Because you’ve risen I can rise you’re the reason I’m baptized you’re why I say glory to God when I get up in the morning If anyone asks why I believe you’re the reason
Jesus, they feared you and killed you as though you were an ordinary man but little did they know in dying and rising you’d return with salvation’s plan
Because you rose you left an empty grave hardly used and its door rolled away and you walked away witnessed with the keys to our forever so rejoicing and alive I can say…
because you’ve risen I can rise you’ve gone before me, that is why I’m not afraid and I cry more tears of joy than sorrow because the keys you hold open all my tomorrows because you’ve risen, Lord, you have risen
The song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” was the result of a collaboration by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller. Jackson penned the lyrics following her own suicide attempt. “When I attempted suicide [in 1944] and I didn’t succeed,” she said, “I knew for the first time unconditional love—which God is. You are totally loved, totally accepted, just the way you are. In that moment I was not allowed to die, and something happened to me, which is very difficult to explain. I had an eternal moment of truth, in which I knew I was loved, and I knew I was here for a purpose.” umcdiscipleship.org
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This love is only made possible by the intercession Jesus makes between us and God, our Father.
During this time of extreme political division and turmoil on the national stage, hate-filled rhetoric too often seems to drown out any messages we might share of love and understanding. Not only do people have opinions, a tremendous number of them are willing to tell you yours are stupid… mostly online. Instead of doing the hard work of pursuing dialogue based on issues and reasoned arguments, too many of us indulge in the sugar high social media echo chambers provide. The way I see it, as a Christian, I have a short window of time to represent the gospel message while I remain on earth. I’d like to do that by first listening and then caring enough about my fellow human to be honest. While I’m being honest, one of the things I’ll share is how the peace I know, the joy I know, comes from Jesus. So, this is my prayer, that peace begins with me. I don’t expect it to be someone else’s responsibility. And though I fully expect the world to continue to be a troubled place, I’ll remember the words of Jesus, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
There’s no downside to peace beginning with me though the world still makes me tired though my efforts at making a difference can seem like I’ve brought a squirt gun to a fire.
I’m often overwhelmed by the noise that assaults and taunts and insists I’m less still I’m safe in the knowledge that as I am I’m loved and I’ll never be any less.
So if you will, let peace be with you too don’t be afraid to let it spill over God’s in the business of healing one life at a time even with billions the wide world over
A quiet simple song can start a revolution of joy and peace with Jesus at its center ask God to teach you the lyrics and the rhyme then watch hearts around you grow tender
He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Justin sat on his bed with a pad of paper and pencil, his legs crossed and eyes drawn together as he concentrated on the task at hand, writing what ostensibly was to be his yearly Christmas list. He’d been following what was now his yearly tradition for some time, since he decided he was too old to ask Santa for anything directly but not too old to make a list and hint to his parents that they could pass on ideas to the jolly one if they wanted to. It was normally as easy a task as you’d expect it to be for a boy his age. Just like anyone else he was bombarded with advertisements for this toy and that, games galore, electronics sure to make him the envy of his friends. Those things still held a strong attraction, but his perspective on the world and his place in it was changing. There was something in the air, something tense, like the feeling he got before a test at school when he hadn’t studied enough. It seemed like he was noticing the adults in his life getting more and more irritable, a little like when the flu went through his school and so many kids were out sick.There was this mean way people were treating each other that was going around. Once, when his grandfather caught him being mean to his little sister he sat him down and said, “Justin, do you know how important you are to your little sister? “No,” he said. “Well, you are. There are some things that she will learn best if she learns them from her family. If you teach her how to be kind she has a much better chance of growing up to be a kind person. That’s very important. It’s what Jesus taught. It’s also a fruit of the spirit.” So, it was with these ideas that seemed on the verge of being a little too big for him and God tugging on Justin’s heart that he began his list, though, as he wrote, it seemed more of a plea.
Justin’s Christmas list.
Mom and Dad would you be kind this Christmas? Please, for that day set aside the words that hurt. I’m sure you plan on giving us the best of all the toys, but maybe you forgot what little girls and boys need most of all. Please be kind for Christmas.
In Sunday school we’re singing Peace on Earth. If it’s not too hard, I wonder if God could start in our house? I don’t know exactly how it all works. It takes all I know to write this verse… I just hope he understands, anyway.
Could we maybe talk about being kind for Christmas? I know I’m just a kid, and it might be a big thing, but if it’ll help I’ll clean my room… How about that? For Christmas, could we please be kind?
Yesterday at the store, Mom, you used your outside voice with the lady who was helping us. I think her kids go to our Sunday school. She looked really sad. Did she do something bad? Please if it’s alright, could we get her some of what I want for Christmas? I could share.
Will there be extra kindness for Christmas? I think all my friends at school could use some too. If we have some to share I’ll bet we could. If I ask real nice I think you would for Christmas.
How much does kindness cost? Here’s my piggy bank. That should be a good start, I think. How much is enough? Quite a bit, I’d say, but just how can you get more of it by giving it away?
If I fall down will you kindly pick me up? If I can’t reach will you help me be tall? If I don’t know the answers, will you help me ask better questions? Then, maybe my brain won’t feel so small.
Will you be the one to tell me all about Christmas by showing me how Jesus lived? I’d rather know all that from you, Mom and Dad. For me it would be the kindest thing you ever did.
What qualities do you admire most in people? Friendly? Funny? Outgoing? Kind? Intelligent? Certainly I think you’d discover one common denominator would be the quality of thankfulness. While the most miserable people seem best at finding the worst, the happiest ones have a way of tapping into an attitude of gratitude that buoys them even in difficult circumstances and similarly lifts everyone around them. No matter their physical appearance, they somehow manage to be the most beautiful people in the room.
In his first letter’s exhortations to the Thessalonians, chapter five, verses 16 through 18, Paul says to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note that he says, “in everything.” The circumstances may be horrible, but an attitude of thankfulness can keep hope, essential as breathing, alive even then.
How can we break out in thanksgiving even in the middle of mourning, grief and pain? How can we be there for the living? If God’s commanded, he’ll surely provide a way to be thankful.
Lord, maybe I’ve taken leave of my senses, to be joyful, in a world missing paradise, but since you’ve given me permission I’ll swing for the fences, and be so thankful.
No matter how the earth groans, no matter whether man tries to destroy all you’ve given, I know you’re sovereign, Lord. No matter how dark the news, and evil seems to win, I’ll search for the way… to remain thankful.
I’ll enter your gates with thanksgiving. I’ll enter your courts with praise, for you are good and your love is eternal. I will not fear what I can’t see in the night, I won’t fear the dark in the day, for you remain Lord no matter where or how I am. For that and so much more I’m thankful.
Lord heap my heart full of thanksgiving, Heap it up till it overflows. Heap it so I can’t keep it to myself, The whole world has to know.
God’s word helps me to perceive, we must be illuminators of his love, justice and hope. Circumstances will change, our health may ebb and flow. The world’s economy might fluctuate, but that won’t change what I know. So I’m thankful.
Whether we face plenty or hunger, abundance or need, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. He is our sufficiency and we are thankful.
Though we’re persecuted, we will not be abandoned; Though we’re struck down, we will not be destroyed. we lift our hands and rejoice because we look toward the one who does not change and give our offering of thanksgiving.
Lord heap our hearts full of thanksgiving, Heap them up till they overflow. Heap them so we can’t keep it to ourselves, The whole world has to know.
Take over the places in me that are not all about you, like the place that calculates what’s owed me and from whom. If you would, Lord, make it over… Lord, make me over. You know God, we’re pretty selfish and we’ve all got our wish lists. It seems they’ve changed only little from the days we were kids. But Lord, among those qualities I value, grow in my estimation that of gratitude.
Imagine the world like that, thankfulness, spreading like a good disease. I can’t possibly overestimate what it could mean. All that taking turning into giving. Ground zero right here. That’s a funny thought… infectious agents for Jesus. Ha!
Lord, heap our hearts full of thanksgiving, Heap them up till they overflow. Let the good news from our overflowing grateful hearts draw those we meet to your kingdom. Lord, heap our hearts.
Sanctuary, Lord, I find, for my heart and for my mind. Thanks be to you, God, for my salvation. I rejoice, for when I was lost, you found me. Lasting peace, of inestimable value, I now possess. Light, you’ve made all my earthly burdens, that can’t measure with the treasure of you.
Honestly, the book of Habakkuk was not on my radar. It’s a small book near the end of the Old Testament, written by a prophet we don’t know much about. A theme in much of the Old Testament is man’s relationship with God. In a nutshell, man has always had a habit of forgetting God when things are going well and complaining when the situation worsens. The reigning king at the time of Habakkuk, Jehoiakim, was described by the prophet Jeremiah in this way: “your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion” Jer. 22:17 It was against this backdrop, during a time of increasing evil in Judah and oppression by the Babylonians, that Habakkuk writes of praise in chapter 3. I quote chapter 3:17-19 here: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”
It’s easy to praise God when the sailing is smooth and complain when we are buffeted by storms. The self discipline required to stop for a moment to consider how we might grow and learn during those times is neither automatic nor easy to come by. However, God is always worthy of our praise and deference, and although we may not always be able to understand His ways, He remains on the throne. Of that we can be certain.
God, please accept my worship. Let my song be lifted high. When I focus on what’s difficult in my life, help me remember the times you’ve renewed my strength and joy, carried me when I couldn’t walk. When my foundation felt unstable You were always my solid rock. Increase my understanding, in the darkness let it be my light. Give me the same breath to sing in the valley that I breathe when I sing on the heights.
Covid 19 has led to many changes in our lives, for instance how our church meets. Indoors, we’re spaced further apart and wear masks. We also broadcast our services online. That’s all good, but since it’s Summer and the weather is pleasant, we decided to take advantage of it and have services in back of our church building, something we call, “Church in the Field.” For the last several weeks this enjoyable alternative has reminded us that necessity really is the mother of invention, and there’s no reason church can’t be fun, even in the middle of a pandemic. The neighbors in back of our church have a variety of farm animals that we get to see during our services. We’ve purposely left out slats in that rear section of chain link fence so we can see them, and so the animals form the backdrop to our outdoor services. At any given time one might see goats, chickens, or horses. Then, there’s one animal that we’ve seen up close while having church that, because of the way they operate, didn’t bother with checking us out from the other side of a fence. Although gophers do have a purpose in nature, most people consider them a pest, because of their tendency to produce random mounds of dirt in the landscape, in the process often destroying garden plants. Some church goers have taken videos of gophers happily tossing up hills of dirt while the service can be heard going on in the background. We haven’t had this much animal induced excitement during church since the “bats flying out of the belfry” incidents. All this causes me to wonder: What if the animals had their own story to tell? If they had some understanding of what was happening on our side of the fence, and could successfully communicate it, what would they say? Today, the first installment of, “Animals Discuss…”
Horse #1: I want to thank everyone for coming to the meeting tonight. It was really hot today and I know you guys are probably beat. Goat #2: You said it. Even my hop is gone. I’m so drained. And you know us goats, we usually have hops for days! Goat #1: H1, did you and H2 actually get to run in the surf at Centerville today? Horse #1: It was glorious! G1, I hope you and the other goats get to run in the water the next time it gets super hot. Goat #2: Not likely. The best we can hope for in the way of travel is getting lent out for landscaping. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I had a rose bush once. It got blamed on deer though, he said, snickering. Chicken #1: I wanted to brief everyone on my notes from last week. I believe we’re continuing in Nehemiah, and if anyone missed it I’ll catch you up. Thanks C1. Before you do that though, I think it’s important we hear from Gopher 2. Is it true you all are calling yourself the Underground Church? Gopher 2: That’s not official. Although attending church can be hazardous at times (there was the tent stake incident). The risks we take don’t really rise to that level.
Though a heavy blanket of darkness threatens to overwhelm me I search through its suffocating fabric for a spot of light and tear it open.
Someone needs Jesus.
When I’m bound up in my troubles and can’t seem to get out of my own head, when my biggest issue is my list of issues, I set them aside.
Someone needs Jesus.
When any effort I make seems to be just a drop in the ocean of the world of troubles, I take up an oar anyway and row with the strength I do have.
Someone needs Jesus.
Walking down a crowded street people part around me like water swirling round a stone. How many are really drowning while pretending they can breathe? How many? God could use me to lift them out of the water and point the way home. Will I reach out? Lord, give me the courage to reach out.
Women who feel weak and used, men convinced they’re not enough, children forced to grow before they’re ready need real help and compassion fueled by Jesus. For those cast aside by those who should have cared, for the people even advertising ignores, let them know they are precious in the sight of Jesus.
Lord, please keep in the front of my mind names of those I know who don’t know you. Help me take down barriers while it is day and there is time.
God of wonders, author of the world, each soul is precious to you. Give me a heart with a burden to share and proclaim your good news. This is my prayer, Amen.
Prayerfully seek your heavenly Father. Earnestly engage as you seek Him. Ask intentionally and specifically when you pray. Cry out your heart’s desire. Enter, walking in faith the path God has prepared for you.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT