Category Archives: Church

Worship Wednesday – Giving and Receiving Blessing – We Need It Now – Elevation Worship

[The tapestry above hangs beside our door…one of God’s many blessings upon His peoples.]

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes the flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he will not see when prosperity comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives, but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

 Beware of division. Having just finished reading Francis Chan‘s book Until Unity, I am way aware of how divided we are as church, family, people. We curse too easily and withhold blessing too often.

In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord speaks about this very thing. In these days of COVID, political and economic upheaval, and media’s feeding on any and every weakness and falling of the church, we take sides. We trust (or distrust, depending on our preferences) governments and authorities. We lean on our own reasoning and make that our strength. Too often, we turn our heart from God and His Word.

We are addicted to our own opinions, our own sense of rightness or rights or entitlement, our own form of judgment and retribution.

This…from the self-proclaimed “people of God”.

God, forgive us. Clear our minds. Help us to see as You see. Help us to bless and not curse. Soften the soil of our hearts toward those around us – for Your purposes. We know extending our roots deep into Your Word, surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, and obeying the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives – are the source fruitful lives.

As Your image-bearers, Father, help us to be a blessing to those around us…to speak blessing over them. Loving others as You love us …and them. We receive such generous blessing from You, Lord. Remind us we are blessed to be a blessing.

I will never forget our children’s high school graduations, all in Morocco. As part of our son Nathan’s graduation, parents are selected to give the invocation. Because of the makeup of the Senior Class, it would usually be a Muslim parent and Christian parent. In Nathan’s graduation, the Christian parent stood and lifted his hand over the class and spoke blessing to them from Scripture. I can’t remember the exact blessing, but it was powerful to us in the audience, watching this man speaking and showing blessing over our young people.

So reminiscent of Jesus’ blessing in His Sermon on the Mount:Photo Credit: Heartlight

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes helped write and then performed a song entitled The Blessing. The lyrics are straight out of Scripture and a true blessing from the Lord. It became the worship standard for our experience of God in a year full of crisis. Covered in many languages. Still such a blessing. So much beauty!

YouTube Video – The Bay Area Blessing – Churches Sing ‘The Blessing’ over the San Francisco Bay Area

We continue in a time when people seem so willing to devour one another…to curse and slander those different from or in opposition to them. This song, born out of Scripture, reminds us of God’s intent for His children…to be a blessing, out of the overflow of His own blessing in our lives, and not a cursing. He will judge the wrong and wrongs of this world. We look for whatever/whomever we can bless…and we extend blessing. Just as that parent extended his hand of blessing…we extend ourselves to those around us…in Jesus’ name. Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:12-15

I thank God for this reminder of blessing. In fact, just this week, I have blasted this song at home and in my car multiple times. What a blessing we have in Him. A blessing He means for us to extend without reserve. It’s His blessing…not meant to keep only for ourselves.

Worship with me.

The Lord bless you [Numbers 6:24-26]
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you [Deuteronomy 7:9]
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you [Deuteronomy 31:8]
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

*Lyrics to The Blessing – Songwriter(s): Christopher Joel Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Brooke Jobe, Steven Furtick

Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannigan – Deb Mills

When Our Greatest Fears Come True – The Story Behind “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship – Jen Roland

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

Photo Credit: YouTube

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

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

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

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

We have immeasurable gifts in our life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity & Beautiful Insanity – Mercy Gordon

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us

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

(Repeat Chorus)

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Our God – YouTube – Mercy Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until UnityFrancis Chan

Forgiving What You Can’t ForgetLysa Terkeurst

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Scott Sauls’ Quotes and Sayings

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

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

5 Friday Faves – A City Tour, Best Organizing Tips, Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, On Being Heard, and Summer Delights

Here we go!

1) A City Tour – Have you ever taken a tour of your city or town? It’s a transformative experience. We toured our city (Richmond, Virginia) this week. No pictures of the James River this time around or any of the actual “tourist sites”…[I did write about our gorgeous Capitol building visit here]. Just neighborhoods this time. What about you? Comment below about your city/town.

2) Best Organizing Tips – OK, full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Marie Kondo (link to my blog on decluttering and relationships). I think what she helps people downsize gets repurchased. So it is a constant cycle. However, I get the stress that clutter can bring to moms of small children. Our children understand that I will downsize until it starts getting painful, and then they can just hire an estate clearing company, for the rest one day.

When I come across an article that shows wisdom in dealing with the strain of stuff, it encourages and empowers. The Pioneer Woman has a list of 76 tips for organizing our households. Some of the tips have affiliate marketing attached which means buying stuff to store your stuff. Still, among the 76 tips, there are great helps for anyone. I love the ideas on beautifying and functionalizing the foyer/entryway of a home. Also, her tips on managing toys and their cleanup were great!

Best Organizing Tips – The Pioneer Woman

Photo Credit: The Pioneer Woman, Tidbits

3) Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – I don’t usually recommend sad things unless it causes such a stir in me, it seems necessary to share. The church doesn’t belong to people. The church belongs to God. He established it, and He will care for it. If judgment is required, He will judge. However, some situations may need to be examined, not to judge, but to avoid going there. We are all vulnerable. It can happen to any of us as collections of people. Power and ego can soil anyone. None of us are immune.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Podcasts | Christianity TodayPhoto Credit: Christianity Today

If you don’t know the story of Mars Hill, you can listen to the cataclysmic fall of a mega-church and its pastor, starting here.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

Our small but growing church in Richmond, Virginia, loves God, loves His Word, and loves the world. Hopefully we love each other and our neighbors as well. We will want to do our part in keeping our church on track with God’s mission.

Mission drift can occur to any organization. Watch out for it. Put guardrails around what matters.

4) On Being Heard – Just before doing the city tour above, a documentary focused on our city was recommended to me. The local film company responsible for this Emmy-award-winning gem is Belltower Pictures.

“Heard” – PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”

I watched this documentary after the city tour.

It was an amazing opportunity to listen to residents of Richmond’s subsidized housing who talk about what they loved and hated about their neighborhoods and how they were able to take those foundations to launch into positive futures. So glad I listened. You will be, too.

Heard Discussion Guide

5) Summer Delights – Summer…it sprawls lazily…and yet seemingly overnight, back-to-school ads and products spring up all over!

We will savor summer. And all its goodness. What are some of your summer delights?

Sleeping under the stars upgraded by cool retro campers and sweet technology capturing it.https://scontent.fric1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/fr/cp0/e15/q65/224199211_10222604686818054_2935923857622714896_n.jpg?_nc_cat=100&_nc_rgb565=1&ccb=1-3&_nc_sid=8024bb&efg=eyJpIjoidCJ9&_nc_ohc=Na2pVp6USPsAX_3XgP7&_nc_ht=scontent.fric1-1.fna&oh=a4fed52179684ef263f8fc5153deef8b&oe=61003131Photo Credit: Todd Carey, Facebook

Rainbow hues in all the beautiful flowers:

Fishing with Papa:

Yard Sales back in style:

The yummy “reds” of summer:

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot!

Bonuses:

Support your small businesses – great post on the challenges of having a sustainable business right now (this being a local restaurant)

Watch Luke Bryan Bring a 7-year-old Girl Onstage for adorable “Down to One” Duet – here’s the quick story. Below is the video.

No photo description available.Photo Credit: Tim Keller, Gospel in Life, Neighborhood Church Facebook page

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

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

[From the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Trouble – From The Chosen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merch from The Chosen Gifts

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

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

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

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

https://lyricstranslate.com

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

Troubleby Matthew S. Nelson and Dan Haseltine

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

Worship Wednesday – Tyler Perry’s “Refuse Hate.” and Revolutionary by Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:4-5, 8

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:43-45

The 2021 Oscars (Academy Awards Ceremony) this week delivered the lowest ratings in the award show’s history. It’s been a strange year. The highlight for us was actually the acceptance speech for this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The recipient is the filmmaker and benefactor Tyler Perry.

Watch his very different, almost politically incorrect, 3-minute acceptance speech below. [Full transcript here.]

An excerpt follows:

I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope that we would refuse hate.
So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you, too. God bless you and thank you Academy, I appreciate it.”Tyler Perry
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs of people who hate. We may want to block or cancel the words or actions of others. Yet, we are confronted ourselves by the truth that we were all once the enemies of God…and He forgave us. Do we presume that our indignation is more righteous than His? Do we consider our being wronged as more needful of judgment than His own? God have mercy!
What is the response of the believer toward those we are tempted to feel hate?

Only love. Spoken and acted out in kindness and mercy.

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that calling and command? Do we hold tighter to our stones? Do we give lip service to “forgiving” but everything in our actions and attitudes tells a different story?

How thankful we can be to a God who is all-wise and all-loving! He understands us completely. He walked among us, in the sandals of the incarnate Christ. He experienced hatred and persecution, even to His last breath on this earth. Yet…He forgave, He loved, He administered the greatest kindness possible – His life for ours.

In His loving mercy, He has taught us how to live in this life.

We are to love. We are to forgive. We are to keep our own hearts from sinning against another. We are to remember that we and our neighbor (enemy or friend) are both made in the image of God. We are not to forget our own bent toward sin…the very sin that caused Jesus to take the cross upon Himself…for us. Not just for another.

God calls us to remember whose we are. He is at work in our hearts, in that of our neighbors (and enemies), and in the nations.

We can join Him…through revolutionary acts of kindness.

I’ve just recently discovered the writing of Lois Tverberg. She teaches the Scripture in context, meaning within the culture of the world in which it was written. We might think Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies is hard. Yet, if we recall our own struggle with sin and how neighbors and enemies are not so different from us, we can access the grace of God to love…and show kindness.

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

Loving Your Neighbor, Who Is Like You – Lois Tverberg

Instead of striving to be right…what if we strove to be kind – loving, serving, and praying for those our flesh cries out to hate? This is the way of Jesus.

Josh Wilson (with a team of other songwriters) gave us the song “Revolutionary” in October 2019, having no idea what 2020 or 2021 would hold. It was a prophetic call to the church to love…all.

“It seems natural, almost effortless, to focus on our differences with others rather than our similarities. Drawing attention to those differences keeps us glued to the news and social media because of the moral outrage we feel towards the “other.” I think there’s a better way though, and that’s the way of empathy and understanding, the way of kindness….No matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, deep down I know that we are not as different as we are led to believe. There is peace to be made, there are names to be learned, meals to be had, chasms to be crossed, and it all starts with kindness.Josh Wilson

Worship with me.

Maybe you’re not like me
Maybe we don’t agree
Maybe that doesn’t mean
We gotta be enemies
Maybe we just get brave
Take a big leap of faith
Call a truce so me and you
Can find a better way
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
I’m turning the TV down
Drowning their voices out
‘Cause I believe that you and me
Can find some common ground
See maybe I’m not like you
But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes
If it means I might see
The world the way you do
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
What would Jesus do
He would love first
He would love first, hmm
What would Jesus do
He would love first
Yeah, He would love first
So we should love first
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
God help us get revolutionary*
“‘Revolutionary’ is all about kindness,” shares Josh Wilson. “I believe that kindness matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the negativity we see in the world and on the news, and this song is a reminder that we are called to more than that. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us. I am so encouraged by the acts of kindness I’ve seen recently, even amidst a worldwide pandemic, even in an election year. In many ways, our struggles are actually bringing us together. We’re learning that we all have a lot more in common than we thought, and it’s beautiful to see the ways people are serving each other. The lyrics are a prayer for God, through us, to start a revolution of kindness. Will you join us?”Josh Wilson

Postscript:

Josh Wilson also wrote “Dream Small” which I covered here. He capturing how God has wrapped all commands into two – for our good and to the glory of our magnificent God:
Love God
Love others.
“Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers.”

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson – Deb Mills

Story Behind the Song “Revolutionary”

Worship Wednesday – When We Love Like Jesus – How Beautiful – Twila Paris

Photo Credit: Burke Church, Facebook

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

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

Our world is so full of words…so many voices. Too many are divisive and blaming. Too many propose solutions that seem beyond our capability or capacity. Beyond our understanding even.

Especially in the issue of racial inequality, racial reconciliation, and racial healing. When we look at the proposals made by politicians and even some educators, we are stunned and bewildered.

What will it really take for things to get better? What actions can bridge the racial divide? The words blasting through our news outlets seem more hurtful than healing. We as the church are wrestling with what to say…what to do. I have found that so puzzling given how the Lord has told us how to live and how to love…but we seem challenged especially in this dark dilemma of our times.

Then just today…two voices came through the noise: U.S. Senator Tim Scott and Reverend Keith Haney

Senator Scott posted the following on his Instagram and Twitter page today. Take the time to watch the video.

He deals with the politicizing of the racial unrest in our country, and he calls us as Christians to love people…really love people. Wow! Why “Wow!”? Because we know what is the truth and yet we don’t do it. We talk about it, we react when others tell us what we should do, but…We already know what Jesus tells us to do…and He has shown us how by His own beautiful life.

I have been thinking about what Senator Scott said the rest of the day, and then, in the kindness we regularly experience from God, I discovered this blog The Light Breaks Through authored by Reverend Haney. The piece below is a blog he wrote after George Floyd was killed and all that happened in Minneapolis in reaction.

How Should the Church Respond to Racial Issues?

Reverend Haney writes: “Genuine change only happens when we can change hearts, and only the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. The community is begging for someone to step up and make things better.

What I hear the world really asking is this:

Dear Christian Church,

As I look at the racial pain all around and the way it is portrayed in the national media, it saddens me. The tone is so negative, and it is feeding into the darkness that is already out there in our sin-sick world. I don’t expect the world to have real solutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dear Church, especially the Black Church, just as you answered the call in the Civil Rights Movement, you have a pivotal role to play. You have the Light. You know the only real Love. The world is lost without your voice. Without your direction. It is time to stand and lead. Now is the time to speak out.”

Then Reverend Haney further encouraged us: “…We are living in a broken world, and the racial issues only serve as a stark reminder of our need for a Savior, a healer, a reconciler.

There is a spiritual reason behind this racial rift. Church leaders you have the power to change things. Our Lord and Savior armed you with the spiritual weapons of God. Battle Satan’s lies the way Jesus did with the truth of the Scripture. All people have value because we are created by the same One True God. We all begin our journey at the foot of the cross and end our trip at the grave.”

We have a beautiful Savior who showed us how to really love each other. Not, as Senator Scott read from his devotional, “just pretend to love others”.  We can state our beliefs about racial divides and racism. We can voice commitments as the church on where we stand. Words only (just talking about issues or doling out our opinions) do not take us to the cross…or to the grave.

Our Savior held nothing back. Maybe we don’t know what that means for us in specifics, given the problems we face as a nation, as a world today…but we know where to start.

We start with receiving the love Christ has given us, every one of us. We receive from His hands. Then we become His hands for one another. He loves…we love. He serves…we serve.

I don’t have sweeping answers but, after today, I am less confused… and less distracted by all the negative talk and virtue signaling. We don’t have to be led to answers, especially by people who have no interest in what Jesus says and does about injustices. He has given us a way forward…ours is to take that path.

Worship with me…to this song by Twila Paris on the beauty of Christ and the beauty of His church – How Beautiful

How Beautiful the hands that served
The Wine and the Bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

How Beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That choose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He lay down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as He died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How Beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes
How Beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How Beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the Earth
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ*

Photo Credit: QuotesLyfe

*Lyrics to How Beautiful – Twila Paris

YouTube Video – How Beautiful – Twila Paris (talks about the song before she sings it) 1994

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

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. John 20:18

On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 would see him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walking with them, eating with them, teaching them again…as he promised.

He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.

With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!

The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!* – Trevin Wax

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

Oh the joy…the indescribable joy of that reality. He died and yet he lives. We were dead in our sins, and because of him, we have life.

Take the time to read this amazing story yourself. The Gospel writers have all given detailed accounts of the risen Christ (Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-29). The Apostle Paul also wrote about Jesus’ resurrection in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57

Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus is a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed.  This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.

I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and because of his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.

For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19

“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

Holy Week – Day 8: Resurrection Sunday! – Thank you, Mary Fairfield for writing so well, so thoughtfully, and so thoroughly for Christianity.About.com.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

5 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Rose From the Dead – Adam4d

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

**The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People (1994) by Adrian Plass

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

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to Resurrection – Beth Wayland

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

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

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

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

YouTube video with lyrics – Before the Throne of God Above – sung by Selah

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

YouTube Video – Easter Song (Live) – Keith Green – (song starts 2 minutes in)

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

YouTube Video – He’s Alive – Don Francisco

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

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