Grace dispels fear through the promises

freedom with textJohn Piper “The Power of a Superior Promise” from Solid Joys Devotionals

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Is your Smart phone making you dumb?

driving texting dangerousSmart phone technology has brought many radical social changes in the last decade or so. People are doing things (without a second thought) that were once considered really stupid or anti-social. Who would have thought we humans would try operating a motor vehicle while staring at a three-inch screen? Or walking on a train platform doing the same? Imagine sitting with a group of friends and gazing intently at the palm your hand, offering them no conversation or eye contact! Perhaps you have already observed some of these odd and addictive tendencies in the people around you – and most frighteningly, in yourself!

A columnist in our local paper just confessed to being a phonoholic. “My phone has become the 207th bone in my body. I think I would feel barely upright without it. . . Such a feeling has been named nomophonophobia – the fear of being without your mobile phone.” (J. Fynes-Clinton, Sept 26, 2013)

Smartphones don’t discriminate in taking prisoners! It is not only those selfie-taking tween addicts who are at risk of losing all their ‘smarts’ to their smart phone. In fact, our “selfie-obsessed” Prime Minister posted his latest shaving cut via Instagram just weeks before the election (he lost). So, before we all lose our common sense to our smart phones, let’s ‘hang up’ on excessive smart phone use. Here are 10 things you should know about your awesome smart phone (before you find yourself cast in the sequel of Dumb and Dumber To):

1. Smart phones don’t make you smarter and won’t make you happy.
Yep, they sure are sleek, complex and nifty little gadgets that do cool things. They can connect you to a web of ‘friends’, music, video, games and the latest social news – but they may detract from your wisdom, intelligence and satisfaction level. You can become so reliant on mobile google that you give up thinking or remembering anything! Smart phones may make you look cool, acceptable and impress your friends, but there are more important things in life, which can bring greater and lasting joy.

2. People are better than Smart phones.galaxy-s4-life-companion
Have we forgotten this?  People are unique and complex individuals. They have more potential to surprise, entertain and inspire you than anything you’ll flick by on the small screen. Living, three-dimensional, high resolution people make far better company. No matter what Samsung may tell you, your smart phone is not a ‘life companion’. People are way smarter and worth investing in. Try paying close attention to their faces, eyes and body language – and see what happens. Don’t become so dependent on that small screen that you lose touch with real people and relationships.

3. They make you forget basic good manners and conversation skills.
Smart phones make us think it is acceptable to silently stare at a little screen in the presence of another human being, especially when everyone else is doing it! (Actually, everyone else has to do it so they don’t feel ignored!) We even think it’s fine to do so when someone is actually speaking to us. Hello!?

4. They tempt you to build your self-esteem on how many people like your social media updates.
How easy to become addicted to that sort of affirmation when it is at your fingertips? Do you really need to know that people like your latest meal or cup of coffee? Smart phones encourage us to binge on social media. Turning off those distracting phone notifications may allow you to engage fully with people in the moment.

attention-while-walking5. You look pretty silly when your phone is constantly in hand.
And you’ll looking sillier if you injure yourself while walking and typing. In New Jersey, police began (May 2012) issuing $85 citations for careless walking, and the Utah Transit Authority made distracted walking around trains punishable by a $50 fine. Signage is also being used widely to reduce pedestrian accidents caused by texting. Try putting the thing in your bag or pocket, or in another room. And by the way, smart phones and toilets don’t mix well for many reasons!


6. They tempt us to be a stupid driver who texts or updates Facebook while driving.
How easy would it be to stop the car to attend to that important text message? Facebook also can wait! If you must recharge your phone in the front of the car, shut it in the glove box or put it out of reach so you won’t be easily tempted. (Besides that, it is pretty stupid not to avoid a fine for being on your phone while driving, if you can.)

7. Smart phone technology addiction can actually rewire your brain, to be less smart!
In “The Brain that Changes Itself” (2008) author Norman Doidge says that our dependence on this technology can rewire our brains to the extent that it becomes difficult to concentrate on a complex conversation or listen to a lecture. “Electronic media are so effective at altering the nervous system because that both work in similar ways. . . Both involve the instantaneous transmission of electronic signals to make linkages. Because our nervous system is plastic*, it can take advantage of this compatibility and merge with the electronic media, making a single, larger system. . . Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull, and his nerves outside his skin” (p.311). At the very least, excessive smart phone use discourages us from tackling problems, conversations, a novel or the philosophical writings of great thinkers. Why? Because these things do not involve the instantaneous gratification of electronic media.
(‘Plastic’ means it can change and adapt.)

8. Your eyes can suffer.
Those muscles for distance vision will become weak if you are staring at a small screen constantly, keeping your eyes operating at the same focal length all the time. Researchers have actually recorded an increase in myopia (short-sightedness). Read more here.

9. Sleep can become elusive.electronic-light-sleep
The glow of the smart phone screen prevents our bodies releasing seratonin, which helps us fall and stay asleep. Your brain needs sleep to be smart – so again the smart phone doesn’t make you smart. No smart phones in your bed/bedroom may be a smart policy in your home (and mine). Read more here

10. Excessive self-absorption will not make the world a better place.
The idea of showing a random act of kindness or service to someone else can become so far-removed from our thought patterns if we are no longer observing the people around us. Blinkers are for horses, not for people – people who have the power to impact those around them for good. If you want to see more good, more love, more thoughtfulness in the world, take off those smart phone blinkers and live again!

(Check out this post about a guy who is going to divorce his iphone: http://www.oddcrunch.com/why-you-should-get-a-divorce/0)

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All You’ve Ever Wanted (Casting Crowns – new single)

casting crownsYou may be very interested to know that Casting Crowns has just released a new single “All You’ve Ever Wanted”. You can listen on Spotify or buy from iTunes and Amazon. The song focuses on the “relentless love” of a God who simply wants our hearts! There are plenty of echoes of the challenging lyrics Casting Crowns have presented before, but with the comfort that our guilty stains are already washed away. I love the piano riff that underlies the track. Enjoy!

All You’ve Ever Wanted

I just looked up today
And realized how far away I am from where You are
You gave me life worth dying for
But between the altar and the door
I bought the lies that promised more
And here I go again

Lord, I know I let You down
But somehow, I will make You proud
I’ll turn this sinking ship around
And make it back to You

But all my deeds and my good name
Are just dirty rags that tear and strain
To cover all my guilty stains
That You already washed away

(‘Cause) All You’ve ever wanted, all You’ve ever wanted
All You’ve ever wanted was my heart
Freedom’s arms are open, my chains have all been broken
Relentless love has called me from the start
And all You wanted was my heart

I was chasing healing when I’d been made well
I was fighting battles when You conquered hell
Living free but from a prison cell
Lord, I lay it down today

So I’ll stop living off of how I feel
And start standing on Your truth revealed
Jesus is my strength, my shield
And He will never fail me

No more chains, I’ve been set free
No more fighting battles You’ve won for me
Now in Christ, I stand complete

Publishing: © 2013 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Tree Publishing administered by Sony/ATV. / My Refuge Music (BMI) (adm. at EMICMGPublishing.com) / Bernie Herms Music (BMI) (adm. by The Loving Company). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Writer(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms

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All of Creation, sing with me now, the veil is torn!

temple curtain“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings. . . “ (Hebrews 10: 19-22)

For me one of the most striking events of Christ’s crucifixion is that moment when the temple curtain is torn from top to bottom. I always wonder who heard or saw that, who were witnesses to that moment?  And what an astounding occurence, coinciding with the death of the one who was Son of God, Son of Man, the promised King of the Jews who would reconcile God and man. But this is no happy coincidence or accident or furnishing fail! It is God’s clear and powerful object lesson. Listen to what Spurgeon says (1888):

“The rending of the veil of the temple is not a miracle to be lightly passed over. It was made of “fine twined linen, with Cherubims of cunning work.” This gives the idea of a substantial fabric, a piece of lasting tapestry, which would have endured the severest strain. No human hands could have torn that sacred covering; and it could not have been divided in the midst by any accidental cause; yet, strange to say, on the instant when the holy person of Jesus was rent by death, the great veil which concealed the holiest of all was “rent in twain from the top to the bottom.”

This supernatural event says that sinful man, who could not look on the glory of God, could now access God by the death of his perfect Son on the cross. Without being zapped or burnt to a crisp we sinful humans can now see the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). We can have direct access to a Holy God by trusting in the death of His Son for us, by His Spirit poured into our hearts, making us right with Him!  Until this thick and weighty ‘veil’ was torn we were separated from God and knew only guilt. We had no hope. But from this point on we can have the certainty that we are acceptable to God because of Christ. This is amazing grace!

I love what the band Mercy Me have done in their song “All of Creation” – which takes us from this point where hope was born to singing out in praise to God. It calls for all of creation, both people and the natural world, to join and sing to the glory of their Creator. All creation is groaning, waiting the complete restoration when Christ returns, when the sons of God will be revealed (see Romans 8:19-24) – well I know I am!  What better way to pass the time than to sing out praises to the one we wait for?

Mercy Me

Separated until the veil was torn
The moment that hope was born
and guilt was pardoned once and for all

Captivated but no longer bound by chains
left at an empty grave
the sinner and the sacred resolved

And all of creation sing with me now
Lift up your voice and lay your burden down
And all of creation sing with me now
Fill up the heavens let his glory resound

Time has faded and we see him face to face
every doubt erased forever we will worship the king

The reason we breathe is to sing of his glory
And for all he has done
Praise the father, praise the son and the spirit in one
And every knee will bow oh and every tongue
Praise the father, praise the son, and the spirit in one.

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Leading praise and worship is not about us

It also doesn’t depend on us feeling good!  I recently read the interesting musings of a worship leader who was feeling temporarily rather flat, and contemplating how to go about leading at church in such a state.  I love his conclusions, about the fact that faithfulness to the task is what counts, not the results. I’m sure you’ll be encouraged by the excerpt below.

FEELING FLAT (from Daniel K. Robinson, Voice in Worship)

“. . . My current sense of d_feelingflat1ejection did have me wondering (as you do) about the role of the worship leader and how we don’t always ‘feel’ like leading people in worship. . . . So let’s hypothesise that I was ‘rostered on’ to lead worship this Sunday. How should I approach such a service? Should I, as I just suggested, ‘rouse’ my emotions and challenge myself to sing God’s praises regardless. Most certainly! God is worthy of my praise, regardless of my situation, circumstance or even emotional state. . . .  Can I worship God, moreover can I, and should I lead worship even when I’m not feeling emotionally buoyant?
Well I guess the answer to that query is found in the underlying ethos upon which my worship orientation is founded. For example, as Mark Pierson (2010) writes in The Art of Curating Worship, “If excellence is a primary goal, then the weak, the timid, the depressed, the disabled, the unskilled, the sick, the introverted, the overweight, the less attractive, the poor, and the untalented aren’t going to get a look in” (p. 65). I’m adding to Mark’s list…the temporarily despondent.
Allow me to offer the thought: perhaps my worship (and my leading thereof) in this moment of temporary despondency is worship experienced differently. Sure, on the outside it might not present with the level of excellence I have in the past but I am choosing to worship regardless of my feelings; offering myself as a living sacrifice – imperfectly despondent. Could this actually be a wonderful opportunity, disguised though it may be (even to myself), where my offering of worship is simply in the doing? Sometimes our worship becomes very ‘results’ orientated. . .  But maybe this occasion calls me to simply do and be with no expectation of result or outcome. How wonderfully un-gratifying! Now, in my current state of glumness, it’s not about me…it has to be all about Him. In the midst of the moment it may well be that God touches me in a refreshing way and I come through the experience changed and uplifted. Equally, it might not happen like that. But that should not be my reasoning anyway. I don’t worship simply for ‘what’s in it for me’. At least I shouldn’t…and this circumstance (my feeling flat) has actually gifted me with the opportunity to make sure that the worship service can’t be about me – but about the one to whom we offer our praise!”

(Read the full article here: Voice in Worship)

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Jesus, friend of sinners

casting-crowns-come-to-the-well-TOURJesus, Friend of Sinners is the title of a beautiful song from Casting Crowns’ most recent album “Come to the Well“. It is a song which speaks of need for us to show the love of Christ to others, to show what we stand for . . . that we stand for and by the grace that has been shown to us in Christ. We stand for His forgiveness, won on the cross. We want the world to know that our God shows unmeasured grace and love to those who are his enemies. We don’t want the world to define Christians as those who simply oppose everything, and who stand against them. Jesus is the only righteous Judge of those for whom he died, so let’s leave the judging to him. Let this resounding challenge (from the chorus) go with you today:

“Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, Open our eyes to the world at the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy, Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, Break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Jesus, friend of sinners, We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in Your name
But the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me

Always looking around but never looking up, I’m so double minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

Jesus, friend of sinners
The One whose writing in the sand made the righteous turn away
And the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy
Bring Your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against
When we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs, Crossed over the lines
And loved like You did

You love every lost cause, You reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame, They’re the reason that You came
Lord, I was that lost cause, And I was the outcast
But You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

‘Cause You are good, You are good
And Your love endures forever
And I was the lost cause, And I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

by Mark Hall, Matthew West © 2011 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI)

Listen to Mark Hall speak about the story behind the song – click HERE

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Why men have stopped singing in church

This is one of the most thought-provoking articles I have read about congregational singing in quite a while. As musicians we appreciate the freedom we now enjoy to learn and teach an infinite number of great songs in our gatherings. We are no longer limited to the several hundred in our now passé hymn book. But what is the impact of this change, particularly for men? This post suggests many things we should perhaps take heed of. It reminds me of the benefits that come from sticking to a smaller playlist for a term, as people get to know songs better. Let me know what you think.

WHY MEN HAVE STOPPED SINGING IN CHURCH

Worship BandIt happened again yesterday. I was attending one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

A few months ago I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

First, a very quick history of congregational singing.

Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).

Reformers gave worship back to the people in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes that were easy to sing, and mated them with theologically rich lyrics. Since most people were illiterate in the 16th century, singing became an effective form of catechism. Congregants learned about God as they sang about God.

A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid twentieth century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

About 20 years ago a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.
At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

But that began to change about ten years ago. Worship leaders realized they could project anything on that screen. So they brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.
In short order we went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now,” they would say. “We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”
That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?
And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, sung in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.
But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.

There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.
How do I know? When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded with gusto. People sang. Even the men.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2013/05/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/

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Looking for good Christmas songs?

Music leaders, it’s that time of year to start planning your Christmas events once again. If you are looking for ideas, check out some of these posts from Christmas past:

December 25 in song, thanks to Francesca!francescachristmasalbum

. . .  Click here for the itunes link. If you are looking for a great song for a Christmas event at your church, I would recommend “Heaven Everywhere” (sheet music available from Musicnotes.com) or a slower one “December 25“. If you live in a snowy location, try “Marshmallow world” for a bit of fun! Can’t say we relate to that over here in sunny Brisbane, in the middle of a heatwave. READ MORE

Grace has now appeared – Christ!advent

Titus 2:11  “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.”

. . .  another great new Christmas song published by the folks from EMU music. (If you haven’t heard of them, they are a great source of singable gospel-true congregational songs). This song “Grace has now appeared” is the first track on their recently released Christmas album Advent(follow this link to buy on itunes). The theme is obviously the “advent”, the arrival of our Saviour, the Word become flesh. The whole album is filled with gospel-rich songs of different styles and tempos. It’s great to play in your home or car through the holiday season, to help remember the loving act of our Holy God, who became man, and showed immeasurable kindness in stooping down to save us, from our addiction to worshipping ourselves.
My favourite lines of this song come in verse 3, “He has come to dwell within us, Bringing us from death to life, Giving us the hope of glory, Making us like Christ, Shining forth his light.” Grace has indeed appeared! And we “little Christs” are the living reminders of that grace. Hope you enjoy the album! (Sheet music available here) READ MORE

Fullness of grace in man’s human frailty

I have been dusting off all my Christmas CDs in anticipation of that most wonderful time of the year. A song I’ve enjoyed for quite a while (on the Christmas album NEW IRISH HYMNS 3: INCARNATION) has just been re-released on the newest Getty album: Joy – An Irish Christmas. The song is called “Fullness of Grace.” It effectively captures how the Incarnation event, when God became Man in Christ, is all about Jesus’ willing choice to wrap himself in our frail human form – an embodiment of the grace of God.
READ MORE

Mary did you know?

I have only recently discovered an awesome Christmas song by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene (1991), called “Mary did you know?” Why haven’t I heard of this one before? Jeremy Camp has just released it on his new Christmas album “Christmas: God with Us”. It would make a great solo/ensemble song for your carols/Christmas program. READ MORE

And here are a few more song ideas:

Here they are. The first 4 come from a great album by Sovereign Grace Music called “Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man” (click the title to listen to all these songs. Find free lead sheets, guitar tabs and mp3s for all these songs here)

Hope has Come (fast and cheery – great with chimes or bells)

Christ the Lord is born today (great Christmas Day item)

Glory be to God on High (bright upbeat song)

Salvation is Born (a gentler feel – I used this with a choir, soloist in v1 and ending, arranged the chorus in 3 part harmony).

Is this not the Carpenter? from Emmanuel: A musical celebration of the Life of Christ
The One who made the world made this world His home
This child that grew to man came unto His own
But His own received Him not, Even looked into His eyes, yet never recognized Him, saying
“Is this not the Carpenter – is this not the Son of Mary?”

“Is this not the Carpenter – is this not the Son of Mary?”
Saying “This is but the Carpenter – it’s only Jesus, Son of Mary.”
It’s a sadness without measure, They had been with Him forever
And still not realized He was the very Son of God, saying
“Is this not the Carpenter – is this not the Son of Mary?” . . . read more

So Let Us Shine from Emu Live 2 (lyrics, pdf music and mp3 here)
For desperate people at their darkest hour, When fault and failure held us in its power
A babe was born – he said, “I am the way”.
He came to earth to turn our night to day, He came to earth to turn our night to day
So let us shine! And show the world his love
So let us shine! Because he first loved us
So let us shine! And show the world his love
This baby is the light of the world.

And this last one, is new to me, untested, but I envisage a string section and some groovy chimes and bells!
Shout for Joy by Paul Baloche – as recorded on his most recent CD “The Same Love”
(Note that the CCLI version of the sheet music has a different bridge. I’m going with the one on the album.)

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Two books I’ve got to get hold of!

During this week I came across reviews of several new books which may be very useful for those of you in the role of music/worship leader at your church. If it has been a while since you’ve read an actual book on such topics, these two look worth the effort!

“…the gathering is unique not as an encounter with God (it is that, though God’s presence is a constantly available comfort and help to the Christian); rather it’s unique because it is an encounter with the people of God, filled with the Spirit of God, spurring one another along in the mission of God. Christ in me meets Christ in you.”

These words come from a new book Rhythms of Grace (2013), There is a good, detailed review at Chong’s worship, which I’ll share some of here. It certainly whets my appetite for more thinking about music ministry:

RHYTHMS OF GRACE: How The Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel by Mike Cosper

rhythms of grace“What I appreciated: I finished this book loving Jesus – our true worship leader – more, and inspired to press on in retelling the gospel story when we gather as a church. Reading the first four chapters of the book is biblical theology at its breathtaking best, imaginatively told and left me (numerous times) grateful for God’s redemptive plan throughout history. If that’s where the book ended, it would already have been a worthwhile read!

When tackling more contentious issues of musical style, sound, vision etc. Mike has a gracious tone coupled with a rapier wit that leaves you embarrassed to disagree with him, and appreciative of the wisdom he’s curated from many helpful thinkers. I particularly appreciated:

  • his great explanation of John 4:24′s worship in Spirit and in Truth”
  • his critique of the Temple Model of worship planning (leading people into the throne room of God in music)
  • his appeal for worship planning and leading to be seen as a pastoral task.
  • his appeal for repetition and using non-singing elements in gathered worship (e.g. prayers, creeds, readings)

Most churches lack any real theology for worship, and most church leaders don’t know why the church is gathering, and what the goal is. Mike gives a concise yet thorough primer, rooted in Scripture and history, to answer all this. He doesn’t answer every question in-depth, and you don’t get a stand-alone, one-sentence definition of worship. But after reading this book you’ll definitely understand worship from a more biblical, gospel-centred, historically-rooted and theologically grounded perspective.”  READ THE FULL ARTICLE
(or purchase here)

The second book is:

Doxology and Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader by Matt Boswell and friends (2013)

dox-theol-book

Worship—whether you’re talking about singing (in the narrowest sense) or every thought, word and deed (in the broadest sense)—has long been a source of fascination/frustration for me. we need a better, more robust theology of worship. Matt Boswell and co. have done an impressive job on this one. Here’s a great example from Zac Hicks’ chapter, “The Worship Leader and the Trinity:”

Many in recent years have commented on the anemic state of much of evangelical worship in the twenty-first century. We are me-focused, a-theological, biblically illiterate, and entertainment-saturated, they say. Many of these critics offer a prescription for recovery, ranging from things as practical as a reform of liturgy or musical styles to things as philosophical as media ecology and aesthetics. I’m convinced, though, that many of these (important) observations find resolution when we begin to be more intentional as worshippers, worship planners, and worship leaders about allowing our worship to take the shape of our beloved Object.  (Learn more or buy it at: Amazon)
This review comes from Blogging Theologically

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Is He really making a list, checking it twice?

santaYes, Christmas is still several days away (well, 15 Saturdays at least), but I was revising some posts on Christmas and Christmas songs which I had shared in the past, and found this post (borrowed from My Broom). It contains some really encouraging thoughts about how God sees us, in defiance of a popular song about Santa. You know the one, where he makes a list, checks it twice, and will certainly find out who is naughty or nice.
Some of us mistakenly slip into thinking about God this way – that he is keeping a list of whether we are doing good or bad, and is completely discouraged by our lack of faithfulness. But God has moved to us with pure grace in Christ! This post also serves a reminder for me in parenting: at Christmas time we have the opportunity to tell our children that our gifts (to them) are not based on merit (and won’t be taken back if they are naughty!). Rather, they are gifts of GRACE and love – just like the gift of new life in Christ.

IS GOD MAKING A LIST?
Having entered into the joy of salvation, many Christians spend the rest of their lives in a fearful and frantic state of trying to ensure they don’t lose it. They have tasted the Lord and found that He is indeed good, but their knowledge of the work of Christ is either incomplete or incorrect, and so they focus their efforts on staying in His favour ~ (not losing their salvation).
For those who have been taught that Christ bore your sins up to the moment you repented and then put the load of obligation to live righteously straight back on our shoulders, I would say this ~ ‘you don’t have to live a moment longer worrying if you are living your life well enough to keep God satisfied’.
It doesn’t matter how well you live your life ~ you will never be able to maintain your salvation by your good works, our salvation rests squarely on the work of Christ both for its inception and for its maintenance. We do not drift in and out of salvation according to whether we have keep our list short and repented of every sin we can think of. No, No, No, we have crossed over from death to life… to think otherwise would be to lift from us the curse of sin, only to place back on us the curse of fear.
The writer of Hebrews expands on this in chapter 4 and verse 10; he says; “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own works, just as God did from His”. Have you ever thought that Christ has also rested from His work on the cross? When Christ said; “it is finished” He meant the entire problem of sin was finished for those who fix their eyes on Christ and Him crucified.
The only thing that remains is for us to live in the assurance of our completed salvation by faith, Hebrews calls this ‘rest’, it is a completely new way of living, one of boldness and confidence, based entirely on Christ. Some will say that I am advocating a license to sin, hardly, I am advocating that we don’t have to sin any longer because Christ has given us righteousness… we are free to live from the sheer joy of knowing that God doesn’t keep a list.
I’ve tried to live the yo-yo life of pleasing God by watching every step I take, it’s exhausting, it’s crushing, it’s dis-empowering. Now I spend my day focused on Christ’s goodness and not my own, and if I trip up I don’t get stressed, I just rest in the fact that all my failings were crucified with Christ.”

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