Monday, March 31, 2014

Music Monday: Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer

Normally, Music Monday consists of a contemporary song, but today the song is more of an anthem or sacred prayer. The choir sang this yesterday at church and the lyrics really touched my heart.
I think we can all relate to the lyrics.

Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer
By James Koerts
"Jesus draw me ever nearer as I labor through the storm.
You have called me to this passage, and I'll follow though I'm worn.
May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith, and at the end of my heart's testing, with your likeness let me wake.

Jesus guide me through the tempest, keep my spirit staid and sure. 
When the midnight meets the morning, let me love You even more.
May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith; and at the end of my heart's testing, with Your likeness let me wake. 

Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go.
And at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at Your throne.
May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith; and at the end of my heart's testing,
 with Your likeness let me wake. Let me wake."

My favorite lyrics would have to be, 
"Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go.
And at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at Your throne."

Instead of letting a trial simply be a trial, finding the treasure in it can help us transcend the negative.
Of course, the trial may linger and make it difficult to find hope.
It may bring out raw emotions.
It may seem impossible to find the treasure in it, but I think with God's help, at some point we can find the treasure.

More importantly, instead of holding onto the hurt and trial, we should "leave them at Your throne".
When we do that, we experience the freedom that only Jesus can give.
That can almost be the hardest part, letting go of the hurt and holding onto the anger, but if we don't, we will only walk upon a path of darkness and hopelessness.

What lyrics speak to you?
I'd love to hear from you!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

'Lovelessness' of World Vision?

 I'm not sure if you heard the BIG news about World Vision.

World Vision is one of the largest and most influential humanitarian organizations.
Through their organization people are able to donate and sponsor children around the world to help provide water, food, clothes, farm animals, medicine, and more essentially...LIFE. 

With that being said, World Vision came out yesterday and said that they are allowing people who are in  faithful same-sex marriages work for them. They didn't take a stand on what they believe, but are simply stating that if a person is to believe in Jesus Christ and have a heart to give life to people around the world, who are we to keep them from working for us? The president, Richard Stearns explains, This “very narrow policy change is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more. . . . This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. . . . We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. . . . This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues...Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc., So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles' Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters."

My favorite quote of the news release was this, "We are determined to find unity in our diversity." They realize that the church is divided over the same-sex marriage debate. Many denominations are in support and others are not. Therefore, WV is pretty much saying, 'Look we aren't going to ban people from working for us, but let's come to the agreement that feeding and clothing the poor is much more important than  our differences.' 

This post is not about where I stand or where WV stands on the same-sex marriage debate, but it's about realizing that no matter our differences, we should never desert  Jesus' commandments of "loving the fatherless, the poor, the sick, the oppressed". We should be united in that simple, yet powerful truth.

John Piper wrote a blog about this, stating that World Vision is guilty of practicing 'lovelessness'.
Really?! Really. 
How in the world can you say that WV is hating instead of loving?!
You can't. 

World Vision's mission states...
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

We work in nearly 100 countries, serving all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

We provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by natural disasters and civil conflict, work with communities to develop long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor.

Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.

None of those statements scream 'lovelessness' to me, but scream Jesus' radical kind of love.

It really upsets me that World Vision is getting punished for this, but more so, the punishment of people around the world who don't even know that this is going on. Many people have decided to remove their support from World Vision and give it to other humanitarian organizations. 
Believe what you want to believe, but don't let a child go hungry. 

Jesus never said, "When you feed a child through an organization that matches only your beliefs, you feed me" or "Only feed the poor who believe in Me." 
Nope, He never said any of that.
He said to love our neighbors even when they differ from us.
Jesus never said, "Only love when its comfortable" or "Only love when you agree with them".
In fact, He said, "love your enemies."
Heck, that's not comfortable, but we're called to do it anyway.

Let's get past this accusing and realize that caring for the poor should not be conditional, but unconditional just like our Savior's love. 
Let's give life, not take it away.

Be a part of Kristen Howerton's goal of 100 sponsorships and sponsor a child! 

"When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 
-Matthew 25:39-40

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed." -Psalm 82:3

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Music Monday: I Need You

This week's song is one of my all time favorites..."Lord, I Need You"
 by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad.
There are times when I'm overwhelmed. Times when I'm weak. Times when I can't see the light. In these times, all I can say is, "I need You, Lord." 
A cry out to God that centers my everything around Him, because He is my everything.
I feel like sometimes we can get wrapped up in the world and forget how badly we need God. 
When we are reminded how badly we need God, I believe our faith naturally becomes stronger. 

"Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, you're my hope and stay."

This whole song is meaningful to me, but I especially love this verse...
"Where sin runs deep Your grace is more

Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me." 

It's such a wonderful realization of knowing that God's grace
 is more than my sin instead of vice versa. 
Also, understanding that when we focus on what Christ has done for us and what He is doing in us, it's very difficult to feel overwhelmed, weak, and hopeless. 

What speaks to you in this song?

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Music Monday: Love is War

This week's song is "Love is War" by Hillsong United. My awesome friend, Marissa, actually suggested this song and I'm glad she did, because I had never heard it before.
I have a feeling that many Music Monday's will feature Hillsong United...they just have such powerful lyrics that are hard to ignore!

"In Your justice and Your mercy
Heaven walked the broken road
Here to fight this sinner's battle
Here to make my fall Your own

Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder

I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
To throw my life forever
Into the triumph of the Son

Let Your love be my companion
In the war against my pride
Long to break all vain obsession
Till You're all that I desire

Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder

I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
To throw my life forever
Into the triumph of the Son

And I know Your love has won it all
You took the fall
To embrace my sorrows
I know You took the fight
You came and died but the grave was borrowed
I know You stood again
So I can stand with a life to follow
In the light of Your name"

I think my favorite lyrics in this song are, 
"I will fight to follow...I will fight for throw  my life forever into the triumph of the Son."
I think it shows that it isn't always easy to follow...but although it may be tough, I will still follow.
The same with love. The love that Jesus asks of us, can be difficult at times because of our own selfishness, but Jesus wants us to live in love, so we should fight for love. 
When we stand firm and persevere, we through our "lives forever into the triumph of the Son." Jesus is glorified when we overcome the inner struggle from within. 
This song is a great picture of how life can be challenging, it can feel like a battle at times, but in the end, Jesus always wins

What lyrics speak to you? 
Any suggestions for future Music Monday's? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"You are dust and to dust you shall return"

Genesis 3:19 says, "By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

So why is that significant? Today is Ash Wednesday
You may see people walking around with black crosses on their foreheads.
You may hear about people giving up something like social media or chocolate.
You may come across someone who won't eat meat during the week, but will feast on a juicy hamburger on Friday.
You may ask, "what is this all about exactly?"

Sarak Korf via

Ash Wednesday is a ritual practiced among Catholics and Protestants such as Lutherans, Episcopalians,  Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Methodists. 
Today marks the beginning of the Lenten period, meaning the remembrance of Jesus' 40 days of fasting, temptation by the devil, and crucifixion. It is during this time when people of these denominations reflect on Jesus' suffering, their sin, and live in moderation.

Sounds gloomy, huh? 
For some people, maybe not. It is a time for them to humble themselves.
I grew up Lutheran so I practiced the ritual of Ash Wednesday, as well as observing Lent.
I think a lot of good can come from this practice, however, when observing this time, one must be careful not to resent it or let it get in the way of it's sole purpose. 
I thought it would be helpful to learn about the history of Lent in hopes to deepen my knowledge of this practice. 

Did you know it began as a time to fast and prepare for baptism?
In the third and fourth centuries, lent was a pathway to newness by way of baptism on Easter. 
Baptism was the focus of this period. Although the Bible does not speak of observing Lent explicitly, it does speak of rituals pertaining to fasting and humbleness. We first hear of the Lenten period being observed by a letter from Dionysius addressing the length of Lent. Also, in 325 CE, the Emperor Constantine spoke of Lenten fasting at the Council of Nicea. 

Later on, the focus turned to confession and repentance rather than baptism.
People who committed serious sins would engage in public penance (confessing publicly) for forty days ending with a celebration feast on Easter. Some would still be baptized as well.

In the beginning, the fasting would begin on Sunday, but Pope Gregory the Great changed it to Wednesday and allowed for feasting on Sundays, instead of fasting. Because of him, we call today Ash Wednesday. He even started the practice of drawing ash crosses on people's foreheads to be a sign of grievance and repentance. 

As time has gone on, the practice of fasting has been modified. Sometime in the 800s people could eat after 3 pm, then people could eat after noon in the 1400s, and in 1966 the Vatican only required fasting to take place on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Also, during the 800s was the beginning of fasting from meat in order to "show of poverty before God" since meat was considered a wealthy food. 

It's interesting how this ritual has changed. When I partake in Ash Wednesday and Lent, I usually feel sorrow and gloom. I don't necessarily feel that it's a bad thing, because it is important to remember the suffering Jesus faced for us. We must also be careful to spend this time being grateful, even if we've given up chocolate. [I know it would be hard.] Matthew 6:16-18 says, Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face  so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who seeswhat is done in secret will reward you." We are to be representatives of Jesus Christ, so when we're walking around with ash crosses on our foreheads we must be careful not to complain about what you're giving up. 

With that being said, I really like the way Lent started out, as a focus of baptism. Now, if you were already baptized, of course you wouldn't get baptized every year, but remembering what comes with the suffering of Jesus Christ, the resurrection, is the most glorious part of Lent and Easter.

Let me say this again, remembrance, repentance, and sacrifice are HUGE. We should do those things, but we should be careful not to become so discouraged that we let it change our daily lifestyle of being joyful in all circumstances or become so wrapped up in the tradition that we forget the purpose. I think we can have a combination of both, remembrance and newness. Knowing our sins can surely bog us down, but facing our sins with the reality of Jesus providing us a newness can lighten our days during Lent, as well as throughout the year. 

So whether or not you are partaking in Ash Wednesday, remembering the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious outcome of His resurrection and forgiveness, should help us to be thankful now and throughout the year!

Do you practice Ash Wednesday? If so, how does it make you feel? Are you giving up anything? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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