Category Archives: Gospel

Worship Wednesday – Your Praise Goes On – David Crowder

Photo Credit: Crowder Music; Coghive

…when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. – Revelation 5:9

This time of year we see a lot of red in the stores and jolly bearded fellows. David Crowder is one of those in real life. He is a brilliant and whimsical Christian singer/songwriter. His concerts are joyful and boisterous…unrestrained in the sheer pleasure of worshiping Jesus in the company of other believers.

His last album was in 2021. It was Milk & Honey with the timely and hopeful message of God’s presence and provision for his people in difficult and confusing times.

Photo Credit: Crowder Music

This October, he released the Christmas album Milk & Cookies. Some quirky tracks we’ve come to expect from Crowder, some updated but still nostalgic standards, and some originals that will become worship standards. He delivers both playful and poignant songs and includes some interludes which sound like a monologue you might hear on an old holiday vinyl album. Shades of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Crowder Releases ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’ – Ross Cluver

Photo Credit: KLove, Pinterest

You might want to add Crowder’s album to your Christmas collection. The particular song I’d like to highlight today is “Your Praise Goes On”. Its message is both simple and profound.

Crowder is marveling at the birth of the Savior. He calls our attention to nighttime birth of a baby over 2000 years ago. Born in a stable and placed in a feed trough, that baby was the one “who assembled the earth”.

How could such a humble birth still be heralded all these centuries later?

This was not just any baby. He was the Messiah…our Savior. We will sing praise to His name until the end of time and on into eternity. Hallelujah! Your praise, Lord Jesus, goes on!

Worship with me:

A star in the sky, a Savior is born
Jesus, Messiah has come
What happened that night will ring on forever
‘Til every song has been sung

Your praise goes on never-ending
Your praise goes on, how sweet is that sound
It’s been 2000 years, we’re still singing Your song
Hallelujah
Your praise goes on

The shepherds stood watch and three wise men worshiped
The babe who assembled the earth
What happened that night away in a manger
Changed the whole universe

Your praise goes on never-ending
Your praise goes on, how sweet is that sound
It’s been 2000 years, we’re still singing Your song
Hallelujah
Your praise goes on

To the ends of the earth let it ring out
Every tribe, every tongue come and sing now
Glory to God in the highest
All glory to God in the highest

Your praise goes on never-ending
Your praise goes on, how sweet is that sound
It’s been 2000 years, we’re still singing Your song
Hallelujah
Your praise goes on

Your praise goes on*

[Thanks, David Crowder, for this sweet blending of songs to bless a wide audience and at the same time holding fast to the reason we celebrate.]

*Lyrics to Your Praise Goes On – Songwriters: Ben Glover, David Crowder, Jeff Pardo, Jeff Sojka

Singing the Christmas Story – Shirley Holden Carpenter

Worship Wednesday – Goodness of God – CeCe Winans

Photo Credit: YouTube

One generation will commend Your works to the next, and will proclaim Your mighty acts— the glorious splendor of Your majesty. And I will meditate on Your wondrous works. They will proclaim the power of Your awesome deeds, and I will declare Your greatness.  They will extol the fame of Your abundant goodness and sing joyfully of Your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The LORD is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made.    Psalm 145:4-9

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

Can we take a moment out of this busy day and reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God?

I’d like to stay in the present except for just a few reflections on my life story which is His story of goodness to me. Here we go:

  • Born in a charity ward of a downtown hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Wanted by my mama.
  • One of four children – our lives protected while mom worked while a biological father didn’t nor did he care for us.
  • Following our parents’ divorce, we were unchurched until neighbors invited us to their church. Thankful for God’s protection and pursuit of us.
  • Saved at the age of 9. Discovered the wonder of a loving God.
  • Grew up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord who kept us all together with a working mom and step-dad.
  • Kept from wandering too far from God during college and my 20s.
  • Found favor professionally as a nurse and educator.
  • Came to my senses spiritually before marrying someone not right for me.
  • In my 30s, met and married Dave, a man who loved and reverenced the Lord …and loved me (no small thing).
  • 3 children I never thought I would get to have. A beautiful gift from God.
  • Served in the local church and then in work overseas. Privileged to raise our kids first in Tennessee and then in Africa. Blessing.
  • Have had great grace lavished on us in the losses of people most dear to us through the years.
  • Experiencing the joy of in-law children and grandchildren. Thank You, God.
  • All the goodbyes and hellos of enduring friendships and family relationships near and far – who share a forever future together with the Lord.
  • Healing from cancer and God’s protection in good health in this moment.
  • The opportunity to continue to serve Him in my neighborhood and beyond.

Well…that was a longer look than you probably thought. Me with you.

Now to this moment: listen to yourself breathe. What’s going on right where you are? Whose voices penetrate your hearing? What thoughts come sharply to mind…even as you tune to this moment?

We are never alone with those thoughts. The God of the universe has made His home with us. Each one of us.

Best of all, He loves us. He calls us to Kingdom purposes. Nothing or nobody is insignificant. We are vessels of His glory and His goodness. He is ever faithful. Forever faithful.

Remember He’s not finished. He finished the work to reconcile us to Himself in Jesus…that is done. Yet we can also take hope in this: Whatever He is doing in the world and in our lives right now…He’s not done yet. He has promised His faithfulness to complete what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

Earlier this week, I heard CeCe Winans‘ rendition of Bethel Music‘s Goodness of God. It’s been on repeat in my head ever since.

We spend too much time in the past and the future. We have regrets and we can’t help but believe those regrets will tarnish our future. Stay here in this present moment and rest in the goodness of God. He loves us, Dear Ones. He loves us as only a good God can.

Worship with me:

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hand
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

‘Cause all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God (Hey)

‘Cause all my life You have been faithful
(Oh yes you have)
And all my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I surrender now
I give You everything (Oh Lord)
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Your goodness is running after (Oh yeah)
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after (Oh yeah)
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I surrender now
I give You everything (Everything)
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God
I’m gonna sing

All my life You have been faithful (All of my life You’ve been faithful)
All my life You have been so so good (So good, with every breath)
With every breath that I am able (Every breath I’m able)
I will sing (I’m gonna sing) of the goodness of God
Yes I am
I will sing of the goodness of God
I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God*

*Lyrics to Goodness of God – Songwriters: Brian Mark Johnson, Ben David Fielding, Ed Cash, Jenn Louise Johnson & Jason Ingram

Gospel Singer CeCe Winans Launching First National Tour in Over a Decade – R. O. Read

Worship Wednesday – Habukkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett – Deb Mills

The Story Behind Goodness of God – Joy 99 – featuring songwriter Jenn Johnson – song inspired by God’s goodness in her son’s adoption story

Monday Morning Moment – a Parable of Lost Sons and Their Father

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, Wikipedia

Whatever your faith base is or even if you have none to speak of, the parables of Jesus are magnificent stories that call us to deep thinking about life…and the choices we make.

The parable reflected in Rembrandt’s extraordinary painting above is one such story. In brief, you see a father and his older son (both in red robes) and a younger prodigal son, returning home, repentant.

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt – Wikipedia [read the short and powerful article – a beautiful synopsis of the work.]

“The Parable of the Lost Son” is found in only one of the Gospels – Luke 15:11-32 (the whole of his story is found in the link, within the larger context of Luke 15 – read that here). Jesus was responding to the questioning and contempt of the religious leaders of his day. Their problem with Jesus was the two opposing facts that he was a religious authority himself and yet he took company with sinners.

In Jesus’ response to them, he spoke of loss and our reaction. We go after what is lost, and we rejoice when it is found.

His story tells how a younger son wants his freedom and asks his father for his inheritance. He wanted something that would not normally come to him until his father’s death, but he demanded it still. The father then divided his estate between his two sons. The one left home to spend his wealth on folly, and the other, the older son, stayed, out of duty or love (we don’t really know).

The younger son’s foolishness quickly leads to a wasted, impoverished life. He longs for the life he once knew in his father’s house. He finally “came to his senses”, remembering his good father and how well even the hired workers in his household lived. He determined to return home and ask his father’s forgiveness – not to be restored as his son but in hopes of becoming one of those workers.

Jesus’ story goes on to show the father’s deep and loving character – seeing the son approaching from a distance, he ran to him. Receiving him back to himself, in joyous celebration.

This was part 1 of Jesus’ parable of the lost sons. Part 2 begins here with the older brother. He had been working out in the fields as always, and, returning at day’s end, he hears the noise of a party. When he asked a servant what was going on, he was told the younger brother had returned home and their father had ordered a celebration. Here, we find the other lost son’s response…

…he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him.
But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
” ‘Son,’ [the father] said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” – Luke 15:28-32
Again, we capture the beauty of the father’s character. He loved both sons. He was generous with them both, and he invited both into his merciful love.
Jesus shared this story (as well as the story of the lost coin and lost sheep) with religious leaders who questioned his care for sinners. In a way, these religious ones were much like the older son.
Do you identify with one of these sons? One is reckless and searching – allowing his self-indulgent longings to take him far from home. The other is dutiful and obedient. Accepting the responsibilities of life to shape his character…and his subsequent lack of care for both his father and brother.
[My husband preached a sermon on this story years ago and I am often reminded of his reflection on it – how the elder brother must have thought he was pleasing his father because he stayed at the plow. What if that older brother would have come to the father and said, “Hey, Dad, would it be all right if I go and look for my brother?” If he truly knew the heart of his father, he would have left home, at some point, to search for that lost brother and bring him back to their dad.]
The father in this story is reflective of God. He is home. Whether that is your belief or not, we are place-oriented as humans. What (or who) we regard as home has a huge impact on how we do life.
I take heart in both of these brothers…my life has taken me far from home in both these ways. Wanting popularity and the stuff of this world as well as longing to do what is right and the influence that comes with that. Neither extreme brings us the joy we can have in being known and loved for who we are…and loving others the same.
Henri Nouwen‘s book The Return of the Prodigal Son is a short, winsome engaging of these three men in Jesus’ story.

Here are a few of Nouwen’s observations on Jesus’ story:

“Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home.”
“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
“…the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
“There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home.”
“The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. ..Isn’t it good to be obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, hardworking, and self-sacrificing? And still it seems that my resentments and complaints are mysteriously tied to such praiseworthy attitudes… It seems that wherever my virtuous self is, there also is the resentful complainer.”
“In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. “Rejoice with me,” the shepherd says, “I have found my sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the woman says, “I have found the drachma I lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the father says, “this son of mine was lost and is found.” All these voices are the voices of God.”
In closing, I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section of this blog. What struggle do you have in coming home? Or thinking of yourself as never having left, do you still feel alienated even at home? The best part of this story is that whether we feel more like the older brother or the younger brother, Jesus communicated that we can come home. A loving father is watching for us.
[Below are two sermons that got me thinking again about this great story – one of many Jesus told to those with “ears to hear”.]

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 1 – Sermon by Khiry Cooper – Movement Church RVA – September 18, 2022

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 2 – Sermon by Cliff Jordan – Movement Church RVA – September 25, 2022

Worship Wednesday – Temptation, Where It Leads, and How We Find Our Way – Before the Throne of God Above

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.1 Corinthians 10:13

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.James 4:7

We don’t really talk much about temptation. It’s real, and all. Just not something we want to think about. Because we might miss out on something…even if it’s misery.

“Let us learn more about the power of temptation in order to avoid it.”John Owen

I don’t always resist temptation, but Jesus did. So…if we want to be more like Jesus, that Lover of our Souls, that Saviour who left it all on the cross for us…then we seek to live like Him.

We are not without power to do so. The Holy Spirit indwells us and moves us toward a pure heart, righteous living, sound thinking, and self-less love. When we are tempted to sin…or we are drawn to a desire we aren’t even sure is sin, God has made a way out of that situation or desire so we can endure. [1 Corinthians 10:13]

“Steadfastness in believing doth not exclude all temptations from without. When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.”John Owen

Our struggle is that sometimes we want our way more than God’s way. We want pleasure, vindication, revenge, or the favor of others more than we want our holy God.

“Unwillingness to accept God’s ‘way of escape’ from temptation  frightens me. – What a rebel yet resides within.” – Jim Elliott

Photo Credit: Neil Anderson, Heartlight

Temptation to sin will come, and come again. It’s important for us to recognize it and deal with it with wisdom and restraint. We don’t want our hearts to be hardened by deceit [Hebrews 3:13], thinking it’s ok to sin…What does it hurt really? Or we’ve succumbed to the deceit of not even being sin. We’re saved and safe for eternity, right? Christ’s work on the cross covers us. We’re good to go!

Photo Credit: Charles H. Brent, Heartlight

The thing is God is holy and loving, merciful and just. Who would want to cozy up to temptation which draws us away from Him? Our Jesus is gentle and lowly. He endured every temptation without sin. Because we have the Spirit of God within, we can resist the pride of thinking our way is better and that we can handle what comes at us.

“The first step towards humility was to realise that one is proud…No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When we wrestle with the reality of temptation and its grip on us, we don’t take comfort in our “fire insurance”, treating Christ’s salvation like a ticket into Heaven.

What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? Certainly not!” Romans 6:1-2a

We live in the way He has called us to live – to submit our desires, our very selves, to God and resist the Evil One [James 4:7]. This isn’t by works, but by a mind and heart resolve…because we love Him.

Worship with me to the glorious anthem “Before the Throne of God Above” as sung by Selah:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect Plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upwards I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The King of glory and of grace

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God

*Lyrics to Before the Throne of God Above – Songwriter(s): Charities Lee Smith (1841-1923) and Vikki Cook of Sovereign Grace Music

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above – Kelli Kaufman

Worship Wednesday – “But God” – How Beautiful – Twila Paris

Photo Credit: Zelite

[Adapted from the Archives]

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4-5

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

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.Genesis 50:20

Life is full of consequence. We are often initiators, of either good or evil. People see Christ in us…or something very different…dark even.

News cycles are short, and I’m not going to be specific here, because by next week we will be on to something different. However, I will say this: the church is under fire. When some, in the church, choose to live in ways that show dishonor to Christ or one another, then no wonder. The evil one never tires of working to destroy us, our character, our influence, and our witness.

The good and glorious God we know loves His church. We do not see always ourselves as the radiant Bride for whom Christ died. In fact, we too often find ourselves tarnished by following after the world and “the sin that so easily entangles us”. Still, the Lord waits for us…as we make ourselves ready for that day (Revelation 19:7-8).

How ever we see ourselves now…whatever we must do to stay the course or correct course…God calls us to see as He sees. He sees His church with eyes of love. He knows our frame. He knows the battles. He is with us and will fight those battles for us, as we stay close to Him and side by side with each other.

As for the current news cycle…where the church seems to chase after things not of the Lord or hide behind a facade rather than truth, we have two options: Love and lift it or leave it altogether. The last option is not a long-term option…long eventually becomes forever.

What will it really take for things to get better? What actions can right the wrongs and bridge the divisions? 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 the dark dilemmas of our lives and times.

 

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

We have a beautiful Savior who showed us how to really love each other. Words only (just talking about our differences 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 particular…but we know where to start.

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

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 – [and then scroll down for a quick story at the end] –

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

Someone very dear to us had a medical need recently that would require everything he had in savings and then some. It had already been a challenging year for him, but life happens like that at times. A friend of his with whom he/we attended church years ago had this great idea to do a GoFundMe appeal. The donors who showed up to help him (both on GoFundMe and privately) were so kind and generous. His words: “Very generous and unexpected”. Most were believers. The church he is now most closely associated with also gave a large donation….but GOD. This meant so much for one who could easily have been discouraged by this next hard thing.

How Beautiful!

*Lyrics to How Beautiful – Twila Paris

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

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

But God – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

31 But God Bible Verses – Lisa Appelo – and 32 But the Lord Bible Verses – Lisa Appelo

YouTube Video – Rev. H. B. Charles, Jr. – “But God” – sermon. Don’t miss it!

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

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

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

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. In the early morning, a small group of women who had loved and followed this Jesus, came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 saw 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 all have 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 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 almost 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 LearnReligions.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!

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

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

A dear friend of ours shared with us this message by John Ortberg from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again.

Most of life is Saturday…It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good…Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Garden-Tomb-from-imb.org-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: IMB Resources

Saturday is the “in between day”. Did those who loved Jesus most remember this? Was their grief so consuming, so deafening to His promises, so numbing there was no room for hope? We have the great experience of knowing, for sure, that Sunday is coming!

Today is the waiting day.

We wait like schoolchildren for the final bell.

We wait with tapping foot, huffing breath, rolling eyes.

We wait like a mother for the gushing of birth water.

We wait like branches holding pink petaled secrets.

We wait with tears of frustration or eyes filled with anger.

We wait with tears of joy or eyes wide with wonder.

In the waiting rooms of life, our hope is mixed, our longings more so. But still, we wait. Forgive us for our impatience, Lord. We believe, help our unbelief.

We carry the sorrow of loss even as we hold on to hope of gain. We watch and we wait for your resurrection life. Even though we may not see the evidence, we wait with hope.

Because today is the waiting day. Emily P. Freeman

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb – Mary Fairchild

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

The Day Jesus Stayed Dead – Waiting in the Heartache of Holy Saturday – Gerrit Scott Dawson, Desiring God

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 – So good!!! (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

On This Holy Saturday: Here at the End of All Things (Triduum Series) – Tea with Tolkien

YouTube Video – Jesus Paid It All (lyric video) – Fernando Ortega

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend – with David Wesley

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

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

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but, for so many, Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people.

In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the sinless resolve of the Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge*.]

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

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

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

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

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have the account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refer to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).Photo Credit: Heartlight

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would go into the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who had stolen away during the meal. He would bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden in the dark of night. Jesus prayed there for a long time that evening. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death]pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob, as much as to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow after him). Jesus would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross had begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.