Two Modern Worship Songs That Feel Like Hugs

Say what you will about modern worship music, but these two songs always get to my heart.

They describe how Jesus satisfies our needs, and how there is nothing else to our existence except for clinging to and trusting in Him.

These principles are foundational, simple, and yet easy to forget when when life hurts.

In the words of Katherine von Bora Luther, “I will cling to Christ like a bur to cloth.”

All I Once Held Dear (Knowing You)
by Graham Kendrick

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Chorus:
Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

. . . . . .

As The Deer Panteth for the Water
by A. Martin Nystrom

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longs after you
You alone are my hearts desire,
And I long to worship You.

Chorus:
You alone are my strength, my shield;
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire,
And I long to worship You.

I want you more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye.

You’re my friend and You’re my brother,
Even though you are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything.

What are your favorite modern worship songs?

What Do You Do When a Bible Verse Hurts Instead of Helps?

Note:

After I posted this, I caught something as I watched again — I said that we aren’t justified through faith. That’s not quite what I meant. To clarify, before someone else catches it:

Galatians 3:7-9 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Ephesians 2:7-9 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

My point was that faith by itself is meaningless. It’s what we have faith in that justifies us.

Have you ever gone through a hard time, read the Bible, and then felt more condemned than encouraged?

Here, I offer some thoughts on what to do in this situation based on the temptation of Christ as recorded in Matthew 4 .

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and feedback.

Do you think this interpretation is correct? What do you do when scripture hurts?

Keeping Up With Old Friends While Attending a New Church: Big Ideas and Practical Methods

This is a response to my friend Tara’s recent post on her blog, Considerable Grace. (Click here to read.)
I started to reply in the comments, but I realized it was a post in-and-of-itself :)

The question was,

…a friend of mine is leaving her (beloved) church to join a new one that is significantly closer to her home. No conflicts or theological disagreements, just a great opportunity to save a ton of driving while still remaining in the same denomination, involved in the same outreach and mercy ministries, etc… Her question for me was something to the effect of, “How do I make this move in the most loving and gracious way so as to AVOID causing any conflicts?”…


Big Idea: The Body of Christ is Bigger Than a Single Congregation

I believed this in my heart, but my eyes were opened when I went to Mitaka Evangelical Church in Japan for the first time. We struggled to communicate with words, but I instantly identified with the worshipful hearts of the members there. I learned that the body of Christ is even bigger than language barriers!

From the more academically focused churches, to the simple country church, to the Christian websites, to the evangelists, to English speaking churches to Japanese speaking churches – God’s Truth is being proclaimed to the nations, to people of all walks (and talks!) of life, and we need to rejoice over this!! We all need each other, and we’re all in team ministry with one another.

Applying the Big Idea: Freedom to Stay Involved With Your Former Church

If God’s plan is for you to move to a new church, He will not leave you nor your former congregation hanging. It is possible that your church back home may change in a positive way when you leave – think about it, if you were a church leader, formally or informally, someone else will now fulfill the role. Your former church may grow in new ways because of your move. Your new church may need the very gift/talent/personality set that God has given to you, and it may be an adjustment as you get accustomed to your new home and it gets accustomed to you. Growing pains produce growth. The transition might hurt at first, but God promises He will not leave His work incomplete.

When we catch the big idea here is that God is at work in every place, we can break free from sins like jealousy or coveting. It frees us from doing things like measuring people’s abilities as they fill in the role we left behind, or having the false idea that there is only one way to run a women’s ministry and critically comparing it to the one from your “perfect” former church. It frees us because our hearts are focused on praising God for His vastness. It frees us to appreciate each body of Christ for it’s uniqueness and beauty, and to praise God for the variety in the Church. It frees us to love and maintain friendships with our former church members without fear.

It is important beyond words to commit yourself to your local church. By being a member of our local church, we have the support and a foundation in place so that we can go forth to minister to other believers — in our former church and in the churches around the world! In many ways this commitment is similar to marriage and a family unit. Just like you wouldn’t let your own family go hungry so you can feed someone in need, do not take away your resources or your involvement in your local church to give to former church. That being said, I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t have time to pray for the needs of friends or to send a quick email of encouragement.


Maintaining Personal Relationships: Hints and Ideas

Just because you leave doesn’t mean that relationships have to die. I live in Japan, and I daily communicate with my loved friends, family and church members back home. It is important to me to do this, and therefore I make it a priority. Think of all the churches the Apostle Paul encouraged just through writing letters – which are still preserved for us to read today, I might add!

Communication can be done through good old-fashioned snail mail, the more recent invention called the telephone (with Vonage, long distance fees are history!), or even via the Internet. In addition to email, the Internet offers Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Skype, and more! By “stay in touch”, I mean showing love, caring for, praying for, etc. Annual family newsletters are great tools, but they cannot be the only communication with someone if you want to maintain a friendship with them.

If you find staying in touch with a number of people to be overwhelming, invest in a good address book program for your computer (because if you’re reading this, you probably have one!) that includes fields for notes, anniversaries, birthdays, how you last contacted them and when, and planned follow-up contact. While it’s romantic to think that you’ll remember all the important dates and to follow up on something, chance are, you’ll forget. The end result of planned contact is the same as spontaneous contact: you let the important people in your life know you care. The same tools for maintaining business contacts can be used to helping maintain personal relationships. This is the very reason caved in and I joined Facebook: to make it easier to maintain relationships with people I care about. I like it because I can keep up with my friends’ status updates, photos, notes, profiles, birthdays and other special events (with reminders!) and more — all in one place.

More Ideas for Staying Involved

  • Listen to sermons from your former pastor. From Japan, I am still listening to and growing from Gregg Strawbridge’s sermons at All Saints Presbyterian.
  • Ask to receive church newsletters in the mail.
  • Subscribe to any email groups related to your church and participate in the discussion.
  • Ask to know what people are studying in Bible studies. Buy a copy of the book and follow along and discuss them on the email group or with individuals.
  • Ask to know about church fund raising and give a special financial gift to your old church. We give to other Christian organizations, why not give to a congregation that has made a difference in your life ?
  • Attend special events, such as service-project days, bridal and baby showers, annual picnics or retreats. Even if you can no longer commute to the church regularly, visit once in a while to encourage and be encouraged by them. They are part of your family, just like the out-of-town relatives you make a priority to visit!
  • Ask to remain on the “prayer chain” so you can pray for the needs of the individual members and the church body as a whole. Remember to follow up with cards or emails, or even by sending flowers, as you may not have the chance to follow up in person.
  • Stay active in the meals ministry or other niche ministry groups. Offer to be a once-a-month backup for meals ministry in a pinch. If the ladies make quilts to welcome new babies in the church, and each lady makes a square, find out the dimensions and contribute a square. There are endless possibilities!
  • Ask for an up-to-date church directory, and asked to be kept in the directory as a “Friend of the Church” :) Missionaries are in the directory, and people can stay in touch with them… so it’s possible that you can be in the directory, too!
  • Communicate with the church body as a whole. Recognize that they miss you as much as you miss them. Encourage them as a congregation, as someone who knows their particular needs first hand. Send updates addressed to the whole church as to how you are doing, and how you are growing. Let them know of your prayer requests — and most importantly, how much you love them.
  • “We can’t take someone else’s rights away to avoid our responsibilities.”

    Saw this at Mommy Life and had to share!

    Twelve year old Lia Mills wrote this speech for a contest at school. On March 12, 2009, she was given the Susan B. Anthony Young Leader Award.

    My favorite line: “You have to remember that with our rights come responsibilities, and we can’t take someone else’s rights away to avoid our responsibilities.” (Wow. Applicable in so many ways!)

    Mills ends the speech by bringing in a quote from Horton Hears a Who!

    The full version of the speech can be found here.

    I Made a Meal for Jesus

    This week, I came across Andrea’s blog and her encouraging words are really sticking to my heart — especially after our recent Hoki fish (a.k.a. Hokke in Japan) meal that was scrapped on the cutting board.

    Her post made me giggle. “Sorry Jesus. Those fish were pretty on the outside but were infested with worms on the inside. Looks like we’re having hot dogs instead! Would you like mustard, ketchup or both?” There’s got to be a parable in there somewhere…

    Andrea is a mom of four children, close together, and is soon expecting baby #5 to arrive. I could relate to every word of her post! I appreciated her reminder that Jesus my friend.

    Please stop by her blog, The Flourishing Mother, and send her hug in the comments ;)

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 – I Made a Meal for Jesus

    I made a meal for Jesus.
    I think He would eat chicken….maybe? Along with His felafel.
    I made it with Love.
    Instead of lamenting I am 20 weeks pregnant with my fifth, tired, and why doesn’t anyone ever bring me a meal out of the blue when I need it? Or why isn’t there some magic fairy meal-maker?
    I cut up the onion, celery, carrots, carefully.
    Thinking how He would enjoy eating it.
    Probably sopping it up with yummy, crusty bread. And maybe some wine?
    I would use my best china, of course.
    It gave me immense pleasure.

    So maybe when I am making dinner each night for my family… (and breakfast. and lunch. and snacks. Oh mamas, it never ends, right?)
    …I’ll think of serving Him.
    And how He would smile. And enjoy it. …and I’d probably cry.
    ‘Cause He would understand my heart.
    And what I put into it.
    And why.
    And He’s already given me everything I will ever need, so He wouldn’t need to bring me a meal.
    ‘Cause I feast daily at His table.
    And because of that, I am honored to serve Him.

    For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve; and to give His life as a ransom for many. ~Matthew 20:28

    Jesus is our friend.

    John 15:12-15 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

    When my friends and I were reading The Purpose Driven Life together, “Becoming Best Friends with God” was a chapter that really humbled me. Andrea’s posted brought back wonderful memories of PDL discussion in my friends in Laura’s living room.

    Here are some excerpts from Chapter 11 of Rick Warren’s book:

    “God wants to be your best friend.”
    “In Eden, we see God’s ideal relationship with us: Adam and Eve enjoyed an intimate friendship with God. There were no rituals, ceremonies or religion – just a simple loving relationship between God and the people He created. Unhindered by guilt or fear. Adam and Eve delighted in God and we delighted in them. We were made to live in God’s continual presence, but after the Fall, that ideal relationship was lost…”
    “Then Jesus changed the situation. When he paid for our sins on the cross, the veil in the temple that symbolized our separation from God was split from top to bottom, indicating that direct access to God was once again available.”
    God “planned the universe and orchestrated history, including the details of our lives, so that we could become his friends.” (Acts 17:24-31 from the Sermon on Mars Hill)
    “The classic book on learning how to develop a constant conversation with God is Practicing the Presence of God . It was written in the seventeenth century by Brother Lawrence, a humble cook in a French monastery. Brother Lawrence was able to turn even the most commonplace and menial tasks, like preparing meals and washing dishes, into acts of praise and communion with God. The key to friendship with God, he said, is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude toward what you do. What you normally do for yourself you begin doing it for God, whether it is eating, bathing, working, relaxing, or taking out the trash.”

    In October of 2007, I wrote the post, “Can I Trust in Jesus” after visualizing Jesus, as our close friend, sacrificing himself on our behalf. Here’s an excerpt:

    Imagine you are sitting at home enjoying a delicious meal with an old friend. As you are talking, the familiarity is so great, it is as though he can read your very soul. You love him deeply and never wish to be separated from him. Your friend is kind and good. For as long as you can remember, he has never wronged you – or anyone else, for that matter – in any way.

    Suddenly, you hear a loud crash in the adjacent room….

    Time to go wash some dishes for Jesus ;)

    I’ll leave you with this (of course I recorded it!):

    10 Ways to Pastor Adoptive Parents and Those Considering Adoption

    I just finished reading this great post at one of my favorite blogs, Desiring God. I thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy!

    by Jason Kovacs

    There are many ways that you can express your pastoral care for those considering adoption and those who have adopted already. As an adoptive father and former pastor, I offer a few thoughts on how to help adoption become a biblically based, heart-led, missional movement in your church and not merely another program on your church’s list.

    1. Develop your own heart for the fatherless.

    God calls Himself a “father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5) and emphasizes throughout Scripture his special care for orphans. In fact, the very heart of the gospel is God’s passion to not only redeem sinners but to adopt them as his very sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:4-5).

    Many adoptive parents and those pursuing adoption feel alone in their churches because it seems like no one understands. By communicating that adoption is fundamentally connected to the gospel and the nature of God you will challenge the view that adoption is a “plan B” if a couple cannot have children biologically.

    2. Do a biblical study on God’s perspective on orphans.

    As you develop your heart for adoption, pass this on to your people in your preaching. You can start by simply looking up all the instances in the Bible to the “fatherless.”

    3. Educate yourself on basic facts about adoption and orphan care.

    Did you know there are roughly 129,000 children waiting to be adopted today in the US and over 132 million orphans worldwide? That is a starting point to stir your heart to pray and cry to God for his justice and grace to be poured out on their behalf.

    Some websites I’ve found helpful in keeping me aware of these issues are…

    Your awareness of these kinds of things will speak volumes to the church you lead. Whether it is through your preaching, teaching, or just regular conversation, your church will begin to hear this and will gain God’s heart and perspective on adoption.

    Your understanding will also touch those who have adopted and who are considering it.

    4. Ask questions.

    Listening is one of the most powerful expressions of your care. Learn to ask the right questions. Here are a few good ones to ask:

      * Why are you considering adoption? Are you both on the same page? If not, where do you differ?
      * Do you both have the faith for adoption?
      * Are you aware of the risks, ups, downs, and unknowns of adoption?
      * Have you talked to other adoptive families about their experience?
      * Have you been praying together about this?
      * Where do you feel called to adopt from?
      * What kind of support do you have in place?
      * Are you aware of the cost of adoption? How will you pay for it? Will you need help?

    5. Remind them that they desire a good and God-magnifying thing.

    Encourage those pursuing adoption with God’s heart for the fatherless. Encourage them with God’s promises to direct their steps (Prov 16:9). Encourage them with God’s faithfulness to provide.

    6. Keep on encouraging them.

    Those who step out in faith to adopt enter a journey filled with many ups and downs. Keep supporting them throughout the process. Ideally, they will have a care group or some close friends that will be able to do this as well.

    7. Provide financial counsel and help.

    The majority of couples adopting are challenged by the high costs. Any ways that you can provide encouragement and help financially will express love in a very tangible way.

    One way you can do this is by establishing a church adoption fund to offer grants and loans to members. You can visit Hope for 100 for an example of what one church in Texas is doing.

    8. Cry with them and celebrate with them.

    The majority of adoptions are filled with great highs and great lows.

    There are often many tears shed due to failed placements and other setbacks. There is also unparalleled joy in being matched with your child and bringing them home.

    Do what you can to enter into their experience. Embody the compassion and empathy of Christ in the hard times and magnify the joy of the Father in the celebration.

    9. Celebrate adoptions publicly in services.

    Give time during worship services not only to teach on God’s heart for orphans, but also to celebrate specific adoptions. You can perhaps do this as part of Sanctity of Life Sunday or in conjunction with another special day such as Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day. Also, November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

    There are many ways you can publicly celebrate adoption during the service such having an adoptive family share their story, honoring adoptive parents in the congregation, or taking a special offering for your church adoption fund. Be creative!

    10. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.

    Use the wisdom and experience of the Christian adoption community. There are a growing number of resources available, including many churches that have ministries aimed at promoting and supporting adoption.

    Encourage those in your church who have a passion for adoption to lead the church in caring for the fatherless and supporting adoption. And remember you are not alone! There is a community of others to support you and above all, God, the Father of the fatherless, is with you to provide all that is needed to follow his call to care for the “least of these.”

    * * *

    For more information on the connection between our adoption by God and our adoption of children please visit Together for Adoption. We will be hosting our second national conference on adoption this October in Nashville.