Forgiven.

“The voice of sin is loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder.” — D.L. Moody

“We win by tenderness. We conquer by forgiveness.” –F.W. Robertson

(Tonight’s thoughts on the subway:
Forgiven and freed — Yes. But what is it to truly acknowledge that freedom and forgiven-ness? Is it not to extend that forgiveness, even to those who may never ask us to forgive.
[Ahh. Let us not mention the context now. No, it shall be forgiven and actively forgotten until it is completely forgotten and fully forgiven.]
Lord, You speak and remind me of that which hinders from seeing You more clearly, from knowing You more deeply. You have promised that when sin is removed, there will be greater clarity and deeper experience of Your love. There will be a lasting joy.
Lord, forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.)

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Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

 

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

 

— Psalm 32, ESV

 

No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven
The future sure, the price it has been paid
For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon
And He was raised to overthrow the grave
To this I hold, my sin has been defeated
Jesus now and ever is my plea
Oh the chains are released, I can sing: I am free!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
All the glory evermore to Him
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat:
Yet not I, but through Christ in me!
“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.” — George Macdonald
“One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven. …works have a place–but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit of having earned it.” — Ravi Zacharias
“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” — H. W. Beecher
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The Will of God

Do you ever have those days when you ask a question, and the LORD comes and answers you over and again?*

During our summer camp last August, a few high school students chatted with me about post-secondary options, and the topic of “God’s Will” came up. I was reading ‘Decision Making and the Will of God’ at the time and thought it was interesting that we were all thinking about the same topic, though we were in different stages of life.

Friends from our fellowship had suggested ‘Just Do Something‘ as a book to read as a group, and so the topic remained on my mind.

Over the weekend, I was in Atlanta for my cousin’s wedding. Since most of us were from out of town, we were looking for a church to attend on Sunday morning. Several suggestions came up, but my uncle suggested that since we were in Atlanta, it would be good to hear Dr. Charles Stanley in person! We weren’t sure if he would be speaking this week, but we headed over to First Baptist Church on Sunday morning.

We learned that Dr. Stanley was to give the sermon, and I eagerly waited for the sermon to begin. He turned to Colossians 1:9-12, and began to speak about ‘The knowledge of His will.’ It turned out that they were just starting on a series about ‘The Will of God’ last week! He asked us, ‘What does it mean to be filled with the knowledge of His will?”

He told us that he was saved at 11 (or 12) years of age (and mumbled that God knew how backwards he was, to have saved him at a young age), at at 14, he knew he wanted to go into a life of serving the LORD full-time. He reassured the audience that God has a will for our lives.

And here is where some may be disappointed… Every time we speak of The Will of God, there is a silence in the room as the weight of those words fall on our ears and we all wait for that secret formula from which, once we have it, we would exactly what we are to do and how we are to live. It is always a yes and a no. Yes, God has a will — for the world, for mankind… And yet we are to continue to seek Him and trust Him as we walk. And no, it is not a secret formula that shows you from the point where you stand to each step which you must take until you take your last breath and enter eternity. He still calls us to live by faith 🙂

And I have asked this question many times over the years. When I was in gr. 7, thinking about what high school would look like, in gr. 12, thinking about university, in grad school one afternoon with a friend, in books as I thought about life and vocation… And so many times I thought I would find a bright neon sign saying, “Go here!” But that’s not how it works. And over the years, the disappointment decreases as the LORD replaces it with the comfort of His presence and knowledge of His wisdom and goodness.

Ah, friend. You have read this far. And I am sorry to say that I don’t have the answer to your question about what is God’s will for the exact situation you face. But there are principles with which to guide us, and I have found those helpful.

—–

As of now, I’m still digesting the sermon, but here are some of the notes I took:

Definition: The will of God is that which God approves of and determines to bring about. 

It concerns God’s choices of what to do and what not to do. It is never too late to follow His will, though it is possible at that point, it is no longer His perfect will. 
There are several categories of God’s will:
  1. God’s Predestined Will.
    Nothing can interfere with this. It is irresistable, unchangeable, and unconditional. (For example, the cross.)
  2. God’s Moral Will.
    Exodus 20. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not covet…
    1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;  for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality… For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.

    God’s moral will is for all of us. Every believer knows God in Jesus Christ. Sexual immorality is a major cause of sin.

  3. God’s Desired Will.
    These are the things that He desires for us for our whole life: salvation, fruit of the spirit, giving, loving, forgiving…
    God has a will for YOU and you are responsible to give an account!
  • Where do you fit in these laws? God has a purpose for each person
  • God doesn’t judge you based on what someone else does. YOU are morally responsible for how you live your life
  • You are not supposed to be like anyone else (except for to be more like Christ Jesus)!
  • Many still do not know that God has a will or how to ask
  • God will bless you in accordance to your obedience to what you know
  • God loves you perfectly
  • Life is a gift from God
  • Don’t ask or compare with anyone else
  • Ask about YOUR life and His will for it. And your willingness to submit to His will
  • HE knows the opportunities He has given you (thinking of talents)
  • God puts people or things in your life that shows you
  • Ask God what His will is. He knows the opportunities you had or didn’t have
  • God takes the one with lots and the one with few talents — He looks at what we do with what we have
  • Some people do their best later in life
  • He arranges opportunities you never knew possible
  • Ask: Enable me at this point to walk in Your will
  • We can’t do better than having Jesus take us on the road
  • Ask “God be merciful to me” — God doesn’t ignore this plea
  • Listen and He will show you — DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE HIS WILL FIGURED OUT (me: Here is where I find I often stumble and hesitate)
  • Psalm 16:11 — You make known to me the path of life…
    God will show you His will in any category of life. Tell the Lord, “I’ve messed up, but today, do Your will in my life.”
  • Psalm 32:8 — I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go.
    You can’t be so bad that God can’t change you!
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 — He will direct you in ALL your ways — acknowledge Him!
 
The things that hinder us from God’s will
  1. Self-will
  2. Influence of others
  3. Ignorance of God’s will (not knowing His promise)
  4. Doubt (your past doesn’t change His!)
  5. Feeling of unworthiness
  6. Busyness
  7. Fear (You can’t choose to disobey God and be happy. You can’t cover disobedience)
  8. Wilful known sin (God reminds us of what we have to change. What are we going to do? Be wise and obey God. Do not cling to what drowns you as a fool.
  • God is waiting on you. Know the awesome, indescribable will of God.
  • Tell Him: Thank you for giving me another chance.
  • Don’t listen to the devil who asks, ‘How are you going to change?’ God already knows you and the secret things you have done.
  • Watch God work!

 

And at the core of this, look to God!

*(Yet sometimes I wonder if He does this more , often than I know, only that I didn’t listen and wait for an answer…)

Even when I’m not, You’re faithful

“Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord And rely upon his God.” — Isaiah 50:10

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This verse stayed with me when we came upon it in Sunday School several months ago. I wondered, why would the child of God still experience times of darkness when they cannot see light? And yet I do know this at times to be true. And from reading and hearing more, I know I am not the only one.

Coming upon it in devotions again tonight, I see that in the same verse where it notes this condition, the LORD also provided the answer — trust still and all the more in His name; rely on Him! 

Trust in His name — His nature, ALL of who He is, ALL of what He has promised. You may not see it now, but we have a God who never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

So, dear friend. If you find your ship is tossed at sea, and you do not see the shore… If it is night and you don’t know when the dawn will come… Look up! Set your heart on God and reflect on Who He is. Lean on Him, even if your heart feels distant. Ask Him to reach through those barriers which hinder you from seeing Him, ask Him to show you what those barriers are and to remove them.

And ask Him to trust Him even before you see the light.
Because the light will come.

He has conquered death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55). We already have already won — We already have victory in Him and through Him!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. — 1 Corinthians 15:58

With Matthew Henry:
I. Comfort is here spoken to disconsolate saints, and they are encouraged to trust in God’s grace, Isa. 50:10. Here observe,

1. What is always the character of a child of God. He is one that fears the Lord with a filial fear, that stands in awe of his majesty and is afraid of incurring his displeasure. This is a grace that usually appears most in good people when they walk in darkness, when other graces appear not. They then tremble at his word (Isa. 66:2) and are afraid of his judgmentsPs. 119:120. He is one that obeys the voice of God’s servant, is willing to be ruled by the Lord Jesus, as God’s servant in the great work of man’s redemption, one that yields a sincere obedience to the law of Christ and cheerfully comes up to the terms of his covenant. Those that truly fear God will obey the voice of Christ.

2. What is sometimes the case of a child of God. It is supposed that though he has in his heart the fear of God, and faith in Christ, yet for a time he walks in darkness and has no light, is disquieted and has little or no comfort. Who is there that does so? This intimates that it is a case which sometimes happens among the professors of religion, yet not very often; but, whenever it happens, God takes notice of it. It is no new thing for the children and heirs of light sometimes to walk in darkness, and for a time not to have any glimpse or gleam of light. This is not meant so much of the comforts of this life (those that fear God, when they have ever so great an abundance of them, do not walk in them as their light) as of their spiritual comforts, which relate to their souls. They walk in darkness when their evidences for heaven are clouded, their joy in God is interrupted, the testimony of the Spirit is suspended, and the light of God’s countenance is eclipsed. Pensive Christians are apt to be melancholy, and those who fear always are apt to fear too much.

3. What is likely to be an effectual cure in this sad case. He that is thus in the dark,
(1.) Let him trust in the name of the Lord, in the goodness of his nature, and that which he has made known of himself, his wisdom, power, and goodness. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, let his run into that. Let him depend upon it that if he walk before God, which a man may do though he walk in the dark, he shall find God all-sufficient to him. (2.) Let him stay himself upon his God, his in covenant; let him keep hold of his covenant-relation to God, and call God his God, as Christ on the cross, My God, My God. Let him stay himself upon the promises of the covenant, and build his hopes on them. When a child of God is ready to sink he will find enough in God to stay himself upon. Let him trust in Christ, for God’s name is in him (Exod. 23:21), trust in that name of his, The Lord our righteousness, and stay himself upon God as his God, in and through a Mediator.

Scratching the Surface

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  

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But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. 

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—  that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” — 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

 

I fake my confidence and put it on like armor
Five-foot-nine so I try to stand a little taller
To measure up I got to work a little harder
It’s the human condition
I do it all to make it perfect for the picture
Pretty smile, let me find the perfect filter
If they believe it maybe I’ll believe it with them
That’s the human condition
A crown of thorns and a cross that was too heavy
My jaded heart was unaware it needed saving
You could have turned, could have run, could have left me in my…
My human condition
And if I’m really being honest
Every day I struggle with the promise
That all I am is all You ever wanted, ever wanted
Lord, help me, I’m so tired of pretending
I can’t hold it together, when I know that I can’t
Lord, show me, I don’t have to be worthy
It’s because of Your mercy
You love me, You love me
Just as I am
When I’m lost in my fear
In the dark, insecure
Let me fall in the arms
Of the One who loves me
Just as I am
All my dirt, all my scars
Every burden on my heart
You take them all, take them all
Every tear (You love me)
Every stain (You love me)
You wash away
‘Cause You love me
Just as I am
We have tasted the sweetness of Your kindness
Caught a glimpse of Your glory in the Son
And the promise in Your word, it still reminds us
There are greater, greater things to come
If we only knew
How deep the ocean of Your love
How powerful every drop of blood
How much it cost to rescue us
If we only knew
How far the East is from the West
How we are clothed in righteousness
How strong the hands that conquered death
If we only knew
God, Your peace is beyond our understanding
Tender mercy like a river flowing through
You wait with patient arms to hold us
Desperate for the chance to show us
All we really need is You
We are only scratching the surface
We are barely knocking on the door
We are only scratching the surface of Your goodness
We are barely knocking on the door
And You long to show us more
We are, we are
Daughters and sons held in Your arms
We are, we are
Daughters and sons adopted and loved by You

Hope that Never Disappoints.

How often I need to be reminded of this!
(The fact that I’m writing now shows how prone I am to disappointment…)

“Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.

…And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” — Isaiah 35:3-4, 10

And yet my God is a God who is constant and faithful. Who is ever patient. No matter how many times I have lost hope because I lost sight of Him, I know that He is greater than my greatest fear, stronger than the weight of all my doubt… And there is not a question I will have that He is not able to answer. And no matter how far I run, I am not beyond His loving reach.
And so, at the end of a long day, and a longer night… He reminded me of Streams in the Desert, of His coming again, and the fullness of joy in eternity through Isaiah 35.

Matthew Henry on Isaiah 35:

The way of religion and godliness shall be laid open: it is here called the way of holiness (Isa. 35:8) the way both of holy worship and a holy conversation. Holiness is the rectitude of the human nature and will, in conformity to the divine nature and will. The way of holiness is that course of religious duties in which men ought to walk and press forward, with an eye to the glory of God and their own felicity in the enjoyment of him. “When our God shall come to save us he shall chalk out to us this way by his gospel, so as it had never been before described.”
1. It shall be an appointed way; not a way of sufferance, but a highway, a way into which we are directed by a divine authority and in which we are protected by a divine warrant. It is the King’s highway, the King of Kings’ highway, in which, though we may be waylaid, we cannot be stopped. The way of holiness is the way of God’s commandments; it is (as highways usually are) the good old wayJer. 6:16.
2. It shall be an appropriated way, the way in which God will bring his own chosen to himself, but the unclean shall not pass over it, either to defile it or to disturb those that walk in it. It is a way by itself, distinguished from the way of the world, for it is a way of separation from, and nonconformity to, this world. It shall be for those whom the Lord has set apart for himself (Ps. 4:3), shall be reserved for them: The redeemed shall walk there, and the satisfaction they take in these ways of pleasantness shall be out of the reach of molestation from an evil world. The unclean shall not pass over it, for it shall be a fair way; those that walk in it are the undefiled in the way, who escape the pollution that is in the world.
3. It shall be a straight way: The wayfaring men, who choose to travel in it, though fools, of weak capacity in other things, shall have such plain directions from the word and Spirit of God in this way that they shall not err therein; not that they shall be infallible even in their own conduct, or that they shall in nothing mistake, but they shall not be guilty of any fatal misconduct, shall not so miss their way but that they shall recover it again, and get well to their journey’s end. Those that are in the narrow way, though some may fall into one path and others into another, not all equally right, but all meeting at last in the same end, shall yet never fall into the broad way again; the Spirit of truth shall lead them into all truth that is necessary for them. Note, The way to heaven is a plain way, and easy to hit. God has chosen the foolish things of the world, and made them wise to salvation. Knowledge is easy to him that understands.
4. It shall be a safe way: No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast (Isa. 35:9), none to hurt or destroy. Those that keep close to this way keep out of the reach of Satan the roaring lion, that wicked one touches them not. Those that walk in the way of holiness may proceed with a holy security and serenity of mind, knowing that nothing can do them any real hurt; they shall be quiet from the fear of evil. It was in Hezekiah’s days, some time after the captivity of the ten tribes, that God, being displeased with the colonies settled there, sent lions among them2 Kgs. 17:25. But Judah keeps her integrity, and therefore no lions shall be there. Those that walk in the way of holiness must separate themselves from the unclean and the ravenous, must save themselves from an untoward generation; hoping that they themselves are of the redeemed, let them walk with the redeemed who shall walk there.
IV. The end of this way shall be everlasting joy, Isa. 35:10. This precious promise of peace now will end shortly in endless joys and rest for the soul. Here is good news for the citizens of Zion, rest to the weary: The ransomed of the Lord, who therefore ought to follow him wherever he goes (Rev. 14:4), shall return and come to Zion,
1. To serve and worship God in the church militant: they shall deliver themselves out of Babylon (Zech. 2:7), shall ask the way to Zion (Jer. 50:5), and shall find the way Isa. 52:12. God will open to them a door of escape out of their captivity, and it shall be an effectual door, though there be many adversaries. They shall join themselves to the gospel church, that Mount Zion, that city of the living GodHeb. 12:22. They shall come with songs of joy and praise for their deliverance out of Babylon, where they wept upon every remembrance of ZionPs. 137:1. Those that by faith are made citizens of the gospel Zion may go on their way rejoicing(Acts 8:39); they shall sing in the ways of the Lord, and be still praising him. They rejoice in Christ Jesus, and the sorrows and signs of their convictions are made to flee away by the power of divine consolations. Those that mourn are blessed, for they shall be comforted.
2. To see and enjoy God in the church triumphant; those that walk in the way of holiness, under guidance of their Redeemer, shall come to Zion at last, to the heavenly Zion, shall come in a body, shall all be presented together, faultless, at the coming of Christ’s glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24Rev. 7:17); they shall come with songs. When God’s people returned out of Babylon to Zion they came weeping (Jer. 50:4); but they shall come to heaven singing a new song, which no man can learn, Rev. 14:3. When they shall enter into the joy of their Lord it shall be what the joys of this world never could be everlasting joy, without mixture, interruption, or period. It shall not only fill their hearts, to their own perfect and perpetual satisfaction, but it shall be upon their heads, as an ornament of grace and a crown of glory, as a garland worn in token of victory. Their joy shall be visible, and no longer a secret thing, as it is here in this world; it shall be proclaimed, to the glory of God and their mutual encouragement. They shall then obtain the joy and gladness which they could never expect on this side heaven; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away for ever, as the shadows of the night before the rising sun. Thus these prophecies, which relate to the Assyrian invasion, conclude, for the support of the people of God under that calamity, and to direct their joy, in their deliverance from it, to something higher. Our joyful hopes and prospects of eternal life should swallow up both all the sorrows and all the joys of this present time.

 

When You speak, confusion fades
Just a word and suddenly I’m not afraid
‘Cause You speak and freedom reigns
There is hope in every single word You say…
When sorrows roar and troubles rage
You whisper peace when I don’t have the words to say
I won’t lose hope when storms won’t break
You keep Your word, oh and Your promises will keep me safe…
Your ways are higher
You know just what I need
I trust You, Jesus
You see what I cannot see
I don’t wanna miss one word You speak
‘Cause everything You say is life to me
I don’t wanna miss one word You speak
So quiet my heart, I’m listening

Each One’s Work

(Shall we begin with a story?)

One January afternoon several years ago, a few friends and I visited the home of an elderly pastor and his wife. We were there over the weekend and decided to spend the afternoon reading. The conversation turned to the books we were reading. The pastor told me the book he was reading was a gift from his wife (I do not recall the title nor the author now, but perhaps that is just as well).

“A fine author,” he said. “But her life was not as her books. The lifestyle she chose, her relationships, was not one that was fitting for a Christian. She wrote well, and we can follow the examples in her books, but not her life.”

Of all the conversations that weekend, this was one of the few that I remembered. It made me sad that that was the valuation of this lady’s life’s work — That the life she lived overshadowed the works she left.  It made me wonder about my life. Who am I on paper — the photos and posts on social media, etc. — and who am I in my daily life? Is it consistent?

With each post, whose admiration do I hope to gain?
With each sharing, what do I aim to show?
Do I show the pleasures of my life?
But have I shown the Lord I follow?

Dear Christian, we who know this world and its pleasures are passing away (1 John 2:15-17), why do we strive for these?

Even here as I write, this applies. When I write, do I share about wonderful things and wonderful examples, yet never put these to practice? And do I share about ideas and thoughts that inspire me that I those who read may admire these thoughts?

But is anyone pointed to God by coming across these notes?
Of course, whether all of this is wood, hay, straw… or whether it would be gold, silver and precious stones, that day will show (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). Yet it makes me reflect on how I build on Christ’s foundation — what materials do I use? Is it the pure truth of God’s Word? Or are they frivolous things, events, and ideas tethered to the ebb and flow of time and trends that do not stand?

I have been reminded our service and ministry ought to begin with Christ in our own hearts. We must watch for our personal holiness. How are we in our private life before God?

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
— Psalm 139:23-24

And in the way of service, how is our attitude toward God? Do we look to Christ to do His work His way, that as we sow and water, He would give the increase?

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
— Psalm 90:17 

So then, as I look to 2019 with all the hope and fears of a new year, what shall I ask for?

  1. With my finite mind that often does not know how to ask for what is good, I ask that You would rest my heart and mind on Your goodness, that I may trust You more each day.
  2. I ask that You would then show me what is in my heart and change it to be more like Yours, that I may know Your love and comfort to me, and begin to love others with that love and compassion (Philippians 2:1-4).
  3. And as I receive the work You have given, teach me to work with joyful and trusting diligence, and establish the work of our hands!

And at the end of all that, find true satisfaction in You.

 

I am not what I make, I am who You have made me to be
I am not what I’ve done, I am loved unconditionally
I am not loved by the measure of love that I bring
I am not who I know, I am known by the King of all Kings
With nothing, I still have everything
Jesus, You are enough for me
You are maker, made visible, holding the world in Your hands
You are patient and merciful, giver of grace without end
Satisfied simply by being who You’ve always been
You are infinite love and You prove it again and again
In You, I am created
In You, I am sustained
With You, I’m resurrected
You overcame the grave
With You, I stand in victory
Now what else could I need?
With You, I want for nothing
Jesus, my everything