Saturday, November 24, 2012

Worship Song Sunday - Carry Me To The Cross, by Kutless

Even to your old age and grey hairs, I am He, I am He Who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you. ~ Isaiah 46:4, NIV

Rescued By Love, by Darren Tan
When the path is daunting,
And every step exhausting,
I'm not alone, I'm not alone,

I feel You draw me closer
All these burdens on my shoulder,
I'm not alone, I'm not alone,
You pull me from this place

You carry me every day,
You carry me all the way;
You carry me to the,
You carry me to the cross. ~ Carry Me To The Cross, written by Jason Walker, Nick DePartee, Mark Stuart

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Give thanks for what you have today, large and small, plenty and little.  God is our Loving Provider and Gracious Supplier. Take some time today -- whether in peaceful silence or amid the rattling of the pots and pans and dishes -- to give thanks to Him!

I am so grateful for you, my sweet, faithful readers. A very happy Thanksgiving to you all!! 

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4:12-13

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Living Prayer by Alison Krauss

For I, the LORD, your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the One who helps you. ~ Isaiah 41:13, ESV

An endlessly confusing, exasperating, somewhat troubling and very tiring day.  What a lovely, unexpected gift this was, to come upon this sweet, sweet song just now!  And for me, such a beautiful way to end this day.

May its words and music bring comfort, rest, joy and peace to your mind and spirit.

In Your love I find release,
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer
My God, to Thee ~ A Living Prayer, written by Ron Block

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- Not For A Moment (After All) - Live, by Meredith Andrews and the Vertical Church Band

'Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.' 
~ Psalm 27:10 (NLT)

The Promise, by Morgan Westling
Some years ago, there was a commercial whose tag line was 'Life Comes At You Fast.'  I wholeheartedly agree with that.  Sometimes, too fast.  And with too much flux. Nothing stays the same and you have no control. 

Like a roller coaster, I can be up one moment and down the next. Some days, it's all I can do just to hold on tightly to the safety bar and hope I don't fly out of my seat! 

Can anyone out there relate to that?

Back in June of 2000, my mother passed away; my father six years earlier. I recall sitting outside on my front steps the morning I received the phone call from the nursing home about my mom, feeling so lost and thinking, 'Wow. I'm officially an orphan.'  Being in my '40s at the time and married with two children, it was such an odd thing to come to mind, but it's how I felt. 

Ever feel that way?  Like an orphan? Neglected, forgotten, abandoned, lost, alone?  

Be encouraged, dear ones.  On days like these -- days where life comes at you at the speed of blur, everything seems out of control, or you're feeling alone and forgotten -- let's remember that we worship, serve and love a great and glorious God.  A God Who is constant. Who is good. Who is sovereign.  A God Who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Take some time to sit and saturate yourself with the promises of God in His Word:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ~ John 14:18 (NIV)

For I will be with you as I was with Moses; I will not fail you or abandon you. ~ Joshua 1:5 (NLT)

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] ~ Hebrews 13:5 (AMP)

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. ~ Psalm 27:10 (AKJV)

Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, but I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. ~ Isaiah 49:15-16, NKJV

Remember, I am with you always. ~ Matthew 28:20 HCSB

The Family of God, by Nathan Greene (copyright 1992)
It's my sincere wish that this song will not only allow you to experience a greater sense God's presence as you worship Him in song, but that it will also encourage, inspire, comfort you, and bring you hope.

I heard this song the other day for the first time while waiting for my daughter in her high school's parking lot.  I'm glad I was early and that no one was around, because the words and the music moved me to tears.  I was reminded that I am loved by a holy, good and faithful Father, Who knows where I am at all times and Who hears my cries, because He is right here with me, even when I cannot perceive His Presence. He will not forsake me -- nor you -- not for a moment. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Close Encounters of the Holy Kind

"And Jacob awoke from his sleep, and he said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it.' He was afraid and said, 'How to be feared and reverenced in this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gateway to heaven!' " ~ Genesis 28:16-17 (AMP)

Jacob's Ladder, by Albert Houthuesen
Have you ever left a church service feeling empty? Ever make a quick exit upon learning your ‘favorite’ preacher or priest wasn’t preaching and teaching?  Did you walk out disappointed because you felt a sermon was boring and did not personally speak to you or address your needs, or because the music wasn’t to your liking? Have you ever gone home unmoved by and unchanged from your time at church? 

I can sincerely say ‘Yes’ to all of the above, with regards to the various churches I've attended at one time or another in my life.

Before the next Saturday night or Sunday morning rolls around, we would do well to ask ourselves:

“Why do I go to church?”

  • Out of guilt?

  • Out of habit?

  • To get to Heaven and to steer clear of Hell?

“What am I looking for when I go?”

  • An explosive, entertaining sound and light experience?

  • A charismatic preacher whose sermons are funny, engaging, not too convicting, and won’t put the congregation to sleep?

  • Tasty hot and cold refreshments, yummy baked goods, comfy seats and a good handle on their climate control?

  • Chances to socialize and network with others?

Dear ones, may I be so bold as to insist that the next time you find yourself standing before the doors of a church, whether it's a church you've been attending for most of your life, or a brand new church you're trying outplease be sure to check your heart motives.  

I know this is something I've been so guilty of NOT doing for the majority of my life, and something I plan on changing immediately. Because to be honest, over the years on most Sunday morning, after trying to herd my son and daughter out the door and into the car, and now an elderly neighbor who needs a ride to services as well, I barely make it to church on time, slipping not so quietly into my seat -- out of breath, frazzled, irritated, distracted and sans ANY expectations of a close encounter with the Holy Spirit. Sadly, I'm more desperate for a cup of hot coffee and for my world to stop spinning and calm down than anything else.

Maybe it's like that for you, too?

However, above any other reasons, we should come to our places of worship to experience a fresh encounter of the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit; to worship and praise our Lord along with a like-minded, close-knit body of believers.

As you place your hand upon the door handle and prepare to step across the threshold, expect to find Him lovingly and joyfully waiting for you on the other side of that door, waiting to welcome you as you enter in His sanctuary with awe, humility, thanksgiving and gladness!

Coming together in one place to seek the Lord, to give Him all our worship and praise should be our highest honor and privilege, as well as our greatest delight as Christian brothers and sisters. 

Are we desperate for the touch of Adonai?  Desperate for His voice, His healing, His very presence in this place?

I have to wonder what our church services would begin to look like if we became a people of holy expectation and desperation. If we truly surrendered and abandoned ourselves to God, as we stepped barefoot onto the holy ground of our sanctuaries,  with hearts and minds completely focused on Him.  KNOWING without a doubt that YAHWEH awaited US! 

I'd like to do more than just wonder this coming Sunday. How about you?

Let's stop going through the motions of stale and predictable worship each and every Saturday night or Sunday morning. Let's get rid of our little-to-no expectations of ever having an encounter with the Spirit of the Living God. Instead, let's open our hearts and turn our faces up towards our Almighty God and Father, hungry and thirsty for a holy, close encounter with our precious Lord Jesus, desperate for the Holy Spirit's presence in our church -- and in our lives!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! ~ Psalm 100:4 (ESV)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- Come to the Cross, by Michael W. Smith

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." ~ Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

At the request of someone who is special to me, I am resurrecting Worship Song Sunday.  In our church service this morning, the message was about the cross of Christ -- how the apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians spoke of boasting in the cross, and what a scandalous concept it was for the Jews to wrap their brains around, since the cross was considered a device of torture and a murder weapon. To the Jews, being hung on a cross meant you had fallen under God's judgement.

Yet to followers of Jesus Christ, the cross is a symbol of freedom....freedom from death, freedom from God's wrath because of our sins.  

Only The Cross, by Ron DiCianni
Jesus's death on a cross -- a wooden, rugged, scandalous cross -- has set us free!

Everyone, everyone can come to the cross!
It doesn't matter what you've done,
Everyone can come to the cross! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ready To Forgive

“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  ~ Colossians 3:13, TLB

As I typed out the above verse, two words stood out to me and the more I stared at the verse, the more those two words kept hitting me right between the eyes: 



Words that don’t allow for much wiggle room. This verse doesn’t say ‘you probably shouldn’t hold grudges.’  Nor does it imply that you might want to consider forgiving others.  It’s quite clear – NEVER hold grudges.  You MUST forgive others.

Again -- I KNOW this is extremely hard. At times, it borders on the impossible. Yet, if we're struggling and wrestling with a spirit of unforgiveness, we need to remember that:

Forgiveness is essential to living as a follower of Christ.  It is a high calling; at the same time, it is a hard calling.  A calling you may have great difficulty in answering. Someone may be reading this right now and think, “But she has NO IDEA what I’ve been through! She doesn’t understand what that person DID to me! I just can’t get over it and I can’t forgive them! Besides, they don’t deserve it!”

I get that, I really, truly do.  I’ve never lost a precious loved one to another's random, stupid, thoughtless decision, or to a premeditated heartless, violent act by someone else. I’ve never experienced the sickening shock of having a spouse confront me after years of marriage to tell me it’s all been a sham and they’re leaving me for someone else.  I've never had a parent turn their back on me, abandon me, or had them stand idly and silently by while allowing another family member to perform unspeakable acts on me.

However -- many years ago, when I was a teenaged girl in what seems now like another lifetime, I was raped by someone I considered a good friend. Raped and literally kicked to the curb on a stormy night, with no way of getting home. Scared.  Ashamed. Angry. And broken. So very broken.

Not many people know this, but my current marriage is actually my second one.  In my first marriage, I was the victim of domestic violence and suffered much physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a man who swore before God, family and friends to love, honor and obey me 'til death do us part. Death was pretty darn close the night he shoved a loaded revolver in my mouth and laughing said, 'Let's play Russian Roulette!' 

I’ve been betrayed by someone I admired greatly, and had malicious, slanderous, ugly gossip spread throughout my office by two friends and coworkers who were like sisters to me.  I’ve been mistreated over and over by those who claimed to love me. I thought I’d forgiven these people, but it took years for me to see, with alarming and humiliating clarity, and through painful, yet cleansing, Christian counseling, that I had failed miserably to do so.

It’s said that harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die. I drank deeply from the cup of unforgiveness for a very long time, emptying it often.  And the only person who suffered the consequences, as well as the awful, metallic taste of anger, bitterness and resentment – was me.

Speaking of consequences – here’s a rather unsettling wake-up call for us: if we choose not to forgive another’s transgressions, the result of that choice will be that God won’t forgive us of ours as well.  

Be mindful that forgiveness doesn’t mean we tolerate and condone the sinful behaviors and actions of another.  It’s not making light of or believing and having others believe the offense was no big deal. And, as one wise reader reminded me in a comment on the first post in this Forgiveness trilogy"Forgiveness does not equal trust."  Amen!  South African leader Desmond Tutu, who led his nation through the painful process of forgiveness and reconciliation, had this to say:

“Forgiveness and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are.  It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong.”

And Dr. Gary Inrig, pastor and author, says “Forgiveness looks sin in the eye and nevertheless speaks costly words: ‘I forgive you.’”

Yes, forgiveness can be painful and costly for those of us who are doing the forgiving, especially when the offense has been monumental and the perpetrator shows no signs of remorse nor feels there is any reason for them to be forgiven.  But forgiveness does help to lead and guide us down the path of healing.  The path of peace.  The path of freedom. Forgiveness is indeed a journey. 

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner…was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

I’m reminded of two amazing stories. One made headlines back in October 2006, when an entire Amish community forgave one man his unimaginably heinous sin of murdering their children in a one room school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  Forgiving the unforgivable is not a quick and easy offering of a cheap pardon, but an extremely costly gift of grace. 

The other story is of Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, and the incredible act of forgiveness she was able to extend, many years later, to the man who had been one of the guards at Ravensbruck, the concentration camp in which Corrie and her sister, Betsie, had been exiled (and where Betsie eventually was killed).  In both instances, I am blown away by the depth of their extreme forgiveness. 

The only way I believe any of us can even attempt to sincerely forgive is to run to Jesus. He's been there, dear ones.  Right where you and I are, or were, or will be again sometime soon. Jesus has stood in that place -- poised at the crossroads of forgiveness and revenge. And choosing the path of forgiveness. Choosing to forgive the unforgivable, the inexcusable and the impossible.

Forgiven, by Ross Docken
Cry out to Him, lean into Him and rely totally on Him in your weakness.  Look to our precious Savior for help in letting go of all our anger, hatred, bitterness, pain; our vengeful and malicious thoughts, and let His love envelop our heart, mind and spirit.  Allow Him to speak through us and to forgive others through us. This is something we cannot do by ourselves in our own supposed strength, but through Him who strengthens us!  Our Lord may quickly and supernaturally ignite forgiveness in your heart, allowing healing to take place immediately.  Or, as He did with me, He may take you on a longer, slower journey, acting and speaking through a compassionate, trusting Christian counselor. 

Now it's time for the painful, difficult question -- who in your life needs pardoning today, dear one?  To whom do you need to extend the mercy and grace of God? Take a deep breath -- are you ready to forgive?

Most times, at the end of a blog post, I'll include song lyrics or a video of that particular song for how it relates to the story or for its personal meaning for me.  This time, however, I decided to share the video of the story behind the song, 'Forgiveness,' by singer Matthew West. It's a powerful story of a woman who chose, in Christ's strength, to live out the verse below: 

"Get rid of all bitterness rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you." ~ Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV

Friday, November 2, 2012

Father, Forgive Them....

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”’  ~ Luke 23:33-34

Judging from the low amount of page views my previous post received, I’m thinking that forgiveness doesn’t rank very high among the Top 40 popular, Must Read blog post topics (If you missed it, please CLICK HERE to read 'Forgiveness'). 

I can understand why.  Like politics and religion, forgiveness can be a touchy, volatile subject.  Truth be told, most people would not only rather avoid thinking and talking about forgiveness, but more than likely would rather refrain from initiating and acting upon it as well.

Because forgiving one another is hard. REALLY hard. Not just for the small annoyances in life, but for those over-the-top, ‘how could anyone do something like this?!’ things, too.  Things that seem almost impossible to forgive.

I don’t have to remind anyone reading here that there are A LOT of thoughtless, cruel, heartless people in this world. From liars, thieves, drunk/drugged drivers, embezzlers, adulterous spouses to murderers, rapists, pedophiles, sexual predators, etc., there are people who don’t seem to care about the havoc they wreak or the carnage of broken people they leave behind; people who delight in the pain of others, be it physical, emotional or mental pain.  All you have to do is open up your newspaper, turn on your television or radio, power up your computer or simply walk out your front door to be witness to what’s going on in this fallen world.  When we read about an elderly person savagely attacked in their home, or learn of yet another child who’s been kidnapped and found miles away later on, brutally murdered, or we find ourselves the hurting victim of a crime of the body or the heart, forgiveness for the perpetrator isn’t on our minds or in our hearts, is it?  Nope.

Revenge is.

We’d rather see these monsters of society get what’s coming to them.  And if we’re totally honest, deep inside, wouldn’t we all like to get a whack at them ourselves, showing up in courtrooms or jail cells, like those mobs of angry villagers in old movies, brandishing our pitchforks and torches?

But, if we say we are Christians, aren’t we expected to brandish mercy and grace, and to extend forgiveness instead?  And when WE sin, don’t we expect our offenses – no matter what they are -- to be forgiven? Don’t we BEG for God’s mercy and grace to catch us when slip and fall headlong into sin?  Of course we do. I know I do.

Forgiven, by Thomas Blackshear
We can memorize the following Bible verse and gladly declare it and claim it as a ‘life verse:’

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’” ~ Romans 5:8 (NIV). 

But what about committing THIS C.S. Lewis quote to memory and living it out:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 


I have to wonder – how did Jesus feel right before He cried out from the cross those mind-boggling words?

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing!”

Did Jesus wrestle with forgiving His haters, His betrayers, His murderers, much as He did in the garden at Gethsemane, struggling in anguished prayer to do His Father’s will and accept the overwhelming cup He’d been offered? He very well may have, but we have no way of knowing, since there is no record in the Bible of this particular wrestling match between the human and the Divine sides of Jesus in that instance.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  In me. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could do the unthinkable and ask forgiveness for the very people who despised Him, who betrayed Him, who mocked, beat and tormented Him, and nailed Him onto a wooden cross – WHILE He was hanging on that cross, close to breathing His final breath, and DYING FOR THEIR SINS AND OURS – can we do any less?  Can we remember that it’s not us but God Who says, “Vengeance is Mine, and I will repay?” Can we leave the justice and judgment calls up to Him, and just put down our pitchforks and torches…and learn to forgive instead?

It’s not easy, this forgiving of others. Oh, how I know just how difficult it can be!  So please join me next time for some closing thoughts in my final installment (and in case you’re wondering….no, I hadn’t planned on this turning into a mini-series of sorts)!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...