Tag Archives: Jesus

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

Sunday Reflection on a Very Present God and the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

For the first twenty years of my professional life, my great privilege was to have close encounters with people in deep crisis and five life-changing realities. It was a season of caring for cancer patients and their families – when their diseases were raging and in the final days of life. These experiences galvanized my faith in God and how his image is embedded in us – his creation. These realities are:

  1. Courage in exceedingly hard places
  2. Deep enduring love across a harsh illness and when time is fleeting
  3. Hope mingled with humor
  4. Death isn’t final…our spirits go somewhere (for sure, they leave the body)
  5. Faith to believe

Caring for patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for life-threatening complications can prompt an intimate caring relationship. To watch patients (and families) deal with such hard and to be in a position to help them through it gave me a window to extend love and honor to dear ones in crisis.

Was there always courage? Was love always expressed between us all? Was humor or hope or faith a constant?

No…but remarkably, more often than not, this was what I observed… especially in those sustained by a relationship with God.

In the last couple of years, I have personally experienced a cancer diagnosis and a couple of respiratory emergencies that brought those same realities into my life. In such times, much in life gets clarity…a sharper focus, a deeper understanding.

Breathe has been a theme in my life for over a year now…put that together with the title of a film starring Andrew Garfield…and it caused me to NOT “skip the ad” on YouTube.Photo Credit: Breathe, YouTube

The film Breathe tells the story of Robin Cavendish. He was a Brit who developed polio at the young age of 28. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required a ventilator to breathe. In those days (1958), he would have been confined in a hospital for the remainder of his days. However, he nor his wife, Diana, would hear of it. After a year in hospital, he went home and adjusted to this very different life, as only Robin would. They had a child and he would be able to see him grow up (in fact, son Jonathan Cavendish produced this film). Robin was a pioneer in advocating for the disabled, especially those like him needing more extreme measures to live a more normal life. He died at 64.

[Since my years in graduate studies in rehab and cancer nursing…the courage I saw in so many patients and families…courage in struggle…has never ceased to inspire me.]

“Based on a true story” films are intriguing. Reading up on Robin Cavendish’s story, my heart soared and then sank…fullstop at the short statement below:

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

I have never understood atheism. Even during spiritually flat and confusing times in my life, the existence of God put me to puzzling but ever so briefly. In a matter of moments of reflection, the fact of His presence blew past the questions.

Especially watching beloved believing patients at the moment of death…their faces relaxing and their bodies emptying of who they really were. We don’t just stop existing…life here stops and starts at exactly the same moment…There.

Now that I know Robin Cavendish, he has my admiration and respect at how he took back his life and helped others do the same. I wonder if, before his life was done…he had the faith to believe. One line in his obituary reads:

It is a strange irony that, though professing to be an unbeliever himself, he had a capacity for making other people feel closer to God.*

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

What a great gift is faith to believe. We don’t conjure it up. God Himself presents us the faith to believe…it is ours to reject or receive.

Worship with me. Below you will find two songs – Faith to Believe by Shane & Shane and Jesus Is Better by Austin Stone. Choose either or both in celebrating the God who gives us the faith to believe. [Then scroll down to the prayer at the end.]

YouTube Video – Shane & Shane – Faith to Believe – (with lyrics)

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the strength to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot see You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it**

There is no other so sure and steady, my hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule has shattered and broken the curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow, Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all***

Photo Credit: Flickr

Maybe this is the first step for atheists, too (it was for me)…so thankful for the faith to believe…to see the truth and beauty of Scripture. The Word of God walks us right up the staircase to be with Him – now and forever.

Thank You, God, for the faith to believe. With my whole being, I’m sure you daily, moment by moment, extend grace to all of humanity to know You, through one witness of Yourself or another. Help us to receive this grace. God, give us all this faith to believe.

**Lyrics to Faith to Believe – written by Shane Everett & Phil Wickham

***Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – written by Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

Worship Wednesday – A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – Eugene H. Peterson

Photo Credit: Eugene H. Peterson, Quotes.pub

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – Jesus – John 14:15

We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:5

This is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love.2 John 1:6

With four grandchildren, five years old and under, learning obedience is a part of their every day life. It’s a blessing to an older mom to watch adult children guide their little ones toward the wisdom of obeying and acting on what is right.

Jesus, in his great goodness and mercy, lived and taught obedience. So often we are drawn to act out of our emotions or in reaction to the actions of another (or a whole tribe of others). God calls us to a more even and measured walk in life. He calls us to choose obedience in Him. He calls us to trust Him with the outcomes of our obedience.

Writer and theologian Eugene H. Peterson may be best known for his rendering of the Bible in contemporary English. It is entitled The Message. It made the Scriptures understandable and beloved by many. Those many includes Irish singer/songwriter Bono (the friendship between him and Peterson – and their faith – has been highlighted in the documentary The Psalms.

Blog - Psalms & Bono & Eugene Peterson

Among Peterson’s many other published works is the 1980 book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.

I have not read the book yet and, in fact, did not know about it until recently. Last week, a notice popped up on my Twitter feed about a set of articles by writer Barnabas Piper. He posted 52 of his favorite quotes from Peterson’s classic book.

The Best Quotes From “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” – Part 1 – Barnabas Piper

The Best Quotes From “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” – Part 2 – Barnabas Piper

Out of Piper’s 52 quotes, I have pulled 14, listed below. Dear Dr. Peterson died in 2018. What a blessing he has been and continues to be to the Church, individual Christ-followers, and the Kingdom of God.

  1. On truth – “The moment the word God is uttered, the world’s towering falsehood is exposed—we see the truth. The truth about me is that God made and loves me. The truth about those sitting beside me is that God made and loves them, and each one is therefore my neighbor. The truth about the world is that God rules and provides for it. The truth about what is wrong with the world is that I and the neighbor sitting beside me have sinned to refusing to let God be for us, over us, and in us. The truth about what is at the center of our lives and of our history is that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins and raised from the tomb for our salvation and that we can participate in new life as we believe in him, accept his mercy, respond to his love, attend to his commands.”
  2. On repentance – “Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision . . . Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.”
  3. On faith – “Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God, who keeps evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now, who guards us always.”
  4. On the Gospel – “The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.”
  5. On the content of our lives – “We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not humanity.”
  6. On discipleship – “Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.”
  7. On sowing the seeds of the Gospel – “The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.”
  8. On the rightness of work – “Our work goes wrong when we lose touch with the God who works ‘his salvation in the midst of the earth.’ It goes wrong both when we work anxiously and when we don’t work at all, when we become frantic and compulsive in our work (Babel) and when we become indolent and lethargic in our work (Thessalonica). The foundational truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be all right. Work has dignity: there can be nothing degrading about work if God works. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works.”
  9. On the fear of the Lord – “To guard against all such blasphemous chumminess with the Almighty, the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord—not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God, to shut up our whining and chattering and stop our running and fidgeting so that we can really see him as he is and listen to him as he speaks his merciful, life-changing words of forgiveness.”
  10. On hope – “Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulation, of scurrying and worrying.”
  11. On temptation and trials – “When an ancient temptation or trial becomes a feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights.”
  12. On the past and the future – “If we define the nature of our lives by the mistake of the moment or the defeat of the hour or the boredom of the day, we will define it wrongly. We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal. And they must be connected. There must be an organic unity between them.”
  13. On the God who sees and knows – “Everything we learn about God through Scripture and in Christ tells us that he knows what it is like to change a diaper for the thirteenth time in the day, to see a report over which we have worked so long and carefully gather dust on somebody’s desk for weeks and weeks, to find our teaching treated with scorn and indifference by children and youth, to discover that the integrity and excellence of our work has been overlooked and the shoddy duplicity of another’s rewarded with a promotion.”
  14. On the connection of our bodies and hearts – “You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; It is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated. Go through the motion of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along.”

Today we worship with the words from our older brother who long followed the Lord, in obedience.

[Postscript: Usually our Worship Wednesday time together includes a song to enjoy together. With so many beautiful words posted above, basking in them before the Lord is today’s worship. For our “worship in song” lovers, below you will see linked three songs – the first from my childhood in revival services with long calls to the altar, the second from my youth inspired by Keith Green, and the third a more contemporary standard from Chris Tomlin. Do you have a favorite song on obedience? Please post in Comments.]

YouTube Video – When We Walk With the Lord (Trust and Obey) w/ lyrics

YouTube Video – To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice – Keith Green

YouTube Video – I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin – w/ lyrics

How Eugene Peterson Has Blessed Christianity – and 20 of His Most Powerful Quotes – Debbie McDaniel

Jesus Gives Us Reasons to Obey – Steve Fuller – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Eugene H. Peterson

Monday Morning Moment – Chadwick Boseman’s Legacy and Ours

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Shock waves shot around our country and the world at the news of actor and Black Panther superhero Chadwick Boseman‘s death Friday. He was/is a bigger-than-life figure in our culture. [Boseman still “is”. I struggle in using the word “was”.] As we all know now, he had late-stage colon cancer since 2016. That we didn’t know isn’t a surprise given Boseman’s private nature and also the incredible production of 10 of his films from 2016 until now (one of them Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom still to be released). As he fought his battle with cancer at the same time, what grace, focus, and courage he displayed through all the making of those films!

Chadwick Boseman, ‘Black Panther’ Star, Dies at 43

Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day – August 28, 2020 – at the age of 43.

This weekend, violence raged on in our cities as we grieve not only the senseless deaths and woundings of recent weeks…but now the loss of Chadwick Boseman. I spent my free time this weekend studying his life through his films, interviews, and the words of others who knew him well.

‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Pens Emotional, Beautiful Tribute to Chadwick Boseman – Ryan Parker, Borys Kit

Boseman was very commited to raising the opportunity and quality of life for fellow black people. I couldn’t find where he supported the riots that our country is enduring right now, but what I did find was illustrative of his character. He used his work to reflect the dignity of humankind. He showed his own respect for others not only in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther but in all his films. Several of which were biopics – two of my favorites being Marshall (on the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall) and “42” (on the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson). Both movies are timeless in their handling of justice for blacks in America.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After seeing the incredible film Black Panther some time ago, I was reminded of the relatively small part Boseman also played in Draft Day. Two very different films, but both where he played one who took his platform to champion others. This seemed to be true of Boseman’s public and private life.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After a weekend of trying to get hold of the life and character of this man from Anderson, South Carolina…this man who became a Christ follower as a boy and served in his church’s choir and youth group…I couldn’t get to sleep last night.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What Boseman accomplished in his relatively short life as a public figure will last as long as we watch the movies.

What can a regular non-celebrity do in our world gone mad? What really can this older white woman in the suburbs of a small city? What can you do?

Last night, in the dark trying not to wake my husband, I grabbed my phone and wrote the following list. It came quickly. Hopefully it is understandable.

  • Listen hard with ears, mind and heart open.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Ask the question: “What are we hearing?”
  • Ask the question: “What are we not hearing?”
  • Ask the next layer of question without judging: “What sounds true? What sounds like deception motivated by something else? How can we know?
  • What is the source of what we are hearing? [Sidebar: Where we get our news is often where we get our attitudes. If we take in news at all, we need a mix of views or we won’t critically be able to sift for what is true…or hopefully true.]
  • Then…
  • Speak up on behalf of one another.
  • Stand up against evil and for the truth.
  • Act up? NO. Act in love.
  • Mobilize our resources, relationships, and influence to actually make a true, lasting difference for those most vulnerable in our country.
  • Who has the courage to say “Enough” to what is hurting more than healing, to what is destroying more than building up, to what is not really for change for those who most need the change?

Boseman once said: “The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use that power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people.”

Therapist Kalee Vandergrift-Blackwell wrote a beautiful piece (below) on “a brown, immigrant, refugee, colonized Jesus”.

Did You Know Jesus Is Brown? – Kalee Vandergrift

He died at the hands of the political and religious leaders of the day, but…He did not die a victim. He gave his life in all its beauty, courage, and truth – for our sakes…and He gave his life for the political and religious leaders of the day.

I can’t even imagine Jesus burning and looting, hurting people and neighborhoods. Even when He called out the wrong motives of religious leaders and turned over the tables of opportunists, everything He did, He did in love. He calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors…and even to love our enemies. Not a soft celebrity life, oh no. We aren’t allowed to just take sides…we are to full-bore, wide open love people – to recognize, respect, and validate in all we do the worth, dignity, and God-breathed humanity of all.

This is our legacy…this is what I want to have the courage and the depth of love to leave when my life is over.

Not complacency. Not comfort. Not smugness. Not arrogance. Not blaming another party or one president over another (if there’s blame it extends much farther…). Not violence. Not isolation.

So…that is the burn I got this weekend after taking in and grieving over the loss of Chadwick Boseman.

One last quote from Boseman that is especially poignant and inspiring right now is this: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Chadwick Boseman – AZ Quotes

10 Inspiring Quotes From Chadwick Boseman That Could Change Your Life – A. R. Shaw

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman Tribute – Marvel

Worship Wednesday – On Unity – With One Voice – Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo Credit: Mosaic Church

“I pray not only for these [His disciples], but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.” – Jesus – John 17:20-23

Most everyone around the world probably knows the US is embroiled this year in a severe battle for the Presidency.

The various news networks and social media sources broadcast our biases. One candidate or the other is blamed for the condition of our country – whether the sitting president or the party or person of the candidate making his bid for the office.

We align ourselves as the Church in America. On one side of the argument or the other. Some will take the less gnarly position of a third candidate or just not vote this year.

Here’s the insight God gave me this week. When people I deeply love and respect pull for a candidate that I can’t abide or when they hear me out on my decision so different from theirs, we find ourselves at an impasse.

I will not influence them nor will they me. Our reasoning is human, and neither of us can know for sure we are right or we are wrong.

What matters more? That we continue in the unity of love together.

The last night Jesus spent on earth, before His crucifixion, He prayed the exquisite prayer we find in John 17.  It was an intimate discourse with His Father, and thankfully we are privy to it thanks to the Holy Spirit-inspired Gospel of the Apostle John. In His prayer, Jesus prayed for Himself; He prayed for his disciples, and He prayed for all believers.

Jesus prayed that we would be one as He is one with His Father. One in the unity of love. That He prayed this before His death for us demonstrated how much it mattered to Him.

How much this unity must matter to us!

In David Guzik‘s commentary on John 17, he states: “The unity Jesus prayed for among His people has a pattern. Even as the Father and the Son are one yet are not the same, we do not expect that genuine Christian unity will mean uniformity or unity of structure. It will mean unity of spirit, unity of heart, unity of purpose, and unity of destiny.”

Guzik also quotes Charles Spurgeon on unity as different from uniformity: “Beloved, those in whom Christ lives are not uniform, but one. Uniformity may be found in death, but this unity is life. Those who are quite uniform may yet have no love to each other, while those who differ widely may still be truly and intensely one. Our children are not uniform, but they make one family.”

Some will say the issue of who Christians can morally choose as our US President requires some order of uniformity…and so it does. However, the division between us in this matter should sound an alarm in our spirits.

This is not what Jesus wanted for us.

“It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father.Francis Schaeffer

We may differ on how we see “compromise”. That is its own struggle, but we cannot enjoin that struggle with whether we can love one another.

We love each other, because we are His. No matter our political party. No matter the outcome of this election.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus John 13:35

Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman published a song many years ago entitled With One Voice. This is our highest call.

Let’s worship together.

We come together with a holy purpose
We come together for the highest cause
We speak one language from a heart of worship
Gathered to bring a song to the world
For Your glory

With one voice we will sing
Every tribe and every tongue
Brings a harmony
With one voice we will bring
Heaven’s beautiful melody down to this earth
As we sing to our King
With one voice

Oceans divide us
But we sing together
Now what defines us is our love of You
From every nation and across all borders
Gathered to bring a song to the world
For Your glory

With one voice we will sing
Every tribe and every tongue
Brings a harmony
With one voice we will bring
Heaven’s beautiful melody down to this earth
As we sing to our King
With one voice

Come on come on and join the song
Our God our God is on the throne
Come on come on and join the song
Hallelujah hallelujah

Come on come on and join the song
Our God our God is on the throne
Come on come on and join the song
Hallelujah

Hallelujah, our God reigns
Let us all rejoice

With one voice we will bring
Heaven’s beautiful melody down to this earth
As we sing, sing to our King
With one voice
With one voice

Hallelujah, our God reigns
Let us all rejoice
Sing hallelujah
Sing His praise
Let us all rejoice

Sing hallelujah, our God reigns
Let us all rejoice
Sing hallelujah
Sing His praise
Let us all rejoice*

In closing, one of my other favorite passages in the Gospel of John is John 6:68. Jesus was weary with the struggle of public ministry, dealing with the contempt of the religious leaders of the day and the fickleness of followers who came and went. In a moment of weakness (human but without sin), Jesus turned to His twelve disciples and asked if they wanted to leave also.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.” – John 6:68

We know as believers, no matter our politics or our preferences, we are transfixed by the person of Jesus Christ. To know His life, His teaching, and His love…no one else…no place else would satisfy.

Our days and destinies are linked with Him and with each other. Our hearts are knit together. Everything else will fall away in the end. We are His. He is ours. We are meant to live in that reality…even (especially) in this season.

*Lyrics to With One Voice – Songwriters Steven Curtis Chapman & Matt Redman

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song With One Voice

John 17 – Jesus’ Great Prayer – David Guzik

Unity in Christ – Charles Spurgeon

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

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

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

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

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

Another Anniversary – a Walk with God as Much as With Each Other

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from the Archives]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

36 years.

The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us…and I am grateful for his company.

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Our marriage has never been the stuff that would draw much interest on Instagram  or even Facebook. My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in many ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. Opposites. “Read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.

This morning we woke to the last winds and rains of Hurricane Isaias (downgraded to a tropical storm, thankfully). As we shared breakfast, Dave observed that we came through the storm intact.

“Intact through the storm” is a great picture of the hard times in our marriage. I journalled all of it, through the years. In fact, our daughter has been advised about future days when she reads my journals (which she would more than the boys, probably). I told her to read with grace her mom’s emotional and angsty processing of the early years of marriage. [If Dave journalled such things, his would hold as much or more struggle with marriage to me.] We weathered those years, because we were more committed to God than even each other…and we hoped not to leave our children with the legacy of vows broken and relationships torn. God has given grace.

[I know it takes two to hold a marriage together, and there are people we love who suffered divorce never wanting it…so I write carefully, knowing the hardness of that…in my own birth family and with friends persevering past the pain of divorce.]

I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being a “laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.

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Whatever these thirty-plus years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far)…and GRANDCHILDREN! Alongside those treasures is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.

2012 December family snapshot 014

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 36 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others.

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. Whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this 36th. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

YouTube Video – Jesus and You – Matthew West

YouTube Video – Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

Thus Far the Lord has Helped Us – Lisa Nichols Hickman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Come As You Are by Crowder Lyric Video

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

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

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

Photo Credits: Crowdermusic.com and BPNews.net

Worship Wednesday – East to West – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Piqsels

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

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

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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

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

Rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casting Crowns Story Behind the Song East to West

YouTube Video – Matchless Grace of Jesus – Acapeldridge

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

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

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