you can hear Genessa’s tears in her voice, singing to the Lord. We would sometimes have the opportunity of being in the room when Genessa led worship in those days. She couldn’t hold the tears back. So in a space just God and her.

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 – I Need Thee Every Hour – Fernando Ortega

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phil Ware

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…”Genesis 1:26-28

Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  – John 4:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

We are needy people…by design.

Years ago, husband Dave and I led a Singles Sunday School class. These young people were top of the heap – well-educated, gifted, socially astute, emotionally intelligent, independent, and committed Christians. Yet, no matter the Scripture being studied that day, Dave always managed to insert two concepts:

  • We are all worms.
  • Obedience is always where we want to land.

I was like (on the first point) “Dude! What about we are fearfully and wonderfully made“?! [Psalm 139:14] [Years down the road, “dude” and “worm” would remind me of this exclamation as “worm” in Arabic is “dooda”. Sorry for the rabbit trail.]

As for the second point – the “O” word…no right or reasonable objection there. Period. Full stop.

Being Needy Is Not a Fault – It Is a Design – Christine Chappell

Yesterday I came across an Instagram story with Jackie Hill Perry talking about our inadequacy and deep need for God. If you know Instagram stories, they seem to last a minute. I wanted to hear it again, but couldn’t. So I’ve been thinking about it and praying since about it. We all have head knowledge about our dependence on God, our need for Him…it just doesn’t always settle into our hearts.

We (ok…is it just me?) go through too much of life with Paul’s affirmation that we have everything we need for “life and godliness” without remembering the context – dependence on His power and through knowing Him, in His glory and because of His goodness. [See verse below.]

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Wow! That right there.

Our days are busy and fraught with care (different depending on each of our situations, but its there…and draws our focus). God does  expect us to show up for work, for our families, for the church, for our communities…That is necessary…but not sufficient.

“Necessary but not sufficient”

“What we do is necessary but not sufficient. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and have substantial creative capacity and we can do a lot of neat things. God expects us to use our abilities, giftings, and capacities, and to work at it as hard as we can. However, all those things fall flat apart from our dependence on God – if He doesn’t breathe His life into our efforts and make them accomplish His purposes. Our work is necessary but not sufficient. He is sufficient.” – Dave Mills

We go to God each day for those things outside our power (cancer, COVID, conflict), but we forge ahead on what we think we can accomplish on our own (including growing our own character and that of our children). What then do we miss, in treating prayer and time in His Word as a sprinkling on our day? A seasoning rather than the meat. [See again John 4:34 above.] We miss God.

We miss God in working out our budgets, in counseling with a friend in crisis, in trips to the grocery store or playground, in studying for an exam. We miss His infusion of His own character, His own wisdom, His own wonder. We wear ourselves out walking in the flesh with just a touch of Him, even though we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God.

Whose image do we take into the public square? His or our own frail self? Preaching to the choir of one here (unless you are singing along with me).

Jesus taught us by His example that He revered the Word of God, and lived in obedience to It, and basked in the Father’s presence, and understood how being human can distract from the greatest reality in our lives – a holy yet approachable God. Even from the Cross, in His greatest need, He prayed for those who participated in the unspeakable. They didn’t know, He said (Luke 23:34).

We know.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses [of my imperfections], so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

“You see, our power as Christians is not in our strength, our own performance, or our own striving towards perfection. Our power comes when we can admit our vulnerability, our weakness, our neediness, and our dependence on the Lord. It was when Paul accepted his weaknesses and his imperfections that he discovered how strong he was in God.  

It’s when we are at our wits end that we discover that His ways are higher than our ways. It’s when we can’t do something that we discover He can. It’s when we realize the power is not in us that we find our strength in Him. Our imperfection is the pathway to the grace of God. It’s in that connection that we find His grace is indeed sufficient, even in spite of our weaknesses. –  Delman Coates

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  –     1 Corinthians 1:27–29

If you feel your neediness on a regular basis, know that you are in good company. All of us are needy, all of the time—we’re just too busy being “independent” to realize it.  We easily forget that neediness is inherent. Take a high-level view of the concept by starting with our neediness in the sight of God. Think back to the garden of Eden and all that Adam required from the Lord to live. Everything Adam had, he was given. Everything he possessed—even his very body and breath—came from God (Genesis 2:7). This truth hasn’t changed since the fall.

Think about it: what do you have at this moment that God did not give to you? …There’s no kidding ourselves: we are utterly dependent upon Someone else for all the things, all the time.

Man’s reliance upon God is a healthy relational construct, not an annoying character flaw. Our neediness is forged out of God’s good design (Genesis 1:31) and is meant to foster fellowship, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. In that sense, dependence upon God and interdependence upon each other is a blessed design meant for our good and God’s glory.Christine M. Chappell

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be encouraged as I am (after hearing Jackie Hill Perry’s brief story). How different our lives are when we see God as He truly is and see ourselves in proper relationship to Him and each other (my definition of humility, actually). Our lives are small really, no matter how cool, independent or self-sufficient we think we are. How much more beautiful to receive that smallness as a gift in our lives as we walk in the fullness as His increase (in our decrease) (John 3:29-30).

Praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) is cause for rejoicing and gratefulness. I want more of this…more of Him. AND our children and grandchildren need to know they don’t have to grow up so grand and gifted…they can grow up knowing Him in all His power and glory and goodness!

Worship with me to this wonderful old hymn by Annie Hawks. OR if your heart would prefer a newer version then sing with Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

[If you prefer the newer pink and blue background, live version of Lord, I Need You, with lyrics, here it is.]

Worship Wednesday – Deep Disappointment – Lord, I Need You – with Matt Maher & Audrey Assad – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – I Need Thee Every Hour – Anthem Lights

Needy People, Mighty God – Steven J. Cole

I Need You Every Hour – Tom Norville

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity & Beautiful Insanity – Mercy Gordon

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

Just recently, I have been immersed in two Bible studies – one on forgiveness and the other on unity. You can read what I’ve already written on these here and here.

Studying both of these Biblical concepts together has been a gut-punch and a wake-up call. We can NOT think we are walking with God if we hold onto offense and unforgiveness, nor if we allow our own personal preferences divide us from other believers.

Writer, Bible teacher Francis Chan hammers on the deep importance of living our lives with truth, holiness, and unity all in focus. That is only possible by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  Forgiveness and unity are also only possible with proximity.

We can’t say, “I will forgive but that doesn’t mean I have to have that person in my life”. Now, there may be times when our own physical safety or that of another is in jeopardy, so proximity is difficult, even dangerous. Also emotional trauma may require the coming alongside of family and friends. Most of the time, however, we just don’t want to have to deal with the other person in our lives…our forgiveness extends just to the limits of our own comfort.

Praise God He does not keep us at arm’s length from Him because of all our offenses. He forgives…and He chooses not to remember. He is God, and we are not. I get that…but. Our unity with one another says that we may not prefer each other, or we may not trust each other, or we may think the other is downright wrong. Still, in His strength and by His grace, we can be one as He prayed for us to be…one as Jesus and the Father are one. Wow!

God calls us to prayer…to come boldly to Him with whatever is on our hearts. Chan talks (in the video below) about us coming to God, not with our own mess all the time, but actually in “silent, reverent awe”. Instead of just bringing our list to Him, but also asking Him, “What do You want, God?” Oh, Father help us.

As we humble ourselves before the most magnificent, perfectly loving, all-sufficient heavenly Father, our hearts are changed. That proximity…that coming into His presence…just to be with Him…can change our hearts, our preferences, our willingness. To forgive. To seek forgiveness of another. To live in unity with all the rest of the Family of God.

Proximity to Him…and to each other. Hallelujah! The world needs to see this unity in us. We need to be this unity. His will be done…on earth! As it is in Heaven.

Worship with me to this beautiful song written and performed by Mercy Gordon, Chan’s daughter. [Song also starts at 8:52 of Impossible Unity video; with lyrics]

Oh Lord, reigning on high Dwelling in unapproachable light Who can stand before Your glory and Your might Oh Lord, You reign on high

Chorus: And every time I think of who You are and all You’ve done I’m captivated by the thought that You desire us. How can my heart keep from bursting at the truth of this:

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us

Jesus, incarnate deity – The spotless lamb robed in humility. He chose to die and with His blood to buy us peace. Jesus, it’s my joy to call You King.

(Repeat Chorus)

This mystery never stops confounding me. My God wants perfect unity. I’m undone – what beautiful insanity That my God is so in love with me.

My God abounds in love for me – What beautiful insanity!

And every time I think of who You are and all You’ve done I’m captivated by the thought that You desire us How can my heart keep from bursting at the truth of this

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us. I stand in awe, that God you want to be with us*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Our God – YouTube – Mercy Gordon

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness and Unity – Refusing to Offend or Be Offended

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

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Jesus – Matthew 24:10-13

Throughout Scripture, we are taught to forgive. How can we withhold forgiveness when Christ forgives us? How can we justify our own sin because we are offended by the sin of another? In Matthew 24 above, Jesus is teaching about the end times. We must be vigilant in how we live our lives because of 1) the temptation to pull away from the teachings of Christ and 2) the hold of entitlement and the sin of offense.

The three books above all speak to these matters. With a common theme.

The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of OffenseJohn Bevere

Until UnityFrancis Chan

Forgiving What You Can’t ForgetLysa Terkeurst

All speak of the deadening outcome of unforgiveness and its eroding impact on our hearts and relationships…with God and each other.

I wrote about offense another time. Please revisit it here. You may be surprised at the destructive nature of offense – offending and allowing ourselves to be offended.

Monday Morning Moment – Offense, Being Offended, and taking Up Offense – Deb Mills

Worship with me to Matthew West’s Forgiveness [Lyrics in the link].

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

I’m going to close here. This topic on a Worship Wednesday is one that should draw us to prayer…and maybe repentance. We can’t always find ourselves in “righteous” indignation…when we look to the Cross. Are forgiveness and refusing to be offended hard? Yes, but we have the power of the Spirit of God indwelling us and making it possible, with willing hearts. Our families, churches, and communities have been too long divided. Jesus deserves better.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Scott Sauls’ Quotes and Sayings

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

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – with Francis Chan – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – the Answer for the Sullen and Inconsolable – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Surely my soul remembers and is humbled within me. Yet I call this to mind, and there I have hope:  Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:21-26

We need to teach our little ones how to lament. Otherwise, those children (especially bent toward the cup being less than half full or entirely empty) will develop habits of being sullen or inconsolable. In fact, as our children grow into adulthood, knowing how to lament will be a worship tool for handling all the painful and seemingly unfair losses.

What is Biblical lament? Its definition is, in Hebrew, “to passionately cry out, to wail, to express sorrow, to mourn, to express regret”.

“We live in a fallen world. We experience the consequences of sin and death on individual, cultural, and global levels. God knows we need a way to express and release the pain of these losses or we risk becoming numb to even the joys of life or allowing momentary sorrows to infect our entire being. The tool He’s provided for this release is lamentation.”Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Yesterday I was spending the afternoon with our 5y/o and 3 y/o sibling grandchildren. We had a schedule, and they both understood it. Then the 3 y/o decided to change up the schedule. His strategy was to be miserable and make his sister and Gram miserable as well. He was successful. I don’t do sullen well at all. [My own struggle with responding to inconsolable children needs its own blog. Surely, I can do better.] The afternoon finished out fine enough, but we were all three worse the wear on feeling bad and making each other feel bad. Thankful for another day of learning to love well these precious ones.

Through the evening, I was reminded of my own children’s struggle with hardship and losses and how their dad and I tried to help them navigate them, growing up. Our sweet daughter’s struggle with our many moves, leaving friends behind and forced to start over in new places. Our darling youngest son who was different different (being both American and Korean living in Africa), and sometimes endured hard attention from other children. Our talented older son when his heart broke, not making the soccer team as a middle schooler.

[Sidebar: When this loss accentuated our son’s struggles later on his high school basketball team, we understood there would be dark times. Dave remembered last night about us giving him an after-dinner back yard task of 100 completed free throws. I can’t believe now that he actually went along with us. Hot, mad, and sweaty,  he shot and shot until he got those 100 successful attempts. His confidence grew through the season with his practiced proficiency.]

Our sullenness and inconsolable hearts must have their origins in entitlement. This is something we fought against with our children from toddler-hood. Still it creeps in (to all our lives). Life should be better for us. Life should bring successes. Even for Christians, we are shocked, at times, when we suffer because we think it is not right. Not fair. [We never responded to that expression with our kids growing up. Just moved on. It might have been a teachable moment to sow lament in their hearts.]

Dare to Hope in God – How to Lament Well – Mark Vroegop

Writer, pastor Mark Vroegop (in piece above) gives four elements of lament (from Psalm 13):

  1. Turn to God. – Tell God what’s happening. Talk to Him about everything about it, including how you feel.
  2. Bring your complaint. – Tell Him what’s frustrating you. All of it. He can take the struggle you are having.
  3. Ask boldly for help. – Don’t give into silence and despair. Ask Him for help. “Dare to hope.”
  4. Choose to trust. –  “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.

Lament is definitely something we can choose as we walk with God. Teaching our children to turn their struggle away from themselves and toward God will move them to maturity. Just this week that basketballer son of ours gave counsel to treating perceived failure with perspective and perseverance. A good word for anyone.

C. S. Lewis talked about a joy as having a “stab, an inconsolable longing”. He also describes how we seem never to be fully satisfied here…because we were made for another world.

[Lessons From an Inconsolable Soul – John Piper is an excellent piece on the life and faith of C. S. Lewis. For a short read start at his point 2 “Why Lewis Is So Helpful to Me”.]

For today, let’s turn our longing, our ache, our sorrow into a lament and a praise. Allow gratitude to flatten our fear. Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn that I’ve referenced before (see links below). Remember that our beloved Comforter, and Consoler, is ever and always faithful:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

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

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*

“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”The Traditional Jewish Prayer Upon Awaking

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Deb Mills

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

Worship Wednesday – Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God

[Adapted from the Archives]

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.Habakkuk 3:17-19

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, 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.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe? – Andrew Groves

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, in Community, Not Afraid

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

[From the Archives]

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

Reading this passage recently, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. A year ago, we were brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

This time last year, a group of friends and I went through a Bible study together which turned out to be incredibly timely. We couldn’t be together so we met over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kinds of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62

Worship Wednesday – Trouble – From The Chosen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merch from The Chosen Gifts

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

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

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

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

https://lyricstranslate.com

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

Troubleby Matthew S. Nelson and Dan Haseltine

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