Tag Archives: Jesus

Worship Wednesday – Celebrating the Giver and Sustainer of Life – Life Song – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Bible Study Tools

Every four years, my birthday and the US Presidential Inauguration are celebrated on the same day. This year was one of those years.

Now, my birthday was one of the big ones, drawing a lot of exclamations from friends when they find out which one. So that either says I look or act younger than my age, or I’m way older than they thought. I’m wondering at my age, as well.

Not so much that this birthday isn’t getting celebrated – like a rock star! Bring on the flowers, the cake, and the meetups [COVID-altered but undaunted]. Yay, for birthdays.

Peaceful transfers of presidential power are also worthy of huge celebrations. It is the American way, and it’s happening again.

We may have mixed feelings about birthdays…and even about inaugurations. If we raise our gaze just a little higher, we can thrill to what is going on in the spiritual realm.

Whatever we might think about life right now…us getting older, or times getting stranger…we can take heart.

Perhaps we were born for just such a time as this. [Esther 4:14b]

Photo Credit: Salvation Army

God is not surprised, nor is He hindered in giving life or sustaining life. Certainly, He is able to equip us and keep us on track – in the works He has given each of us from the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10).

Isn’t that astounding?! For us, yes; for Him, no.Photo Credit: Daily Verses

I take great comfort in the passage in John 10 above. Nothing can snatch us out of His hands. Nothing. No one. Forever we are His.

In thinking about birthdays and inaugurations, we celebrate the God who gives us life and sustains us through it.

Facing a new decade of life, I look up. To the God who keeps His promises…who gives us life day to day straight on to eternity…and sustains His children through it all.

As for the Inauguration and a new US President…we are not saved by any political party or president, we are saved by a King. With a forever kingdom…and it stands in beauty and power and glory.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

I love Gill’s Commentary on this great God being a consuming fire: “…here it is our God, our covenant God, our God in Christ; not that he is so to the saints, or to them that are in Christ: he is indeed as a wall of fire in his providences, to protect and defend them, and as fire in his word to enlighten and warm them, to guide and direct them, but not a consuming fire to them; this he is to their enemies, who are as thorns, and briers, and stubble before him.”

Oh that our lives bring a smile to the face of our Creator and Sustainer God! [As the picture the Casting Crowns‘ song paints below].

May we take birthdays and inaugurations in stride, and in the context of a larger Kingdom…and a God who is very much in control.

Worship with me:

Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight

May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You

Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be Your hands and feet

So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You

*Lyrics to Life Song – Casting Crowns – Songwriter: John Mark Hall

Behind the Song: Casting Crowns Shares the Heart Behind Their Hit Song “Lifesong” – Abby Young

Worship Wednesday – Revolutionary Kindness – Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:4-5, 8

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:43-45

Writer’s block. I have wanted to say so much…cry out against all the wrong in our world…in our country. Cry out against the hatred, the vitriol, the division. The Lord has shut my mouth and is in the process of stilling my heart. You see, I have struggled with all the same stuff that I want to cry out against in others. Sin has shaken my own heart…praise God for a Savior.
Why are we shocked in our country when the same kinds of trauma the rest of the world experiences we are experiencing now? Our outrage speaks to the content of our hearts. “We deserve better”. “We will not tolerate this”. “We will silence our enemies”. “We will put you in your place”.
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs. We may want to block or cancel the words or actions of others. Yet, we are confronted ourselves by the truth that we were all once the enemies of God…yet He forgave us. Do we presume that our indignation is more righteous than His? Do we consider our being wronged as more needful of judgment than His own? God have mercy!
I haven’t been able to write for a couple of weeks. That time has been spent in thinking, in conversation, in the Word, and in prayer. Sometimes also just in the mundane of daily work. What is the response of the believer toward our perceived enemies …toward those from whom we feel persecution? Or toward whom we are tempted to feel hate?

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

Only love. Spoken and acted out in kindness and mercy.

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that? Do we hold tighter to our stones? Do we give lip service to “forgiving” but everything in our actions and attitudes tells a different story?

How thankful we can be to a God who is all-wise and all-loving! He understands us completely. He walked among us, in the sandals of the incarnate Christ. He experienced hatred and persecution, even to His last breath on this earth. Yet…He forgave, He loved, He administered the greatest kindness possible – His life for ours.

In His loving mercy, He has taught us how to live in this life. Whether things are going our way or not, it matters so little.

We are to love. We are to forgive. We are to keep our own hearts from sinning against another. We are to remember that we and our neighbor (enemy or friend) are both made in the image of God. We are not to forget our own bent toward sin…the very sin that caused Jesus to take the cross upon Himself…for us. Not just for another.

When we lie down at night and struggle to quiet our thoughts, the Lord gives counsel, if we will listen. We aren’t to put our trust in a government but in God. We aren’t to put our own preferences over persons. God calls us to remember whose we are. He is at work in our hearts, in that of our neighbors (and enemies), and in the nations.

We can join Him…through a revolutionary sort of kindness.

I’ve just recently discovered the writing of Lois Tverberg. She teaches the Scripture in context, meaning within the culture of the world in which it was written. We might think Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies is hard. Yet, if we recall our own struggle with sin and how neighbors and enemies are not so different from us, we can access the grace of God to love…and show kindness.

Loving Your Neighbor, Who Is Like You – Lois Tverberg

Instead of striving to be right…what if we strove to be kind – loving, serving, and praying for those our flesh cries out to hate? This is the way of Jesus.

Josh Wilson (with a team of other songwriters) gave us the song “Revolutionary” in October 2019, having no idea what 2020 or 2021 would hold. It was a prophetic call to the church to love…all.

“It seems natural, almost effortless, to focus on our differences with others rather than our similarities. Drawing attention to those differences keeps us glued to the news and social media because of the moral outrage we feel towards the “other.” I think there’s a better way though, and that’s the way of empathy and understanding, the way of kindness….No matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, deep down I know that we are not as different as we are led to believe. There is peace to be made, there are names to be learned, meals to be had, chasms to be crossed, and it all starts with kindness.”Josh Wilson

Worship with me.

Maybe you’re not like me
Maybe we don’t agree
Maybe that doesn’t mean
We gotta be enemies
Maybe we just get brave
Take a big leap of faith
Call a truce so me and you
Can find a better way
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
I’m turning the TV down
Drowning their voices out
‘Cause I believe that you and me
Can find some common ground
See maybe I’m not like you
But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes
If it means I might see
The world the way you do
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
What would Jesus do
He would love first
He would love first, hmm
What would Jesus do
He would love first
Yeah, He would love first
So we should love first
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
God help us get revolutionary*
“‘Revolutionary’ is all about kindness,” shares Josh Wilson. “I believe that kindness matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the negativity we see in the world and on the news, and this song is a reminder that we are called to more than that. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us. I am so encouraged by the acts of kindness I’ve seen recently, even amidst a worldwide pandemic, even in an election year. In many ways, our struggles are actually bringing us together. We’re learning that we all have a lot more in common than we thought, and it’s beautiful to see the ways people are serving each other. The lyrics are a prayer for God, through us, to start a revolution of kindness. Will you join us?”Josh Wilson

Postscript:

Josh Wilson also wrote “Dream Small” which I covered here. He capturing how God has wrapped all commands into two – for our good and to the glory of our magnificent God:
Love God
Love others.
“Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers.”

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – God’s Perfect Peace – Like a River Glorious by Frances Havergal

Photo Credit: Heartlight

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. –  Isaiah 26:3

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  – Jesus – John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7

Are you ever just exhausted from apprehension? Or a sense of foreboding…questioning whether things can ever be right?

I know…pretty dark for a Wednesday Worship…

But God!!!

A downward spiral can be flipped by the one act of fixing our eyes on God. Everything just looks different through that lens.

Fortunately, maybe it is not just different, but actually real. When we keep our eyes on God, we experience life as He intended.

The pain may still be there. The uncertainty. However…with God, peace comes to our hearts and minds. With peace, we can endure.

…Knowing God is not at all perplexed by our situation. His purposes are never thwarted. He is working all things for our good and His glory.

We have an embroidered English-Arabic blessing on the family room wall, by the door going outside. It reminds us of God’s peace and provision as we go out into the world every day.

God’s got us. No matter the circumstances.

This year has made me tired. This COVID 2020. At the same time, when the Spirit of God draws my attention to the Lord, rest comes. Peace comes.

I’m actually looking forward to 2021, not for a return to normal (whatever that would even look like after what we have all been through this year). My anticipation comes from a change in my attitude.

God is at work. He is moving in America…and in our world. What we can’t see, we will take by faith. The reward of such faith is His nearness to us and all that comes with that.

Worship the God of all peace…perfect peace. Sing with me this great old hymn (1876) by Frances Havergal, sung by George Beverly Shea.

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way.

Refrain
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Refrain

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
Refrain*

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus – John 16:33

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song Like a River Glorious – Songwriter: Frances Havergal

YouTube Video – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Forrest) – the great hymn of resistance written by Martin Luther

YouTube Video – The Church’s One Foundation (Dan Forrest) – Premiere at Duke Chapel – great old hymn – seeing so many people packed in one church was startling after so many months of COVID restrictions

Perfect Peace – David Guzik

How to Find God’s Perfect Peace – Nan Jones

God’s Perfect Peace – Tom Walker

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, Reading, Moving On or Staying In Relationship, Recycling, and Home for the Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! For some, you may understand Christmas as just a fun, family-oriented holiday. It is so much more than that for many of us. Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah – the only son of almighty God. Christmas is huge for those who have experienced God coming close to humanity. Coming close to us in a sinless life, laid down in love for us. If you don’t know Jesus, consider getting to know Him, rather than just making the assumption you do. It (He) might change your life. He did mine.

1) Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – It’s looking somewhat different this year, but the things we hold dearest can still be celebrated.

  • Grandchildren  – bringing joy and wonder into every experience. Super sweet to have their parents around as well.
  • Friends and neighbors who make life fun are not deterred by the need to physically distance.
  • Baking goodies and playing games – still happening. Our grands are big enough that this year we played a new game. “Bring Baby Jesus Home” – we gathered the Jesus figures from all the nativities (I have a collection), and our littles (with help from their parents) “raced” to return them to the proper nativity.

  • Candlelight Christmas Eve Service – Every year at Movement Church, we have this lovely service. The worship center is normally packed with families and friends gathered for Christmas. We sing carols and light the last Advent candle. Then Pastor Cliff brings a Christmas devotional. Finally, we light our candles, passing the light from person to person. So thankful that we still had this worshipful time this week…albeit not quite together. Thanks, you who made it happen.

2) Reading – My husband asked for books for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, he lost his collection of Chronicles of Narnia.

He’s already reading it this afternoon.

The British author of Chronicles, C. S. Lewis, had this to say about reading:Photo Credit: RelicsWorld

“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves…Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”C. S. Lewis

Words: “We Seek an Enlargement of Our Being” – C. S. Lewis

What are you reading these days? Please comment below.

3) Moving On or Staying In Relationship – Holidays can be especially hard when we find ourselves in tough places with family or in a marriage. One writer and marriage counselor who has been instrumental in our married life is Gary L. Thomas. The book we always recommend to folks struggling in marriage is his: Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Marriage and family rifts are the deepest heartache in life. The ripple effect is wide. Now, there are times, we find ourselves in this situations…not wanting it to be so. Thomas is very candid about these issues. Candid and kind.

He talks a lot about the life-altering decision of leaving a marriage. I was touched at how he described the losses that come at us blind when we divorce. All the history…gone. [Now maybe you hope it will be gone…I can understand that in abuse, for sure.] My mom and dad divorced when I wasn’t quite 6 years old. It was not amicable. In fact, I saw my dad once after that, and never again. I wrote letters to him for 20 years (at his last known address…never got a letter back so I figured he got them). At the birth of his first grandchild, when he didn’t respond even to that announcement, I stopped writing.

Anyway…I have dear friends separated from each other and family members deeply hurt with each other…so I listen, write, and pray…

Below, you’ll find some of what Dr. Thomas has said about marriage and the relationships attached to them.

“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.”
Gary L. Thomas, A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”  – Gary Thomas
“Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in. Biblical love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved—none of us deserves Christ’s sacrifice—but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).” – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?
“Just when we are most eager to make ourselves understood, we must strive to understand. Just when we seek to air our grievances, we must labor to comprehend an other’s hurt. Just when we want to point out the fallacies and abusive behavior of someone else, we must ruthlessly evaluate our own offensive attitudes and behaviors.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

 

4) Recycling – OK, here’s a question. Do you know anyone who works in a recycling plant? Now, I’m not talking about the very kind drivers of the big trucks that pick up our recycling every other week. I’m talking about someone who works, at any level, in the recycling industry. I haven’t. Yet, we have been recycling for a very long time, thinking we were helping the environment…doing what we could.

What if our recycling is ending up in landfills…if not our own but those in another country, China, for example?

The other side of our sacred holiday of Christmas is its full-out consumerism. We buy a lot of merchandise this time of year (less this year because of COVID). All kinds of stuff to give those we love. Besides the commercial packaging of said stuff, we also love to wrap or bag it in festive ways. It’s a heavy week for generating and processing recycling.

Now, like many of you, I love to reuse or repurpose things when possible. Especially, now, that I’m looking at the possibility that recycling may not be offsetting my use of materials. Not sure, but am becoming more suspicious.

So, more than ever, I am reusing whatever gift bags, bows, and boxes are left at my house after Christmas. This isn’t new around here. You can see in the image below a bag with a cut-out angel and a bag with a handsome young man‘s picture on it. We’ve had those bags since these two kids of ours were in high school. Now they are many years married and parents. It’s a small thing, but we’re rocking at the reusing aspect of recycling. How about you? I’m also still putting the recycling bin on the curb next time our neighborhood recycling truck comes around. I will keep believing…for now.

5) Home for the Holidays – Who is your “home for the holidays” person? Several in our family fit the bill, but this COVID year, the one in particular for us is our youngest son. Last night, he spent the night in his own bed at our house for the first time in over 9 months. He is a front-line worker and has his own place. Because of his situation and mine (being more at-risk), we have only visited more from a distance since mid-March. Some back-yard barbecues, and an occasional family dinner. He is so kind about wearing his mask except for eating. We miss him. This Christmas, we decided it would be really good to have him home. So…here’s our youngest, and our joy is full…he’s home. Hope you are able to connect with that person of yours…if not at home, then in as real a way as our modern lives allow.

__________________________________________________________________________

Be safe out there and enjoy the moments that make Christmas the best it’s meant to be.

Bonuses:

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.* – Christina Rossetti

The Remarkable Woman Behind “In the Bleak Midwinter” – Karen Swallow Prior

Who knew?! The Babylon Bee has a book out. Ever #TongueInCheek

Thankful for organizations who give us paths, all year but especially during the holidays, to give to those in need. Movement Food Drive:

The Christmas Star – the Great Conjunction – Facebook – Best image

Andrea Bocelli Sings ‘Silent Night’ in an Empty Cave, in Haunting Duet with His Own Echo

Worship Wednesday – The Hope of Christmas – Matthew West

Photo Credit: Harriet Long, Facebook

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice; let your ears be attentive to my cry for help.

I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in his word.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning—
more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.Psalm 130:1-2, 5-7

Writer Ann Voskamp talks about Advent and the healing hope we have in Christ.

“I thought I lost hope when life tore a hole in my back pocket of my heart, and my creased and worn-out hope fell out when the bottom of things fell out — you know: when the door clicked close for the last time.  When that email landed and kicked hard right in the gut.  When the doctor shook his head slow and the room kinda spun, when too many mattering things felt impossibly wrecked, and it’s your life that can feel sorta totaled, and how do you keep going on hoping — when it’s the important parts of your life that are write offs?

But who knew that folded and creased Hope unfolds into wings?

Turns out: You can think you’ve lost hope, or you can try to shield yourself from it, abandon it, mock it, guard against it or try to trash it.

But hope is a rising thing and flies to you.

No matter where you are — in the unknown and unfamiliar — Hope is like a homing pigeon that knows how to find its way back home to you. Because Hope has an inner map and will always wing its way back to you.” – Ann Voskamp

Hard to Keep Hoping? The Secret to Finding a Way Forward – Ann Voskamp

Worship with me, considering the truth of singer songwriter Matthew West’s The Hope of Christmas.

Take me back to eight years old
The little church on a dead-end road
With a candle flicker in one hand and dad’s hand in the other
Take me back to Silent Night
My heart was full and the world was right
Cause right now the world looks nothing like those innocent Decembers
These days peace on earth is hard to find
And I need you to remind me one more time

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

Watch the snowflakes falling down
Like a blanket on this town
For a moment we can hardly see the pain this year has brought us
May the sick find healing’s touch
May hatred’s fight be won with love
And may every heart make room for you the One who came to save us

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

I bowed my head to pray tonight
Felt my little girl by my side
She slipped her tiny hand in mine
And we both talked to You
And it took me back to eight years old
My daddy’s hand and a story told
About Heaven’s love in a manger low
And a promise that’s still true

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart*

Put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.” – Psalm 130:7

*Lyrics to The Hope of Christmas – Songwriter: Matthew West

Worship Wednesday – When Earnestly Wrong – Behold! – Plumb

[A theme “Behold” – See! – continues this month in Worship Wednesday – last week’s blog Behold Him is found here.]

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” – Jesus – Matthew 5:43-44

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus – John 13:34-15

This week I oddly became the target of some Twitter hate, related to my politics and a comment I had made. It was nothing – social media stone-throwing doesn’t usually have an effect if you have nothing to lose. Plenty of folks reacted in my defense, but when the last person commented (to me) that what I expressed was “shameful” – and she was also a Christ-follower, I finally had to respond: “You don’t know me”.

With the greatest of earnestness, was I wrong? Was she?

How do we respond to each other when what we think or believe is contested? What goes on in our hearts when our reputation seems at stake? How do we process a situation when what we were longing for…what we had hoped would happen…didn’t. Do we throw in the towel on relationships that get complicated, or even hurtful, because we don’t want to do the work of reconciling them…or nurturing them back to health. Do we want our way more than God’s?

Could we be earnestly wrong about such things?

The Jews of Jesus’ day were earnestly wrong about the coming Messiah. Oh, not that they weren’t looking for him…but he was supposed to be a “conquering king on a white horse, not the suffering servant…. Should they have known about the Messiah coming first as a baby?”

Yes. The Scriptures are full of prophecies and promises about the Messiah…There would be those who received Jesus…and through the ages there will be…as Himself, not as we wish he would be…our own made-up messiah.

When we want something that doesn’t go the way we think it should, something dark can happen in our hearts. Something dark that we then take out on others…even on God Himself.

The real Jesus calls us to trust him even in the darkness of our current circumstances. He calls us to love when we would rather hate. He calls us to speak and live in the truth, when we would rather just give the perception of doing so, without the reality displayed in our lives.

Whether my Twitter foe knew me or not…God knows me…and loves me…and wants what’s better for me than even I want for myself. When I stated to her, “You don’t know me”, my own self-protective heart was exposed. She didn’t know me…did she see Jesus in me?

Singer, songwriter Plumb talks about Advent being the season of anticipation. When we set our hearts on who God is, who we are as His image-bearers, and whatever His purposes might be, we can look forward with joy…for the coming of Christ. This Christmas. This coming year. Into every circumstance and every relationship.

“We in our own lives anticipate things coming or happening and sometimes they don’t happen or they don’t come in such a way that we thought or we expect or we wanted. We can still trust in the same God who knew what we needed then in a Baby. He knows what we need now in our own lives, no matter what. Behold, He has come, and He knows exactly what we need, and we can trust Him.”Plumb

Worship with me to Plumb’s Christmas worship song “Behold”.

Years of silence
Waiting on a king
They thought they knew who you would be
A soldier, fearless and strong
A warrior, but they were wrong

In the darkest night
Came brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

So we pray
We ask and seek
When the answers don’t come easily
And when they’re not what we expect
Help us to trust you even then

In our darkest night
Be the brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

Unlikely Joy
Anticipated hope
Give us your peace
Undeserved love
Such relentless grace
You are our king

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world*

As we count down to Christmas and to the end of 2020, a hard year (harder for some of us than we ever thought), we have an opportunity to examine our own hearts. Have we been earnestly wrong in dealing with a situation? Have we taken our own counsel about a relationship and not God’s (the Scripture is bursting with His great wisdom)? Has our resoluteness in our own rightness (in politics, or any other stand) jammed a wedge between us and someone He also loves? If so, there can be forgiveness…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:5-8

“Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee.”

*Lyrics: Behold – Songwriters: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (Plumb), Christa Wells, and Jerrod Morris

YouTube Video – The Story Behind the Song “Behold” – Plumb

Isaiah 43:19 Commentaries

Advent and Christmas Music in the Midst of COVID-19 – Diana Sanchez-Bushong – includes the program of a Service of Lessons and Carols

Worship Wednesday – The Bruised Reed – Abigail Miller

Photo Credit: Myfriso, Pixabay

“Here is My servant!

I have made Him strong.
He is My chosen one; I am pleased with Him.
I have given Him My Spirit,
and He will bring justice to the nations.
He won’t shout or yell or call out in the streets.
He won’t break off a bent [bruised] reed or put out a dying flame,
but He will make sure that justice is done.
He won’t quit or give up until He brings justice
everywhere on earth,
and people in foreign nations long for His teaching.”Isaiah 42:1-4, CE

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break – Sam Allberry – for Desiring God

We wake, this morning, to the news we don’t have a clear outcome for our Presidential election.

I was walking recently with a friend of mine in a Civil War battlefield park. The irony wasn’t lost on us as we talked about our country’s troubled situation. COVID-19. Harshly divided in our politics. Racial unrest. Rioting and looting in the streets of our cities.

As we finished our walk, we prayed. Looking out over a field where fellow countrymen fought and died, we cried out for our country.

With her permission, I captured some of her prayer below. It moved my heart so…absolutely positive it moved the heart of God as well.

“Lord, we are a bent country. Smoldering…we stand in the power and protection of Your righteous right hand…We’ve seen you move the heart of kings…You can change hearts today as You have through the centuries. You love Your children…please Father, make our country’s bent straight.”

We hear so often how our news media is broken, the family is broken, our country is broken. No, not broken. I refuse that…not just me, but God’ Word gives testament.

We are bent and He will not allow for us to be broken. Our wick may be flickering, but He will not let it go out. He will bring justice.

Now, I’m no prophet. Only God knows what will happen in decades ahead with our country or yours…but this is sure: God is in the mix. He is strong and He is good. He will carry His children through it all. Hallelujah!

I came across this songwriter Abigail Miller whose song The Bruised Reed fits this reality so well.

Worship with me (she begins singing 1 minute in):

Crushed, shaken by wind,
Darkened within
Staggered by sin,
I was afraid.
Bruised, covered with shame
Until He came,
Calling my name,
Lifting me–tenderly,
Changing my wounds for the good,
As only He could.

For the bruised reed He shall not break
And the smoking flax, He will not quench
For He loves and tenderly cares for His own.
He will not leave me alone.

A flame–once burning bright,
Shining through night,
Flickering light–
Now it is gone.
Smoke rises like a sigh
‘Til He draws nigh.
Light’ning the eye.
He will heal and reveal
All He has worked for the good
As only He could.

(He will not leave you alone.)

If you are weary and heavy within,
Trampled by pain,
Bruised by your sin,
He will not leave you or cast you away.
He turns the midnight to glorious day.
He’ll exchange ashes for beauty again,
He’ll replace sorrow with joy in His name!

He will not leave you alone.*

Take heart. With eyes fixed on God. We stand and we help others stand, in the truth that God “will not leave (us) alone”. He is here.

*Lyrics to The Bruised Reed by Abigail Miller

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break – Sam Allberry – for Desiring God

A Bruised Reed and Smoldering Wick – Rhonda Maydwell

Thanks, Friend (you know who you are), for the comfort God gave me as He breathed into your prayer His own words.

Monday Morning Moment – a Non-partisan Prayer for America on the Eve of the Election

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

[6 minute read…and prayer]

Oh God,

We come to You because “where else would we go?”. You alone, Lord, hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). How thankful we are that nothing can separate us from Your love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Father, You call us to love You, not because You need our love, but because You know if we do harm to ourselves in loving anyone or anything more than You. With loving You as our primary call, You also urge us to love others as we love ourselves. Help us to daily become more like Jesus, that when we love others, they will experience His gracious love through us. Even our enemies.

God, You remind us how we work out that love in our lives – by “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You” (Micah 6:8).

Forgive us, Lord, when our identity as partisan citizens takes priority over Your Kingdom rule and reign. You remind us that You have created “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities”. You have given us the blessing of being Americans. Forgive us when we elevate that blessing over Your place in our lives. You are God – You “exalt and You bring down”, “remove kings and establish them“, “appoint authorities”. Thank You, God, that no matter the outcome of this election, we can be confident that You are ever at work in the world.

How do we vote, Lord? Guide us to vote not just our sensibilities but out of conscience drenched by your Holy Spirit. Some preachers and writers counsel with us that neither candidate may deserve the vote of a true follower of Yours. Then there are Godly responses that followed of how we must live “in this world but not of this world” (John 17:9-19) – not drawing away from voting. There are so many opinions, so many platforms…both outside Your church and inside.

Teach us how to be as fully a part of our culture as possible, but without sin. How does that work with voting in a post-Christian country? Lord, our hearts burn with desire for You to be glorified in this place. We need Your clarity.

Will voting our conscience drive away or draw others to You?

Please help us, Lord. Are we to be silent in the arena of politics?

Guide us, Lord. We need Your wisdom. We also surrender ourselves to Your will in this…just please lead us. Whichever side we align with politically has its unique secular agenda. With no interest in Godly outcomes. Give us discernment, God, as we make our decisions and act on them.

We need Your humility. Help us Democrats to fight for the unborn; help us Republicans to intervene for children at our country’s borders.* Help us see Your love for the whole world, and move us to act, not just on election day, but every day thereafter.

You call us to demonstrate Your love to the most vulnerable in our society – the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor. Help us, Father, move from intention, from words only, to be the hands and feet of God…following the life-giving (and life-giving-away) example of Jesus.

How ever the election ends, whatever the outcome, Father help us, each of us, to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Also, we pray for the grace to continue to obey You by praying for those in authority over us, whoever that might be.

Thank You, Father, for the amazing grace You give us to quieten our hearts and still our resolve.

Thank You for Jesus, whom You’ve given all authority. He has given us a great work in this world, from which we do not want to be distracted. Praise Your name that You are always with us…even in these moments ahead of the election. It is a small thing for You. Help us keep that perspective.

Lord, many of us came to faith in a supportive environment where we had freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembling together. Forgive us when we fall to fear of losing these currently protected rights. Should we experience persecution, Lord, we know from Your Word and the testimony of Your saints, that You continue with us always. Thank You, Father.

We keep our eyes on You. Whether we line up to vote tomorrow…or decide we won’t be voting this year. You are God. You are good. Your purposes are not thwarted. Every morning, Your mercies are new to us…just what we need for each day. Thank You, Father, that You love Your children and You remind us, throughout the Holy Scriptures, to be strong, to not be afraid, and to not lose heart.

We will ever keep our eyes on You, to finish Your work, in each of our lives, in this country, and in this world. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Oh, and Lord, could I pray for one thing more? Please, Father, please rid our world of COVID-19. We pray in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just divided by politics; we are divided by this terrible virus. Free us from the bondage and hardship that has come out of this disease and its mitigation. Lord, You have told us to come boldly in prayer to Your throne. This is a time of great need for us, all around the world. We ask for Your mercy. Thank You, Lord. Again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*YouTube Video – Politics: How Would Jesus Vote? – Scott Sauls – He also encourages us in how we vote. Best sermon I’ve heard on this topic in this election season.

Positive Living: No Matter What You Do – God’s Plans Cannot Be Aborted! – Margaret Hodge – Great passages of Scripture included

What Christians Should Do If Their Candidate Loses the 2020 Election – Andy Stanley

A Facebook post from a friend – short and worthwhile read

Worship Wednesday – Son of God – Michael W. Smith

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.Isaiah 9:6-7

I really have no words today…just want to focus this busy mind of mine on the quiet exquisiteness of God. To reflect on His love and provision for us. To lean in and trust Him whom we know to be wholly trustworthy.

Songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s simple but majestic song Son of God centers us on the goodness and greatness of God.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.Philippians 2:5-7

Worship with me.

Son of God, purest light, Lord on high is here tonight
Stamping through, this sacred sky suddenly our eyes behold
Heaven’s perfect plan unfold, Son of God

Son of God, love divine, timeless one, steps in to die
Who could dream of such a thing with us now the King of Kings
Man and angels bow and sing, singing Hallelujah, Hallelujah

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(We’re singing Gloria)

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(Emmanuel)
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(Emmanuel)
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah

Our God is with us
Emmanuel, our God is with us
(We’re singing Hallelujah)
Singing Gloria*

*Lyrics to Son of God – Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday – Christmas in October – Peace on Earth – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Casting Crowns, YouTube

Adapted from the Archives

[Our family begins singing/listening to Christmas carols in October. Too many beautiful, God-glorifying songs to fit in one month. So…Christmas in October starts tomorrow…and we sure need it …Him.]

“See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.

You have said, “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping his requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord of Armies?  So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.”

At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord and had high regard for his name.  “They will be mine,” says the Lord of Armies, “my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Malachi 3:1, 14-17

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given continuing wars and current hardships, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful.

We desperately need those bells of Christmas ringing over our cities and countrysides.In fact, wouldn’t it be a lovely concert to hear church bells ringing together over the din of divisiveness right now.

We, in our fleshing out the love of Christ, are the Christmas bells in our culture. May we never be the noisy gong or clanging cymbal of those without love! May we, like Longfellow, nurse those we love, wounded in this world’s battles, back to wholeness and a living hope in Christ.

When you hear the bells ring where you are, take heart in that. We will continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men*

* Lyrics to I Heard the Bells – Casting Crowns – Writers: Mark Hall, Dale Oliver, and Bernhard Herms

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells