Archive for August 2017

Sorrow

O Father,
sorrow can either
separate You and me or
draw us nearer.

It can either
embitter me or
enrich me,
depending on whether I
trust You or
blame You.

Sorrow deepens the mystery of Your love.
But at the same time it helps me
better understand Your love.
It helps me
feel it, and
share it.

Thank You, Father.
Thank You for turning everything that comes to me into
a precious gift.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God Is Great, and God Is Good
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

As We Gather

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. 

For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. 

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care. (Psalm 95:1-7, NIV)

Almighty God,
as we gather,
faith comes seeking You.
Faith comes seeing You.
Faith comes expecting You.
Faith comes worshiping and loving You.
Faith comes eager to serve You,
eager to love those You love,
eager to lift them to You,
eager to draw them to You.

Faith comes eager to go again.
Faith goes loving You.
Faith goes worshiping You.
Faith goes expecting You.
Faith goes in You,
eager to come again. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Have Come to Join in Worship
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

from Prepare Yourself for Worship

As I Sit among Your People

Father, when I next sit in the worship service,
surrounded by Your people,
give me Your eyes,
give me Your heart for them.
Move me as Jesus was moved by
their fears,
their needs,
their pain,
their struggles,
their grief.

Awaken me to them, Lord.
Move me
to pray,
to encourage,
to lend a helping hand,
to minister to their sorrow through my caring presence.

As I sit among Your people,
give me the
heart and
words and
overflowing generosity of Jesus. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Prayer of Intercession
Recording
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We Are Complete in Christ

Father, You have gone to such lavish lengths
to help us know You.
This entire universe –
vast and majestic,
powerful and intricate –
speaks of You and
sings of You.
You made us part of this world so we could
hear its every whisper.

You speak of Yourself through Your Word.
Its stories, songs, prophecies, and poems show You
creating and giving,
working and teaching,
forgiving, loving, and even dying for us.

Your promises and pictures of Your coming Messiah
were particularly vivid and varied.
He was to be a full and final revelation of Yourself.
Yet when He came, even those steeped in Your Word were
surprised,
confused, and
even shocked
by Who He was and
Who You are.

You and Your amazing love overflow
every image,
every metaphor, and
every name we have for You.
Creator God, You are more than we can imagine You to be.

Yet we know this:
All You are is complete in Jesus Christ, and
we will be complete in Him.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Complete in Jesus Christ
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Single-minded Devotion

Read Hosea 4:7-13; Matthew 16:1-4

Since God views His relationship with His people as a marriage, He considers it adultery when we chase other “gods”, other loves. In the Old Testament, when Israel worshipped other gods, God accused her of playing the harlot. For example:

My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them;
For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray,
And they have played the harlot, departing from their God. (Hosea 4:12, NASB)

Jesus took the same view. When the Jewish leaders saw Jesus’ miracles and heard His words, yet still demanded other proofs of who He was, He called them “an evil and adulterous generation” (Matthew 16:4, NASB). Their hearts weren’t satisfied with Him or with their God. They were putting their love and trust elsewhere.

As believers, we need to guard our hearts against the same danger, against the same unfaithfulness to our Bridegroom. In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul expressed his concern for them this way:

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2-3, NASB)

Since Jesus is the Bridegroom, we believers are engaged to Him. What is expected of us as we approach our marriage to Him?

  • Like any bride-to-be, we are to keep ourselves pure, devoted to Him alone. In our hearts and in our lives, we cannot chase other loves. We are His. We are to love Him alone. All our loves for anyone and anything must flow from our one love of Him. He is now the center of all our relationships and all our desires.
  • The word in 2 Corinthians 11:3 translated as “simplicity” is particularly meaningful. It has a variety of shades of meaning, depending on its context: simplicity…sincerity…generosity. But the one word that seems to sum it up is “single-mindedness”. Our groom, our husband-to-be expects us to be single-mindedly devoted to Him. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Help Me to Love Only You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Undistracted Love
Romans 15:7 

Father, when we gather before You,
You are not distracted by
our imperfect personalities,
our musical tastes, or
our annoying human flaws.
You love us.
Everything You are yearns for our best,
not for Your own comfort or pleasure.
You welcome us as we are.

Father, I am an imperfect person
gathered in the midst of other imperfect persons.
Give me Your heart for them,
Your patience,
Your selflessness,
Your undistracted love.
May I worship You by
embracing them wholeheartedly
as You have embraced me. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: In Simple Response to You
Recording
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Personal Encounters in Genesis

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD
Read Genesis 4:1-15

The book of Genesis begins with Adam and runs through Joseph. In that span of time, consider the various people to whom God revealed Himself in a personal way.

  • Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27-30; 3:8-19) – Even though they had disobeyed God and rejected His wisdom, He spoke to them person-to-person, revealing not only judgment but eventual salvation.
  • Cain (Genesis 4:2b-15) – Cain was a murderer, yet God conversed with him, listened to him, and acted to meet his concerns.
  • Noah (Genesis 6:7-14) – In a day when the human race had gone entirely wrong, God was pleased with Noah and saved our entire race on account of him and through him.
  • Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-9) – Abraham’s story takes up chapters 11-25. What an amazing odyssey of tested faith and gracious blessing!
  • Hagar (Genesis 16:7-13) – Hagar was an Egyptian slave who had run away from problems she had helped cause. Yet the living God came to her personally in her darkest moment.
  • Rebekah (Genesis 25:21-23) – When she became concerned about her unborn twins, God gave her a glimpse of the larger drama in which she was playing a part.
  • Isaac (Genesis 26:1-6) – God assured Isaac that as He had been with his father Abraham, He would be with him as well. God’s promises would prove sure generation after generation.
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22) – Like Hagar above, Jacob was running from family problems he had helped to create. But God met Him personally in a way that would shape his entire life.

These encounters paint a picture of an Almighty God who delights to introduce Himself to all types of people, one-on-one. He reveals His wisdom for their situations, speaking demands and promises, comfort and challenge, providing both details and overall perspective. But the most striking aspect of His revelations is not the information He imparts, but the stunning reality of His presence. We human beings are given the great privilege of interacting with the Creator God person-to-person.

Christ Your Bridegroom

Based on Psalm 45

Believers, you are engaged to Jesus Christ.
He is the most beautiful person of all our race.
His words are always
grace,
kindness, and
truth.
His entire life is permeated with God’s richest blessings.
All that He is and
all that He does
are filled with the
the wisdom,
the love, and
the holy majesty of God
With sovereign power He reigns in
truth and rightness
over all that is.
He protects and defends God’s people against
all who would harm them.
His rule is
complete,
universal, and
forever.

This One is your Bridegroom.
He loves you
deeply and
passionately,
with all His being.
You are stunningly beautiful in His eyes,
pure and
glorious.

What does your future hold?
You are about to experience what it means to be
the beloved bride of
a Great King.
You will be richly adorned in all His magnificence.
A train of attendants will accompany you
into His palace.
Cheering crowds will surround you.
His entire realm will rejoice at your wedding.

Your life will be
brand new.
The love you share with Him will be
fruitful beyond all imagination.
All will give thanks for you.
Even the rich and powerful of the universe
will honor you because
you are wed to the Lord of all.

Beloved bride,
forget your past.
Put it forever behind you, and
focus on your future.
Keep yourself pure for Him alone.
Give all you are completely to Him,
body,
mind, and
spirit.

What an honor,
what a joy,
to be the chosen bride of the King! 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See Christ, Your Bridegroom
Recording
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Help Me Remember

Father, as I gather
in Your presence
with Your people,
I may be tempted to become
negative or critical,
impatient or unkind.

Help me remember
Who You are, Father.
You are the compassionate God,
the Lord of all mercies.
You loved me,
sought me, and
forgave me
when I was far away,
ignorant,
completely corrupt, and
totally unworthy.

And Father, help me remember
who I am.
I am nothing without Your mercies every moment.
Nothing, Lord.
I am deeply,
completely,
constantly
dependent on
Your patience and
Your untiring forgiveness.

Help me also remember
who they are.
They are as needy as me,
as dependent on Your mercy as I am,
as helpless without Your tender compassion.
They are the ones for whom
You sacrificed Your precious Son.
They are Your glorious work in progress –
You are so proud of them!
They are Your treasured possession.

Father, today may
my only thought,
my only word
be Your pure love. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: How Precious Are Your People
Recording
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About “Fullness of Joy”

I have written elsewhere about my search for joy after our son took his own life (see Unchanging Joy). God had directed me to focus, not on my grief, but on my unchanging joy in Christ – the joy that is always available to me in Him, no matter what the situation. I wrote the hymn Christ My Joy as a way of reconnecting with that joy.

But my hunger for unchanging joy continued. Once again I had come across the folk tune, “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” and had felt compelled to use it as a hymn tune. In searching for an idea for a text to go with it, I was brought back to my search for joy.

Writing this hymn text proved to be a very emotional experience for me. I shed more tears in the writing of this hymn than with all my other hymns combined. I struggled.

Throughout my grief, I had never wanted to lash out at God with bitter questions. But in writing this hymn, I sensed Him compelling me to ask the questions found in the first half of v.2:

How can Your path of tender care be
So rough and dark and steep?
How can Your loving wisdom lead us
To groan and grieve and weep?

I needed to verbalize the questions in order to get at the truth. God’s answers are found in the last half of verses 2 and 3.

Sometimes God won’t answer the questions on our hearts until we ask them. So ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. But as you ask, continue to trust His wisdom and love. Otherwise your heart may be focused in the wrong direction, and you won’t hear the answers when they come.

Often when we ask the “Why?” questions, God will not explain Himself. But He will assure us of His presence. That’s the way it was with me. When I asked the “Why?” questions through this hymn, He gave me a new sense of Christ walking this road with me. And He has. He truly has walked every step with me. My grief has brought a deeper sharing with the suffering Christ.

He has showed me that I should seek, not joy, but Him. He Himself is the fullness of joy.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Fullness of Joy
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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