This one requires no explanation. For me the song really picks up at the bridge, so those are the word's I'll share with you today:
I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance
We've been liberated
From our bondage
We're the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom
You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God...
Yes, I am a child of God
I am a child of God
I'm no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
“THIS IS A TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU MUST LEARN TO LET GO: OF LOVED ONES, OF POSSESSIONS, OF CONTROL.”
These were the words that greeted us when we opened our Jesus Calling devotional on the morning of March, 24th, just 3 weeks ago. I remember when we read them; I was in a battle inside with the Spirit. He can’t mean now, he can’t mean both of them! The doctrine of God’s wise and loving sovereignty over all things has been the foundation of our family’s life. Our family verse, which we return to time after time, is Romans 8:28. “We know that in ALL THINGS, God works for the good of those who love Him.” It’s the only truth that has held up over time. It’s also one that we can’t figure out, nor do we have answers for, except these two words. BUT GOD!
We began our marriage with a desire to make enough money in the securities business to do something in a hospitality ministry. I was in the first year of owning a stock option trading business on the floor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and we figured we had a plan, at least as much of a plan as I ever have. After five months of our plan enter God’s plan and His sovereignty. October 19, 1987 was the now famous “Crash of ‘87”. The craziness of that week left us without a business or a plan. BUT GOD and His sovereignty over all things.
This theme would continue throughout these past 30 years. Through early miscarriages, through financial struggles, through heart attacks and open heart surgery, through difficult pregnancies, and through long term undiagnosed medical conditions. Now fast forward to March 24th and the Jesus Calling. You see, on the evening of March 23rd we had just watched as two large and ferocious dogs entered our fenced property and in 10 agonizing minutes nearly ripped our 12 pound dog apart. We had just been up much of the night waiting to hear the prognosis of a 3 hour surgery to save her. The night of the 24th we were to spend the night at my 92 year old mom’s home with her, as she was in a battle with COPD, and we were giving my sister a chance to go home and sleep in her own bed for the first time that week.
So, when we read those words on the morning of the 24th, I naturally asked God, is this really for us? Is this really for now? Is this really your wise and loving sovereignty over ALL things? We did spend the night with mom, and it really was for us. It really was for now. It really was God’s perfect plan. On the morning of March 25th, Good Friday, God’s perfect plan took mom to be with Him, while in Faith’s and my arms, in her home of 63 years. It was beautiful and really hard. Later that day, God’s sovereign plan took Millie, our pup, to be with mom. Mom and Millie loved each other. Mom loved Jesus! Do we know why this was His plan? Not completely, but that answer is for eternity. As for now, we’re getting glimpses of the answer, and we’re holding tight to God’s wise and loving sovereignty over all things.
I think it's fantastic that there are so many talented artists making music about Truth and the grand narrative of God. And of course, one of the best is King David. Alright, you might call these "vintage" or "throwback" lyrics, and at the very least, timeless classics, but there's something to be said for being included in the Spirit-directed Word of God. Many of our modern worship songs take phrases and thoughts from parts of the psalms, but I really appreciate these two versions from Jenny & Tyler which express an entire chapter. Not word for word interpretations, but very faithful to the original intent nonetheless.
As a culture it seems that we crave simplicity. In our hectic, busy and over-crowded daily grind, the promise of products and services that offer simplification of our lives are readily accepted. However, it seems that despite our inherent sense of the need to simplify, many of us tend towards compounding complications. So with that thought, is it really fair to say our current culture has increased the pace and business of our lives? Or are we in fact the ones directing culture to fill up every bit of space with noise and rush?
The same thoughts can be applied to our spiritual walks. It isn't simple to keep it simple. We all too easily get hung up on annoyances or preoccupied with the micro instead of keeping a perspective of the macro.
This song by Rend Collective is titled Simplicity, and it is reminder to approach our lives and our relationship with God in simplicity...
I come in simplicity
Longing for purity
To worship You
In spirit and truth
Lord strip it all away
'Til only You remain
I'm coming back
To my first love
“We learned that the most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement. Not just getting people into the Bible when they’re in church – which we do quite well – but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.” (p. 10).
This shouldn’t surprise us. Listen to what the Bible says about itself: “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful…so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Every English translation of that verse uses either the word “useful” or “profitable.” Have you found the Bible to be useful and profitable in your life?
If somewhere along the way you have come to view the Bible as impractical, theoretical, inaccessible, or even irrelevant, I challenge you to take another look. The Bible is of immense value, and the result of building our lives on its truth cannot be underestimated. Paul says we will be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Every good purpose of God for our lives will come to fruition as we cultivate the discipline of listening to God speak through his Word, thinking about what it means for our lives, and then implementing it.
Building our lives on the Bible starts by….reading it! Humbly, consistently, expectantly, and with the disposition to do what it says.
Unlike us today, Paul and Timothy did not have the advantage of carrying a Bible in their back pocket. Nor did the Psalmist. But notice his attitude toward God’s Word in these verses:
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
No matter who you are, or where you are in your spiritual journey, nothing beats the Bible.
I don't know about you, but I'm still in my Easter music mode. I kind of feel this way about Christmas music too, that it's a shame the seasons are so short because there are so many good songs associated with them that only get played during those few, short weeks. This song I'm sharing with you today loosely fits into this Easter song category because the bridge is specifically telling the Easter story. The verses are actually a dusted off version of an old hymn by Christopher Wordsworth written in 1862 that hadn't seen the light of day in a while. In classic hymn style it tells the full story of redemption from the coming of Jesus through the believers joining him in heaven. And right in the middle, Jenny & Tyler add in the punchline of the Easter story:
They raced to the tomb, angels stood by
I'm intrigued with the paradoxes in Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul says, "When I am weak, then I am strong." How often have I experienced the strength of Christ enabling me when I am weak and inadequate!
Paul Tripp in New Morning Mercies writes: "Death is the doorway to life. Hopelessness is the entrance to hope. Weakness is the place to find strength. Injustice is where mercy flows. Life comes to those who deserve death. Defeat is actually a victory. The end is really a beginning. Out of sorrow comes eternal celebration. The tomb is where new life begins."
This is the paradox of grace!
As delighted as I am with the colors of fall, I also struggle with the nearness of winter. Autumn leaves fall...which leave the trees bare and dead looking. I tell myself I like the changing of the seasons. It brings variety to life, but in my heart, I can't wait for spring and the colors of the flowers and budding green on the trees again.
But here's the strangest paradox of all, I think. Death is necessary for fruit and a productive life. Consider what Jesus said to his disciples in John 12:24. "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." There is a purpose for death. It's not the end, but the beginning of something more. More than anything we can imagine.
Jesus died in order to conquer death. I love the picture Paul uses to describe the end of death in 2 Corinthians 5:4: "So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life..." which is exactly what happened when Jesus rose victorious from the dead.