Tag Archives: grace

Worship Wednesday – Our Posture Before a Waiting & Loving Father – with Trevin Wax

Photo Credit: Prodigal Son by Eugene Burnand, article by James Ross Kelly

And Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’Luke 15:11-32

The following is a treasure by writer and researcher Trevin Wax, used with permission. We met only once, but I’ve been learning from him for several years. You are in for a treat – a life-giving infusion of truth, wisdom, and grace.

“Every now and then, a song brings me to tears.

Sometimes it’s an older song that stirs the heart in a new way. I’ve never been able to sing the last verse of Isaac Watts’s hymn, “There Is a Fountain,” because I’m too moved by that image of my “poor lisping, stammering tongue” lying “silent in the grave” before rising again to sing a “nobler, sweeter song” of Christ and his “power to save.”

Songs about the cross and resurrection strike that chord, such as the vision at the end of “O Praise the Name (Anástasis)” of resurrection hope when our gaze will be fixated on the Savior. Andrew Peterson’s “Well Done, Good and Faithful” builds on a Watts hymn and imagines the Father affirming the Son’s sacrificial work; I blubber every Easter season when I hear it. Other songs do the trick too, even simple ones like Steven Curtis Chapman’s “My Redeemer is Faithful and True” or Fernando Ortega’s “Give Me Jesus.”

But for all the times when glorious gospel truth has me fumbling for a Kleenex, there many times when I sing about amazing grace with dry eyes and a lukewarm heart. This has me wondering, What dries up the heart and keeps us from feeling and experiencing the marvelous, matchless grace of God? What keeps the tear ducts blocked?

For starters, there’s the posture of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son: the self-righteous, self-sufficient one who remains “close” to the father, at least in terms of proximity, while his heart is far from home. The consummate rule-follower believes deep down that the only possible reason God would love us is because we’ve done something to deserve salvation.

Photo Credit: Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal, Stanton Lanier

This assumption can manifest itself in many ways, even among those who talk about grace all the time. The self-justifying tendencies of the human heart can lead us to stand on a pedestal of Christian teaching about grace and then look down on others who’ve not arrived at our level of doctrinal understanding or theological precision.

But we cannot weep before the majestic grace of God if we’re still searching for scraps of self-sufficiency. Tears of gratitude will never fall from eyes looking down on others, only from eyes looking up to God’s grace.

But there’s a second posture that keeps us from marveling at the grace of God: the desire to validate ourselves by doing away with sin.

The New Testament’s insistence on our need for redemption humbles us. But redefining sin removes the need for humility, leaving us affirmed in our natural state.

For many today, the problem isn’t the disease of sin, but those who’d diagnose the disease. So, instead of a father running to us with a heart overflowing with forgiveness and healing mercy, we want a father who runs to affirm us and tell us all is well, that what we’ve done either wasn’t that bad or wasn’t bad at all. We want a God to provide a spiritual presence, a transcendent dimension for the life we’ve chosen to live. God becomes the approver of our own self-validation.

This second posture is also rooted in self-righteousness, but it masks itself in false mercy. For some, sin is not that big a deal because God is merciful and it’s his job to forgive. For others, our focus on brokenness and suffering outstrips any notion of sin as transgression or treason against God. God’s mercy and help are there to make us whole, but this “wholeness” must ultimately be defined by every individual.

The first and greatest commandment is “Be true to yourself.” The second is like it: “Affirm whatever self your neighbor decides to be true to.” In this way, we rid ourselves of vice, not through forgiveness, but through redefining vices as virtues, as part of our authentic selves.

And so, the father runs to the repentant son, not to shower him with undeserved grace, but to follow him to the pigsty, where he insists the son’s rebellion was a bold and courageous act of independence, and the diet of pig food is really a feast for the self-actualized.

This posture strips us of the power to weep at grace. Sin is waved, not washed, away. To deny or minimize your sinfulness is to sever the root of gratitude for undeserved favor. Make favor deserved, a reward that showcases your innate worth and value and goodness, and you’ve gutted grace of everything that makes it amazing.

In both cases, whether it’s the elder brother who won’t lower himself to join the feast, or the younger brother who won’t come to his senses because he wants to be “free” to choose the pigsty, self-righteousness blocks tears of gratitude.

Only Jesus gives us grace that meets us in our darkest hour, grace that plumbs the depths of our cavernous hearts, grace that transforms the heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

Undeserved favor strips us of self-righteousness and shows up our paltry attempts at self-validation. Submit to that humble stripping away of all our pride, and then we can bask in the grace that makes us sing louder, shout for joy, and weep with gratitude. That’s the grace we see in the running feet of the father.” – Trevin Wax, Facebook, May 5, 2024

[If you have time, and want to sing praise to God for His great grace, click on any of the song links – old or new.]

Rembrandt’s Prodigal – A Life Lesson – Stanton Lanier

The Story of the Loving Father – William Barclay – James Ross Kelly

Worship Wednesday – For Christ-Followers – It’s Surrender – Not Self-Improvement

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”Matthew 16:24

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

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps. 1 Peter 2:20-21

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, strive to make your calling and election sure. For if you practice these things you will never stumble.2 Peter 1:3-10

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I’m an avid reader of non-fiction. Sometimes, oftentimes, that has included volumes of Christian self-help books. Self-improvement is very much the goal of New Year’s resolutions, and I am still in the thick of those made a few weeks back.

Then, last week, I read a chapter on improvement in Karen Swallow Prior‘s book, The Evangelical Imagination, and it has totally upended my whole understanding of improving my life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Reading Prior’s book (and this chapter, at the moment) is a wake-up call on how we have taken on culture’s trappings, language, and ethics. Weaving them into our faith, as if they belonged. Such that we as Christians are merely improved humans, rather than the new creations God has made us.

Photo Credit: Highlight

The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images & Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis – Karen Swallow Prior

I realize my focus of late has been more self-improvement than sanctification. Why would we want to improve on the self, anyway, since Christ has told us to deny self? It’s not self that I want improved. It’s so much more than that. Sanctification is defined as being set apart. When we come to faith in Christ, we become His, set apart for Himself and for His service. Although we find in Scripture the command to work out our salvation, we must understand that we are not improving on what has already been done for us. Rather, we do what is needful to truly know Christ and to infuse every part of our being with His character. To what end? For His pleasure, for our good, and for the sake of those He places in our lives. For love’s sake.

This kind of work, discipline, habit formation is daily and full of God-shaped challenge. However, the goal is not to improve ourselves, but to become ever more His such that we manifest the very likeness of Christ in our relationships and circumstances. As believers, we aren’t just nice people…we are meant to be warriors on the ready for whatever confronts us or those around us, confident of His power at work in us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

God calls us often to show up as peacemakers, too. To die to self, to refuse to think ill of others, to forgive (over and over at times), and to seek forgiveness when we’ve wronged someone.

Jesus prayed for us to be one with Him and with each other. To extend the fruit of the Spirit He means for the good of those around us. To confront our sin and to put down our idols. Self-improvement is by its nature self-focused…unless…

You Are Set Free from Self-Improvement – Lydia Brownback

Podcast: The False Messages Facing Women Today (Lydia Brownback)

Unless that working out we’re doing is to benefit others, even more than we are benefited. A self-abandonment. We have someone very close to us who has done a huge work in recent months to be as healthy as he can be. In all areas of his life. Some would call that a massive self-improvement effort, but I know him and I know his heart. He has taken a hard look at his life and made some decisions to stretch himself to love God and his family in deeper ways…rather than escaping into self-serving and escape when his daily work is done. Now could he fall into a lesser pursuit of self-improvement? Sure…we all can, but part of his effort is that sorting out of living the life of a new creation with access to the unfathomable grace, love, and power of God.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I’m just at the start of figuring out this whole “dying to self and living to God” process. It’s so easy for me to choose comfort over sacrifice. To choose my preferences over His. How gracious the Lord is! He celebrates our small victories and does not condemn us when we falter. We are His, indwelt by His Spirit, with Christ Jesus interceding for us in the Heavenlies in this very moment.

This life is not a self-improvement journey for us as believers. It is a practicing the ways of Christ life. Immersing ourselves in His Word to know Him at a heart level, spending time with Him and others, believing Him to live His life through us, ruthlessly dealing with sin and deception in our lives, and then practicing (working out our salvation) His ways until they become our ways.

What joy! And freedom we discover in this Jesus life…a freedom and a hope that is only ours through Christ’s presence and power. Fleshing out His character in our frail lives, being made more and more like Him, as we work out our salvation, in truly knowing Him and being transformed into His likeness across our lifespan.

Let me close with the beautiful commentary below from Bibleref.com:

In the previous two verses (2 Peter 1:3-4), Peter summarized the enormous benefit we have received in knowing God through faith in Christ. We have been equipped to follow the example of Jesus’ glory and goodness. We’re not missing anything we need to lead the life He calls us to. More, through faith in Jesus, we have been granted the right to participate, right now, in God’s nature. We can partner with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose on earth. We have been freed from the corruption of sin.

All of that sounds fantastic, but what does it mean for us today? Why does it seem that many Christians are so far away from participating in God’s nature, not living with Christ’s purpose, joy, and love? Why do some continue to live in the sin from whose corruption we’ve supposedly been freed?

This verse gives us a clue. God has given us all we need to live like Jesus, but now we must actually use those gifts. And that means work. Before we had received God’s gift of grace, we lacked both the ability and the desire to live in Jesus’ glory and goodness. Now that we have been empowered to do so, we must “make every effort” to add the following qualities [2 Peter 1:3-10] to, or “alongside,” our faith.

In other words, we must begin to live as if what we believe is really true.

By faith, we came to Christ. Now, with Christ’s power, we must work to add goodness to our faith, and to add knowledge to our goodness. The next two verses (vv. 6 & 7) will explore additional ideas about the chain of traits we as Christians should work to build into our lives.” Bibleref.com

#2. Add to Your Faith Goodness – (2 Peter 1:5-11) – 2 Peter & Jude Bible Studies – Ralph F. Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Practicing the Way website- John Mark Comer

Growth Is Not the Goal: Why We Need Habits of Grace – David Mathis, Desiring God

How Christian Is Self-Improvement – Marshall Segal, Desiring God

Sanctification – Bible Study Tools

The Most Important Cultural Book of the Year (Maybe Even Decade) – Review: ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’ by Carl Trueman – Andrew T. Walker

Worship Wednesday – Broken Things [Beautifully Restored]- Matthew West

Photo Credit: Heartlight

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:4-10

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”1 Corinthians 1:27-29

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”Hebrews 12:2-3

We hear the word broken almost daily – in descriptions of our world, a government, a system. Also on a more personal note: a marriage, a family, a friend. Maybe we’ve even used the word to describe some part of our own selves. Broken doesn’t have to be forever. My parents grew up in the Great Depression’s years of deep poverty. You didn’t throw anything away. Broken could always be fixed. In fact, even when not restored, sometimes broken things could still be used…well enough.

I heard this song, for the first time, today. Broken Things by Matthew West. It got me thinking about my own brokenness. Some things are obvious – weaknesses, timidities, and flaws of all sorts. Other things in my life I’ve probably done a good job of concealing, or deceiving myself that I have.

It doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters is what we do with our brokenness. Those things in our lives we consider broken are not a problem for God. He is a master re-shaper of broken. He turns those parts of us into some beautiful and good and even glorifying to Himself.

Matthew West describes the message behind the song Broken Things:

“We all have brokenness in our lives. Whether it’s a broken dream, a broken relationship, or just a broken piece of ourselves that we carry around. But God uses broken things. That’s what this song is about. It’s a reminder that God doesn’t look for perfection, He looks for a heart that’s willing to be used.

Photo Credit: Quote Addicts

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Thomas Watson

Reflecting on brokenness takes me back to the account of Job’s life and losses. God allowed His faithful servant Job to experience such awful pain and sorrow that few (if any) of us will ever know. So devastated was Job, he was left only with a grief-weary wife and a few friends who taunted more than comforted him. Yet, Job did not turn from God. He cried out to God in his deep confusion, angry at times, grieving, complaining, trying to sort out the reasoning that brought him to the darkness of his life. God did not remove Himself from Job, nor did Job remove himself from God. In fact, God rebuked Job’s friends and told them to seek Job’s prayers for themselves to prevent God’s judgment on them. He also blessed and restored Job. [Job 42]

Some of our brokenness we can understand – consequences of our sin or that of others on us. Brokenness can also seemingly be without reason or justice. Job landed well in God alone. God was always his resting place, his sanctuary. Job knew the answers lay with a loving Father. He did not allow pride, pain, or shame keep him from the Lord. May we follow his example.

May we surrender the broken things of our lives into the hands of a God who won’t shame us for them but will restore us to be used of Him mightily here and to be kept for His kingdom forever.

Where else would we go?

Worship with me in the healing truth of Matthew’s West’s Broken Things:

If grace was a kingdom, I stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes that I’ve made
Oh, but I heard a whisper as Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown”

[Chrous]
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours

[Verse 2]
The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
Oh, it’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose, tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

[Chrous]
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours
I’m all Yours

[Outro]
Grace is a kingdom with gates open wide
There’s a seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside
*

*Lyrics to Broken Things – Songwriters: Matthew West, A.J. Pruis, Jason Houser

What Does the Bible Say About Brokenness? – Got Questions

God Uses Broken People – 4 Reasons God Uses the Weak to Do Amazing Things – Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira

Scorning Its Shame – Adam Moran

Scorning the Shame – The Disciple-Making Parent

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger

Worship Wednesday – On This Ash Wednesday – Scandal of Grace – Hillsong

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Photo Credit: YouTube

[Blog first posted on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent 2023 – as we look toward the Cross of Christ.]

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.Philippians 2:6-8

Hold with me while we work through the concept of scandal involving grace. We usually think of scandal as a negative, to-be-avoided word, but the first definition that popped up is this:

“A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society”

Just a few days ago, I heard the song Scandal of Grace for the first time. The lyrics are striking and so moving. As defined above, what Jesus did for us on the day of his crucifixion was scandalous. He suffered false testimony, public humiliation, torturous treatment, the unimaginable weight of our sin on himself, and the horrific aloneness as God the Father seemed to turn His face away…even for a moment.

The Day God Turned His Face Away – Colin Smith

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, counting down to Easter, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Whether or not we commemorate Ash Wednesday, it is a good day to marvel at the Savior we have in Jesus, and the scandalous grace He showed to us on the cross.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Salt and Light Blog

John Piper describes (in 2 1/2 minutes) this history-shaking act of God – this death of a sinless Savior for us hopeless sinners. Take the time to watch this and wonder with me at the extravagant love of God.

Worship with me:

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

*[Only word I struggle with in this song. Jesus gave His life; it was not taken from Him…What seemed like murder was a shocking, wholly loving, definitive, complete and merciful work of God.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Lyrics to Scandal of Grace – Songwriters:

YouTube Video – Scandal of Grace Song Story (story begins about 1 minute in)

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-Day Lenten Road to Easter – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – A Lenten Devotional by Jim Denison – Deb Mills

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Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Holy Water – We the Kingdom

Photo Credit: Holy Water, We the Kingdom, YouTube

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Absolutely not!Romans 6:15

To be forgiven for wrong-doing is amazing! We know we sin against God and against people, and to experience forgiveness is the most beautiful thing we can ever receive. It’s cause for joyful noise, a humble heart, and great celebration.

We can play down our sin. We can even wrongly feel  justification for our actions…our unforgiveness…at times. However, if we have truly received Christ as Savior and Lord, we see sin differently. We want victory over sin. We want to live out His grace and display His glory.

I love We the Kingdom‘s song Holy Water. It’s a raspy, raw confession of grateful joy at being forgiven. It’s also a call to faith for those who don’t yet know Him.

There is nowhere to go except the Lord God for such forgiveness!

If we lose our joy…if we forget the deadening effect of sin…we can turn it around. In fact, God gives us repentance. It is a gift to each of us…by His power, He will grease the path for us to turn around to return to Him. His grace…always His grace draws us back to Him.

“Repentance is neither a suggestion nor an option. It is mandated by the Lord Almighty. Therefore, we should always be ready to repent and quick to do so. When we sin against God and man, we should be the first one to cast the stone against ourselves. We should find ourselves apologizing to our spouses, friends, and co-workers before they even have a chance to charge us with an offense. In that sense, we should be the greatest critics of ourselves, repenting of our sins not only to those whom we have offended but to all who knew of the offense. In doing so, we will not give our adversary any advantage to divide the body of Christ, for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Can we possibly imagine what might happen if we took God’s command to repent seriously? All of our works are seen by the watching world, and even when our light does not shine so brightly before men and when our works do not cause men to glorify God as they should, in our repentance and forgiveness of one another let us demonstrate to the world that we are followers of Christ by our love. – from The Gift of Repentance – Burk Parsons

Would you worship with me right now, if you can? [Lyrics/music in this link.]

God, I’m on my knees again
God, I’m begging please again
I need You
Oh, I need You
Walking down these desert roads
Water for my thirsty soul
I need You
Oh, I need You

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
Like holy water on my skin, hey!

Dead man walking, slave to sin
I wanna know about being born again
I need You
Oh, God, I need You
So, take me to the riverside
Take me under, baptize
I need You
Oh, God, I need You, oh-oh

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
Like holy water on my skin
On my skin

I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change
I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change
I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change, oh-oh-oh
I don’t wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It’s the only thing that ever really
Makes me wanna change

Your forgiveness
Is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
It’s like holy water
Your forgiveness
Oh, is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips
Like the sound of a symphony to my ears
Oh, it’s like holy water on my skin
Yeah, it’s like holy water on my skin
Oh, it’s like holy water*

*Lyrics to “Holy Water” – Songwriters: Edward Martin Cash, Andrew Bergthold, Franni Cash, Edmond Martin Jr Cash, Scott McTyeire Cash

The Story Behind We the Kingdom’s Song “Holy Water”

I Don’t Wanna Abuse Your Grace – Iain Dick

Worship Wednesday – Overcoming Regret – Mercy – Elevation Worship & Maverick City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9

If You, O LORD, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.  I wait for the LORD; my soul does wait, and in His word I put my hope. – Psalm 130:3-5

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I have not been justified by this; but the One judging me is the Lord.1 Corinthians 4:4

Let’s spend a few minutes looking back. Thinking about regret. We aren’t going to stay there, because God saved us for this present moment, and, beyond this, our glorious future. However, looking back (with righteous intention) can empower us for our lives in the present. Looking back can also grow gratitude for the God who has graciously forgiven us.

Maybe regret isn’t something that plagues you. That is a grace, Dear One. Pastor John Piper says: “A life without regrets is built on a mirage. We have all sinned.” I have never thought much about regret until recent years. Getting older seems to grease the tracks for that.

I have regrets…and it turns out, so do we all. In pondering it this week, I’ve asked several in my life about their regrets. Surprisingly, these conversations revealed things I didn’t know about people I know well…regret exposed tender memories and heartbreak.

Some things we can’t change…but the things we can, then… hallelujah!

Let’s pull our regret out of the dark recesses of our memory, put it on the table, and examine it with the help of the Holy Spirit…and a trusted friend. If we don’t deal with our regret, it is still affecting the freedom we have in Christ and our sense of ourselves and each other.

Let’s do what we need to do with that regret…and get truly free.

Researcher and clinical psychologist Dr. J. Kim Penberthy posted a fascinating and empowering piece on overcoming regret.

Regret is a very real reaction to a disappointing event in your life, a choice you made that can’t be changed, something you said that you can’t take back. It’s one of those feelings you can’t seem to shake, a heavy and intrusive negative emotion that can last for minutes, days, years or even a lifetime.”

Regret mentally references something we did or that we didn’t do (in the spiritual realm: sins of commission and sins of omission).

Penberthy offers a cognitive model for overcoming regret. It involves the acronym “REACH“:

  • Recall the hurt (face it)
  • Empathize (be kind and compassionate)
  • Altruistically offer forgiveness (to oneself)
  • Commit publicly (share it) and
  • Hold on to that forgiveness and stay true to the decision.

Regret Can Be All-Consuming – a Neurobehavioral Scientist Explains How to Overcome It

The Psychology of Regret – Melanie Greenberg

Our tendency is to either bury our regret or burrow into our regret. Either way robs us of 1) what we can learn from it, 2) what we can do to correct or overcome it, and 3) what freedom we can experience, living fully in the present (beyond the conscious/unconscious burden of regret).

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson writes about overcoming regret:

“The process of repair requires us to confront the reality of the wound that has taken place. This includes naming the offense (what someone did or failed to do), acknowledging that it has caused pain to the one offended, and pledging to work to never repeat the behavior. In the language of faith we describe this maneuver of repair as confession and repentance – the act of turning around and going in the opposite direction, not merely feeling regret for having done something wrong.”Curt Thompson, The Anatomy of the Soul

John Piper answers the question “How Should I Handle My Regrets?” in a 10 minute podcast. He reminds us of the Savior we have and the salvation we’ve received…recalling the thief on the cross, being executed because of a regrettable life, and yet, in a moment, repenting and receiving assurance of Paradise with the Lord. Wow!

Piper warns us that our memories are faulty causing us to be either too hard on ourselves…or too easy. Then he calls us both to remember and to forget:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:12-13

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

“Wherever remembering our failures will help us fly to Christ, love Christ, rest in Christ, cherish grace, sing of mercy, serve with zeal, then let’s get on with remembering and regretting…

but…

Wherever remembering begins to paralyze us with the weight of failure and remorse so that we don’t love Christ more or cherish grace more or serve with greater energy, then let us forget and press on by the power of grace for the little time we have left…Press on in faith for the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.”John Piper, Desiring God

Let’s close out as Pastor John calls us to “sing of mercy” with the song below: Mercy.

REACH Forgiveness – Everett Worthington – wonderful resources!

Monday Morning Moment – Living Between Adult Kids and Older Parents

God put us in families. All of us.

God put me in the middle of boys with a mom who loved us completely and a father of whom I have little memory. His relationship with us was not one of outright abuse but neglect and eventual abandonment. When I was five, my exhausted mom divorced this never-working man. She  would later explain that action as simply “just one less mouth to feed”. She soon after came back to faith in Christ and brought us with her (unchurched until then). Our dad had long since disappeared from our lives.

Fast forward to the present: married to a man who deeply loves the Lord and loves us well also. We have three adult children and two added by marriage, and now four precious grandchildren.

All our parents (including a beloved step-dad) are gone except for Dave’s exquisite praying mom.

Sandwiched between adult kids and older parents is where we are, and I’m grateful. In fact, I think about our kids and their littles (and some of you) now in this same season, just a different generation. 

The room is delightfully crowded (not without challenge) with multiple generations – each bringing extended families of their own. So many faces and so many voices.

Every family member (and each of us in that family) has great value to God. His desire for us is to bear  the fruit of His love (Galatians 5:22-23) – making it beautifully tangible to others. He is with us in this.

What if our parents made life hard for us either by trauma or, as adults, by intrusion or neglect? Or what if we find ourselves in awkward places in our adult children’s lives? These “what if’s” make us want to pull ourselves out of obedience to God, as we feel justified by our pain to distance ourselves from some in our family. The ripple effect of pulling away is wide-reaching in a family. Wider than we can imagine.

Even when relationships are healthy, the heavy responsibility of parenting young children puts its strain on our precious adult children. We feel the pull – torn between kiddos and our olders or others (sibling families, too). We also model for next generations what family looks like. How we handle the hard is quite probably how they will handle the hard.

We all choose, consciously or not, from among four ways to engage with or disengage from our families.

  1. Embrace. We can trust God with the families He has given us. We can love them well. We forgive and seek forgiveness. We spend time with each other and attune to how God sees them. We who share adult space try to find the balance of loving each other well without our own preferences getting in the way. The older ones will only be with us for a moment. They have stories and history and lives that matter. Our younger ones also grow up and have their own families and life pressures. We extend ourselves in both directions – up and down.
  2. Debase/Disgrace. Sometimes members of our family wrong us or another beloved family member. We “triangle” talking about them with others, without them being present. Their behavior may warrant our disdain. We are tempted to debase them privately or disgrace them publicly. However, God is not finished with them or they wouldn’t still be here. Wisdom is to take our sorrows to God and appeal for Him to help us love these hard-to-love ones. He is able. It helps to remember we may also be the ones not so easy to love. [I forget that sometimes.]
  3. Replace. We are tempted to completely replace hard family members with friends. Adult friendships are such a gift from God. They fill in empty places in our hearts. They can actually help empower us to love and live like Jesus with these family members. Or they can usurp their place in our lives. Friends, help bolster our resolve, as we choose to “stay in the room” with family members. Let’s be that one who is not going anywhere – that picture of Christ for these.
  4. Give Grace. This is similar to “Embrace” but with God-guided boundaries in place. The Word is full of instruction, like Colossians 3:12-14. Living between olders and youngers, I want to be that one who gives grace both ways. Speaking love often and always. Not judging or applying pressure. We can choose to honor one another, which, in turn, honors God. Giving grace includes giving grace to ourselves.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

 Do I get this wrong? All the time. We are works in progress. God’s door of healing is always open to us.

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, Bent Lily (w/ permission)

[One last pic – my mom, our youngest son, and me sandwiched between them & behind the camera – wishing I could roll back the years to when she was still here. Embrace & give grace. The years rush by.]

Worship Wednesday – Let Revival Come (Revive Me) – People & Songs

Photo Credit: Facebook, Let Revival Come

Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my 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.So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Our perfect God loves His children perfectly. We, on the other hand, are far from perfect. Between our own sin nature, living in a fallen world, with an adversary in the Devil…life can be a challenge.

Yet we are never alone. God gives grace…glorious, complete, specific to our needs.

Our family needed particular grace this week. A surprising altercation (my experience). A hard decision. A week of long days. An unexpected ailment.

Then smack dab in the middle of it all, God’s grace poured down.

A dear acquaintance of ours, Rev. Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and founder of the Refresh Conference was a part of that grace. To begin this year’s Refresh [Online] Conference (always focusing on revival), he invited Rev. Tom Elliff to speak twice this past Sunday at Sherwood.

Tom Elliff is a close friend…many would say that about him because he brings the fragrance of Christ into every conversation and relationship. So loving, joyful, encouraging. Rock solid in his faith in God and in the work God means to finish in His children.

[Husband Dave & Tom Elliff]

On the morning after the hardest night, I found one of Tom’s Refresh sermons online. It was Fresh Surrender (starts at minute 29:28 on this video). In this sermon, he focuses on the Scripture passage 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. It is the Apostle Paul’s testimony of his “thorn in the flesh”. He had prayed for God to remove it, but He didn’t. Then Paul gloriously testifies how God assured that His grace was sufficient for the thorn in Paul’s life. So moved by that experience of God’s love, Paul declared, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

[Watch Tom’s Refresh sermons here and here…whatever you’re going through, you will be encouraged.]

Hardships come into all our lives. When they happen, we are tempted to rail at the pain, to question God, and to seek to remove ourselves from that particular hard.

God calls us to surrender our will to Him…our pain, our problems, our preferences…He gives grace to us, and we give glory to Him…when we surrender ourselves to Him afresh.

This can be where revival starts in our own hearts…and in the church.

A song I never heard before was in the mix of worship songs at this year’s Refresh Conference. It is from the worship collaborative of People and Songs“Let Revival Come” is the cry of our hearts…for our own lives and that of our country right now.

Worship with me (it’s 21:30 minutes into this Sherwood Baptist worship service). Also the People and Songs lyric video is here.

Heavenly Father, I come
Don’t have much to offer,
Holy One
I’m humbled by all that you have done

Even though I walk through the valley,
I don’t have to fear, No-
You have called me from my sorrow to gladness, I have you
What more could I want?

CHORUS:
(So) Raise my faith
a little higher
Set my spirit on fire
Lord, we’re asking You to move

Cause You’re the God of Restoration
The One who gives salvation
Lord, Let revival come, Let revival come

VERSE 2:
You are the God who calms the sea
The same God who healeth me
You are the One who makes me strong

BRIDGE: x4
Revive me
Revive me with the
Joy that You bring
Joy that You bring

CHORUS 2:
(So I) Raise my hands a little higher
Now my spirit’s on fire
Lord, we’re asking You to move

‘Cause You’re the God of Restoration
The One who gives salvation
Lord, Let revival come, Let revival come*

*Lyrics to Let Revival Come – Songwriters: Kevin Jones, Joshua Sherman, Jonathan Frazier, The Emerging Sound Publishers

Let Revival Come – Song Story – Kevin Jones

Worship Wednesday – Taking Heart in the God of Psalm 34 – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: a worship service in Richmond, during recent protests Jared Burwell, Facebook

I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard [him] and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.Psalm 34:1-9
Our city has been rocked with shock and grief in recent weeks. The resulting waves of protests, vandalism, and looting have turned everyone’s attention to the brokenness here and elsewhere.
Some say the church has finally found its voice in this conversation. The church is finally showing up where it should have long ago.
We struggle. All of us. With understanding and a willingness to lean in where there is pain. Whoever caused the pain or was complicit in ignoring pain, we as believers come under the lordship of a God who leans in.
I am still without words (you who read my blogs, thank you. You noticed and I am grateful). Fortunately many more articulate people are writing and speaking about what is going on in our country and how we can respond…as Americans for some, as believers for others.
I want to respond as a believer, and I am listening.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir‘s Psalm 34 really touched my heart this week, and I wanted to share it with you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfW2mkkMTAg&feature=youtu.be
Our church is not very diverse in its congregation, but we have (or maybe want is a better word) a heart for loving all peoples. I am thankful for our leadership for nurturing that. Brooklyn Tabernacle, in New York City, has been multi-cultural for many years…as is its leadership.

The Pastoral Staff of Brooklyn Tabernacle

I think it’s safe to say that right now the church is trying to figure out how to show up for those hurting in our country and around the world. What that will mean in the days ahead…in the years ahead…is yet to be seen. How it turns out will be impacted by how we walk with the God of Psalm 34.

Worship together:

I sought the Lord
And He answered me
And delivered me
From every fear
Those who look on Him
Are radiant
They’ll never be ashamed
They’ll never be ashamed
This poor man cried
And the Lord heard me
And saved me from
My enemies
The Son of God
Surrounds His saints
He will deliver them
He will deliver them
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Oh taste and see
That the Lord is good
Oh blessed is he
Who hides in Him
Oh fear the Lord
Oh all you saints
He’ll give you everything
He’ll give you everything
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever…

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