Category Archives: God

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Restores the Temple to a House of Prayer

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship. Photo Credit: Bible Universe

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is a director’s rendering of the Biblical account, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale – sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Photo Credit: KLove, Experience Easter Series

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple – Mary Fairchild

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Monday of Holy Week

How Can We Be Angry and Not Sin? – Jon Bloom

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles – Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings From C. S. Lewis – C. S. Lewis

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

[Adapted from the Archives]

For anyone who considers herself a critical thinker, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter our religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything we may think of God. The core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known as Christian, are illuminated here. In the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, we can see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

[Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. They were to study each one in this way:

  • putting themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures/holy writings when available), and then
  •  analyzing each belief/tenet of faith critically and its impact on their lives/culture.

Any of us can benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

Jesus knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples so close to Jesus as he predicted his own death. They loved him and had pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life…but the emotions of this Sunday, this week, must have been disorienting and overwhelming.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Hebrew prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowds did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dusty road before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who did know him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please. Because of the need for social distancing, the remembrance of this week may look very differently. Some churches are doing drive-by giving of palms for the children. For us, we just gathered some fronds for our gate…and will worship this Sunday in our home.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

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

5 Ways to Celebrate Palm Sunday at Home This Year – Meg Bucher

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Holy Week Timeline – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Mary Fairfield

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts along with our Egyptian friends.

5 Friday Faves – Happy Tunes with Beyond the Guitar, Hunkering Down, Some Good News, Holy Week, and Surprising Twitter Benefits

We made it! Another Friday, another weekend. Stay safe, Dear Ones. Thanks to all those serving in essential capacities. We are grateful. Praying for you.

1) Happy Tunes with Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills is bringing a lift to all our hearts in these days with this sweet medley of Disney/Pixar movie themes. Enjoy!

2) Some Good News – Actor John Krasinski has redeemed his time at home during the COVID-19 crisis by producing his own news program. Some Good News. It is funny, and celebratory, and nostalgic. Don’t miss it (Episode 1 and waiting on Episode 2 in the next week). In the meantime, we can catch bits of good news on his Twitter and Facebook pages – some he finds and some posted by others of us with good news. Bring it! Thanks, John!

[Sidebar: Can you believe it’s the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office?!]

John Krasinski Reveals the Conversation that “Saved” His Relationship with Emily Blunt – Randee Dawn

3) Hunkering Down – This week in the US, we are seeing state after state giving mandates to Stay at Home. As we watch the numbers of new cases of and deaths from COVID-19 continue to escalate, the motivation for social distancing is high. Essential workers still go to work and others of us work from home. The economy has been hit hard, but if we can contain COVID-19, things should get better. Return to normal? Who knows what the new normal will look like? We must stay hopeful.

I have struggled with anxiety and fear, but thankfully focusing on God, praying, and reaching out (appropriately) to others as much as possible have all been restorative in the stress of these days.

Being proactive and cultivating new positive habits will help us endure and thrive through whatever our current circumstances are. Many of us now have friends and family who have contracted this disease. We want to keep the impact of this disease as low as possible…worrying or panic will not help them or us. So…we hunker down.

Photo Credit: Senior Airman Alexa Culbert,  AETC

Photo Credit: Science Museum of Virginia

Photo Credit: Georgia Health News

[Even as I posted the above graphics, the thought came how we’ve all seen maybe more graphics on COVID-19 than we hope ever to see again…we can social distance…we can encourage and stay connected in creative ways and we can pray.]

This Is a War and Where Are the Prayer Warriors to Win This Battle? #PandemicPrayers – Ann Voskamp [included free is a powerful prayer bookmark]

Be calm and shelter on.

Just maybe a sweet daughter-in-law will bring the grands for a drive-by. Hope so.

4) Holy Week – It’s hard to believe that Lent is almost over, and Holy Week starts on Sunday. With our battle against Coronavirus, Lent and Easter will be very different in some ways…hopefully not in the most important ways.

[There is also the breaking of the anxiety, instilling some by humor like the joke going around “not planning to give up quite this much for Lent”.]

We will still observe what happened this week and commemorate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It will be in much smaller gatherings (at home)…not in the church buildings. In fact, I hope since the church “left the building”, we are reaching out to our neighbors and the world, even more in the way Jesus did when he was here in the flesh.Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Facebook

#HopeNowHopeAlways

Below are two resources for celebrating this Holy Week. I will also be posting daily blogs, as in years past, to mark the history of this last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood (Family, this is nephew/cousin’s Jeremy’s church)

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Holy Week Timeline – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Mary Fairfield

5) Surprising Twitter Benefits – Twitter has been a great benefit to me. Some excellent thinkers post their ideas and opinions on there… Of course, there are some profane, divisive, self-absorbed folks who regularly darken the Twittersphere as well. I have been very deliberate in whom I follow and whom I don’t. Now, I do follow people very different from me, but they are good teachers of whatever makes up “the other side”.  Below are tweets from six different persons – no politics involved – four of whom I met through Twitter. Enjoy.

YouTube Video – Italian Music – Background Chill Out

YouTube Video – Italian Restaurant Music – Italian Dinner, Background Music, Folk Music from Italy (2 Hours)

Bonuses:

The Three Kinds of Leaders You See in a Crisis – Carey Nieuwhof

Finally, a few Spring beauties from our friend, Marc Merlin.

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

We are living in days like never experienced before in our generation. Do we give in to fear or do we trust the God of the universe, who is never failing in His love for us, never changing in His purposes for us?

I’ve been in the Psalms more as the days of social distancing are mounting up. Such a comfort.Photo Credit: Meditations by April

In fact…the torrent of words that were in my head to share earlier in the day will save for another day. A day with less of its own torrent. We are in a battle right now and on this side of Heaven we don’t know how it will turn out. Still we know God, as much as we can as His beloved yet frail children. In this present storm, we hold onto Him and He holds us.

For today, His Word and a song of truth are enough.

Singer songwriter Lauren Daigle wrote the song below after her beloved grandfather died. He had been a chief support for her in her music. She was sad at his death on many levels, including the fact he died just before her first album came out. Many of the lyrics for that album were inspired by her walk with the Lord through her grandfather’s illness…this song Trust in You, in particular. Hear her beautiful testimony of going through losing her grandfather and God’s sweet provision for her (in this video…wow! Praise God for His love and trustworthiness).

Worship with me.

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!*

Thank You, God, that You are our light through every darkness. We can rest quiet in Him.Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Trust in You – Songwriters: Lauren Ashley Daigle, Michael Ray Farren

MusicNotes Song Spotlight – Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

Behind the Song: Lauren Daigle Shares the Heart Behind Her Single “Trust in You”

YouTube Video – Rescue (Lyric Video) – Lauren Daigle

Worship Wednesday – We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle

5 Friday Faves – Love Your Neighbor, Civility and Cooperation, Fish & Chips, Sidewalk Messages, and Spring Came Anyway

Here’s to the weekend. With social distancing and working from home for some of us, the days blur together. For those essential workers out there, thank you so much! Here are my favorite finds this week.

1) Love Your Neighbor – Writer, attorney Justin Whitmel Earley lives what he writes. His piece 9 Ways to Love Your Neighbor in This Pandemic is practical, beautiful, and freeing. Have a read.

Even with social distancing, we are pointed to many different ways we can extend love to our neighbors. The first and foremost is to stay well ourselves and not carry the virus to others. Photo Credit: Facebook, Brooke Anderson, Elaine Lovelace & Associates, Psychological Counseling

After that, local agencies have packed their social media with ways we can help – either in person, if we’re not at risk, and otherwise through online purchases to aid with material needs or delivery of services and support.

Although children are less at risk for contracting the virus, they still are at risk in other ways. See article below.

The Kids Aren’t All Right – Vann R. Newkirk II

I love the message below. In it, Martin Luther displays the wrestling between faith and foolhardiness, or what might be perceived as such (during the Bubonic plague). First we social distance, and then we have to weigh out decisions…when to enter in to help when if not doing so could mean a worse outcome for the someone. Sobering.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Michael Catt

2) Civility and Cooperation – In times like these, voices of reason are prevailing. Lines of political self-interest don’t seem drawn so deeply in the sand. People usually at odds with each other are showing a greater willingness to cooperate and even to be civil. The arguments of whether the Coronavirus is a true threat have quietened. The video below is the best I’ve heard on the difference between this virus and the flu. Don’t miss it.

YouTube Video – Professor Hugh Montgomery on Coronavirus – How Much More Aggressive the Spread Is Than the Flu (same as above)

I am so thankful for how this crisis, like so many before, is pulling us together…acknowledging that there are some things way more important than the issues that divide us.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Barry McCarty

3) Fish & Chips  When we lived overseas, and traveled through London back and forth, we loved the layovers. England is beautiful all on its own, but we also never missed an opportunity for fish and chips. Yum! My mom and dad had this favorite fish restaurant where they enjoyed their own version of our British delicacy. My folks’ go-to place for fish? Captain D’s . Their weekly dates for fried fish was almost a joke for all their kids. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I had to repent of all the teasing. I myself stopped into our Captain D’s. Dave was out of town and I wasn’t cooking that day. It could mean I’ve gotten old, as it seemed everyone in the restaurant was older. Or maybe it could mean they had clearly figured out that this is good food. It was so reminiscent of our sweet times in London eateries. I’m going back (after social distancing is over) and plan to take Dave. Not sorry.Photo Credit: Captain D’s

4) Sidewalk Messages – These are days disrupted by the stress of social distancing and the fears of this pandemic. Every positive message and every medium possible should be considered…even sidewalks and driveways. Thankful for friends who led the way on these sweet expressions of hope and faith.

5) Spring Came Anyway. Yay!

 

That’s it for this week. Please share in the Comments your thoughts and faves of the week. We would all appreciate learning from you.

Bonuses:

A Group of Nashville Studio Singers Perform an Epic Cell Phone Choir – Derry London

Some Thoughts on Abortion – Scott Sauls – Don’t miss this one. He is one of the gentlest persons I read.

YouTube Video – Peter Diamandis – Optimistic Look at the Future – The Richmond Forum

Texas Roadhouse CEO Gives Up Ssalary to Pay Frontline Employees During COVID-19

Fed Cattle – the Production Sequence We Love to Hate – A local blogger & farmer who only identifies herself as Patty has written the most fascinating series of pieces on the beef industry. What really goes down in the production of that hamburger you’re about to enjoy. I actually felt better about being a meat-eater after reading this. The link is to the blog that got me started on the series.

Worship Wednesday – Control Girls, Miriam, and God – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

[Excerpts from the Archives]

Now hear the word of the Lord, you women.
Pay attention to the words from his mouth. Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge, for Death has climbed through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares.

This is what the Lord says:

“The wise person should not boast in his wisdom; the strong should not boast in his strength; the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.
But the one who boasts should boast in this:
that he understands and knows me—
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
This is the Lord’s declaration.” Jeremiah 9:20-21, 23-24

At first, reading this passage in Jeremiah, it could so resonate with our current situation with the Coronavirus and how some are responding to it. There’s a lot of boasting and blaming going on in our media of how we are doing with containing the virus. Then, back to the Scripture passage, the prophet Jeremiah turns the focus away from “us” and on to God.

The image above is a snapshot of part of a group of women in my life, studying the Word together. Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

We just finished the chapter on Miriam, Moses’ sister. Miriam appears first in Scripture as the older sister of infant Moses, under threat of death by Pharoah. She was instrumental in saving his life. Years later, God used Moses in His work for the release of the Israelites from Egypt, and Miriam was right there with him, leading the women in praise to God. Moses, Miriam, and their brother Aaron, and Miriam were together in overseeing the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.

For Miriam, her trouble began when she took her eyes off God and focused on her own importance. She burned with ambition and jealousy toward her brother, Moses. She and Aaron then spoke against Moses, both privately and publicly. The motivation appeared to be jockeying for more power for themselves. This triangling, this slander, moved God to anger. He knows our hearts and He measures his judgment accordingly. Miriam’s pain of judgment (leprosy) galvanized her two brothers to pray for their sister, and she was healed. Repentance and restoration followed. God’s love abounds.

When we are tempted to look on our own intelligence, strength, or wealth as superior (Jeremiah 9:23), we take on an arrogance that separates us from each other…and especially from God. What is our boast?

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord – John Piper

English songwriter Stuart Townend wrote the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. It was published in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country.

New to a very different culture with little ability to communicate in the local language, we found it hard to boast in pretty much anything. This hymn was a strong and loving reminder that our boast is in Christ…In Christ Alone (another great Townend hymn).

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Our focus in this life is not even on what we believe…It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

In the study of Control Girl, the special women I’m privileged to know are grappling with how tempted, like Miriam, we are to take on ourselves “what’s best” for us, our families, our futures. Praise God, His love for us is not swayed by our struggle, our humanness, our sin…He ever draws us back to Himself. That alone is our boast. He alone is our boast.

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

Women of the Bible – Lesson 1 – Miriam – Vickie Kraft

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

YouTube Video – Allison Durham Speer – I Will Glory in the Cross

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: More Famous Quotes

[From the Archives]

We talk about the need for prayer. We “send prayers” to those in difficult situations. The Scripture has prayer woven throughout. Below are just a few references to the powerful nature of prayer.

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

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”Psalm 34:15

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”Jeremiah 33:3

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” – Jesus – Matthew 6:9-13

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”Romans 12:12

Do you find praying challenging? It’s strange that it is, when it is challenging. We know that God invites us to be in conversation with Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He even taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). He tunes his attention to even our baby prayers. His desire is to show Himself faithful and loving and all-sufficient to his children. Even when our prayers get locked on what we want rather than whom we want…our Heavenly Father…that whom.

If the Scripture doesn’t settle for us why we pray, a little song I learned years ago might be an added help…especially when the answers seem delayed or denied. It is Babbie Mason‘s  Trust His Heart and the chorus follows:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand
Trust His Heart

The most beautiful part of prayer is that God meets us wherever we are…his faithful children and his prodigals coming to their senses:

“There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message… ‘Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way’. ” – The Chosen

For Christ-followers, we don’t even make that journey back to Him alone, maybe even frightened. When we belong to Him, the Holy Spirit draws us back to Him…and the Savior is with us every step of the way.

What would put you on your face before such a God right now?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Were it not for pride, or the cares of this world, or our culture’s clawing at us with its lies? God has already set prayer in motion by stirring up that desire, by making us aware of that need, by fanning our small faith into flame.

Our delight is to turn our hearts toward God…to enjoy His company, to see His mighty works, and to share community with others longing for Him as well.

My Mom, my Mom-in-law, my husband…other family members, and many many friends have deepened my prayer life by witnessing and being the beneficiary of their own…and their walk with the God of this universe. I wage spiritual warfare with them for the sake of those we love…and for the world that God also loves.

Worship with me (link to lyrics & music)…to this song, When We Pray, by Tauren Wells.

People hurting, people broken
Beaten down and feeling hopeless
Wonder if it’s gonna always be this way
Who will speak up for the captive
Show some love and heal a past that
Binds the wounds we think will never go away

But what if we could be a people on our knees
As one before the King
‘Cause we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

I see revival rising
I see hope on the horizon
As a generation stepping out in faith

As one before the King
Yeah we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

Let Your kingdom come, Lord
Let Your will be done

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray, oh
When we pray, oh

In Jesus name (when we pray)
In Jesus name (when we pray)
When we pray, oh
When we pray*

*Lyrics to When We PrayWriters: Tauren Wells, Colby Wedgeworth, Ethan Hulse

Worship Wednesday – My Hope Is In Jesus – David Crowder and Tauren Wells – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart – Cynthia Clawson – lyrics by Babbie Mason

When God’s People Pray – Jim Cymbala – Session 1 (of 4) – Vimeo

10 Most Important Verses on Prayer in the Bible – Lori Hatcher

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-Day Lenten Road to Easter

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[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God, and I am grateful.

My understanding of religion then was that it was Christianity only.

Years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I actually thought it would be a survey course on… Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism. Now being older, I understand the difference in religion and faith. – that there are many religions. However, who the Person of God, and who we are as followers, is more about relationship than religion.]

My first experience with Lent was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons about Lent – lessons on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily through Lent – A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read British writer Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, my resolve is to:

  • read A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
  • refer back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking;
  • reflect on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teaching
  • resist (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues;
  • repent of the sins of neglect and indifference;
  • remember to pray and
  • reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Preparing for Easter – 50 Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Way Maker – Mandisa

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It is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

Just days into walking out the lesson on going a different way through anger, I’m experiencing the strength of God…in choosing His ways over mine. Days will come when my resolve will weaken and my flesh will rise up in wanting to react against some injustice or wrong needing righting. God still has a way through that…His ways are not ours, until we make it so through obedience and love. Love for Him and love for others. Where and how He leads me to make things right, for instance, He will give me the wisdom and grace to put myself in the equation. In situations larger, harder, or beyond my reach, they are not so with Him. I want to and aspire to remembering that…and find His way through it.

He is able.

Years ago, songwriter Don Moens gave us a shoulder-squaring little worship song by the title of God Will Make a Way (he also brought us Give Thanks but that’s for another day). When we look at Scripture, we see on every page the mighty hand of God. No wonder we sing about it. We are emboldened by the great promises of God working out His purposes…His ways…in our frail-hearted, shaking-knees situations.

Singer worshiper Mandisa knows God in the heartaches of life – when she prayed and prayed, and it didn’t go the way she wanted. Yet God was there, all the time…and her faith was galvanized like never before. She sings a  great little song on this theme. Way Maker.Photo Credit: Mandisa, Music Row

Worship with me:

You are here,
Moving in our midst
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Working in this place
I worship You,
I worship You
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are here, touching every heart
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Healing every life
I worship You,
I worship You, oh-oh
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
Oh-oh-oh,
That is…*

Monday Morning Moment – Don’t Mess with my Facebook – a Cautionary Tale

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I didn’t want to write this…but it had to be done so I could move on. Fortunately, waiting a day, some of the fire has died down.  Smoldering into reason.

Yesterday was a church gathering for us. At the start of the sermon, I had my journal open and my pen ready. Being a visual learner, it helps me to retain information if I “see” it by taking notes.

The pastor began with a long and pointed rant on social media – the time-sink it is and the fakery it showcases. The particular target was Facebook and Facebook users. I love our pastor-teacher guy, so it surprised me how mad I got listening to him showering putdowns on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Especially knowing Facebook is a key communication tool we use as a church.

What was causing all the anger inside of me? So silly especially related to social media…Facebook, of all things.

Later in the evening, I realized…the spent anger probably related to the fact that my Facebook usage could equate to an addiction. Not like pornography. Nor alcohol/drugs. Not even that of food or shopping. Facebook is something I have grown dependent on… accustomed to… comfortable with.

It is useful to me.

It is nothing like face-to-face communication or staying in touch by phone or mail with people I love. It’s nothing like getting in the car and driving across town (or country) to see the actual people I love, not just love seeing on Facebook.

Especially those I can’t easily get to…friends in Morocco, for instance. Facebook allows me to chat with them and see into their lives when reality prevents the same for me…although I have tried to get there…and will continue to do so.

I will share with my pastor the impact of this part of his sermon had on me… Not in anger but in understanding now that some time and reason have done their work…and most probably God.

For those of you, my Facebook friends, who have left Facebook because it’s less cool since us older ones are present, or it is all fakery and foolishness, or it’s an election year and the comments will cut like a knife…I understand and I will miss you.

Why don’t I leave?

  • Joining in 2007, Facebook gave me glimpses of the world that my college-aged children were entering – leaving home almost 4000 miles away. It helped make the distance not so achingly far.
  • It facilitated my finding some of the dearest college friends whom I’d lost track of. Now we see each other at least once a year in real time, but Facebook helps us catch snatches of each other’s lives in between.
  • Facebook picks the news it shows me, and I wish I had more of a say. Still that news of those friends helps me know when reaching out needs to happen – sooner than it might if I waited for a birthday or a passing memory or fleeting thought.
  • It doesn’t just display happy, healthy babies, engagements or weddings, or the new look of a friend having lost weight or on a new skin regime. It doesn’t just showcase where friends hang together on weekends and what fun they’re having… That’s cool and doesn’t bother me usually. Facebook especially helps when the news is hard and it’s broadcasted without hurting so much because it’s less personal to do it this way. We don’t have to call so many, because Facebook sends out the hard news past our immediate families and circle of friends and associates. The cancer diagnosis. The job opportunity that didn’t happen. The miscarriage. The breakup. The election lost. The death of a dear old one. All the harder things of life. Facebook gives us a place to send that out to the wind to carry it where we don’t have the strength to go.
  • Especially in an election year, Facebook gives us a platform to state our highest hopes and our darkest dreads regarding the possible outcomes. We can use the posts of our friends and families to gauge what we talk about…and how to…when we are actually face-to-face. Right? I have learned so much from this public venue that seems to feel safe to folks who post.

I could go on and on but will stop here. How about you? Any why’s or why not’s on Facebook, or social media, in general? Some of the dearest people in my life are minimal social media users. What’s your story? How do you stay in touch with people in your periphery…or it doesn’t matter?

Facebook has nothing on real flesh-and-blood encounters. It is better than nothing…or nearly nothing. I have 1,330 friends on Facebook right now. Some of them I see in real life, of course. Probably only see a tiny fraction of them in my Facebook newsfeed… but those (as a personal for instance) make my real life happier and my relational load lighter. They give hints about their lives – that they are there, engaged in life, and they see me sometimes (even on social media, it means a lot). They also get the same back from me hopefully…a “love”, a bit of encouragement, a private message reminding them of more love. This “almost reach” is a small but considerable thing in a polarized world and fast-paced life.

The cautionary tale is that Facebook can usurp our privacy, devour our precious time, market to us without our blessing, and choose what friends we see. Beware.

Also, if we wake at night, and instead of praying, pick up our phones and scroll away, we miss out on the most real person available to any of us. The One who is the most worthy of our following. If we pull up Facebook during the day, and never pull up in front of that friend’s house…or pull up her number in our phone directory…we have forgotten what Facebook is not. If we chat up our dearest causes or fight our political battles with social media posts and not with real skin in the game, then we miss out on the best of life…the rest of life. The #LoveYourNeighbor possibilities out there.

OK…I’m done.

Don’t mess with my Facebook, Pastor Friend. Putting my feet to the fire won’t change my social media usage (yet), but you caused me to think. Thanks.