Tag Archives: Savior

Worship Wednesday – Thanks Giver – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Facebook, Frances Moon

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It’s Fall, Y’all! My favorite season (here in the US). Now…as for holidays: my favorite holiday is Christmas followed by Thanksgiving, as a close second.

Family, family, family. That’s what it’s about for me. Those two holidays bring families together for all that comes with family gathering…the lovely, the crazy, and the memory-savoring and making.

Yet what brings us all together is the reason for those holidays: 1) celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior, and 2) thanks giving for all the good in our lives, Him being at the top of the list.

Most of us have an order to these celebrations – first Thanksgiving (US Thanksgiving) in November followed by Christmas in December. I try to keep that order, except for one thing.

Christmas music starts around here in October. Sacred and secular. There is just a wealth of music from so many years past and right up to latest releases this month. If you love the nostalgia of Christmas music and the richness of the lyrics of many of those songs, then you may be one of us (tuning to it much earlier than most).

Speaking of new releases (the topic of this blog today) is David Crowder‘s Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas.

Photo Credit: Nevin Martell, Open Table

This album has something for everyone. Quirky new songs about elves and Mrs. C. (which when you hear the song could also refer to Mrs. Crowder and not Mrs. Claus). Then you’ll hear some beautiful standards as only Crowder and friends can do them. Finally, included in the album, are original songs glorifying Christ and pointing us to all we have in Him. Powerful!

Photo Credit: K-LOVE, Pinterest

The album is unique in its production having an ethereal feel of a vinyl record, including some brief narration sounding like it could have come from a film like It’s a Wonderful Life.

So the track above is the first track on the album, but the one below fits the blending of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s early, I get it…but don’t miss this album, and don’t miss the sweet messages of the song “Thanks Giver”.

Worship with me:

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0
Mama’s calling, “Where you at?”
The turkey’s almost done
I hang up the phone, tear in my eye
Moments like these I realize
God You’re so good to me

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

Just took the pumpkins off the porch
The wreath is on my door
There’s something sacred ’bout the time
Of year when You were born
The Street’s alive, it’s Christmas again
But moments like these, hope I don’t forget
God You’re so good to me

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

Thank You for this life and all the joy that’s in this heart
For when I get to hug my dad and punch my brother in the arm
Thank You for the grace I know I’ll never have to earn
All because You chose to come down here and save this crazy world

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

You’re the reason
You’re the reason
Why I’m a thanks giver

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Sonoma

You’re the reason
You’re the reason
Why I’m a thanks giver*

*Lyrics to Thanks Giver

Crowder Announces Holiday Album Milk and Cookies Out Oct. 21 – Abby Young

Crowder Releases ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’ – Ross Cluver

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but, for so many, Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people.

In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the sinless resolve of the Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge*.]

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – Our Eyes Fixed on God, He Flips Our Shame – “Look What You’ve Done” – Tasha Layton

Photo Credit: Heartlight

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light. You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It’s impossible to keep quiet! Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.”Psalm 30:11-12

For I have every confidence that nothing–not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing–can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:7

For many years we lived in a part of the world where you were either Muslim or Christian. You were born that way, and supposedly you would die that way. As I learned the local language (Arabic), I wanted to be able to communicate that, “No, I wasn’t born a Christian. It was a choice I made in response to God’s Spirit drawing me to Himself.”

Recently I found my testimony in English and Arabic. The very first lines spoke to the shame I had, even as a little girl, at my frustrated longing to be good for my mama. She carried a heavy load of responsibility in life, and I didn’t want to add to it. Unfortunately, “being good” was something I failed at daily…to the point that I knew I couldn’t be good. I wasn’t good.

Shame – that often silent companion that shows up unexpectedly to rob our joy and wreck our confidence. The Enemy loves to accuse us …to draw our attention away from God and onto ourselves. We spend enormous mental energy keeping shame hidden. At times, we turn our own shame into shaming someone else. It’s their fault. They are to blame. “Look what THEY did.”

In psychiatrist Curt Thompson‘s book, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, he talks about how “love and shame [are] competing for our attention, wrestling for authority over our memory, emotion, sensations and behaviors.”

If we focus on our own sense of shame or how shameful someone else has been to us or someone else, we miss God. We miss His redemptive work in our lives, to draw us out of shame and into His love…extended to us and through us to others. If we keep our eyes trained on the Lord, we see ourselves as He sees us. We see others, even those we would want to shame, with His eyes of love and forgiveness. Our stories are altered, and the shame fades.

It begins with fixing our eyes on God.

“Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at anytime are myriad, the most important of which being located within us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans knows this, stating flatly, ‘Those who live according to the flash have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’ (Romans 8:5-6). To have one’s mind set on something is essentially about paying attention.  What do I pay attention to? Paul says that what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us. Hence our attention is deeply associated with either death or life. So much of the biblical narrative is the story of God working hard to get our attention.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves
To this God, whom we meet in Jesus, we must direct our attention if we are to know the healing of our shame. We must literally look to Jesus in embodied ways in order to know how being loved in community brings shame to its knees and lifts us up and into acts of goodness and beauty.”
Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Last week, on listening to Tasha Layton‘s song, “Look What You’ve Done”, I heard it with new ears. It felt new to me…and full of hope. I had actually written a blog centered on it just a few months ago but have learned so much about shame since then, devouring Curt Thompson’s books on the same. God is using these revelations to point me to Him and to embolden my hope that we can rewrite our stories. Like how Scripture can be fresh and new when we are desperate for truth, the same can happen with worship songs.

This song right here is where I am this week. Maybe you, too? So together, we fix our eyes on Jesus, and He flips our shame on its head. With our eyes fixed on Him, we can receive His forgiveness and we can also forgive. No more shame. Eyes on Him. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

Look what you’ve done
How could you fall so far?
You should be ashamed of yourself
So I was ashamed of myself
The lies I believed
They got some roots that run deep
I let ’em take a hold of my life
I let ’em take control of my lifeStanding in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah
Look what You’ve done, look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now, look how You madе me new
The еnemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done
Suddenly all the shame is gone
I thought I was too broken, now I see
You were breaking new ground inside of me

*Lyrics to Look What You’ve Done – Songwriters: AJ Pruis, Tasha Layton, Matthew Joseph West, Keith Everette Smith

YouTube Video – Tasha Layton “Look What You’ve Done” – (Live)

American Idol’s Tasha Layton Shares Testimony in New Single, ‘Look What You’ve Done’

Story Behind the Song ‘Look What You’ve Done’ – Kevin Davis with Tasha Layton

Tasha Layton’s “Look What You’ve Done” – Truth of Scripture Hidden in Today’s Popular Christian Music

Worship Wednesday – Epiphany or Three Kings Day – Kings of the Earth From “Saviour”

Photo Credit: Epiphany, Office Holidays

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled… – Matthew 2:1-3a

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Isaiah 60:1-3

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together, against the LORD and against His Anointed One…[Then He rebuked them] “I have installed My King on Zion, upon My holy mountain.” I will proclaim the decree spoken to Me by the LORD: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.  Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession.” – Psalm 2:2, 6-8

The celebration of Christmas 2021 actually draws out to January 6, 2022. 12 days of Christmas climaxing on Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. We are reminded of the kings (wise men) who searched out the young child Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we read of three different types of kings:

  • Jesus, only begotten Son of God, born King of the Jews…and King of Kings.
  • King Herod – one of the “kings of the earth” – serving his own ego, threatened by the news of King Jesus, responsible for the deaths of all those boys under the age of two, in his attempt to kill Jesus.
  • the Magi (Wise Men) who sought the prophesied birth of a king, following a star, until they found Jesus and worshiped him.

I personally love the 12 Days of Christmas because the parties and gifts are finished, and in the quieter days afterward, reflection is easier to come by.

The kings who did the work of study and watching for signs were rewarded by an actual visit with the Savior. They traveled a long way to see him, even altering their return visit to avoid betraying him to another king…Herod. We don’t know when, for sure, that they visited the Christ child. Their bringing gifts came just at the time needed for the flight to Egypt to avoid evil King Herod’s wrath.

How thankful we are to God for these persevering, worshipful Eastern kings!

What Does the Bible Say About the Three Wise Men (Magi)?

Did the Wise men (Magi) Arrive 12 Days After Jesus’ Birth? Or Was It Much Later? – Shari Abbott

How thankful we are also when we see the hardships caused by modern-day King Herods. We know from Scripture that the reigns of these kings of the earth will come to an end.

The Kings of the Earth – a brief and excellent study

In Revelation, the Apostle John wrote about the New Jerusalem where we hear one final time about “the kings of the earth”.

“I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory…And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. “Revelation 21:22-24, 26

As we celebrate the last day of Christmas 2021, a beautiful concert came to mind. In the performance of Saviour, we are reminded of (ok…not of the kings who visited the Christ child…but) the kings of the earth. Those rulers and authorities who wage war against the Kingdom of God. We are reminded that their days are numbered. Hallelujah!

May we reflect Epiphany – and those ancient Magi – seeking and receiving the Savior and celebrating the forever rule of the King of all Kings.

Worship with me.

[Saviour – written/created by Bob Farrell & Greg Nelson]

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

The kings of the earth and their power to rule the land
Was founded by the Lord in His covenant with man
But the kings of the earth would make their own decree
They set themselves above their God and His authority
They mocked their God

Their empires feed upon the souls of men
And their lust for power becomes their sacrament
They rail the people with their cries of peace
But there is no peace

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
But The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

Take heart, ye children of the Promise
For God will not be mocked
For the Lord will repay,
and His Kingdom remains

Blessed are His children.
Blessed are His covenants
Blessed is His mighty Kingdom
And blessed is the Name of the Lord

Blessed the name of Lord
Blessed the name of Lord
In power, in glory His Kingdom, His Kingdom will come!
His Promise is now and forever and ever Amen!

Blessed is the name of the Lord!
O, blessed is the name of the Lord!*

*Lyrics to The Kings of the Earth

Below is a performance of Saviour with Wintley Phipps as special guest – it starts at 9:45 minutes in. So powerful!!

Worship Wednesday – I Know that My Redeemer Lives – Handel’s Messiah & Nicole C. Mullen

Photo Credit: Heartlight

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

We are in the third week of Advent. On Sunday the joy candle was lit, and Pastor Cliff preached on “Hope Deferred”.

“We live in a period of already but not yet, a time of deferred hope. With the Holy Spirit active in our lives, we can take part in God’s kingdom here on earth. However, the kingdom will not reach its fullest expression until Jesus’ return.” – Erin Franklin, Our Hope Has Come

Sometimes we have to wait on answered prayer…on someone’s forgiveness…on a cure…on peace to be restored to our hearts. Hope deferred. Yet, in every situation of life, we have His Word to remind us that waiting (and suffering) is but for a season, and with it comes great gain.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:1-8

“While we were still sinners…” Not after we’d cleaned up our act, but while we were in the muck and mire of our lives. What a Savior!

In our small group tonight, we processed Cliff’s sermon and the whole concept of hope deferred. Our group leader asked us what Scripture verses encourage us when our hope is weakened. We all had our favorites…Romans 8 has several treasures.

I wish I could transport you to that moment…friends gathered in our living room, warm inside on a cold December night, Christmas lights aglow, recalling Scripture after Scripture on the hope we have in Christ. It recalled still another account in Scripture when grief-stricken followers of Christ (journeying home after his crucifixion) encountered him after his resurrection.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, gathered together and saying, “The Lord has indeed risen”…!Luke 24:32-34a

Finally, one of our friends reminded us of Job…that Old Testament saint who lost so much and yet clung to his God. What a huge testament of the goodness of God even in the midst of suffering and hope deferred. Job 19:25-27 tells us that Job knew his Redeemer lived and he would see him one day.

As we read the passage in Job, a song bit came to mind. It was “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah.

Glory! How thankful I am that Jesus died for me…to take the penalty for the awful sin in my life. He was my substitute, and now He is my Savior.

Worship with me to Nicole Mullen’s “My Redeemer Lives”. Not as difficult to sing as Handel’s Messiah but every bit as true.

Who taught the sun
Where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean
“You can only come this far”?
And who showed the moon
Where to hide till evening
Whose words alone can
Catch a falling star?

I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my redeemer lives
(yeah)

The very same God
That spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands
That hold me when I’m broken
They conquer death to
Bring me victory

Now I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my redeemer

He lives to take away my sins
And He lives forever, I proclaim
That the payment or my sins
Was the precious life He gave
But now He’s alive and
There’s an empty grave

(repeat chorus over and over)*

Advent: The Journey to Christmas – Redemption for Deferred Hope – Rod Lindemann

Photo Credit: River Valley Mission

*Lyrics to My Redeemer Lives – Songwriter: Nicole Coleman Mullen

A Little Preview! (Job 19:25-27) – The Bereans Blog

YouTube Video – Nicole C. Mullen: “Call on Jesus” (33rd Dove Awards) – more goosebumps at this reminder of the presence and power of Jesus

YouTube Video – The God Who Sees – Kathie Lee Gifford & Nicole C. Mullen

Monday Morning Moment – We pray…and We Don’t Give Up.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

I really don’t have words this morning.

Scott Sauls gave me the words below.

The blaming takes us nowhere. The hating definitely diminishes all.

Some think of prayer as a soft and impotent action. Not so! The God who hears our prayers is mighty to save. His purposes are not thwarted. He calls us to prayer and we, and those of the this broken world, are best served when we obey.

Do we do other things? Like sending our resources and opening our communities to those no longer with a home. Absolutely. However… if we don’t pray, we neglect the greatest salvation…and the greatest Savior in these seemingly hopeless situations.

The blaming and hating change nothing and care for no one. It is a dreadful waste and dishonors both God and humankind.

So…we pray.

…and we don’t give up.

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

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 – Proximity to God and the Marginalized – Nearness – Nearer to God

Photo Credit: Heartlight

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:13

On the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we marvel at our first responders and health care workers. Running toward danger. Staying on the frontlines. For the sake of others.

We have a Savior who came close to us…who made a way for us to be reconciled to holy God. We could not redeem our sinful selves. We cannot, in our sinful conditions, draw near to the God of this universe. Except for a sinless savior who drew near to us, who bridged the distance, who made a way for us to be restored to God.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

Earlier this week I watched the documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality. In this film, he uses the word “proximity” in a way that immediately reminded me of the life of Jesus…and the life to which he calls us.

Bryan Stevenson is an American attorney who works with some of the hardest cases in the court system. Predominately, he advocates for those who may not have received (did not receive) fair and right judgments and find themselves in long prison terms, some even on Death Row.

Bryan Stevenson at TED2012: Full Spectrum, February 27 – March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson – WikipediaRead some of what he says about “proximity”:

“We’ve got to find ways to get proximate to the poor and the vulnerable…There is power in proximity….I am the product of someone’s choice to get proximate.” – Bryan Stevenson, Fortune’s CEO Initiative

Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”  – Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
“The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.” –  Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality – 2019 HBO Documentary

Just Mercy – 2019 Warner Brothers film

In our current situation with COVID-19, proximity is not something we can as easily pursue as before now. Still, the kind of proximity that Mr. Stevenson urges has never been easy. It cost Jesus everything.

For the love of Christ and in obedience to him (for the sake of those around us), we seek creative ways to be proximate. Our proximity to others, especially to those suffering, must be grounded in and infused by our proximity to a loving and empowering God.

We are called to worship. Two songs come to mind: Bethel Music’s Jenn Johnson’s Nearness and Sarah F. Adams’ Nearer, My God, to Thee. Both videos below include the lyrics to these worship songs. Take one of these options to soak into your soul today as we draw near to the God who draws near to us. He calls us to proximity to Him, to His people, and to those not yet His people.

11 Contemporary Christian Songs That Are Perfect For When You Are Crying Out to God – Beverly Gard

Near to God – Song Resources

Just Mercy Quotes – Good Reads

“Do Some Uncomfortable and Inconvenient Things”: A Civil Rights Champion’s Call to Action for CEOs – Matthew Heimer (watch the video at start of the article)

TED Talk – We Need to Talk About Injustice – Bryan Stevenson

Worship Wednesday – This Is Christmas – Kutless

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:1, 14

This is Christmas. So many beautiful and as well as a few hard memories attached to it. My dad died on Christmas Day in 2016. He loved Christmas and made it all the more fun for all of us.

I wanted to write today…but like many days recently, the words are not coming. Writing takes time…and thought. Life itself takes precedence even though writing can be life to us writers.

Life is precious and calls for us to notice it and to savor every moment, and every person within those moments. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my breath-taking cancer diagnosis, I am fortunate. 3 1/2 years out is a very good thing.

My writing will come back, but for today it will be just a moment with you…a moment, a few pictures, and a worship song.

Merry Christmas. If it’s not your holiday, enjoy its gentling nature.

What is Christmas?

Wonder…of children, grandchildren, and the birth of one special baby…the Christ child.

Christmas Music – so varied and glorious we start listening in October.

Family – both with us and not able to be.

Friends – near and far.

Food…so much food.

Serving others.

Traditions – favorite books and movies, all the lights, treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree, outings…and those quiet staying in times.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown:

Worship with me to the song This Is Christmas by the band Kutless:

Do you find it hard to sleep tonight
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoe
The tree with presents wrapped below
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?

Remember how the story goes
God’s gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes
Beneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels sing
The wise men brought an offering
Peace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas?
If the angels never sang ‘Glory to the new born king?’
What is Christmas without Christ?

There’d be no
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
This is Christmas
It’s all about the Savior wrapped in a manger
This is Christmas
Because of Jesus Christ
This is Christmas
Because of Christ
Because of Christ*

I pray your Christmas is filled with all the good of this day. Whether words come or not…that you may know the love meant for you in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we also take every opportunity to “give it away“.

[Video above featured Samaritan’s Purse which is a great organization. We personally support the smaller Baptist Global Response. Both give us opportunities to give to world’s neediest.]

*Lyrics to This Is Christmas – Songwriters: Jon Micah Sumrall, David  M. Lubben

A Christmas Letter to Every Mama – Sally Clarkson

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort and Joy – Deb Mills

Merry Christmas, from Dave & me

Worship Wednesday – What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei – Travis & Daughter Lily Cottrell and a Whole Lot of Other People

Photo Credit: YouTube, Travis & Lily Cottrell

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”Philippians 2:5-11

Considering the answer to questions is a part of how we learn, how we set a course toward knowing. We search out in our own minds the answer to a question. If we come up blank, we seek out other resources, those who show mastery, knowledge, or understanding that we lack.

Is there a most important question in life?

I’m posing this as the most important question: What will you do with Jesus?

The weight of evidence that Jesus existed is substantial, unquestionable. In fact, to say he didn’t would require more faith than not, given the historical documentation and his impact on history. Note one reference here.

What we do with this Jesus is partly determined on whether we see him as a man, a prophet, a revolutionary…or God.

During my early childhood years, my family was not religious. There were no rituals, no spiritual conversations, no sense of God or who he was.

I was eight years old before we ever went into a church building. This followed my parents’ divorce, a couple of house moves, and my mom’s remarriage to my sweet step-dad. Lots of ups and downs in there.

A student of mine once told me that he believed children just grow up in the faith of their parents…no personal wrestling of what to believe…or whom to believe in.

My family didn’t have any faith to speak of in those days. When friends invited us to join them in church, it began a journey for my mom, dad, and siblings. For my parents, it was a re-acquainting themselves with God…for me an amazing new discovery.

Everything I have learned about Jesus and know of him through personal experience has enriched my life like nothing else in this world. No human love, no accomplishment, no other adventure can compare with what has come to me through him.

There is no question for me that if there is God, then Jesus is God. It is difficult to wrap the mind around the reality of a triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have to take that by faith, but not a blind faith. The life and teaching of Jesus point to one linked so intimately to the Father, they are one. Thoroughly infused by the Spirit of God. No ordinary man, or woman, could live as he lived, love as he loved, spend himself as he did. He was human and divine… completely…and without sin.

As a child from a broken home, whose biological father’s neglect and disregard continued through our lives until he died…I longed for the love that only God, through Christ Jesus, offered.

He has never disappointed.

Two beautiful songs have been weaved together in today’s Worship Wednesday. The Hillsong Worship song-writer team of Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood gave us What a Beautiful Name – a song that describes something of the beauty of the name of Jesus.

Photo Credit: Phatmass

Singer Songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s Agnus Dei is a huge worship anthem lifting Jesus, the Lamb of God, as worthy of all praise.

What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei has been arranged for choir by singer/songwriter Travis Cottrell. The song features his daughter Lily Cottrell, and a whole lot of other people.

In a world where too often Jesus’ name is used as a derogatory exclamation, my heart is renewed in the company of those whose lives have also been transformed by knowing him…and praying to the Father, in his name. Jesus…God coming so close to us and making a way for us to come close to Him…now and forever.

Let’s worship together…[click on the link; the lyrics are there. By the way: my struggle often with posting Worship Wednesday is the possible distraction from the exquisite truth of Jesus and the Gospel with the emotional beauty of the music and the winsomeness of the singers in the video. May we never settle for the lift our hearts receive in a corporate praise experience…and miss both the rock-solid grounding and ascendant nature of the message of who Jesus is. Hallelujah!]

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So, Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now?

What a wonderful name it is, what a wonderful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a wonderful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus

Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again…

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful name it is, what a powerful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a powerful name it is, nothing can stand against
What a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names
The Name above all names!…

Holy, holy
Are You Lord, God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb
‘Cause You are holy, holy
Are You Lord, God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb!…
You are holy!

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

Photo Credit: UEChurch

Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

Worship Wednesday – The Name and Person of Jesus – Various Artists – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – Do You Know Him By Name? – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – What a Beautiful Name (Lyric Video) – Hillsong Worship

YouTube Video – Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith (w/ lyrics)