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Prepare for Easter

Father, as I celebrate this Easter season,
teach me what it means to live as
an Easter person
in this present world.

Everyone here is facing
inescapable death.
Help me live Your resurrection life among them,
glowing with
hope,
purpose, and
joyful anticipation.

Here sin seems inescapable.
Failure is considered inevitable.
Help me live as one set free from sin,
fully forgiven and
fully empowered for triumphant living.

Here, as we face the future,
we are gripped with
helplessness and
despair.
May I walk in the bright confidence of Easter.
Help me live as one whose eternal, glorious life in You
has already begun, and
will never end.

Father, may lost and hopeless people
sense the beautiful reality of Easter
in me.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Alive in You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Only a Seed

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7, NIV)

We dream of building empires. We like to think of ourselves as becoming strong oaks, or perhaps lush, glorious gardens of accomplishment.

But we lose sight of our smallness. We are only one tiny part of a people that together – and only together – are a holy temple, a fruitful vine.

My accomplishments will not be an empire, an oak, or a garden – only a seed. But God will make that seed grow. In His time it will take root. It will blossom and flower and produce fruit. And in that fruit will be more seeds. Some will fall nearby; others will be carried far away. God’s garden will grow richer and broader, spreading out into all eternity.

My Lord and Savior, deliver me from an exaggerated image of my importance as Your servant, no matter what part I am assigned in Your work. Deliver me from the hope that I will be honored above others. I only want to be one with You and one with Your people.

Thank You, Lord God, for the beauty of Your truth, for the beauty of living and growing in You. You are wonderful!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Touch a Life through Me
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

More

I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

Now to him who is able to do I measurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)

Jesus, I am finding You
more than a promise,
more than a hope,
more than a thought.

You are
more than I have let You be,
more than I can imagine You to be,
more than all the dreams
that have cluttered by mind.

You are all the “more”
of my restless desires,
all the “more”
of God’s restless love for me,
all the “more” of eternity,
ever here, ever flowing,
ever full, yet ever growing,
ever satisfying and
ever surprising.

Jesus,
to You be all my love and trust,
all my hungering and hoping,
all my living and rejoicing and aspiring,
look by look, Lord,
more and more.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Beyond Imagination
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Father and Son

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER 

John 14 – 17 

Father, I was attracted to Your Son Jesus
because of You.
I sensed in Him something more than myself,
something more than I could ever be on my own.
I sensed You in Him,
the Almighty God,
the absolute,
the transcendent,
the pure,
the impossibly holy.
Yet Your purity was now human,
seeable,
touchable, and
relatable.
I saw “human” and “holy” joined
in one Person.
I was drawn to
love Him and
trust Him
because I saw You
in Him.

Now, I find Him drawing me back to You.
Through Him I am learning to know You.
Through Him I am brought into Your holy presence.
I am finding Him to be
the way to You,
the truth about You,
the life that flows from You.
In Him I hear all Your heart wishes to say to us.
In Him I begin to see all You are doing for us.
In Him I share Your Father-Son relationship:
I receive a Father’s deep love for His holy Son.
I return a Son’s worshiping love for His pure and perfect Father.

In Your Son I breathe
Your Spirit,
the same Spirit that made Your Son so beautiful.
In Him I breathe
Your wisdom,
Your holiness,
Your love.
In Christ,
through Your Spirit,
I breathe the peace and perfect union of
Father and Son.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Father and Son
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

The Father’s Only-begotten Son

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read John 1:1-18

In the Old Testament, we first hear God calling Himself Father in relationship to the whole people of Israel. Then when the nation of Israel is formed and becomes a monarchy, God’s fatherhood is applied specifically to the king. God blessed the king as His “son” in order to bless all His people. This father-son relationship began with King David, then was extended to all David’s descendents on the throne. It reached all the way to Messiah, the Ultimate King. He would be a Son of David, and in that sense a Son of God, like His predecessors.

However, when Jesus Messiah arrived, He proved to be God’s Son in a deeper and richer sense than anyone had dreamed. He had not been created by God, then adopted as His Son, as David and all his descendents had been. He was the only-begotten Son of God.

John 1 affirms that Father and Son were together at the very beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (vv.1-2, NASB)

There was never a time when the Father existed that the Son did not also exist. The Nicene Creed states their relationship well:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The term “only begotten” refers to a son or daughter who is “unique,” “one of a kind”. John uses it to describe Jesus’ father-son relationship with God.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14, 18, NASB)

Because Jesus had spent an eternity in intimate, undivided fellowship with the Father, He revealed Him to us in a unique, complete, and beautiful way.

Made Holy or Becoming Holy?

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Deuteronomy 7

At times, God told Israel that they were a people holy to the Lord. They were holy because He had chosen them and made them so. For example:

You are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6, NASB)

At other times, they were commanded to be a people holy to the Lord. Being holy was their own responsibility.

I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44, NASB)

How can we reconcile these approaches to being God’s holy people? Were they holy because God had made them holy, or were they to be holy by their own decision and effort? What makes God’s people holy?

  • First, they were holy by God’s decision and God’s doing. God had separated them to Himself. He had chosen them as His own (v.6). Why?
    –Not because they deserved it, but because of His great love (vv.7-8);
    –Not because they had been faithful, but because He was faithful to His promises to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob (v.9).
    They were holy because God is holy. Whatever is God’s, whatever is separated to His service, is holy.
  • In response to God choosing them and separating them to Himself, they were called to live as His holy people. They had to obey and separate themselves from the ways of the people around them (vv.2-3). They must not serve their gods (vv.4-5). They must obey God (v.11) and trust Him in times of need (vv.17-23).

God is holy, and He is the only source of holiness, so holiness is always His choice and His doing. But we must respond in faith and obedience. Those who did enjoyed all the continuing blessings of being God’s people (vv.12-15). Those who disobeyed were judged and buried in the wilderness. They never received God’s promised blessings (Hebrews 3:12 – 4:3).

Holiness is a living relationship with the holy God. Only He can initiate the relationship, but we must allow God to be our God in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Lamb of God

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, NIV)

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NIV)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV), but His sin-bearing did not begin on Golgotha.

As He emptied Himself of all that made Him equal to the Father (Philippians 2:5-8), He was taking our sins upon Himself.

John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, NIV), not at the end of His ministry, but at its very beginning. The first public act of this sinless One was to humble Himself, line up with sinners, and symbolically die beneath the waters of the Jordan. There, from day one, He bore our sins.

For forty days He faced extreme deprivation and temptation in the wilderness,  all that we might have a high priest…who has been tempted in every way, just as we arethat he might make atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 4:15; 2:17, NIV).

Throughout His ministry He bore all the fruits of our sin. Homelessness, rejection, hatred, poverty, and persecution were His daily experience. He took upon Himself the needs of the thousands that flocked to Him—their ignorance, disease, demon possession, grief, and hunger.

Finally, He laid down His life before those who hated Him and thirsted for His blood. He silently surrendered Himself to their humiliation, torture, and cruel execution.

But this was only the culmination of His self-sacrifice. He bore our sins, not for a few hours, but for His entire holy life.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: You Bore Our Sin, O Lamb of God
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Why This Blog?

I’m writing to you for two reasons:

  1. I am passionate about the Living God. I want to know Him better, trust Him more simply, and talk with Him more through the day. I believe you want the same thing. We both want a more constant and complete relationship with our Father, in Whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). This blog will constantly work toward that goal.
  1. I believe I can help you nurture your creativity. For you, that may mean writing, composing, preaching, teaching, graphic arts, building bridges between people, or any one of dozens of other endeavors. Whatever your medium, the most natural and fruitful way to nurture your creativity is to nurture your relationship with the Creator of all. He delights to create through you.

Some days the emphasis will be on creativity, and some days on our personal life in Him, but it all comes from the same place and flows toward the same purpose: living in Christ and glorifying Him to everyone around us.

As for me, God called me to be a hymn writer. Can you believe it? The whole world wants nothing but praise & worship songs, and God calls me to write hymns! Talk about a mysterious God! At times I tried to get away from the call. I felt like telling Him, “But God, nobody WANTS hymns! Don’t You know ANYTHING about publishing?” But for 35 years He’s kept His thumb in my back, and now I’ve grown to accept and enjoy the uniqueness of what He’s given me to do. More about that at another time.

I’ve spent the last 37 years in Christian publishing. I’ve published a few books along the way, but most of my time and energy has been spent publishing church music. I’ve developed stacks and stacks of music for church choirs, soloists, ensembles, children, congregations, and more. I edited the current hymnal for the Church of the Nazarene, Sing to the Lord, and some years ago compiled Master Chorus Book, which has sold well over a million copies. People sometimes recognize my name from that familiar blue book.

But as much as I believe in music, and especially hymns, I’m far more passionate about God. He makes everything else meaningful.

I plan to write three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Mondays, at least, I’ll include a recording, music, and lyrics for one of my seasonally-appropriate hymns. You pastors, teachers, and worship leaders may find that helpful.

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