How Firm a Foundation

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My iPhone, as reliable and critical to my life as it is, does have its quirks. For example, every once in a while it apparently downloads and plays random music from my collection. On this morning’s ride to the office, I had originally planned on catching up on my sermon listening, but apparently I didn’t download any (Hey…it IS a Monday…)…so music it was. A few minutes into the drive, the song “How Firm a Foundation” (Enfield version of course, although the original was written in 1787) came on to my surprise. Surprise because it wasn’t on there yesterday. When I hear this song, I think something like “What a great song about the faithfulness of God’s word.”  Yes…but this time the lyrics hit me like a wrecking ball, especially those after verse 1 – here – check out from verse 2 on:

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

I never realized the extent of how it is not US holding onto God..but how God strengthens, helps, upholds, sanctifies…US.  How he will not let us be deserted to our foes, and he will never forsake US.  He keeps, guards, protects and holds his children fast.  Even in our deep waters he has a purpose, he is purifying us (consuming the dross) and refining us to make us more into his beautiful image.

The more we think it’s up to us – the more anxiety and stress builds.  The more we think there is no way out other than sinning, the less we depend on God.  This hymn is a great reminder that God calls us to himself, saves us through his son Jesus, and sustains us in his mighty power for the work he calls us to.

It reminds me of Isaiah 41:10, which I’ll leave you with:

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

 

 

 

 

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On The Road Again…headed to Kentucky #wge13

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Besides a bad Willie Nelson song going thru my head, we are actually leaving for Louisville, KY late tonight.  (Personal note:  I probably know every word to that song, I went thru a brief Country Music period in the 6th grade and have since repented and received Biblical counseling. Healing has begun.)

We will be first visiting the campus of Southern Seminary and then attending the WorshipGod East 2013 conference put on by the fine folks of Sovereign Grace Music.  For years, we have found SGM’s music helpful in teaching, encouraging, and building up our church body.  This will be my 3rd WG conference, and they always do a great job.  I’m looking forward to great times of teaching, worship like none other, and general refreshment and whacky hi-jinks that will surely go on when we get away.

Several members of our church worship team are attending as well, and as an online/hybrid MDiv student, I’m excited to be on campus for the first time and meet a few professors that I’ve enjoyed in virtual class.

Are you going?  Shoot me a line or a tweet.

I will try to continue my tradition of posting daily summaries to this blog, so stay tuned!

Psalm 9 for 9/9

Sometimes as I go to prayer I will meditate on a few Psalms.  Don Whitney has spoken often about praying scripture and the Psalms are a great way to do that.  A suggestion is pick a Psalm by the day of the month – so today is the 9th so I checked out Psalm 9.  (You can also keep going “up” in the Psalms by adding 30 – so read also Psalm 39, 69, 99, 129…)  Odds are one of these Psalms will hit you, or more accurately – the Holy Spirit will grab you.  That’s why it’s so important to pray before we read the word of God – ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to what is in the text – He will do it!

It sure didn’t take long this morning for me.  He nailed me in the first 2 verses:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.  (ESV)

So the first thing I see is the four “I will” statements – talk about setting your mind right!  The author of the Psalm is telling himself what to do. That is very important that we tell ourselves truth instead of lies.  We cannot be slaves to how we feel.

  • I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart – Meditate on all that you have to be thankful for and thank Him.  With your inner person, your core, your whole self.
  • I will recount your wonderful deeds – “recount” – KJV says “I will shew forth” – another meaning of the Hebrew here is “rehearse”  – So, resolve to rehearse, to recount, to take account of His wonderful deeds – not past sin that he has paid for and is gone; not the enemies lies.  Dwell on the wonderful deeds he has done.  He has done them!
  • I will be glad and exult in you – telling yourself how to feel.  I love it, Martin Lloyd Jones would be proud!   Another translation of “exult” is “rejoice.”   Set your mind to be glad and take your joy in God in Jesus Christ.  He has done the most wonderful deed ever by reconciling us to Himself through Jesus death on the cross. (Rom 3:21-26)
  • I will sing praise to your name, O Most High – determine yourselves to praise his name in singing.  Of course as a worship leader this makes me happy.  We should be praising our Lord in singing – even if it’s out of our comfort zone.  Focus on the truth in the lyrics of the songs and praise him with a heart full of joy.  Get over your personal preferences and musical style issues and praise the One that is higher than us all.   [I expanded on this rant in an earlier post…]

Now, don’t feel like doing any of these?  Great!  Pray that you will.  Pray that God will enable you, through the Holy Spirit to give thanks to Him with your WHOLE heart, recount his wonderful deeds – start thinking of them…naming them.  I’ll bet you’ll start to become glad and exult in Him, focus on Jesus in the ultimate expression of the Father’s goodness, mercy, grace, and love for us.  And sing.  Even if you can’t and even if you may not like the style or the worship leader’s hair (or lack thereof).  Sing out with a heart full of the joy of God.

Culture and Worship (and Idolatry)

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure where this post is going to go.  There have been a bunch of things on my mind lately about worship after speaking with a couple last night and focusing on idolatry, I re-read Driscoll’s excellent chapter on Worship in his book “Doctrine – What Christians Should Believe.”  Then…well…yeah…it kind of opened a door…

Growing up as a quintessential “Christian kid” (though not really being a true Christian) there were many things that shaped my view of what Christian worship was.  It seemed to be church.  Just church itself, how we did it.    It was about us, not about God.  Lately, I’ve been realizing that still rings true in many churches today.

That is the nature of idolatry – making it all about something other than God and it is the root sin of all sins.

Driscoll writes –

Similarly in our own day religious people continue in various idolatries when they elevate their denomination, church building, liturgical order, Bible translation, worship music style, pastor, theological system, favorite author or ministry program to where it is a replacement mediator for Jesus, on in which their faith rests to keep them close to God. This also explains why any change to the tradition of a religious person is met with such hostility – people tend to cling to their idols, including their church buildings, which are now worshiped and sacred, just as the temple was.

I once had an older man confront me in anger and said “You know…worship is important to me too.”  Screaming in my head was my response, “Yes, but worship on your terms – your song preferences, your dress, your style of music.  Your interpretation and personal preference of worship is obviously extremely important to you.” I would say that his way of worshiping had become his idol.  Worship is not about us, it’s about God.

When we stand and refuse to sing because we think we can’t sing, or that’s just not us, or we don’t like the music, or the style, or don’t know the song by heart – who are we making it about?

The body of Christ is diverse, we live in a culture, we cannot esacpe that.   Driscoll writes and I agree ‘If we are alive, we are cultural.’  We use whatever the means of the culture to reach those in the culture with the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.  Psalm 33 is not a list of acceptable musical instruments, it is a declaration to use whatever the culture has in that time to praise God – “Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.” (Ps. 33:2).  We use the communication and styles of the culture to communicate the unchangeable message of Jesus.  The method can and must adapt – the message cannot.  We wouldn’t go into a tribe in Africa and play Chris Tomlin songs…

Every church has contextualized their approach to church, it’s not a matter of if they have or not – it’s a matter of what year they stopped the contextualization.  What year did you stop?  1600?  1950?  1984?  What about those who live in the culture of 2011?

God has been beating into my head – among many things – it’s not about us, it’s about Him.  We have perverted Christianity into a religion, into “doing church” – and it’s not about that, it’s about God.  It’s about his unbelievable love towards a sinner like me, who saw all my future sin on the cross and paid it in advance and drew me to himself and called me his own and reconciled our relationship through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He gave me a new heart, a new life, made me a completely new person – the BBW is “regeneration.”  The Holy Spirit makes us new in Jesus by the grace of God.  We spend (or should spend the rest of our lives) making much of Jesus, not much of ourselves.

Does your personal worship reflect that?  Does your church reflect that?

Our world needs us to be authentic worshipers of God who make much of Him, not us.  They will see us pouring out our whole mind, soul, body, and strength in grateful worshipful service to our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.  They will see us worshiping, singing, with a full heart of joy. (So will our kids)  They will see that this is a great God, one of steadfast faithful love and tremendous mercy and patience in Jesus.  And we need to pray that the Holy Spirit comes and opens their eyes to the new life and hope in Jesus.

It is about Him, not us.

 

 

 

 

 

Acts 4 – Be Clear, Be Bold, Be Boasting…and Bob

Below is the text of message from a Praise and Worship Night on 7/23/11 at Green Pond Bible Chapel.

For audio click here.

I want to talk to you all tonight about that name Jesus and we are going to look briefly at a story in the book of Acts where the disciples are starting their ministry the church is very young,  just getting off the launching pad.  Jesus has been crucified, buried and has risen back to life and now has gone back to heaven.

We are gonna plunge into Acts 4 where we last left our heroes Peter and John they were in deep doo doo because they were preaching about the name of Jesus and some folks didn’t like that.   In this episode of the Peter and John show, our heroes are in trouble for healing a man.  Let’s get some background here and listen

[read Acts 3:1-10]

So there’s this dude, we’ll call him Bob.  Bob has been sitting on a blanket at the entrance to the subway in Penn Station for ever.  Everyone knows who Bob is, he is there every single day.  Crippled.  On his blanket.  Holding up his ratty, torn, faded, sign.  Begging for spare change.

Peter and John, on their way into church see Bob. Bob wants money.  These are disciples, not the most lurcative occupation one could chose in those days, also not the safest and most popular as we will see in a minute.  Peter heals him. Boom. Do you see the power of the apostles?! We pray and beg for God to heal people, they just say “You.  You are healed. Get up.” Wowness. Playas from another laya.

As for Bob – leaping and praising God.  Bob has been this way for over 40 years.

OK, so jump over to Acts 4 now and listen as I read…here’s where it hits the fan.

[Acts 4:1-22]

Stop after v12.

Do you see this?  Are you catching this…Peter and John just spent the night in the pokey they are surrounded by dudes in suits who think a good time is poking them with sticks, playing Let’s ask the disciples 746 questions and maybe slap them around a bit.  These are the religious leaders of the day, the guys in the church. They are questioning them, hard direct questions. You who are Christians, do you ever get questioned?  What kind of questions – “You go to church? Really?  You like a Christian band?  You are going to a WHAT?  A worship night, what in the name of Rupert Murdoch is a worship night?!”

Here’s my first challenge to you tonight:

Be Clear

Note our heroes, Peter and John – what do they say?  v10-12.

Wow.

Don’t just say God.  Drop the J-Bomb.  God is vague to someone not Biblically informed – JESUS.

It’s also salvation

Acts 4:12 – there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Here’s another clear verse, this is perhaps one of my favoritest verses in the Bible – 1 Timothy 2:5-6.  That’s the gospel. Be clear.

It’s hard to be clear, isn’t it?  It’s much easier to just kinda waffle a little bit right?  Well, let’s look back at our passage and see more from our guys.

[Read v13-14]

Be Bold

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Be bold in Christ.

it doesn’t take anyone any more special than you are.  These were common uneducated men. Don’t let yourself think “I can’t, I don’t know enough….blah blah blah.”  Be clear and be bold.  Go big or go home.

Be so bold that you astonish people – I’m so sick of the status quo -why blend in with the rest of America?

Be so bold that people recognize Christ in you. Do people recognize that YOU have been with Jesus? Listen – here is one of the most important things I’m gonna say to you tonight.  Let me see everyone.  Some of you are in here, and you are claiming to be Christians, but your lifestyle is not backing it up. You got zero street cred to walk around being bold if your life is full of sin.   Be full of Christ, not sin.  You cannot be bold for Christ with others if you are not bold for him alone.  Don’t even try it.  Get you and Jesus fixed first. Being bold for him means saying no to sin to yourself first. I know how it is, some of you are gonna get all fired up and go calling your friends and be like “You need Jesus.  Yeah I said it, JESUS!  You need him you are going to hell.  Wait where are you?  At the bar?  Dollar drafts?  I’m in.”

So what I’m saying is that before it comes out of you, it has to be in you.  Jesus has to own you.   Watch.

[read v15-22]

You see this seen the suits have a problem.  “They healed Bob.  Bob has been there for 40 years!!! Everyone saw it.  And worse yet, Bob guy is here today standing right there! (v14)This is BAD! What are we going to do?  OK, have them go out so we can talk. ” [they go out, suits talk, they come back in] “OK, here’s what we are gonna do. Just don’t do that anymore, OK. No more mentioning the name of Jesus.  We mean it.”  [Peter and John look at each other like ‘that’s it?  I thought they’d stone us for sure]. Peter and John reply, “Um, Mr. Suit, you see we can’t honor that request.  Whether or not we’re in bigger trouble now, is up to you, but we can’t stop. We can’t.  It’s in us.  Jesus owns us, we can’t help but speak the name of Jesus.”

Be Boasting

v20 – “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Even at great risk to personal health and safety, the disciples couldn’t help but speak the name of Jesus.  They could not be silenced.  Remember Bob?  What was his reaction?  Leaping and praising the name of Jesus.

The essence of worship, is not singing songs – that’s cool and all and Biblical, but it’s more the act of worship in our everyday lives. It’s to be so overwhelmed with Jesus it oozes out of you.

If we are truly Christians – we have been made new.  We have new hearts we have new lives, we now live in Christ, not for ourselves.  We have a story to tell, God has done a work in us he has changed us, healed us, saved us.  I will tell you that if you saw me 15 years ago, you would want to be nowhere near me.  I was a different person, Christ has come and made me new – new affections, new habits, new language, new appetites, new LIFE – lasting change in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you are longing for that, if you are here tonight and you don’t know that change, and listen, just because you are here in a church event doesn’t man Jack. There are plenty of people in churches who aren’t saved.  He is reaching out to you tonight, reach back and respond to him in your hearts tonight.

One of my favorite Crowder songs is “Come and Listen” – the chorus goes “Come and listen to what he’s done.”  We’re going to play that song over the system here.  The next band is going to quietly make their way up here and quietly set up.  I am going to make my way to the back of the church, outside the double doors here of the sanctuary.  There are going to be other leaders, elders, counselors from GPBC who are going to be out there with me.  If the Holy Spirit has moved in your heart tonight, come tell us what he has done.  Come tell us what you think he is doing.  Come tell us how he is calling you for lasting real change in Jesus Christ.   We want to pray with you.  So as the song is playing,  Pastor Jack’s band will set up – make your way out the doors and see us.

Let’s pray.

God we come to you tonight in worship, mostly in song – but now in our hearts, our inner selves, our core.  You made us, you know us.  There are those in here who know you and know you well, give them an even bigger appetite for you.  Yet there are also those in here who claim to know you,  but don’t really or maybe don’t claim to know you at all.  You don’t own their hearts, their affections, their appetites – Spirit:  claim them in the name of Jesus tonight.  Come to them, regenerate them, make them new. Give them hope, give them lasting change in the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

WorshipGod 11 – the last day…

Well the last day has arrived.  What a great conference this has been!

This morning Bob Kauflin lead us in worship – that is always a joy.  Here is the set he did – again thanks to Bob’s blog WorshipMatters.com for listing:

Saturday AM – Bob Kauflin and band
Come Praise and Glorify
Generous King
When You Move
O Great God (Bob Kauflin)
Behold our God

I LOVE the song “Behold Our God”  – in fact I am introducing it to our church this Sunday, unless Hurricane Irene interrupts that plan.  It is I think the conference favorite…what great lyrics that exalt our Lord and a very singable and catch melody as well.

Craig Cabaniss
spoke at this last general session.  His message was titled “Gathering to Commission.” Sovereign Grace has posted the audio for the message here.

Here are a few bullet points that stuck out to me:

  • Our services are the intersection of gathering and mission
  • Church gathers to praise and build up but then scatters on mission
  • Gathering should be missionally potent
  • God is present at these gatherings for many reasons – to save, etc.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-12
    • Who we are:
      • Chosen race
      • Royal priesthood – we are all priests – Heb 13:15 – we continually offer sacrifices up to God
      • Holy nation
      • People for his own passion
      • Proclaiming the excellence of him who called you – v11-12
        • Word for proclaim is used only 1 time in all Greek NT – meaning to declare/tell/count
        • used in Psalm 79 in the Septuagint
        • Proclaim the excellencies like you would proclaim the greatness of your new favorite restaurant coming to town!
        • Ps 96/105 – Come and see!
        • Proclaim the gospel
    • We gather for God
      • to declare his praises before those who may be in darkness – what what we sing matters
      • How we arrive, how we participate declaring his worth responding as one touched by mercy – they should leave knowing we believe in Jesus!
    • We are all gathering to commission – there is mission going on!
      • We gather and go – lather, rinse, repeat
      • Come and see – go and tell!
      • People of God gather in the presence of God to proclaim the excellencies of God
      • Ensure the gospel is on display and clear

This was a GREAT conference, I can’t wait until 2013.  If you don’t know much about Sovereign Grace, I urge you to check them out:

WG11 – Day 3 (Part 1)

[Day 3 of the Sovereign Grace WorshipGod11 Conference at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.]

At this conference we get a schedule in our lovely binders and this morning we were lead in musical worship by the band Sojourn.  Wow.  WOW.  These guys were so good, so original, so tasty, so full of energy.  There were a couple moments where I was like completely head-banging to a wicked folk-infused, southern, funk groove so fat I could eat off of it.  (That is worship…thank you God for your good gifts!)

Here was their set (Thanks to Bob from his blog)

Before the Throne of God Above (Vikki Cook/Charitie Lees Bancroft)
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Traditional)
Death Has Lost Its Sting (Isaac Watts/Dennison)
All I Have is Christ (Jordan Kauflin)
In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross (Brooks Ritter/Rebecca Elliot)
Rock of Ages (Traditional)
Absent From Flesh (Isaac Watts/Jamie Barnes)

Then, as if that wasn’t enough – Bob Kauflin spoke – on “Gathering to Edify.” (Note Sovereign Grace posted the message here).

Bob started off by reminding us that the word “worship” is a transitive verb – it requires and object.  We need to worship something – in this case we need to worship God.  (Hence the name of the conference!)   We wouldn’t say “Let’s go throw” – throw what?  A ball? It requires an object and the object of our worship must be God himself.

When we gather together it is about God and us = we edify the church by magnifying Christ and that brings glory to God.  Expect God will do this when we gather! (if we magnify Christ…)

  1. When we gather, we edify each other
    • Were you edified in church today?  Look at 1 Cor 14 – how many times do you see ‘build up?’
    • Seek personal edification by edifying others – greeting, singing, praying, etc.
    • Love – loving others
      • Are we seeking glory for our selves?
      • Physical expression builds up (NOTE:  I agree!  As worship leaders how encouraging to see our body worshiping with physical expression and passionate singing.  How discouraging to see people refusing to sing and glaring back…)
    • Intelligibility
      • Do we speak Christianese at church?
      • Do we help newcomers understand what we do?
      • (Bob then went to the piano for an example – he played “Amazing Grace” and asked us to sing, but he played such a strange version of it, the melody was completely obscured, no one sang.  Point taken.)
      • Be clear
      • Provide for planned and spontaneous moments
      • Are we leading to receive or to give?  Am I distracted by what I see?
      • Countenance – does our face reflect deep inner joy?
      • Do we open our eyes and make eye contact with the body when we lead worship?  (“Open the Eyes of My Face, Lord)
      • The most important sound is the congregation singing – let them sing out!  Give them some familiar songs/arrangements, give them breaks with the full band and just let it be piano or guitar, let them sing a capella!
  2. God edifies his church
    • Not individual experiences
    • This strengthens the spiritual mortar between the living stones
    • Eph 4:15-16 – grow up in every way…
      • Grow up into Jesus
      • Built up from the whole body
    • Don’t leave people with the “Do more, work harder!” – leave them with the grace of God in Jesus
    • Keep the Gospel FIRST, Paul did in his letters!
    • Remember, strengthening comes from Christ
    • Gospelize each other – Col 2:6-7
      • Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
        (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)