December 4 – The Songs We Sing – “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Read Isaiah 26:3

 Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

I love this song for its simple message. Look at Jesus. Go on, just look at Him! You’ll soon find that the things that arrested your attention and focus just seem to fade in importance.

So many things arrest our attention. In good seasons, we can be lulled into excess and pleasure, entwining our heart with what makes us happy. That’s idolatry. And it’s far less than the best God desires for you.

In difficult seasons, fear and anxiety can obstruct our view of God. We lose faith and hope dwindles because we’ve turned our eyes on our troubles.

How thrilling, then, that all this can melt away as we turn our eyes to look at Jesus.

Isaiah 26:3 puts it best: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Perfect peace is ours if we turn our eyes to Jesus and trust Him. So how do you do that?

  1. Get to know what He’s like.

 Read the gospels. Read what Jesus said, how He lived and acted. Be curious about the middle eastern man who came to our earth to love and save us.

  1. Make it personal.

 The gospels are history books. But the main character is still alive. He’s with you. If He changed Peter’s life, then, today, He can change yours. If He embraced Mary in the midst of her mess, He’ll embrace you, too. If He raised Lazarus to life, He can resurrect what’s dead in your life, too.

So, look at Him full in the face today. Perhaps, take a quiet moment to ask the Lord to sanctify your imagination (or as Ephesians 1:18 says “enlighten the eyes of your heart”) and help you picture the face of Jesus that you know from the scriptures. Imagine looking into His eyes. What are His eyes telling you today?

I’ve looked into those eyes a lot this past year during the hardest times. They’ve told me: “You’re loved. You’re cherished. To me, you were worth the price.”

Ben Framstad

December 3 – The Songs We Sing – “This I Believe”

Read John 3:16

So often when we encounter difficult times as we have this past year, it becomes difficult for us to see the way out, to see the good.  We can quickly lose sight of all that we know about God and have experienced with Him throughout our lives.  I often have to remind myself that sometimes all I need is the simplest reminder of what God has done for us.

Especially for those of us that have been followers for a long time, we can hear someone recite John 3:16 and think, “Well, that’s so elementary, of course I know that.”  It’s often through just reading that scripture that many of us gain perspective needed to make it through difficult times.

“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.”

What a simple and amazing reminder for us that, no matter what is happening around us, the God of the entire universe cared enough about us that He made a way for us to have eternal life, to not be bound by this world.  We aren’t bound by money, relationships, sickness, and sin.

That scripture also reminds me of a song that I often turn to when I need a little inspiration and reminder of the hope Christ brings. It’s a song of proclamation by Hillsong Church called This I Believe (the creed).  It proclaims the truths we know about God, that He’s everlasting and the Creator of all.  I like to sing along to the chorus that says, “I believe in God the Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, Our God is three in One.  I believe in the resurrection, that we will rise again, for I believe in the name of Jesus.”

Whenever things seem dark and God seems distant, I encourage you to find this song and sing it as a song of hope and a reminder of what God has done for all of us.  If you are like me, it will give you strength and courage in what seems like such a world of darkness.

Spencer Putney

December 2 – The Songs We Sing – “Holy Ground”

Read Exodus 33:18; John 11:40; 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 8:36; Romans 8:1-39

Listen to Holy Ground by Passion

In your time of worship, what do you see? Is there a visual that comes to your mind? Is there truth that pops out as the words fill your heart, mind and mouth? For me, it is a visual of walking into the Lord’s throne room and standing before Him, surrendering all I am and all I have.

It is my honor and pleasure and blessing to be a worship leader for our church. Every morning that I am on the worship team, I pray that the Lord’s will and truth shine brighter for all of us. That we can approach with open hands and surrender everything that is holding us back from being the person He has created us to be. I pray that we can go before the Lord, stand in front of Him, and remember the place where He met us, remember all He has done for us, and worship with the end in mind.

This song, you could probably say, is my heart’s song. The words, the truth it brings forth is a song that the Lord has used over and over again to remind me that He is accessible, that He has won this war. There is victory because Jesus changes everything from the inside out.

Here as we wait
Seek Your face
Come and make Your throne upon our praise
Here in this place
Have Your way
The moment that we see You, we are changed

Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
In wonder and surrender we fall down
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
Let every burning heart be holy ground

Can you picture Moses? These words remind me, that when God shows up, nothing looks the same. That unlike ancient Israel, we are able to be in the Lord’s presence and not be struck to the ground by the power. He welcomes us in and changes our perspective, our wants and desires, and we become the holy ground He resides in to use as we walk this life.

Here, not by power
Not by might
But only by the cross we come alive
Here, we’re undone
By heaven’s love revealed before our eyes

We were once the walking dead. Then Jesus came and brought us back to life and disrupted our lives in the most beautiful way. With Jesus, we are able to see with hope and light in mind. We can see what is to come.

Chains fall
Fear bow
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything
Lives healed
Hope found
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything

 I think this bridge sets the tone and realization of the power that Jesus has.

He has broken the chains that bind us.

He has replaced fear with surrender, knowing He is in control and is good.

He has healed countless lives from addiction, loss, wandering and heartache.

He is our HOPE.

Listen to this song again and I challenge you to approach the Lord with open hands in surrender.

I challenge you to give up the things that bind you.

I challenge you to focus on the truth that He loves you and is good.

Praise Him for He is good.

He changes everything.

Kelly Lawson

December 1 – The Songs We Sing – “Build My Life”

Read 1 Peter 2:4-10 and Ephesians 3:16-21

When I sing this song, my mind dives into the depths of my memories of God’s words. I see a house being built of living stones. I see Jesus, The Capstone, reigning over this house.

This is where I get to live. By God’s grace, there are many living bricks in my house. Some have cracks that have been mudded back together by my forgiving Savior. Some are rock solid, built on faith and surrender. Then there’s a yard full of scattered, broken bricks that were full of myself, my plans, my people, my reliance’s on things, rather than on my God.

He is generous, isn’t He? He is worthy of our full assurance and trust. We can count on Him. We can build on Him, the Rock. Even in the darkest of times we can remember His faithfulness and cling to His promises.

It seems God likes this building process or maybe it’s more that He expects it from His children. He knows our weaknesses, the pull of our flesh, and the deception of our enemy. Through faith we become His in an instant. But becoming like Him takes surrender and time. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces. What I love the most is that the offer to admit my sin and get back up is always on the table. He never removes the invitation to follow him.

How can we get back up? How can we let go of the shame and believe this offer is for us?

His love.

Does it seem firm to you or a bit squishy? Maybe your life has been full of fickle ‘love.’ It’s hard to imagine a firm love that we can rely on. We aren’t all that lovable. I know I’m not.

But this love doesn’t rely on our lovableness, it relies on the grace of God. We can’t shake it, ruin it, or shove it away. It hovers over us and invites us to believe it’s not too good to be true.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us (1 John 4:15-16).

That word ‘rely’ boils it all down in a hurry, doesn’t it? Are we relying on the love of God or our own ability to get it right?

I will build my life upon your love

It is a firm foundation

I will put my trust in you alone

And I will not be shaken

I love the ‘I will not be shaken’ phrase. I long for stability. For strength. For consistency. And God offers it through a life rooted and established in His love.

Father, help us grasp the width, the length, the height and depth of your love. May we know your love that surpasses knowledge. May we be filled to the measure of all of your fullness, for your glory, now and forever! Amen.

Shelly Eberly

November 30 – The Songs We Sing – “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Read Lamentations 3:21-24

 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” is probably one of my favorite hymns.

It stirs memories from my childhood, singing while sitting in the second row on the piano side of the Sanctuary (where we sat every single Sunday).  This song also brings a memory to mind when sitting with a family years ago as they were saying goodbye to a family member who would be with Jesus soon and recalling the line “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (from verse 2 of the hymn).  That line brought them comfort during that difficult season.  I can still hear the way certain pianists would play the hymn or the way one congregation might sing it slightly differently than another.  In our traditional venue, I am reminded of what the choir and orchestra sound like together as they lead this hymn during worship.

Music draws me into my relationship with Jesus in a deep personal way.  Music draws me to those that I sing with and becomes a unique connection that binds me to my faith.  I could probably sit here, typing away, sharing memories throughout my life and most all of them would be connected to a song somehow.  I am so grateful that God gave us music to express ourselves.  For me, in the best of times and the worst of times, it is music that brings me to the foot of the cross and allows me to communicate with our Lord and Savior.

Jeremiah, the writer of Lamentations, starts out chapter 3 crying out to God with a series of worry and concern.  However, when he gets to verse 21, he says this:

“Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.  Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.’”

Lamentations 3:21-24

Jeremiah never let go of hope.  He never doubted the truth that God’s compassion doesn’t fail and that, indeed, God is great and He is faithful.  No matter what is going on in our lives, through Christ, we have hope.  Hope never goes away.  It is new every morning.  God is faithful.  The words of the hymn are so very true: “all I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.”

Music is my outlet that brings me close to Jesus.  But it’s the lyrics, not the singing that draws me close to Him.  It’s the message behind the lyrics that speak deeply to my soul.  It’s the fact that I can rest in knowing that God is there.  He shows Himself to me through the creativity of this world.  Some of us see that most strongly in art, in nature, or in others.  It’s all part of His creation.  It all belongs to God and comes from God.  That brings me hope.  That brings me peace.  That is where I rest.  God is indeed active in our world.

Where do you see His faithfulness?

Heather Pasteur

November 29 – The Songs We Sing – “You Keep Hope Alive”

Read 1 Peter 1:3-9

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3

Watch or listen:

As one of the worship leaders on staff at Grace Church, I tend to get a lot of songs shared with me. While I can’t always get to all of them and many might not make it into our services, I’m encouraged by how God is using music to inspire our people! Recently, one of our newer team members texted me a link to this song and promised that I’d be sold on it because of “tasty guitar licks” (a phrase that probably sounds odd to everyone except guitar players). After a few listens, I was drawn in to this song, and it wasn’t because of guitar licks! This song came at just the right time. Weekend of Hope was quickly approaching. I realized that our set didn’t include a single song that clearly mentioned HOPE!

This was the one!

You know, we throw around the verb “hope” pretty easily.

“I hope I get this job.”
“I hope that she’s not mad when she finds out.”
“I hope my kids turn out ok.”

The phrase “fingers crossed” comes to mind when I think about these statements. There’s not much confidence in what we are saying, just a statement of desire.

This is not the “hope” we see in our passage today. This is not the hope that Jon Reddick sings about in this song. Peter tells us that God has given us a “living hope” because Jesus rose from the grave! This hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. We confidently look forward to eternal life with Jesus because we know with certainty that He already defeated death. He proved that whatever He promises is a done deal. When we know for certain that eternal life in glory with Jesus is waiting for us, the troubles and trials of today don’t have to defeat us. Why would we let something temporary tear us down when we have HOPE in the One who already won the greatest battle of all?

You keep hope alive, you keep hope alive

From beginning to end your word never fails

You keep hope alive, because you are alive

Jesus you are alive

No matter what this world and this life (or simply 2020) may throw at us. Jesus keeps hope alive because He is alive. As long as we continue to place our faith in the resurrection of Jesus, our hope can’t be killed by the trials we face.

There’s hope in the breaking

Hope in the sorry

Hope in this moment

My hope for tomorrow!

Are you in need of hope like this today? Have you ever found true hope by placing your faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus? If the answer is no, you don’t have to go one more second without hope! Confess your sin and need for a savior to Jesus! Choose to believe in His resurrection and surrender your life to Him!

Experience real hope right now!

Or perhaps you need to reaffirm the hope you have in Jesus. Pray and ask God to strengthen your faith and renew your hope. Walk confidently in that living hope we have because HE IS ALIVE!

Matt Carter

PS- If you can watch the video, pay close attention to the passion that the band is displaying. Their hope is on full display! I was especially struck by the drummer! She’s leading worship…she believes what she’s singing and playing!

November 28 – The Songs We Sing – “It Is Well with My Soul!”

Read Isaiah 26:3-4 and Colossians 2:14

I like when things go well… like the project I’m working on goes according to plan, the people in my family are healthy and my friends are in a good place.  Sometimes, God allows trials in our life. You are probably familiar with the song “It is Well with My Soul.” The song was originally a poem penned by Horatio Spafford back in 1876.

The story behind the poem was that Horatio’s wife and 4 daughters were traveling across the Atlantic Ocean when their ship collided with another vessel and sank.  In the accident, all 4 of Horatio’s daughters died.

In the aftermath of the accident, instead of bitterness and anger, there was peace as Horatio knew his children were with Jesus.  Over the next few years he penned the lyrics to the song we sing in difficult times.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “it is well, it is well with my soul.”

What I love about this song is that each verse tells a story.  Verse one reminds me of God’s perfect peace we read about in Isaiah 26:3,4. (This would be a great time to read Isaiah 26:3,4 and thank Jesus for the perfect peace He offers).

Verse three is my favorite…

“My sin O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole.  Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord O my soul.”

In these words, Horatio refers to Colossians 2:14 where Paul writes that God has cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, He took it all away, nailing it to the cross.  This is the very reason Horatio could have that perfect peace.  I love this! I love the idea that I don’t have to shoulder my sins but God has gathered them up, placed them on the very body of the sacrificial lamb – Jesus Christ – and has taken them as far as the east is from the west!  Unbelievable!  (This is a great moment to stop and thank Jesus for His sacrifice for us.)

The last verse is wrapped up in triumph.

“And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend

Even so, it is well with my soul”

One day, those who call Jesus their Savior and Lord will have their faith rewarded as we will be standing in the presence of our King. I Peter 1:9 says it so well: “For you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (This would be a great time to give Jesus praise for His power and for the place that He is preparing.)

So, the next time you are facing an impossible situation, remember we serve a God who provides perfect peace through His blood shed for us and promises an incredible eternity in His presence.

Randy Moomaw