My Life in Haiku

Part of my “rule of life” for 2020 is writing at least one Haiku poem each day. These short Japanese poems (3 lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 again in the 3rd) come out of my life. So hopefully, they give you a small taste of my life and encourage us all to see God’s wonder in our lives as we follow Jesus…

New Song: Goodness of God

It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when your life is easy.  But when you are facing serious disease, loss or death, it becomes a lot harder.  So many people end up in the desert of pain and suffering and cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When we lose a job or face a life crisis, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious disease, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When a loved one dies, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

The answer is “yes”.  God is good.  Let me give you three reasons…

  1.  God is good…in his being.  He is not evil.  He IS the definition of goodness.
  2.  He shows us his goodness in the way he gives and sustains life.  He shows us his goodness in the good gifts he gives.  He shows us his goodness in the way he showers us with mercy that we don’t deserve.  He would still be good if he didn’t do these things, but he chooses to show us his goodness.
  3.  Not only that, in the midst of pain, God comes close.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote that God is good because in the storm of pain and suffering, he comes closer to us than the storm could ever be.

Because of that, we can sing these words.  We might have tears running down our face, but we can still sing these words.  The first verse comes straight from the psalms and looks back at our lives so far…

Verse 1
I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me 
(I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. -Psalm 116:1)
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
(Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. -Psalm 31:5)
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
(I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. -Psalm 3:5)
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
(I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:6)
The chorus, also from the psalms, expands the theme musically and names God as the FAITHFUL one…
Chorus
And all my life You have been faithful
(Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. -Psalm 36:5)
And all my life You have been so, so good
(For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. -Psalm 100:5)
With every breath that I am able
(Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.-Psalm 150:6)
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
(I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:6)
God is not silent.  He has spoken through his Word and now uses the Holy Spirit to illuminate his Word to apply it to our lives in dark times…
Verse 2
I love Your voice
(The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.-Psalm 29:4)
You have led me through the fire
(When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:2)
And in darkest night You are close like no other
(Your hand will guide meeven the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. -Psalm 139:10, 12)
I’ve known You as a Father
(Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…-Matthew 6:9)
I’ve known You as a Friend
(You are my friends if you do what I command…I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. -John 15:14, 15)
And I have lived in the goodness of God.
So is God’s goodness pursuing us, like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son?  Or, is God’s goodness following us like it says in the 23rd Psalm?  I think the answer is yes.  It’s both.  God’s mercy is pursuing us and His goodness continues to follow us when we know Him.  What this bridge shows me is that this goodness, this mercy demands a response.  Am I willing to lay down my life for my christian brothers and sisters?  Am I willing to give up everything for Jesus?  Am I willing to do that because of his great goodness to me?
Bridge
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
(…While [the Prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. -Luke 15:20)
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
(Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. -Psalm 23:6)
With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now
(This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. -1 John 3:16
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.-James 4:7)
I give You everything
(Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.-Luke 17:27, 33)
‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.

Like I said before, it’s easy to sing about God’s goodness in general terms, but after living through some hard stuff, I can say, “yes” I want to lay down my life and sing about the goodness of God that is running after, running after me…

New Song: New Name Written Down in Glory

When your name is changed in the Bible, it indicates that there has been a change of status.  The person has not only been given a new name by God, their core-identity has changed too.  We see it throughout the Scriptures…

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.

His wife Sarai was changed to Sarah.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was given the name Israel.

Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus.

And then famously, Saul saw Jesus on the road and became Paul.

We also are given a new “core-identity”, but it is an identity that was designed for us by God before we were born and is written down in heaven.  Jesus told his disciples that this was more important than casting our demons!  He said,

…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. -Luke 10:20

Charles Austin Miles originally wrote a song with the title A New Name Written Down in Glory back in 1910.  He had already aban­don­ed his ca­reer as a phar­ma­cist and had become a gospel song writer.  Our new song by People&Songs is loosely based on Miles’ song.  In fact, there is only one line that carries over…

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!

BUT there is an important difference.  Miles’ song suggested that your name was written down in glory at the time of your salvation.  But Revelation tells us something different.  It says,

The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished… -Revelation 17:8

So before “the creation of the world”, your name was already written in the book of life.  But let’s jump in and see how our name (core-identity) is changed and what that means…
Verse 1: I was lost in shame
Could not get past my blame
Until He called my name
I’m so glad He changed me

Sin, shame and blame entered our world after the Fall, but he calls us by a “new name”.  As God says to Israel,

…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. -Isaiah 62:2b

Darkness held me down
But Jesus pulled me out
I’m no longer bound
I’m so glad He changed me

Just so you know, most of the metaphors in this song (darkness, blindness, light, freedom from prison) are from Isaiah 42:7.  Jesus later read this passage and said that he fulfilled it.  Jesus is…

…A light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. -Isaiah 42:7

But the core of this song is about identity.  Let’s get back to it.  The pre-chorus is almost verbatim from 2 Corinthians!
Pre-Chorus: See I’m, now a new creation in Christ
The old has gone, there’s new life
I live by faith, not by sight
Or as the Bible says…

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

For we live by faith, not by sight. –2 Corinthians 5:7

And then we hit the chorus.  We’ve already talked about the first two lines that come from Charles Miles…
Chorus: There is a new name written down in glory
And it’s mine, yes, it’s mine
I’ve met the author of my story
And He’s mine, yes, He’s mine

Did you catch the last two lines?  They come directly from Hebrews and affirm that Jesus has already written our life’s story with both a beginning and end.  Hebrews 12 says we are,

…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Verse 2: Sin had left me blind
But Jesus opened my eyes
Now I can see the light
I’m so glad He changed me

BIBLE GEEK SIDENOTE!  I find it so interesting tracking themes through the scriptures.  The first time that we find the phrase “eyes were opened” is after Adam and Eve fall into sin and shame…

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…-Genesis 3:7

But when Jesus quotes Isaiah, he tells us that he came to “open eyes”.  Not only that, when he appears to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus we read,

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him[Jesus]…-Luke 24:31

So it seems that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to sin and that is really blindness.  We THINK we can see clearly, but we only see who we are AFTER Jesus opens our eyes.  That was just a side-note…back to the song…
Now I’m walking free
I’ve got the victory
See it’s all over me
I’m so glad He changed me
Lastly, the bridge tells us that the I AM defines who we are.  But who is the I AM?  Back in Exodus, God gives tells Moses that this is his name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” -Exodus 3:14

Later, Jesus claims to be the same I AM…

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” -John 8:58

So God is the great I AM, but what are we?  In his book, “Who Am I?:Identity in Christ”, author Jerry Bridges answers this question by pointing us to scripture.  He says there are 8 ways to biblically define ourselves.  These 8 “I am…” statements are:

I Am Created.  I Am in Christ.  I Am Justified.  I Am an Adopted Son/Daughter of God.  I Am a New Creation.  I Am a Saint.  I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ.  I Am Not Yet Perfect.

In other words,

Bridge:  I am who I am because the I AM tells me who I am.

Worship is a means through which we can see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and come into contact with the infinite. Therefore the arts can mediate the message of Christ and minister to me in the depth of my being. . . . The future of the arts in worship, I believe, holds considerable promise for us in our continued discovery of worship as a verb.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Good art “speaks to me. It makes me listen. It forms me.” . . . Somehow the art in worship surrounds me and gathers me up into itself. Like music, it enters into my soul and abides there. During the week it becomes a dominant image in my experience and pulls me to dwell on the theme and allows the theme to dwell in me. In this way, it forms me and energizes my spiritual pilgrimage.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

The function of art in worship is similar to the role of the clean house, the beautifully decorated dining room, and the lovingly prepared meal in a birthday celebration. It embodies the occasion in such a way that the event is served. Just as the house, the table, and the food [turns a] birthday into a special occasion, so art forms turn worship into a special event, serving it, assisting it, creating it.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

New Song: Who You Say I Am

We’ve already been singing it for a few weeks, but I still want to walk us through the biblical basis for our new song, “Who You Say I Am”.  The writers have said that the theme is taken from John 8 which talks about how we will know, the truth and the truth will set us free.  Or in their words,

“It’s a real declaration of identity.”

The first line asks the rhetorical question, “who am I”?  David prays this in 2 Sam 7:18 when he says, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  But this is also a theme that found in Psalm 8 and the book of Job.  Think about it!  In light of the vast creation, why are we so special that God would want us?  This is an invitation to wonder…

Verse 1:
Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
We are lost…you know that, right?…and that is a major theme in Jesus’ stories:  the story of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son.  But this is not just a random story.  It is our story.  It is your story.  His love is for YOU.  As Jesus said himself, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.
Chorus:
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
One of the things I love about the song is the reference to adoption.  Don’t miss this!  You are NOT a  natural son or daughter.  God adopted you as his child.  And if you wondering where he says that, check out John 1:12-13, John 14:18, Romans 8:14-17, Romans 8:23, Romans 9:1-8, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5-7, Ephesians 1:3-14, Ephesians 2:11-22, Hebrews 9:15, and 1 John 3:1-3!
Verse 2:
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep

I know we’re not done w/ the verse yet, but I wanted to point something out.  We are adopted into the family of God, but it wasn’t free.  Someone had to buy us back from slavery.  God paid the price with the blood of his Son.

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ… -1 Peter 1:18-19a

Moving on…

While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

We were slaves to sin.  That comes directly from the Word of God.  Sometimes it’s good to remember that this is God’s truth we are singing!

…you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. -Galatians 4:7

Bridge:
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am

It’s such a simple line, but don’t take for granted that you have been chosen.  Matthew records these words that might be hard to hear, but are true.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” -Matthew 22:14

Few are chosen.  And not only are you chosen, you are not forsaken.  But that makes me ask, who is forsaken?  The answer might surprise you.  It’s Jesus.  He chose to be forsaken by the Father so you never have to experience what that is like.  In fact, on the cross he cried out,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Mark 15:34

And as Paul says,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31

The only thing to do is accept the identity that God has given you and live for him.  You are a child of God.

You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am

If you want to hear the story behind the song.  Check this out…

The Unofficial Israel Tour – The Gates of Dan

A city’s gate was one of the centers for public life. It was also the easiest way for an attacker to gain access. Let’s visit the excavated city gates of Dan that illustrate life in Old Testament times…

Psalm 28-At Caesarea Philippi

We shot this video at Caesarea Philippi because the word we translate as “rock” in English is better understood as a cleft in a cliff. This is Psalm 28.