Sunday Faith

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:15-25

In this passage, Paul expresses our human condition. It reads almost like a comedic monologue, reminiscent of the old Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” routine. We have such good intentions. We want to be “good,” to do better in our lives, to be more loving, kind, generous, patient, etc.  – to be our “best selves.”

My good intentions are often at their highest when I am in worship on Sunday. I believe God meets His people in a powerful way when we gather together in worship and I often hear Him speaking to me most clearly during a worship service.

Eventually, however, the worship service comes to a close and once again I’m back out in the real world where it’s really hard to be a follower of Jesus.  I might have pledged to be more patient and loving on Sunday, but stuck in traffic on Monday morning, I find myself road raging as usual driving down GA 400.

But God continually reminds me that being His child is not about being my “best self.” It’s about becoming more like Jesus. I’m so grateful it’s not dependent on my being good, on following the rules, or following through on my good intentions. It’s always about realizing my own brokenness and depending on His grace and mercy, which is always enough.

I wrote a song about all this several years ago. Take a listen and may it inspire you to allow His grace to help you have more Sunday faith in your Monday morning life.

 

Thank you, Candace!

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” – Psalm 126:2

In case you haven’t been paying attention to Facebook in recent days, last week a phenomenon now affectionately known as “Chewbacca Mom Video” briefly blew up the internet. If you’re one of the five people that haven’t seen this video yet, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to watch:

I had seen this video pop up in my Facebook feed several times last week and after I noticed more than half a dozen friends had shared it, I was compelled to watch. I happened to be in the car with my kids waiting for my husband to run an errand. When my husband got to the car he found us all laughing, literally LOL. Even my cynical attorney husband got a chuckle out of it.

It’s three minutes and forty two seconds of pure, infectious joy. Lately it seems like social media just magnifies the rancor and unrest in our world.

Some days every other post is a political rant or a cautionary article about some nefarious lurking conspiracy.

635997225561134245-chewbacca1Candace Payne, a Texas mom, reminded us all last week to seek out and experience the potential joy in every moment of life. There’s fun and adventure to be had everywhere! I dare you to watch this video and not feel just a little happier.

What’s even more encouraging than the video itself is that it’s been viewed over 142 million times. It now holds the record for most views of a live stream video on Facebook. Since the video was posted last week, Candace has been on a whirlwind tour of talk shows and even a visit to Facebook headquarters.

It’s mystifying that a video that’s really just a woman laughing hysterically could have such a widespread effect. I think it’s because moments of pure joy are all too rare in our world. Watching Candace’s simple joy was contagious. She’s made the world a happier place this week simply by being herself.

Candace is a worship leader at her church and I can just imagine the joy that pours out of her as she leads her congregation in worship each week.

She’s been a great reminder to me, a fellow worship leader, that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Thank you, Candace, for giving us a few minutes of joy in our lives! You’ve inspired me to pay it forward!

Songs of Lament

Stephanie Newton 5I love the Psalms. It’s the song book of the Bible. As a worship leader and songwriter, I often go to the Psalms for songwriting material as well as for my own personal worship time. The greatest, most poetic words of praise ever written are in the Psalms.

But along with songs of praise to God, there are also psalms of lament. These are some of my favorites. As redeemed people, we are called to live lives of freedom, peace and joy. But we know all too well that we are not immune to the sorrows and calamities of this world. We are children of the Living God, but we walk in a fallen world.

Psalm 88 is one of my favorite songs of lament. The writer says, “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength.” (Psalms 88: 1-4)

As long as I can remember, I have struggled with periods of depression and anxiety. Sometimes these episodes are directly related to some circumstance in my life, and sometimes it just comes out of nowhere, leveling my spirit and sucking the joy and light out of my life. Psalm 88 ends with “the darkness is my closest friend.” Anyone who has suffered through depression can relate to that.


And yet, in the very worst darkness, there is always hope. I have always found that Jesus follows me into the shadows. He will not leave me there to suffer alone. It takes time for the light to come sometimes, but it always appears. In the meantime, He covers me until the storm passes. David, the most famous psalm writer, says, “In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalm 57: 1 NKJV)

If you are suffering, hold on. Don’t lose hope. He is there. He is covering you.

Fix Your Eyes

fixyoureyesOne of my favorite Bible stories is the “Encounter on the Road to Emmaus” (Luke 24.) In it, two followers of Jesus are walking from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. They have just witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. They are devastated. And to make matters more confounding, the tomb where Jesus was buried has been found empty that very morning and people are claiming Jesus is alive. These two simply don’t know what to make of it.

The Bible says that as they were discussing all this, the resurrected Jesus himself came up beside them and started talking to them!

And they didn’t recognize him.

That is the most intriguing part of the story for me.  I always wonder why they didn’t recognize Jesus, their friend they had loved and followed. The Bible doesn’t say, so we are left to speculate.

The Bible does say, however, that they “stood before him with their faces downcast.”

That part always jumps out at me. I think of times in my life when I have been so downcast with my own sorrow, depression and grief that I didn’t realize Jesus was walking right beside me.

If I simply look up, I see that Jesus is right there before me. The all-powerful, victorious, resurrected Jesus.

Fix your eyes on Him!


On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulershanded him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke itand began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lordhas risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

The Light is Coming!

away3“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  These are words from the prophet Isaiah as he foretold the birth of Jesus. (Isaiah 9:2)

Have you had times in your life that feel like you are walking in darkness? This year has been one of those times for me.  Job stress, financial stress, relationship stress, health challenges, caring for aging family members…

For our family this past year, it seems just as we managed one crisis, another would come along to take its place. I have an optimistic nature almost to a fault, but this year has tested my typical positive attitude and resolve.

And yet, the Light has come. Isaiah says, “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

Maybe those of us who have walked in darkness experience the most joy at the first glimmer of light.

Take heart.  The Light is coming. Christmas is almost here. Jesus was born not just to comfort us in our affliction but to be our Rescuer.  He walks with us through the darkness always leading us into Light.

After walking through a year with more doubt and fear than peace and joy, I am looking forward to starting a new year of walking in the Light.

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” – Francis Bacon

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Stephanie

On My Best Day

14sn10“I believe, help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

One Sunday I was sitting in church listening to the sermon with rapt attention (I’m a worship leader so that’s part of my job description, right? Must look intensely interested in the pastor’s sermon…ha ha ha…) My pastor was preaching about how doubt is actually a natural part of faith. He really got my attention when he said, “On my best day I’m a mix of faith and doubt.” My first thought was, “I feel the same way!” My second thought was, “That’s a great idea for a song!”

He went on to point out that in the last chapter of Matthew when Jesus is giving the disciples their marching orders for going into the world spreading the gospel, there is a seldom noticed phrase that says “but some doubted.” These are THE disciples, people! The ones closest to Jesus who had traveled and ministered alongside him for three years. The ones that saw him crucified and raised from the dead. After all that, some of them doubted. And yet, it doesn’t say Jesus because frustrated with them, called them aside and made them do penance or remedial ministry training. He was willing to trust his entire message to these guys.

I love how God doesn’t reject us but meets us in our doubt, and how my questioning is not a threat to who He is. I have found Him to be ever faithful even though I am not.

The brilliant and wise Tim Keller puts it this way:

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body with no antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask the hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.”

On my best day I’m a mix of faith and doubt. But God can take my tiny mustard seed of faith and grow it into something amazing. I’m so grateful for that.

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