Thursday, March 26, 2009

YouTube Worship

When I'm feeling down, sometimes a song is just what I need. Here's one of my favorite worship songs on youtube. Enjoy!

If there are any online videos/songs you play to feel uplifted, please post a link in the comments!

Update (9/29/09): Lyrics!

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord
For His mighty acts
And His wondrous works
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord

We give thee honor
O Lord we give Thee praise
Power and glory

Everlasting Father, Hosanna, the Prince of Peace
Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the Ending

All praise
The Lord

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Paid in Full

Many years ago, a number of loans were taken out in my name to pay for my college education. And though I earned scholarships, I was still saddled with significant payments after I graduated and became too ill to continue my career plans. My dad's willingness to help with this debt has declined as our relationship has continued to deteriorate.

Sin is similar to debt. In fact, in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our sins," is sometimes said, "Forgive us our debts." I know the weight and pressure my sin debt to God can place on my heart, just as financial debt can place a burden on my mind and budget.

Recently, when a family member helped me to pay off 2 loans entirely, I was flooded with a feeling of tremendous gratitude and relief. This person had wanted to pay these loans for some time (and had the means to do so), but I had put them off. If you'd asked me why, I would have had a hard time answering, but I can now put my finger on 3 reasons why I initially rejected this gift.
1) I felt like I didn't deserve such incredible generosity.
2) I felt a sense of pride and independence in trying to pay some of it myself.
3) I felt accepting the gift made me weak and dependent.

These 3 reasons sound very much like my grandfather's reasons for resisting Christ's gift of forgiveness. On Grandpa's death bed, the strange grip of unworthiness, pride, and self-sufficiency held him in a headlock, preventing him from accepting the very gift that would wipe his sin debt clean. It wasn't until hours before his death, as we prayed over him, that he finally uttered his need and desire for Jesus. Grandpa didn't have the means to pay and thus earn right-standing with God, but Jesus offered his life as payment on the cross. In God's eyes, the cross was payment in full.

We are in a losing battle if we are trying to get right with God on our own, apart from Christ. We need a mediator and one who has the means to pay the extraordinarily high cost of disobeying God's laws. Jesus has done this. God accepted his death as the payment for your sins and mine. "It is finished!" Christ cried as he breathed his last breath. Just as my family member paid to set me free from punishing financial debt, Christ paid painfully with his own life to set us free from our sin debt, which separates us from God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
--John 3:16-17

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
--Hebrews 9:27-28

"Jesus paid a debt he didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay."

Monday, March 9, 2009

His Strength is Perfect

The moment right after I wake up is typically the weakest moment of my day. It's the time when I think to myself something along the lines of-- "I can't handle today."

I don't know if it's the fact that I am generally not fond of the waking up process, or if it's just the overwhelming nature of life, but I get this urge to just pull the covers over my head because, surely, I do not have enough strength, stamina, wisdom, insight, or fill-in-the-blank to complete, or even face, what's required of me today.

This pre-day discouragement dates all the way back to grade school when I posted a sign on my bedroom door that stated clearly: "Anyone coming in to wake me up should wear protective head gear." I'm obviously not a morning person.

This tired, defeated attitude can literally feel as though I am empty and bone-dry. I am void of any power to face the certain and uncertain challenges I'm destined to confront. It is a feeling of complete inadequacy. And when that feeling is strong enough, the first words uttered from my lips are often: "Oh God, please help me. I can't do today alone."

Feeling overwhelmed and discouraged is a common theme in the Bible. And today, I read about the Israelites being overwhelmed and afraid to face their new task-- to go in and take possession of the Promised Land. What could sound more inviting than that, I wonder? But it wasn't so easy. Twelve men were sent ahead to take a look at what kind of people lived in this land, and when those spies came back to make a report, it was pretty terrifying. They voiced their feelings of inadequacy by saying: "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." They were overwhelmed by the size of the enemy saying, "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

Whenever I read those accounts, it is like hearing my own discouraged heart. How can I overcome the obstacles I face today? When I turn on the news at night, I feel powerless hearing about the evil and the suffering in this world... A woman is beaten by her boyfriend, a pastor is shot while preaching to his congregation, people are living in tents because they've lost their jobs and homes. Adding all this on top of my own personal adversity which seems larger than life, it makes me ask: How can I do one thing to fix these giant problems looming over me? I'm like a grasshopper in comparison!

Why does God lead us to this place of quiet desperation? Why can't we always feel the inner strength we need to go on? I don't have all the answers to these questions, but I do know that God has a deep desire for me to depend on him. He does have the strength I need. He can overthrow the enemy. His is big enough and strong enough to handle it all, and most of all, he just wants me to be still and rely on him to do it.

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

When 9/11 hit, I was still in college, and when I met with my small Bible group later that afternoon, the leader asked us to read Psalm 46 aloud together. Looking back on that time, I remember just how small I felt that day. But that psalm was placed like a firm rock in the foundation of my soul, anchoring me to the unshakable power of God's love and care for me when circumstances appear completely out of control.

How can we stand up against fear when everything around us gives way? The answer is in the very first verse of that psalm...

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3

I understand why the Israelites feared. They wanted to turn around and go back to the past where it was safe instead of having faith that God could be enough during hardship. They wanted to close their eyes and pull the covers over their heads because they felt weak and powerless, and that's all they could see. The funny thing is, God never expected them to have that kind of power on their own. He wanted them to rely on him for it.

Caleb and Joshua were the only Israelites who had complete faith in God to carry them through, rather than trusting their own strength. Consequently, they were the only Israelites of that generation who were given the gift of entering the Promised Land.

"It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them."
Psalm 44:3

I learn from this that when God puts me in a situation where I'm in way over my head, he wants me to rely on Him (not myself) for strength to get through it. When my adversaries are so big that I feel like I can't get out of bed, I must trust him wholeheartedly.