Category Archives: Forgiveness

Worship Wednesday – Grace Got You – MercyMe featuring John Reuben

Photo Credit: Heartlight

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.Ephesians 1:7

It’s feeling like Fall around here. As I climbed into the car from an appointment, the temperature was upper 70s, low humidity, and breezy. Turning on the engine, this sweet MercyMe song was mid-play and immediately got me moving to the music. Drumming on the steering wheel. Singing like a rock star…well, like I didn’t care who was listening.

MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard said this about the song: “Grace Got You is just a song that makes me smile. The whole idea that once you realize that God’s grace has you…no matter what comes your way, you can live your life as if you’ve already read the last page of the book and know how the whole thing turns out. Our eternity is set! On your worst day, Christ is OK with you. He adores you. He’s pleased with you. How is that possible? No clue, but it is. That’s the most amazing news of all!”

How that’s possible is because of what Jesus did for us…what God the Father did in Him and through Him.

We talk a lot about grace. Years ago I learned this acronym for grace: God’s riches (or redemption) at Christ’s expense. Grace.

Behind the grace that Millard and MercyMe sing about is the mercy and justice of a righteous and holy God. We are sinful people and have no way to stand before God except that our sins are cancelled out. Only One without sin can pay for our sin. Jesus is that One.

We can’t truly bask in the great grace that comes to us through faith unless…until…we stare into the abyss of the sin that separates us from God. Apart from Christ.

Christ satisfied the justice and judgement of God. We are made clean through what Jesus did on the cross for us. Clean. Pure.

https://thebibleproject.com/explore/justice/

In this world we will still struggle with sin, but His grace helps us to reckon with it for what it is, and cling to Him and His promises that His sacrifice was enough. Enough.

That truth should fill us with such joy…we might dance in the streets…or at least in our cars.

As we celebrate and rejoice before God, as David and the Israelites did (2 Samuel 6), we pass on the inheritance of our faith to generations yet to come.

When our lives are touched by the love of God, His grace flows into this world through the channel of our love, healing it, straightening its twistedness, mending its brokenness, and enlightening its darkness. That is the celebration of the Christian life – to touch the lives of others and so invite them to experience the blessings of God.

Let us express God’s praise in every breath we take. Let us be a people who celebrate the goodness of God.

May God’s Spirit enable us to be free in our celebration of Him who saves us, and who dwells in our midst.”Ferdinand Funk

Photo Credit: YouTube

Worship with me.

Have you ever met those who
Keep humming when the song’s through?
It’s like
They’re living life to a whole different tune
And have you ever met those that
Keep hoping when it’s hopeless
It’s like
They figured out what the rest haven’t yet

The second when you realize
What you have inside
It’s only just a matter of time… ’til you

Sing, so the back row hears you
Glide, cause walking just won’t do
Dance, you don’t have to know how to
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since Grace got you

So when you’re standing in the rain again
You might as well be dancing
Why? Cause there ain’t no storm that can change how this ends
So next time when you feel blue
Don’t let that smile leave you
Why? Cause you have every reason just to

Sing, so the back row hears you
Glide, cause walking just won’t do
Dance, you don’t have to know how to
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Grace got you

[John Reuben:]
Got away with something, bubbling inside of you
Spilling over cause your life is full, how incredible
Undeniable, monumental like the Eiffel
Uncontrollable, let the joy flow through – ha ha
Giddy oh but pretty pretty please
Let me see your hands in the air with you out your seats
Warm it up, let go, shout it out, celebrate
When you can’t articulate just say Amazing Grace

The second when you realize
What you have inside
It’s only just a matter of (only just a matter of)
It’s only just a matter of time… ’til you

Sing, so the back row hears you
Glide, cause walking just won’t do
Dance, you don’t have to know how to
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Grace got you*

*Lyrics to Grace Got You – Songwriters: MercyMe, David Garcia, John Reuben, Ben Glover, and Solomon Olds

YouTube Video – Grace Got You – Story Behind the Song

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s worship together.

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

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

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

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

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

We must go live to feed the hungry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – I Surrender All – Robin Mark

Photo Credit: SlideServe

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.Proverbs 3:5-6

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”Matthew 16:24-27

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
 – John 12:24

Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell face down and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Matthew 26:39

All in.

As Jesus prayed in the garden, just hours before He would give His life for us on the cross, He wrestled with the Father. He was willing; He was always willing. From the beginning of time…or before. He was all in.

Yet the weight of what He was about to accomplish must have pinned Him to the ground. Before He would be pinned to the cross.

All the sins of the world. All. The worst of it…my sins. He would take them all on His sinless self on the cross. To provide a path for us back to God. To restore us to holy God. For us “not His people” to become His people (1 Peter 2:10). God’s justice, love, and mercy revealed perfectly in Jesus.

This Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang that beautiful old hymn I Surrender All. I am so grateful that our worship leader, most Sundays, includes a hymn in the songs we sing. This time as we were singing, something happened to the computer/projector setup, and the lyrics vanished for a couple of verses.

A few of us kept singing without the lyrics in front of us (maybe because we knew the words from our own childhood). Growing up in an era of summer revivals and extended altar calls gave rise to knowing most songs from that section of the hymnal (often and thoroughly sung in revival services).

The words finally popped back up on the screen, but in the between time, my mind went back to those days in my youth of singing that song, over and over, at the end of a service.

Surrendering all is beyond our ability. We need the One who truly surrendered Himself fully to saving us. For this life and the next. My struggle in surrendering my life daily to Christ can be sullied by duty and self-interest. Worship leader Zac Hicks had this to say:

“The truth is that you and I are horrible surrender-ers. We don’t really surrender our lives to God with as much wholeheartedness, conviction, and forthrightness as we sometimes think. To make matters worse, when we find ourselves in a moment of “genuine” consecration and giving up of ourselves, we almost immediately and instinctively begin to feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back. We are sick and diseased. Our only hope comes when we look to the Man who really did “surrender it all” to God, for us and for our salvation. He made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2).

If I’m honest, I can’t in good conscience say “I surrender all” to Jesus. What I can say, sing, even shout is, “Jesus surrendered all for me.” Not to us, not to us, but to Your name be the glory.”Zac Hicks [Read the whole piece here.]

I do believe that we can desire to surrender all…as we move through our lives. As, by His Holy Spirit, we are being renewed in our minds, in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ, “daily daily” to the things of this world. Remembering, as Zac Hicks wrote, to ever remember and give glory to Jesus who did surrender all.

Robin Mark, a Christian singer songwriter from Northern Ireland sings I Surrender All. Mark wrote Days of Elijah. His “When It’s All Been Said and Done” is the background song on my Mom’s memorial page (if there was ever one in my life who was all in – as much as was humanly possible in her life – it was my mom).

Worship with me to this great old song – remembering what the Lord has done for us.

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at his feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that thou art mine.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to thee,
Fill me with thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to his name!
(Refrain)*

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song I Surrender All – Songwriter(s): Judson Van DeVenter and Winfield S. Weeden

YouTube Video – I Surrender All – CeCe Winans

YouTube Video – Revival in Belfast – Robin Mark

Wednesday Worship – On Being Woke and What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.”Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

The journey to being “woke” has been kin to my learning to drive. Dad taught me on his standard transmission pickup truck. A lot of starts and stalls as I learned how to manage the stick (gear) shift,  the clutch, and gas pedal (for you younger ones in America – probably a never needed skill).

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

[My description of this process of becoming “woke” may be offensive – I don’t go as far as some of my friends and you readers may think appropriate, but part of the “how far” comes out of many years working in the inner city where no amount of government aid seemed to get those we served where they dreamed or hoped of going…nor added to the dignity to whom they were as people. Like I said, with the driving illustration, I’m still learning.]

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hope off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Earlier this week, we traveled back to Richmond from a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish African-American man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put a sport-coat on over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many country, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter – for those reading and not aware of American culture these days).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as an African American with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

This man is still very much in my head…and heart as I write today. Being white and privileged (two descriptors it took me a long time to embrace as real things affecting my life experience), I don’t think that fellow traveler and I will ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through this experience (and others), here are four points of action in this being “woke” for a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized to protect them, when possible, from the injustice for which they are vulnerable. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of others around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we learning from today?

Worship with me today through this lovely hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

Oklahoma Tribal History

Reparations for Japanese-Americans

Worship Wednesday – Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle’s How Can It Be

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

This week we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

Food, fireworks, and freedom. That’s what it’s all about. Family, too, and/or friends gathered. It’s a big day around here.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: NeedPix, Martinique Le Prêcheur

Today I’m reflecting on freedom.

American Independence Day (4th of July) commemorates our declaration of freedom (July 4, 1776) from the rule of Britain. We declared our own freedom.

On July 4, we celebrate the freedom we continue to have as Americans because of the many wars fought to hold onto freedom.

How much more transforming when the Lord Himself declares us free!

On Sunday, we were in Dave’s family’s home church – Grace Church in Seaford, Delaware. Their pastor is teaching a sermon series on Avoiding Colossal Mistakes. This Sunday’s sermon centered on the cross of Christ (podcast here).

During the worship service before the sermon, this lyric really penetrated my heart:

“You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free.”

When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we have a far greater celebration in the cross of Christ. Apart from receiving His death for our sin, His righteousness for our own unrighteousness, we would be dead in our sins today. Still in bondage, enslaved.

We, in the US, have a dark history of slavery. No matter how deeply we are grieved by it, the stain of that great sin is forever a part of our nation’s fabric. Try as we may, we cannot wash that stain out.

Those who lived as slaves in this country, like those who are enslaved today through human trafficking, did not bring their bondage on themselves. It was/is a wrong done to them.

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. In our sinful state, He reached out to us. He rescued us through the cross, and He restored us to Himself.

As we think about the freedom we have in Christ and the freedom we have as Americans, I pray we don’t forget our own bondage, or that of others – spiritual bondage, and for some…the physical bondage of being trafficked, forced into slavery even today.

We must reach. We must rescue. We must restore.

Worship with me, as we celebrate freedom, to the Lauren Daigle song “How Can It Be“:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let You down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be*

He himself [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

*Lyrics & the Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be” performed by Lauren Daigle – Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson

The Victory of the Cross – Chuck Smith Sermon Notes – Blue Letter Bible

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Worship Wednesday – Scandal of Grace – Hillsong United

Photo Credit: SlidePlayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should be shouting this to the rooftops!

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

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

More than ever, I hope it shows…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scandal of Grace – Understanding This Changes Everything – SlidePlayer

YouTube Video – Scandal of Grace – Song Story

Monday Morning Moment – a ‘Mean Girl’ Culture – Modeling Inclusion and Resilience for our Daughters

Photo Credit: Mean Girls Film, The Daily Targum

When we think mean girls, the 2004 film Mean Girls probably comes to mind. Such a classic story of teen drama, it has also been adapted to the stage as a Broadway play. The expression mean girls brings to mind girls, in middle school and through college, who will do whatever it takes to be most popular in their school or circle.

I’m not sure girls intend to be mean…it just happens in the climb to the top. Others get pushed down in the process.

Growing up, my experience with mean girls was fairly limited. We had a neighbor girl who for a season chose me to be her bullying target. We never came to blows (the one fight I decided to finish – she would have laid me out if it had happened – was aborted when my mom providentially came home from work early that day. In high school, she and I (Gail was her name) actually became good friends.

I do remember early in middle school getting in trouble for talking in class. One of the really popular girls had asked me about an assignment, but the teacher only saw me answering her. In an attempt to use me as an example, the teacher shamed me in front of the class. The girl who triggered the situation just sat there and smiled as others snickered. It was on me that I talked…and it taught me a big lesson.

In high school, I was fairly nerdy. A few of us outsiders hung together happily for those four years. The exclusivity and cliquishness of the really popular girls didn’t really affect me…until Senior year. At that time, I was dating one of the football players which drew me into the popular girl circles…superficially. I was voted to be secretary of the Senior class as well as being chosen as my class representative to the Homecoming court. Later I would find out these two things came my way because one of the uber-popular girls had campaigned for me so that another popular girl she was at odds with wouldn’t get those honors. Sigh… A little story from my high school years. It worked well for me…but it gave me a view inside a mean girls world.

Our daughter saw the Mean Girls movie while she was in college. She was that girl new to American culture having grown up in Africa. Fortunately, she like her mama didn’t personally experience much of that exclusive girls’ clique shtick.

As moms, we can help our daughters (and sons) to overcome the sort of insecurity and identity politic that goes into becoming mean girls/guys. On the flip side, we can also guide them through the experience of being hurt by such a tribal situation. Lastly, we can model and mentor our children to be includers rather than excluders.

Photo Credit: LibQuotes

This week I discovered a 2-part piece on raising includers. Written by therapist Lisa McCrohan, the coaching article was helpful in confronting the whole mean girl phenomenon.

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” (Part 1) – Lisa McCrohan

I Was That New Kid Sitting Alone at the Lunch Table (Part 2) – Lisa McCrohan

Photo Credit: Lisa McCrohan

In brief, here is a summary of her counsel:

I want to talk straight with you. It’s time now to make a difference in your child’s life, in your community, and in our world.  We can create a more compassionate world – starting within our homes.

Here are six ways we can help our children rise with resilience, feel connected, and believe that they matter — and prevent bullying:

1. Get off our phones.

2.  Be present.

3.  Keep reflecting our children’s light and their goodness. – “We are the ones who have to send them the message that they belong, they matter, and they are loved. Always.”

4.  Teach our children responsibility. 

5.  Teach our children to be the one who risks kindness. – “We can model this. In your family, make this a motto: be the first one to be kind… The ‘first one to be kind’ is the leader. A strong, effective leader. Others will follow suit. Let’s teach our children the skills of empathy and courage to stand up for what is right.”

6.  We have to own our stuff to heal. – Lisa McCrohan

McCrohan gives much more commentary in her articles so read them in full when you have the time.

Her point #6 reminded me of a time when our children were in a small American school overseas. Our youngest has some learning issues as did the daughter of another mom in the school. One day I was subbing in her daughter’s class, and the mom just happened to come to the door during a math quiz. I had just walked away from her daughter’s desk after helping her get back on track with a complicated problem, and when the mom showed up, her daughter had begun to cry. For years after that, her mom and I had a strained relationship. She had made an assumption that I had left her daughter without the help she needed…which was not true. Our children struggled with some of the same learning issues, and we could have been such a support to each other, but…it wasn’t meant to be. Somewhere along the way, that mom had her own “stuff to heal”. It still bothers me today. That we couldn’t be friends because of a misunderstanding.

Was that mean girl stuff? No,but I do think those of us who tend to wall ourselves off from others or who have to be “the best, most popular” have some sort of wound that needs healing…before we pass it along to our children.

Anyway, ’nuff said. Our kids have been raised to be inclusive almost to a fault. Are they inclusive? No…not always, but neither am I. Still, understanding the value of “drawing circles” that welcome others in is a strong foundation on which we build relationships.

[If you have mean girls stories, either on the receiving end or that of being the one bullying, I’d love for you to share your experiences, counsel, etc. in Comments below.]

YouTube Video – Mean Girls – Best Scenes (Warning: some language)

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

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

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

Aslan – Is He Safe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

5 Friday Faves – Holy Week, Gracious Forbearance, Notre Dame, Funerals, and Irises & Azaleas

Another weekend is here. This has been one of those “where did the week go?”. Now for a couple of days of gathering in…thoughts, family, and routines. Here are this week’s faves:

1) Holy Week – For many in the world, this is the holiest of weeks in the calendar year. It commemorates the last 7-8 days of the earthly life of Jesus Christ. They are/were stunningly remarkable days and, whatever one believes, should be noted for their historic and transformative significance. Thanks to great resources, I’ve written about each individual day. You’ll find them below:

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

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

Jesus and Holy week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition – Deb Mills

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

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

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

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

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 8 – He Is Risen! – Resurrection Sunday – Deb Mills

2) Gracious Forbearance – Professors and writers Marilyn McEntyre and Matt Towles have both written beautifully and expansively on forbearance and I quote them below. Forbearance is defined as “bearing with, suffering with, a refraining from the enforcement of something that is due (such as a debt, right, or obligation). It involves lenience and patience. It is NOT “putting up with” or “just tolerating”.

Photo Credit: Circus Kitchen

When it is true forbearing, it is gracious. We could use a lot of this in our social media presence as well as in our face-to-face with those we don’t necessarily choose but seem to be providentially chosen for us. Gracious forbearance is what we receive from God as his scruffy, willful followers and He expects us to be forbearing with each other. Whether you believe in God this way or not, thoughtfully considering being forbearing (especially with those you would rather put off or out of your life) is a beautiful thing.

“What unites us is God’s own infinitely merciful will. What divides us are digressions and misunderstandings, competing alliances, and political and theological arguments that can be resolved rightly only by a generous, patient, humble, wise, deliberative commitment to continue living with the quarrelsome, myopic lot who are our brothers and sisters, and among whom we must count ourselves.” – Marilyn McEntyre

“Forbearance requires and teaches humility; it fosters authentic hope rather than self-interested expectations; in practicing it we develop discernment, which “sees disagreement not as a problem to be solved but as an opportunity for maturation in the faith”; it encourages faithfulness not primarily to tenets or doctrinal specifics but to the pilgrim path we travel in relationship to those members of Christ’s body among whom we happen to find ourselves. In that body—the beloved community we know as church—we find friendships that don’t arise solely from our predilections and affections, but from deep recognition of what we hold closest and dearest, and in common.”Marilyn McEntyre

In Praise of Forbearance – Marilyn McEntyre

“The locus of our faith is in the resurrected Christ, but the evidence of our faith is found, quite often, in how we interact with one another. We should not wonder, then, that there may be times when the pain of someone else becomes the focus of our ministry for that hour, that day, or even that season. We serve a risen Christ whose body carried the horrors of the cross in addition to the horrors of humanity. It’s no wonder that we ourselves might recognize the pain that each of us carries. We know how to pray and to serve and to carry those burdens. I know my wife knows, because she has learned from the man acquainted with grief, Jesus himself.”Matt Towles

Gracious Forbearance – Matt Towles

“We don’t have a map, but we have a guide: “I am the way,” Jesus said, calling his followers not to a particular route, but to an enduring relationship. “Follow me” is always a somewhat disconcerting directive; we may well wonder, as the disciples did, “Where to?” Sometimes the answer to that might be into the quagmire or the cave or thicket or labyrinth. Sometimes it means into the meeting room where tepid coffee is being served and a lengthy agenda distributed among a group of elders deeply at odds. The promise that can make such a gathering an occasion of grace is presence: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ In light of that presence—in the divine light of that presence—we may find ourselves able, with grace and good humour and a measure of forbearance, to do far more than “put up with” one another: we may find ourselves, in the midst of deep differences, dwelling already in unity.” – Marilyn McEntyre

Thank you, Dr. McEntyre and Dr. Towles. I learned so much from you this week. I live each day in God’s gracious forbearance…and in that of so many He has generously placed in my life.

3) Notre Dame – The devastating fire in Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral earlier this week gave pause to many of us. A structure over 850 years old is still vulnerable… As the cause for the fire was investigated, we were reminded of the deliberate burnings of other churches in our own country. As news reports came in that many of the icons and artifacts were saved, including the stained glass windows remaining intact, we were astonished and relieved.

Then those of us who had visited this beautiful cathedral scrambled to find our pictures, and social media was jammed with those images. Ours were from a 25th anniversary trip to Paris.

Why is this a fave? The response of so many from around the world… and that so much was still spared. It will be rebuilt, no doubt.

4) Funerals – This may seem an odd choice for a Friday Fave, but all my life, I have been fascinated (and touched) by the rituals surrounding dying and death. From early childhood, my mom told me that I loved cemeteries, and I still do. My friend Marc Merlin has taken some beautiful pictures of one of my favorite cemeteries, Oakland Cemetery.Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia

[Dad at his family cemetery (his mom and dad’s grave), May 3, 2010]

Our mom’s funeral – at graveside, November 2002

More than cemeteries though, I am enamored by the impact of a funeral reflecting the life of the one who died. Just this week, I went to the funeral of a tiny woman who had left a huge imprint on her community. The funeral was held in her small country church. Family and friends packed the church to give honor to this woman beloved by so many. I think she would have been pleased to see and hear all that went into her send-off.

When Dave’s dad died this year, one of his cousins (who lost his dad last year) pulled him aside and gave him good counsel. He said to give him a good funeral, one that was worthy of his dad.

It is so easy, in our grief and exhaustion, to just let the funeral be directed by others (the funeral director, for instance). We can do much of the planning way in advance of a loved one’s death. In fact, the little lady above planned all the details of her own funeral… except, of course, the spontaneous tributes given during the service. It was lovely.

Funerals can be so expensive, and that is the part I’d love to see curtailed. However, the best parts – the personal touches that help us grieve together and help us heal after – we can make happen.

Dave’s mom said his dad would have been embarrassed by all the kind words said about him…so, I guess, we did right by him.

6 Funeral Trends That Are Changing Death Rituals – Leanne Pott

“We’ve Mastered Weddings – But the Funeral Needs a Lot of Work”: Inside the New Death Industry – Vanessa Quirk

5) Irises & Azaleas – It’s that time of year here. The first irises blooming. The azalea bushes coming into full flower. Even the rain today couldn’t diminish the glory.

Happy weekend. Happy Easter! He is risen…He is risen indeed!

Bonuses:

The Equation That Will Make You Better at Everything – Brad Stulberg

How to Improve Your Memory (Even if You Can’t Find Your Car Keys) – Adam Grant

A Stoic’s Key to Living with Presence: Seneca on Balancing the Existential Calculus of Time Spent, Saved, and Wasted – Maria Popova

Pascha Basket for Easter

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – a Day of Quiet Before the Storm…and We Worship

[Adapted from the Archives – search blog under Holy Week for the description of those remaining days.]

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.

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).

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.

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

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

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only One for me

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery.*

*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

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

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

Holy Week Timeline Graphic