Friday, April 24, 2009

Not Guilty...

Do you all remember when I posted a number of months back about the symbolism I saw in the recent movie about Esther, in the scene where she comes before the king?

This morning I found a new song that speaks of the same thing...a song so powerful that words really can't describe it.

Picture yourself in the throne room of God, facing the judgment seat, and click play.


"Not Guilty"
sung by Mandisa

I stand accused. There’s a list a mile long
Of all my sins--of everything that I’ve done wrong
I’m so ashamed.. There’s nowhere left for me to hide
This is the day--I must answer for my life

My fate is in the Judge’s hands
But then He turns to me and says:

I know you
I love you
I gave my life to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict:
Not guilty!

How can it be? I can’t begin to comprehend
What kind of grace would take the place for all sin
I stand in awe, now that I have been set free
And the tears well up as I look at that cross
'Cause it should have been me

My fate was in the nail-scarred hands
He stretched them out for me and said:

I know you
I love you
I gave my life to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict:
Not guilty!

I’m falling on my knees to thank You
With everything I am I’ll praise You,
So grateful for the words I heard You say:

I know you
I love you
I gave my life

I know you
I love you
I gave My life just to save you!
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict is:
Not guilty!

(If you're interested in reading my thoughts on the other songs listed in this player, just click on the songs label, and the blog posts will be listed, from newest to oldest.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

My song this morning...

God often gives me a song in the morning--a special message from Him.

This morning, however, I had something a little more unusual happen. I woke up with verses running through my head. And not just the impressions of verses...full word-for-word verses...and some that I didn't even know I had memorized well enough for my half-asleep brain to rattle off. (Actually, it was probably the Holy Spirit's memory working there, not mine.)

The verses were some of the most magnificent in the Bible, about the majesty of God and who He is and who Jesus is. I wish I could remember which verses they were! (Okay...obviously the credit for knowing those verses this morning doesn't go to me.) All I remember is the last one:
He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created...all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
-Col. 1:15-17
And on the heals of that verse, the song, "Here I Am:"


Here I Am
by Downhere

Sometimes your calling, comes in dream
Sometimes it comes in the Spirit's breeze
You reach for the deepest hope in me
And call out for the things of eternity
But I'm a man of dust and stains
You move in me so I can say…

Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life I make an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of your plan
Here I am

When setbacks and failures and upset plans
Test my faith and leave me with empty hands
Are You not the closest when it's hardest to stand?
I know that You will finish what You began
And these broken parts You redeem
Become the song that I can sing…

Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life I make an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of your plan
Here I am

Overwhelmed by the thought of my weakness
And the fear that I'll fail You in the end
In this mess, I'm just one of the pieces
I can't put this together but You can

Here I am, Lord send me
I want to live my life as an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of your plan
So here I am...

Lyrics, chords, and more songs available on www.downhere.com.

(If you're interested in reading my thoughts on other songs that have ministered to me, just click on the songs label, and the blog posts will be listed, from newest to oldest.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Making a choice...

Yesterday, I caught up on a new friend's blog. There was so much there that I spent two hours reading, re-reading, thinking, praying, and realizing things that I haven't thought about in quite the same way she did.

This morning, however, God brought one specific portion back to mind as I woke up. This is a quote from a book, which she borrowed from yet another blog. Does it impact you the same way that it seems to be impacting quite a few of us?

page 106 - 107 from The Holy Wild, by Mark Buchanan

I was in Uganda, Africa about a dozen years ago, in a little township called Wairaka. Every Sunday evening, about one hundred Christians from the neighboring area would gather to worship. They met at the edge of a cornfield, under a lean-to with a rusty tin roof that cracked like gunfire when it rained. They sat - when they did sit - on rough wood benches. The floor was dirt. The band's instruments were old or handmade - bruised, scratched guitars with corroded strings and necks that had warped in the humidity; a plinky electric piano plugged into a crackling speaker; shakers made of tin cans and stones. All of it kept straying out of tune.

One Sunday evening, I was too sour to join in. The music sounded squawky, I was miffed at someone on our missions team, I found the food bland, tasteless. I was feeling deprived and misunderstood. I found the joy of others hollow, mustered-up. I was miserable, and I wanted to wallow in it.

The pastor asked if anyone had anything to share. Many people wanted to, but a tall, willowy woman in the back row danced and shouted loudest, so he called her forward. She came twirling her long limbs, trilling out praise.

"Oh, brothers and sisters, I love Jesus so much," she said.

"Tell us, sister! Tell us!" the Ugandans shouted back.

"Oh, I love Him so much, I don't know where to begin. He is so good to me. Where do I begin to tell you how good He is to me?"

"Begin there, sister! Begin right there!"

"Oh," she said, "He is so good. I praise Him all the time for how good He is. For three months, I prayed to Him for shoes, And look!" And with that the woman cocked up her leg so that we could see one foot. One very ordinary shoe covered it, "He gave me shoes."

The Ugandans went wild. They clapped, they cheered, they whistled, they yelled.

But not me. I was devastated. I sat there broken and grieving. In an instant, God snapped me out of my self-pity and plunged me into repentance. In all my life, I had not once prayed for shoes. It never even crossed my mind. And in all my life, I had not even once thanked God for the many, many shoes I had.

Thanklessness becomes its own prison. Persisted in, it becomes its own hell, where there is outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. Thanklessness is the place God doesn't dwell, the place that, if we inhabit it too often, He turns us over to. "See to it that no one misses the grace of God," Hebrews says, "and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Thanklessness troubles and defiles many, because first it troubles and defiles the one in whom bitterness takes root.

I read that, and I was reminded of how civilization's wealth is such a snare.

Those of us living in the United States or other "advanced" nations know that many of the world's poor live on just a few dollars a day. Sometimes that knowledge reminds us to be grateful for the shoes on our feet, the clothes in our closet, our electronics, information, electricity, etc. Yet, a quick look at our own finances--especially in today's economy--reminds us that we don't have the option of living on a few dollars a day, even if we wanted to. Yes, almost all of us could live with less than what we have, but the truth is, even if we lost or gave up absolutely everything we own, we still couldn't live on a few dollars a day. Not in this country. It costs more than that for food, for the simplest roof over our head, for the means to get to and from work to pay for the taxes on that roof...and so we are quickly drawn back into the cares of the world.

But that's no excuse to not be thankful for anything and everything that we have.

I was reading in Romans 1 this morning, and verse 21 jumped out at me...probably because God had already laid the importance of thankfulness on my heart. Paul is talking about the unrighteous and summing up both the cause of their unrighteousness and the consequences of it. Here's what he said:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor [glorify] Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Did you notice what I did? Thanklessness is listed as a major root of unrighteousness! Perhaps this is because an unthankful heart is a proud heart, and God resists the proud.

Thankfulness comes from humility. It takes humility for a person in America to be thankful for shoes, because we somehow have come to think that we deserve shoes--that we have the right to expect that we'll have not only the money to buy at least a few pairs, but also that stores nearby will carry our size.

But that's not true. All of it is by God's grace, for He could have chosen to make the place of my birth in the middle of AIDS-ravaged Africa, or a remote village of Afghanistan, or in a peasant's hovel just before the Plague swept Europe. Instead, He chose to begin my life in 1976, in the most powerful country in the world, where the joy and thankfulness that can be found in shoes and simple meals and two pairs of clothes is all-too-often swallowed by the stress of living in a society with so many demands.

But is God any different for me than it is for that woman in Uganda who prayed for shoes? No, He isn't. He is just as capable of providing for the taxes and required insurance on my little home as He is for that woman's shoes. And He is just as capable of providing peace and rest in the middle of my storms as He is for those whose worries consist less of unavoidable bills and more of the lives of their loved ones.

He never changes. It is we who forget...who fall prey to the whispered lies that constantly try to keep us from even recognizing how much we have to be thankful for.

We have been given a great responsibility. There are many in the world who can't help being thankful for food and shelter and shoes. It is all they have. We, however, must choose to be thankful.

Will we?
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion