Silly Me, Short Question, Strong Answer

 

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On  Monday’s  for two years, I’ve been blessed to be part of a group of people from about a dozen different  churches who meet (and have met for fourteen years) in a home for three hours to sing worship songs and speak scripture, as they sense inspiration to read it, as intercession for  the salvation – true reverent, thankful relationship with Jesus as Savior, Redeemer and Lord of their lives – of loved ones, friends, organizations, governments, nations, and even terrorists. These very ordinary people are amazing, and we feel God’s Presence every week,powerfully. I know His heart is to see the lost brought into God’s great love and forgiveness through Jesus, so  it’s not surprising, I guess, when we share God’s heart and love what He loves, that He shows up.

Some days we are mostly about intercession. some day’s it’s mostly worship, and some days, God’s Holy Spirit makes it  about us and the changes and  truths we need to embrace. These people  are transparent,  openly admitting where we blow it, and the bond we feel with each other, as well as with Jesus,  is amazing. Last  Monday the morning flowed into the word that God wants to do something new in each of us. Several shared about “God-incidences” in their lives, with one woman saying with a  laugh that she knew what  she said to another person HAD to be God speaking through  her, ”Because I’m not that smart!”

While we were in a time of  silence and listening, I “heard” a brief thought, prefaced by  the difficulty I had that morning of getting an earring through the shrinking hole in my left  earlobe, while thinking how ridiculous (even though widely accepted as common sense) it is to think  I/we make myself/ourselves more beautiful by poking holes in parts of our bodies and hanging  jewelry in or from them. Does that make me more  beautiful to God? If it doesn’t, what does our Heavenly (and relentlessly patient) Father think is true beauty? Hmmm…. this is offered as a “whadayathink.” I heard it for me and share it with you for your own reflection:

The most beautifying “thing” I can put on is
complete reliance on Jesus to be my acceptance before God–
yes, my covering, but not just my covering for sin,
He is my cleansing from sin.
Just As I Am in Him,
renewed into the creation God intended all along in me;
I am beautiful to God.
My face is washed clean from shame BY the  Father’s Love.
am delighted in; I am chosen.
HIS  beauty becomes the radiance in me,
a mirror polished to reflect Jesus,
like a still pool,  a cup holding Living Water reflecting ABBA’s Glory. 
Lord God, Father, help  me  remember and believe who You say I am to you and what  You see and You place within me, so I know my true identity and what truly matters, in Jesus’ name, amen!
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A point of clarification

In case  anyone wonders about my motives in posting this blog for the past 8 years, after today’s Worship Intercession group – anywhere from 15 to 30 of us from across, and I mean ACROSS,  denominations and ages –  where we sing intercession for three hours over those  who don’t know  Jesus as LORD and Lover of their souls, I earnestly want everyone to know that this is about what GOD does in my life. It’s not about my power or glory or fame, but GOD’S.

I truly am blessed by Robin Mark’s music, and this song expresses my desires in writing:

We passionately sang this today, some of us on our feet, hands lifted, in joy!Those who can’t stand worship just as passionately from their chairs! No formula, no “liturgy,” no right way or wrong way or tradition, but simply passionately prayed intercession and love.

I’ve never before been part of group of people so dedicated and committed, earnestly desiring what God desires: that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE,  comes to know the great, unsearchable love He offers us through relationship with Jesus as Redeemer, Savior, and LORD!

What a blessing to join our hearts, spirits and voices every week! Loved ones, friends, organizations, churches, states, nations, our “enemies” – Three hours of loving prayer isn’t enough, ever! Enough said. Solo Deo Gloria!

 

 

 

No fog machies,no lights, no drums, no amplifiers, BUT God …

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Sunday morning, Kokomo, Indiana, driving back to Indianapolis, 1700+ miles of driving ahead of us, but we wanted to go to church, so we looked online to see if there were any Evangelical Free churches in Kokomo. Grace Fellowship popped up, so we fairly technologically savvy old timers put the address into our map search and navigated our way to the church.

We arrived early, in time to hear the trio (plus one young girl) warming up before the service. Small sanctuary, no fog machines, no high-tech lighting, just sunshine warmly pouring in through the marbled glass windows, reminding me of the church my family attended up north of Kokomo in my early childhood. No pianist that day, either (on vacation) and no electric or acoustic guitar, no drummer, just voices.

A few regular attenders were scattered throughout the building, so we walked up and took a pew near the front, a respectful few pews from the front row, and enjoyed the music. This church certainly didn’t look like, or have the “vibes” of the 10,000-member church I’d belonged to for ten years, or the 5,000-member church I belonged to for twelve years. It didn’t even look like the lively 60-member church I’d belonged to that met every Sunday in the town library. I could fully imagine that most contemporary American church-shoppers, er, -goers would be “underwhelmed” by the lack of “atmosphere,” but we were there to hopefully hear God’s Word and worship, so we stayed, and boy, were we GLAD we did!

No, the band didn’t suddenly show up, and in fact, the PowerPoint wasn’t working properly that day and we had to rely on our memories for many of the worship songs BUT GOD WAS THERE! Imagine that: the Almighty, The Holy One of Israel, the LORD on High, entered into that little building through the Holy Spirit rising up out of grateful, thankful, worshipful hearts of  maybe 30 people and God DID truly inhabit the praises of His people! We sang and sang, worshiped and worshiped, praised and praised, raised a few hands, and deep joy and warm love filled the room! Then God’s Word and Heart poured out through the obvious passion in the pastor’s heart. I’ve been part of a small group where the same thing happens in a living room every Monday morning, and talk about a paradigm shift!

What? You mean we don’t need the fog machines? We don’t need the dramatic changing colored lighting? We don’t need a darkened sanctuary and projected thrilling landscapes  on three screens up front?  We don’t need a thundering drummer? We don’t need amplified guitars and violins? WHAT KIND OF A SHOW IS THAT??????

Please don’t hear what I’m NOT saying: I’m not condemning drums, lights, or amplifiers, because I have truly worshiped with all of those present. I am raising a question, though: what do we think worship is, and where is it directed? Is worship the externals that stimulate our senses,  or is worship grateful connection and communication from our spirit and heart and being with our Father’s, God’s, own Spirit and Heart and Being?

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.  1 Chronicles 16: 23-29 NIV

 

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4: 21-24 NIV

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

 

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.

Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.

Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Psalm 99: 1-4 NIV

 

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Isaiah 29:13 NIV

 

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NIV

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV

 

So what I Am saying is that a handful of very ordinary people with nothing but their hearts and humility and voices CAN worship the LORD  in the beauty of His holiness in  simplicity and truth to such a degree that God delights in descending right there in their midst with His Presence – maybe not visibly, but perceptibly nevertheless –  and trust me, GOD is ENOUGH to make simple songs raised by normal voices into a conduit that brings Heaven to Earth.

Would you like to experience THAT on Sunday morning? Have you ever TRULY wanted to see His Kingdom come, and God’s will done on Earth as it is in Heaven, wanted it so much and desperately that your heart would break if it didn’t happen?

Then can I encourage you, next Sunday, or gosh, today in your own house or apartment, to bring an offering of your grateful heart, the certainty that HE is God and you are not,  and humble, glad thanks to God for loving and WANTING relationship with you?  Smoke and lights and drums or just your voice, trust Him to show up and see what He’ll do with your sacrifice of praise!

I’m daring you – and boy, going out on a limb asking God Almighty to prove Himself to you when you do –  to try it right now, wherever you are as youre’ reading this!

 (and yes, lift your hands and see how it feels!)

A”…BUT…”to pray: Father, Holy Lord, Almighty Everlasting God, all I have to give you right now is myself, grace-fully broken, BUT here goes, my words of thanks to you, and I’m trusting You, Holy Spirit, to come inhabit my praises ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

And thanks, Grace Fellowship Kokomo!

 

Beautiful song, powerful message, period.

http://www.godtube.com/embed/source/1f102mnu.js?w=728&h=408&ap=true&sl=true’Build My Life’ – Worship From Passion from universalmusicgroup on GodTube.

 

 

The Hymnal in Me

princeofpeace13  Frequently I wake up with a song in my thoughts. With this week being Holy Week, I may “fast” from my own thinking and simply share the songs in the night the  Lord brings me. These come from my childhood, words still dear to me and still true, even though the modern church does’t sing  them anymore.

Etna Green EUB Church

This morning it’s this beautiful request:

And our asking the Holy Spirit:

And God’s purposes entrusted to us:

 

And my prayer is simply Amen!

 

Frank Sinatra and Monopoly, Part 1: “I did it my way…”

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If you’re as far over the hill as people might think I am, you vividly remember and can sing along with the passionate strains of Frank Sinatra in what we then saw as a profound statement of personal validation (remember, this was 1969 and the full bloom of Flower Power, the Feminist Movement, anti-war protests, “ban the bra,” and other  anti-establishment movements). Decades and lots of water under the bridge later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall but facing even greater threats in our world, I now see this as a proud statement of self-interest, self-promotion,  standing on top of anyone who gets in your way, and what could be the theme song of the expanding membership of the Narcissists ‘R” Us Club. For the fun of it – and these aren’t all the verses of the song – count how many times you see the words “I” and “my” in the verses below:

“Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Yes, it was my way.”

Songwriters: DUPRI, JERMAINE/SEAL, MANUEL LONNIE/RAYMOND, USHER
My Way lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, S U I S A, COOPERATIVE SOC. OF MUSIC AUTHORS & PUBLISHERS
How many “I’s”? Nine. How many “my’s”? Four; “me” shows up too, (him)self, “all that,” (the British version would add “and a bag of chips…”) and going back to sophomore literature class, what would you say the author’s thesis statement might be? ___________________________________
Just for comparison.  Lets’ look  at the writings of some other authors, and write after each passage what you think the writer’s thesis statement might be:

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8 NIV  Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) _______________________
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.
Proverbs 29: 23 King Solomon __________________________________
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor…Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you …Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.   
 James 4: 6, 9-10 NIV James the Apostle_______________________________
They are blessed who are ·humble [meek; gentle],
    for ·the whole earth will be theirs [they shall inherit the earth;Ps. 37:11].
They are blessed who hunger and thirst after ·justice[righteousness],
    for they will be ·satisfied [filled].
They are blessed who show mercy to others,
    for ·God will show mercy to them [they will be shown mercy;the passive verb implies God as subject].
Matthew 5: 5-7 EXB  Jesus of Nazareth, (also known  as Redeemer, Son of God, Lord of Lords) _____________________________________
IF  My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV God Almighty (also known as Adonai, Everlasting God, Creator)
_____________________________________________
Hmmm…. Comparison?
And a BIG caution here to myself to avoid this easy-to-slip-into trap: I can’t ever think I can be proud of my humility, because then my humility is really thinly disguised pride. A better theme song for me to sing is the one that goes:
“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ, my God. All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”
It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31 Therefore,as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV 
…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:24 NIV
Sigh, what a fine line I/we need to walk, remembering Whose we are first and Who gave us that position, knowing that nothing I’ve/we’ve ever done can make me/us righteous before a Holy, Pure, Righteous God. I freely admit here that I’ve fallen into the trap of “Maybe I can help you, God ….” My motives going in were right, but some of the dumb things I’ve done certainly did nothing to advance “YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  I don’t adhere to those who lash their own backs to show repentance, because to me, that’s just more making it about ME, about what I can do to atone for myself.  I’m simply saying that God forgives when we truly repent, wipes the slate clean, and gives us chance after chance to let Him be God and us simply reflect Him. THAT is our business, not “I did it my way,” but “I did it HIS way.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 ESV

Oh, ouch, that means lifting my paddle out of the water and letting Jesus steer the canoe, because He knows the better way to go. A complete stranger, Don,  gave me a powerful word from God several years ago that included these words:

                                                 I’m trying to bless you; you have to let me!

Stumble and fumble a paddle furiously as I’m often tempted, I get along much better when I sit down, shut up, hold on and LET GOD.  The song I’d like played at my funeral is this one by Robin Mark, one of my favorite Christian singers, with the caveat that it’s the way I WANT to live my life,  not the way I unfailingly did, and I pray Holy Spirit always leads me to and in God’s way, even if I trip and stumble and pull hard on His hand in the wrong direction. Count the number of you’s and your’s, you’ve and you’re’s  in the lyrics:

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I’ve done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
Finding purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For you’ve showed me Heaven’s  my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone.

If I could re-write Sinatra’s song,

For what is a (wo)man, what has (s)he got?
If not Jesus, then (s)he has naught.
To say the things (s)he truly feels;
And lift God’s praise as one who kneels.
The record shows Christ took the blows –
I’ll do it HIS way!

No “BUT’s” about it, Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  And may I say, when all is said and done, in a humble way, I hope I did it HIS way.

Motown Jesus

everlasting love_t_nv_2In 1967 Robert Knight recorded a song written by Mac Gayden, lyrics by Buzz Cason. For those not born in the United States within the 1940’s through 1960’s, Detroit, Michigan was noted for two products: automobiles and music, gaining it the label of “Motor City” and the rock and blues music that came from Detroit “Motown.” I’ve loved their song ever since I first heard it. Teenage girls could weep thinking of finding a love like this song proclaimed. Then some of us discovered that the Prince  Charming who found us was really just another wounded human being searching for, but unable to give, the same thing we were searching for and longing to be part of, the song’s name: Everlasting Love.

Buzz Cayson said he was inspired by the words of Jeremiah 31: 3-4: The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.

Aha! i always thought I heard God speaking in that song! Something in it called to me when I was just 17 and lodged deeply in my heart. I knew Jesus because I grew up in a church-going, God-loving family, but my knowledge became full-blown love in our tiny church on February 20, 1972 when I “heard” Jesus say to me,”You know I died for the world … but do you know I died for YOU?”

Wow! Chosen! Beloved! I was going to need that deepest love inside me to carry me through the shattering of my world decades later. Rock solid, Jesus’ love for me, passionate and burning, tender and embracing. Why do we demand from each other the unconditional love that only our Father Creator God can give us through himself made flesh and blood in Jesus? “Hearts go stray, leaving hurt when they go …” Our hearts get wounded, we close them up to keep from bleeding, or to keep the world from seeing our bleeding and the depth of our need. Being “needy” isn’t cool, but in reality, we all are.  Wounded animals do the same thing: conceal their pain and vulnerability so predators won’t single them out for a meal.  I suspect we humans do the same thing.

“Nobody is going to ever talk like THAT to me again!”

“I won’t let anyone treat me like THAt again!”

“No, I’m fine, really, I”m just picking myself up and moving on ….” bleeding all the way. We close off our hearts from the ones who have hurt us, but brick by brick, does that wall keep out the very love we need, and does it keep out the love Jesus may send through others?

If it’s true “you can’t heal what you don’t reveal”, it may also be very true that you can’t heal what you don’t let yourself feel, or more accurately, how can Jesus heal what we aren’t willing to feel? Feeling hurts, we feel because we care, and the ones we care about the most are the ones whose wounds hurt us most deeply. The truth hidden there is that we/I/YOU  hurt  because we/I/YOU DO have a heart capable of knowing and wanting love, empathy, a consciousness of and conscience toward others’ feelings, and we expect others to be wired as we are. Sadly, tragically, not every person is, BUT amazingly, incredibly, JESUS IS!

Whatever else happens to us in this life amid the wounded, predator and prey and innocent bystanders minding their own business and trying to live uprightly, we do well to remember we “wrestle not against flesh and blood.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13

Paul goes on to describe the helmet of faith, breastplate of salvation, belt of truth, shoes of the readiness to preach the gospel, and the sword of God’s Word. That  brings me back full circle to Isaiah 31:3 and the promise god can’t possible break, that he lives us/me/YOU with an everlasting love and draws us to himself with kindness. Can I dare, can you dare, to open up your heart and feel that you’re part of everlasting love? Can we wear that love like chain mail to protect our hearts without walling them off from the lives around us who can, at best, love us despite our, and through their, limitations?

I know this: I can only approach feeling and living out unconditional love for others when I let Jesus into my heart to heal the wounds in me and then to love others through me, even while I’m healing. The Motown song implies we can find this love in other people, but it’s truly only God’s love for us through Jesus’ love that is, and enables, everlasting love.

Unlike the lyrics, Jesus never will leave us:

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 Amplified  (from Deuteronomy 31:6)

Jesus promised to embrace everyone who comes to him with everlasting love: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:37-39 NIV

Had Motown been around in those days, Jesus might have sung it, rather than say it. Can you hear his call to you in this song? More importantly, can you hear the voice of “Motown” Jesus calling to you in his song for you today? Listen to it online, and as you listen, underline the words that God’s Spirit speaks to you, about you, in the song.

Hearts go astray, leaving hurt when they go.
I went away just when you needed me so.
Filled with regret I come back beggin’ you,
Forgive, forget. Where’s the love we once knew?
Open up your eyes, then you’ll realize here I stand
With my everlasting love.
Need you by my side, girl you’ll be my bride.
You’ll never be denied everlasting love.
From the very start, open up your heart,
Be a lasting part of everlasting love.

Your love will last forever.
Your love will last forever.

Where life’s river flows, no one really knows
’til someone’s there to show the way to lasting love.
Like the sun that shines, endlessly it shine,
You always will be mine. It’s eternal love.
When other loves are gone, ours will still be strong,
We have our very own everlasting love.

Your love will last forever.
Your love will last forever.
You give me, you give me, you give me everlasting love

A “…BUT…” to pray: Jesus, I’m going to be very honest. I need your healing touch and everlasting love. It’s true that I’ve ___________________________________________, and it’s true that _______________________________________ said _________________________________________________ to me. It’s true that ____________________ did _______________________________________________ to me, and if I’m really honest, it’s true that I said ________________________________________________ and I did _________________________________________________________ and I wish I hadn’t. I could easily wall of my heart, BUT Father God, you love me with an everlasting love. You said it, you promise it, you mean it, so I will let you come into my heart and _______________________________________________________________________________. Help my unbelief, and help me to feel your everlasting love. Can I dance with you to this song today, and when I do, please help me feel you with me. Amen!