Steve Macchia Blog

Lord, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy

Are you exhausted by this challenging season? International pandemic. Racial inequalities. Economic uncertainties. Political discord. Wildfires. Hurricanes. Lost summer. Back to school. Physical distancing. Masks.

“Lord, have mercy” is my latest breath prayer. And I’m praying it continuously throughout the day. It’s my heart cry. My longing. My earnest desire. Mercy amidst the chaos and confusion. Mercy accompanied by grace. Mercy laced with love. Mercy from the heart of a loving God toward all he has created. Yes, mercy given to me (and to you!) is pure gift.

Mercy is one of my favorite words. It’s beautiful to say the word, even more glorious to hear and see and receive. It makes me want to sing, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning, great is thy faithfulness O Lord, great is thy faithfulness.”

Mercy means “compassionate or kindly forbearance” shown toward an offender, an enemy; it means compassion, pity or benevolence. It’s synonym is forgiveness. It’s a strong word for mighty people showing kindness, favor, compassion or faithfulness; to bend or stoop in kindness toward another. It begins with God, fulfilled in God’s people. That’s mighty! Wow. Where do we see this evidenced today?

God shows his tender mercy toward us all the time. We are evidence of his mercy. Were it not for God’s mercy we would be lost, forgotten, forlorn, and doomed to our own futility. But God, in Jesus and in his mercy is faithful, loving, kind and full of grace — even when we are not worthy. His mercy saves us. Empowers us. Lifts us up and gives us hope.

All of us want to receive it, but are we willing to be a vessel of mercy to others? Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” Matt. 5:7 and “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” Luke 6: 36. “For I was hungry, and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you invited me into your home; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you cared for me; I was in prison and you visited me…whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me” Matt. 25: 34-36.

Mercy is the commodity most needed today — and most missing today. I don’t see much mercy on the daily news. I don’t hear much mercy on the streets of our cities. I don’t notice it when I see pettiness of heart or smallness of mind. But, I do hear it when I listen to voices of compassion for the lost, the least, and the left behind. I see it when I notice life change because of unmerited kindness, patience, grace and forgiveness. Yes, mercy is all around us if we look in the right places.

Hannah Hurnard once said, “Blessed are the merciful, the tender and compassionate in judgment, who will not criticize but discern with the eye of love where help, and perhaps warning, is needed.”

Charles Spurgeon adds, “God’s mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners after great lengths of time and then gives great favors and great privileges and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God.”

Imagine what our lives or our churches or our culture would look like if mercy were our priority. Yes, imagine with me what our hearts and souls would look like if mercy reigned supreme in the very place where God seeks to solely reside.

As you endure this season of life, let me encourage you not to lose heart by the conditions and situations of this time in history. Instead, let me urge you to be a living example of God’s mercy in every situation, every conversation, every relationship, and every decision that’s before you. To choose otherwise may in fact contribute to the ills of our day rather than the hope we are called to offer.

To love mercy and the God who made it so — may that be the hallmark of our lives.



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The Only Legitimate Selfishness

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The Only Legitimate Selfishness

The only place in life where it’s legitimate to be selfish is in the care and nurture of your soul. Without which, you will never fully learn what it means to be selfless in the care of another.”

This was the summary voiced by my wise spiritual director many years ago, when we were discussing the importance of a daily walk with God amidst a full, active, and noisy ministry life.

Saying no to internal and external demands is hard to do. We generally like to be needed, helpful, active, and productive. We need to learn how to say no to every other tap on our shoulder beckoning for our attention, in order to focus exclusively on being in the presence of God alone.

When we say no to all other voices, in order to say yes to the voice of God, we develop a spacious attentiveness that sweetens, deepens, and ripens over time. Once this kind of focused intentionality is gained, the expression of love from God is rich and abundant. The fruit of such intimacy is a delight to behold.

Today, can you legitimize some selfishness of soul in order to listen attentively to the still, small voice of God? Sit with God in His Word, listen intently for his voice in your prayers, and reflect humbly on your brokenness and on how he desires to heal and redeem it all for his glory.

Resting in his enveloping love will ensure your preparation to selflessly love another in Jesus’ name. Watch how it happens and rejoice!



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Sabbath Longings

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Sabbath Longings

2020 has been quite the year…to put it mildly. From impeachment to coronavirus to unemployment to racial injustice. We all need some good old fashioned rest.

How can we rest when we’re in such upheaval? Why should we rest when others are in such unrest? Where can we go to rest when we’ve upended rest at home? Who can advocate for rest amidst such turmoil?

On Friday I’m teaching an online workshop on Sabbath rest. I’m going to propose that it’s not only a commandment, but it’s also a gift, a blessing, and a joy for all Christ followers. Including you…the worn out, weary-in-well-doing, well-meaning servant of God.

Find rest, o my soul, in God alone (Psalm 62:1). No headline in the news, no matter how grandiose or how bland the news day may be (something we haven’t seen for a very long time!), will bring you rest. No experience or possession or relationship or responsibility, no matter how meaningful, will bring you rest. Only God is the source of true rest.

That’s why the Sabbath was ordained. On the heels of creation God rested. And he delighted in the work of his hands. But, he rested. And then he invites and invokes Sabbath on his people – all for love’s sake. God is pro work and pro rest, held in tension with one another, but both matter to him.

So, in the midst of a pandemic and within the heaviness of racial inequality and when you’re uncertain about so much of your inner and exterior world today…take some rest. When you find rest you will deepen trust. And enriched trust evokes heightened hope. Hope is what we need today.

Rest. For God’s sake: rest. For your family’s sake: rest.  For your world’s sake: rest. For your sake: rest. My soul finds rest in God alone. Truly, my soul, find rest in God alone. My soul, find rest in God alone. No matter how you say it, the path of rest leads you back home to God. And, there’s no place like home.

Your advocates for Sabbath Rest: the Leadership Transformations Team.



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A Month of Sundays

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A Month of Sundays

The phrase “a month of Sundays” is rooted in a small handful of interpretations: as a metaphor for a very longstretch of time, “I haven’t seen her in a month of Sundays” (as in 30 or 31 weeks); or, as a description of perseverance, “I’ve been waiting a month of Sundays for this to occur, and I’m glad it finally did;” and, it’s used critically for those who are skeptical that “it will never work – not in a month of Sundays” as a seemingly endless or prolonged period of time, feeling it’s ‘never or unlikely’ to occur.

The use of Sunday in this phrase (as opposed to any other day of the week) is rooted in the Sabbath as the marker for a week’s time. The Christian’s holy day of Sunday, the Sabbath, is to be a day of rest, a long, solemn day devoted to restful practices.

In many ways, the COVID-19 season has already felt like “a month of Sundays” – as in a very long and prolonged time to persevere. But, what if we looked at the pandemic through the lens of Sabbath rest and tried to instill Sabbath-like priorities into these elongated days when we’re safe at home, even if we’re still working and busy with life’s obligations?

As you look back over the past 5-6 weeks, how much of that time has felt restful? For many of us, it’s actually been the opposite…restless, anxious, fearful, and impatient might be your descriptive words. The challenges have increased; the worry has multiplied; and the demands have heightened.  To consider infusing Sabbath rest into these fretful days might feel a bit overwhelming.

But, perhaps Sabbath rest might actually be the turnkey to enduring the pandemic and coming out the other side with some sense of heart and body health, as well as soul vitality.  Is it time to turn some of those weighty days of unrest upside down and choose to invite Sabbath rest to help define our days and this unprecedented season instead?

Here are a few words and ideas to ponder if “a month of Sabbaths” is to be considered…

  1. Rest – the purpose of Sabbath is to cease our work and enter into rest,  putting our trust and hope in God’s hands. At the time of creation, God chose rest in order to admire the work of his hands in the days prior. We learn to focus on God instead of self in times of rest, knowing there is only one God, and it’s not me!
  1. Reflection – setting apart time to recall the gifts of the day (or season) is the primary purpose of any reflective discipline, like journaling, examen, and attentiveness.  If we don’t take time to notice, much of our day’s experiences are washed away as a distant memory.
  1. Rejoice – giving thanks for the blessings of this life puts our hearts and minds in good space, rather than in the fretful or worried geography of the soul. Gratitude is healing, strengthening, empowering, and forgiving. Try expressing it to God and others and watch how different your day unfolds.
  1. Recreation – in Sabbath we re-create back into the fullness of the abundant life. This may include recreational activities like strolling, napping, playing, savoring a meal, noticing creation, or even creating something colorful, delicious, or beautiful.
  1. Recalibration – when we finally cease our unrelenting busyness and enjoy restfulness instead, our minds clear up and we begin to think more succinctly. The fog of our overly full lives is lifted when we are enjoying Sabbath rest and our disjointed priorities are realigned more appropriately.
  1. Renewal – by far the greatest tangible gift of Sabbath rest is the renewal that emerges as a result of resting, trusting, giving thanks, noticing, and enjoying life in all its delightful dimensions. As we release our burdens and concerns and place them in God’s hands we are renewed with hope.

May this “month of Sundays” shift from an endless feeling of sameness and be transformed into a gift from God for the people of God, based in Sabbath-like principles and priorities. Let me know how it goes!

 

 

 



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We are Made for Community…not Zoom

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We are Made for Community…not Zoom

This year, our family “celebrated” Easter together via Zoom. I’m a huge fan of Zoom, but not as a gratifying substitute for a family gathering. Each of us in our own homes. Cooking for ourselves. Missing one another. Not the same. We hope it’s never to be repeated again.

When it came time for our 4pm Zoom call, we were eager for our connection. It was as fun as it could possibly be…sharing stories, listening and affirming one another, enjoying a few laughs, cooing at the two babies, and even the dog. But, it certainly wasn’t our preference, even though we made the best of it.

What we longed for was in-person community. Family hugs and kisses. Physical presence at the dining room table. Cooking, cleaning, relaxing…playing a game, taking a walk, enjoying a meal. COVID-19 shut that down. Zoom made it possible, but it wasn’t our preference.

I’m not bitter about it, but certainly disappointed. Resurrection Sunday is the highlight of the Christian year. Not only did our family meet by Zoom, but so did our church family. It was deeply meaningful in worship and liturgy, but noticeably lacking in one very significant way: community.

God made us for community. Isolation is not God’s preference, unless for silence and solitude and the quiet disciplines of the spiritual life. But, when we worship, fellowship, and serve others in mission, we are designed for each of those priorities to be achieved in community.

As we are all fulfilling the mandate to maintain physical distance, perhaps your longing for community is growing too. As we anticipate this pandemic to someday be over, how is it that we can prepare our hearts and minds for reentry into community?  Here are a few of my musings for what it’s worth…

  1. Pray for your community. We can’t be together physically but we certainly can pray. Thank God for your community and pray blessings over each member of your community,  whether it’s your local church, small group, ministry team, etc.
  2. Send notes of encouragement to your community. The easiest is via email but perhaps you could send a hand-written note instead.
  3. Connect with individual members of your community. Call a soul friend for mutual encouragement, or reach out to someone living alone or in need. Drop off a meal or flowers or a note of encouragement.
  4. Create a gift to offer your community. Write a poem about your community or create a collage of photos that remind you of your community or draw a picture, even with words, to describe what your community means to you. Share that when appropriate.
  5. Stay in touch with your community…yes, via Zoom or FaceTime or Google Hangouts…until the restrictions are over and you can meet face to face.
  6. Be intentional in noticing how God has defined community in the Scriptures. Do some research (it’s tempting to tell you where to read, but I’ll let you find out!) and then share your findings with your community.
  7. Inventory your heart about your community, asking yourself (prayerfully) how you’ve contributed positively to your community and confess before the Lord how you’ve stood in the way of building healthy community. Be honest and seek forgiveness if necessary.

We are made for community. Church. Neighborhood. Friendship. Family. Marriage. All the primary relationships of life help us define community. Lean in to the gifts of community now and hopefully we’ll all be better prepared to reengage with one another sooner than later.

 



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Outstretched Arms of Grace – Continued: Easter Monday and Beyond…

Easter

Read Luke 24: 13-35

Behold him Living In and Through His Beloved Children All Along Life’s Journeys! Believe that he will continue to appear to you in the releasing of the Word and in fellowship with his Spirit! Belong to the ones who discern when their hearts are burning with every sense of his presence and peace! Become a beloved child of the Triune God who anticipates new life in Jesus with each new day!

For your prayerful reflection today, consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “I Cannot Tell…” by William Fullerton, 1929:

I cannot tell why He whom angels worship,

Should set His love upon the sons of men,

Or why, as shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,

To bring them back, they know not how or when.

But this I know, that He was born of Mary

When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,

And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,

And so the Savior, Savior of the world is come.

 

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,

As with His peace He graced this place of tears,

Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,

The crown of pain to three and thirty years.

But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,

And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,

And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,

For yet the Savior, Savior of the world is here.

 

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,

How He will claim His earthly heritage,

How satisfy the needs and aspirations

Of East and West, of sinner and of sage.

But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,

And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,

And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor

When He the Savior, Savior of the world is known.

 

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,

When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,

Or who can say how great the jubilation

When all the hearts of men with love are filled.

But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,

And myriad, myriad human voices sing,

And earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, will answer:

At last the Savior, Savior of the world is king!



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Outstretched Arms of Grace – Completed: Resurrection Sunday

Easter

Easter Sunday!

Read Matthew 28: 1-10; John 20: 1-9

Behold him Risen and Reigning Forever – Alleluia! Believe in the Gospel of Christ and be set free to love and worship him as forgiven, restored, and redeemed! Belong to the Church triumphant who will live together with Christ for all eternity! Become a new creature in Christ Jesus, who experiences breaking in your making, rising from your falling, and living from your dying – both now and forevermore!

For your prayerful reflection today, consider the words of this ancient Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Alleluia!” written by Charles and John Wesley in 1739:

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

 



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Outstretched Arms of Grace: Holy Saturday

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In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 19: 38-42

Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. With his permission, he came and took Jesus to a tomb that had never been used. Before placing him there, another disciple Nicodemus brought along a mixture of 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. The two men took Jesus’ body and wrapped it with the spices and placed him in and among clean strips of linen. They placed Jesus in the tomb. There his body lay, in a solitary cave with a large stone covering the doorway. Guarded well.  Sealed.  Protected.  Alone.

After the upheaval of the previous day, the shared grief of watching Jesus suffer and die, today is left for quiet mourning and reflection. How had the outstretched arms of love led Jesus to such a lonely place?

We wonder the same ourselves, now two millennia later. The Jesus we watched grows from the infant miraculously born to the virgin, under the watchful tutelage of his carpenter father, and among his siblings in a crude home in Nazareth. His wisdom and stature and favor with God and man expanded exponentially over the years until he was baptized, tested, blessed and sent out to fulfill his mission.

We noted with the gospel writers his calling of the disciples to cease being fishermen to become instead fishers of men. We watched with awe his miraculous turning of water into wine, making right that which was wrong, healing hurting bodies and troubled souls, welcoming children and strangers, teaching in parables, and ushering in the Kingdom of heaven.  We learned from his example of caring for the suffering, advocating for the weak, encouraging the broken-hearted, and restoring blind eyes, closed ears, and forgotten souls. We listened intently to his every word, and our lives are forever changed.

And now we walk with Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb. And we wait and watch with those who are stunned and doubting, and yet hoping and praying for a miracle. It’s the day after we saw Jesus die so miserably on the cross. We can hardly get the sights out of our minds eye, the smell out of our nostrils, the sadness out of our hearts. It was horrible to stand by helplessly as the victim of such cruelty was our friend, our teacher, our mentor, our guide. We trusted him, walked with him, and now we mourn.

Is it all going to end in this tragic way? We’re no longer all together. We’re stunned and saddened. We’re not sure what’s next. We hope. We pray. We linger. We trust. We rest. We wait.

Behold Jesus in our memories and now in the tomb; believe in the words he once spoke as truth; belong to the ones who hold fast to his promises; and become a member of the family of Jesus who forever sing his praise as the One who came to life miraculously and will rise again miraculously once more. Amen.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “Were You There?” written by African-American slaves in the late 19th Century:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

 



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Outstretched Arms of Grace: Good Friday

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In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 19: 16-37

Jesus on the cross – the ultimate expression of his outstretched arms of love!

His arms could not have been stretched out any further than when they were extended for all humanity on the cross. Simply held back on the beam that far and for so long would have been enough to endure, but with the nails piercing his hands the suffering was all the more agonizing for Jesus.  The crown of thorns on his head and the nails holding his feet in place added to his injurious position. This humiliation and suffering went far beyond the washing of the disciples’ feet in expressing the fullest extent of love.

Carrying his own cross, he walked with the soldiers out to The Place of the Skull, known as Golgotha. He was crucified with two others – one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate’s notice was fastened above his head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” The soldiers divided his clothes among them, one share for each of the four attending him. But his seamless undergarment they did not tear, and instead cast lots for it.

Near the cross stood his mother and the other women. Looking down Jesus saw his mother and the beloved disciple. He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son” and from that time on this faithful disciple took her into his home and cared for her.  Words came from his tired breathing, “Father forgive them” – “You will be with me in paradise” – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –  “I am thirsty” – “It is finished” – “Into your hands I commit my spirit” and after a soaked sponge of wine vinegar was placed on his lips, he bowed his head and breathed his last, giving up his spirit into death.

Instead of breaking his legs to complete his demise, the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  Not one of his bones was broken, as the prophet foretold, for those who search for the Living God “will look on the one they have pierced instead.” And that’s how it occurred. The death of Jesus was completed on the cross in the most wretched form possible.

It’s hard to fathom what it would have been like to witness such cruelty. In such a short time frame Jesus went from the highly acclaimed King to the lowly despised criminal. From “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. Even though Pilate sought to set Jesus free, the Jews kept shouting about his demise. In handing Jesus over to the will of the people, he washed his hands of his death. The drama this act sparked would be exactly as God intended…amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God would die for me? How many present could sing that hymn of praise? Would you?

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; believe the Gospel of grace poured out in the shed blood of Christ on the cross; belong to those who know Him as Savior, Lord and King; and become a fervent and faithful follower of Jesus the One who left heaven to come to earth to die so that you can have life eternal.

 

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” by Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153:

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.



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Outstretched Arms of Grace: Maundy Thursday

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In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 13: 1-17

Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. So, having loved his own who were in the world with him, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

As the evening meal was being served, he got up from the table and took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After preparing himself to serve his brothers, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with a towel that was wrapped around him.

Peter didn’t quite understand what was happening and initially denied Jesus the privilege. But after Jesus explained that “unless I wash you, you will have no part with me,” Peter not only presented his feet, but asked that his hands and head be washed as well. To Jesus, simply holding and washing their feet was enough of a bath for his faithful followers…including the one who would deny him and even the one who would betray him. Here again we see the Lord extending his outstretched arms of love.

When he was finished washing their feet, he explained why he had done this simple act. As their Teacher and Lord, having washed their feet, he now requested they wash one another’s feet. “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” And then he proceeds to predict his upcoming betrayal and denial by two of them who had just experienced the full extent of his humble love.

By far one of the most intimate moments, the washing of the feet was one of Jesus’ final expressions of love to his disciples. To hold their dirty feet in his gentle hands, pour water over them to soothe and bathe as with a cup of salvation, was all he needed to do. He simply wanted his disciples to know that his love was genuine, and his desire for them to do likewise was pure. The ministry of soul hospitality at the table, surrounding this meal, was rich and abundant for all, even for his confused betrayer. Jesus knew his time had come. His days were numbered. His legacy would live on in love.

If you’ve ever had your feet held and washed by another you know how meaningful it is. Imagine Jesus stooping down in front of you, holding your worn and weary feet, looking up at your face with loving affirmation, looking down at your faithful feet, and praying blessing over your walk of faith. He knows your need for cleansing and forgiveness. He is fully aware of every heartache you hold, every pain you’ve suffered, every joy you’ve experienced, every longing your desire. Will you let him love you?

Behold the Savior kneeling lovingly and prayerfully before you; believe in the gifts of grace and mercy he delights to bestow; belong to the fellowship of foot-washed disciples; and become a disciple who is more than willing to wash another’s feet in Jesus’ name.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “What Wondrous Love Is This O My Soul” (Anonymous, 1811}:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.



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