"Wake Up" Devotional

As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the fifth in that series.

"Out" by  Mandy Thompson  Used with permission.

"Out" by Mandy Thompson Used with permission.

DEVOTIONAL

SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Corinthians 15
Devotional by Nick Smith, Family Pastor at White Rock Fellowship in Dallas, Texas

Few Christians today, if any, would deny the resurrection of Christ like some were doing in Paul’s day – Paul pretty well put that debate to rest with this passage. Our lives, though, oftentimes tell a different story. Even though we give mental and verbal assent to the resurrection of Christ as a propositional truth, we often live more like Epicureans focused on present pleasure than like Christians focused on eternal rewards secured by the resurrection of Christ. We are distracted by the pursuit of comfort and material blessing in this life instead of fixing our gaze upon the eternal glory that awaits us and far outweighs anything this life can offer.

But let’s back up for a second. As Paul says, if this life is the end of the story, then pursuing happiness in this life is exactly what we should do. Instead of following Christ, we should “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” In fact, Christians should be pitied. Why? Because following Christ is a call to death that makes no sense without the promise of a greater reward in eternity. And, as Paul’s logic lays out for us, if there is no resurrection, then there is no eternal life and no reason to live for anything beyond the present. Our faith is worthless. There is no Gospel. So, we may as well, like the Epicureans, live it up now, seeking as much pleasure and comfort as we can get. (See vv. 12-19, 32). 

But, if Christ was resurrected, then everything changes. Our faith is not futile. Sin is abolished. The curse is removed. Life eternal is procured. And, living for Christ makes all the sense in the world! As a result, no longer do we need to seek ultimate comfort in this life. Instead, we are empowered to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33). Our gaze can shift towards that day when Christ will return and the kingdom of God will be consummated. We do not have to waver in our work for the Lord because we know it is not in vain. No matter what discomfort or suffering or tribulation comes our way as we “work” for the Lord, we know a far better day awaits us than this temporary prelude. We deny ourselves comfort in the present because - in the twinkling of an eye - the trumpet will sound and all things will be made new! (See vv. 20-26, 51-58).

We do not know exactly what the resurrection will be like, but Paul tells us that what is currently perishing will be raised imperishable; what is currently sown in dishonor will be raised in glory; what is currently sown in weakness will be raised in power. Paul is not implying that our spiritual souls will fly away to some ethereal heaven as a non-physical, Platonic sort of being. Rather, our physical bodies will be perfected, raised in glory and power. (See vv. 35-49). Until that day comes, we will undoubtedly struggle in our flesh and be tempted to get distracted by the concerns of this world. We must wage war against these desires, but we need not despair when we stumble. We can rest in the grace of God and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify us, waking us up more and more to the glorious truth we find in 1 Corinthians 15. 

So, as we wait for that glorious day, to my slumbering soul that is so quick to wander, I say...Wake up, wake up, listen for the trumpet sound! Live right now in light of the resurrection! For, as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

FOR REFLECTION:

  1. What concerns or fears in the present hold you back from living with reckless abandon for God?

  2. Meditate on the truth that one day we will be raised immortal with Christ to live eternally. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. How does that change the way you look at your current life? 

LYRICS

Through one man death it came
Running like a virus through our veins
Sin it comes and takes the reigns
Builds its kingdom on the backs of slaves

Through a second man Adam’s better son
Death it dies, and life it comes
Every power under his feet
Death is dyin’ in defeat

Wake up, wake up
And listen for the trumpet sound
For a dead man rose up from the ground!
Rise up, rise up you dry bones in the dirt
For the Son of God has risen up first!

I tell you this mystery
Death itself will lose its sting
When the dying dress in the deathless life
And we are changed in the twinkle of an eye

Sown in weakness, raised in power
Sown in dust, death and dishonor
Raised immortal, never again to die
Death is swallowed by life 

"He is Risen" Devotional & Song Story

As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the fourth in that series.

“Resurrection” by  Jim LePage . Used with permission. 

“Resurrection” by Jim LePage. Used with permission. 

DEVOTIONAL

Scripture Reading:
John 20, Romans 3:23-26, 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 10:19-22, 1 Peter 1:3-5. 
Devotional by Jonathan Hicks, Pastor of Groups at Highland Park Pres in Dallas, TX

As Christians, we often take Jesus’ resurrection for granted. We have heard about it so many times that we repeat the words “Jesus is risen” mindlessly. They glide through our minds so often that maybe they don’t sink into our hearts.

Today our everyday language has become so full of hyperbole we are left scrambling for superlatives when we finally come across something worthy of them. Surely, we must start by saying the Resurrection is truly miraculous. Jesus was crucified. He died painfully and fully (this was not a Princess Bride case of being “mostly dead”). We can only imagine the despair, fear, and confusion that Jesus’ followers felt at his death. “How could he die?” “He was supposed to be the Messiah.” “Has God’s plan been thwarted?” The Church now celebrates the days when Jesus lay in the grave as “Good Friday” and “Holy Saturday,” but as the disciples lived them they were dark and hopeless days.

I once attended an Episcopal Holy Saturday service. For the first hour and a half of the service, the church was dimly lit and the mood was somber. We heard readings from the Old Testament about how God would deliver His people and send a Savior. And we waited (not always patiently). Finally, the moment came when the priest stood up and boomed, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” Even with no microphone, these words echoed forth. The congregation responded back, “The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Then, all the people in the congregation pulled out bells and rang them loudly exclaiming “Alleluia!” (meaning “Praise God”) as if they were hearing for the first time the news that Jesus has risen. The sudden noise of shouts and bells surprised my wife and I. It was a vivid reminder of the amazing truth that Jesus is indeed risen.

That whole service had been building in anticipation to the moment where we rejoiced at Jesus’ resurrection. Because if we do not remember the hopelessness of when Jesus lay in the grave, we will not understand the indescribable joy and hope of His resurrection. God’s plan was not thwarted, quite the opposite. Instead once and for all Jesus struck down sin and death, and secured new life for us.

The Resurrection is essential to what we believe as Christians. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, then we are still in our sins and our faith is futile. Jesus’ resurrection testifies that Jesus was God and that He was able to pay the infinite penalty that our sins deserved. It is also the testament to Jesus’ ultimate victory of death. And if Jesus has been raised, then all of us who are in Christ will one day also be raised with him. Death does not have the last word. Jesus has spoken and said that he is coming back and we will one day see him face to face. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

FOR REFLECTION:

  1. Why is the Resurrection of Christ essential to Gospel and therefore to the hope that we share as Christians?

  2. Read through John 19-20 as if you were there with the disciples. What would you have felt when at the news of Jesus’ death? What about when you heard (and then saw) that Jesus had risen from the grave? 


LYRICS

He is risen, He is risen,
And the stone is rolled away
He is risen, He is risen,
Proven by the empty grave

Touch his wounds, his hands, his sides,
And leave all your doubts behind
He is risen, He is risen, He is risen and alive!

Death is beaten, sin is vanquished,
God’s just wrath is satisfied
Christ is risen, Christ exalted,
Seated at the Father’s side

His body torn, our living way,
Our living hope, His body raised
He is risen, He is risen,
He is risen from the grave!

He is risen, He is risen,
This is all my hope and stay
He is risen, He is risen,
He is risen from the grave!

Jesus risen is returning,
We are longing for the day
When the King will bring the kingdom,
For this blessed hope we wait

The trumpet sounds and we are changed,
And we will see him face to face
Jesus risen, Jesus risen,
Jesus risen from the grave

The trumpet sounds and we are changed,
And death itself will pass away
We are risen, with him risen,
Fully risen from the grave
We are risen, with him risen,
We are risen from the grave

Written March 29, 2012
Words and music by Caroline Cobb


SONG STORY

I wrote this song when I was 7 months pregnant with Harrison. I was literally “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” when I nailed down the first version of this song, which I think is pretty hilarious. I also posted a video of myself singing this song - huge pregnant - on YouTube. Bad idea?

At this point, the Kickstarter campaign had finished up, and I was whittling down the songs that would go on the album. I knew that the album would tell the story of redemption, but I was missing a song about the resurrection (kind of a key event, right!?). I had written one other song about it, but didn’t feel like it was strong enough.

Most of the songs for this album come from a specific passage of scripture or a specific story, but for this one I had to bring in several passages. The resurrection has so many beautiful facets - it has affected us in so many ways - and I wanted to include as many as I could.

- Caroline

John 20, Romans 3:23-26, 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 10:19-22, 1 Peter 1:3-5 

"Your Wounds": Devotional

As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the third in that series.

Artwork by Gustave Doré. Public Domain. 

Artwork by Gustave Doré. Public Domain. 

DEVOTIONAL

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Devotional by Derek Baker, associate pastor of First Presbyterian in Ipswich, MA

Kelly noticed as she pulled out of the gas station there was an 18-wheeler on her bumper. At first, she thought she was imagining being followed. She tried to slow down and let him pass, and speed up and create distance, but he stayed right behind her. The truck’s headlights flooded the car. Her heart raced as her fear grew. She pulled off the highway at the next exit into another gas station, but the trucker followed her still. Slamming on her brakes, she jumped out of her car, and ran toward the store. Simultaneously, the back door of her car flew open, and out leapt a man who had been crouching in the back seat since she had filled up only minutes before. As the carjacker ran toward a nearby field for cover, the trucker tackled him and called the police. When the truck driver approached Kelly he said, “I saw him sneak into your car back there, but there was no time for me to warn you before you drove off. I had to stay close behind you with my high beams in your car so he’d know I’d see him if he tried anything. I did it to save you. It was the only way.”

When we read this passage, we should feel like Kelly did on that night: scared... confused, but wonderfully grateful. This is an unexpected way to save. But it was the only way. All of Israel’s history had been pointing to a coming Savior. The Jews called him “Messiah, Anointed One.” Isaiah and others expected a king. We find a kingly description of the Savior in the first verse of this section: “Behold, my servant shall...be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” But then for the next 13 verses, we are left confused, even scared. This Savior-king has an appearance that is “marred beyond human semblance” (52:14). He is compared to a young, tender plant in your garden that seems so tiny and weak you wonder if fruit will ever come from it; a root growing out of dried ground that you only notice when you stumble over it (53:2). He’s despised and rejected by men (53:3). This is the exalted Savior-king? Exalted by God, but dismissed by us humans. How many in our day find Jesus insignificant--paying no attention to him until moments of trial or near death? But for the Christian, we dismiss him: too busy to read and pray; forgetting that our every moment is dependent upon Him; failing to see Him working even now.

When C.S. Lewis’ wife was died of cancer he reflected that we may at times wish we could bear another’s pain for them, but we never know if we really mean it, since it is never allowed. He then wrote, “It was allowed to One we are told, and I find I can now believe again that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, ‘You can not and you dare not. I could and I dared.’” Do you believe and marvel that he was diseased for you? It is the only way.

But in the middle of our confusion and fear, as in the middle of Isaiah’s horrifically beautiful description, we should be left wondering in gratitude, because this was the only way to save us. We notice from Isaiah 53:4-6 that there is an unfair exchange taking place between us and Him. It is our sickness He carried, our pains He bore, He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities and by His wounds we are healed. He was diseased for us.

But Isaiah doesn’t finish there. In the end, this suffering Savior-king is exalted because he makes many righteous as he bears their sins. He is seen as a conquering king, but doesn’t keep the spoils for Himself. He shares them with those whom He saved (53:11-12). Do you believe this? It’s His wounds, our healing; His stripes, our peace; His suffering, our hope. If you already trust in Him, will you stop and marvel anew? Allow yourself to be confused, scared, grateful......saved.  It was the only way.

LYRICS

Oh man of sorrows, Hated and despised
So marred, so ugly, We all turned our eyes

Like sheep we’ve wandered, Going our own way
It pleased the Father, To crush You in our place

Your wounds, our healing,
Your stripes, our peace
You carried our sorrows, You carried our griefs
Your suffering, our hope

You poured out your soul, Unto death
So we could be counted, Righteous

Sinless one who takes our sins
Dying one our death condemns
Bearing our guilt though innocent
But the grave can’t hold you in

Written August 11, 2011 for The Scripture to Music Project.
Words and music by Caroline Cobb. From Isaiah 52:13-53:12. 

The Passover Song: Devotional

As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is second in a series of many. 

Devotional written by Greg and Ginger O'Brien
READ: EXODUS 12

Hundreds of years passed while Israel was under Egypt’s heavy yoke of oppression and slavery. They groaned and cried out for help. Could this unbearable burden be relieved? The LORD God heard their cries and He acted. In mercy He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v 24). God raised up Moses to deliver his people. God sent the signs, the wonders, and finally the plagues so that Israel’s oppressor might know that the Lord is God. The final plague was the death of the firstborn in every house in Egypt. This great plague of God’s judgment would set the Israelites free from slavery’s grip.

There was one thing Israelites were to do: God instructed each Israelite household to take a spotless lamb, kill it, and take its blood and smear it on the door frames of their houses. The blood would be a sign and would cause the LORD to “pass over” them, not allowing death to come to their firstborns. 

The people of Israel obeyed and did everything God instructed them. Were they full of faith that the blood on their door frames would cause God to pass them by, or did some of them lack faith and fear that death would come to them as well? Full of faith or wavering, they obeyed. And God spared them from the curse of the plague that night. Israel’s hope was not in the measure of their faith, but in the greatness of their God who keeps His covenant with His people. But, death did come to Israel that night, yet not in the same way it came to the Egyptians. That night every house in Egypt was a house of death and judgment – either of a lamb, or a firstborn. The blood of the lamb absorbed that judgment for the Israelite households. 

God did indeed pass through the land that night. But, while passing through in judgment he did more than simply pass over the houses with blood on the doorposts. Two Hebrew words in Exodus 12 have been translated as “passover:” ābar and pāsah. The first is the action of God passing over the land to bring judgment. The latter is used to describe God’s action in preventing the destroyer from entering homes with blood on the doorposts. “For the LORD will pass through (ābar) to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over (pāsah) the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you,” (Ex. 12:23).

From consideration of the use of pāsah in other places in the Old Testament, it seems the word would be best translated as ‘hover over, or cover over' (Meredith Kline, The Feast of the Cover-Over). Why is this significant? God did not simply see the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorway and harmlessly pass over their homes. Instead, he shielded them from death. When he saw the blood of the lamb He Himself “covered over” the house, interposing Himself between the destroyer and those inside. So, “the lamb was their covering and the LORD was their covering. Both are true because the LORD became the lamb (Kline).”

Thousands of years later, we find ourselves in the exact same story. We are slaves not to Egypt, but to sin. We, like Egypt and Israel, all deserve death because of our rejection of God, our choosing of our own way. That first passover lamb did not bring the Israelites ulimate salvation – it did not cleanse them of sin. It was a shadow, a type, of the fulness of which would come in the true Passover Lamb.

Jesus, the Son of God, is the Lamb of God, providing the cover-over for the sin of His people. Jesus himself received death’s inflicting blow on the cross, absorbing God’s judgment. Thereby, he covered over those who trust in Him, shielding them from the dark night of God’s final judgment. The cross of Christ became the doorposts on which the blood of the Lamb was painted. The Lamb is our covering and God is our covering. Both are true because, in Jesus, God became the Lamb. 


Questions for Reflection:
1. Do you trust that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to save you from your sin? Do you feel like God will not be merciful to you because your faith seems wavering or small? In light of the meaning of Jesus being the Passover Lamb, how should this apply to your fears and thoughts?

2. Read Revelation 5-7. How does the Passover help you to know Jesus more? 


THE PASSOVER SONG LYRICS
Words + Music by Sean Carter + Caroline Cobb
 

There’s a promise in our veins
But it’s faded by all these years in chains
Send a prophet, send the plagues
That by sunrise we will no more be slaves

Take the lamb, take the blood
And paint it on our doorways
At night death will come but pass us by

This is all our hope and peace

In the morning we will rise
Taste the freedom we thought we’d never find
We will dance now in the streets
Once held captive now we shall live as kings

Lift your head, your voice
And sing of your salvation
Of the blood of the lamb that gave us life

Now by this we’ll overcome
Now by this we’ll reach our home

There’s a poison in our veins
And it leads to death we cannot escape
Send a ransom a perfect Son
Remedy the curse with His precious blood

And the Lamb that will come
His cross will be our doorway
And the red of His blood ill make us white
And daughters and sons
Rejoice in resurrection
And death swallowed up in endless life

Glory, glory this I sing
All my praise for this I bring
Naught of good that I have done
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

 

Artwork by Chris Koelle, www.chriskoelle.com Created for Desiring God’s Job the Film, http://www.jobthefilm.com 

Artwork by Chris Koelle, www.chriskoelle.com
Created for Desiring God’s Job the Film, http://www.jobthefilm.com 

"Garden": Devotional + Song Story

As I prepare to begin recording a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the first in a series of hopefully many over the next few months.

SONG STORY:
written by Caroline

"Garden" contrasts the beauty of creation - the colors, the food, the perfect relationship God and men, between Adam and Eve - with the warped ugliness of the Fall. And, the last chorus begins with the all-important word“but”. Man has sinned, but God promises to breathe life again through Eve's offspring, the One who would crush the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). So begins the story of redemption.

When I was doing vocals for this song in the studio, I kept singing the bridge (describing man’s fall into sin) with a little too much “attitude”. Josh the producer stopped me and said that my tone shouldn’t be one of anger, but of sadness. After all, I was singing from the perspective of a loving God. The tender way I had been singing the verses (describing creation), should translate to the bridge as well. God wasn’t helpless, but He must have been sad as He watched His creation choose sin and death.The next few vocal takes were so different, even more tender - I was in a totally different headspace.
 

This God - with His tender love for Adam and Eve in their sin (and for us!), with His promise to redeem us through His own Son - this is a God worthy of our worship.


DEVOTIONAL
written by Cheryl Fletcher

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1-3

It begins in a garden. A garden created by God, filled with streams and barrel cactus and Joshua trees and reptiles and cats of all sizes and shapes. An exquisite garden for his image-bearers to enjoy and tend and fertilize. Everything is theirs. But the Creator gives a warning. “You can eat from the 492,000 trees in this place but don’t eat from that one. Avoid it and you will show that you trust me. Eat from it and you will die.” 

But, they had to have what they could not have. And this radiant garden becomes a garden of rebellion. 

But even in this giant failure there is grace and hope. The penalty is covered. There is a promise: One will come who will die in their place. His name is Jesus. Satan might bruise his heel but he will crush Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15; Romans 16:20). 

Jesus will enter a new Garden and rather than rebel, he will submit. 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden of Submission, Jesus says, “Your will, Father, not mine.” And that act leads to the Garden of Redemption: Calvary. 

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” John 19:41 

In the Garden of Redemption death is conquered! New life is offered. Resurrection is accomplished. And nothing is ever the same. 


FOR REFLECTION: 


1. In what ways are you most tempted to rebel against God today? Remember, sin is not just actions but also attitudes. 

2. Take a minute and write down a list of the beautiful things God has created, and all that He has provided for us. As you reflect on this list, how does this make you feel about these ways you are tempted to rebel? What do you need to say to God? 

3. Read Romans 8:1-4. What does it reveal about what Jesus accomplished for you in his death? 
 
Devotional by Cheryl Fletcher
Pastor to Women at Christian Assembly Church - Los Angeles, CA


“GARDEN” LYRICS
WORDS AND MUSIC BY CAROLINE COBB (ASCAP)
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLINE COBB SMITH. CCLI # 7000071
GENESIS 1 AND 2 (SEE ALSO GEN 3 + 11, EX 32 + ROM 1)

Beauty from void, dark to light
Sun for the day, stars for the night
For you I’ll plant a garden, fill it with light
Food for your mouth and color for eyes, and…

I will breathe into the dust
The breath of life and all my love
And when you open your eyes
You will see and be satisfied
Because I will be with you
I will be with you, I

Fall asleep; I’ll make for you a love
Love like a shield, like a home, like a dove
You are free, but ever enthralled
And I, I will be your all, and…

I will breathe into the dust
The breath of life and all my love
And when you open your eyes
You will see and be satisfied
Because I will be with you
I will be with you, I

Pick the lies right off the tree
Your eyes are opened but not to see
Build a tower to the sky
You think you know, you think you’re wise
Melt your gold down to a god
Sell your soul to pay for your facade
Trade your truth for silence
I’ll let you loose if you want it

But...

I will breathe into the dust
The breath of life and all my love
And when you open your eyes
You will see and be satisfied
Because I will be with you
I will be with you, I