Category Archives: Finishing Strong

Worship Wednesday – Godspeed – Just a Closer WALK with Thee

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Godspeed

Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:28-31

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast [stand firm], immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Spiritually speaking, I’m a runner…oh not in the champion circle kind of runner (at least not yet)…but definitely one eager to be in the thick of things, even if it’s “slow and steady wins the race” plodding.

It’s not because I’m old and time seems to be flying, although that does factor in. I’ve always had a sense of urgency, a fire in my bones, about the lost, the unreached, the displaced or marginalized, and those who “fall through the cracks”.

Because of this, it happens sometimes that I may run ahead of God and exhaust myself at pulling at the reins or rubbing against the yoke the Lord calls “easy”. In my fits and starts, I make a burden out of what’s not meant to be.

let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1

In the Scriptures above, the Lord calls to mind a pace in heart and life that is more in accordance with His will and His character. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, the Lord came walking and called out to them. “Where are you?” Of course, He knew where they were…but the question implies a distance from Him. They had determined to go their own way…bad news for them and the rest of us.

What’s the lesson? The Scripture is full of pacing and direction. When we are out of step with God, we are truly on our own…off helter-skelter deceived that we’re about His work (or maybe not caring really, just checking off the boxes of a “good life”).

We will at times, in our journey with the Lord, walk, run, even fly. Other times, He calls us to stand firm in the heat of battle, and He also calls us to rest, sheltering us from the heat.

This is our God…the One whose pace, which can seem exceedingly slow but, is perfectly measured. For our good and His great glory.

Just this week, I confess a chafing in the instruction of our dear pastor. He was calling us as small group leaders to take a summer break. To relax… I honestly have no idea what he said over the next few sentences because the word “relax” triggered a brain freeze. Knowing him, and without following up (to be honest), I believe he meant that the programming can be relaxed and we can enjoy an opportunity to change things up…to go deeper…to truly get to know one another in different ways (including other ‘one anothers’ with whom we don’t usually share space).

So thanks, Pastor Cliff.

Below you will find some resources that aren’t meant to be extra but actually the core of this Worship Wednesday. Take time to check out all of them – short time commitment and long impact. The short film Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known is amazing! This whole idea of giving ourselves to God and each other – where we can truly be known and know one another– is both healing and life-transforming. So… don’t necessarily slow down, but find God’s pace…let’s do it together.

Take that walk with God. Find Your People. Find your parish.

An article, a podcast, a short film, and, finally, a song:

Godspeed – Mark Buchanan – don’t miss this short article. So good!

Made for This Podcast – Jennie Allen – Life in Scotland with Pastor Matt Canlis – this podcast is the story of Pastor Canlis’ journey to Godspeed.

Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known – documentary – Matt Canlis – Watch this! Beautiful, every bit of it.

YouTube Video – Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Alabama – old song, slowed down and lovely.

[All screenshots above taken from the documentary Godspeed]

Monday Morning Moment – Empowered People – Reckoning with a Victim Identity

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

In recent days, I’ve marveled at common spaces we share in the world.

Out early in the morning, we pull into Wawa for coffee,  and gas if we need it (maybe where you are the gas station/convenience store has another name). On the way to our jobs or appointments. We wait on each other topping off our coffee per personal preferences. We share spaces. We check out together.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In the line at UPS, we wait. We are there to mail packages, return items, or maybe get a passport picture. We wait together. Young and old. Latino, Asian, Black, White. We wait and we hold the door open for each other.

Sitting or standing in the crowded reception area of the local free clinic, we wait to be seen. Again, a wide mix of people. All of whom, except for me, were not born in the US. [I was there with an Afghani refugee lady, helping her get medical services.] All of us there having successfully jumped through the hoops of obtaining that first appointment. We have this in common. We share this comradery.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In all these situations…and others…we are people with stories not necessarily known and yet with common threads. We have our stories. Both victim and victor stories. We do not have to choose to be defined by them…especially not the victim stories.

By definition, a victim is someone who has been injured, harmed, has suffered as a result of circumstances or what we consider to be disrespectful behavior from others. Linda and Charlie Bloom

The Victim Identity: Signs and How to Recover – Linda and Charlie Bloom [Quick read in 3 parts. Excellent resource.]

Maybe it’s different where you are in the world, but in our current socio-political system and culture, we are grappling with critical theory – the push to believe that all of humanity is either in the oppressor camp or the oppressed camp.

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

Are there oppressors in the world? Absolutely. Are there those who are or have been oppressed? Unfortunately, also yes.

However, we, as peoples, are neither only oppressed or oppressor, in our fullest identities. We can rise up; not pointing fingers at each other, but in a larger understanding of one another. Not being subservient to either worldview.

Overcomers…

For those of us who have capacity and capability to help others, we help most effectively and comprehensively by influencing a pathway forward for those who have identified themselves as victims.

Or maybe the victim mindset was thrust upon some. A very wise person said to me just this morning, “If you want to ‘control’ people, convince them they are victims”.

Think about it…that is definitely oppressor behavior…and yet sometimes it is communicated by those in positions of power or influence who seem the most benevolent.

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

As for doors? Most doors are closed; that’s their nature. That is their purpose. No added meaning. Sometimes, oppressors lock doors and control who goes through. Those who primarily think of themselves as victims may feel intimidated or persecuted at the prospect of prying open the door. If we look at doors as both giving access and protecting from evil (whatever that is), we use them accordingly. Most people, thankfully, hold the doors open for each other…and will continue to do so no matter how culture changes.

How we self-identify matters, in terms of a way forward. When we see ourselves as victims, our sense of agency or self-empowerment is diminished by our own mindset. Then there are the myriad of messages calling us to align ourselves with victimhood. These messages come from both well-meaning people and those who would seek to pigeon-hole us in ways we can be exploited.

All the scenarios mentioned at the start of this piece have stories attached to them. I don’t know those stories, but I do know many others. We all do. Telling and living our stories truly make for real legacy, for ourselves and our children.

Bad things have happened to us (some more than others). We can learn from each other if we are willing.

A victim mindset imprisons both the one who was harmed and the one who did the harming…as well as those in between who want to help but may not know how…yet. What a difference if we can empower rather than impoverish. Embrace CommunitiesWendy McCaig trains people to understand and operate with this worldview. Away from identifying victims and just doing “for” people as if they can’t possibly do for themselves. She lives and teaches to do “with” people, together discovering giftings and orchestrating opportunities to express those giftings (along the way, strengthening their families and communities).

In this way, we hold the doors open for each other.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How I Stopped Being a ‘Victim’ and Restarted My Life – Arman Abrahimzadeh

How to Know if Your Victimhood Has Become Your Identity – Rick Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? On Neglect – Part 1  and Part 2 – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Catwoman on Classical Guitar, The Ethical Skeptic & Lying, Notes to Self, Celebrating, and American Idol Highlights

Here we go! My faves of the week that flew by! What were some of yours? Post them in Comments so we can learn from you.

1) Catwoman on Classical GuitarThe Batman is the latest film in the franchise. Catwoman is one of Batman’s crime-fighting partners. I didn’t see the film and probably won’t. Too dark for me, but the music…wow! Composer Michael Giacchino worked his magic again in laying down the emotional themes for this movie. Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills does his own magic covering the Catwoman theme. Enjoy!

2) The Ethical Skeptic & Lying – I like Twitter. It has an underbelly for sure but I have found all sorts of knowledgeable influencers there that news/social media would never highlight. One such person is @EthicalSkeptic. He doesn’t name himself for professional reasons, but he helped me with some of my own misgivings about our mitigation of COVID.  Just looking at the problem globally, we seemed not to have done as well as we should given our technology and wealth.

The Ethical Skeptic is, by his Twitter bio and his writing, as he calls himself, skeptical. His focus on ethics is compelling. I actually never read his blog until just now. His latest piece, The Antiwisdom of Crowds, was fascinating. He draws on the research on lying done by the Paul Ekman Group (link below) and takes it farther in regards to crowd thinking and behavior.

Why Do People Lie? – 9 Motives for Telling Lies – Paul Ekman

Lie to Me – award-winning TV series inspired by Dr. Ekman

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

The Ethical Skeptic writes:

Specifically, people lie in order to

  • attain or preserve something precious,
  • win or preserve the admiration of others, or
  • exercise power over others by controlling the information their target can access.

When a group in authority, seeks to exercise or preserve that authority, all these ubiquitous human factors not only come into play, but moreover become part of the re-enforced culture of the club itself. It’s alright to lie a little. After all, it’s for the club, it’s for science, it’s for virtue, and besides everyone in the club is also doing it.

…over time a syndicate or collective party will therefore be more likely to also be inhabited by a number of accrued false paradigms. Tangled webs which themselves must also be protected by means of more lies. This is what makes the silence of embargo a much more sustainable tactic than mere lying. Individuals then are innoculated by this collective antiwisdom…

This is just a taste of The Ethical Skeptic’s thinking. I don’t agree nor understand all of what he is saying in his substantive body of work BUT I resonate with much of it. If you want a good sense of how deep your vocabulary is, read his blog (rather, essays). He actually often gives definitions because honestly, it is stretching (or at least for me) to grasp all of what he is saying.

Lying has become a common and horrifying problem in our culture. Is it possible people don’t believe each other anymore? Or don’t trust what we’re saying when all we want is to be faithful to what is true? Or is it possible that people {the “crowd”] believe too easily what someone is saying? I would love to hear your take on this.

[Sidebar: the link below, including the comments that followed, shows something of an ethical experience he had involving the church, as well as some of his thinking about God and the Scriptures. It is hard to say how I feel about the whole of it…but his thinking is intriguing…so as not to confuse my readers, the God of the Scriptures and the Book itself have never led me down a bad path. Ever.]

The Riddle of Sin – The Ethical Skeptic

3) Notes to Self – So there’s this sock company called Notes to Self. Laura Schmidt is the owner/creator of this brilliant venture – “What you say to yourself matters!” I LOVE the idea of notes to self because it’s actually a daily habit of my own. Wearing socks that give affirmation for the day is a very sweet idea. Now they aren’t cheap ($15/pair, but like many companies, the price you pay helps others who can’t). Full disclosure: I got my socks by way of a charity thrift situation. They are wonderful socks! High quality! Comfy and encouraging! May reconsider the price tag as Christmas comes closer. Great socks and, again, a super sweet idea.

 

4) Celebrating – This weekend we’ll be celebrating moms (dates vary depending on country, of course). It’s a true phenomenon because 1) we all have a mom, and 2) many of us are moms or act in some mommish role. AND it mostly gets celebrated.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarah DeJarnette

Just the commercialism of this day greases the tracks for celebrating. I wish we celebrated more…not just moms, but dads, aunts and uncles (either real or stand-ins), children (born and not yet born), as well as great work teams, volunteers, and neighbors.

Celebrating is tremendously humanizing and the time it takes is so little compared to the outcomes. If the celebration is genuine and much-deserved. It’s one of those efforts that, like the tide, “raises all boats”.

Here’s to the two closest moms in my life – my own and the one I got when I married. So grateful for them.

Here’s to the moms I also get in marriage (my two married kids’ moms-in-law). Again, so grateful for them.

Finally here’s to the kids who made me a mom. So grateful for them!

5) American Idol Highlights –This is the 20th season of reality TV show American Idol. The young contestants are vying for a record contract and, even for those who don’t win, national exposure of their amazing musicianship. The music is really good, and we learn about genres we wouldn’t normally listen to. Below find a couple of highlights from a recent show, as well as one of the videos from a previous American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. I need to listen to more country music.

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. Much love!

Bonuses:Photo Credit: Picture Quotes

For the Joy!! – Kattie Normand, Facebook

8 of the Best Cognitive Therapy Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind – Eva Lewis

Being Known Podcast – Season 4, Episode 10: Healing Trauma: the Power of Presence – Dr. Curt Thompson & Pepper Sweeney

YouTube Video – Introduction to 8 Keys to Safe Trauma RecoveryBabette Rothschild

8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery – Babette Rothschild – Review by Ruby Usman

Why Make Your Life So Complicated? [25 Ways to Simplify Your Life] – Frank Sonnenberg

40 Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Monday Morning Moment – Who Needs Sharpening?

We lose our edge sometimes.

Once a month I volunteer to teach in the children’s program at church. Second through fifth graders. They happily burn through a lot of activities in a short amount of time, for sure. When I opened the supply cabinet to retrieve colored pencils for them, the image above is what I discovered. Now, to be sure, we still had enough colored pencils, but it struck me with the thought of how life itself renders us in need of sharpening.

We lose our edge sometimes with the press and pressures of daily responsibilities and relationships. We get dull, and we don’t even see it in ourselves. What a blessing to have people in our lives who not only know and love us enough to speak truth to us, but who also lean in and help us out of the ditches or ruts in our lives…before we decide just to stay camped there.

Counselor, writer Barry Pearman posted a practical and easy read: Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health. He tackles this topic of sharpening and offers a 5-point solution:

  1. Recognize our need for help. This may come from another’s assessment or our own awareness of a growing fatigue and disengagement.
  2. Lean in to sharpening with someone you trust. Once our quality of life or relationships gives notice that we have gotten ourselves into a rut, ditch, or dull place, we may be able to turn it around without help. However, having a partner in “sharpening” our lives speeds and enhances the whole process.
  3. Beware of how the past shapes our responses (and dulls our edge – these can be past inclinations, besetting sins, defaults – the ruts and ditches we’re prone to fall into). Pearman asks what is our true north and where are we on that thinking compass.
  4. Develop habits of sharpening. What practices each day can be a refresh for us? [This is what Stephen Covey prescribed in his classic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The article by The 10-minute Leader gives quick helps for habit formation in this area of sharpening.
  5. Keep accountable within community. Seek out a small group of like-minded and like-focused individuals who practice iron sharpening iron with each other. “Sharpening the saw”, as Covey calls it, will make sparks fly. We need people who are committed to each other in such a way they just don’t leave the room.

If you got a bit tired reading these 5 points, you may need sharpening. Not to improve productivity necessarily (that’s not what we’re talking about here), but to improve your well-being. Your joy in life. Your relationships. No judging here, by the way. We all need sharpening as part of life. We can’t always see it ourselves…but once recognized, we can act on restoring beauty and balance in our lives.

Photo Credit: FranklinCovey, Stephen Covey, Kim Kerrigan

Would you consider it? Talk to someone you trust. As for the problem of pencils above? I actually think some of them were still usable. For the others? I ordered a best-of-the-best electric pencil sharpener…we’ll see how long it lasts. [Comment below if you want to recommend one…for the next time our sharpener dies. Fortunately for us, when we need sharpening…no purchase is necessary.

10 Ways to Sharpen the Spiritual Saw – Jean Wise

The 7 Habits: Sharpening the Saw – Brett & Kate McKay

Resurrection Sunday of Holy Week – Day 8 – Risen, Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

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. In the early morning, a small group of women who had loved and followed this Jesus, 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, walking with them, eating with them, teaching 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 almost 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 LearnReligions.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

Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter – Timothy Keller

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to Resurrection – Beth Wayland

ToGather: Time to Reclaim the Joy (April 4 2021) – Demetrius Collins & Phil Ware – This is a powerful Easter Sunday service via a pastor’s written message and great singing thanks to YouTube selections!

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic

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)

YouTube Video – Easter Song (1974) – The 2nd Chapter of Acts

YouTube Video – He’s Alive – Don Francisco

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

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

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

A dear friend of ours shared with us this message by John Ortberg from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again.

Most of life is Saturday…It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good…Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Garden-Tomb-from-imb.org-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: IMB Resources

Saturday is the “in between day”. Did those who loved Jesus most remember this? Was their grief so consuming, so deafening to His promises, so numbing there was no room for hope? We have the great experience of knowing, for sure, that Sunday is coming!

Today is the waiting day.

We wait like schoolchildren for the final bell.

We wait with tapping foot, huffing breath, rolling eyes.

We wait like a mother for the gushing of birth water.

We wait like branches holding pink petaled secrets.

We wait with tears of frustration or eyes filled with anger.

We wait with tears of joy or eyes wide with wonder.

In the waiting rooms of life, our hope is mixed, our longings more so. But still, we wait. Forgive us for our impatience, Lord. We believe, help our unbelief.

We carry the sorrow of loss even as we hold on to hope of gain. We watch and we wait for your resurrection life. Even though we may not see the evidence, we wait with hope.

Because today is the waiting day. Emily P. Freeman

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb – Mary Fairchild

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

The Day Jesus Stayed Dead – Waiting in the Heartache of Holy Saturday – Gerrit Scott Dawson, Desiring God

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 – So good!!! (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

On This Holy Saturday: Here at the End of All Things (Triduum Series) – Tea with Tolkien

YouTube Video – Jesus Paid It All (lyric video) – Fernando Ortega

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend – with David Wesley

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but, for so many, Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people.

In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the sinless resolve of the Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge*.]

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have the account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refer to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).Photo Credit: Heartlight

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would go into the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who had stolen away during the meal. He would bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden in the dark of night. Jesus prayed there for a long time that evening. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death]pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob, as much as to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow after him). Jesus would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross had begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives – search blog under Holy Week for the description of the other days of this history-changing week.]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Silent Wednesday.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

YouTube Video – Is He Worthy (feat. Chandler Moore & Nate Moore) – Maverick City/TRIBL

 Photo Credits – Baptist Press