My Father’s holding on to me

garage hymnalThis song from Garage Hymnal is one that has been really encouraging to our church family. It speaks with such certainty of the secure salvation we have in Christ.
We first came across it about 5 years ago, but it is the truth of Romans 8:28-39 that makes it lasting. Our heavenly Father is holding us. He is mighty to save, mighty and strong enough to keep hold of us even when we are on a slippery slope. He can lift us up, gently restore us, and he won’t let go. He is our Sovereign Lord!
This is the promise we find in Philippians 1:4-6.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Holding on to Me  (Click here to listen. Click song title for downloads)

Chosen since the start of time
Resting in your grace divine
Showing here on earth your throne
A people calling heaven home

Left my things and followed you
Choices you already knew
You knew my name, my life, my call
When I’d rise, and when I’d fall

My Father’s holding on to me
He gave his Son for me
My Father’s Holding on to me
And he won’t let go       

His arms outstretched and lifted high
We hear the Word incarnate cry
Drying blood and heavy hearts
Breath of Life from God departs

This is my deepest prayer: Hold me O Lord
My hands are not so strong
Though darkness hides your love
and doubt consumes me  / My soul cries “Holy Lord”

Words Copyright © 2006 Andy Judd / Music Copyright © 2006 Andy Judd and Lynda Thoms

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The blessings of explaining your faith

discipline-of-evangelism-sharing-the-good-newsI have been working through the course Christianity Explained* with a new friend over the past few months. She came to our church because she has seen the huge changes Jesus made in the life of her adult son, and wanted to know what it was all about!
Now I must say, it can be a scary thing when you realise you are the first person to explain to someone who Jesus is and what he has done. You think you will say the wrong thing or put them off, and damage their only hope of knowing peace with God!  But then you remember that God works through His Spirit and His Word (and us) despite our abilities or inabilities. You just have to keep resting on this knowledge and move forward. God worked in my own stubborn heart (and yours I trust) so that I would come to a point of repentance and faith. . . and He will keep drawing people to Himself in this way until Jesus returns! Softening hearts to the Gospel is something only God can do. Let’s trust Him to do it. And just keep explaining it as best we can. (Apart from all this, Christianity Explained is a really easy course to use, where the Bible and the course booklet explain everything simply and well. You can check out the summary of the course at the end of this post, with links for where to buy the resources.)

It is such a privilege to be explaining Christianity to someone – not just because of the earthly and eternal benefits involved for them – but also for growing your own faith. I have been challenged and refreshed in going carefully over the basics again, looking deeply into Mark’s Gospel and being confronted by Jesus up close! I see anew his character, his humour, love, compassion and his determination to fulfill his rescue mission for all people, even for those who despised him. He showed people such grace and such patience, dealing with crowds who really just wanted to see a show – crowds that made it difficult for those who had real faith in Him to get close. He lived for three years with a group of men who almost understood who he was, yet showed great lack of faith at times and were probably quite annoying! (a bit like me).

I have also been challenged by the way my friend has been so keen to share with her friends the things that she has been learning about Christian beliefs, particularly the difference between salvation by works and salvation by grace! She realises that GRACE is so totally opposite to the message the media portrays of do-gooder Christians who are trying to make it to heaven!

So can I encourage you if you are a Christian, to keep explaining the Gospel as much as you can . . . not just in the quick hit evangelism format (which is often very useful) but in the more relaxed teaching-style format of this course (or something similar). It gives people plenty of time to think and process what they are being told, and for God to challenge them personally through His Word. It also means you grow a close relationship with someone else who gets to know you, over time, and see how your belief makes a difference in your life.

Don’t miss out on sharing that moment of awe, when someone sees God’s amazing grace for the first time! It is such an encouragement to see God working, challenging someone in what they know and believe about the Son of God who died for them. Whether or not they become a Christian in the end – well that is up to God (and I pray that may be so) – the encouragement and growth gained along the way is certainly worth the journey.

* * *

*CchristianityExplained_coverhristianity Explained is a great short course which in 6 sessions takes you through the basics of what Christians believe and who they are. The course, developed by Michael Bennett, has been widely used in Australia and internationally for several decades. Each session takes about 45mins to an hour to complete, depending on how many questions your person wants to ask and discuss. It is based on the gospel of Mark, which course participants read at home in small segments for the duration of the course. It is a great tool for clearly and fully explaining the Gospel – one to one, or in a group setting. The 6 sessions focus on the meaning of:
1. Jesus, Son of God
2. The Cross
3. The Resurrection
4. Salvation by Grace
5. Repent
6. Believe

Check out the course here at The Good Book (US) or Koorong Books (Australia).

Let me be unashamed

unashamedI have been taking John Piper out for a walk now and then recently – well, obviously not in person, but in mp3 format on my smart phone. Today I listened to a talk from 2010 on Mark 8, titled “The Son of Man Must Suffer many things“….. It was an astounding message. The first half explored the passage and the topic, and the second explained why he needed to take a complete 8 month break from preaching!

In the first half, the climax was this challenge from Piper on verse 38:

“Verse 38: “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Let’s get the meaning clear before we make the connection. What’s the opposite of being ashamed of somebody? Being proud of them. Admiring them. Not being embarrassed to be seen with them. Loving to be identified with them.

So Jesus is saying, “If you are embarrassed by me and the price I paid for you (and he’s not referring to lapses of courage when you don’t share your faith, but a settled state of your heart toward him)—if you’re not proud of me and you don’t cherish me and what I did for you—if you want to put yourself with the goats that value their reputation in the goat herd more than they value me, then that’s the way I will view you when I come. I will be ashamed of you, and you will perish with the people who consider me an embarrassment.”

Now I’m sure you are curious how preaching on this passage links with Piper announcing his request for a leave of absence from ministry (you can read or listen to the talk if you follow this link.) And I’m not going to tell you . . . because his challenge is what I want you to contemplate: are you in a settled state of admiration for Christ, do you love being identified with him – or are you in a settled state of embarrassment for the “foolishness” of the Cross of Christ? As I was being challenged by Piper’s words I was reminded of a similarly challenging plea that comes in a song from Sovereign Grace:

“Let me be unashamed, Jesus, to speak Your name
Let me be bold to claim you as my Lord”

This is a brilliantly rousing song. The faster pace and guitar riffs would surely appeal to many, even though it may be considered “old”. I hope you will be able to encourage your whole church to bring this plea before God in song: “Let me be unashamed….” I definitely need to add this one back onto the new song list for our church!

(Click here to listen, for lead sheets and other music formats.)

UNASHAMED

VERSE 1
You were not ashamed to be
Emptied and poured out to death
Unashamed to give Your dying breath
You were not ashamed to bear
All of my reproach and sin
Jesus, You were such a faithful friend
So I will glory in the cross
And in the blood You shed for us
Glory in the gospel of Your grace

Let me be unashamed
Jesus, to speak Your name
For You were the one who came
The Savior of the world
Let me be unashamed
Jesus, to speak Your name
Let me be bold to claim
You as my Lord

VERSE 2
You were not ashamed to give
Your body to a Roman lash
Unashamed to bear God’s holy wrath
You were not ashamed to hang
Naked bleeding on a tree
Gladly You did all of this for me
So I will glory in the cross
And in the blood you shed for us
Glory in the gospel of Your grace

Mark Altrogge © 2002 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).