Category Archives: Church

Worship Wednesday – Unstoppable – David Crowder

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one...praying at all times. – Ephesians 6:11-16, 18

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” …His truth shall be your shield and buckler…Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you…for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 91:1-2, 4b, 9-11, 14-15

From the Creation story to present day, we are confronted by lies. Through the world’s influence, in our own fallen flesh, and from Satan and his emissaries. Maybe we don’t think much about it, because lies just become part of our worldview if we aren’t on guard. Weighing truth against what seems true or what might be true. Just yesterday, my son told me about his 8 y/o’s troubling thought that he didn’t really love God. What I know of the Holy Spirit, that thought did not come from Him. Satan is the father of lies and the accuser of believers. My son was able to comfort our grandson with the truth, both about God and how this precious child’s thoughts can wrongly condemn him. The talk about our enemy, the Devil, will come later.

Much is written about spiritual warfare, and too often, it is as if it’s us, rather me, against Satan. God is our victor. The battle is truly His, and Satan is no match for the Creator. The Scripture is full of encouragements for us to be strong and courageous, to stand against our enemies, and to trust the Lord. The battle does not depend on our winning, it is God’s to win. However, God calls us to plant our feet on the truth of who He is, who we are, and what He intends for our lives (John Mark Comer, Live No Lies).


In recent days, I’ve been digging into John Mark Comer‘s and Henri Nouwen‘s writings. “Beloved” is a small volume calling us to recognize our identity in Christ and to draw near to Him in prayer, away from what we think is the busyness of a significant life. Comer’s book’s Live No Lies is a substantial and serious read on recognizing and resisting the same temptations Jesus endured in the wilderness, at the beginning of His public ministry. Both authors refer to this experience as common to all of us.

Jesus had three temptations in the desert [Matthew 4:1-11]: to be relevant – turning stones into bread; to be popular – jumping from the tower and have angels catch Him; to have power to possess all the land. Jesus refused all that because He didn’t have to prove to anybody that He was loveable. He was already the beloved. That’s precisely what the Spirit revealed to Him after He was baptised in the Jordan. The voice came and said, ‘You are My beloved son, on You My favour rests’. That’s who you are; you are the beloved, so you don’t have to be busy proving it. You don’t have to run around. Immediately, that same Spirit who revealed to Him that He was the beloved sent Him into the desert to be tested….Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the One who says, ‘You are My beloved, I want to be with you’...Solitude is the place where we go in order to hear the truth about ourselves. Henri Nouwen, “Beloved”

Monday Morning Moment – Henri Nouwen on Leadership – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“The devil’s goal is to first isolate us, then implant in our minds deceitful ideas that play to our disordered desires, which we feel comfortable with because they are normalized by the status quo of our society. Specifically, he lies about who God is, who we are, and what the good life is, with an aim to undermine our trust in God’s love and wisdom. His intent is to get us to seize autonomy from God and redefine good and evil for ourselves, thereby leading to the ruin of our souls and society.” John Mark Comer, Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies That Sabotage Your Peace

We are probably all familiar with Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and Satan’s tempting Him. The Evil One has not changed his ways of beguiling since the beginning, when he similarly tempted Eve to distrust God. Ours is to follow and practice the way Jesus dealt with lies and with the accuser. With quiet prayer (in solitude), with seeking the truth (Scripture), with fasting. And in community. Satan attacks most when we are isolated from God and one another.

With the Spirit of God ruling in our hearts and lives, we need never fear. The battle is real, but God is present with us. We stand in His strength. Although our enemies are real and the world seems hostile to us, we have a greater Overcomer.

Singer/songwriter David Crowder tells this story in his rocking anthem Unstoppable. It puts in perspective that our God is invincible, and because we are in Him, we have the confidence and privilege of tasting His victory. Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

Devil’s playing fiddle
Demons coming like a missile
To my left, to my right
But I ain’t be dancing with ’em
I got angels watching over me
Fighting all my enemies
Wear ’em out, knock ’em down
‘Bout to taste that victory

Hey, hey
They can try to slow me
Thinking that they own me
They be thinking crazy
Hey
Welcome to the showdown
They about to find out

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You, nothing’s impossible

No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

See these arrows in my quiver
Winner, winner, chicken dinner
If I’m bitten by the serpent
He’ll be sucking out the venom
I got someone watching over me
Fighting all my enemies
See that smile on my face
‘Bout to taste that victory

Hey, hey
They can try to slow me
Thinking that they own me
They be thinking crazy
Hey
Welcome to the showdown
They about to find out
A-a-amen

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You, nothing’s impossible

No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

When I got You
When I got You

That’s my dad, I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run

That’s my dad, that’s my dad
That’s my dad, I’m His son
Watch him make that Devil run
That’s my dad, that’s my dad

That’s my dad, and I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run
That’s my dad, that’s my dad
That’s my dad, I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run
That’s my dad, yeah, that’s my dad

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You
When I got You, nothing’s impossible
When I got You
No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
No way I lose
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

When I got You
When I got You

*Lyrics to Unstoppable

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – “Be Strong and Courageous” – a Good Word for These Days – Deb Mills

Top 10 Quotes from Live No Lies by John Mark Comer – Joshua Branham

Book Review of “Live No Lies” by John Mark Comer – Fran Hill

Live No Lies Podcast with John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Praise You Anywhere – Brandon Lake

Photo Credit: GodTube

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!Psalm 150:6

Rejoice in the LORD, O righteous ones; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Psalm 33:1

The Lord is faithful to all His words and merciful toward all He has made.
The Lord lifts up all who fall, and He supports all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look eagerly to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
He opens his hand, and He satisfies the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and merciful toward all that He has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
He grants the desire of those who fear Him. He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him, but He will destroy all the wicked. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord. Let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. – Psalm 145:13-21

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

Praise is a completely natural response to both the character of God and His marvelous works.

On a phone call earlier today, my mom-in-law was going down her prayer list, asking me the status of different ones for whom she has been praying. Over and over, she would say, “Answered prayer!” It was true. As we pause our lives and consider God, we can take hope, even rejoice, in all that He is doing in our lives and around us. This world feels broken, but He isn’t finished…not nearly so.

We may all have different ways we praise God and different preferences as to the setting of praise. In the expansive out of doors or inside in a “quiet time” chair. In the living room of a house church or a huge worship space. Alone or with others.

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va.

The point is that we keep praise a priority in our daily lives. Even in valley experiences or a season of suffering, when we look for it, we will find reason upon reason to praise the Lord. A dear friend of mine finishes her cancer treatment this week. We are praising God for how He walked with her through this time such that she made it through a hard regimen and will ring the bell on Friday to celebrate the last day of treatment. We are also praising God as another friend is getting prepared to start cancer treatment; her cancer was found before she started having symptoms. We are trusting God for good outcomes for both. Praise. Praise. Praise. He is worthy.

Several months ago, I went with a friend to a concert that turned out to be so much more than just great music. It was church. Worship with a few hundred folks we didn’t know but shared a love for Jesus that would bring us to our feet, hands in the air, singing along with singer/songwriter Brandon Lake.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

There is something about Brandon Lake that reminds me of King David in 2 Samuel 6:14-22 when he was dancing in the streets at the return of the Ark of the Lord. He could not contain his joy and had no care for what others might have thought of him. Praising God, dancing before Him, taking great comfort in this moment of feeling God’s pleasure and provision.

God is worthy of praise, with complete abandon, our minds riveted on Him, both alone and in the company of the saints.

Worship with me…and Brandon. Stand on up. You will be in good company.
Sometimes you’ve gotta dance through the darkness
Sing through the fire, praise when it don’t make sense
Sometimes you’ve gotta stare down the giant
Worship from the lion’s den

Sometimes you’ve gotta shout it from the mountain
Louder in the valley, trusting that He’s gonna get you there
Sometimes you’ve gotta welcome the wonder
Wait for the answer, worship with your hands in the air
I’ll praise You anywhеre

Praise, give Him praisе, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the praise

Sometimes you’ve gotta praise in the prison
Cry out to heaven, shout it ’til the doors swing wide
Sometimes you’ve gotta stand on your shackles
Brave in the battle, worship with your hands held high
I’ll praise You anywhere

Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the praise

Faithful all my life, blessings day and night
Countless reasons why I’ll praise You anywhere
Every promise kept, goodness every step
Each and every breath, I’ll praise You anywhere
Faithful all my life, blessings day and night
Countless reasons why I’ll praise You anywhere
Every promise kept, goodness every step
Each and every breath, I’ll praise You anywhere

Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the praise

Oh, I’ll praise you anywhere
Oh, mountain or valley, I know that You’re with me there
I’ll praise You anywhere*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

We’re not done! Years ago, when we lived overseas, in Cairo, Egypt, we would attend a monthly praise event called “The Cutting Edge” at Maadi Community Church. Our kids were young and just cutting their teeth on corporate worship. Those evenings, in the cool of hot days, we gathered in the courtyard of this international church and sang together – with other believers from many nations, all having different worship styles and preferences. It didn’t matter. What a grace to focus on Jesus and sing our hearts out!

One more song on this Worship Wednesday – “Praise” with Brandon Lake, Chris Brown & Chandler Moore. Somehow I had missed this song until a few days ago…we have so many reasons to praise the Lord. Let’s get after it!

Worship with these brothers:

Let’s go, 1, 2, hey
Let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord (You got it), praise the Lord
Let everything, let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
(Let everything) Let everything (Hey) that has breath (Hey)

[Verse 1: Brandon Lake]
I’ll praise in the valley, praise on the mountain (Yeah)
I’ll praise when I’m sure, praise when I’m doubting
I’ll praise when outnumbered, praise when surrounded
‘Cause praise is the waters my enemies drown in

[Chorus: Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore, Both]
As long as I’m breathing
I’ve got a reason to
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord, oh my soul

[Verse 2: Chris Brown & Chandler Moore]
I’ll praise when I feel it, and I’ll praise when I don’t (Yeah)
I’ll praise ’cause I know You’re still in control
‘Cause my praise is a weapon, it’s more than a sound (More than a sound)
Oh, my praise is the shout that brings Jericho down (Yeah)

[Chorus: Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore, Both]
As long as I’m breathing
I’ve got a reason to
Praise the Lord (C’mon), oh my soul
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (I gotta)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
(Yeah, praise the Lord)

[Interlude: Brandon Lake]
C’mon let me see a dance, put a dance on it tonight (Yeah)
If you’re grateful, c’mon
Hey, hey, yeah

[Bridge: Brandon Lake & Chris Brown]
I’ll praise ’cause You’re sovereign, praise ’cause You reign
Praise ’cause You rose and defeated the grave
I’ll praise ’cause You’re faithful, praise ’cause You’re true
Praise ’cause there’s nobody greater than You
I’ll praise ’cause You’re sovereign, praise ’cause You reign (You reign)
Praise ’cause You rose and defeated the grave
I’ll praise ’cause You’re faithful, praise ’cause You’re true
Praise ’cause there’s nobody greater than You

[Chorus: Chris Brown, Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore, All]
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
(C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
(I gotta) Praise the Lord, oh my soul
(Praise the Lord, oh my soul)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (How could I)
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (I won’t keep quiet)
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (I gotta)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul

[Outro: Chandler Moore]
Jump, jump, jump, jump, jump
Let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord (Hey, hey), praise the Lord
Let everything, let everything that has breath
(C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
Praise the Lord (C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
Praise the Lord (C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
(Let everything), Let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord
(Let everything), Let everything that has breath
(Praise the Lord)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord**

*Lyrics to Praise You Anywhere – Songwriters: Jacob Sooter, Brandon Lake, Ben Fielding & Hank Bentley

**Lyrics to Praise – Songwriters: Steven Furtick, Chandler Moore, Brandon Lake, Pat Barrett, Cody Carnes, Chris Brown

Worship Wednesday – the Wonder of God – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake – Deb Mills

Why Is Praising God Important?

12 Reasons God Is Worthy of Worship – Karen Hoffman

Photo Credit: Ullie Kaye Poetry, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Holy Forever – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Revelation 4:6-11

After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell face down before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”Revelation 7:9-12

It wasn’t my time. A few days ago, I turned into a neighborhood street near my house. On a fast errand, I returned on the same street within a couple of minutes max. There across the street was this huge fallen tree! It was a moment for me to think about the reality that a few seconds later entering that street or earlier returning, and my car could have been under that tree.

You can imagine, it gave pause. Thinking of all the times we are slowed down by red lights or long store lines or the distracted driver slowing us down. I believe in angels. How God protects us through these heavenly messengers who don’t make themselves known to us, but who may very well sometimes protect us from all sorts of calamity. I say sometimes, because we all know (and may even be experiencing right now) hard situations that God did not prevent. Yet, He knows and gives grace and works all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

In the midst of every day life…both magnificent and mundane…God reminds us of Himself and the grandness of this life (and the next, of course). We forget…or we don’t notice…our heads too often down, looking at screens, rather than up and around at the beauty of God and those He places in our lives.

Sunday, our worship team closed out the service at Movement Church with the song Holy Forever. It is a familiar song but hit me different that day. It was a tiny snapshot of what it will be around the throne of God in eternity. All of us, singing, agreeing on the majesty of holy God.

Video – Movement Church – Holy Forever – at 1 hr., 3 min. in – Hallelujah!

What does it mean that God is holy. Got Questions, an online ministry, answers that question beautifully. Here is an excerpt:

“The holiness of God refers to the unparalleled majesty of His incomparable being and His blameless, faultless, unblemished moral purity (Isaiah 6:1–5; Revelation 4:1–8). Unlike His created beings, God is eternal, preeminent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He was, is, and will be before all things. He is ageless, tireless, and faultless. He is beyond full human comprehension. Indeed, our language lacks the superlatives necessary to justly describe Him. Drawn to Him for His unequaled goodness and majesty, the psalmist wrote, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1, ESV). Nothing or no one satisfies like God, for He is altogether lovely to behold. Earthly treasures will pass away, but the Lord is our great reward and inheritance (Joshua 13:33)…God is holy. In Him, there is not even the faintest trace of evil. He is impeccably pure, wholly without fault, and uncompromisingly just. God cannot lie. He cannot make wrong decisions. He is blameless, timeless, and sinless. To the lost the holiness of God is a dreadful matter, but to the redeemed the holiness of God is our greatest good.”

What Does It Mean that God Is a Holy God? What Is the Holiness of God? – Got Questions

Pastor, writer Scott Savage has written a beautiful review of the song Holy Forever. He references songwriter Chris Tomlin‘s story behind the song. Tomlin wanted to communicate 3 elements, in particular: God’s transcendence, the idea of “eternal worship”, and God’s faithfulness in the face of our failure.

Savage goes on to say:

“If you need a reminder of God’s transcendence in your life, I want to encourage to get into God’s creation. Stargaze, hike, or get out on the water. Put your phone away and get alone, or get with people who will help you connect with God, not distract you from God. 

Be quiet before God – really listen for His still, small voice. Read Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4. Listen to the song “Holy Forever” and meditate on the bigness and holiness of God. 

When you do, may you find your heart reset and your viewpoints recalibrated in light of the glory, majesty, and transcendence of God.” Scott Savage 

Faith Behind the Song: “Holy Forever” by Chris Tomlin – Scott Savage

One day, it will be my time…as it will be for all of us. What an amazing grace to stand before the One True God, in the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ, and be welcomed Home.

Worship with me.

A thousand generations falling down in worship
To sing the song of ages to the Lamb
And all who’ve gone before us, and all who will believe
Will sing the song of ages to the Lamb

Your name is the highest
Your name is the greatest
Your name stands above them all
All thrones and dominions
All powers and positions
Your name stands above them all

And the angels cry, “Holy”
All creations cries, “Holy”
You are lifted high, holy
Holy forever

If you’ve been forgiven, if you’ve been redeemed
Sing the song forever to the Lamb
If you walk in freedom, if you bear His name
Sing the song forever to the Lamb
We’ll sing the song forever and amen

And the angels cry, “Holy”
All creations cries, “Holy”
You are lifted high, holy
Holy forever
Hear Your people sing, “Holy”
To the King of kings, holy
You will always be holy
Holy forever

Your name is the highest
Your name is the greatest
Your name stands above them all
All thrones and dominion
All powers and positions
Your name stands above them all, Jesus
Your name is the highest
Your name is the greatest
Your name stands above them all
(Oh, stands above)
All thrones and dominions
All powers and positions
Your name stands above them all

And the angels cry, “Holy”
All creations cries, “Holy”
You are lifted high, holy
Holy forever (We cry, “Holy forever”)
Hear Your people sing, “Holy” (We will sing)
To the King of kings, (Holy) holy (Holy forever)
You will always be holy
Holy forever

You will always be holy
Holy forever*

*Lyrics to Holy Forever – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Brian Johnson, Jason Ingram, Jenn Johnson, and Phil Wickham

YouTube Video – Movement Church – Holy Forever – 1 hr. 3 minutes in.

The Meaning Behind the Song: Holy Forever by Chris Tomlin – Charlie Wall

Worship Wednesday – Take You at Your Word – Cody Carnes & Benjamin William Hastings

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.Proverbs 30:5

God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?Numbers 23:19

“My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it.” Isaiah 55:11

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6

How amazing is it that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God!!! [Romans 8:31-39] Or that there is NO condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus! [Romans 8:1] And we don’t have to be afraid. [2 Timothy 1:7] Nor is it for us to do good works to be approved of God. [Ephesians 2:8-10]

The promises of God and the truths of God abound in His Word. It is our choice to take Him at His word.

This can be a battle for us when we find ourselves in the throes of life in a broken world. As I write, folks come to mind – brothers and sisters in Christ facing overwhelming circumstances. The family of a 5-year-old who is in aggressive treatment for a brain tumor. The wife and children who lost their husband/father to a sudden death a year ago, marking this difficult anniversary. A family broken by a deep rift now coming up on four years with no resolution. Way too many friends in floundering marriages.

When we look at these situations, we are tempted to doubt that God sees us, that He loves us, or that His word is trustworthy. He doesn’t promise healing this side of Heaven. He doesn’t promise His children won’t suffer (in fact, just the opposite). He doesn’t promise justice (again, this side of Heaven) when we are wronged.

However….and a big however…He does promise He will always be with us. He does promise that not only does He love us but He is Love itself. He does promise grace, comfort, strength, and mercy.

Last week, at Movement Church, our worship team introduced the song Take You At Your Word. It is written by Cody Carnes, Benjamin William Hastings, and Aodhan King. Although the song has been out for some time now, I’d never heard it. In the lyrics, you’ll hear many of the truths in God’s Word. Powerful!

When I pray for and sit with friends and family in tough situations, one Scripture passage often comes to mind. Jesus had experienced rejection from many who followed Him to serve their own interests. He turned to His disciples and this conversation followed:

Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?”

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-68

This is where I hope to always plant myself. In hard times and easy. In burden and blessing. The world cries out against God when it sees suffering. As believers, we may sometimes cry out as well, especially when we see those we love suffer or those who are lost or languishing under the weight of a circumstance not of their own making.

Peter has given us testimony of the way forward. Jesus, only Jesus, has the words of eternal life. Life itself. He will get us through whatever we are currently facing. He alone gives us power for this life and provision of the next. In Him. In Him. Step by step. Enough light for each step forward as we keep our eyes on Him.

We can take Him at His word.

Worship with me.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet
Your way is the only way for me

It’s a narrow road that leads to life
But I want to be on it
It’s a narrow road but the mercy’s wide
‘Cause You’re good on Your promise

Come on

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

Come on

You spoke and the chaos fell in line
Well, I know ’cause I’ve seen it in my life

It’s a narrow road that leads to life
But I want to be on it
It’s a narrow road and the tide is high
‘Cause You parted the water

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

You’re good on Your promise
Yeah, I know
You’re good on Your promise

You said Your love would never give up
You said Your grace is always enough
You said Your heart would never forget or forsake me

Thank you, Lord

You said I’m saved, You call me Yours
You said my future’s full of Your hope
You’ve never failed so I know that You’ll never fail me

I say sing it again

You said Your love would never give up
You said Your grace is always enough
You said Your heart would never forget or forsake me

Hallelujah

You said I’m saved, You call me Yours
You said my future’s full of Your hope
You’ve never failed so I know that You’ll never fail me

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

‘Cause You’re good on Your promise
Oh, You’re good on Your promise

I’ll take You at Your word

Let’s go

Hallelujah*

“The great enemy of the Christian is the sin of unbelief—the sin of refusing to accept what God says and the sin of refusing to do what God says. The great friend of the Christian is the joy of belief and the joy of obedience. Where is God asking you to simply take him at his word?”Tim Challies

*Lyrics to Take You At Your Word – Songwriters: Cody Carnes, Benjamin William Hastings, and Aodhan King

Take God At His Word – 21 Bible Verses About Taking God At His Word

Where Is God Asking You to Take Him at His Word? – Tim Challies

What It Looks Like to Take God at His Word – Colin Smith

Worship Wednesday – These Days – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Faith Chapel

“Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”Esther 4:14

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world.Philippians 2:13-15

Singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp‘s song These Days first came to my awareness last week when it was playing on our Christian radio station (WPER). I searched for it on YouTube after stopping the car, and it wasn’t even posted yet. Nor could you find the lyrics anywhere. It was that new. Finally, it’s now posted. For such a time as this. The lyrics, simple but profound, stopped me in my tracks. He sings of us being born “in just the right place, at just the right time”. He encourages the listener not to be afraid because “maybe we were made for these days”.

When you think about it, of course, we were made for these days!

It’s how God does things. In the US, 2024 is an election year. No matter what side people politically align, everyone is squaring their shoulders in some sort of aggressive or protective maneuver. We measure the events of our world and the people attached to those events and we make the judgment: “You’re either for us or against us.” We as Christians may enlarge that to “for God, or against God”.

There is much more at work here…but much of it lies under the surface, or maybe even in the heavenlies.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

What is going on in our world today changes absolutely nothing about God’s promises, His claims, and His calling in our lives. He means for us to trust Him and to walk by faith in Him.

I’m often drawn to Paul’s passage to the persecuted church in Rome (Romans 5:1-5):

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Whatever news reports come to our attention, whatever doomsday commentary seems true, whatever terror feels too close by, we as followers of Christ are to respond in faith. Not in ourselves, or our country, but in Christ alone. We reach out in compassion to those in need, we pray for our country and others, we encourage one another with what is true, and we walk in faith, daily obedient to His Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory!

Jeremy Camp gives the story behind his song: “I remember writing this and just thinking about what’s going on in our society — a lot of the chaos that’s going on and a lot of the fear. A lot of people are feeling like, ‘Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Why was I born at this time?’ [Like] Esther, back in the Old Testament, where it says she was born at ‘such a time as this’ to stand up for her people, God has given us a purpose and a reason for being here. I really do want to encourage you God has you here for a reason. He doesn’t make mistakes. He has a plan and a purpose for you. You were born for such a time as this to truly be a light in a dark world.”for K-Love Radio with Lindsay Williams

Worship with me.

These days my heart’s always on the run

These days the world’s spinning out of control

Ooh-ohh

These days are fast and they’re furious

Feels like the worst is ahead of us

Ooh-ohh

Ooh-ohh

Sometimes it’s hard to feel at home, but

I believe that you and I

Are in the right place, at the right time

God called us by name

And He doesn’t make mistakes

I know we were born to shine bright

In a dark world that needed some light

Don’t have to be afraid

Maybe we were made for these days

Maybe we were made for these days

What if the beauty isn’t crushed?

It just needs the hope that’s inside of us

Ooh-ohh

Ooh-ohh

What if it’s more than a destiny?

What if we’re part of a masterpiece?

Ooh-ohh

Ooh-ohh

Until our father brings us home

I believe that you and I

Are in the right place, at the right time

God called us by name

And He doesn’t make mistakes

I know we were born to shine bright

In a dark world that needed some light

Don’t have to be afraid

Maybe we were made for these days

Maybe we were made for these days

To stand when it gets hard

To love with open arms

It’s something to embrace

Maybe we were made for these days

I believe that you and I

Are in the right place, at the right time

God called us by name

And He doesn’t make mistakes

I know we were born to shine bright

In a dark world that needed some light

Don’t have to be afraid

Maybe we were made for these days

Maybe we were made for these days.*

Postscript: Even in the hard, God gives us reason to rejoice and live in a deep peace and steady hope. In YouTube’s recommendation column (beside Camp’s song above), I discovered Lauren Daigle‘s song “These Are the Days”. Very different to Jeremy Camp’s song, but…still thought-provoking and riveting. In Lauren’s story about the song, she wrote the lyric in the excitement post-COVID of returning to the stage, but greater still, Christ’s return being on the horizon. In her song of jubilation, this lyric stands out: “If it’s not good, then it’s not over!”. It reminded me of Hastings’ lyric in last week’s Worship Wednesday: “Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting.”

We, as believers, have more reason than ever, in hard and confusing times, to wait on the Lord. To look, in readiness, to our Deliverer and our Conqueror…to the exquisite Lover of our souls. Hallelujah!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all. – from David’s Psalm 103

*Lyrics to “These Days” – Songwriter: Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – First Things First – with Consumed by Fire

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then the man and his wife [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called out to the man, “Where are you?Genesis 3:8-9

One day in a place where Jesus had just finished praying, one of His disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” So Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come… – Luke 11:1-2

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence [boldness], so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

What is it that keeps us from praying?

Is it shame or fear? Yet God calls for us to show ourselves to Him. He looks on us with deep compassion.

Is it not our practice? The disciples witnessed both Jesus’ pattern of prayer and His power to live a life pleasing to the Father. They didn’t ask what was His secret. They seemed to know it was his dependence on the Father through prayer.

Is it our sin that makes us too shy to talk to God? He is not surprised at our struggle. He knows our weaknesses and loves us still. We have a sinless mediator in Jesus and because of Him we have access to the Father.

Prayer can be hard for me for all the above reasons. Add to those the weight of so much need in the world, and I find myself too quickly distracted by the world’s chatter. Oh to stay in the quiet of His peace!

So I pray a bit then switch to over-thinking and worry, or drop out altogether to some other cheap substitute to prayer. Nevertheless, because of His long-suffering with His children, He draws us back to Himself, and I return often to that throne of grace. As a child running to my dad…the best dad we could ever hope to have. Father God.

Have you read Tyler Staton‘s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools yet? It has been my guidebook (alongside the Bible) in recent months toward a deeper walk with the Lord.

Tyler Staton introduces his readers to writer teacher John Mark Comer. Comer is the founder of Practicing the Way. This is a website with the focus of offering a pathway to becoming like Jesus in community. All of the teaching and resources are free, and I’ve been grateful to God for how He is speaking to me in this space. My hope is to be part of a prayer community in our local church. Pray with me for this. Are you part of such a community?

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

Comer’s series on prayer is also available on YouTube. The first two messages are linked (the other two I will link when they come online).

YouTube Video: Prayer – Talking to God – John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Talking with God – John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Listening to God – John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Being with God – John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

As often happens, while thinking about the whole practice of prayer in my life, I heard the song below on the car radio. It preached!

Worship with me to the deeply intimate song “First Things First” by the band of brothers Consumed by Fire.

All the things that I have held dear
The vanities that whispered in my ear
What would I do if they all disappeared
Riches and fame and all that they could buy
I’ve come to find they never satisfy
What would I gain if my soul’s the price

I don’t wanna love what the world loves
I don’t wanna chase what the world does
I only want you
I only want you

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first

I give it all
My life an offering
My heart is yours
So have Your way in me
Your kingdom’s all I wanna seek

I don’t wanna love what the world loves
No, I don’t wanna chase what the world does
I only want you
I only want you

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first
To keep the first thing first
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first, oh

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first

All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first*

Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

*Lyrics to First Things First – Songwriters: Jake Hess, Jordan David Ward, Caleb Paul Ward, Grant Timothy Bias

YouTube Video – Consumed by Fire – “First Things First” – (Acoustic + Story Behind)

Photo Credit: YouTube, J. C. Ryle, John Mark Comer

Let’s keep worshiping, y’all!

Monday Morning Moment – A Place for You

Photo Credit: Quotes Gram

I know I’m not the only one. The experience of feeling alone (or invisible) in a crowded room. OK, for introverts this may be a welcome experience. I say, however, that maybe we have different experiences of social anxiety – introverts and extroverts.

It happens to me in the church lobby of all places after the Sunday morning service. If I didn’t walk out into the lobby with someone, it is like I could walk straight through without being seen. Skirting around various little circles – backs to me. Sometimes, I engage with a set of eyes, not wanting to break in or interfere with a conversation, but too often, it’s eyes forward with the exit door in view.

You might be thinking “How weird”. I agree with you. My aim on Sunday gatherings is to watch for loners, new people, those outside of the small group conversations. Dr. Curt Thompson puts it this way: when we come into the world, we are looking for someone looking for us. We have that need for attachment throughout our lives. I want to be that person looking for the someone looking for someone looking for them (was that understandable?).

However…there are days, not just on Sundays but at work and definitely in any large group setting, that my default is awkwardness which is even odd for me. This has not always been my modus operandi. It seems to have crept up on me later in life…but I fight against it!

Just a few days ago, I read a piece and heard a song that have both encouraged and fortified me.

Have you ever read something or heard a piece of music that went right to your core? This:

Story Behind the Song: Faithful’s “A Place for You” – Savannah Locke

and this:

Singer/songwriter Savannah Locke authored the article and co-wrote the song. She talks about how we can feel orphaned in life for various reasons. Those orphaned especially need to know they have a place – a real belonging somewhere (Psalm 68:4-8). We can take comfort in close friends and family, but the confidence of knowing we always have a place, Locke writes, comes from experiencing the love and care of God.

Abiding in God slowly heals the part of me that is convinced I am on the outside; slowly thaws the part of me that has iced over in hyper-vigilance. Savannah Locke

It’s been decades since my college years, but there is one book I kept from those days. Through all the moves and all the pain of downsizing our book collections, Paul Tournier‘s A Place for You has remained.

Tournier writes “What we are looking for is not someone who will cut through our dilemmas for us, but someone who will try to understand them. Not someone who will impose his will upon us, but someone who will help us to use our own will. Someone who, instead of dictating to us what we must do, will listen to us with respect. Not someone who will reduce everything to an academic argument, but someone who will understand our personal motives, our feelings, and even our weakness and our mistakes. Someone who will give us confidence in ourselves because he has unshakeable confidence in us…The ideal support, then, is a presence, a vigilant, unshakeable, indefectible presence, but one that is discreet, gentle, silent, and respectful…All [people] are looking, in fact, for God’s support. It is an absolute support that men and women are looking for, a support without limit – and it obviously can come only from God.”

This is the place we need…this place that bolsters us in times of stress, fear, betrayal. This place, this Person, where our own struggle can point us to those with similar struggles and we can make room for them as well…see them as we are seen.

As I was sharing all the above with a friend, she pointed to a similar point of connection from a podcast she watched. Lysa Terkeurst was speaking about her own social anxiety, entering a room full of people alone. During a quiet moment after such an experience, she sensed a word from God in the following:

“You were walking in that room desperate for acceptance and approval. Instead of walking into that room bringing My acceptance, bringing My love into that room, bringing My peace into that room. Every single person in there is desperate for that same kind of acceptance, approval, and love. I don’t want you walking into any more of those rooms begging others for scraps of all that. Live from the place that I have accepted you; I love you. You are a conduit of My peace, My acceptance, and My love to other people. You walk into that room bringing that with you and the atmosphere will change for you…Doing that practice of walking into rooms eager to give that [peace, acceptance, love] to other people (will) change something in you. Live from a place of love, acceptance, not desperate for it from other people.”Lysa TerKeurst, YouTube podcast with Louie Giglio, Minute 33:30+

Such a great word for me, too.

So…if you see me in a crowd of people, not engaging, and you also are trying to make a quick get-away, I’m looking for you. You have a place. We can all hold space for each other, especially when we trust in the One who is doing the same for us, and making a place for us…forever.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: RainbowToken

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills

Quotes from Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less That, Left Out, and Lonely – Lysa TerKeurst Feel

The Brains of Lonely People Reveal Why You Can Feel Alone in a Crowded Room – Emma Betuel

Photo Credit: Eternally Minded Mamas, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – the Wonder of God – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake

Photo Credit: YouTube, Lyrics X Scripture

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us—none can compare to You—if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count. Psalm 40:5

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.Job 5:9

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17

Wonder has been my word for 2023. Some of our days can seem mundane until we shake off the mental fog and clear our eyes to what is most real – that God is ever present and moving in our lives and through our circumstances. Wonder at that!

From “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1) through the cross of Jesus when he prays “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” to his apostle John’s inspired revelation of what is to come – it is all God and He calls us to Himself.

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just.” Revelation 19:1-2a

If we miss the wonder of God, it is because we have filled our minds with humans as our idols. Frail, faulty humans. We judge God by those persons whom we, at some point, deemed worthy of a pedestal of honor. Should they fall or falter, we then pull away and think they represent a God who fails. Not so!

What is Christianity? If you think Christianity is mainly going to church, believing a certain creed, and living a certain kind of life, then there will be no note of wonder and surprise about the fact that you are a believer. If someone asks you, “Are you a Christian?” you will say, “Of course I am! It’s hard work but I’m doing it. Why do you ask?” Christianity is, in this view, something done by you—and so there’s no astonishment about being a Christian. However, if Christianity is something done for you, and to you, and in you, then there is a constant note of surprise and wonder. John Newton wrote the following hymn: Let us love and sing and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name. He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame. He has washed us with his blood. He has brought us nigh to God. See where the love and wonder comes from—because he has done all this and brought us to himself. He has done it. So if someone asks you if you are a Christian, you should not say, “Of course!” There should be no “of course-ness” about it. It would be more appropriate to say, “Yes, I am, and that’s a miracle. Me! A Christian! Who would have ever thought it? Yet he did it, and I’m his.” Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

The wonder of God is that He is so many things that we are not, and yet He gives us a way forward to be more like Him, through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. How long-suffering He is; how loving!

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows (or has heard of) the old song “Count Your Blessings”. It is a sweet reminder to exercise our gratitude at all the Lord has done in our lives – “raising my Ebenezer” so to speak.

[I’ve written many times in the past on “stones of remembrance” – raising my own Ebenezer to a good and faithful God.]

Just one example of the wonder of God in my own life is portrayed in the picture below – of my beautiful mom, and precious daughter, and me. My mom had such a hard first marriage that I don’t remember her ever praying a husband for me. Until I was 5 or 6, we were unchurched. Mom had to work so hard providing for us in our childhood that weekends were her catch-up time with house, errands, and us. Church just didn’t happen. Then when neighbors drew us in and church became a beautiful thing in our lives, we all came to faith (and Mom back to her childhood faith which fast became a deep adult walk with God). She gave me a long look into the love of God and the difference knowing Jesus made in a person’s life. I did finally marry and remarkably had children, all of which points to God and His kindness. This picture of us three – all three safe and secure in His love and promises speaks to the wonder of God in our lives.

Just one glimpse of His wonder. Just one on a long list and counting.

God is worthy of our awe and wonder. No matter the situation we find ourselves. He is doing something beyond our imagining. Even in the broken nature of relationships in this world, even in the winding down of all that surrounds us…God is present. We can lean on Him and take hope and courage in Him.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, James Houston

Worship with me to singer/songwriter Brandon Lake‘s Count ‘Em. Get ready for some hard-hitting, Scripture-packed joy at the wonders of God!

Oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh

You got thunder in Your vocal, You got flames in Your eyes
You got wonder-working power pouring out of Your side
Checked the tomb all the way through, the grave was empty inside
Ain’t no other pull the greatest miracle of all time

You got power, demons cower when they hear Your name called
You got power that still towers, make Goliath look small
You got power to devour any counterfeit roar
Even Your tongue is a sword, count up the score, You are the Lord

Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy

Hey, hey
All those funerals You ruined when You made the dead rise
Heaven’s healer using spit and mud to open blind eye
You got wonders I can’t number, couldn’t count if I tried
Called the doctor and the doctor said, “I’m giving new life
Tell your enemies the victory is already here
More than sixty thousand angels, just the tip of the spear”
One day every knee will bow and every heart will be Yours
This is the end of a war, count up the score, You are the Lord

Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy

How many enemies ended on bended knees, swallowed up in defeat?
Can’t count ’em
How many raging seas opened in front of me? How many victories?
Can’t count ’em
How many prophecies no one would dare believe? Now it’s reality
Can’t count ’em
How many broken men given a second chance? See all the lifted hands
Can’t count ’em

How many Thomases doubted Your promises standing here, now convinced?
Can’t count ’em
How many hospitals said it’s impossible? How many miracles?
Can’t count ’em
How many paralyzed living a different life? Go on and testify
Can’t count ’em
How many sinners saved? How many bodies raised? How many empty graves?
Can’t count ’em

Oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh

You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy*

*Lyrics to Count ‘Em – Songwriters: Brandon Lake, Jacob Sooter, Hank Bentley

YouTube Video – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake – Lyric Bible Verses

The Wonder of All We Have in Christ: Five Contrasts at the Heart of Hebrews – David Mathis

Death to Deconstruction – a Podcast by Joshua S. Porter – episode “with “Breakdown of the Christian Music Machine with Stephen Christian” – if you have little time, go to minute 54:30 where Stephen gives us rationale of why he did NOT walk away from God as a believer. Powerful!!!

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phillips Brooks

Worship Wednesday – PrayerFULness – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Rachael M. Colby, Tattoo It On Your Heart

[Adapted from the archives]

If My people who are called by My name will 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. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My Name may be there forever. My eyes and My heart will be there for all time. – 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 

“Then let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’. Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:10-12

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be offered for all men … Prayer of this kind is good and God our saviour is pleased with it — it is my wish that in every place men shall offer prayers with blameless hands held aloft, and be free from anger and dissension.1 Timothy 2:1–8

At every opportunity pray in the Spirit, using prayers and petitions of every sort. Pray constantly and attentively for all God’s people.Ephesians 6:18

Dave’s Mom, my sweet mother-in-law, prays. Every day. Through the day. In her 80s, Julia carries the baton of her own Godly mother who has long since gone to be with the Lord. She prays not out of duty or self-interest. She prays in obedience to God and out of love for Him, for her family, her church, her country, and the world.

As long as Julia lives, I know that daily our names echo in the great halls of Heaven before the God of the universe. When my own mom died, now 20 years ago, a silence sounded in our lives that I had never experienced before. She, like Julia, was a pray-er. Mom prayed faithfully for us, her children and grandchildren. She also had hope borne out of prayer for the church and our country. Since Mom died, I am trying to run the race she left for me…praying for those God has lovingly and strategically placed  in my life to lift up to Him.

Photo Credit: Kirtland AFB

In the US, we are moving into the season of political rallies with widely varying displays of patriotism, anticipating the 2024 election year. The news media is full of disheartening reports on our country’s status in the world, its moral and cultural decline, and partisan viewpoints on what’s the cause and who’s to blame.

God is not surprised by anything. Nor is He disinterested. He loves all peoples and He has certainly not forgotten those who call themselves Americans.

We as believers search for meaning in the chaos we see around us. We, too, are tempted to assign blame.

What if…what if the cause of our country’s racial and sociopolitical divides…the violence and opioid epidemic…abortion and poverty…related less to politics and more to prayerlessness?

God doesn’t seem to mind small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). He is also a world-shaking finisher (Philippians 1:6).

What if two or more of us gather agreeing and pray (Matthew 18:20)? For each other, our church leaders, our country, the nations. God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Movement Church has had many seasons of prayer…many small beginnings. For some time, we had a tiny ministry called Play ‘n Pray. It was moms and grandmothers with little ones who came together each week briefly to pray. During COVID, a handful of us sat outside, circled together, socially distanced, in singular mind, to pray down the Spirit of God on our church and community. This summer as a part of our local mission effort to know our city better and to pray with the city in view, we are all participating in a prayer scavenger hunt.

Many of the world’s spiritual revivals began with just a handful of believers. It can happen here…

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” John Piper

Our vision at Movement Church includes a God-glorifying movement of prayer that will spread through our church, extending into our community, city, and the world. Small beginnings but with a great God. One day we believe that He will take the small embers of this many efforts over time and flame them up into a redeeming work only He can finish.

Prayerfulness does take some spiritual formation…habit formation. Last night, we had a friend over and we talked at length about the spiraling nature of our culture, the lack of true life-giving compassion, the anti-Christian sentiment, and the disinterest in a holy God (or any god outside of one’s own making). Our conversation was dark…and too familiar. What if…we prayed instead? Talking not ABOUT chaos to one another but praying WITH one another, taking those same things to God. Praying FULL of hope and faith.

As I write this morning, our dear praying mom, Julia, is sitting in her favorite spot, Bible open in her lap, praying. She knows the God who draws her to prayer is at work. One person, one of His daughters, trusting Him with what He lays on her heart. One by one…two or more…all over this country and this world…prayerFUL. Anticipating what God is about and what He will complete. To Him be all glory.

Worship with me to the Kari Jobe‘s call to prayer “Heal Our Land”:

You take our lives
Flawed, yet beautiful
Restore, refine
Lord, You’re merciful

Redeem, revive

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

New power, new wine
As divisions fall
One church, one bride
Jesus, Lord of all

With one voice we cry

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

So, God we pray to You
Humble ourselves again
Lord, would You hear our cry
Lord, will You heal our land
That every eye will see
That every heart will know
The One who took our sin
The One who died and rose
[x2]

And when Your kingdom comes
And when at last You call
We’ll rise to worship You alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone*

*Lyrics to Heal Our Land – Songwriters: Scott Ligertwood, Brooke Gabrielle Fraser, Karie Jobe, Cody Carnes

YouTube Video – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe (Song Story)

If My People – Tony Evans

Prayerfulness: A Grace to Seek – Claude Lopez

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Prayerfulness – Richard Hollerman

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Resisting the Reactive Response

Photo Credit: Aunatural, IZQuotes

How do we deal with individuals, organizations, or even a larger culture where either we personally or our values are attacked or diminished?

Do we take the approach of the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me”? We build boundaries substantial enough that keep us from experiencing that discomfort again. Or do they really? Is that diminishing still being mulled over in our thoughts and body, such that we are bound to it, linked to it by our own vigilance?

How we respond to threats to ourselves or others has its origins in our personalities, family of origin, and life training as students and through adulthood. Ultimately, we choose how we respond to negatives. Proactively or reactively.

My preference is to stay…in the relationship, in the job or organization. I want to make things work…improve things from the inside out. Be tenacious. Figure it out. Give grace. Push in for a place at the table and make room for others there.

We live in a reactive space in history. Or maybe it’s always been that way, but now, the reactions are broadcast multiple ways through various media, both sympathetic and unsympathetic to our side or that of the other.

It is exhausting.

In a Slideserve on classroom management, the familiar elements of reactive response are outlined. When trouble is brewing, we do what we can to 1) expose and remove the perpetrator, 2) remove ourselves, 3) change up the environment to relieve discomfort, and/or 4) assign blame outside ourselves.

Photo Credit: Slideserve, Creative Behavior Management, Terri Vest

To move from being reactive to become more proactive, we must stay in the conversation. We determine how best to go forward. We listen with a desire for understanding and not just the goal of being right.

While downsizing our extensive book library this weekend, I rediscovered this little treasure of a book

and found this quote apropos to today’s topic:

Abraham Lincoln was one who listened to the Different Drummer, and not to the vindictive voices of his advisers.

Stephens, Phillips and Beecher were among Lincoln’s contemporaries who were echoing the cry, “Crush the South…Stamp out the whole slave-holding aristocracy…Make them pay to the last acre of land, the last vestige of power, the last drop of blood.”

But the great man upon whose furrowed brow the responsibility rested heard a Different Drummer… “With malice toward none, with charity for all, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” – From the late US Senate chaplain and Scotsman Peter Marshall‘s His Hand On Your Shoulder

The paragraph above shows the contrast between the reactive, vengeful response and the more proactive, hopeful and potentially healing response.

Five lessons from the Life of Peter Marshall – Joshua Bontrager

The Southern Baptist Convention has its annual meeting later this month. Now for many of you, this is inconsequential. However, in anticipation of this meeting, and throughout the proceedings, Twitter and other social media platforms are and will be abuzz with the reactors. Those who would not wish these folk well. Those who may have been hurt in the past by this enormous cooperative of churches. Those who love a good wrangle especially when it potentially brings down Christians or sullies the name of Jesus.

Just last night, an out-of-state friend and I had a deep conversation on this topic (ok…via texts…so much meaning in short bursts). Her longing was to see Southern Baptists keep focused on the essentials of the church’s mission and not to allow the non-essentials divide us and cancel what matters most.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

In Essentials, Unity, in Non-Essentials Liberty, in All Things Charity – Mark Ross

I am with my friend, in this. In fact, there are consequential lessons here for all peoples.

On Open Letter to All Southern Baptists – Rick Warren

Whatever our challenge is this morning – whether a troubled work situation, a broken relationship, or an affiliation with an imperfect organization – we can choose a better way forward.

We can choose not to lash out or quit. We can choose to seek change from within. We can operate out of humility, hope, faith, or even love. We can resist a reactive response.

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Stephen Covey