Category Archives: Gospel

Worship Wednesday – He Will Hold Me Fast – Shane & Shane

Photo Credit: Pinimg

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. – Jude 24–25

I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

In a recent worship service, I heard a song for the first time. He Will Hold Me Fast. The lyrics were written in 1906 by the English hymn-writer Ada Ruth Habershon.

[She is most famous for her 1907 hymn Will the Circle Be Unbroken? – here arranged and performed by Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar].

As the worship team led us in singing the song, I was feverishly writing down the lyrics. So mesmerized by the truth and power of the words, I didn’t want to take the chance I couldn’t find it later online.

In a moment of distraction, I noticed a friend of mine sitting nearby doing exactly the same thing. Our lives are so very different that the question came to me: How are these words touching us both the same?

You see, compared to her, my life is lived in relative comfort and safety. Most of the time, she spends her days in a much more difficult kind of work and situation.

A first responder of sorts. Surrounded by so much need. So much want.

As we both scrambled to write down the lyrics, I was reminded how God doesn’t weigh out our need for Him to determine who gets more of Him. He is completely generous with His love, His care, His provision.

Other friends of ours are in the midst of a life-or-death battle. Their son has been diagnosed with that horrific brain cancer, glioblastoma. We are all praying for him for healing and for his family, grace.

His father wrote this on his Facebook page:

“…The one thing we can be certain of is that He gives us His loving presence, strength, and He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. When we follow our Lord, we are always living in the assurance of an eternity in God’s glorious presence!! When Joshua in the Old Testament was leading Israel into battles which would determine Israel’s future in the Land God promised to them, God promised Joshua in chapter 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Again, in chapter 1:9, God says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
No, He does not zap us in order to punish, or chastise, or test us, but He does promise that whatever happens, if we are following Him, He will be with us in whatever we are going through. He will bring healing of mind, heart, will, or life. His healing sometimes is to deliver us from suffering and to take us home in eternity!. As Paul says in Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” – Sam James, The Making of a Servant

Throughout Scripture, God calls us to remember…Him and how He moves in our circumstances. Our brother Sam is remembering by speaking the Gospel to his own heart and sharing it with all of us.

My friend and I both experienced God’s embrace in that old hymn – updated by songwriter Matthew Merker and performed by Christian duo Shane & Shane.

No matter what comes…He will hold us fast.

Worship with me:

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold, He must hold me fast

Chorus
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast

Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast

Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost, His Promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast

For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied, He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight, when He comes at last

He began a work in me (x2); He’ll complete a work in me (x2)

Song by Shane & Shane

*Lyrics to He Will Hold Me Fast – Songwriters: Ada Habershon & Matthew Merker

YouTube Video – He Will Hold Me Fast – Story Behind the Song – Matt Merker

Jude 24, 25 – The Doxology, All Glory to God! – Dr. John Sparks

Worship Wednesday – Connect the Dots to Christmas – O Magnum Mysterium

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

“Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” –  Galatians 4:4-7, ESV

Christmas. At this time of year, it is everywhere. The folding together of secular and sacred. The parties. The music. The food. Gift-buying, giving, and receiving.

Whatever our take on Christmas…whatever we believe…one thing is clear. No matter how hard some will try to blur the message…even Christians in our own small endeavors to insist on our observances…one thing is clear.

There would be no Christmas apart from the coming of Christ.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, powerfully preached this message during our recent Advent service. After his welcome to the church, he railed for 5 minutes (to make the point) on the tangle of Christmas distractions. The stuff of Christmas that can make us anxious and fearful of not getting it right – for ourselves, our families, and God Himself.

[Here’s the link to the sermon podcast, and here’s the link to the service from Facebook Live.]

Then (hang in there, past that 5 minutes), and Pastor Cliff launches into a beautiful challenge of how we have the privilege of connecting the dots of how the Lord Jesus permeates all that is Christmas.

“What if we just acknowledge and see the joy that everything that happens during the Christmas season is literally a direct or indirect response to one person – the person of Jesus. He is literally the linchpin of all that we get right and all that we get wrong, whether people know it or not. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. There is a ton of joy that we can, at least, just acknowledge…that all of this is literally connected back to Jesus.” – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

He called us to connect the dots of how Jesus is celebrated in the  great lyrics of the Christmas hymns. Even in the holiday programs of schools today – we can take the secular and remember the sacred.

We connect the dots – from the cradle of Christ to the cross…and to the commission He has given us in the culture of our day. Not in weird “Christiany” ways, but lovingly leaning into others’ lives, as Jesus did. Inviting those in our circles into the story of Christ…the story of Christmas…connecting the dots.

Rather than offering a song of worship today, I’d love to suggest a few moments of quiet. Reflecting on the wondrous nature of this season…this world-transforming birth of Jesus. It doesn’t really matter when he was born…it matters that he separated himself from the eternity he has always known to become human, for our sakes. For our sakes.

American composer Morten Lauridsen‘s O Magnum Mysterium is one of my favorite Christmas sound experiences. It is not intrusive. The lyrics in Latin don’t distract. It can be a call to quieten our hearts and to breathe in the great gift of Jesus to a world so in need of him.

YouTube Video – O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen – Kings College

Connecting the Dots at Christmas – Ken Shigematsu

Photo Credit: Todd Carey, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei – Travis & Daughter Lily Cottrell and a Whole Lot of Other People

Photo Credit: YouTube, Travis & Lily Cottrell

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”Philippians 2:5-11

Considering the answer to questions is a part of how we learn, how we set a course toward knowing. We search out in our own minds the answer to a question. If we come up blank, we seek out other resources, those who show mastery, knowledge, or understanding that we lack.

Is there a most important question in life?

I’m posing this as the most important question: What will you do with Jesus?

The weight of evidence that Jesus existed is substantial, unquestionable. In fact, to say he didn’t would require more faith than not, given the historical documentation and his impact on history. Note one reference here.

What we do with this Jesus is partly determined on whether we see him as a man, a prophet, a revolutionary…or God.

During my early childhood years, my family was not religious. There were no rituals, no spiritual conversations, no sense of God or who he was.

I was eight years old before we ever went into a church building. This followed my parents’ divorce, a couple of house moves, and my mom’s remarriage to my sweet step-dad. Lots of ups and downs in there.

A student of mine once told me that he believed children just grow up in the faith of their parents…no personal wrestling of what to believe…or whom to believe in.

My family didn’t have any faith to speak of in those days. When friends invited us to join them in church, it began a journey for my mom, dad, and siblings. For my parents, it was a re-acquainting themselves with God…for me an amazing new discovery.

Everything I have learned about Jesus and know of him through personal experience has enriched my life like nothing else in this world. No human love, no accomplishment, no other adventure can compare with what has come to me through him.

There is no question for me that if there is God, then Jesus is God. It is difficult to wrap the mind around the reality of a triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have to take that by faith, but not a blind faith. The life and teaching of Jesus point to one linked so intimately to the Father, they are one. Thoroughly infused by the Spirit of God. No ordinary man, or woman, could live as he lived, love as he loved, spend himself as he did. He was human and divine… completely…and without sin.

As a child from a broken home, whose biological father’s neglect and disregard continued through our lives until he died…I longed for the love that only God, through Christ Jesus, offered.

He has never disappointed.

Two beautiful songs have been weaved together in today’s Worship Wednesday. The Hillsong Worship song-writer team of Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood gave us What a Beautiful Name – a song that describes something of the beauty of the name of Jesus.

Photo Credit: Phatmass

Singer Songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s Agnus Dei is a huge worship anthem lifting Jesus, the Lamb of God, as worthy of all praise.

What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei has been arranged for choir by singer/songwriter Travis Cottrell. The song features his daughter Lily Cottrell, and a whole lot of other people.

In a world where too often Jesus’ name is used as a derogatory exclamation, my heart is renewed in the company of those whose lives have also been transformed by knowing him…and praying to the Father, in his name. Jesus…God coming so close to us and making a way for us to come close to Him…now and forever.

Let’s worship together…[click on the link; the lyrics are there. By the way: my struggle often with posting Worship Wednesday is the possible distraction from the exquisite truth of Jesus and the Gospel with the emotional beauty of the music and the winsomeness of the singers in the video. May we never settle for the lift our hearts receive in a corporate praise experience…and miss both the rock-solid grounding and ascendant nature of the message of who Jesus is. Hallelujah!]

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So, Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now?

What a wonderful name it is, what a wonderful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a wonderful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus

Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again…

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful name it is, what a powerful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a powerful name it is, nothing can stand against
What a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names
The Name above all names!…

Holy, holy
Are You Lord, God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb
‘Cause You are holy, holy
Are You Lord, God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb!…
You are holy!

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

Photo Credit: UEChurch

Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

Worship Wednesday – The Name and Person of Jesus – Various Artists – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – Do You Know Him By Name? – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – What a Beautiful Name (Lyric Video) – Hillsong Worship

YouTube Video – Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith (w/ lyrics)

Worship Wednesday – Grace Got You – MercyMe featuring John Reuben

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: YouTube

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Grace Got You – Story Behind the Song

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s worship together.

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

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

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

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

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

We must go live to feed the hungry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

This week we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

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

Today I’m reflecting on freedom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Worship Wednesday – Scandal of Grace – Hillsong United

Photo Credit: SlidePlayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should be shouting this to the rooftops!

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

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

More than ever, I hope it shows…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scandal of Grace – Understanding This Changes Everything – SlidePlayer

YouTube Video – Scandal of Grace – Song Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

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

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

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

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

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

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

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

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

Worship Wednesday – God With us – MercyMe

Photo Credit: ASU Now

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.Psalm 96:11

“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,’ His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I become weary of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” – the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:9

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you,” He answered, “If they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”Luke 19:38-40

But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heart.”Acts 4:20

The Scripture speaks over and over again about how God is always present with us. Always present. How do we respond to such a phenomenal truth? The accounts in the Bible resonate our own experiences – we are moved to worship this amazing ever-present God and we are loosed in speaking of His greatness. We can’t but speak.

“He is here. Right now. Fully, completely. He is in you, around you, with you, over you, about you, for you, on time, in the middle of, surrounding you and the ones you love, in complete power, communicating as clearly as any time in history, doing perfectly to you, for you, by you, thinking about you every moment, walking directly into the middle of your worst day, your worst moment, your worst fear, your pain, your loneliness, your doubts, your insecurity, your sickness, your tragedy, your fragileness, your hope, your joy, your peace, your dreams, your relationships, your love, your longing to have your life count. He is here. He is champion and author of every beauty you find yourself longing for. He is the one who stands over you in the darkest hour. He is lifting you up, when you are too exhausted, too devastated, too hopeless, too failed, too compromised, too far gone. He is in this season.” – John Lynch

Immanuel by John Lynch – Mundane Faithfulness

In Genesis 37-50, we marvel at the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph – sold into slavery by his own brothers, wrongly imprisoned, and then… forgotten? No. Not forgotten. Not by God.

Joseph lived as a slave and a prisoner for a total of 13 years. Always faithful to a very present God. Then in a providential, “for such a time as this” moment, the Lord brought him out and he was placed in the highest position of authority under Pharoah. It would be another 9 years before he would see his brothers again, but when he did, he would be able to come to their aid, and that of all the peoples of that day.

We are moved by the God who is always present with us. We are riveted by what we find in the Scriptures about how He works in the smallest details to bring about our good and His glory (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Then we are taken to our knees when we see Him do the same in our lives today.

“God glorifies himself towards the creatures also [in] two ways: (1) by appearing to them, being manifested to their understanding; (2) in communicating himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying the manifestations which he makes of himself. . . . God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. . . . [W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it; his glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.”Jonathan Edwards

We can do nothing less than worship. It is our complete joy to do so. Out of that worship, we understand God and His purposes more, and we rejoice. It becomes a joy to walk with Him wherever He takes us…right?Photo Credit: Media Shout

[We all have times when we feel alone…that no one cares; that we are invisible. Truth is…that is not true no matter how real it feels. Hold on to the “each others” that God brings to you…hold onto Him.]

MercyMe with lead singer/songwriter Bart Millard has delivered two of my favorite contemporary worship songs: I Can Only Imagine and Even If. This song God With Us reminds us of His loving constancy in our lives. It also reveals how it is that we can’t help but lift our voices about Him and raise our hands because of Him. He is with us!

Worship with me.

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release
From the grip of these chains

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

CHORUS
All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel . God with us

My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel . God with us

Lord . You know
Our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
Still You show
A love we cannot afford

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

CHORUS

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
But nevertheless
We lay it at your feet

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
But nevertheless
We lay this at your feet

CHORUS

O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!

     He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.                      –   Psalm 103:1-5, The Message

*Lyrics to God With Us – Songwriters: James Philip Bryson, Nathan Fay Cochran, Barry Earn Graul, Bart Marshall Millard, Michael John Scheuchzer, Robin Troy Shaffer

Story Behind the Song God With Us – Kevin Davis

The Place of Preaching in Worship – John Piper

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

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ash Wednesday and Lent as Means of Grace – Ryan J. Pelton

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

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

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

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

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

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

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

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

Lent Resource Guide – Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax