Category Archives: Worship

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

In today’s context, “woke” is a word  that I may never understand or fully embrace. However, it is concept that compelled me to research it and consider it.

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hop off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Last summer, we traveled to a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

We flew back to Richmond, with those experiences still very fresh in my mind.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish Black man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put on a sport-coat over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many countries, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as a Black person with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

I don’t think that fellow traveler and I would ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through these recent experiences, here are four points of action in this being “woke” as a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized, when possible, doing what we can to lessen injustice. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of those around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

To be “woke” as a believer is to see the world with God’s eyes and His heart and to engage and respond, in the power of His Holy Spirit. Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we ourselves learning from today?

Worship with me today through this beautiful old hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

Worship Wednesday – Lay Down Your Burdens – Come As You Are – Crowder

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens Crowder
[The piece below is adapted from the Archives. Last night, during an online concert thanks to American Awakening, I heard David Crowder sing “Come As You Are”. It was a much-needed reminder that although the world is crying shame and blame, Jesus calls us to come to Him “as we are”. No shame. No blame. He knows we are frail. That sin darkens our hearts, but we can be free of that and walk in the light of His forgiveness and love.
Today…rest a moment. Let us lay down our burdens and rest in Him. Remembering who He is. The battle is His. He calls us to stand in the battle and to love Him and all around us with His love. We stand with the Mightiest; we stand for His truth. We stand for each other. As the concert organizers for last night’s concert promoted: “We are Better Together.” In Him.]
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

The decade of my 20s is littered with the debris of a searching, self-centered life. Even as a follower of Christ, the world drew me like a powerful magnet. I was lured by the arguments of those critical of God, the church, and Christianity. After years of standing one foot in the world and one foot in the church, thanks to God never giving up on us, my thinking finally cleared.

The world’s promises of belonging, significance, and security shattered, but not without sending shards of painful memories and regret deep into my heart. The arguments against God turned hollow, emptied of their logic. Those very arguments denied our own personal responsibility for many of the world’s woes. For a season, believing man over God, my course in life was spiraling away from the very redemptive purposes of God. Even to this day, it can still be a challenge to look away, to believe that God can’t use me for the sake of another. Or He just wouldn’t.

Crowder’s song Come As You Are ministers to my heart at every listening. There is nothing so wonderful in life as God and His love and forgiveness. I can’t look back at that prodigal decade without remorse. Yet, because of God, and the truth of His Word, I can lay all that down (again). There is a verse, recorded by the Old Testament prophet Joel, that always encourages me: [God speaking]: “I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). He has kept that promise in my life, and I am grateful.

How God restored me to Himself was through a couple of friends: one, an older believer, and the other, a close friend, who had survived a similar wilderness wandering, breaking out of it ahead of me. They always come to mind in remembering how God worked in my life back then. David Crowder speaks so clearly about his own journey of restoration:

“As it goes with hypocrisy, judgement, dogmatism, and all the rest of it that Jesus put to death, it’s hard to see in yourself what you readily see in others. And into my cynicism and anger my friend began to dream aloud, “What if church really was like family. What if we pretended the, ‘brother and sister, son and daughter,’ stuff was real. What if relationships were thought to be rare and valuable things. What if it was just a bunch of people that loved each other and were simply trying their best to follow this Jesus we read of in scripture. What if we pretended, the ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ thing was a better way to live…What if we pretended we are all sinners. What if we pretended grace is real. What if the word ‘pretend’ felt less powerful than the word ‘believe’ because we did actually believe. What if…”David Crowder

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 8 - bpnews.net

Rioters throw bricks and bottles at the police on Clarence Road in the Hackney area of London.

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MEXICO CITYÕS HOMELESS Ð IMB missionaries and national believers serving among the masses of Mexico City regularly encounter homelessness, prostitution and substance abuse on city streets. Mexico CityÕs parks and city squares are often scattered with homeless men and women sleeping on sidewalks and park benches. (IMB) PHOTO

The meta-narrative of scripture is about innocence lost, it is about displacement, about things not being right and a search for belonging and home and forgiveness and reconciliation, the tension of death and life, what it means to be alive. The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive. The story sold is rarely that…What if we started believing?”David Crowder

There are those in the world who look at followers of Christ as pretenders. Honestly, there are “church folks” that do more to distract than draw others to God. Then there are those whose lives have truly been transformed. True Christ-followers know how far He has brought them from their broken, burdened selves. This world of ours needs that voice of hope – real hope that comes close, as God came close to us through Jesus. In this global wilderness of ours, He calls us to live small and love large, to extend His love as far as He extended it to us. This is the purpose of God’s church – to love Him and to reflect His glory in a true hands-on witness of His love for all around us.

Worship with me:

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel

Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can’t cure

Come as you are
Fall in His arms, come as you are

There’s joy for the morning, Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.

– Written by David Crowder, Matt Maher, & Ben Glover (Lyrics)

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 9 - bpnews.net

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 7 - bpnews.net

YouTube Video – Crowder – Come As You Are (Lyric Video)

YouTube Video – Come As You Are by Crowder Lyric Video

YouTube Video – Crowder – Come As You Are (Music Video)

YouTube Video – Crowder – Come As You Are (Behind the Scenes)

David Crowder Website – Read the Family History – Riveting and Real

Photo Credits: Crowdermusic.com and BPNews.net

Worship Wednesday – East to West – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Piqsels

Did you ever play that game with your children or grandchildren when you asked, “Do you know how much I love you?” Then you stretched your arms out to the side as wide as you could…stretching, straining, reaching, responding out loud in a big voice, “THIS MUCH!”

One day, they will transfer that memory to the picture of the Cross and the unfathomable love of Jesus.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Lord executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed...The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.Psalm 103:6, 8-14

For a moment, let’s rest in this exquisite truth of who God is and what life is for us with Him.

Rest.

Rest from the punishing news cycle, the pull of need around us, the caught-shortness we feel in this protracted season of COVID. We are going to take our rest in Him right this moment.

Breathe in the love of God we find in Psalm 103. That great Psalm written by our elder brother King David – sinner and saved by the matchless grace of God. David knew what it was to live in sin and regret, and he knew the loving promise of God who cast away his sin “as far as the east is from the west”.

sky,wind direction,west,east,anemometer,weather vane,wal,sheet,metal,iron,stainless,patina,free pictures, free photos, free images, royalty free, free illustrations, public domainPhoto Credit: NeedPix

What a great truth we learn in this Psalm of David! Echoed throughout Scripture and brought to a crescendo in the life, death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read what David says further in the Psalm:

“…from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him, and his righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep his covenant, who remember to observe his precepts.”Psalm 103:17-18

As we play with and pray for our children (or grandchildren), we don’t have to give in to worry about their future. Ours is to stay faithful to a faithful God. He has our grandchildren in His sight… and in His care.

Worship with me to Casting Crowns“East to West”:

Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don’t want to end up where You found me
And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You’ve cast my sin as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before You now as though I’ve never sinned
But today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I start the day, the war begins, endless reminding of my sin
Time and time again Your truth is drowned out by the storm I’m in
Today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I know You’ve washed me white, turned my darkness into light
I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night
I can’t live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals
I’m not holding on to You, but You’re holding on to me
You’re holding on to me

Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don’t have to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
(Just how far, the east is from the west, just how far)
One scarred hand to the other
(You know just how far the east is from the west, just how far)
From one scarred hand to the other*

*Lyrics to “East to West” – Songwriter(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms, from the 2007 album “The Altar and the Door”

Casting Crowns Story Behind the Song East to West

YouTube Video – Matchless Grace of Jesus – Acapeldridge

YouTube Video – Matchless Grace of Jesus – The Cathedrals (a blast from the past)

What Does It Mean That God Has Removed Our Sins From Us “As Far As the East Is From the West” (Psalm 103:12)?

As Far as the East Is From the West – Kitchen Table Devotionals – Rita Macdonald

Worship Wednesday – The Hands and Feet of Christ – “Do Something” – Matthew West

Blog - Do Something

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let’s start right here.

Worship with me to Matthew West‘s Do Something:

Do Something by Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still*

Songwriter: Matthew West (Into the Light album) 2014

*Lyrics: Publishing: Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing / External Combustion Music / Songs for Delaney (ASCAP)

We want to do something, but where to even start in the world all broken around us. After four months of social distancing, I find myself fighting against an odd fatigue…the usual ways of reaching out to others, to serve, to encourage are all disrupted. COVID-19 and the social distancing that comes with it have turned community and ministry on its head.

Yet, the Lord continues to draw near…reminding us to draw near to Him, pointing us to our neighbors near and far, holding Himself to promises that are as constant as He is.

I’ve been thinking lately about muscle memory. Is it possible that as we practice our faith in Christ, no matter the situation, that we develop muscle memory of a sort that keeps us near to God and His mission.  Is it possible to give into a lie? Do the problems we face seem too big for us to do anything about them? Is God still with us, still for us? Of course, He is.

If our faith has taken a hit and we have faltered, we are not done.  So what if the culture around us says what we think or do is insufficient?! God is at work…always at work. We can take both hope and courage in that truth.

If God is at work, then we can do something. Whether a great thing or a small thing made great in love and obedience.

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”Dwight L. Moody

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”Dwight L. Moody

As we pull ourselves out of the doldrums of COVID19, we can lean into a ministry of reconciliation – of serving, as individuals and the church, a world badly broken. I am reminded of 5 things…in these 5 things, we can do something.

1) Be informed. Every day we are slammed with bad news by the media. We are not immune to compassion fatigue and, in fact, can just let the news wash over us, suspicious of what’s true or not. As believers, we must not turn a deaf ear. We must weigh, every day, what is happening in the world, what grieves the heart of God, and what is ours to do about it. So what if we don’t always get it right? We take the news and op-eds, as well as conversations we have with real people, and sift not just the information, but considering (prayerfully) what we are to do as His people. How we answer His call has little to do with the news or social media…but with planting ourselves in the Word. He informs our hearts and infuses our hands and feet with His love and His resolve.

2) Refuse to be silent. – If we are silent, we align ourselves with the persecutors in this world. However, there is a way for Kingdom people to be the voice of the persecuted and oppressed. Language of hate and blame will not glorify God. Will not. We speak love.

3) Pray. Unbelief has to be the worst sin of all. We as Christ-followers resist this temptation, especially in a world so racked with cynicism, lethargy and self-absorption. So pray, believing, dear ones. Every day. Together and alone. Pray.

4) Give. There is so much in the Word of God about giving. Again, the world’s thinking creeps into our decision-making when we don’t give (either through our churches or to relief organizations). “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”1 John 3:17

5) Go. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20

When Jesus gave this Great Commission, He wasn’t just speaking to those within His immediate hearing. He was speaking to the Church through the ages. He means for us to go, in obedience – to our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend. He may also mean for us to go short-term (2 weeks or 2 years) to another part of the world. He may mean for us to take a job with our company or another organization and spend much of our life among the nations. God definitely means for us to go next door…and to those most marginalized in our cities, towns, counties. In obedience. For the lives of the people. For the glory of God.

Send Relief

YouTube video of Story Behind Song Do Something

Matthew West’s & his dad Pastor Joe West’s popwe.org – reaching beyond entertainment – Craft. Share. Live.

5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor – All Pro Dad

9 Ways to Love Your Neighbor In This Pandemic – Justin Whitmel Earley

19 Simple Ways to Love Your Neighbor Right Now – Sheila Dolinger

Worship Wednesday – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – Steffany Gretzinger

Photo Credit: The Cove

But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:14-19

For almost 60 years, Rev. Billy Graham preached to huge throngs of people. Thousands of people would gather nightly in stadiums and convention centers to hear him preach and George Beverly Shea sing. Cliff Barrows would prepare choirs from local churches and lead the singing for the meetings. The whole experience was awe-inspiring – between the powerful preaching of Dr. Graham, the grand musical specials, and the glorious responses of many in attendance every single night.

I grew up with Billy Graham preaching on TV.  Those great meetings were televised from all around the world. Mom and Dad would suspend whatever their plans were when they had the opportunity to watch Dr. Graham preach. Early in our marriage, Dave and I participated in one of these meetings in Hartford, Connecticut.

George Beverly Shea singing “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus” was my first time hearing of that anthem. I sat mesmerized at his voice, for sure, but more at the truth of the lyrics.

No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus was written in 1932 by evangelist Charlie Weigle after his wife told him she was leaving (story and song here).

I haven’t thought of this song in years, until I saw on social media a notice about a song by the same title. It immediately drew me in.

No…it wasn’t the same song actually but one written this year…published in the midst of COVID-19 isolation. Sung by one of its writers, Steffany Gretzinger, this song has so deeply touched my “socially-distancing” heart.

In these troubling days, she reminds us, in this song, that Jesus and His love for us is unchanged. We can rise above whatever circumstances we find ourselves and hold fast to a love that never lets us go. Never. Ever. Lets. Us. Go.

Billy Graham ever faithfully preached about Jesus and His love. Cliff Barrows drew us all into worship as he pulled together choir after choir together – all with one heart, one song. George Beverly Shea sang the sermon before Dr. Graham preached. “No one ever cared for me like Jesus.”

They are all gone now. All with Him. All having their steadfast faith turned to glorious sight. They see Jesus who cared for them like no other.

Beautiful Jesus who pierces through every hatred and every hurt we’ve ever know.

We don’t have the opportunity to hear that old song much any more, but we can bask in the hope and love of this new song…and place our life and love in Him…whatever this strange year 2020 brings.

Worship with me:

If my heart could tell a story
If my life would sing a song
If I have a testimony
If I have anything at all

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
Oh my joy, my joy

Let my children tell their children
Let this be their memory
That all my treasure was in heaven
And You were everything to me

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
I found my joy

I’m still in love
You’re still enough for me
Still all I want
You’re still my everything
I’m still in love
You’re still enough for me
Still all I want
You’re still my everything

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found*

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elisabeth Panrucker

*Lyrics – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – Songwriter(s): Jason Ingram, Steffany Gretzinger, Dante Bowe, Chandler Moore

Jesus’ Love – Bible Reasons

Photo Credit: Jeremy Hunt, Douglass Leadership Institute

Sunday Blessing – The Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

[From the Archives, 2017. Today we are going through a raw and painful season, hopefully that will lead to real change in how we extend love to one another and how we work to heal the hurt in our society. I made very few adjustments in the text…because it is as true today as it was then.]

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, God loves both the black church and our essentially white church, both in the same neighborhood. Oh God, help us – to join together with each other – with those who love God also…and who love this city in a way that can stretch our own love…Maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

Sunday Blessing – The Lord Bless You & Keep You – He Is the Waymaker

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”  – Numbers 6:24-26

This wall art (in English and Arabic) hangs beside the door we use most often, receiving and sending out friends and neighbors. It reminds us of the goodness and faithfulness of God and how He means for us to also be His blessing on others.

In this season of listening and learning from God and many voices crying out over our nation in its time of crisis, I got a notification which moved me to post this. It was a Jesus March in the Bronx, New York. It was an event organized by At the Well Ministries, founded by Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes. As we listen and learn, we are not going to agree on all points. It matters that we hear the heart.

These two women are Christ followers. They are publicly and sacrificially pro-life. They are all about saving the lives of black babies and loving on the women (and men) who find themselves in the rock-and-hard-place of seeking abortion.

This is not what today’s march was about. Today they marched for the police in the Bronx. They marched to raise the name of Jesus over their city and over those in law enforcement there and all around our country.

Watch minutes 25:35 – 35:25 for their prayer for the Bronx police and others…and their praise of a way-making God. [At the very end of that segment you will see Bevelyn and Edmee – beautiful sisters.]

If you would like to sing in prayer and praise, below is a lyrics video of these two beautiful songs – The Blessing and Way Maker:

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

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

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

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]

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

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

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

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going

In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Whatever our politics, whatever our opinions…they don’t matter today. What matters is that we reflect the glory of God in our lives – to extravagantly love those who are hurting all around us. In particular, right now, our black neighbors and our law enforcement officers. May we see God work to bring healing. His purposes are not thwarted.

Worship Wednesday – If I Stand – Rich Mullins

Blog - Rich MullinsPhoto Credit: azquotes.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

In these turbulent days, we are called to take our stand with or against. No middle ground. Seemingly no choice in the matter but with or against. Our culture seeks to define our choices. As believers, we once experienced the drawing of the Holy Spirit in a choosing of a loving Lord. Now we choose every day to shut out the noise that draws us away from Him, and to listen to that still small voice to choose life…to choose love…to choose Him.

This morning I want to focus on those in our lives who reflect this great God to us. Those who’ve gone before and in our lives today. Influencers. Not the ones in our culture who seek to tear down and condemn…but those whose own loving and steadfast hearts remind us of Jesus.

We stand “on the shoulders of giants” (attributed to Isaac Newton, but not original to him, standing on giant shoulders as well). How thankful I am for praying women, Godly teachers, sincere encouragers, true friends, and kind strangers. Among these as well are musicians who wrote and sang about the God they knew.

Worshipping God is something I long to do better. He is worthy of so much more. Fortunately for us, He has given heartsongs to a faithful few songwriters who put words to how we know, or want to know, God. Keith Green was one of those influencers in my life. I actually remember where I was when he died – working on a construction site in Surigao City, Philippines, over 30 years ago.

Another such influencer is…was Rich Mullins. His songs always help me shake off self and soar to worship God. He also died young in 1997. His legacy to us is song after song of gut-honest worship and wonder. He struggled in his own personal brokenness and that of our world. Yet he turned that into praise to a God who created all the beauty of this world for us and lavished His love on us, no matter what. Listen to this worshipper speak truth to you himself:

“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart…It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.”  ― Rich Mullins

“God did not give Joseph any special information about how to get from being the son of a nomad in Palestine to being Pharaoh’s right hand man in Egypt. What He did give Joseph were eleven jealous brothers, the attention of a very loose and vengeful woman, the ability to do the service of interpreting dreams and managing other people’s affairs and the grace to do that faithfully wherever he was.”Rich Mullins

“I had a professor one time… He said, ‘Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway’.”  ― Rich Mullins

“And then he [Job] went to God and wanted to know why the righteous suffer. And Beuchner points out, God never gave him an answer. That God merely gave him Himself. And when Job had encountered the Almighty, the questions lost their power over him. And I think that a lot of us are real interested in some easy answers, and some ‘Wow, if I can, if we can come up with some kind of an easy answer to make life comfortable…’ We’re much more interested in answers than we are in the Truth. And the Truth is always going to be a mystery. It will always be a paradox. It will always be a little beyond our grasp. And if we’re uncomfortable with that, that’s okay, because a little bit of discomfort will keep us moving.” — Rich Mullins

“Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours.”Rich Mullins

Worship this beautiful, loving, just and merciful God with me:

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

CHORUS:
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

CHORUS(2x)

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home.

“Like Thoreau, I love to suck the marrow out of the bones of life.  People want to know God’s will for them. In one of his most explicit statements on the subject, Christ said, ‘I come that you might have life and have it abundantly.’ One day it won’t make any difference how many albums I sold, but I will give account of my life to God. What I think He’ll be most pleased with is to see that we truly lived, that we were the person He created us to be.” Rich Mullins

Please share, in a comment below, someone who has influenced your experience of God because of how he/she knew Him. Thanks.

Blog - Rich Mullins 2Photo Credit: azquotes.com

Film- Ragamuffin – the True Story of Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins’ Biography – Wikipedia.com

*Rich Mullins’ Biography – ChristianMusic.com

YouTube Video – Interview with Sheila Walsh – 16:32 Rich Mullins talks about truth and comfort and then the extraordinary experience of the love of God. Don’t miss this vulnerable and personal look into the God who transformed his life…and music.

Worship Wednesday – You Will Never Stop Fighting For Me – Riley Clemmons

Photo Credit: Mazur, Flickr

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” – Deuteronomy 20:4

“Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” – Deuteronomy 3:22

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have struggled to find voice in recent days. We are bombarded, in recent weeks, by images of violence and hatred, of grief and bewilderment. Unbelievable the unrest in our country right now.

To what ends? Clearly something must happen to prevent further wrongful deaths…we have to figure out how to prompt change without destroying our neighborhoods. Fear is palpable. Fear and anger. Confusion and chaos.

As the church we are called to stand with each other, to show love without bias, to right wrongs, and to reflect the personhood of a holy and just God.

In our current situation, how to do this is not so clear. Even as clear as Scripture is. As clear as the life of Jesus is for us to follow.

Today, though, I have found some words. Hope has stirred. While the rioters burn, loot, vandalize and criticize, real transformative conversations are happening all around…beyond the noise of agitators. The church is listening.

A 60-minute Conversation on Race in America – SBC Executive Committee – Facebook

Our greatest hope comes from this: even though we might have thought being “color-blind” was a way to show love, even though we came late to understand something of the pain that others feel in this country, even though we rejected that we were racist or had “privilege”…God is showing us the way through to a reconciliation with Him and with each other. We may not outright hate people, beautifully made in His image, but indifference and closing our eyes to the pain of others is its own sin for which we need repentance. (Romans 12:3-5, 9-18)

God is faithful. He loves us. He stands up for us. He gives grace when our strength is gone. He forgives. He is for us, and He fights for us.

As we look to Him, we will see each other as He sees us…and we can love and stand with each other, as He does the same with us.

Worship with me to Riley Clemmons‘ anthem of praise to the God who fights for us and stands with us:

I need the kinda love
That can outlast the night
I need the kinda love
That is willing to fight

When the going gets tough
And my strengths not enough
I see You showing up like never before
This battle for my heart
You took on from the start
You are the peace when my mind’s at war
And oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me

In the perfect timing
You make all things right
You paint a silver lining
In this heart of mine

When the going gets tough
And my strength’s not enough
I see You showing up like never before
This battle for my heart
You took on from the start
You are the peace when my mind’s at war
And oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me

Your love
Is winning me over
Your heart
Is pulling me closer
Your love
Is winning me over
Your heart
Is pulling me closer

You will never stop fighting for me
Fighting for me
Every word is a promise You keep, oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me*

Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance–and this is from God. Philippians 1:27-28

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus John 13:35

*Story Behind the Song Fighting for Me – NewReleaseToday – Kevin Davis

YouTube Video – Riley Clemmons – Fighting For Me – Piano Version

When Life Is Hard: 9 Reminders That “The Lord Fights For You” – Debbie McDaniel