Category Archives: Worship

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

Worship Wednesday – Spirit Pour Out – Andy and Rachel Graham

And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.Luke 19:41

Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7

The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new.  A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.

After the Civil War (during which Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America), the African-American community began to thrive here. In fact, Jackson Ward, a Richmond neighborhood still today, was once known as “Black Wall Street” and “the Harlem of the South”. Beautiful homes, large churches, successful businesses, and popular entertainment venues were all part of this thriving neighborhood.

Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.

Roads to Nowhere: How Infrastructure Built Built on American Inequality – Johnny Miller

Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:

“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”

The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.

The peoples of cities. Peoples like us, and others not like us but loved. Exquisitely, generously loved by God. We are meant to love as He loves. We are blessed to be a blessing to all peoples.

Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.

Seek Your City’s Good – John Piper

This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.

Worship with me.

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*

Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).

So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper

*Lyrics to Spirit Pour Out – Songwriters: Andy & Rachel Graham

YouTube Video – Spirit Pour Out – Urban Doxology

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) Revisited – Hillsong

[Original blog on this song – after my emergency experience in 2016 – Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong]

Our son Nathan is named for an Old Testament prophet – the prophet who courageously stood before David, the King of Israel, and confronted him with his sin. 2 Samuel 11 gives the staggering account of David forsaking his place in battle and falling into the temptation of wanting something that wasn’t his. A king who had everything he could possibly want…but not Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his own mighty men, where his king should have also been.

We all know the story. David lusted for Bathsheba and had his way with her. When she became pregnant, he called Uriah home, hoping to hide his sin. Loyal Uriah didn’t go into his wife’s bed while his fellow warriors were still at war. Finally, King David, in sinful desperation, had Uriah sent back to battle, to the front lines, to die. Making way for David and Bathsheba to marry and have that child together…as if nothing terribly wrong had happened.

The barrier to all this is the perfect justice of God. God would intervene in this ill-fated situation. Uriah’s death would not go unpunished. David’s adultery would have a terrible cost…

Enter Prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12) who tells the king a story that mirrors David’s own sin against Uriah. He was incensed by the story not seeing himself in it at first. “You are the man,” Nathan boldly confronted him. “You are the man.”

The baby conceived by Bathsheba with David would be born and then become deathly ill. King David prayed, fasted, and laid on the floor in anguish…until the baby died.

David was down for the count. Fully faced his sin and its consequences. Nowhere to go…but to rise for a fresh encounter with his God.

When David saw his servants whispering, he knew that the baby was dead. So he asked them, “Is the baby dead?”

They answered, “Yes, he is dead.”

Then David got up from the floor, washed himself, put lotions on, and changed his clothes. Then he went into the Lord’s house to worship. After that, he went home and asked for something to eat. His servants gave him some food, and he ate.

David’s servants said to him, “Why are you doing this? When the baby was still alive, you fasted and you cried. Now that the baby is dead, you get up and eat food.”

David said, “While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’  But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.”2 Samuel 12:19-23

The account of King David’s sin against Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah, is sobering. David’s sin was deeply personal, against Uriah and Bathsheba, and against God, whom David loved.

Our circumstances and our choices can bring us to dark places sometimes…to low places. Far from God…and yet He never leaves His own. Even when we leave our own senses. David lost Uriah, he lost his baby son, but he didn’t lose God.

How do we get our minds around such a God? A God who is not surprised by our sin and not put off by us at our worst. In fact,God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8) Our sin is costly. Devastating. Yet not without a way forward, because of Jesus.

When we come to the end of ourselves, as David did, we find God.

Hillsong‘s song Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) was written about believer’s baptism, in particular, but it has a larger message.

“In its essence, this song is about rising to the new life Romans 6:4 speaks of as well as acknowledging the submission to Christ’s Lordship that baptism represents. In a broader sense, however, it has become a powerful confession of faith and salvation that has found a place across the life of our church.”Scott Ligertwood

King David submitted again to the lordship of our sovereign God. When we find ourselves in a desperately hard place, whether we made it for ourselves or not, we can rise out of it as we turn our hearts toward God…because of what Jesus did for us.

Worship with me to this beautiful song:

This is my revelation
Christ Jesus crucified
Salvation through repentance
At the cross on which He died

Now hear my absolution
Forgiveness for my sin
And I sink beneath the waters
That Christ was buried in

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I stand a new creation
Baptized in blood and fire
No fear of condemnation
By faith I’m justified

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your lordship
And glorify Your name

Your word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
And on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now i rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now I rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)*

“There will come a day for all of us that we won’t rise any more on this side of eternity…but because of Him, we will rise to be with Him, in Heaven…if we believe. Hallelujah!”Deb Mills Writer

*Lyrics to Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Songwriters: Brooke Ligertwood, Scott Ligertwood

Worship Wednesday – Reflecting on a Funeral – Worshiping God for His Gift of Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.Romans 12:10-11

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.1 Peter 4:10

This week has had its sober moments. A dear dear aunt is failing in health and hospice has been called in. Then this afternoon, we got word that a friend, who had struggled victoriously with cancer for years, has died. Both of these ladies are beautiful believers.

I’m just reminded once more at the great gift of the people God places in our lives… Losing such treasures stokes the fires of faith for me. I don’t understand how people can believe that life is over forever when this life ends… Heaven becomes more and more real as we say goodbyes to such vibrant friends and family who show us how to love like Jesus.

With permission, I want to share a tribute that Dave Lyle, a pastor friend of ours, shared on his Facebook page. His friend, Donnie Goodman, must have been bigger than life. I would have loved knowing him…one day in Heaven, it will happen.

Reflecting on a Funeral, Donnie Goodman, and Where My Life Is Heading

The last couple of days were spent hanging out with family and friends of Donnie. They’re an interesting bunch, often with not a lot in common except for that most important factor- all loved the man. And so we talked, cried, laughed, and hugged. It is just hard to believe he is gone. The funeral and graveside memorial were, like Donnie, strange and wonderful. The casket was embossed with the logo of the Alabama Crimson Tide. He had drumsticks in his hands, and a letter from dad. One of the songs involved a repeating theme about sitting back, reminiscing, and drinking a beer. And at the graveside, final tune, they played Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd– the shorter, 9-minute version. None of it screamed conventional. But for this guy it was OK. I was not a speaker at the service, probably could not if asked. But I had the honor to grieve. I say honor because usually I am too busy trying to help others, trying to give the deceased an appropriate sendoff. But this time I was able to sit back and let it hit me. And that it did, and hard. At the end of the day, I was so very tired. Grieving is not easy. I guess it cannot be. Unexpectedly, unfairly, I lost a great friend. In many ways Donnie was the man I am working to be- kind, smart, full of love, always making time for people, just the most earnest and real of a person. I think, in these and other ways, he reflected my Lord Jesus. I believe the common folks liked to be around Jesus. He had a twinkle in his eye and enjoyed life. My Lord was quick with a smile, and slow to condemn, and ready to forgive. That. too, was Donnie. Now the guy did not walk on water, didn’t even go to church like maybe he should. But he knew how to love people! And in my opinion, the outward sign of a man whose heart is right with God is this amazing characteristic, to love others.

Now I want to talk just a little bit about my response to all this. I will not be the same. Indeed, I do not want to be. For far too long, I have had absolutely too little to do with those amazing people in my life such as Donnie. God has gifted me with the finest of people. But, too often, I have been too busy and too self-focused. These people are precious, but like most things that are valuable on this side of eternity, they can slip from your grasp in the matter of unseen seconds. So it was with my dear friend, Donnie. And I just do not want it to happen again. So my intent is to quit thinking that I live too far away, stop waiting for the other guy to make the first move, stop worrying about rejection, and especially stop thinking I am too busy for anybody. This is because, in reality, life and friends are too special to allow myself to ever again think I am that busy. Of course, if I could talk to Donnie and try to explain, this guy would not let me wallow in pity. He wasn’t much of a philosopher, instead a man of action. He would say forget it, let’s go do something! So, such is what I will try to do- not live with regrets, but instead do something about it.

Likely I will never again hear Freebird or the Alabama Fight Song played at a funeral! Donnie was one of a kind. If someone makes you a better person, indeed he is special. It is your fortune, your honor, to know him. Thank you, Donnie, for being special, nice, easy-going, gifted, just a little weird, a Christian, and the finest of men. My friend.

Dave Lyle

This old song by Michael W. Smith came to mind as I read Dave’s tribute. If you don’t know it…you might enjoy listening, and remembering the great gift of friends in our lives. Thank You, God.

Roll Tide!

Worship Wednesday – the Name and Person of Jesus – Various Artists

Photo Credit: UEChurch

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

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 2:9-11

I didn’t start life in a Christian home. My religious education started sometime after I was 6 or 7. We had not attended church (or any other religious establishment) previously. Neighbors invited us to their church and we finally accepted their invitation.

It was then that I heard the astonishing account of a holy God who made a way for a messed-up people to enter a right relationship with Him. Somehow, as a young child, the idea of trying to be good (especially for my Mom) seemed the right thing. I so wanted to be good for her…but it rarely worked out that way.

To hear of God as one-in-three-persons was a huge concept for me as a child. Yet, it made sense the older I got – God, the Father; God, the Son; God, the Holy Spirit – Especially how Jesus was present with the Father, co-existing from the beginning, before His brief time on earth, participating in the creation of the world and all in it. When Jesus returned to Heaven, after the crucifixion and resurrection, He assured His followers He would leave with them a comforter – this Holy Spirit who was one with God the Father and God the Son.

A Moroccan student of mine raised a fascinating topic in our World Religions class years ago. He said we are all destined to follow the religions of our parents. A lively discussion was borne out of that comment.

My mother, if she was a Christian then, did not guide us toward a faith in God when we were little. As a single parent, working long hours, it was all she could do to keep us fed, with a roof overhead. However, for all of us, those years following, in church and under Biblical teaching, changed our lives.

Maybe if our neighbors had taken us to a mosque or a Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish temple, I would have a different story. All I know, for sure, is this:

What I learned about the one God – the Father, Son, Holy Spirit – three-in-one – I embraced at the age of 9. What Jesus did for me, in complete and perfect unity with the Father and Holy Spirit, transformed my life…from that day on.

He is not the Father of Christianity. He is not the founder of the world’s largest religion. He is not just a legend of a man or a myth.

Jesus came to earth on mission. He came to redeem a sinful people back to God. He provided a sinless ransom for a people who could not save themselves. He was not killed by a Roman court, or the religious authorities, or a fickle mob. He laid His life down for us.

He is God. Worthy of the praise that God alone deserves.

I grew up with great hymns of worship like All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.

When our children came along, we wanted the greatness of God and the love of Jesus to resonate in their hearts and minds. From babyhood onward. We sang them lullabies about Jesus and we worshiped together with songs of truth they could understand and cherish all their lives. [See links below.]

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New – Deb Mills Writer

In more recent years, as the children grew into adulthood, we would sing In Christ Alone and Be Thou My Vision…and so many others.

Today, the music of worshippers continues to change, as does culture…but the object of our worship does not change.

Jesus, the same…yesterday, today, forever. Thank You, God.

Worship God with me in the name of the One who made a way for us to know God and be with Him forever. Choose from any of the songs below or above, or one of your own favorites. The rest of our day can wait a few minutes.

The Power of Your Name – Lincoln Brewster (with Darlene Zschech) – YouTube Video

Jesus Messiah – Chris Tomlin (lyrics) – YouTube Video

Something Happens (When We Call Your Name) – Kurt Carr

King of Glory – Third Day – w/ lyrics – YouTube Video

At Your Name – Phil Wickham, Tim Hughes – w/ lyrics – YouTube Video

Let It Be Jesus – Christy Nockels – w/lyrics – YouTube Video

[Please comment below with one of your own favorite worship songs – from another decade or from right now.]

Name of Jesus Songs – Worship Together

10 Biggest Lies About Yeshua, His Jewishness, and What Some Call ‘Jewish Christianity’

7 Reasons to Praise the Lord – Todd Gaddis

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

Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl

[From the Archives]

Today marks the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 18 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – Singing in the Dark – Hymns, Psalms, and Worship Songs

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Years ago, we would play outside until dark. Especially in summer. I remember those evenings fondly…until the moment we started being called inside. My house was farthest away. Walking that dark street home alone was sometimes scary for this youngster. It was then that I would quote verses of Scripture or sing some hymn chorus or two. That practice would remind me of the nearness and protection of God… even in the dark.

Fast forward to today, and this came across my Twitter feed:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Matt Smethurst

[When you click on the link in the photo credit, you will find numerous comments answering the question. Some humorous, some serious. So many songs listed, old and newer. Some you may not only recognize but that will gladden your own heart.]

There’s probably not a person reading this who hasn’t been comforted by the singing of a hymn or worship song. Alone in the dark. At the dying of a loved one. Or during an unsettling time of another sort.

When my mom was dying, a friend of ours came and sang  Above All just for her. She loved that song and the young man who sang it to her.

So back to that tweet above…We all have cell phones now, and, if need be, can look up any song (if we can remember its title or searchable lyric)…to sing in the dark…To sing over someone we love…or to comfort our own hearts.

How wonderful, though, to have songs tucked away in our hearts and minds. Songs we can recall – to remind us of truth; to recall the Lord of Light; the Lord of our salvation (Psalm 27:1).

A church acquaintance of ours is teaching her children some of the great hymns of old. I heard them (5 y/o and younger) sing recently. The song was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (Solid Rock) written by British pastor Edward Mote in 1834. Loved it!

This is one of those songs that would come to mind when I was a child, singing in the dark, on my way home.

This same song actually also stirs many more memories. One, in particular, was hearing it sung by Filipino teens from a shanty town church group in Surigao City, Philippines. A team of us from the States would spend our summer there with the goal of helping that small congregation have its own church building. The pastor and family would make their home in the loft of the building. It was a long journey for us to get there. Flying into Manila, and then boarding a ship to the island of Mindanao. When we arrived in Surigao, we were transported on a bus to the building site. It was a tiny lot with more tidal pool than land showing. Seeing the seemingly insurmountable task before us, we were encouraged by their singing in English. A song familiar to all of us. Especially as they sang out the chorus: “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

At summer’s end, a church building was standing on that site.

Worship with me, to this great old hymn as true today as then:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
And I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

His oath
His oath, his covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

When he shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!

Yeah, You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
You are rock
You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
Jesus
Yeah, Jesus

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand*

Do you have a playlist for those “singing in the dark” times? What Psalms help? Other Scripture verses that have become your own heart songs? What hymns or worship songs? Please comment below.

*Lyrics to On Christ, the Solid Rock, I Stand – Written by Edward Mote, as sung by Charlie Hall

10 Songs to Play on Repeat to Get Through Fear & Worry

Worship Wednesday – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe

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

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My Name may be there forever. My eyes and My heart will be there for all time. 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 

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

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

As long as Julia lives, I know that daily our names echo in the great halls of Heaven before the God of the universe. When my own mom died, now 17 years ago, a silence sounded in our lives that I had never experienced before. She, like Julia, was a prayer. Mom prayed faithfully for us, her children and grandchildren. She also had hope borne out of prayer for the church and our country. Since Mom died, I am trying to run the race she left for me…praying for those God has lovingly and strategically placed  in my life to lift up to Him.

Photo Credit: Kirtland AFB

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

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

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

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

God doesn’t seem to mind small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). He is also a world-shaking finisher (Philippians 1:6). As I write, our Julia is sitting in her favorite spot, Bible open in her lap, praying. She knows the God who draws her to prayer is at work. One person, one of His daughters, trusting Him with what He lays on her heart.

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

Movement Church has this tiny ministry we call Play ‘n Pray. It’s moms and grandmothers with little ones who come together each week briefly to pray. Our vision is a God-glorifying movement of prayer that will spread through our church, extending into our community, city, and the world. It’s a small beginning but with a great God.

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

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

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

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

Redeem, revive

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

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

With one voice we cry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If My People – Tony Evans

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

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