Tag Archives: Jars of Clay

Life Is Fragile – A Poem of Hope

This mortal life is fragile
housed in these jars of clay

Here we are living the good life
then at the end of the day
we may be struck down, bewildered
by the impermanence of our stay

Yet we know we are not abandoned
by the Truth, the Life, and the Way
The life He promised is eternal
as for grace and mercy we pray

This mortal life is fragile
yet He lives in these jars of clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NIV).

A dear friend is in the hospital in critical condition due to complications from a routine surgery. He was supposed to be in and out in a day, but he is likely to be in the hospital for 2 to 3 weeks. It got me thinking about the fragility of life, and this passage from Corinthians came to mind. As I read it, I was reminded of my friend’s strong faith in Jesus and the comfort that comes from knowing he is in the hands of the Great Physician.

9/24/13 Update: My friend is now home after 10 weeks in the hospital and rehab. He still has a long way to go, but has made great progress. I’ve decided to share this poem for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night today in celebration of the power of prayer in my friend’s recovery.

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Jesus Is All My Righteousness

I seem to have had a bit of writer’s block lately, which is why I haven’t posted as much as usual in the past few weeks. I think it is because I’ve had a lot on my mind and have been very busy at work and at home.

This morning I was listening to Jars of Clay Redemption Songs on my way to work and I decided I wanted to share one of my favorite songs from that album. It’s called Nothing but the Blood of Jesus and has the Blind Boys of Alabama as back-up singers.

I love this song because it reminds me of how thankful I am that the blood of Jesus has washed away my sin and that in Him is all my righteousness (which is good, because I don’t have much of my own). I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do. And don’t fret, God will give me inspiration to write again soon. He’s kind of awesome like that.

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Along This Road – A Poem

As I was thinking about the post I wrote for yesterday about the Road to Emmaus, the first stanza of this poem came to me. I decided to share it as my Thankful Thursday post because I am thankful for all that is written about Jesus throughout the Bible so that we can know Jesus better. I am thankful that when I was lost on this road of life and felt quite alone, God sent people to travel with me and to point me to the truth of the Bible and the truth of Jesus’ love.

Along This Road

Along this road of life I walked
Feelings of despair
Overwhelmed my every thought
My heart had been laid bare

I knew You once upon a time
But now You were not there
I longed to find You on this road
To look I knew not where

By some means I lost You
Of Your leaving I was unaware
It was as if You disappeared
Vanished into thin air

Along this road of life I walked
Then someone came and shared
About where I could find You
He deeply loved and cared

He showed me all that’s written
The ancient words so fair
He assured me I would find You
With a simple heartfelt prayer

Now this road is joyous and light
My faith You did repair
Reminding me I’m a child of God
With You I am an heir

 As a bonus, since I didn’t post a music related post on Music Monday this week, I want to share this video of This Road by Jars of Clay.

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More Hope for the Hopeless

Last week I devoted my Music Monday post to a playlist of “music that is particularly helpful to people who are in less than hopeful situations.” I ran out of time to create a complete list of my favorite encouraging songs, so today I’m posting part two of my list. The songs on this list are ones that recognize that we all go through struggles and challenges in life, but that God is there as our hope and our refuge in times of trouble. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.

Once again I’ve linked to a YouTube video of each song instead of embedding the video so that this post doesn’t become unwieldy and overly long. Each video will open in a new window or tab of your browser so this page will remain open and easy to get back to.

By Audio Adrenaline

By Casting Crowns

By Jars of Clay

By Sanctus Real

By Third Day

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When Did Pride Become a Virtue?

Yesterday I was listening to my iPod on shuffle and the old hymn “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love” sung by Jars of Clay came on. It’s a pretty good hymn, all about unity among Christians and, as the title suggests, how other will know that we are Christians by the love we show each other and other people. But there is one line in this otherwise beautiful hymn that has always kind of bothered me. In the second verse is the line, “And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.” Whenever I hear it I wonder why would we save each person’s pride? When did pride become something to save or desire? When did pride become a virtue?

At Dictionary.com I found the following about the noun “pride,” its synonyms, and its one antonym:

Synonyms
1. Pride, conceit, self-esteem, egotism, vanity, vainglory imply an unduly favorable idea of one’s own appearance, advantages, achievements, etc., and often apply to offensive characteristics. Pride is a lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority in some respect: Pride must have a fall. Conceit implies an exaggerated estimate of one’s own abilities or attainments, together with pride: blinded by conceit. Self-esteem may imply an estimate of oneself that is higher than that held by others: a ridiculous self-esteem. Egotism implies an excessive preoccupation with oneself or with one’s own concerns, usually but not always accompanied by pride or conceit: His egotism blinded him to others’ difficulties. Vanity implies self-admiration and an excessive desire to be admired by others: His vanity was easily flattered. Vainglory, somewhat literary, implies an inordinate and therefore empty or unjustified pride: puffed up by vainglory.

Antonyms
1.  humility.

And yet, pride is often itself lifted up as a virtue. We are proud to be Americans (there’s even a song about that). We are proud of our educational achievements (with all those letters after our names). We are proud of our charitable activities (loving to pat ourselves on the back for being so generous and Christ-like). We are proud of our honor students (there’s even a bumper sticker for that). We strut our pride as if the accomplishments and characteristics we are proud of are of our own making and design.

The problem with pride, as I see it, is it leaves out God’s immeasurable contribution to the blessings we enjoy. Let’s look just at being proud to be an American. For most of us, we did nothing to accomplish this. It is a matter of where we were born, which was determined by where our parents lived at the time, which they in turn may not truly have had much control over. Rather than saying “I’m proud to be in American,” wouldn’t it be better to say “I am blessed to be an American”? Or better yet, “I am humbled to have the good fortune to be an American”? It is by God’s grace that I live where I do and to Him belongs the glory, not me.

I did a Biblegateway.com search for the words pride and proud throughout the whole Bible. Pride appears 63 times and proud appears 47 times in the NIV, and for the most part they are not viewed as a virtue but as a sinful condition of the heart. It is only in the New Testament when the pride of believers is in Christ alone and not in themselves that the word pride finds an acceptable usage on our tongues.

The prophets Obadiah and Hosea wrote of the evils of pride. Pride is deceptive, and the proud forget their God.

“The pride of your heart has deceived you,
   you who live in the clefts of the rocks
   and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
   ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
   and make your nest among the stars,
   from there I will bring you down,”
            declares the LORD.
Obadiah 1:3-4 (NIV).

I cared for you in the desert,
   in the land of burning heat.
When I fed them, they were satisfied;
   when they were satisfied, they became proud;
   then they forgot me.
Hosea 13:5-6 (NIV).

But I love the antonym of pride, and that is humility. The word humble appears 71 times in the NIV. In each instance, humility brings blessing. Moses was selected by God for the work of freeing the Israelites because he was humble. Numbers 12:3. Ahab was saved from disaster because he humbled himself before God. 1 Kings 21:29. The Lord heals and forgives the sins of those who are humble. 2 Chronicles 7:14. God guides the humble. Psalm 25:9. He gives grace to those who are humble. Proverbs 3:34. Daniel was given great wisdom and visions from God because he was humble. Daniel 10:12. The Lord always lifts up and exalts those who humble themselves before Him. Luke 14:11.

It is easy to be deceived by pride, but it is not a virtue. Being prideful will not lead to blessing, but may instead ultimately lead to the loss of the greatest blessing of all. Humility, on the other hand, is a virtue that one can cling to and trust that good will come from being humble.

They will know we are Christians by our love, but they ought to also know we are Christians by our humility. We must never forget that all we have, all we are, all our accomplishments and blessings, are a gift from God and to Him belongs the glory.

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A Mother’s Love, God’s Love

I was listening to Jars of Clay the other day, and the song “Boys (Lesson One)” came on. It is such a beautiful song, and always makes me cry. The chorus and my favorite verse are:

You’ll weather love and
Lose your innocence

There will be liars
And thieves who take from you
Not to undermine the consequence
But you are not what you do
And when you need it most
I have a hundred reasons why I love you

The reason it makes me cry is because the thought that some day there will be liars and thieves who will take from my son breaks my heart. He will weather love and lose his innocence, I know that. My motherly instincts make me want to protect him from all the trials of life, but I know I can’t.

I do know, however, that God will always be with him. His faith will see him through the good times and the bad. The most important thing I can do as a mother is remind my son that I love him, and teach him that God loves him more than I ever could. I think sometimes it is hard for a mother to admit there is someone who could possibly love her son more than she does, but it’s true. God is love and His divine love is greater even than a mother’s love.

As I was listening to this song the other day, I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The pain in my heart when I ponder the trouble my son will experience in this life is nothing compared to what she must have felt knowing her son was the Son of God. She didn’t just believe Jesus was God’s one and only Son, she knew with all her heart, mind, and soul exactly who He was. She heard the message of Gabriel and knew that his explanation of how she, a virgin, would be with child was truth. Nothing could ever take that away from her. Luke records that after Jesus’ birth, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 (NIV).

I wonder what she thought when she heard Him, time and time again, predict that He would be betrayed and killed? How much did her heart break when liars and thieves took His very life? How did she feel watching Him carry His cross through the streets of Jerusalem towards Golgotha? What went through her mind as Jesus, hanging on the cross, told John to care for her as his own mother? Did she know that as much as she loved Jesus, His Father loved Him more? And that He loved us even more?

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Music Monday Extra – Nothing but the Blood

This is another hymn, written by Robert Lowry, recorded by Jars of Clay for their Redemption Songs CD. I thought it was an appropriate Music Monday Extra because it ties in with my post from this morning. It is a reminder that the sin of man would forever keep us in darkness and separated from God if not for the blood of Jesus, willingly shed for us.

If you want to read the lyrics and hear the original melody as written by Lowery, check it out on HymnSite.com. I love this version by Jars of Clay, though; and one of my favorite things about it is the background vocals by the Blind Boys of Alabama, another of my favorite bands. 

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Who Killed Jesus?

As we journey through Lent towards Easter, we must pass through Good Friday. There is joy in the resurrection of Easter, but first there is the pain of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

This time of year inevitably brings up the question, “Who killed Jesus?” I recently read an article on CNN’s Belief Blog about a new book by Pope Benedict XVI in which he says the Jews did not kill Jesus. My first thought when I saw the headline was, “Duh!” Having read the scriptures that prophecy the suffering of Jesus and what Jesus said about His crucifixion I have to wonder how anyone ever thought the Jews killed Jesus, and why it is news for the  Pope to say they didn’t.

But then I remember there have been centuries of confusion and lies,  perpetuated by the devil himself, pointing to the Jews as the ones who killed Jesus. These lies, based on picking out but a few verses and twisting them, are the source of years of anti-Semitism even in the church. It is sad, indeed, and so instead of stopping with my initial reaction I decided to write my own understanding of who killed Jesus. I’m sure I won’t get the same press or carry the same weight as the Pope, but if nothing else it will be a reminder to myself and my readers of why Jesus willingly died for our sins.

I first want to look at the Old Testament prophecy concerning Jesus suffering and death. The prophet Isaiah foretold the suffering and glory of God’s servant:

 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:4-12 (NIV).

Isaiah wrote these words almost 700 years before Jesus was born. It is one of my favorite sections of Old Testament scripture. These verses tell me a couple of things. First, it was for our sins and iniquities that Jesus was crucified. If it were not for the sin of mankind, the death of Jesus would have been unnecessary. So in one very important sense, it was you and I who killed Jesus.

Second, as verse 10 clearly states, it was God’s will that Jesus should die as an offering for our sin. So in another very important sense it was God Himself who was responsible for the death of Jesus. This is further supported by what Jesus Himself said:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18 (NIV).

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11 (NIV).

It was the love of God that crucified Christ to save sinful man. The Jewish leaders, to the extent they called for Jesus to be crucified, were but pawns in the divine plan of redemption. In the same way, Pilate was a pawn that made crucifixion, which was illegal for the Jews to carry out, the method of His death. And Judas, the betrayer of our Lord, was a pawn who fulfilled yet another prophecy concerning this grand plan to save us from darkness. But in terms of cause and effect, it was the sin of man that was the ultimate cause of Jesus’ death, the thing without which it would have never occurred because it would have been unnecessary.

There is a great old hymn written by Frederick W. Faber titled “O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile (Our Lord Is Crucified)”, and my favorite verse of that hymn is:

O break, O break hard heart of mine
My weak self love and guilty pride
His Pilate and his Judas were
Jesus our lord is crucified

Although Judas’ betrayal, Pilate’s decree, and the Jewish leaders’ call for Him to be crucified all played a part in making the death of Jesus a reality, my own selfishness and pride played an even bigger role. This knowledge of my own sinfulness and the love of God that overcame it to redeem me causes me to want to come and mourn for just awhile. During this season of Lent and especially on Good Friday I will indeed mourn that my Savior and my God had to endure such suffering because of me and you. I am thankful, though, that Easter and the resurrection are just around the corner and my mourning will not last forever.

In closing, I want to share with you the Jars of Clay version of “O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile (Our Lord Is Crucified).” May it draw you closer to the love of God.

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Music Monday Extra – Shelter

On the way home from work, listening to Jars of Clay, the song “Shelter” reminded me of how awesome it was to hear them sing this last night. This is a song about the community of believers. Not only do we have God to walk with us through this journey of life, we have fellow believers. We might be able to hold the hands of some, and others are only a bit of cyberspace away, but we are all on this journey together. We are called by Christ to love one another.

This is for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. In the shelter of each other we will never walk alone.

For some reason, the WordPress button to insert a video is not available, so click on the link below to watch this video on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoDmFQWOL4Y

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Worshipping Christ in Music

The Rock and Worship Roadshow in Portland was awesome! And for the most part, very loud!

The evening started with a wonderfully intimate session with Jars of Clay. Because we had VIP tickets, we were treated to an acoustic performance and a question & answer session in a small room below the Memorial Coliseum. There weren’t more than 60 people in the room. It was almost like we were just hanging out at a friends. The harmonies of this band are amazing. This was, by far, the best part of the evening.

One of the songs that they sang during this acoustic session was “Boys (Lesson One)” from their CD The Long Fall Back to Earth. Lead singer Dan Haseltine told the story behind the song, and it was very touching.

Then, because of our VIP tickets, we were in a reserved section on the floor for the main concert, and were in the second section from the stage. This is probably one of the reasons the concert was so loud where we were, since it had to also get to the people who stood in line for $10 nosebleed tickets in the back of the Coliseum.

The first band was an up-and-coming group called Anthem Lights. They actually played before the official start time of the concert and we missed part of their performance. But what we heard was very good, especially the song “Can’t Get Over You.” It was a catchy song that was easy to sing along to, and it was worshipful since the “You” that the song is talking about is Jesus.

The second band was The Afters. These guys were great! The lead singer told a great story about how Jesus has impacted his life and the lives of his family, especially his brother who was delivered from drug addiction through his faith. My favorite song that they played was “Light Up the Sky” with the chorus:

You light, light, light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me, You are with me
And I, I, I can’t deny
No I can’t deny that You are right here with me
You’ve opened my eyes so I can see You all around me
You light, light, light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me, You are with me

Next up was Matt Maher, who lead the whole crowd in some great standard praise and worship songs, though I must confess I don’t recall exactly what we sang.

So up to this point, it was kinda loud, but not too bad. Then Thousand Foot Krutch took the stage, and if I didn’t know better I might have thought I was at a Metallica concert or some other hard rock or heavy metal concert. But I know they are a Christian band, and I was wishing I knew the lyrics because you really couldn’t understand much what they were singing because it was so loud. I did catch the line in “Welcome to the Masquerade” that was “I’m not afraid, I’m not ashamed” and I’m pretty sure they were talking about the Gospel. Now, I actually like hard rock and heavy metal as a musical genre if the lyrics are good. So I decided by the end of their set that I wanted to check out their CDs and maybe get some of their music for my car and iPod.

Next up was Lecrae, a hip hop band. They were not only loud, that had that deep hip hop bass thing going on that made the floor vibrate. This is definitely not my style of music. But their message was awesome.

Finally, Jars of Clay took the stage. Their set was terrific, and they started with my favorite song “Two Hands.” But when they were done I found myself feeling even happier that we had experienced their acoustic set before the concert because it was such a different side of the band.

Throughout the concert, Bart Millard, the lead singer for MercyMe had taken the stage for various introductions and to talk about Compassion International child sponsorship. He seems so ordinary when he is up on stage just talking. Then MercyMe took the stage for their long-anticipated set. By this time it was 8:40 and technically there was only supposed to be 20 more minutes of the concert. But the band did not disappoint and played until just after 9:30. The best part of their set was when they sang “God With Us” and the whole Coliseum sang along:

 All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel
God with us

My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel
God with us

MercyMe played quite a few of the songs off The Generous Mr. Lovewell (though sadly not the title track), as well as some older favorites. Before singing “Beautiful,” Bart talked about how important it is for parents to make sure their kids, especially young girls, know that they are loved. At one point I was wishing he would stop talking and start singing, because I knew what song was coming; but then I realized that there might be someone in the Coliseum who needed to hear what he had to say.

One thing that I took away from this awesome night of rock and worship is that performers and fans can worship Christ through a wide variety of types of music. Whether it be mellow praise music, hip hop, heavy metal, or something in between, if the lyrics lift up Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, then it is worship music. Though one or more of these types of music may not be my preference, they may be just the music style that is needed to reach someone for Christ.

The other thing I took away was the reminder of how many believers there are and how awesome it is to be together with brothers and sisters in Christ whom we might not know personally, but we are all connected nonetheless because we worship One God!

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