Wednesday’s Worship: Better Word

Today’s song was a difficult choice, because there were a few different songs that I could have shared. But Sunday, an old song popped into my head, “Nothing But the Blood” by Matt Redman. The verse that stuck out was, “Your blood speaks a better word…” and I began to think about different aspects of the Word.

In Genesis, God spoke a word and the world, and everything within was formed. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Then John 1:14 described Jesus as the Word made flesh. In John 19, Jesus said that “it is finished” and then in Revelation 12 we read that Satan, the accuser, is conquered by the blood of the lamb and the word of the testimony of the believers.

And so, the song we’re looking at today is “Better Word” by Elevation Worship. Beside the chorus singing, “Nothing but the blood/A better word was spoken” the bridge goes on to state “I left my shame where the nails were,” and I can’t help but get excited about this song, and the fact that it reminds us of what Christ did for us on the cross. There aren’t a lot of current songs that talk about our sin and need for Christ–it’s actually something that I personally feel has prevented revival in this generation; a lack of brokenness and repentance, but that’s a conversation for another date.

Check out the lyrics below and listen for yourself to this simple, but beautiful song describing an individual who finally realizes there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves. It’s only by the blood shed on the cross that we’re saved, and it’s to that, we cling.

What can wash away the guilty stain
After all the wrong I’ve done?
I’ve already tried a thousand ways
But it’s never been enough
What could be enough?

Chorus: Nothing but the blood
A better word was spoken
Oh, I know it was
Nothing but the blood
Every curse was broken
Oh, I know it was
Nothing but the blood
Nothing but the blood

And when I’m reminded of my shame
To the fountain I will run
Every failure covered now in grace
For the Lamb has overcome
What can overcome?

Bridge: On that cross, hallelujah
I left my shame where the nails were
Jesus Christ, O Lamb of God
Be lifted higher forever
On that cross, hallelujah
I left my shame where the nails were
Jesus Christ, O Lamb of God
Be lifted higher forever

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To Err is Human…

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We all make mistakes. It’s just a part of being human. Sometimes we say the wrong thing, make the wrong choice, forget, or simply run out of time. We can’t expect to be perfect, and we can’t place unrealistic expectations on others, either (for more on this you should check out this post).

Yet, how often we feel like failures when we don’t get things right. I recently finished reading Gloria Furman’s, “Missional Motherhood,” and in it, she reminded me that we need to be careful with what we call “failure.” She states, “Things that are part of our design–our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an ‘earthly tent,’ and our lack of knowledge–are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us” (Missional Motherhood, p.124).

We must beware, Furman goes on to state, because “we often [mistakenly] place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins” (pp. 124-125). Mistakes due to our humanity are not the same as down-right rebellion against God. Our neediness and weakness points us to Christ; it’s why He created us this way; that we would be dependent on Him. Our sin, on the other hand, draws us away from God; the bible calls it enmity (James 4:4), in which, we’re spiritually at war with Christ. Sin requires repentance.

Therefore, when we make mistakes, the only thing we can do is acknowledge it–apologize, if we hurt someone in the process–and attempt to prevent it from occurring again. I love the quote above, attributed to Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” because it takes supernatural power to forgive ourselves, or others, when mistakes are made. Whether we have to walk in humility because we messed up, or offer grace to another, because someone unintentionally hurt or disappointed us, it’s only by His Holy Spirit that we do so.

High Stakes

I finished the book of Romans, and have begun 1 Corinthians, this week. I’ve decided that I really like keeping a journal when I study the Word of God, because it helps me remember what I’m reading, which in turn, helps me understand and apply it. Well, this is what I’ve been mulling over for the past few days…

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ~ NIV)

I’ve always taken these verses in the literal or physical sense, as in the Holy Spirit lives within us and therefore, we shouldn’t do any harm to our physical bodies and neither should others harm us, because God will have His revenge. But when I read the same verses in the Amplified Bible, it took on even deeper meaning.

Do you not discern and understand that you are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]? If anyone does hurt to God’s temple or corrupts it [with false doctrines] or destroys it, God will do hurt to him and bring him to the corruption of death and destroy him. For the temple of God is holy (sacred to Him) and that [temple] you [the believing church and its individual believers] are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ~ Amplified)

EpistlesPaul’s epistle (letter) to the church at Corinth, wasn’t just talking about our physical bodies. He was also talking in the spiritual sense of harm and corruption to the individual believer and to the church as a whole!

These verses made me realize (again) how careful we must be as teachers—and sharers—of God’s Word, to stick to His Truth and not tell others things that they want to hear, just because we’re afraid of what they might say to us, how they may treat us, or what they may think of us, because we will be held accountable! And if we didn’t get the hint with these verses, the Word tells us the same thing elsewhere…

    • But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. (Matthew 12:36)
    • You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1)
    • Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

I believe I’ve mentioned before about how teachers will be held at a higher standard, because we “should know better” (James 3:1-6). As we should! After all, there are souls at stake!

Because I love the people around me and because I value the Bible as the VERY Words of God, I cannot, in good conscience, tell someone that it’s okay to live a certain way or commit a certain act, when I know that it’s sin–per the Word of God–and will ultimately lead to their complete and utter separation from God! I’m not passing judgment; I’m stating Biblical fact/Truth. This is me being loving because I don’t want anybody to be severed from the love of God. I want every one of my readers to come to the knowledge of Christ. To recognize their (our) need for a Savior!

For some reason the world encourages us  to warn people of the danger of being embarrassed, and the danger of being physically, emotionally, or financially injured; but for some reason, it discourages us from warning others of spiritual danger—the most important and destructive threat to our very souls! This life is temporary (extremely short); but eternity is forever. I want every one of you to spend eternity in heaven, but I also understand—according to the Truth found in the Word (the Bible)—that God can’t commune (connect or establish a relationship) with us as long as there’s sin in our lives. In fact, the Word says that as long as there’s sin in our lives, we are actually enemies of God (James 4:4).

Yet, even so, God still desires a relationship with us! As it says in Romans, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (verses 5:7-8). Can you imagine dying for your enemy? THAT’S love. (Jesus did all the work; all we have to do is repent–turn away from our sin and turn towards God–to receive the precious gift of eternal life and a relationship with the giver of life, the God of creation, the lover of our souls!)

Okay, so now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Everybody makes mistakes and everybody sins and they should just be free to make their own choices.” (I know this because I’ve heard it repeated and asked over and over again.) Sure. Fine. But I’m not going to encourage anybody to make bad and/or sinful choices. I’ll continue to encourage them to do just the opposite; to make wise choices. Because isn’t that really, what love is about? Being there for the individual, speaking truth and encouraging them to live holy lives, pleasing to God (Hebrews 10:24)? That’s what I want for my younger sisters, my parents, my friends. I understand that ultimately, it’s their decision. I can lead a horse to water—in this case, I’m talking Living Water—but I can’t make them drink.High Stakes

Make sure the words from your mouth and pen are spoken in love and truth. Make sure you hold true to the standard that God provides us with through the Bible. If God says that He’ll respond to our actions in a particular manner, don’t accuse Him of bluffing. This isn’t a poker game (and if it were, our souls are mighty high stakes to be playing with)! If He said it, He meant it! I get the feeling that we think that God will change His mind in regards to sin. “Oh, but He loves us, how could He condemn us?!” His Word says He can and He will. We will stand before Him and be held accountable (Matthew 12:36-37; Romans 2:5; 2 Peter 2:4-9, 3:7 ). The questions we should be asking ourselves are: will we have Christ defending us (Revelations 12:10)? Is Christ our rock and our foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:19-20)? Is He our covering (Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 13:14)? Our life’s purpose (Mark 16:15; Philippians 1:21)? And is our life a testimony (evidence) of the One Who saves us (Acts 26:20; Romans 6:12-13; Hebrews 10:26-27; James 2:17; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4: 22-24; 1 Peter 1:22; Revelations 12:11)?

As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you” (1 Corinthians 4:14).

Multiply

I love to learn and I love to share with others the things I learn; and one of the reasons I began this blog is so that I could do just that: share the things I learn. This week I began reading Multiply by Francis Chan (with Mark Beuving) and as I read the introduction, I realized the book is really meant to be a Bible study. Therefore, I decided to read/work through it with my blog friends 😉

If you don’t know anything about the book, it’s all about teaching disciples of Christ to do just what God called us to do…make disciples of Christ. Yes, you read that right, it’s about teaching disciples of Christ to make more disciples of Christ. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll understand why I really wanted to read this book.

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

1: What is a disciple?multiply_square_black1[1]

We’ve talked about what it means to be a true follower of Christ in previous posts, such as Justified By Faith, Burning One, and Watchful Eyes, but Francis Chan describes it this way:

The Word disciple refers to a student or apprentice. Disciples in Jesus’s day would follow their rabbi (which means teacher) wherever he went, learning from the rabbis teaching and being trained to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying His call to follow…

It’s impossible to be a disciple or follower of someone and not end up like that person. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process.

Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. A “follower” who doesn’t follow. How does that make any sense? Many people in the church have decided to take on the name of Christ and nothing else. This would be like Jesus walking up to those first disciples and saying, “Hey would you guys mind identifying yourselves with Me in some way? Don’t worry, I don’t actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. I’m just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in Me and call themselves Christians.” Seriously? (Chan, 2012, pp.16-17)

(Lol, I love the fact that Francis Chan is so straightforward when he writes!) The big question we must ask ourselves before we continue this study is, of course, are we really a follower of Christ? Or have we just taken on the name?

If you’ve found that you’ve only taken on the name of a  “Christian” but aren’t serving Christ in your lifestyle, then you need to realize that you’re still living in sin and that repentance is required.

Jesus says we need to repent. This implies that we all need to turn from the way we are current thinking and living. Romans 3:23 explains that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person reading this sentence has done things that are evil and offensive to this King [God]. Romans later explains that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Because of our sin, which is an offense to God we should expect death. But then comes an amazing truth.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The death penalty we should have faced from this King was actually paid for by someone else. The King’s Son, Jesus Christ!”

The Scriptures then say, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is all about who Jesus is and what He has done. Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves–for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ. (Chan, 2012, pp. 18-19)

What an amazing God we serve! A God who loves us so much that He offered His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross for our sins! I know I don’t deserve it; but that’s what’s so incredible…He did it, even though we don’t merit it! And all we have to do is believe! However, with that being said…

Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Romans 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner–that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life. (Chan, 2012, pp. 20-21)

Woo!! This part of the book really speaks to me, for a number of reasons. 1) Because I lived this way before I re-dedicated my life to Christ; I “believed,” but I wasn’t living in obedience to His word. 2) Even after re-dedicating my life to Christ I had (and, sometimes, still have) trouble relinquishing full control over my life to Him. There are certain “callings” on my life that I’ve been fighting for a long time, because I wanted to be like everybody else and I wanted to be liked by everybody else; but as much as I tried, I’ve realized that I’m not like everybody else and I will never be liked by all, simply because of the calling on my life, which I can no longer deny.

Francis Chan ends this chapter describing how we obey God out of our love for Him, not because we have a need to earn His love; but because we know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-40), and because the way we show that we love God is by obeying His commands (John 14:15).

Most of this is not new; if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll notice we’ve discussed much of this before, but it’s always nice to read another’s words in order to gain new perspective, and to confirm things perviously written. I tried not to copy the entire text here, but there was just so much truth in Chan’s words that I think I got a little carried away 😉 Stay tuned for next week’s continuance of Multiply.

All-Embracing Love

Today I finished reading Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand. It’s not the most well-written book, but it certainly is eye-opening, although, probably not for the reasons one would immediately think of; and I do encourage you to read it.

Wurmbrand was an orphaned Jew, brought up in an atheist home, in Romania during World War I. He met a Christian carpenter in a small village who gave him a Bible to read and prayed for him passionately; and over time Wurmbrand was won over by Christ’s love for him. He writes, “The Bible he gave me was written not so much in words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers. I could barely read it. I could only weep over it, comparing my bad life with the life of Jesus; my impurity with His righteousness; my hatred with His love–and He accepted me as one of His own.”

Soon after, his wife became a Christian; then they began to share God’s word and win others to Christ and began a church. Wurmbrand had a heart for the Russian people (much like I have a heart for young women) and although the Communist Party and Nazism reigned during this time, he continued God’s work. Needless to say, Wurmbrand was arrested a tortured for sharing his faith…for a total of fourteen years!

He describes some of the torture inflicted upon himself and others throughout the book, but what really struck me most, is that he continued to pour out love on everyone and attempted to win them to Christ…including those who were torturing him!

In American culture, this would be unthinkable! “Show love to someone who has hurt me? You must be joking, right? Share the gospel with a rapist or murderer!? No way!”

But I love what Wurmbrand says:

…my aim is to spread the gospel to the Communists, to give them the good news about Christ, who is my Lord and loves the Communists. He has said Himself that He loves every man and that He would rather leave ninety-nine righteous sheep then allow the one that went astray to remain lost. His apostles and all the great teachers of Christianity have taught this universal love in His name. St. Macary said, “If a man loves all men passionately, but says only about one man that him he cannot love, the man who says this is no more a Christian, because his love is not all-embracing.” St. Augustine teaches, “If all mankind had been righteous and only one man a sinner, Christ would have come to endure the same cross for this one man, He so loves every individual.” The Christian teaching is clear. Communists are men and Christ loves them. So does every man who has the mind of Christ. We love the sinner even thought we hate the sin.

We know about the love of Christ toward the Communists by our own love toward them.

I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold–and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.

Later, the Communists who had tortured us were sent to prison, too. Under communism, Communists, and even Communist rulers, are put in prison almost as often as their adversaries. Now the tortured and torturer were in the same cell. And while the non-Christians showed hatred toward their former inquisitors and beat them, Christians took their defense, even at the risk of being beaten themselves and accused of being accomplices with communism. I have seen Christians give away their last slice of bread (we were given one slice and week) and the medicine that could save their lives to a sick Communist torturer, who was now a fellow prisoner. (pp. 54-55)

Wow! Today, I also read Acts chapter 7, and noticed the same Christ-like character in Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Verses 59-60 say, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Can you imagine if we all loved like Christ? If, instead of speaking words full of hatred, we actually lived out our convictions and loved the people who hurt us. Think of the lives that could be saved, and the hearts won over if we showed love to those who’ve hurt us, or even worse, hurt (sinned against) God. We should never stop speaking truth into the lives of others– remember, we are watchmen in our communities and families–but neither should we desire to see others hurting, suffering, or burning in hell because of their sinful lifestyle choices. We still have time to reach them (but we don’t know how much)! God loves them and wants them brought to Him. Remember, His word says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Something to Think About…Regarding Sin

Yesterday, I was thinking…If the whole world were infected with different strains of the same disease–say we had different colored spots, for instance (yellow, red, blue, green, etc.)–would it really matter which strain we contracted if we were all dying?

So it is with sin! We’re all “infected” with different strains, but we’re all headed to the grave (hell). So why does it matter which strain we have? The cure is the same for all…

Jesus is the cure!

I Am Peter

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down you life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36-38)

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger this was me. “I’ll never do that!” I’d state. I learned over time, that it’s much easier to say that, until your life, future, or image is on the line. It’s so easy to fall, fail, or make a life-changing mistake; it happens in an instant! Often one moment of weakness leads to another, and yet another, until you’ve learned to block out the voice in your head telling you to stop for a moment and think about the consequences of your actions.

Peter thought he’d never disown Jesus; he’d lay his life down for Him! He loved Him! But in a moment of weakness–and fear–Peter denied the one he loved and slunk off into the shadows, ashamed, and full of bitter sorrow. Just as Peter wept over his shame and weakness, I’ve found myself in the same sorrowful predicament. I may never have outwardly spoken my disowning, but my actions certainly never showed that God reigned supreme over my life, or that I was His follower.

And yet, just a few chapters later, in the book of Acts, Peter preaches to a crowd of strangers that Jesus is the Messiah; a powerful, Holy Spirit-filled message of truth, love, and repentance! Peter becomes the leader of the early Christian church!

It is so easy to fall. It’s so easy to feel like it’s the end of the world and that God can’t use us because of our failures. But time and time again, He’s shown in His deed and word that He can use us! That His plans for us are solid and good and purposeful!

My experiences have taught me mercy and grace and compassion for my fellow man. They’ve taught me that when you make a mistake you have to fall upon your face before God admitting them. And they’ve taught me that sin is sin. I can’t sugarcoat what I’ve done, I can’t say that it’s okay for some people, but not for others; because it shouldn’t have been done, period. It’s wrong and it will always be wrong. I was wrong!

I am Peter. I may have fallen, but God has picked me up. What He’s got planned for me, I have no idea. What He’s taught me, is immeasurable. But every day I ask Him for another chance. Another chance to show Him that I love Him; another chance to show Him that I can be and do what He’s created me for; and another chance to accept any present and/or future responsibilities that He chooses to bless me with.