Archive for the ‘Devotionals’ Category

worshipIntroduction:
I’ve been a Christian a long time and this simple song of Christ’s mercy, grace, and unmerited forgiveness still reduces me to a grateful, humbled puddle of devoted tears everytime I sing or hear it. Even after all these years I still come empty handed and unworthy of the great gift that I’ve been freely given or the tender mercies I’m daily shown.
— Fred W. Anson 

Majesty (Here I Am)
Words & Music by Martin Smith and Stuart Garrard

Here I am
Humbled by your majesty
Covered by your grace so free

Here I am
Knowing I’m a sinful man
Covered by the blood of the lamb
Now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine

Majesty
Majesty
You grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands


Here I am
Humbled by the love that you give
Forgiven so that I can forgive

Here I stand
Knowing I’m your desire
Sanctified by glory and fire

Now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine
Since you laid down your life the greatest sacrifice

Majesty
Majesty
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands

Singing
Majesty
Majesty

Forever I am changed by your love
In the presence of your majesty
Majesty

Singing
Majesty
Majesty

Your grace has found me just as I am
I’m nothing but alive in your hands

We’re singing
Majesty
Majesty

Forever
I am changed by your love
In the beauty of your majesty

Hillsong++Delirious+unified+praise

Video performance by Martin Smith with Delirious? and Hillsongs

Other inspiring performances of this classic praise chorus by Martin Smith

(Martin Smith with full orchestra)

(Martin Smith with Delirious? live at Willow Creek in 2006) 

Word and Music by Martin Smithwith_arms_wide_open_by_taorax-d2yg1sr-CROPPED
Is it true today that when people pray
Cloudless skies will break
Kings and queens will shake
Yes it’s true and I believe it
I’m living for you

Is it true today that when people pray
We’ll see dead men rise
And the blind set free
Yes it’s true and I believe it
I’m living for you

(this performance by Lindell Cooley and the Brownsville Worship Team)

I’m gonna be a history maker in this land
I’m gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind
I’m gonna stand, I’m gonna run
Into your arms, into your arms again
Into your arms, into your arms again

Well it’s true today that when people stand
With the fire of God, and the truth in hand
We’ll see miracles, we’ll see angels sing
We’ll see broken hearts making history
Yes it’s true and I believe it
We’re living for you

More inspiring performances of this history making song by the composer in performance with Delirious

by Steve Taylor

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Introduction
It all began with a simple magazine cover. I don’t recall ever being so moved by a photo as when I saw the image on the cover of Time Magazine of the Pope in a prison cell forgiving the man who tried to assassinate him. That single photo ended up being the inspiration for “To Forgive”.[1]

That one image really struck me, and it said so much to the world. It occurred to me that in many cases–I mean you’ve got this cycle of violence in Lebanon, in India, in northern Ireland, and when it comes down to it, the only possible solution for that is forgiveness, because otherwise the retribution and the cycle of revenge just keeps going. And here was a picture of the Pope shaking hands with a guy who tried to kill him. Regardless of who the Pope is–and some cynical people would say, you know, “well that’s his job” or something like that–it was a very, very powerful image.[2]

To Forgive
I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live
To forgive?

I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live
To forgive?

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

(The original version by Steve Taylor)

I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

(the cover by The Wayside that I prefer to the original version) 

I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
To forgive
(words & music by Steve Taylor)

51eo+Ajf-GL._SL500_AA280_Original version from the album “On The Fritz”

51ITnXzdCFLCover version from the album “I Predict A Clone”

NOTES
[1] Clone Club News Flash Winter 1986
[2] Steve Taylor, Crosswalk Syndicated Radio Interview, 1985

Almighty God,

I am loved with everlasting love,
clothed in eternal righteousness,
my peace flowing like a river,
my comforts many and large,
my joy and triumph unutterable,
my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation,
my sense of justification unclouded.

I have scarce anything to pray for;
Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven
and my supplications are swallowed up in praise.

How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election
when based upon thy Word
and wrought inwardly within the soul!

LockedDoorWithLight

I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner
thou hast loved,
and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee,
else I would never get to heaven.

I wrong the work of grace in my heart
if I deny my new nature and my eternal life.

If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption,
I would sink into nethermost hell
by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove;

If Jesus were not by the power of his Spirit
my sanctification,
there is no sin I should not commit.

O when shall I have his mind!
when shall I be conformed to his image?

All the good things of life are less than nothing
when compared with his love,
and with one glimpse of thy electing favour.

All the treasures of a million worlds could not
make me richer, happier, more contented,
for his unsearchable riches are mine.

One moment of communion with him, one view
of his grace,
is ineffable, inestimable.

But O God, I could not long after thy presence
if I did not know the sweetness of it;

And such I could not know except by thy Spirit
in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst
elect me,
call me,
adopt me,
save me.

I bless thee for the covenant of grace.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

by Fred W. Anson
A review of Andy Stanley’s
“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You”

Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church and son of Dr. Charles F. Stanley, who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.  Andy is also the author of several books including “How Good Is Good Enough?” which I read several years ago and, I thought, a solid vernacular treatise on grace versus works. He has an engaging, approachable style and his theology is sound – which, I suppose it could be said, is hardly a surprise given his pedigree, training, and life experience.

enemies-of-the-heart-andy-stanley-i10“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” was published in 2011 so this review is admittedly late to the game. Never-the-less I found that prior reviews had missed an important – but blatant – weakness in this book that this reviewer felt worthy of consideration.

The four “enemies” are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy which Stanley unpacks like this:
Guilt = “I owe you”
Anger = “You owe me”
Greed = “I owe myself”, and
Jealousy = “God owes me”

The book is short, concise, engaging, thought provoking, easy to read and practical. There’s much sage wisdom here grounded solidly in Biblical truth.

What’s missing – though it’s admittedly a minor irritation – is balance. While the author lightly, and it seemed to me somewhat grudgingly, acknowledges that transitive guilt, greed, and jealously in some contexts and in moderation can be good, even healthy, I could find no admission in the book that this is equally true of anger. Rather, the author seems to have bought into the false modern Christian doctrine that anger is always sin. If so, may I introduce you to Sinner #1, His name is God Almighty:

God’s anger was kindled [against Balaam] because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.”
— Numbers 22:22, ESV

“Then my [God’s] anger will be kindled against them in that day [that God’s people worship other gods], and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured.”
— Deuteronomy 31:17, ESV

“They have made me [God] jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.”
— Deuteronomy 32:21, ESV

“But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”
— Ezra 5:12, ESV

“In the temple he [Christ] found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”’
— John 2:14-16, ESV

I will spare the reader any more proof texting but suffice to say the Bible is full of references to God’s anger. Simply put, God gets angry, yet doesn’t sin, and even speaks openly of His anger as if it’s a good, normal, and healthy thing.

Further, and some of you might want to sit down for this one, no where – again, no where – in the Bible is anger defined as sin. In fact, Ephesians 4:26-27 (which Stanley cites in the book) states plainly, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Did you catch that – the Apostle Paul states plainly “be angry”. That’s mind blowing stuff if you, like me, were raised to believe the false doctrine that anger is a sin. Think about it: If anger is in fact sin, then Paul is giving the Ephesians flawed, even reprobate, counsel.

Rather, the Bible is clear that anger, like guilt, greed, and jealousy can lead to sin if it’s not processed in a righteous manner. What God models for us in the Bible is that anger is normal and healthy when something of value is threatened or requires protection. That’s why we see God getting angry with Israel over their idol worship in the Old Testament and why we see God the Son getting angry over His holy temple being transformed from a sacred space into a common strip mall in the New Testament.

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

Put another way, would you be sinning for getting angry if a bully starts beating up your child on the playground for no reason? Or at a pickpocket trying to take your wallet? Or at a vandal spraying graffiti on the side of your house? Or at your spouse flirting with another person in front of you? Or, or, or . . . see my point?

So it’s clear that when expressed in healthy, transitive ways anger is normal, productive, and even godly. It’s only when it becomes chronic, permanent, or gets expressed in sinful ways that the problems begin.

I saw this first hand when I was a DivorceCare counselor at a local church. On one hand, many of the Christians there (including me, I confess) would have benefited greatly from this book because they were holding onto and expressing their anger in ways that were unproductive: Needlessly extending legal action out of spite, drawing their divorcing spouses into conflict, damaging community property, making a “scene” in public, using the children as weapons in their war with the other party, choosing to hate and distrust all men/women, etc., etc., etc. Their anger fueled sin was easy to see, easy to understand  and easy to identify. Yet believe it or not, they were actually the easy ones to counsel to a place of balance.

Far harder were the Christians who had been told that anger was a sin and, as a result, they refused to fight for their marriage, their children, their property, or even their basic, inherent rights as a person created in the image of God. These poor souls would simply let their aggressive divorcing spouses roll over them like a steamroller and do nothing. In some cases they had marriages worth fighting for yet they wouldn’t fight! And no amount of logic, reason, or prayer would convince them that there is, “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7&8, ESV) In their mind tearing was sin, speaking was sin, hate was sin, and war was sin because they all involved anger.

And this is the nuance that Andy Stanley “whiffs” on badly in this book. In his quest to make his point it seemed to me that the author got it right in three cases and struck out on one – normal, protective, transitive, even godly, anger. In fact, had he made this distinction I would have no complaints with the book.

Never-the-less, and regardless this flaw, this is a book that I heartily recommend with this suggestion: Whenever the author uses the words, “guilt”, “anger”, “greed” or “jealousy” simply insert the clarifying adjective “chronic” in front of each of them.

HeresToThePast

by Fred W. Anson
They say that if you don’t have any regrets then you’re probably not trying hard enough. If that’s true then I often wonder if I’m trying too much because I have a lot of regrets. In fact, after I joined the Facebook groups for my old High School and the Nazarene Church that I grew up in I spent the first couple of weeks apologizing to everyone.

Then a funny thing happened, I realized that most of the people that I thought I’d so offended back in the day either didn’t remember or didn’t care any more. So essentially I’d spent all those years needlessly beating myself up, avoiding others, and taking side streets shadowed in shame when all I needed to do was show up and be myself.

The truth of the matter is I’d been lied to and had squandered much of my life as a result of it.

Actually, I should have known all this since Michael and Stormie Omartian warned me in song way back in 1978 . . .

Ms. Past
(click above to hear song)
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’s such a wicked lady,
Ms. Past, she’s always there a waiting,
She’s the Devil’s favorite tool,
She’ll play you like a fool,
She’ll try until she rules.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’ll always try to feed you,
Ms. Past, she’ll say He never freed you.
But don’t fall for her disguise,
And look back in her eyes,
She wants you paralyzed, by all she knows.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

And there’s certainly no doubt that I’ve been a “tool” allowing Ms. Past to constantly sting and restrain me with fiery darts of regret!

In the end, I most certainly want to learn from the past but I don’t want to be bound by it.  After all, as Larry Norman observed, “Your life’s a play you can’t rehearse.” And mistakes are actually a blessing in disguise since, if you learn from them, you can avoid making the same ones again, again, and again.

What’s more, human development experts (not to the mention the Bible) tell us that mistakes are one way (actually the main way) that humans grow and mature in a number of areas.  So, that means that occasionally we’ll pick up a regret or two in the process:

If you don’t, then you’re just not trying hard enough.
And if you do, don’t look back, just let it go.

SeasonsOfTheSoulAlbumCover(from the album “Seasons of the Soul”)
Lyrics by Stormie Omartian, Music by Michael Omartian
© 1978 “See This House” Music, Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved.

Heavenly Father, I need Your Holy Spirit to help me not think and live according to my old ways. I place my childhood fears and bloodline curses behind me and ask You to cancel them. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I choose not to be enslaved to them any longer!

Today I lay aside my fear of facing the pain from the spirits of pride, bitterness, lying, self-exaltation, rebellion, witchcraft, and the occult. I choose not to walk in these any longer. When I am tested by these deceiving spirits, I want to respond in godliness. God, please remove any mental strongholds and to help me think and see clearly.

I choose NOT to listen to other spiritual voices. Instead I choose to listen to Your voice. From this time forth, I will NOT trust in lying spirits nor the spirits who claim to offer me protection from evil. I close every door to Satan. I will not seek a false defense to shield myself from wrong, exploitation, or harm. I look to You, Lord Jesus and place my trust in You to protect me from the harm of well-meaning people and from demonic spirits. Jesus, I choose You to be my Savior and Holy Spirit, I choose You to be my defender.

Lord Jesus, please forgive my sins. I confess that I have NOT loved rightly. I have resented others. I now recognize this as sin and confess this to you now. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me. By Your blood, I forgive them as You have forgiven me. I am sorry for my sins. I confess and renounce them, known and unknown. By Your blood I am cleansed of my guilt, my shame, and my regret. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins, and that You rose from the dead and ascended to God the Father. You now sit at His right hand. With repentence in my heart, I ask You, Lord, to deliver me from the snare of the fowler and to set me free. Your truth is a shield to me. Under Your wings, I seek refuge.

Lord Jesus, I claim Your promise in Psalm 91:14&15: Because I have set my love on You, You will deliver me. You have set me on high because I have know Your Name. I will call on You and You will answer me. You will be with me in trouble. You will deliver me and honor me.

Amen

98622[1](adapted from “Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit” by John Paul Jackson; pp. 166-168)