Friday, June 23, 2017

ALL His - Master Score of Lyrics & Readings

ALL His.
Master Score (Lyrics + Readings + Sources/Inspirations)


AGNUS DEI.
Praying for Wholeness.
David Phelps.

Dear God, 
We need You to make us whole. We all want to be whole. Please pour Your Holy Spirit into this place during this time to give us the grace to see You and be changed. We love You. Help us to love You more. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi
Miserere nobis, miserere nobis
Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi
Agnus dei, agnus dei dona nobis pacem

Lamb of God, take away sins of the world
Please have mercy on us, have mercy on us
Lamb of God, take away sins of the world
Lamb of God, Lamb of God
Please come and grant us peace
Oh precious, holy One! 
O hear our prayer
For we find our only hope
In the precious Lamb of God

Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi
Agnus dei, agnus dei dona nobis pacem
Please come and grant us…
…peace.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who said to us, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, and I do not give as the world gives, but a peace that is beyond all that you can know.” (2 Thessalonians 1:2 • John 14:27 • Philippians 4:7)


LISTEN.
Christ’s Legacy.
Alice Hyde.

To make us more like Jesus, God has led to us the poor, the unfortunate, the sick and the suffering. They are Christ’s legacy to His church, and we need to take care of them just like He would have. (6T 261.1-261.2)

What do you hear on the news?
Earthquake shakes, the ocean moves
Disaster strikes again, the people run, their souls confused
A mother cannot bear the loss
Of her dead child beneath a cross
What has she done to deserve this cruelty, O Lord?

Is this not another sign that the end is drawing nigh?
But we do not seem to care enough to listen

Teardrops falling around the world, they cry out in accord: 
“Will someone come to rescue me? Is there a God at all?”
Teardrops falling around the world, they cry out in accord: 
“Will someone come to rescue me? Is God in you at all?

What will you do? 
What will we do to love a lost and dying world…
…to ease their suffering?
So…what will you do?
What will we do to love a lost and dying world? 
Their pain cries out, they say: 

Teardrops falling around the world, they cry out in accord: 
“Will someone come to rescue me? Is there a God at all?” 
Teardrops falling around the world, they cry out in accord: 
“Will someone come to rescue me? Is God in you at all?

We should tell them of the day 
When Jesus Christ Himself 
Will wipe the tears away

• 

BRING THEM HOME.
Praying for Lost Sheep & Offenders.
Alain Boublil (lyrics altered).

Begin to pray for souls. Come near to Christ, close to His bleeding side. (PR 246.3)

God on high, hear our prayer
In our need, You have always been there
They are lost, gone astray
How we long for their sake
Bring them home!
Bring them home!
Bring them home!

They just don’t know how good You are
The way Your love would change their lives
If only they would let go of all they’ve known
And give You the chance to love
Their sin-torn hearts

Draw them close, stir their souls
Touch their hearts, that they may be made whole
You can take, You can give
God we pray they’ll let You in
If we die, let us die! 
Let them live!
Bring them home!
Bring them home!
Bring them home!

• 

LET THEM FALL IN LOVE.
Praying for the Churches of Ephesus & Laodicea.
Cece Winans.

Jesus said, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold,” and it has. He said, “I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent, and do the things you did at first. You say, ‘I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing,’ but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Matthew 24:12 • Revelation 2:4-5 • Revelation 3:17)

If they can’t see, how will they turn?
If they can’t hear, how will they learn? 
Touch their eyes, bless their lives
Hear this prayer, hear my cry

Father, let them fall in love with You
Please forgive them too
For they know not what they do
Let them fall in love with You

If hearts are cold, how will they grow?
If minds are seared, how will they grow?
Grant them time, time to find
Grace through faith, love through Christ

Father, let them fall in love with You
Please forgive them too…for they know not what they do
Let them fall in love with You

Jesus said, “For this people’s hearts has become calloused. They hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn and I would heal them!” (Matthew 13:15)

So Father, let them fall in love with You
Please forgive them!
Show Your mercy!
For they know not what they do
Let them fall in love
Let them fall in love
Let them fall in love 
With You

• 

BROKEN TOGETHER.
Reconciliation with God and our Human Family.
Casting Crowns (lyrics altered).

The cycle of sin has to be broken with brokenness. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise. (“Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin • Psalm 51:17)

What do you think about when you see our church?
We know we’re not the holy ones we dream of being
We have such rage; we have such deep dividedness
How we’ll heal seems a mystery

How we wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our sins and all our failures were in the light
Now in Christ’s body here, we’ve drawn our battle lines
Heaven help us through these times

It’s going to take much more than meaning well this time
Only God can heal our lives

We can heal and one day we can finally be complete
First we must be broken together
If you will break your idols, I am breaking mine
Then cleansing can be spoken and save us
The way we start to reach forever is broken together

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

All the pain and all the loss can’t stop our God
He can make all things turn for our good if we hold on
He makes all things new - He promised this is true
With Him all is possible

He just needs our trust to give Him all we have
Every single broken shard

We can heal and one day we can finally be complete
First we must be broken together
If you will bring your shattered hearts and I’ll bring mine
Then healing can be spoken and save us
The way we start to reach forever is broken together

Let your heart be broken for all that breaks God’s heart. Let all bitterness, wrath and malice be expelled from the soul. In humble spirit confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. (SDA Hymnal #575 • 6T 356.2 • James 5:16)

We can heal and one day we can finally be complete
First we must be broken together
If you will come and share His cross and so will I
Redemption can be spoken and save us
The way we start to reach forever is broken together

• 

BREATHE.
Praying for the Holy Spirit & Latter Rain.
The Brilliance.

Repent, then, and turn back so that your sins may be wiped away, that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ, who has been appointed for you. (Acts 3:19) 

Breathe, breathe on us now…open Your mouth
And speak the word that heals this broken ground
Say, say what You will…show us Your will
As we breathe in the very breath of God
Oh, Spirit of God…here with us now
Give in us life again…breathe, breathe on us now!
Fill us with Your love
Send us with Your power
Spirit of God

Breathe, breathe on us now…open Your mouth
And speak the word that heals this broken ground
Say, say what You will…show us Your will
As we breathe in the very breath of God
Oh, Spirit of God…here with us now
Give in us life again…breathe, breathe on us now!
Fill us with Your love
Send us with Your power
Spirit of God

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God! I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten. And after that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit!” (Joel 2:12-13a, 28-29)

Oh, Spirit of God, here with us now
Give in us life again…breathe, breath on us now!
Fill us with Your love
Send us with Your power
Spirit of God!

• 

CARES CHORUS…A QUIET PLACE…I AM YOURS.
The Beautiful, Paramount Need for Secret Prayer.
Kelly Willard • Ralph Carmichael • Gungor.

To receive the Holy Spirit, we must make it a top priority to pray in secret and be alone with Him, like Jesus did. (Chloe Murnighan)

I cast all my cares upon You
I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And anytime I don’t know what to do
I will cast all my cares upon You

I cast all my cares upon You 
I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And anytime I don’t know what to do
I will cast all my cares upon You
I will cast all my cares upon You

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

We need to have a living experience in the things of God; and we are not safe unless we have this (PR 20.1). Keep yourselves in the love of God (PR 103.2). We should seek divine disclosures of heavenly things (PR 10.3), and above all, we must not neglect secret prayer (PR 284.2). In secret prayer the soul is free from surrounding influences, free from excitement. Calmly, yet fervently, will it reach after God (PR 178.1). We should be much in secret prayer (EW 73.1). Family prayer, public prayer, have their place; but it is secret communion with God that sustains the soul life (ED 258.3). I have frequently seen that the children of the Lord neglect prayer, especially secret prayer, altogether too much; that many do not exercise that faith which it is their privilege and duty to exercise, often waiting for that feeling which faith alone can bring. Feeling is not faith; the two are distinct (PR 58.4). Have a place for secret prayer. Jesus had select places for communion with God, and so should we. We need often to retire to some spot, however humble, where we can be alone with God (PR 182.4). In the secret place of prayer, where no eye but God’s can see, no ear but His can hear, we may pour out our most hidden desires and longings to the Father of infinite pity, and in the hush and silence of the soul that voice which never fails to answer the cry of human need will speak to our hearts (PR 182.6). He would have us understand how earnestly and tenderly His heart yearns over us. He invites us to take our trials to His sympathy, our sorrows to His love, our wounds to His healing, our weakness to His strength, our emptiness to His fullness. Never has one been disappointed who came unto Him (PR 183.1)

There is a quiet place, far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind
Sheltered by tree and flower, there in my quiet hour
With Him my cares are left behind

Whether a garden small or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find!
Then from this quiet place, I go prepared to face
A new day with love for all mankind

Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (Psalm 34:5)

Those who seek God in secret, telling the Lord their needs and pleading for help, will not plead in vain (pr 183.2). As though Jesus we enter into rest, heaven begins here. Heaven is a ceaseless approaching to God through Christ (HLv 222.2). As we make Christ our daily companion we should feel that the powers of an unseen world are all around us (PR 183.2). The soul that turns to God for its help, its support, its power, by daily, earnest prayer, will have noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth and duty, lofty purposes of action and a continual hungering and thirsting after righteousness (PR 183.3)

Here I am, Lord, all I am Lord.
Here I am, Lord. I am Yours. 

PRAY IN THE SPIRIT ON ALL OCCASIONS, 
WITH ALL KINDS OF PRAYERS AND REQUESTS.
(Ephesians 6:18)

Here I am, Lord, all I am Lord.
Here I am, Lord. I am Yours. 

BE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER. (Romans 12:12)
SEEK MY FACE ALWAYS. (Psalm 105:4)
PRAY UNCEASINGLY. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. (Philippians 4:6)

Here I am, Lord, all I am Lord.
Here I am, Lord. I am Yours. 

ARE YOU IN TROUBLE? PRAY. (James 5:13)
PRAYER IS THE LIFE OF YOUR SOUL. (PR 20.3)

Here I am, Lord, all I am Lord.
Here I am, Lord. I am Yours. 

PRAYER IS OPENING YOUR HEART 
TO ME AS TO A FRIEND. (SC 93.2)
PRAYER IS UNION WITH ME. (Oswald Chambers)

By maintaining a connection with God, we shall be enabled to diffuse to others the light, the peace, the serenity that rule in our hearts. (4T 459.3)

Here I am, Lord, all I am Lord.
Here I am, Lord. I am Yours. 

Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee. (SC 70.1)

All that I am is totally and only because of You. (Chloe Murnighan)

All I have is Yours. (John 17:10)

• 

MAKE ME A SERVANT/TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE
The Mind of Christ.
Kelly Willard • Frances Havergal.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. The greatest among you will be your servant. (Philippians 2:3 • Matthew 23:11)

Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord let me lift up those who are weak  
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy Love 
At the impulse of Thy Love

Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Always only for my King

Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus: He did not try to be His own God; rather, He made Himself nothing, a servant. (Philippians 2:5-7)

Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow with ceaseless praise
Let them flow with ceaseless praise

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne
It shall be Thy royal throne

Take my life (let it be)
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee

• 

LORD OPEN UP OUR EYES/BROTHER/OH DRAW ME LORD/WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
Forgiveness.
Nicholas Zork • The Brilliance (lyrics altered) • Selah • Psalty the Singing Songbook.

Having the mind of Christ draws us higher, closer to His heart. From there, we receive the grace to embrace the sweet burn of forgiving people and loving them into who they can become; right into God’s family. (Chloe Murnighan)

Lord, open up our eyes 
Let there be no disguise of the pain we see
Lord, open up our hearts
To not ignore the cries of the world in need
And open up our ears that we may hear
Your call to share the hope You freely gave
And open up our path, so we will have no fear
As we go out to serve the world You long to save
As we go out to serve the world You long to save

When I look into the face of my enemy
I see my brother, I see my sister
When I look into the face of my enemy
I see my brother, I see my sister

Forgiveness is the garment of our courage
The power to make the peace we long to know
Open up our eyes to see the wounds that bind 
All of humankind
May our shattered hearts greet the dawn of life
With charity and love

Oh draw me Lord
Oh draw me Lord
Oh draw me Lord
And I’ll run after You

YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AND HATE YOUR ENEMY.” BUT I TELL YOU, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU. LET NO DEBT REMAIN OUTSTANDING EXCEPT THE CONTINUING DEBT TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. ACQUIT YOUR OFFENDERS THE WAY YOU WANT YOUR OFFENSES ACQUITTED. IF YOU DO NOT FORGIVE OTHERS THEIR SINS, YOUR FATHER WILL NOT FORGIVE YOUR SINS. (Matthew 5:43-44 • Romans 13:8 • Matthew 6:12 • Matthew 6:15

When I look into the face of my enemy
I see my brother, I see my sister
I see my family, I see my family

Welcome to the family
We’re glad that you have come 
To share your life with us
As we grow in love and
May we always be to you 
What God would have us be: 
A family, always there
To be strong and to lean on

May we learn to love each other
More with each new day
My words of love be on our lips
In everything we say
May the Spirit melt our hearts
And teach us how to pray
That we might be a true family

Welcome to the family
We’re glad that you have come 
To share your life with us
As we grow in love and
May we always be to you 
What God would have us be: 
A family, always there
To be strong and to lean on
To be strong and to lean on
To be strong and to lean on

• 

SANCTUS.
Blessed are the Pure in Heart.
Travis Cottrell.

Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God who commands us, “Be holy because I am holy.” With reverence and with fear, with trembling lips, Lord, we draw near singing holy, holy…! King of awesome majesty, King of highest glory! Holy! Sanctus… (Hebrews 12:14 • Matthew 5:8 • 1 Peter 1:16 • Travis Cottrell)

• 

WATER. 
Seeing God & Proclaiming Him.
Gloria Gaither & David Phelps

As the desert sun burned hot upon my face
While drawing water in the middle of the day

PLEASE GIVE ME A DRINK…

That stranger’s speaking to me

…MY CHILD DO YOU THINK 
YOU COULD SPARE…

He must want more than water

…ME SOME WATER?

But You have crossed a line between us, 
Me and you

SHE IS SO FRAIL, SHE IS SO BROKEN…

Like when You ask me for water
Like You do

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE!
SHE’S READY NOW!
OH BUT IF YOU ONLY KNEW…

He speaks with so much heart…

…WHO IT IS THAT SPEAKS TO YOU…

And…

…YOU WOULD ASK…

I wanna know more of this water

…ME FOR WATER.

THERE IS A LIVING STREAM
FLOWING FROM THE DEEP

How can it be free…

…ENDLESS AND ETERNAL.

…and eternal?

DRINK FROM THE ONLY SPRING
WHERE YOU TAKE A DRINK
AND NEVER THIRST AGAIN

Can it set me free?

LET IT SET YOU FREE!

You say this water is a gift that You can give…

PLEASE TAKE IT NOW!
IT COSTS YOU NOTHING!

…but if You only knew the life that I have lived!

I KNOW THE LIFE THAT YOU HAVE LIVED.
YOU CAN BE DIFFERENT THAN BEFORE…

The guilt and the shame…

…YOU CAN GO AND SIN NO MORE!

…forgotten…!

MY CHILD…BE FORGIVEN!

So this is how it feels to be forgiven!

There is a living stream
Flowing from the deep
Endless and eternal!
Drink from the only spring
Where you take a drink
And never thirst again!
Let it set you free!

My whole life I’ve been in chains
A prisoner to this world!

MY CHILD…NOW…GO…AND…TELL

Now at last this living water set me free!

HOW AT LAST THIS LIVING WATER
SET YOU FREE

Free!

There is a living stream
Flowing from the deep
Endless and eternal!
Drink from the only spring
Where you take a drink
And never thirst again!
Let it set you free!
Let it set you free!

Whoever the Son sets free shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)

• 

ALABASTER BOX.
Seeing Our Sin & Praising Him
Cece Winans.

We cannot wait for everyone to be ready to perfectly understand or agree before we tell our stories of the unbelievable ways in which God has saved and loved us. There will always be people who will misrepresent the sharing of our gifts as a curse. Do it anyway. Do not let pawns of Satan lock away the holy ground of your testimony. People need it. We are not called to be normal. We are called to shine as miracles of His grace to let others know what is possible with God - that with God all things are unstoppably possible if you trust Him with all your heart. (Chloe Murnighan)

The room grew still
As she made her way to Jesus
She stumbled through the tears that made her blind
She felt such pain
Some spoke in anger
Heard folks whisper, 
“There’s no place here for her kind.”

Still on she came
Through the shame that flushed her face
Till at last, she knelt before His feet
And though she spoke no words
Every thing she said was heard
As she poured her love for the Master
From her box of alabaster

And I’ve come to pour my praise on Him like oil
From Mary’s alabaster box
Don’t be angry if I wash His feet with my tears
And dry them with my hair
You weren’t there
The night He found me
You did not feel what I felt 
When He wrapped His love all around me
You don’t know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box

I can’t forget the way life used to be
I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound
I spent my days, poured my life without measure
Into a little treasure box I thought I’d found
Until the day when Jesus came to me
And healed my soul with the wonder of His touch
So now I’m giving back to Him
All the praise He’s worthy of
I’ve been forgiven
And that’s why I love Him so much!

And I’ve come to pour my praise on Him like oil
From Mary’s alabaster box
Don’t be angry if I wash His feet with my tears
And dry them with my hair
You weren’t there
The night He found me
You did not feel what I felt 
When He wrapped His love all around me
You don’t know the cost of the oil
You don’t know the cost of my praise!
You don’t know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box

• 

BY OUR LOVE…WARNING CRY.
The Love of Christ.
Christy Nockels (Lyrics altered) • Jennifer Jill Schwirzer/The Lamb Wins (Different end reading by Chloe Murnighan).

After we have truly stared our sin in the face and know what a miracle it is to be rescued, we know we can’t despair of anyone. As we have been forgiven, we now love steadfastly through whatever comes, till the end. (Chloe Murnighan)

Brothers, let us come together
Walking in the Spirit 
There’s much to be done
We will come reaching
Out from our comforts
And they will know us by our love

Sisters, we were made for kindness
We can pierce the darkness
As He shines through us
We will come reaching
With a song of healing
And they will know us by our love

The time is now, come Church arise
Love with His hands
See with His eyes
Bind it around you
Let it never leave You
And they will know us by our love

Children, you must bear the witness
Stand firm in the Truth now
Set your hearts above
You will be reaching
Long after we’ve gone
And they will know you by your love

The time is now, come Church arise
Love with His hands
See with His eyes
Bind it around you
Let it never leave You
And they will know us by our love

Love gives a warning cry
Love makes the angels fly
Love will not let us die without a fight
Love laid His glory down
Love gave His only Son
All that’s left apart from them 
Is consuming fire and endless night

Would it be love if it didn’t warn you?
Would it be love if it didn’t warn you?
Would it be love if it didn’t warn you?

A very solemn message for a very solemn hour
In these days when life is just a game
Brings us to our senses as God appears in power
And sends three angels to proclaim
A warning: “Life or death!” and yet…

Would it be love if it didn’t warn you?
Would it be love if it didn’t warn you?
Would it be love if it didn’t warn you?

When you love someone, you warn them to protect them from harm, pain and loss. When you love someone, you shed the best light you can that shows where it’s not safe, not right to go. Our light is that this world is not our home and it is rapidly changing because it is dying. The cancer of sin is spreading. Sin-addicts are hardening in their denial of their problem. Everyone is solidifying the commitment of their souls for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, for wholeness or for hell. Love, Christianity and God Himself are being redefined more extensively than ever and every variation, every perversion of the truth chips away more and more at our duty and debt to give God full access to all parts of us. He gets that full access because we owe Him our lives, the very breath in our lungs right now because He made us and then He rescued us when it would have been so much easier - when He had every right to just let us die. We owe Him. We owe Him everything. In His Word, God told us to let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. This is because the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work and so our reason for appearing, the redemption of our fallenness is to help Him do it. As the father of lies, Satan’s work is completely based on spreading all sorts of deception, and so our work is consumed with shedding the full light of truth. We are to speak the truth and let it cut. But we are to exercise the fruit of the Spirit of gentleness and cut with the utmost care like a surgeon saving a life, not like a madman. They will know us by our love, and they will know we love them truly because we care enough to risk their reaction to the truth. The third angel’s message is to keep the commandments of God and reject the compulsions of Satan. The third angel’s message is to be sealed by God and to run from as little as Satan’s mere touch. The third angel’s message is to obey God on the outside as well as on the inside - that to comply with worldly philosophies rather than the Bible, God’s Word, on the outside and claim that God understands and you still love Him on the inside is unacceptable. The third angel’s message is to align, give your full allegiance to God, to be a faithful partner - to be All His. (Romans 13:8a • 1 John 3:8b • Chloe Murnighan • 1T 248.2 • Revelation 14:9-12)

• 

DARE YOU TO MOVE. 
The Call. 
Switchfoot (lyrics altered).

Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everyone’s here, everyone’s here
The universe is watching you now
God and angels wait for you now
What happens next?
What happens next?

Dare you to move!
Dare you to move!
Dare you to lift yourself up off the floor!
Dare you to move!
Dare you to move!
Like the pain never happened!
Like the sin never happened before!

Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
Tension is here, tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

Dare you to move!
Dare you to move!
Dare you to lift yourself up off the floor!
Dare you to move!
Dare you to move!
Like the pain never happened!
Like the sin never happened!

Yes, God’s redemption has stories to tell…!
Yes, God’s forgiveness is right where you fell…!
Where can you run to escape from His call?
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Your purpose is here!

Beware of harking back to what you once were when God wants you to be something you have never been! (Oswald Chambers)

Dare you to move!
Dare you to move!
Dare you to lift yourself, 
Lift yourself up off the floor!
Dare you to move!
Dare you to move!
Like the pain never happened!
Like the sin never happened!
Like the pain never happened!
Like the sin never happened before!

• 

OCEANS. 
Stepping Out in Faith. 
Hillsong.

There is no question that God wants, and is calling each and every one of you to do something for Him. No one person has to do everything. But we all must do something according to the measure of our faith. When you feel God prompt you, respond to Him during this song by kneeling or bowing your head, as you are able, to express the trusting submission of yourself to His will, to the desires of His heart. Ask Him to tell you what He wants. (Chloe Murnighan)

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for He is with me
(Song of Songs 2:16 • Psalm 23:4)

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

This is what the LORD says - He who created you: “DO NOT FEAR, FOR I HAVE REDEEMED YOU; I HAVE SUMMONED YOU BY NAME; YOU ARE MINE. WHEN YOU PASS THROUGH THE WATERS, I WILL BE WITH YOU; AND WHEN YOU PASS THROUGH THE RIVERS, THEY WILL NOT SWEEP OVER YOU. WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH THE FIRE, YOU WILL NOT BE BURNED; THE FLAMES WILL NOT CONSUME YOU. FOR I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL, YOUR SAVIOR.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

We are called out in faith towards forgiveness of violations. We are called out in faith towards believing in the healing of even our most hellish pain. We are called out in faith towards the sacrifice of earthly longings for normal. Jesus had no place to lay His head, so let’s abandon the myth of “happy little life,” and seek the adventure of participating in the Great Controversy as co-workers and comrades of Christ. (Matthew 8:20 • Ransomed Heart Ministries Podcasts • Chloe Murnighan)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the Presence of my Savior

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE YOU.
(Romans 12:14)

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the Presence of my Savior

BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE YOU. 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

FORGIVE YOUR OFFENDERS.
(Matthew 6:12)

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the Presence of my Savior

FORGIVE YOUR OFFENDERS.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU. 
(Matthew 5:44)

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the Presence of my Savior

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU. 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. 
FEED MY SHEEP.
(Matthew 5:44 • John 21:15)

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the Presence of my Savior

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. 
FEED MY SHEEP.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

TRUST ME, COME TO ME, AND FOLLOW ME.
(John 14:1 • Matthew 11:28 • Matthew 4:19)

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the Presence of my Savior

TRUST ME, COME TO ME, AND FOLLOW ME!

Jesus did not bid Peter come to Him on the water that He should perish; He does not call us to follow Him and then forsake us. Let’s learn faith now in the daily test of loving and witnessing right in the middle of the storms life and Satan throw at us. Risk rocking the boat with other people by getting out of the boat to meet Jesus in the waters of what you think is impossible. With Jesus it can be done and it is worth it. (DA 382.1 • Chloe Murnighan • “Love & War” by John & Stasi Eldredge)

I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul? We can be so caught up in the American dream that we lose the Eternity dream. But when we are Christ’s, when we are All His, His commands don’t feel like intruders. It would feel like a nightmare to live without them because they’re part of us. Even though addictions, old habits and sheer sin push against us, we have fallen in love with God enough to still testify that He has ruined us for less and we know that nothing else can satisfy us except Him. We know we’re not perfect yet, but He has our heart and we delight to obey Him. Our thoughts are His. We love to talk about Him because the name of Jesus is the sweetest name we’ll ever know. We genuinely love Him more than any human being. We long to make Him happy. And we long to bear His image, breathe His Spirit and do His will. To be All His is the most beautiful thing that could be wished on anyone and God longs for all His children to have it, which is why it is the saddest thing on earth that so many will sacrifice heaven for their own illusions rather than surrendering them to our beautiful God who is graciously so much bigger than we are. (Mark 8:36 • Chloe Murnighan • SC 58.2)

• 

YOURS NOW.
Priceless Treasure. 
Tiago Arrais.

In You we live and move and have our being
You broke the chains that bound us to our sins
No longer slaves in Egypt
We serve a better Pharaoh and God

We’re called to trust You in the wilderness
Until we reach our home, the Promised Land
Until our faith is born through the art of letting go of our past

You brought us out to find our place in You
To write within our hearts this precious truth: 
That we are called Your children
Possession and inheritance, O God
We’re Yours now

And though our strength is weak and spirit poor
May Christ find dwelling in us through His love
May joy be planted deep in the soil of this community, O God

You brought us out to find our place in You
To write within our hearts this precious truth: 
That we are called Your children
Possession and inheritance, O God
We’re Yours now

Till we reach that shore
And see through an open door
A land brighter than the light 
Of ten thousand suns on fire
Where Jesus will welcome us Home

You brought us out to find our place in You
To write within our hearts this precious truth: 
That we are called Your children
Possession and inheritance, O God
We’re Yours now
We’re Yours now
We’re Yours now

• 

EACH ONE REACH ONE
Little Christs.
Babbie Mason.

If you know this song or even just a little of it, let’s sing it together. I know God has called you and so do you. Each and every one of you. If you will respond to His call to get involved in the greatest purpose on earth, I invite you to stand and join me here at the front. (Chloe Murnighan)

Today a man is somewhere proclaiming the good news
Winning families to Jesus all around his neighborhood
He tells them that God is able to make their house a home
He wants to win his world for Christ
But he can’t do it alone

But each one can reach one
As we follow after Christ
We all can lead one
We can lead one to the Savior
Then together we can tell the world 
That Jesus is the Way
If we each one reach one

No one of us has to do everything. But we all, each of us must do something! (Chloe Murnighan)

The message is unchanging: 
“Go ye into all the world…
…and share the love of Jesus
Far away or door to door…”
You see, just like somebody told you
That Jesus loves you so
You must tell someone who will tell someone
Until the whole world knows!

For each one can reach one
As we follow after Christ, we all can lead one
We can lead one to the Savior
Then together we can tell the world 
That Jesus is the Way
If we each one reach one

So will you go and labor?
Will you hold high your light?
One by one and two by two
We can win our world
For Jesus Christ!

Each one CAN reach one
As we follow after Christ, we all can lead one
We can all lead somebody to the Savior
Then together we can tell the world 
That Jesus is the Way
If we each one reach one

Those of you who came, stay, and everyone else here, stand up with us as we all listen to the truth of the whole picture before we leave. (Chloe Murnighan)

• 

NIMROD.
The Whole Picture.
Edward Elgar.

God is love. This is the truth. And it is this part of the truth that Satan tries to destroy above every other. This is because the essence of love is unselfishness, the principle of God’s kingdom. And unselfishness is the principle that Satan hates. Its very existence He denies. The greatest commandment is to love the LORD your God with your ALL. It is the greatest commandment because obeying it destroys the devil’s work, because obeying it is the healing of your humanity, because obeying it answers the prayer of Jesus Himself for us to not be separated anymore. You see, Satan’s fall from grace in heaven was because he wanted it to be true that there’s something better than loving God with your all and being all His. And he has fed this lie to us so that we can’t see where to direct our hearts. We know innately because of our design that we are supposed to give our hearts completely over to something and that’s why we’ve given our hearts over to all the wrong things and people. It’s why we get addicted and later become depressed, fall into despair and can’t crawl out of our bondage. It’s not safe to give our all to anything fallen. It is only safe to give your all to God, because it is for this that we were made. To love God with our all has been given to us as the greatest commandment because our sinful nature won’t let us do it naturally. We need the structure and enlightenment of a command to gradually realign the spine of our existence so that we can be free to be and to do what God meant when He meant and made us. Because the greatest commandment heals us, it is the grand object of the great controversy. Everything Satan attacks and perverts is to make us think that it’s correct to not give God everything, to keep a little for ourselves, that God isn’t right about everything even though He designed and is Himself the reason for everything that exists! Satan is the ultimate sociopathic liar who knows no boundaries in his desire to destroy. And so God’s great battle plan against him is the great commission. Since Satan knows no bounds, God bids us to know no bounds as well: to go into all nations, giving our all to save as many as we can in the greatest world war of all time. And as we go, we find our strength to persevere and our will to endure in praying as Jesus taught us: 

Our Father, which art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors 
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom 
And the power
And the glory
Forever and ever!
And all God’s people said: 
Amen. 

(ED 154.3 • Deuteronomy 6:5 • 1 John 3:8b • Matthew 28:18-20 • “Free to Live” by John Eldredge • Chloe Murnighan • Matthew 6:9-13



For those who couldn’t read all my handwriting in the program booklet, I’ve typed up the following sections:

The Mountain View • God’s Defiant Creativity • The Back Page

• 

THE MOUNTAIN VIEW. 
From chapter 4 of The Great Controversy

“The church in the wilderness…was the true church of Christ, the guardian of the treasures of truth, which God has committed to His people to be given to the world.”

This can be us. 

“God had provided for His people a sanctuary of awful grandeur, befitting the mighty truths committed to their trust. To those faithful exiles the mountains were an emblem of the immutable righteousness of Jehovah. They pointed their children to the heights towering above them in unchanging majesty, and spoke to them of Him with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, whose word is as enduring as the everlasting hills. God had set fast the mountains and girded them with strength; no arm but that of Infinite Power could move them out of their place. In like manner He established His law, the foundation of His government in heaven and upon earth. The arm of man might reach his fellow men and destroy their lives; but that arm could as readily uproot the mountains from their foundations, and hurl them into the sea, as it could change one precept of the law of Jehovah, or blot out one of His promises to those who do His will. In their fidelity to God’s law, God’s servants should be as firm as the unchanging hills.” 

This needs to be us.

“The mountains that girded their lowly valleys were a constant witness to God’s creative power, and a never-failing assurance of His protecting care. Those pilgrims learned to love the silent symbols of Jehovah’s presence. They indulged no repining because of the hardships of their lot; they were never lonely amid the mountain solitudes. They thanked God that He had proved for them an asylum from the wrath and cruelty of man. They rejoiced in their freedom to worship before Him. Often when pursued by their enemies, the strength of the hills proved a sure defense. …as wolves hunting their prey did the enemies of truth pursue those who dared to claim freedom of religious faith. …the armies of Rome could not silence their songs of thanksgiving.” 

Even before the official time of trouble, even now there are wolves in sheepskin who don’t want you to be free - they want you under their control. Power struggles great and small right now are training for the time of trouble. See the conflicts in your current situations as discipline. Training to be faithful. Training to live out your freedom, one day, under even more pressure.

Satan is a wolf, but God is a MOUNTAIN. Can a wolf change or destroy a mountain? No. The very ground beneath even a predator’s feet is still God’s. Satan is a savage, ruthless wolf, but God is a strong, immovable, complex mountain full of hiding places - safe havens - from wolves, full of shelters a wolf cannot get to. 


GOD’S DEFIANT CREATIVITY.
Romans 8:28 

I have never been someone who’s had a clear idea of a specific career. For a long time that made me feel like something was wrong with me. I’ve always known I want to and genuinely enjoy helping people. I’ve been blessed with several gifts, teachers and mentors who helped me develop those gifts, as well as multiple, diverse interests. There have been and are all sorts of things I could do, but I could never pick one with clarity and conviction. But I’ve come to see that that’s okay. The point and meaning of life is not to have one specific career chiseled out. It’s to be All His. To be whoever, wherever and whatever God wants. To follow Him and seek union with Him in all things. I have also been someone who has experienced a personalized dose and style of suffering from a young age. I am intimately acquainted with the debilitating nature of heartbreak, rejection, loss, betrayal and trauma. I have also embodied various types of disqualifications for ministry. Only a few years ago, I never dreamed I would become a pastor’s wife of all things. I also never dreamed that I’d feel made for it so deeply. That God used and redeemed all my pain and wandering to refine, shape, deepen, enlighten, strengthen and transform me into who I am today. If you feel unable, disheartened or even ruined, if the idea of ministering to others terrifies and intimidates you like the thought of a caterpillar trying to fly, that’s okay. God delights in taking the impossibilities that petrify you and defiantly, slowly changing them into the very things that become the wings you felt with. I have been furious. I have been so wounded and leveled that I was unafraid to die. I have been lost and full of unmet longing. God transformed it all into the most unshakable faith I’ve ever had. All things are possible with God, even turning all things for your good, the good of the world and His good, if you will be all His

• 

BACK COVER.


God didn’t design us to live fallen and fractured, and so we find our only hope of healing in seeking to be the opposite of fallen and fractured: to rise up, to let God draw us to the higher plane of living, closer to heaven, of being all His, of being made whole and complete in receiving His love for us personally and obeying His love by keeping all His commandments of giving and living love and truth for all to see. Since the reason Jesus came down to earth was to destroy the devil’s work, our reason for existence on this side of heaven should be to help Him by being all His. In heaven, being all His will be endless bliss and learning and loving, but right now, we are called to enduringly labor to love, teach and continue to learn more ourselves. To love God is to be all His. We must give our all to truly have any of Him. And this is especially true in light of eternity. You might be scared at the thought of a whole new life on a higher plane, closer to heaven, being truly not of the world while in it, scared that something so beautiful is unsustainable and unrealistic - an embarrassing fantasy that will only end up humiliating and harming you. But that is just your sinful nature talking. Your sinful nature fears you becoming complete in Christ through ever-increasing faith, because such a reality would starve your sin to death in the end and add to God’s glory. In living all His, giving God more and more of you all the time, you have nothing to lose and eternity to gain. So do everything Jesus commanded: Go and sin no more. Repent. Pray. Love. Forgive. Bless. Refuse to curse. Be gentle. Hunger and thirst for God. Let Him have access to your mourning so He can turn it into intimacy with Him [MB. Feel your poverty of spirit. Make peace. Heal. Be pure. Cast out demons. Tell the truth. Love all with no exceptions as if loving Jesus. Protect children. Invest your talents. Expose lies. Live for God’s approval. Not man’s. Protect your pearls. Meet needs. Give your all




Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Actual Writing About Summit Adventist Fellowship

Back in December of 2016, I was asked to write a certain number of words describing a church plant my husband and I had been helping with while we were still ministering in the Gulf States Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.  This church plant's name is Summit Adventist Fellowship.

I know that when you write something that is going to be published that it's quite normal for it to get edited or abridged in some way.  I also knew that someone else would be adding a little to the beginning and end of what I wrote to round it out - I was just writing the bulk of it.  I also bumped into someone from the Gulf States communications team who appeared to be covering the Christmas concert taking place during the church service I happened to be attending on a visit to see friends in Mississippi; he greeted me and thanked me for what I'd written and told me that they were "getting it ready" for the magazine.  I knew this confirmed that editing of some kind was taking place and I didn't think anything of it afterward.

When I saw "my article," I was surprised that underneath "By Chloe Murnighan," there was no mention of a co-writer, which would have been the accurate thing to do, because when I read "my article," I saw whole sections that I had not written at all.  What remained of "my writing" was extensively altered.  Very few sentences of my writing were in their original form.





I'm not able to have a major problem with what this article had to say, but I am bothered that it gives a subtly altered picture of Summit than my work did, and my writing was from having attended Summit nearly every Sabbath for 3 months, from its very first service.  In other words, what disturbs me is that the changes made were not primarily stylistic changes, but content changes that subverted the truth - and again, with no mention of a co-writer.  But these "truth subversions" were so small that it would likely be fruitless and deemed petty to try and make an official campaign about them.

All of "the article" was attributed to my name.  But in my own little circle - small as it may be - I prefer that people get a chance to see what I actually said and what my actual writing looks like, since those who will read the article in the magazine will likely think that what they're reading is all my work, which is frankly far from the truth and a conclusion I mostly have no control over.  And so here is what I actually wrote:

*

About Summit Adventist Fellowship

The first gathering of Summit Adventist Fellowship was on September 10, 2016 in a modest conference room of the Comfort Inn on Chantilly Parkway in Montgomery, Alabama.  On that day, as the set up was finishing and people began to arrive, the atmosphere of the room was filled with eagerness, and hopeful celebration, as is often the case at the beginning of something new and precious that promises to bless others.  And in the services since then, Summit has steadfastly retained this atmosphere of joyful community.
The order of program might be new for some, but it grows on you quickly.  It is touching that Summit puts children first and celebrates them by beginning their worship with a time of song service specifically for the little ones.  Upon being invited up to the front, they toddle and run forward gleefully to participate.  Waiting for them are children’s microphones of different colors with a Summit logo sticker on them.  Beginning the program this way is an inspired idea because not only does it make the children feel like it’s their church too, but it touches the hearts of adults to see the unfiltered innocence of young children singing songs of praise to God.
After the children sing two or three songs led by the adult song leaders, they go to an area behind the main rows of chairs.  There they enjoy coloring and other crafts during the rest of the service – supervised by one or two adults – within perfect earshot to potentially absorb the rest of the service as their age allows. 
Before the adult song service begins, there is a welcome followed by a meet and greet that occurs while music is played.  People leave their seats to embrace and briefly chat with their fellow worshipers who attend in a pleasantly notable mixture of ages and nationalities.  More churches should employ this ritual because it further warms and opens the heart, helping those attending return to their seats feeling a greater sense of connection and community as the program resumes.      
Both the children’s and adults’ song service ingeniously utilize YouTube lyric videos for lack of having live accompaniment – at this point in time – so that those who attend can still experience quality renditions of the contemporary praise songs they love.  Two or three of them are sung by all, and then after a prayer to transition, offering is collected while the praise leaders remain up front, leading everyone in Matt and Josie Minikus’ song, “A Temple Made of Time,” about the Sabbath.  Singing this particular song during every offering is a wonderful new tradition.  It reminds members and introduces visitors to the Scriptural history, logic and genuine beauty of keeping the Sabbath holy through this gently poetic song that serves as a cool down after the higher energy of song service. 
Following the offering, Pastor Samuel Riemersma delivers the sermon.  He preaches various Scriptural messages that are intentionally enlightening, candid, encouraging and focus on the mission of Summit: Know, Grow, Go.  In more detail, Summit’s mission is to help others know God personally, grow spiritually as a result and then go to invite and help others have the same experience so as to hopefully bring about a redemptive ripple effect in the city of Montgomery. 
After the sermon is a closing song and prayer followed by an invitation to stay for continued social fellowship afterward with light refreshments and the gift package of an empty, special-made Summit water bottle containing trail mix and information about Summit’s services for visitors to take home that will hopefully inspire and remind them to come again.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Non-Adventist Authors

I'm an Adventist Christian who enjoys reading non-Adventist authors. 

When reading or listening to someone who I know doesn't share everything with me doctrinally, I apply the watermelon principle (eat the fruit, spit out the seeds), because Jesus was clear with us that not all of His sheep are of the same fold, and it would be a crying shame to let such an abundance of heartfelt Christian writings go to waste - to disregard other believers investing their talents according to the best light they have, to assume the Holy Spirit is absent from their lives due to doctrinal differences - when there are great portions that can so richly bless the heart and provoke deep thought. 

We should never forget that the Holy Spirit is always working to bring people fully into the light - it is a process. Their steps into and stances that are in the light should be affirmed and appreciated. And as I read, I test what I read by Jesus' principle of knowing something by its fruits. Non-Adventist authors have actually played irreplaceable roles in strengthening my Adventist faith and drawing me BACK to the Bible and BACK to church in my younger years. And I believe this happened as a testimony to the humble and authentic spirit certain authors write from and as a testimony that we should not assume God only works through Adventist authors. 

Ironically, the place where Christian denominations can most easily overlap is in the area of having a relationship with God, building trust in Him, learning to know His personal love for us, deducing His character from His Word. As I think about it, I am touched that it is no mistake that what I've just described is the area of overlap. Because once a personal relationship with God of strong trust is built, a person is then poised to be willing for Him to lead them into the unchartered waters of...per se...changing their views on doctrines they might have held for a long time, just like Abram's trust in God meant He let God lead him away from his home.

Yes, there are doctrines that should not be compromised on, ever. AND, there are areas where believers cannot help but OVERLAP, and it is THERE that I read to continue honing my perspective. Because the topics of doctrine - once you've fully arrived - can plateau; there's only so much to learn, and then you know. But the journey of trusting God on this side of heaven is unending and continually assaulted by Satan and our sinful nature - no matter how much *information* you cognitively possess - and so I will gladly and gratefully read from other believers shining their light, sharing their encouragement as best they can.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Recently.

Recently...

...my life has undergone a great deal of change in a short period of time.

Certainly, not all of it was positive.

Undeniably, not all of it was negative.

There has been pain.

There has been sadness.

There has been joy.

There has been gratitude.

There have been blessings.

There has been beauty gracing the pain.

Despite what I have been experiencing that has caused me to register definite pain, I cannot say that it has been a wholly dark time.

God's grace has been sufficient.

It always is.

I couldn't always say this deeply from my heart (vs. on cognitive, chosen faith alone) because in earlier years, I didn't know how or I wasn't yet willing or I didn't yet have the pain threshold to keep my heart open to God during such a change.

The key to transforming a trial so that it makes me stronger and makes me grow is not to clam up.  That is the secular, sad, self-reliant method that ultimately implodes.  I've tried it.  I don't recommend it.  I feel like I lost years that I could have been much closer to God because of having flung myself on that option.

The key to transforming a trial so that it changes me for the better is to - in private with God and always in my heart where no one else can see it - keep the lines of communication open with Him and never stop praying for Him to knock walls of mistrust down that I know I have and to keep them knocked down.  The key is to know that the trial is too big for me alone.

God can handle the big stuff and I can't and that is okay.

Look at the Psalms.  God can take any emotion I have to give.  He doesn't want me to only give Him the emotions I think are sanctified and worshipful.  He loves even the parts of me that are broken.  Not because they're broken, but because they are part of me...and God loves me.  His love for my broken parts doesn't mean they're going to stay broken.  It means I don't have to fix them before I can have the transforming, unhinging, beautifully shattering experience that He loves me personally and passionately in my fullest, fullest, most overwhelming form that nobody else can stand or fully understand.

God loves me in my fullest form.

He has experienced all of who I am.
He understands all of who I am.

And He loves me all.

And nobody can touch it.

No one and nothing outside of my choice to trust can change or hurt my knowledge of this Love.

You see, I need that experiential knowledge of His intense love for me - I need to have a guttural trust that His unbelievable love and that our relationship is real and that I matter to Him and the promises of Scripture apply to me personally - because it pours a warming strength into me that loosens what rusted shut and gives me courage to both embrace growth and uproot sin in the abandoned places of my soul that I once poured acidic self-loathing on and walked away from.

Experiencing that I have a safe haven in God's unbelievable but utterly real, life-changing and personal love for me no matter what is going on makes whatever is going on bearable...and even graced.

The miracle is not that bad things don't happen.

It's that not only can we heal from bad things but that peace beyond our understanding and inexplicable beauty can coexist with suffering.

It's not unnatural.

It's supernatural.

And it's available.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

What I never knew about repentance.

I've been reading in the book "Steps to Christ" by Ellen White lately.  In her chapter on repentance (check it out - I won't be quoting from it directly), I learned something helpful.

We can't even repent without God.

I already knew that I can pray to God whenever I want to help me with whatever I feel is lacking in my life, but I did not know that in the specific, official area of repentance that we don't - we can't - do that on our own.  Sinning is what feeds our flesh/sinful nature & keeps it strong.  And if there's something I need to repent of, that means there's something I've been feeding.  If I've been feeding it and therefore need to repent of it, it probably has the upper hand.  I mean I've been nurturing it, after all...  So it stands to reason that since I'm the one who's been willingly feeding a certain sin (or cluster of sins) that I won't suddenly feel badly about it or want to repent of it very naturally.

But God's grace is sufficient.  He orchestrates divine restlessness and conviction.  I get to the place where I know that my life is not okay, where I know I need to change.

But here's what stops a lot of people: I don't feel like it.

If I could feel more badly about it, it'd help me repent.

According to the Greek word in Scripture for repentance - "metanoia" - to repent is to change your thinking.  And according to EGW in Steps to Christ, to repent is to feel a deep heartbreaking grief for your sin.  Repentance is serious.

And so, because it's hard for me to feel bad about a sin that I've liked enough to feed, I am thankful that if I consistently, repeatedly ask God to give me repentance and to give me His eyes for what I'm doing wrong so that I can feel about it the way that He does, He will eventually, gradually make this happen.  It's not all up to me.  And for that, I am so thankful.

And until more of the feelings come, I can start to at least change my thinking by training it.  Deciding to change my self-talk about certain things is not dependent on feelings.  And the more I gear my self-talk towards the truth that the sin I'm comfortable with is actually both wrong and bad for me, these deepening grooves of thought will eventually effect my feelings and make me more receptive to God sending me repentance - genuinely deep grief over what I've been doing that's wrong, however innocent or fine it may look to someone else.

Ellen White also talks about - in Steps to Christ - how even though God doesn't regard all sins as being of equal magnitude, no sin is a small thing for Him.  I'm not supposed to compare myself to others to let myself off the hook via, "See?  At least I'm not doing that."  I am supposed to compare myself to Christ and be filled with shock and awe and convicting inspiration that my standard is the Son of God, the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

To be like Him, I'll be busy for the rest of my life.
And I'm thankful that repentance is not all up to me to produce.

God is not unreasonable.
He is perfectly reasonable, incredibly helpful and KIND to us in His unbelievable patience.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sermon Script: The Paramount Commandment

In the story of how Russell and I got together, there’s a funny moment – a Freudian slip on my part – that gave him the extra push of courage he needed to initiate the conversation that dissolved our friend zone and made me his girlfriend.  I mentioned that I talk in my sleep and he said he did too.  I began to say, “Oh, we’re…” and then rapidly changed what I was about to say, which would have been “We’re going to have conversations in our sleep together,” totally giving away the kind of thoughts I couldn’t help having occasionally, since I’d been attracted to him for months. 

Since Russell and I have gotten married, we haven’t actually had conversations in our sleep together, but we’ve caught each other talking in our sleep – mostly me – and definitely noticed differences in how long we sleep.  Although I’m smaller than he is, I actually can sleep several hours longer than he does on a regular basis.  And when I was in England as a student missionary, I had hypersomnia, which is the opposite of insomnia.  What that meant was that my depression at the time was making me sleep excessively as a way of coping with how overwhelmed I was by various stressors.  I could curl up in a chair, in a room full of people, in broad daylight and just go to sleep pretty quickly…!  I never could do that before and I haven’t really been able to do it since.

Some of us have a love-hate relationship with sleep, because there’s so much we want to get done, yet we cannot do without sleep!  To some of us, sleep is almost a necessary evil; we view it as slowing us down.  Sleep is so crucial, yet we seem to get nothing done while we sleep – we just lay there.  Our visible activity is stilled. 

Though from the outside it seems like nothing is happening when we sleep, there are several, complicated and crucial things happening on the inside.  We look like we’re inactive and useless, but what is happening invisibly to an onlooker is nonnegotiable in the long run.

In stage 1, we have light sleep – we’re between being awake and really falling asleep.

In stage 2, sleep begins, we become disengaged from our surroundings, our breathing and heart rate are regular and our body temperature drops.

In stages 3 and 4, we experience the deepest and most restorative sleep.  Our blood pressure drops, our breathing slows down, our muscles are relaxed, blood supply to the muscles actually increases, tissue growth and repair both occur, energy is restored and growth hormones are released.  25% of our sleep is REM sleep.  It happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep and it recurs every 90 minutes, getting longer later throughout the night.  REM provides energy to our brain and to our body.  REM supports daytime performance.  During REM the brain is actually very active and our dreams occur.  Our eyes dart back and forth under our eyelids and our body becomes immobile and relaxed.  The muscles are actually turned off. 

So in light of all this, we can see that to get the most out of our sleep, both quantity and quality are important.  We need uninterrupted sleep to leave our bodies and minds rejuvenated for the next day.  If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all these phases.  Then we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in our activities.

When we don’t get enough sleep, I found that there are at least 8 negative affects we receive.
#1: We have a lower stress threshold
#2: Our memory is impaired
#3: We have trouble concentrating
#4: Our optimism and sociability are decreased
#5: Our creativity and innovation are impaired
#6: Our resting blood pressure is increased
#7: Our appetite is increased and we eat more than we actually need
#8: Our risk of cardiac morbidity is increased

In other words, when we don’t get enough good sleep, we can’t handle as much, we can’t remember as much, we can’t focus as much, we’re difficult to live with, we’re less helpful, we eat too much, our health is worse and we’re more likely to die from heart issues!

I’m very convicted – and have been for several years – that much of the Adventist church in Western culture is suffering from spiritual sleep-deprivation because of how many of us tend to respond to our desire to get a lot done for God.  Now, let me be clear: the desire to get a lot done is a good thing.  Productivity is good.  Results are good.  Service is a nonnegotiable of the Christian life.  We are not called to be lazy.  But as an author I love tends to repeatedly say: “There is a way things work.”      

We know that if we are harsh and unreasonable with our physical bodies, inevitable disease and even trauma are no surprise.  I had a client who passed away a few years ago and he was an extremely driven man.  He accomplished a lot and he built one of the top 5 electric supply companies in the country.  He was wealthy and he had a big family who adored him.  But he had a debilitating stroke fairly early in his life that forced him to slow down, and a second one after that that required caregivers to attend to him 24-7 until his death.  His lifestyle before his strokes was basically being a ruthless workaholic throughout the day, eating whatever he wanted with some martinis sprinkled in and then he’d sleep about 4 hours and do the same thing all over again…and again…and again.  That he eventually had health issues is a not surprising to most of us…!

The spiritual sleep I believe many Adventists are low on is our time alone with God, nurturing our relationship with Him.    

In 2011 at one of my pastoral practicums, I heard a statistic that might have changed since then, but I saw in the General Conference booklet last summer status updates that seemed to confirm it.  The statistic said that Adventists are next to the bottom amongst worldwide denominations on regular Bible reading and that we score at the very bottom when it comes to our prayer lives. 
And yet we have the truth. 

In Desire of Ages, Ellen White says, “There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith.  Like disciples, we are in danger of losing sight of our dependence on God, and seeking to make a savior of our activity.  We need to look constantly to Jesus, realizing that it is His power, which does the work.  While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the word of God.  Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.”

I feel a strong conviction that because of our unique light on prophecy, we get caught up in it at the expense of the personal love relationship with God that we are commanded to have.  And please hear me: I am opposed to prophecy-bashing.  I believe our unique light on prophecy and knowledge of the truth adds an exotic dimension to our faith.  A friend of mine tweeted this back in February: “Nothing juggles all the disciplines – mathematics, linguistics, philosophy, history, science – like the study of prophecy.”

Prophecy is stimulating, exciting and informative.  I greatly value it.  I am thankful for it.  Although prophecy is sometimes abused to motivate people with fear and guilt, prophecy adds peace to my life.  Prophecy is a complex masterpiece.  I’m stimulated by prophecy.  I love it.  Prophecy is a gift from God.  Prophecy is beautiful. 

But follow me to 1 Corinthians 13:2 and let me know when you find it.

1 Corinthians 13:2: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

And skip down with me to verse 8.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10: “Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” 

And then skipping to verse 13:

1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

What is greater than prophecy is love.  What will remain and continue to be paramount after prophecies cease is love.  As amazing, helpful and crucial as prophecy is, I believe we need to be reminded at times about what is even more important than prophecy.  And this reminder is meant to be a refreshment that realigns us to the right relationship with God.       

Turn with me to Exodus 20:3, and let me know when you find it.

Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

God knows that there’s no one else like Him.  He knows that nobody and nothing can replace Him; that nobody and nothing can do what He does or love the way that He loves.  But I believe He gives us this commandment as the first of the ten, because He knows the damage we will experience and the damage we will do if we start giving the best portion of our love, energy and time to anyone or any pursuit that is not our relationship with Him, even if that pursuit is meant to serve Him.  When we wander into replacing Him often without meaning to, despite our best intentions to be good witnesses, we damage and sin against ourselves as well as damaging and sinning against others. 

I believe in the great commission.  I also believe that we have focused on it so much that it eclipses the Greatest Commandment in many of our minds.  Upon re-reading the great commission, I was reminded of something – let’s read it together in Matthew 28:18-20; let me know when you find it.

Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

I was reminded that the great commission mentions the commandments.  That we are to teach others and encourage one another to obey all that Jesus has commanded us to do.

Now, in Revelation 19:13, we are told that one of Jesus’ many names is the Word of God.  I think we can all agree that the great commission is not saying we should only teach people to obey what Jesus said, strictly in the gospels at the exclusion of everything the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament have to say.  Jesus certainly didn’t feel that way!

Come with me to Matthew 22 starting in verse 36; let me know when you find it.

Matthew 22:36-40: “’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

This text here tells me that while breaking any of the commandments is always a sin, all the commandments are not created equal.  Two of them are more important and one of those two is paramount and must dominate our Christian experience.  Breaking one of the lesser commandments is like cutting your wrists.  You will eventually bleed to death, but it will take longer because your wrists are not as vital to you as other parts of your body.  Breaking the greatest commandment is like shooting yourself in the head.  You will die instantly, because the body cannot live without the mind.

There’s also a small word in this verse that I think makes a crucial point in helping us realign our lives back into God’s design for our spiritual health.  It’s the word “like” in the phrase that says, “and the second is like it.”  We are supposed to give of ourselves to people.  We are supposed to work and serve.  But I don’t just believe – I know – from all I’ve witnessed as a lifelong Adventist that it is far too easy and far too common to give more of ourselves to people than to God.  We must remember that our duty to people is not the greatest commandment.  It is the second greatest.  Our duty to God is the greatest commandment.  Turn with me to Revelation 2, beginning in verse 2.  Let me know when you find it.

Revelation 2:2-5: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.  I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

Chronologically we are living in the time of the church of Laodicea, but Jesus’ letters to the seven churches have three applications.  First, they were literal churches Paul was writing to.  Second, they each represent eras of church history beyond Paul’s lifetime.  And third, they contain personal applications for us today.  So, even though the verse we just read is from Jesus’ letter to the church of Ephesus, I absolutely believe that it contains convicting truth for us today. 

This verse convicted me this last Christmas.  I was so busy as a pastor’s wife, busy in ministry, doing all the right things.  But I was mostly running on the memories of how God had loved me in the past, not giving God my heart in private.  I was not treating Him like the Personal God of Love that He is.  I was working for Him, but I was disconnected from Him.  I was treating Him like my boss rather than my Father and Lover of my soul. 

I was grateful for the conviction in this verse, because I missed God.  I missed feeling closer to Him and being more conscious of His love and goodness.  And this verse gave me permission to pursue those experiences again.  It was important that I learned to submit to Him, obey Him and follow the truth more carefully, but I needed to let Him love me again.  When the prodigal son came home to his Father, he let the Father love him again.  He didn’t insist on staying a servant and remaining distant from his father to do penance.  

I also needed to give my love to God again the way that Mary Magdalene poured her perfume over Jesus.  When she performed her act of loving worship on Jesus, many people did not understand.  It looked strange.  And it looked like a waste.  It didn’t appear practical.  But Jesus told them to leave her alone because she had done a beautiful thing to Him!  I mean, just think about that for a second!  I can’t recall anyone else in Scripture who is described as having done a beautiful thing to God.  In that story, the Greek word for beautiful is kalos, which means beautiful and chiefly good, valuable, virtuous, better and worthy. 

And think of what it says about God’s heart that He mandated that the story of Mary’s act of worship would be told wherever the gospel was preached!  It was Mary’s impractical act of personal, loving worship that has been made famous by order of God Himself.      

I believe that we need to receive God’s personal love for us afresh and that we also need to seek Him out to love Him again.  We need to know how to enjoy God’s personal Presence and both revel and rest in His love for us. 

But as poetic and beautiful and true as all of this sounds and is, it brings us to an important question – a question I struggled with a lot when I was first beginning my relationship with God: what does it look like to do this?  It’s so much easier and clearer to practice loving tangible human beings than to practice loving our invisible God in heaven.

Here is where I want us to revisit our key text – turn with me to Psalm 46:10 and let me know when you find it.

Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is a very famous text.  It’s been made into many cover photos on Facebook, many posters, many songs…  It’s almost become a platitude; you know, one of those spiritual clichés people toss at you when your struggle is complicated.  It’s also been used to defend mystical practices.  New Age and Emergent brands of Christianity use the English translation of this verse as affirmation of practices that empty and endanger the mind rather than engage it.

When I was in Michigan, I had someone try to tell me, “What if you just stopped for a day?” and I said, “And do what?” and she said, “Exactly!”  Her point was that she thought I was too focused on doing – even in the realm of my private relationship with God.  She literally advised me to do nothing.  And that didn’t make sense to me, because the last time I tried to stop applying myself to my spiritual life I had the worst, darkest and most depressed year I’ve ever known.  And when you’re in a love relationship with someone, you don’t do nothing with them and expect that the relationship will improve.  The minute we stop doing something on every level, we’re dead – not alive.  We were made to live not to do nothing!  We were made to relate to God, not to do nothing.

I didn’t feel comfortable with this person’s advice and so I decided to do my version of being still rather than hers, which was to still journal and read – it was still activity through it looked inactive and was very quiet. 

And that brings me back to the metaphor of understanding our relationship with God through the metaphor of getting enough sleep at night.  When we pull away from external busyness – the kind of spiritual activity other people can see and measure – and we retreat to spend time alone with God, we can appear to others to be doing nothing for God, in the same way that when we go to bed and sleep at night we appear to others to be getting nothing done.  Yet, in a realm they can’t see a lot of complex restoration is happening in our being. 

Spending time alone with God to return to our First Love every day looks like you’re trading active service for inactivity, but it’s not true.  When we sleep at night, we lay down the activity that is contingent on our conscious decisions and we surrender to a different kind of activity that people can’t see – the activity that happens in the 4 stages of sleep we went over in the beginning.  It’s an activity that recharges us to be active again the next day! 

When we spend time with God, we lay down the activity that is busy and noisy and extroverted.  We set aside our relationships with people for a time and focus on our relationship with God.  We also have to set aside hobbies and push against the urges of past or current addictions in order to spend time with God.  It’s an activity that recharges us to serve and minister again afterward! 

We cannot be long term, loving Christians without daily spending quality time with God.

We are not our own spiritual energy source – God is. 

We cannot love others on our own.  1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.”

We are not our own source of peace.  Micah 5:5: “And He will be our peace…”

How can we cope, how can we captivate people for Christ if we have no love and peace, if we’re just white-knuckling it, if we’re just going through the motions?

We cannot give what we don’t have.  And on our own, we are leaky buckets.
We must constantly refill and recharge ourselves by investing in our relationship with God.  We must guard against viewing God as an abstract concept we live our lives by and fight to know God as a Loving Person we live our lives for and with. 

Sadly, there really are some Christians who view time alone with God as more of a luxury rather than a necessity.  And others have let fear of Satan so fill them that they won’t pray at all because they are that petrified of opening their mind to him!  Satan knows how crucial a relationship with God is to having a vibrant Christian witness, to our personal joy and to our ability to persevere and so he seeks to destroy it from any and every angle. 

Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and let me know when you find it.

1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.”


Now, this is such a short verse but there are 2 Greek words in it that I want to unpack, and then we’re going back to Psalm 46:10.  The first word is Pray.  The word in Greek is proseuchomai and it is translated to mean to exchange wishes; to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes and ideas for His wishes as He imparts faith. 

Prayer takes on a much richer meaning with this understanding, doesn’t it?  Prayer becomes a task of relating, of talking to Him, of telling God what we’re feeling, telling Him what we think, telling Him what we want and then asking Him to remove whatever displeases Him and replace it with what He knows that we need.  You could even think of it as spiritual replacement therapy…!  Prayer becomes the process of learning who God is and grounding ourselves in His goodness.  Prayer is the process of changing the negative and faithless patterns in our minds because – as Romans 14:23 tells us, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”        

And turn with me to 2 Corinthians 10 beginning in verse 3 and let me know when you find it.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We need time alone with God.  We need prayer because it is in prayer, in interacting with God in a focused way, with an open heart and through faith that we are changed on the inside.  Proseuchomai – exchanging, switching, replacing our thoughts and ideas for God’s thoughts and ideas is how we change our thinking, it is how our minds are renewed.  The Greek word for repentance – metanoia – means to change your thinking.  Many people become Christians externally, they change their lifestyle (which does require a lot of work sometimes), but they never change their thinking and so they either burn out quickly and return to the world, or they become Christians who misrepresent God, because they still have sin-based thought patterns and habits on the inside. 

This verse articulates two particulars I don’t want us to miss: demolishing strongholds and taking every thought captive.  When we read throughout the New Testament – not just in this verse – we are reminded that it is totally possible for believers to have spiritual strongholds of evil or strongholds of demonic oppression in their hearts and minds, pinning them down from experiencing victory and being more greatly used by Christ.  In postmodern America, I think Satan has opted for subtlety rather than scare tactics so we don’t see full demonic possession frequently like the early church did, but we would be fools to believe that there is no spiritual oppression assaulting our lives.  These strongholds can only be demolished through strong, heartfelt and repeated prayers in the name of Jesus.

Also, we must take our thoughts and make them captive to Jesus in every particular, because our thoughts lead our feelings.  And if we are having trouble with our feelings, the problem is actually in our thoughts.  Our feelings are affected by agreements we have made with lies from Satan and we need to articulate those agreements and break them in the name of Jesus to reclaim more and more of our minds and hearts for Him.  This is a realm of healing that God won’t magically do for us if we’re not interested or involved.  He will supply the power if we will get involved and resist the temptation to think that praying on such deep levels is silly.

And so 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is about taking ourselves back from Satan through Jesus in prayer; it is about purifying our hearts by re-training our minds so that we can see God. 

Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Now, going back to 1 Thessalonians 5:17’s “pray without ceasing,” the English phrase “without ceasing,” is just one word in the Greek: adialeiptos.  It basically means “without ceasing,” except there was one additional translation that caught my eye.  It can also mean, “without omission.”  And so this verse can also be understood as: pray without omitting anything.  I know we’ve heard the phrase, “pray about everything,” but it has a different feel to it than “pray without leaving anything out.”  I believe that often, we write off certain trials or annoyances as unworthy of prayer or we consider hunkering down to pray about them as too much of a hassle.  And so we try to just shrug them off.  Sometimes we do this about trials that are quite heavy that we really need to be praying about!  I have done this a lot, and not about small issues, but about big ones. 

Satan has used emotional trauma to assault my relationship with God.  There are times when the idea of praying and opening my heart to God literally makes my head feel heavy and I just want to lie down and go to sleep.  And other times when I’m impressed to spend time with Him over something painful that’s just happened, I feel a sudden restlessness that gives me a strong preference for just checking out with watching something instead.  This is what spiritual warfare looks like these days.  It’s subtle and it doesn’t seem like warfare.  Satan uses subtlety to make us doubt because he’s learned that when he uses scare tactics, we’re more likely to run to Jesus because the evil is so clear.  But everything that does not come from faith is sin. 

Whatever takes the edge off of our relish of spiritual things is sin.  Whatever influences us to move away from God rather than closer to Him is sin.  Even as we start making progress in our prayer lives, we can never let up, because our old way of faithless thinking has the power of alcoholism.  We know that it’s not enough for an alcoholic to get sober in a treatment center.  He or she has to stay away from alcohol and from environments that contain alcohol.  The alcoholic has to live intentionally for the rest of their life to stay clean.  It gets easier over time, but the minute a former addict starts trusting to their own strength, thinking they can handle it without their higher power, they’re in deep trouble and there’s often a relapse.      

So really, this tiny verse in 1 Thessalonians turns into: pray all the time without leaving anything out.  And now that we’ve taken this deeper look at what prayer can do and why we need it, it makes sense that Ellen White has written to us that, “No man is safe for a day or an hour without prayer.”

So now let’s go back to Psalm 46:10be still and know that I am God.

There are two Hebrew words in this verse that have impacted me deeply and I also believe that they are key to the biblical application of this verse as opposed to the empty, emergent applications.  The first word is the Hebrew translation of the phrase “be still.”  It is the word raphah, which can mean: sink, relax, fail, alone, abandon, become helpless, cease, collapses, courage, dropped, fall limp, feeble, forsake, leave, let it go, loosens, lose courage, slack, subsided, and wait.

These words all imply actions.  They’re all choices of surrender.  They all speak of setting down our methods of controlling our lives and becoming helpless in God’s presence; of acknowledging whatever messy, unresolved, disorganized, hurt state we might be in and not pretending it’s anything less.  Getting caffeine out of my life was an act of raphah, of becoming helpless with God. 

I thought I needed it for all sorts of things, one of which was to get up early to spend time with Him.  I thought I needed it to wake me up and make me alert and receptive to Him.  It was an idol.  Caffeine was something I’d given my heart and trust to more than God.  Rather than getting power from God, I was trying to get it from a substance.  Staying away from it – even after making a promise to Russell – is still extremely hard sometimes.  But God has shown me that I can still be just as and even more sensitive to Him without it.  I don’t need it to worship Him in the morning.

But being still isn’t all. 
We are to be still and know.  Not separately know after being still, but be still and know.  The Hebrew word for “to know” is yada.  Yada is a special word that covers several contexts.  It not only describes abstract knowing – the way we know 2 + 2 = 4 – but it can also describe the experiential knowing of intimacy, including marital intimacy between a husband and wife, as in Adam knew Eve and she conceived. 

This isn’t to imply anything inappropriate about what our relationship with God should involve, but it is to say that we should know God through experiencing Him in our hearts as well as knowing things about Him on faith.  While it is true that feelings are not more important than faith, that doesn’t mean feelings don’t matter.  God created them.  And even though Satan hijacks them sometimes, they still serve the good purposes God intends.  And as we saw earlier when we looked at 1 Thessalonians 5:17, thoughts lead feelings, so if we are making our thoughts captive to Christ, our feelings gradually become safe, not suspect.

Ellen White says, “We need to have a living experience in the things of God; and we are not safe unless we have this.”

Wow.  We are not safe unless we have a living experience in the things of God.  The Christian life is a symphony of both feelings and faith, just as our human bodies need both bones and our softer, more sensitive components to fully function.  We need personal experiences of God’s personal love because otherwise Satan will supply his own version of personal spiritual experiences that will ruin us.  We need to know what God’s love feels like and be transformed by it as much as we need to know the truth.  Satan and the demons know the truth and believe in God’s existence, but their relationship with Him is not one of love or surrender. 

In Matthew 7:16, Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them.”

Ten years ago when I was 16, I had my first spiritual experience of God’s personal presence.  And the fruit of it was conviction and surrender.  Although it actually took me 9 years after that moment to permanently give up caffeine, that night on January 13, 2006 was the first time I flushed my stash of caffeine.  God moved my feelings; I was sobbing for at least an hour.  And did you know you have toxins in your tears, which is why you feel better after you cry?  It’s literally detox – having emotional moments is sometimes exactly what we need. 

God also simultaneously impressed many things on my mind about how He had been taking care of me and would continue to do so.  Two songs were playing that drove home important messages.  The songs were “I’ll Trust You Lord” and “How Great Is Our God.”  And for someone like me who struggles with control and anxiety, I have needed the reminders that God is bigger than me and therefore deserving of my trust.  I needed that emotional experience.  It melted my grip around what I was addicted to, if only for a few months so that even when I went back to caffeine to “worship” God in the morning, I was never able to forget that my first personal experience with God led me to get rid of caffeine and so something wasn’t adding up.

Some people have emotional highs at worship services and they later rewrite those memories when they leave the faith and become atheists.  They chalk it off to the music.  But that night in my life was an experience that I knew was completely beyond me.  I knew it had to be God.  And even though it unhinged me and convicted me to throw away something I was attached to, it felt so good to have my feelings be telling me the truth in harmony with faith – that there is Someone bigger than me and more powerful than me to rest in.  I know there is a God because I have felt Him and He is the deepest relationship I have ever wrapped myself up in.  I know there is a God because I do not know who I’d be without Him and I don’t want to know.  I just want to keep knowing Him.  That experience and others like it is why I wrote to God once, “You’ve ruined me for less and my heart will always long for You.” 

Turn with me to John 17:3 and let me know when you find it.

John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”

This verse lets us know the key to eternal life.  And that key is knowing God.  And it’s the same kind of knowing as what Psalm 46:10 is mentioning.  The Greek word for “to know” is ginóskó, and it also has the same richness of definition as yada.  In Luke 1:34, when Mary asked Gabriel how she, being a virgin, could conceive the Son of God, she said, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” and the word is ginóskó. 

The kind of knowing that yada and ginóskó talk about in Psalm 46:10 and John 17:3 are intimate.  They’re the knowledge of experience.  You can’t be known by someone else without being aware of it because you have to allow it.  They can know things about you without you knowing it, but they can’t know you without you participating and allowing it…it doesn’t happen without interactions.  God calls us to this.  He calls us to come away with Him and rest and be restored by Him.  Ellen White says, “We respond to His invitation, Come, learn of Me, and in thus coming we begin the life eternal.”  Turn with me to Matthew 11:28 and let me know when you find it.

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Just like Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well about spiritual thirst for living water, I believe He’s talking to us in this verse about the restoring spiritual sleep and rest we need, which only comes from spending quantity and quality time with Him.  Only Jesus can make our hearts truly rest.  And although I’ve certainly had my fascinations with feelings of ecstasy through my addiction to caffeine among other things, I’ve grown to know that there is nothing more healing or more deeply moving to the core than the rest only Jesus can bring us to.  

Ellen White says, “As through Jesus we enter into rest, heaven begins here.”  And it’s absolutely true.  When I am resting in Jesus, my restlessness, my worries, my desires are all calmed and for awhile, the noise in my mind is quiet, the smog is cleared up, there’s blue sky and I realize that this is all I want – to be close to God, learning about Him, thinking about Him, experiencing that He loves me, to know that He knows me perfectly.  David the Psalmist also had this experience.    

Turn with me to Psalm 139:1 and let me know when you find it.

Psalm 139:1: “You have searched me, LORD, and You know [yada] me.”

Again, it’s yada.  God knows us intimately and He calls us to know Him intimately as well.
Ellen White says, “Heaven is a ceaseless approaching to God through Christ.  The longer we are in the heaven of bliss, the more and still more of glory will be opened to us; and the more we will know of God, the more intense will be our happiness. … As we walk with Jesus in this life, we may be filled with His love, satisfied with His presence.  All that human nature can bear, we may receive here. … Heaven is to begin on this earth…”

Do you think Satan wants us to taste this heaven on earth and see that it is good?  Absolutely not.

Do you know what Ellen White’s favorite hymn was?  Jesus, Lover of My Soul. 

So, with that in mind, let me share with you a quote from the book Captivating: “To pursue intimacy with Christ, you will have to fight for it.  You’ll need to fight busyness (Martha’s addiction).  You’ll need to fight accusations.  You’ll need to fight the Thief that would steal your Lover’s gifts to you outright. … Getting time with your Lover is worth whatever it costs.  Ask His help in making you desperately hungry for Him.  Ask His help in creating the time and space you need to draw close to Him.  Ask Him to come, to reveal Himself to you as the Lover that He is.”

We were made to know that we are loved, and only in the heaven to come will not have to fight to abide in that knowledge.  But until then, we are given such grace in being able to have heaven in earth in moments, sometimes hours with God.

Turn with me to Matthew 16:25 and let me know when you find it.

Matthew 16:25: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.”

Living close to the Lover of our souls and being able to sense His presence is indeed heaven on earth and is worth any sacrifice. 

And I know this fact through experience as well.  Back in 2010, God was asking me to make a decision and I refused.  And He withdrew His presence from me.  And since I was stubborn, my separation from God only grew and it ended up contributing to my post-traumatic stress disorder.  Finally in 2013, I was so spiritually worn out – even though I was feasting on all my old addictions to my heart’s content – and I was so desperate to have God’s presence back in my life that I was willing to be shown whatever I’d done wrong that had brought such living death on my experience. 

When I’d cry and break down about it – as I occasionally did to a friend or in a journal – I mostly wouldn’t say, “I just want to feel better,” (which I sometimes say these days) but I would usually say, “I miss Him…I miss when I felt close to Him…” I was living in separation from God.  I was living in sin, I could feel it and it was killing me.  The temporary feelings my addictions gave me did not compare to the spiritual rest I had known in Christ.  He had ruined me for less and I am so thankful that He did.  It saved me in the end and made me willing for my pride to be broken.          

In Steps to Christ, Ellen White tells us that “A life in Christ is a life of restfulness.  There may be no ecstasy of feeling, but there should be an abiding, peaceful trust.  Your hope is not in yourself; it is in Christ.”  No one can slake our thirst for rest like Jesus.  And isn’t it beautiful about God that the greatest, the paramount commandment is to love Him with all of ourselves?  That the paramount commandment is draw near to Him, give Him our love and receive His love?  That the paramount commandment is to rest in Him and know Him intimately and experience being known by Him because that is the way to eternal life?  Our God is so kind…!  He is the polar opposite of the Pharaoh Moses had to go up against.  Truly, all His commandments are for our good…!  He is good.  He is so good and kind and thoughtful toward us. 

So what will we do with what we’ve heard?  I needed this message myself.  Badly.  It was a journey to write this sermon.  I cannot in good conscience finish giving you this message without making a change in my own life.  Remember that our old ways have the power of alcoholism – we must ever be intentional in fighting darkness and choosing Jesus, in making time for Him daily to open our hearts up to Him so that we can clean out our hearts and keep them clean and have Jesus in our hearts.  In early February, I was sharing a testimony with all of you after a 3-day retreat I did.  And in the time since then, I’ve counted twenty trials and negatives that have popped up in my life.  I only counted them just recently because in sharing with two friends what all I was dealing with, they were saying, “Chloe, this is a lot…!” and I wasn’t realizing how much it really was. 

When I wrote it all down in a list, it was clear to me that Satan had been attacking me for pursuing God.  He’d been deliberately trying to rob me.  And I’ve kind of been letting him…!  It’s hard to keep fighting for joy and rest in Jesus.  I think Satan arranges for us to be shamed into thinking that joy and rest in Christ are luxuries, and that we should always function in cold, emotionless faith but all of that is a lie.  Joy and rest should be staples in our Christian experience – even during trials.  The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace – those are the first three! 

Those of us who are married know that you can keep conversations with your spouse going throughout the day either through texting or through whispering during an event, but all of that is nothing compared to the depth and safety of conversation you can have when you’re alone together with no one else around.  We as Christians can stay in touch with God throughout the day by talking to Him in the car while we drive and sending up little popcorn prayers, but it doesn’t compare to blocking out a portion of our days to spend just with Him, alone. 

It doesn’t compare to giving God our full and undivided attention for at least one uninterrupted hour, if not more, every day.  And we know that when our marriages or our close friendships are having issues, we can’t go on without one of those long and difficult but ultimately rewarding conversations.  Yet too often, we don’t treat our relationship with God that way, and He is our First Love.  He is our most important relationship, our spouses and children are second, and the people we minister and witness to should be coming in at third place. 

Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37 both tell us that if we love people more than God that we are not worthy of Him and cannot be His disciples.  Loving God with our whole hearts, minds and souls and with daily, quality time is the Paramount Commandment.  We don’t just give God our time on Sabbath, and even Sabbath can get filled up with only external activity if we’re not careful.  Sabbath, being holy, is a day when God draws especially close to us.  Just think about how much richer our time alone with God could be on Sabbath, if we’d make the time for it…!  We should be planning our lives and our ministries around God, rather than attempting to fit God in where we can because we’re so busy ministering to others.  That’s backwards.  I know many of us do that with good intentions, but we have all been reminded of the truth today, so I hope we’ll leave here intending to rearrange our priorities.

Turn with me to John 17:26 and let me know when you find it. 

John 17:26: “I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Wow.  Jesus’ prayer, His desire is that both the love of the Father and His own holy, wondrous presence would be IN US…!  It’s the desire of Jesus that we live with our hearts full of heaven.  Do you see how good and kind He is?  Imagine how much more bearable all our trials would be if we were obeying the Paramount Commandment so that intimacy with God and His personal presence in our hearts would be our new normal…!  All our pain would feel peripheral in comparison to how it feels without God’s presence in our hearts. 

Turn with me to Psalm 19:7 and let me know when you find it.

Psalm 19:7: “The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.”

Russell made me aware that the word “refreshing” can mean restoring.  The Hebrew word is shub, and it means to return, bringing back.  Obeying God’s law, especially the Paramount Commandment brings us back from the shadowlands, from the shallows where everything is potholes and gray skies.  Obeying the Paramount Commandment gives us back to ourselves.  Have you ever felt like you’ve lost yourself and you have no anchor?  Intimacy with God is our anchor.  But as Revelation 3 tells us, Jesus waits at the door of our hearts.  He knocks, but He doesn’t insist.  We have to let Him in and make a place for Him to stay. 

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” 

The Paramount Commandment is still paramount.  It still stands as the command that should dominate our lives.  And obeying the Paramount Commandment will not detract from our teaching others about prophecy and witnessing to them about it.  It will make us better at it!  When we are spending the quality and quantity of time with God that we need to, people will see the love in our eyes for what we believe, for who we believe.  Rather than seeing paranoia in us about the time of trouble, rather than seeing anxiety in us about being prepared, they will see our heartfelt longing to be ready because it’s almost time to go Home, because we want them to experience the beauty that graces our spirits because of the supreme relationship we are in that is bigger than ourselves.  They would see that we are a people captivated by God’s beauty – not held captive by fear of getting it wrong – and that that is why we live the way we do, worship on Sabbath and believe in prophecy…!  We are who we are and live the way we live because we are a people in love with our utterly, completely good God; because we are captivated by His love.

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commands.”  Especially the Paramount Commandment!  All the rest is meaningless and forced without a relationship with God.

And in John 15:9-10, Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” 

And Jesus absolutely kept the Paramount Commandment.  Ellen White tells us in Desire of Ages: “No other life was ever so crowded with labor and responsibility as was that of Jesus; yet how often He was found in prayer!  How constant was His communion with God! … In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Savior found it necessary to withdraw from the thoroughfares of travel and from the throng that followed Him day after day.  He must turn aside from a life of ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father.  As one with us, a sharer in our needs and weaknesses, He was wholly dependent upon God, and in the secret place of prayer He sought divine strength, that He might go forth braced for duty and trial.  In a world of sin Jesus endured struggles and torture of soul.  In communion with God He could unburden the sorrows that were crushing Him.  Here He found comfort and joy.” 

The Paramount Commandment does not suggest that we should become monks and recluses.  But it bids us change our priorities for our own good and for God’s glory…!

1 John 2:3: “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.”

1 John 5:3: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome.”  This echoes Matthew 11:28-30, wherein Jesus Himself told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  The Paramount Commandment heals and restores us.  It is beautiful.

John 17:3 taught us that eternal life is knowing God.
Matthew 22:36-40 taught us that the Paramount Commandment is loving God.

Loving God and intimately knowing Him by experience go together.  You can’t love someone without knowing them.  And because God is love, we cannot know Him without loving Him!  And to know Him at all is to be gripped with the conviction to love Him with our all.

Psalm 40:8: “I desire to do Your will, my God; Your law is within my heart.”

When we are Christ’s, His commands are in our hearts, they’re part of us.  They don’t feel like foreign objects.  On the contrary, we cannot live without them.  And although my addictions push against my love for Jesus, I have fallen in love with Him enough to still testify that He has ruined me for less and I know that nothing else can satisfy me except His love and healing presence. 

I am imperfect, but He has my heart.  I want more of my thoughts to be His, but He has far more of my thoughts than He ever has.  I love to talk about Him.  My warmest affections are His.  I am at my best when I am focused on Him.  I have not been the most faithful lover of Him, but I know I am Christ’s.  My thoughts are with Him and my sweetest thoughts and memories are of Him.  I am doing all I can to completely consecrate and give myself to Him more and more over time.  I am a work in progress, but He is committed to finishing what He has begun in me.  I long to bear His image and breathe His spirit, do His will and make Him happy.

This experience with Jesus is the best and most beautiful thing I could wish on anyone.  God longs for all His children to have it and that is why it is so sad that so many will sacrifice heaven for their own small ideas rather than surrendering their own concepts of control to a beautiful God of love who is graciously bigger than we are.  Do you want this same experience?  Do you want to join me?  I pray so.      

I’m going to play a song and while we all listen, I invite you to close your eyes and think about how your life needs to change, what ideas and habits you might need to sacrifice in order to make loving God paramount.  And I’d invite you to pray to God during this song to give you the strength to make your convictions a reality. 

(The song was "Abide in Me" by Ana Laura: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hspfBTZLhU)