Take Everything…

Sometimes you hear a song and it wrecks you on the inside. You get the sense of “Woe is me! For I am undone.” No matter how many years you may have walked with Christ or how much you’ve grown in the faith, you realize just how far you are from where you desire to be. It triggers two conflicting desires – one is to run and hide from the holiness and majesty of Jesus and the other is to run to Jesus and fall at His feet. This song both undid me and called me to come nearer, ever nearer to my great and gracious Lord.

More Like Jesus – Passion

Here at the lyrics:

[Verse 1]
You came to the world You created
Trading Your crown for a cross
You willingly died
Your innocent life paid the cost

Counting Your stature as nothing
The King of all kings came to serve
Washing my feet
Covering me with Your love


[Chorus]
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything

[Verse 2]
You are my life and my treasure
The One that I can’t live without
Here at Your feet
My desires and dreams I lay down
Here at Your feet
My desires and dreams I lay down


[Chorus]
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything…


[Bridge]
Oh Lord, change me like only You can
Here with my heart in Your hands
Father I pray make me more like Jesus
This world is dying to know who You are
You’ve shown us the way to Your heart
So Father I pray make me more like Jesus
Oh Lord, change me like only You can
Here with my heart in Your hands
Father I pray make me more like Jesus

This world is dying to know who You are
You’ve shown us the way to Your heart
So Father I pray make me more like Jesus
More like Jesus I pray
Make me more like Jesus
Oh Lord, oh Lord Father I pray,
Father I pray Make me more like Jesus


[Chorus]
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything
If more of You means less of me
Take ev’rything
Yes, all of You is all I need
Take ev’rything

I hope that there is something God brings into your life today that breaks you and remakes you, that causes you to run to Jesus and fall at His feet with a broken and contrite heart. If more of You means less of me, Jesus, take everything.

Do Not Be Conformed…

Fads and trends come and go. Some people seem to be immune to them, while others chase them with great passion. The fad may involve a particular style or brand of clothing, a trendy new vehicle that everyone wants to drive, or the latest phone or techie gadget. None of us are immune to hopping on the bandwagon and joining the parade of what is currently popular.

It’s amusing to watch how hairstyles have changed through the years. Here’s a link to an animated video showing changing hairstyles. For the most part, asking your stylist to help you look a little more like the guy or girl you just saw in a movie isn’t the worst thing in the world… just don’t expect him or her to perform miracles!

The challenge for us is not so much wanting to drive a Lincoln because Matthew McConaughey makes it look cool or lining up to get a Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich because everyone else is doing it. The challenge is not so much that we wear a certain pair of jeans, imitate the makeup of a popstar, or include the latest slang term in our vocabulary. The challenge is that we don’t allow ourselves to be ruled by what the world around us says is important. As a child of God, we must be careful that our value system is shaped by the heart and will of God, not by the fluctuating values of the world.

Have you ever made cookies using a cookie cutter. The object, of course, is to make cookies that are all pretty much alike. If you are making star-shaped cookies, you press the star-shaped cookie cutter into the dough, and you can end up with a batch of cookies that can be virtually indistinguishable from one another. That is a great picture of being conformed. It’s an outward pressure to shape your attitude and lifestyle.

We’ll consider the rest of this verse tomorrow, but let these words from God remind you to be cautious about going with the crowd. When we anchor our beliefs, attitudes, and action in the teachings of Jesus, we can have great confidence that we are following in His footsteps. When we tune in our ears to what the world claims is true and right, we will find it to be ever-changing and unstable. What is true today maybe be false tomorrow or, worse yet, the very concept of truth itself becomes vague or irrelevant.

Who or what is pressuring you to fit into a certain way of thinking or behaving? Is is consistent with the call of God and the Word of God? Be aware… and be wary!

Praying in Light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)…

I am not one given to panic, and now is not the time to go down that path. In fact, God calls us to faith and not fear, to trust and not panic. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

It is in this faith and confidence that we come to God in prayer. We are called not to be anxious about anything but to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). So… I am asking you to pray. In fact, I am calling you to prayer.

Below are two prayers – one longer and one shorter. How (or if) you choose to use them is entirely up to you. I might suggest you use the longer prayer as part of your daily devotion time and the shorter one at moments throughout the day. It may be that the shorter prayer is one that you can use with your children or grandchildren. Remember, most of them aren’t totally clueless about the coronavirus, and some may be fearful of it. To acknowledge the problem with them while professing your confidence in God can be a comfort – and a teachable moment.

While I offer these prayers to you, there is not magical or mystical about them. Feel free to prayer as you are led by the Holy Spirit. I only ask that you join me in the throne room of our King to lay our petitions before Him.

A Daily Prayer — 
Loving Father,

We come today acknowledging that you are God and we are not. Our understanding and power and limited. You are all-knowing and have power without limits. We confess that too often we rely only upon what we can do or what others can do for us. Too often we draw from a well that is too shallow and insufficient for our needs, but you are an ever flowing spring, a river of living water, a source inexhaustible and renewing.

Our nation and world are awash in confusion and riddled by fear. This coronavirus fills our news casts and often fills our minds. While you give us the sense to plan for the worst, you never call us to live in fear. You call us, instead, to walk by faith, to be strong and courageous, to trust in You with all our hearts, and to be loving and compassionate to those who are hurting.

Today, we renounce our fear and choose to walk by faith. We join our hearts to pray for the stop of the spread of this virus. We join our hearts to pray for wisdom for our local, national, and world leaders who are making decisions that affect the lives of so many. We join our hearts to pray for the recovery of those who are infected by this virus and for those who grieve the loss of those who have died because of it. We pray for the church, the people of God, here in the United States and around the world, that we will respond to this in a way that expresses our absolute faith in You, shows our unswerving commitment to serve those in need, and displays our ultimate hope in the resurrection through Jesus Christ.

Loving Father, You are our peace and our hope. You are the Rock upon which we stand, the Fortress where we find protection, and our Refuge in times of trouble. We offer this prayer in faith in the name of our Savior Jesus. Amen.

A Shorter Version that could be prayed throughout the day — 
Loving Father,

We walk by faith and not by sight. We will fear no evil, for You are with us. We join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to humbly ask that You – 

– stop the spread of this Coronavirus
– heal those infected by this virus
– bring peace to those who have lost loved ones because of it
– give wisdom to our leaders to make good decisions in this time
– give boldness to Your people to show mercy and compassion in so great a time of need.

May our faith in You and our hope for our resurrection through faith in Jesus cause us to live in such a way that people give glory to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Forgiveness Is Hard…

Forgiveness is hard! For some, that may be the world record of understatements. The pain of betrayal, abuse, or unfaithfulness can leave wounds that never seem to fully heal. Because the hurtful memories cannot be forgotten, some don’t want to forgive. They finger their pain like worry beads as they rehash events over and over again, creating an ever-deepening pool of bitterness.

When we forgive, we are not excusing the behavior of another person. Some behaviors are both abhorrent and inexcusable. Some behaviors demand justice, and, sadly, some bad behaviors never receive that justice. Does this mean we are justified to withhold forgiveness? We may feel that way, but when we withhold forgiveness, there is a price pay.

Louis B. Smedes wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” There is wisdom in those words. By refusing to forgive, we have the mistaken notion that we are hurting our abuser; in reality, we are hurting ourselves. Having been made a victim by the actions of others, we lock ourselves into that role adding chains of our own design.

There are no easy answers here. In fact, it’s hard, really hard. You can’t wish the pain away. You can’t wash away the memories. But there is a price to holding on to the bitterness that comes with unforgiveness – a heavy price. So how do you begin to lay aside the burden?

Admit to having unforgiveness in your heart
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

Realize that you’re in a spiritual battle
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Meditate on how great a salvation you have received
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace… (Ephesians 1:7)

Ask God to enable you to do what may now seem impossible.
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Jesus, Luke 18:27)
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Are you holding on to unforgiveness? Perhaps today you could take the first step to freeing yourself from that heavy load.

Photo by Miltiadis Fragkidis on Unsplash

How to Apologize…

a·pol·o·gya regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.
(Lexico powered by Oxford)

For most of us, we learn to apologize early in life. It goes something like this – “Tell your sister that you’re sorry.” The response (if there is one) is often a reluctant, “I’m sorry.” Some of us haven’t advanced very far from our preadolescent apologies.

Duke Kwon, pastor of Grace Meridian Hill in the nation’s capital, shared some good thoughts on apologizing via his Twitter account (@dukekwondc). Read this slowly. It can be a great plumbline to evaluate your own efforts at apologizing.

HOW TO APOLOGIZE

  • express sorrow (“I’m sorry”)
  • own guilt (“I was wrong”)
  • name specific wrongs (“I did X”) 
  • name impact (“I hurt you”)
  • no IFs (sorry “if I…”)
  • don’t blameshift/defend (“but you…”)
  • no passive voice (“sorry you were offended”)
  • make amends (“what can I do…”)
    (I made slight changes in this list adding quotation marks, changing “u” to “you” where needed, and adding elipses for clarity)

Very often, “I’m sorry” is just the beginning of repairing the damage. I’ll admit that I have too often thought my apology was the end of the matter. Sometimes it is: Forgiveness and understanding are extended, and the issue is put in the past. More often than not, however, some follow up is essential.

Such follow up may include a genuine expression of remorse over the offense and/or a change of attitude or actions. If the offense was something repeated or was very hurtful, it may take a good bit of time for the offended person to process what happened, sort through all the emotions, and take the initial steps toward forgiveness and restoration. To expect someone to quickly “forgive and forget” can be unrealistic.

It is also important to add that forgiveness can be extended without the relationship simply picking up where it left off. Some actions irreparably damage relationships. A person may forgive another but chose to break off the relationship because of deep or repeated abuse by that person.

Application time — Is there someone to whom you need to apologize today?

Check back for my next post – “How to Forgive…”

Bible Reading in 2020

Many Christians begin the new year with high hopes of reading God’s Word every day. Some go to great extremes to make sure that everything is in place – the right Bible, the right markers, the write note-taking journal, etc. Unfortunately, things begin to fall apart after week one. Life gets busy. We get lazy. Our once bright and shiny resolution finds itself shoved in a corner buried with the dust of our guilt.

Will 2020 be any different? Will you actually finish your Bible reading plan on December 31, 2020? Well… I have no clue. I do know this – if you don’t start, you won’t finish.

To help get you started, here are some helpful downloadable resources –
New Testament Reading Plan
One Year Chronological Bible
One Year Bible Plan
One Book at a Time Plan

In addition, there are a boatload of online reading plans and Bible reading apps, in fact, too many to mention. Here are a few options to search for –
The Bible App for Kids (FREE)
Bible by Life Church (FREE)
Daily Bible Verse (FREE)
Our Daily Bread (FREE)
Olive Tree Bible+ (FREE)

Another option is a podcast by Walk Thru the Bible. Each episode provides a short devotional thought and a guided journey through each day’s Scripture passage. This can be accessed through Apple Podcasts or Google Play. Follow THIS LINK.

Okay… that’s plenty to get your started. You can always ask friends what they use.

Here are a few tips –
Pick a plan. (Make it a reasonable one.)
If you miss a day, don’t quit – just pick up and keep going.
If you miss a few days, don’t quit – keep going.
If you end up missing half a year, don’t quit – keep going.
Read to know God more, not just to know more of God’s Word.

God’s Word is worthy of our time and effort. Let’s do this!

Living the Dream

This past Sunday, I shared Grace Fellowship’s Dream Statement. This is the dream that birthed Grace Fellowship in July of 2004, and it is the dream that continues to sustain us as we move forward in faith.

Grace Fellowship’s Dream Statement

It is a dream of hurting people encountering the grace of God through the life of His church.

It is a dream of God’s people gathering to experience genuine, life-changing worship.

It is a dream of creating an environment where the unchurched can discover what being a member of the body of Christ really means.

It is a dream of a church with a passion to see the unchurched enter into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is a dream of a church equipping its members to share the good news of Jesus with the aim of leading the unchurched into a personal relationship with Him.

It is a dream of a church committed to the Great Commission and expressing that commitment by giving generously to missions causes, by actively participating in local and international missions, and by helping to start new churches in areas needing a Christian witness.

It is a dream of a people who fully embrace others regardless of their race, age, or social standing.

It is a dream of the people of Greensboro, Greene County, and the Lake Oconee area being positively affected by the grace of God through the life, ministry, and worship of God’s people.

The best IS yet to come!