Always in His presence

music_is_nature__silhouette_by_sammy3773-1And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. . . (Ephesians 2:6)

“…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.”  (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace)

Lately I’ve been chatting with fellow musical Christians on “LinkedIn” – particularly on the question of worship, the difference between the titles ‘song leader’ and ‘worship leader’ (click here to read that discussion) and if there is any way to reconcile our different opinions. In some ways I feel I’ve been told that my preference for calling those who lead the singing in church ‘song leaders’ is way too blinkered, because singer do so much more than just lead the singing. In the view of many, it seems, song leaders are actually leading people into God’s presence through the experience of corporate worship. Now this may just be semantics, and perhaps all they mean is that we feel closer to God as we draw near to Him together in praise. But if not then such ‘Worship leaders’ have the responsibility of making a way of access between sinful man and God. To me, that is a huge claim, a responsibility we could never have. In fact, it sounds like something that JESUS has already accomplished.

Now should I sit quietly and take this as being a denominational difference, or difference in opinion, which doesn’t really matter? Or is this view actually misleading, with no grounding in the New Testament texts or the practice of the early church? Does this view of corporate worship actually detract from what Christ has already done? Does it hark back to the Old Testament ‘temple worship’ model which is now fulfilled in Christ?

From what I understand in God’s word, the idea that our corporate worship is a worship experience – where we tentatively approach God and hope that he will inject his spirit and power into us through this experience – has very much been surpassed in Christ! This is how the Old Testament people (who did not experience the Holy Spirit in an ongoing, everyday, ‘I will never leave you’ kind of way) approached God in the temple. They came with some measure of uncertainty and a great measure of unworthiness.

But for us as Christ followers, living this side of the cross, the power that raised Jesus from the dead is living in us! He is living in us! We are always in Him, always in His presence. (Check this review of One Forever: The transforming power of being in Christ.) We are in the very throne room of heaven right now, even while our daily lives here continue. You could even say that we Christians are always in church, because we are always ‘in Christ’. There is such great certainty and confidence here. Our unworthiness has been dealt with and wrapped up in Christ.

“We do not go to church to worship, but, already at worship, we join our brothers and sisters in continuing those actions that should have been going on – privately, [as families], or even corporately – all week long.” (Harold Best, Music through the eyes of Faith, p.147)

Jesus is our great High Priest, the way to the Father which the Father provided. He is our one true worship leader, who leads us into a life of worshipping our loving Heavenly Father at the very moment we are saved.
Of course it is great to gather together as God’s people, to remind one another of the reality that we serve a great and wonderful God. As we sing we fulfill the way God designed for us to be building each other up in the Lord, speaking the ‘Word of Christ’ into each other’s lives. But we don’t need to see corporate worship as a tenuous time, when hopefully the music is good and powerful enough to lead people into His presence. My friends, we are already there! We are always in His presence!

“Paul says to the church at Corinth, ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?’ He later tells them that their bodies are the temple of God. This is the astounding reality of New Testament religion: we as Christians are the house of worship.”
(David Platt, Radical Together, 2011)

Here are a few other verses from God’s Word to consider – to remind us that our worship of the Almighty God is an ongoing and daily activity, which is also expressed corporately when we gather together.

“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Thanks for reading my rant – an important one! If you want to think more on these things check out the following:

https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/04/17/why-i-prefer-song-leader-to-worship-leader/
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/09/13/two-books-ive-got-to-get-hold-of/
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/09/25/all-of-creation-sing-with-me-now-the-veil-is-torn/
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/10/26/corporate-worship-is-a-serious-gift/
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/04/30/how-worship-murders-our-self-righteousness/
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/04/26/drawing-back-the-curtains-on-christ-the-role-of-song-leaders/

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A powerful performance

Bryan Patterson's Faithworks

THE Piano Guys are on a mission to perform at all seven wonders of the world.

For their latest project, they travelled to the world famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. They created and performed a special piece at the special location, bringing the heartfelt hymn of praise How Great Thou Art together with the theme from the movie The Mission.

Listen and be calmed.

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Most Influential Blogger Award

I’d like to thank John Mark Miller at The Artistic Christian for nominating me for the Most Influential Blogger Award!

Most Influential Blogger BadgeIf you enjoy posts about Art, Culture and Life from a Christian Perspective, then you should visit his blog. I’m sure you would enjoy it!

http://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com/welcome-to-the-artistic-christian/

Award Guidelines

Here are the guidelines for acceptance – really very straightforward.
To accept this award, the awardees must do the following:
1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a blog post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).
5. Include an embedded video of your current favorite song (YouTube has almost everything, just copy and paste the link into your WordPress editor). If a video is not possible you can embed a SoundCloud track.

My Favorite Song

At the moment I’m really enjoy listening to the album WORTH IT ALL by Meredith Andrews. This song, PIECES, is a goodie!

My List of Most Influential Bloggers!

It’s my privilege to introduce you to some talented bloggers who I believe are Most Influential Bloggers. I hope you enjoy their writing as much as I do:

1. Nick at MOUTHFUL OF GOSPEL http://nickmorrowmusic.com/

2. Bryan at BRYAN PATTERSON’S FAITHWORKS http://bryanpattersonfaithworks.wordpress.com/

3. Mel at IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE http://melwild.wordpress.com/

4. Rob at MERE INKLING http://mereinkling.wordpress.com/

5. Nathan at NATHAN MILLICAN’S BLOG  http://nathanmillican.com/

6. Deidre at CRUSTY BREAD http://crustybreadblog.com/

7. Anna at A JOURNEY OF FAITH http://daughterbydesign.wordpress.com/

8. Lori at A DISPLAY OF HIS SPLENDOR http://adisplayofsplendor.com/

9. Justin at EMBRACING GOD’S GRACE http://jmeyerksu.wordpress.com/

10. Belinda at GRACE AND TRUTH http://graceandtruth.me/about/

Growing into sacrificial, radical living

jesuschangedmylifejpgAs we grow in relational intimacy with Christ through the gospel, we gradually overflow in radical living for Christ. Any low-grade sense of guilt gets conquered by a high-grade sense of gospel that compels a willing, urgent, joyful, uncompromising, grace-saturated, God-glorifying obedience in us. We live sacrificially, not because we feel guilty, but because we have been loved greatly and now find satisfaction in sacrificial love for others. We live radically, not because we have to, but because we want to.

David Platt in “Radical Together

Go Deep in the Grace of God – Piper’s Five Points

piper 5pts“Perhaps your greatest spiritual need right now is precisely this — to let the flood of God’s prodigal grace wash over you afresh and like never before. As much as your instincts may be saying that next step is yours, what decision you make, what change you can effect, it may be that what you need most is to stand back, look outside yourself, and see the salvation of the Lord which he has worked for you  — by sheer grace.”

If you are looking for a little book to read for some encouragement in understanding the grace of God, Pipers “Five Points” will probably fit the bill. In less than a hundred pages you can plumb the depths of the irresistible grace of God, in a journey through the Five Points of Calvinism, on which the book is based. Along with Martin Luther, John Calvin was the most influential writer in the Protestant Reformation. If you have never considered the building blocks of our Protestant faith, head over to Piper’s site for the free PDF.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/go-deep-in-the-grace-of-god

Lost in worshipping the created

I have some friends who are totally in lonature-man-in-tree-on-waterve with the beauty of the natural world. They ravenously consume nature documentaries and scientific discoveries, and relish the fascinating and amazing laws which exist in the universe. I must say I do share and rejoice in such a fascination! Yet it is possible to be lost, from God’s perspective, even with such an attitude. Linked to this love of creation is the exaltation of mankind, as the crown of creation. As mankind exalts, expresses, captures, ponders, reproduces, learns from and preserves all the wonder of creation, the wonder of the Creator (who in fact made, entered and sustains this creation!) can be, sadly, pushed aside.

Consider these words from John Piper:

“The tragedy of the world is that the echo is mistaken for the Original Shout. When our back is to the breathtaking beauty of God, we cast a shadow on the earth and fall in love with it. But it does not satisfy. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them. . . For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of the flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”
(from The Dangerous Duty of Delight)

His words remind me of those penned by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, chapter 1:  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. . . They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator

Piper comments further on this ‘exchange’:  How could I put my eye to some great telescope, designed to make me glad with visions of the galaxies, and notice in the glass a dim reflection of my face and say:”Now I am happy, I am loved?” How could I stand before the setting sun, between the mountain range and the vastness of the sea, and think that everlasting joy should come from making much of me? . . . “
(Don’t Waste your Life, John Piper, 2003, p.186.)

What this really boils down to is love of humanity, humanity exalting itself in bold denial of the Creator, saying ‘all this can exist and be sustained simply by the ingenuity of mankind’ – or by the evolutionary process, which apparently needs no initial designer (?!).

How sad to be so in love with the shadow of the Creator, that a relationship with the Creator is fortfeited, the Creator in whose image we are made, the Creator whose love and sense of right and justice and compassion lives in us as a testimony to his character – even if we deny him.

If this is a struggle for you, please check out my older post on a similar topic: https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/07/01/an-unwasted-life-makes-much-of-jesus/

I trust and pray you can see the God who created and sustains this universe, by His living and eternal Word, Jesus Christ. Faith in him will never disappoint!

Don’t wait til you feel like singing

http://nickmorrowmusic.com/learning-to-jog/

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the current racket of Christian radio, or is embarrassed to invite your friends to church because they make fun of the music, I can relate. If you stand with your hand in your pockets during worship sets, or cross your arms, or pretend like you’re singing so that no one thinks you actually hate the music, or spend the entire worship set in the prayer room so that you don’t have to sing…I can relate. I’ve done all that since I was old enough to sing in church.

But about a year ago, something changed: I started jogging every morning.

Anyone who has ever made the resolution to work out in the morning knows that for the first 10-15 minutes of being awake, you want to stab yourself in the face for ever having the idea to wake up before the sun does, let alone work out. 

But five or ten minutes into my first run, something strange happened. My body adjusted to the shock, and the fresh air felt good on my lungs. The silence of the early morning brought a calming serenity, and my head cleared. Pretty quickly I realized that a morning workout was better than a strong cup of coffee. My energy levels drastically increased. I started eating healthier to supplement my work-out habit. Prayers and creative ideas would come to me during morning workouts. I became one of those crazy people who really like working out early in the morning. (For the record, I never started jogging in place or wearing bright spandex shorts.)

I realized that I had become pretty physically disciplined through exercise, but I was totally neglecting spiritual discipline in regards to corporate worship. “What would happen,” I thought, “if I treated corporate worship like I do my jogging routine. What if I was consistent whether I felt like it or not. What if every time I went to church, I made conscious decision that I was going to worship God, no matter what?”

The results were immediate. I started singing in church, every Sunday. No matter who was watching or listening, no matter how much I didn’t like the music. I reflected on the truth of the lyrics, and sang along. The first few times I did this, I noticed something strangely familiar. After about 10 minutes of singing my reservations wore off. My critical spirit disappeared, and I began to really open up and worship. I began to connect with God. My pretense slowly melted away, and I was left with gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. Just for having showed up and worshiped.

I also started leading worship more consistently for various church functions. No matter how I felt or what songs we were playing, I’ve committed to showing up, giving my best effort, and focusing my attention on God. Some of the times when I was most reluctant to show up and lead worship music have been the most engaging corporate worship experiences I’ve ever had.

I learned a solid principle when it comes to spiritual discipline: we should worship God because it is good for us, not because it makes us feel a certain way. We can’t wait around until we “feel” like worshiping. That may never happen. Worship is a spiritual discipline. We shouldn’t wait for a “reason to sing” any more than we should wait on a reason to pray or to love our neighbor. Like love within marriage, “worship” is a choice and an action, not a feeling. Sentimental emotions toward God will come and go, but the best weapon in the arsenal of Christian worship is resolution: a firm dedication to giving God the glory He is due, as often as possible. 

So next time you show up to a worship service and don’t feel like it, start with discipline. Force yourself to sing the gospel, and let me know how that goes for you…