Tag Archives: Worship Wednesday

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Marc Martel with Downhere

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[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

As to Christmas songs…there are so many beautiful ones – both standards and newer ones. Songwriter Marc Martel‘s How Many Kings, out since 2009, performed by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one such song. My favorite radio station pops this one up often during the Christmas season. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

Worship Wednesday – Jesus, Thank You – Sovereign Grace Music, Pat Sczebel

Photo Credit: The Apologetics Group, Eric Holmberg

Thank You, Jesus, for the creche, the cross, and the crown.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us [creche]. 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! [cross] the Son of God; the King of Israel! [crown]John 1:1-5, 14, 29, 49

A middle school in Virginia won’t subject its students, staff, or families this year with any holiday songs having the name Jesus in them. Some students reportedly were uncomfortable singing the songs in a school program, so instead of giving them the freedom not to sing those particular songs, the songs themselves are banned. The school officials felt it appropriate given the increasingly diverse nature of the student body. So what if most religions of the world recognize Jesus in some capacity or another?! I don’t understand removing such a world-impactful historical figure from a school curriculum or extra-curriculum.

The movement of our culture and its sensibilities toward the secular is obvious in so many arenas. Whatever one ends up believing at the end of their lives, to miss the person of Jesus altogether is a terrible thing, a brutal consequence of living in a post-Christian world.

Today, I wanted to highlight a simple song with a glorious message. As I write, it’s Christmas time and images of a Christ child in a manger are everywhere (even in a town where a middle school won’t allow such a thing as part of its programming).

A child in a manger…such an extraordinary birth. One part of the triune God, separated for a time into humanity. Thinking about that in front of the fire this morning, it hit me again what that birth must have meant to God the Father…and for all of Creation.

Jesus was born to give us a closer look at the God of the universe – the beauty of a sinless life, the mystery of justice perfectly balanced by mercy, the love that never turns from His own.

In celebrating the birth of Christ, we have the creche, the cross, and the crown [to which the Scripture above points]. The creche demonstrating a God-life made small so we could even begin to fathom a God who loves us His frail ones. The cross displaying a God-love that withholds nothing – “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” – that we may have everything – forgiveness and life forever with Him. Lastly of the three, the crown signifies the risen King, who is seated triumphantly by the Father, interceding for us, until the day we all enter His Kingdom.

Thank You, Jesus is a song by Pat Sczebel, of Sovereign Grace Music. Its focus is Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. Still, the first time I heard it was a couple of weeks ago as part of a worship service in a small downtown church in Tennessee. It was the beginning of Christmas time, and the merging of the creche and the cross touched our hearts so deeply.

Worship with me:

VERSE 1
The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me

CHORUS
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You

VERSE 2
By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end

BRIDGE
Lover of my soul

I want to live for You*

This Christmas time, don’t let our culture silence our rejoicing. Jesus did not come just for Christians (as some would like to argue)…He came to the whole world to point to a loving and holy God. Jesus, thank You.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

*Lyrics to Jesus, Thank You – Songwriter: Pat Sczebel

Who Is Jesus, According to Other Religions? – J. Warner Wallace

Creche, Cross, and Crown – Eric Holmberg

Cradle, Cross, Crown – Liz Giertz

Worship Wednesday – Is He Worthy? He Is – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: The Henry Luke Journey

“Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. I wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Look, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne… He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne.

When he took the scroll…they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:1-9

So much of Scripture is plain and clear in its teaching such that any of us could follow it and apply it to our lives. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, written by the Apostle John under the direction of the Holy Spirit…is not like any other text. It is full of the mystery of God and yet can yield great truth to the least theological of us.

The passage above from Revelation 5 is derived from a God-infused vision that John experienced and then transcribed for us to learn from it.  We don’t know for sure what the scroll represents – is it the purposes of God? Is it the finale of world history? Is it the judgment for the sins of all humankind? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know, is the scroll could not be opened…except by One worthy. Not just able to open it, but worthy to open it.

Jesus, the sinless Savior, was worthy. He is given many names in Scripture. The spotless Lamb of God is one. The perfect sacrifice. He alone could give His life for ours. He alone could pay our debt to a holy God. He, without sin, gave Himself in our place for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah. One day He will come for us in the might and majesty of a conquering king – this lion of God, unmatched by any foe, wholly able to deliver us to the Father.

Earlier this year, we were in Tennessee visiting our home church in Kingsport. Indian Springs Baptist Church (ISBC) has two campuses. The Hill Rd. campus is the larger of the two. It is our home church. Our family grew to five in that church. We love the people there. The Glenwood Church campus is new to us. It is now under the ISBC umbrella, although originally it was the mother church.  We worshiped happily at both campuses that weekend. It was at Glenwood that we heard and sang the song, “Is He Worthy?” for the first time.

In this beautiful old church building, being led by a praise team (and a Baptist Hymnal sweetly propped up in a window), Dave and I worshiped God as intimately as we would have in our own church. God was present…and this small congregation sang this song as, I’m sure it will when we are in His presence in Heaven..

When I came home, I looked up this song and its writer, Andrew Peterson. He wrote this song for a congregation to participate as deeply as the worship leader would. The responsive reading or singing of this song is liturgical in form…something I’m not used to.

“One of the things I like best about liturgy is the more or less constant involvement of the congregation. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” It’s not so much about us coming to sit while the pastor and the elders do everything, but about all of us together rehearsing the story of redemption, edifying each other by reading Scripture aloud, reaffirming what we believe, embodying worship by kneeling or singing together—all of it culminating, of course, in the Lord’s Supper. I can’t overstate how much I crave the moment at the end of the service when I kneel at the front and a friend of mine places the unleavened bread in my open hands, looks me in the eye and says, ‘Andrew, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.’

Every week my wayward, hungry soul is confronted by the love of Jesus. Like clockwork.” – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: GodTube, Andrew Peterson

Let’s worship together with this glorious anthem by Andrew Peterson.

[Verse 1]
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

[Verse 2]
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Refrain 1]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

[Verse 3]
Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Bridge]
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

[Refrain 2]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!*

[Sidebar: If you worshiped God with the help of this video, you saw a sea of white faces as the singers. Andrew Peterson wrote an apology worthy of your time. Let’s none of us falter from what he calls a misstep and miss the larger message of this beautiful song.]

Jesus…You are worthy.

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.”Revelation 5:9Photo Credit: The Rabbit Room

*Lyrics to Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson

Story Behind the Song Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson – Kevin Davis

Waking Up to Is He Worthy?: an Apology – Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson’s New Song for the People – The Gospel Coalition – Andrew Peterson

Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll – Commentary – David Guzik

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 3 – Constancy

[Today’s blog is Part 3 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere; Part 2 – Caringhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto to our children and grandchildren.

…which takes us to the last character trait to consider…for us in this generation, and for generations forward (when we will be considered vintage…but God isn’t).

Constancy

No matter how old we are, we have people in our lives who are constant. They are those we count on; those who always show up. No. Matter. What. They are faithful to God and faithful to us. Let’s just take a moment to think, even looking around us, at some of those dear women in our lives. Let’s remember those who aren’t with us anymore but who taught us how to be constant in our love and in our lives.

When we lived overseas, we were daily reminded of how only God could work the miracles that must be worked for people to receive the truth of the Gospel. Our neighbors were steeped in a very different worldview. They saw Jesus as a good man but the Saviour. The fact that we desperately need Him to restore us to a holy God was foreign to them.

Every day…every single day…God called us to show up with His love and His word…in those places and for those people. That constancy was tested every day because it would have been so easy just to stop showing up.

One of the verses from God’s Word that kept us going was Galatians 6:9 where Paul encouraged believers, saying, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

God has already promised us that His purposes are not thwarted; He will complete His work; He will finish what He started in us.

God calls us to keep showing up…following His example in our own lives.

This is how we get to “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). By showing up, time after time, with whatever gifts we have. We don’t have to be rockstars of any kind…we have a God who equips us to be exactly what is needed in any situation. Our constancy radiates His greatness. We can count on Him.

A few years back, I discovered a Christian sister, by the name of Kara Tippetts. We never met but she wrote in her blog in such a way it was like receiving a letter from a dear friend. She wrote about her walk with God through a relentless cancer. Over the course of her diagnosis and treatment, she adjusted to a very different life. However, she continued to show up. For her family. For her friends. For all of us who watched for every report of her life and how God met her each step of the way. She modeled showing up…and emboldened those in her life to show up for her…in all that hard.

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Just shy of her 40th birthday, she finished her race and went to be with the Lord. Leaving behind 4 sweet children and an adoring husband.

It was both terribly sad and gloriously beautiful.

In the last months of her life, she managed to write three books…three books!!! The last one was a dialog between her and her friend, Jill. By that time, it was all Kara could do to show up, the disease had so done its ill.

This is what she had to say about constancy…even in the hardest of situations…

“If God asks us to do something, then He’s also going to show up to carry us through it. And when we walk in community with one another, we will be kept.”

Photo Credit: Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

Completely cared for by God Himself.

He is faithful. His infinite capacity fills our small hearts; His perfect love magnifies the care we offer to others, His steadfastness gives us what we need to be constant.

In His strength and love, we become the women of that adage: “When her feet hit the floor, the Devil says ‘Oh no, she’s up!’” The evil one battles with us to fail…but we will not, with our eyes on God.

From Genesis through the whole of Scripture, we see the word “shield” and that God is our shield. Against any evil. When we take God seriously and put our lives wholly in His hands we become a force to reckon with – whether we’re 14 or 50 or 82. We will experience attacks from the evil one – he doesn’t want us to be successful as Christ’s image-bearers. We may even take friendly fire from other believers. It happens, and sometimes the enemy is us…but God take what was meant for evil and make it for good in our lives. We have His promise.

Photo Credit: FBC Mt. Pleasant

Hear the Word the Lord: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full of armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.Ephesians 6:10-11

 

Brent Curtis, a Biblical counselor and author of a favorite book of mine The Sacred Romance, wrote about how God demonstrates His own constancy when we show up for someone:

“God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor…something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

When we live with capacity for Him, caring for others, and constancy in being there, we may, at times, come under attack, but we will never be alone.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah reminds us of this: “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in His love. He will delight in you with singing.”

No matter what your situation…even when you feel God has been “too quiet” in His love…or you have been waiting such a long time for something…God’s love is constant, trust in that, and God is in the waiting, with us, Dear Ones.

[Special thanks for the ISBC Women’s Ministry and the opportunity extended to me to speak at their holiday dinner. The sweet beauty of the Vintage Christmas displays was surpassed by the faces and hearts of the women present. They would make their grandmothers proud. I was unable to get images of all the women so will leave you with a few more images of just some of the tables. Blessings.]

Worship Wednesday – Only Jesus – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Casting Crowns, YouTube

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name
that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

Lost for words today.

The precious daughter of some dear friends left this world way too soon. She was grown with a daughter of her own. I know few details but in recent days, life just got too hard…

We want to cry out against the evil of this world and the Evil One. Darkness perpetrated against us can be so thick, so heavy. We struggle against it…

A world of hard takes its toll.

Again, words fail, but when this song Only Jesus  came on the radio today, it soothed my confusion and gave me peace…in that very moment.

Whatever this world has to offer is nothing compared to Jesus. Even in our darkest moments, when we can’t see any way forward, nothing diminishes who we are in Him.

We all leave legacies of some shape or form. Maybe they are worth building…worth remembering. For sure the good we do in the work of our lives has value…the positive impact it makes on those around us.

The best we can leave to those we love is a life that points to Jesus. A life that gives hope that we will see each other again. A life that , even when cut short here, will continue There…because of Jesus. Only Jesus.

Worship with me please to Casting CrownsOnly Jesus:

Make it count, leave a mark, build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams, chase your heart, above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the light when it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But Jesus is the only name to remember

CHORUS
And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus
And I, I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

All the kingdoms built, all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it’s said and done
But all that really matters
Did I live the truth to the ones I love
Was my life the proof that there is only One
Whose name will last forever

REPEAT CHORUS

Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name to remember
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name to remember

REPEAT CHORUS

I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus*

*Lyrics to Only Jesus

Worship Wednesday – Yearn – Shane & Shane

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.”Acts 17:27-28a

Yearn is a word that has too long been neglected. Owned by sonnet-writers and dreamers, this could well-describe God-worshipers. I remember a time when I rediscovered the meaning of that word. It was during a lazy evening with friends. One is a Chinese student ravenous to master English vocabulary. We were looking in one of my textbooks and a list of feelings/emotions caught her attention. Many of the words were familiar to her from conversations with American friends, but one stood out unknown and, for us native English speakers, hard to describe: yearning.

As we were trying to describe it, her nearest friend in our group  pulled up a song on YouTube. It is “Yearn” by Shane & Shane.

Worship with me…

Holy design; This place in time

That I might seek and find my God, my God

Chorus – Lord, I want to yearn for You; I want to burn with passion over You And only You

Lord, I want to yearn for You; I want to burn with passion over You; And only You Lord, I want to yearn

Your joy is mine, yet why am I fine

With all my singing and bringing grain in light of Him

Oh, You give life and breath; in You we live and move. That’s why I sing

[2004 River Oaks Music Company/True Bliss Music/Waiting Room Music/BMI (adm. by EMI CMG Publishing)]

When you go to bed at night, do you ever struggle to get your mind quiet enough to sleep? Do your longings push through such that until you pray them out you can’t sleep? That’s how I feel from time to time. I long to know God’s purpose for these days in my life…I long to be closer to my children…I long for some of my friends and family to know Jesus…I long for….so many things. And sleep finally comes.

Some mornings the ache of those same longings wake with me. Then in the quiet,  with my coffee and the Word, a yearning for God Himself settles those other longings into their proper place.

“Father, I cry out to You. Let me rest in Your arms, that the world might not press in so, disturbing the peace. You only are the One who completely satisfies – otherwise we lean toward wanting more and more of something less. God, bring me to a place where obeying and following You is all I want. My soul gets tormented by things that are undone or not yet – relationships that aren’t where I’d like them to be; responsibilities that seem beyond my abilities; God, draw me to Yourself. Help me to be where You want me to be, and then everything else will be, at least, ordered rightly. Father, I lay down these longings – these relationships; these responsibilities – and lift my face toward Yours, yearning only for You right now. I love You, Lord. Teach me to love You more. In Jesus. Amen.”

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

Story Behind Yearn

Shane & Shane Singing Yearn (YouTube)

Chords

How to Become a Follower of Jesus

Worship Wednesday – I Am Broken at Your Feet – Alabaster – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: The River Walk

Within two days of Jesus’ crucifixion, just hours before, a woman would anoint his body for burial… Here is the strange and glorious account of that event:

 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him.  “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”

While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:1-9

Our pastor Cliff Jordan’s sermon on Mark 14:1-11 brought this account alive again to us. [Listen to the podcast linked above.]

The woman who poured out her treasure – possibly all she had in the world – in worshiping the Lord – was no stranger to him. She was Mary, sister to Lazarus and Martha – friend and follower of Jesus.

Surrounded by the disciples at his host’s table, Jesus was enjoying the company of these men so close to him. Mary entered the room without ceremony and straightaway broke open an alabaster jar containing this expensive perfume. [That jar was like her security – equivalent to a year’s wages in that day – “compared to her love for Jesus, it was nothing”, Cliff preached.]

She would pour that extravagant oil over his head. She then took the dripping oil into her hands and rubbed it on his feet. Drying off the excess with her own hair. The men in the room took loud exception at what they considered her frivolous act…but not Jesus.

Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Two days later, Jesus would give his all on a cross. Beaten and bloody he would die…for us…holding nothing back. It was a Friday, and Passover. By the time his body was released to be buried, his followers had to rush, because of the late hour, laying his body in the tomb, wrapped but without anointing oils.

No worries. In the quiet of that Passover evening, Jesus’ body, caked with blood mixed with his sweat, the fragrance of Mary’s love offering must have remained…must have sweetened the stench of his death. He gave his all for us…she gave her all for him.

“Love is a laid-down life.” (Elisabeth Elliot) – We experience that in Jesus, those of us who know him. We see that in Mary.

Pastor Cliff asked the questions: “What is my alabaster jar? Where do we place our security? What can’t we imagine life without?”

I can’t imagine life without Jesus and knowing his love and his great gift of salvation. Everything else pales.

___________________________________________________________________________

From our years living in Egypt, we have kept two small alabaster votives. The light they emit is both enthralling and beautiful…so like the act of Mary’s giving all she had to her beloved Jesus.

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s Alabaster.

I am broken at Your feet
Like an alabaster jar
Every piece of who I am
Laid before Your majesty

I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet
Yeah

Oh, the gravity of You
Draws my soul unto its knees
I will never be the same, no
I am lost and found in You

And I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet

Oh, I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet.*

* Lyrics to Alabaster by Rend Collective

The AlabasterJar – The River Walk

YouTube Video – Alabaster Box – Cece Winans

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Blog - good good father - timesofmaltaPhoto Credit: TimesofMalta

[Adapted from the Archives – on the occasion of Hurricane Florence moving toward the East Coast. Praying for mercy for those in its path.]

For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:3-4

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.Psalm 46:1-3

When we lived in Morocco, we loved walking along the coast – along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There were sandy beaches aplenty, but my favorite parts were the rocky outcroppings which stood as sentinels against the crashing waves. I will never forget one time, walking with a friend who prayed aloud as we stood by the shore on a stormy day. He said, “Lord, may the storms of our lives break on the rocks of Your mercy.”

Storms come to all our lives…shocks, interruptions and losses that shake our faith and cause confusion in our understanding of good…and God. We want to explain how such things can happen in the presence of a good God. However, our attempts at explaining fall pitifully short. How can we explain our experience of that good Father in the midst of every storm? He is present, even in His silence…we lean in, and we find strong support…through every storm.

Blog - Good Good Father - godisgreatitstruePhoto Credit: GodIsGreatItsTrue

“Life is hard and God is good.” – Marshall Shelley

These words were spoken by a father whose tiny son, Toby, lived 2 minutes in this world. Toby is short for Tobiah which means “God is good”. Shelley goes on to describe more of his wrestling with Toby’s brief life in a Christianity Today article.

“Why did God create a child to live two minutes?

He didn’t.

He didn’t create Toby to live two minutes…He didn’t create me to live 40 years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world). God created Toby for eternity. He created each of us for eternity, where we may be surprised to find our true calling, which always seemed just out of reach here on earth.”

I can’t explain the goodness of God but I know it. He is a good, good Father. He has brought me through hard places; He is with me through dark nights when I can’t sleep. How can we bask in His goodness in easy times and not believe, even when our hearts are broken, that His goodness extends into the hard as well? Because of His comfort thus far in my life…and that of beloved others…I determine to trust Him in the present hard…and with the future.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5

What a blessing to read the Psalms and rejoice with those inspired writers who give us pictures of God present in our storms. Our hearts are also gladdened by modern-day hymn-writers who remind us of the truth of God’s goodness. Casting Crowns’ Praise You in the Storm and Just Be Held, and then David Crowder’s I Am all remind us of God’s presence with us in the midst of storms.

Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett’s song Good, Good Father gives voice to my experience of the goodness of God. I hope you are encouraged by it, through whatever storms break over your lives today.

Worship with me.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching
For answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Cause You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
Oh, You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
You’re a good good Father

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways*

“This I recall to mind and therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. His compassions [his mercies] never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him.” – Lamentations 3:21-25

“Life is hard and God is good.” That is the meaning of Lamentations. That is the meaning of Job. You might say that is the meaning of the Bible. Life is hard and God is good…and many of you are right in the midst of proving it to be so now. At least if you would trust him, if I could persuade you that God is trustworthy in it, and if you held on to it, you would discover that life is hard and God is good.

O, that God would give us eyes to see his mercies in our lives and we would see them all the more clearly and know that they were mercies if we knew the price that he paid for them for us. He sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to die so that my guilt will be taken away, his wrath would be removed from me, and there would be a free, open course for his mercies to flow to me while he is just. Even though I am a sinner, I can be treated with mercy. That is a glorious thing that God has done in Jesus Christ. We would taste the mercies all the more sweetly if we knew the price.” – John Piper

BLog - Good good father - midspointofviewPhoto Credit: Midspointofview

Lyrics to Good, Good Father by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Good, Good Father – Housefires II (featuring Pat Barrett)

If This is Spring There Must Be a Tornado Somewhere – Tom Elliff

Blog - Good Good Father - onegirldesignshoppe

Photo Credit: OneGirlDesignShoppe

Wednesday Worship – the God Worshipper – Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

Worship. Such a tension to keep the focus on the Lord and not on our own preferences, our own pleasures.

King David had his own slippery slopes through life, but worship that pleases the Lord was clearly something he understood. Psalm 15 came up in my regular Bible reading this week and is still working its work on my heart.

Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
Who can live on your holy mountain?

The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his silver at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent—
the one who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Who is that person?! That person who lives a life of worship as if he enters the “holy of holies” as he would enter his house or his workplace or his church.

What we do briefly on a Sunday morning matters to God, for sure. What we are about through the week (including Sunday morning) is the substance of the life of a worshipper. There is no separation of sacred from secular. Of daily or divine. We all know this in our hearts.

Psalm 15 puts me on my knees. Let’s break it down. How does the psalmist describe one who essentially lives in the presence of the Lord?

10 rules are laid out in Psalm 15. The first three are in verse 2. These only God can see whether we live by them or not. Now others may see our actions but these verses pertain more to the content or motivation of our hearts. The other seven are listed in verses 3-5. These are straight-up actions toward those we encounter each day.

Here they are in Easy English*, these rules or habits that mark a true worshipper:

1) She “makes no mistakes”; lives a life of integrity and uprightness. Consistent. Honest. What you see is what you get.

2) She does what is right and fair. Practices righteousness. In fact, he works righteousness into every situation, as one would knead bread.

3) He speaks out loud what he knows to be true in his heart. She does not withhold the truth in timidity, but acknowledges the truth with courage.

4) She tells no lies about another. In fact, even if something seems true, she reminds herself that telling it won’t help the person or the situation. He refuses to speak ill of others. No slander. No back-biting.

5) He does nothing harmful to his neighbors. No mean intentionality. Nor cruel or indifferent neglect.

6) She does not harm others with words. She makes no slurs nor discredits them. He does not make slurs or gossip about others. [Similar to #4; the repetition shouldn’t be lost on us. Our mouths can betray what’s in our hearts which can disqualify us for true worship.]

[Sidebar: If we can determine to speak truth in love, the temptation to talk about others INSTEAD of to them would be less a problem. What do you think?]

7) He does not keep company with bad people. He despises those who show themselves despicable. She does not seek the favor of those who reject God.

8) He gives honor to those who fear God. She serves those who serve God.

9) She keeps her word no matter what it might cost her. He is dependable and trustworthy.

10) He uses money to bless not to profit. She is generous. He remembers the poor.

*A Place for You – Psalm 15 in Easy English – Gordon Churchyard

Psalm 15 – the Character of the One God Receives – David Guzik

We look at these rules and spiritual habits and wonder how we can offer pleasing worship to the Lord…ever. We are imperfect and follow Him imperfectly. The key is the aim of our hearts. If we tune our hearts toward God as a matter of life, we set our aim on Him. In such a way, that the arrow of our lives hits the center of the target of these habits…these disciplines…these practices.

I always loved Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God. He was a monk who struggled against the mundane of serving God and the brothers in his monastery. Then he caught onto the idea that God was in the mundane…as in any of the holy sacraments.

Writer and farm wife/mother Ann Voskamp wrote about this in her blog How to Practice the Presence of God. In her critique, she posed the question of how can you practice His presence. “God’s presence needs no practicing because God’s presence has no end. God presence needs no practicing because it’s perfect and it’s present everywhere.” 

What she says is true, but we are frail in our faith and too often distracted by the many tantalizing imperfections of life. We miss God if we don’t make seeing Him a practice. It’s less like practicing the piano and more like practicing medicine. Less works. More faith. Faith in a sure truth and great God. Worthy of worship in every aspect of our lives.

We know Him and we live in ways that reflect knowing Him.

No song today through which we might worship together. Songwriter Hoss Hughes has penned a sweet response to Psalm 15 (see link below).

YouTube Video – “Never Shaken” – Psalm 15 worship song personalized by Hoss Hughes

I do love how the psalm ends.

“The one who does these things will never be shaken.” Hallelujah!

How to Live the Psalm 15 Life – Kenneth Copeland

Singing with Jesus – Psalm 15 – Acceptable Worship

Worship Wednesday – Son of David, Have Mercy on Me – Ghost Ship

Photo Credit: Shelly Duffer, Bobby Nicolescu

They came to Jericho. And as he [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. Mark 10:46-52

Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

On Sunday, our pastor Cliff preached on the persistent faith of blind Bartimaeus. As you read in the passage above, this is a gripping story of a man who knew darkness too well. He also must have heard of the man Jesus. In this moment, in close proximity to Jesus, he cried out for help.

He must have sounded like a mad man in his desperation to be heard. Those around him tried to shush him, but he would not be silenced. He knew help was almost within reach…in the person of Christ. I can just imagine the pitch of his voice rising higher and higher, not caring if he sounded the fool. He was so focused on Jesus hearing him that he had to be told that Jesus had indeed beckoned him.

When he was brought near, Jesus asked him that incredible question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to see,” gasped Bartimaeus. I want to see!

…and Jesus gave him his sight.

[Catch Cliff’s sermon in its entirety via this week’s podcast. So powerful.]

We have times when we cry out to God to help us see. Or maybe we just want to see without having to face what keeps us blind…if we’re honest. Our God is a confessional God. When we are willing to say out loud what is going on in the darkness of our hearts, He will take the scales off our eyes.

Eyes opened, we will begin to see who God truly is, and who we are apart from Him. We will see clearly our need for Him and our need for one another. What comes after is what happened to Bartimaeus. He left the side of the road where he was bound in his blindness, and followed Jesus on the road.

When we can really see, there is nowhere else we would want to be.

Worship with me to the Christian band Ghost Ship‘s Son of David:

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

A king is coming to His city, and crowds around are following,
If I could see, I would follow too.

He heals the sick with His hands, as He walks by, they reach for Him;
If I could see, I would reach out too.

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see!
Son of David, have mercy!

I cannot leave this gate since I cannot see my way, but I can stand and call His name.

No I could never leave this gate but I will stand and shout His name, and I will count on His grace!

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see! Son of David, have mercy!

I was blind – now I see! Jesus saved me!*

Photo Credit: FaithHub

After Cliff finished the sermon on Bartimaeus, he had an altar call. For those unfamiliar with that, it is a call to action on the part of any in the church who sense their need for Jesus in that moment. It’s an opportunity to privately and publicly “get right” with God – dealing with some hard thing in our hearts, and setting a different course in our lives. This sort of thing seems unusual in the church today, but it is fitting. When we recognize our need, and realize that Jesus can, and wants to, meet us at that need…what would hold us back? Bartimaeus gives us an example of deep desperation and unbridled desire to get to Jesus. When he did, he was rewarded with sight…and a Savior.

Even as a believer, it is too easy to turn a blind eye…on our sin, on our neighbor, on the world. We could all use an altar call from time to time, where we shed our timidity, or self-importance and pride, and run to Jesus…

…and, like Bartimaeus…just keep walking, with our eyes on Him.

[Truth: I met that altar call with a heart deeply moved, a mind set on confession, and feet frozen in concrete. When we think of Heaven, God’s winsomeness and our eyes clear (1 Corinthians 13:12), every pretense will be gone. Silly self-consciousness won’t even be a memory. Maybe one day, in our church gathered, this side of Heaven, we will become “a people marked by confession”. Thanks, Cliff, for leading us in that way.]

*Lyrics to Son of David by Ghost Ship – written by Cam Huxford IV and Shay Carlucci

The Blind Won’t Gain Their Sight… – Shelly Duffer