Are you amazed that you belong to Christ?

BEAUTY-OF-THE-CHRIST“If you really see and feel your helplessness and God’s deliverance, you will be amazed that you are a Christian. You will be amazed that your heart inclines to the beauty of Christ. You will be amazed at every good resolve, and every impulse to praise, and every good deed.”

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-practical-reasons-free-will-matters



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What to do with ‘Jesus, Son of God’

Following on my recent conundrum about keys, capos and congregations I’d like to explore the dilemma I am having with this great Chris Tomlin song, and the best key to sing it in at church. Firstly, have a listen and read the words (on the video, or scroll to the end):

In this version, it is played with Capo 4 in G, which means that, at pitch, they are singing in key of B (which has five sharps – the reason they are using a capo).

Since the lyrics of this song are just too good to pass up, we found the best way around the issue of the range, is to sing it in D. This means the range of the melody falls between D and A, which most people can manage! Unfortunately, it also means that the melody in the chorus ends up lower than it is in the verse – but in order for the greatest number of people to sing it well together (which is the point), we decided to go this way. It seems to be working well!

A few other thoughts about this Key choice:
1. If you are into adding harmonies with backing singers, you can easily add some harmonies above the melody in the chorus (a third or 5th above). You could even teach some to your congregation.
2. Some male singers could jump up the octave to help build a crescendo in part of a verse or chorus. This could be modeled by your male song-leader.

Let me know how you go. Here are the lyrics again:

Jesus Son Of God

Verse 1

You came down from Heaven’s throne
This earth You formed was not Your home
A love like this the world had never known
A crown of thorns to mock Your name
Forgiveness fell upon Your face
A love like this the world had never known

Chorus

On the altar of our praise
Let there be no higher name
Jesus Son of God
You laid down Your perfect life
You are the sacrifice
Jesus Son of God
(You are Jesus Son of God)

Verse 2

You took our sin You bore our shame
You rose to life You defeated the grave
And a love like this the world has never known
‘Cause You took our sin You bore our shame
You rose to life You defeated the grave
A love like this the world has never known

Bridge

Be lifted higher than all You’ve overcome
Your name be louder than any other song
There is no power that can come against Your love
The cross was enough
The cross was enough
(The cross was enough)
(The cross was enough)

Ending

The cross was enough
The cross was enough

Hymn books: what we’ve lost and gained.

blue hymn booksI’ve really enjoyed following some blog discussions about hymnals in recent weeks (which you can find at the end of this post). In the space of around 30 years most church congregations have moved away from using them at all. Those piles of well-thumbed and well-sung collections of hymns have disappeared from church foyers and from the experience of many church-goers. In fact, if you are under the age of twenty you may have no memories at all of singing from a hymn book.

Last night I pulled out my little, moth-eaten, blue hymnal at the dinner table.  My ‘elderly’ teenagers and twenty-year-old were bemused by the little tome. And while not entirely oblivious to the contents, they did find my rendition of the drawn out and repetitive phrase from “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” quite amusing: ‘And Crow… ow.. ow.. own Him! Crown Him! Crown Him! Crown Him and Crown Him Lord of All’. (Who said hymns were easy to sing, and not repetitive?)

Whenever there is a great cultural shift in the way something is done there will naturally be losses, and gains. (The internet itself is one giant case in point. While it allows me the opportunity to write and share with people on the other side of the world it can also distract me from giving good attention to the people under my roof!)

And of course we shouldn’t forget two things: the church has done without hymn books before – when people repeated or memorised the lyrics; and, the collection of hymns we have used in church in the last few hundred years are not actually the ones referred to in the Bible, in Ephesians 5:18-19. Those hymns and spiritual songs have been lost forever.

For me, the move away from hymn books has meant the loss of something tangible, a bound book of songs for the church, which have been agreed on and published for their value in helping us praise God, in spirit and truth. People could own or borrow a hymn book and look up songs and reflect on the lyrics. As a child who loved words, I spent many a Sunday service pouring over the hymn book (especially if the sermon was very long or over my head). I devoured both the poetry and theology they contained. They challenged me to learn new words and concepts about God. I was also fascinated by the names of the hymn writers and the years they lived, and wrote, as well as the number of hymns written by each person. This little blue book was something of a little Blue Box, bigger on the inside, and a portal to the rich history of the church for the past few centuries. (If you understand this Doctor Who reference, you may like to visit my old Blue Box Parables blog, on finding Christ in popular culture.)

While I have been brought up on hymns, (and learned to sing harmony because of them, and probably learned to read music from the hymn book on the piano at home) I am not mourning their loss. I have been part of the movement of change, and spent the last few decades looking for spiritual songs and hymns which will edify and teach us well. Alongside this new body of songs, most churches retain the ‘good old hymns’ in their repertoire, hymns that are biblical and continue to encourage people today. Modern adaptations of hymns also help keep the ones worth singing alive (while those full of obscurities and archaic phrases are happily shelved for good).

The authors of the following posts have explored these losses and gains in much more detail and you can read them at your leisure. But to close, I will quote myself for a change, and refer you back to a post written in the defense of new songs in 2012.

In a nutshell, I argued that new songs say that God is doing something here and now, not just a few hundred years ago: “. . . it also comes down to the concept of “renewing our minds”. By hearing the gospel explained in new and fresh ways, our understanding of God and the gospel of His grace is strengthened and deepened. That has got to be a good thing.” 

You will find that Tim Challies also picks up this point in the third post below (which is his own response to his first post about things we lost when hymn books were set aside). The second and fourth links below are other people’s responses to Challies’ original post.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please comment below. Blessings!

https://www.challies.com/articles/what-we-lost-when-we-lost-hymnals

https://gregoryktyree.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/what-we-gained-when-we-gave-up-our-hymnals/

https://www.challies.com/articles/what-we-gained-when-we-lost-the-hymnal

https://chrislinzey.com/2017/04/09/hymnals-we-dont-need-no-stinkin-hymnals/

https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2012/07/31/new-songs-say-god-is-doing-something-now/

Unending Grace: 2 Corinthians 9:8

2 Cor 9 maple leaf“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

Songs for 1 Corinthians: ‘Cross-shaped Love’

outline of white heart, with cross in centre, on black and white backgroundWhen putting a roster of church songs together, I often search for lists of songs which would suit a sermon series on a particular book of the Bible. Mostly, I don’t find what I’m looking for and instead create my own list. I realise these lists, stored away in my dropbox files, would actually be helpful to many other people. Naturally your repertoire may be different from ours. We use many Sovereign Grace, Getty and Townend, Emumusic, Redman, Tomlin and Baloche, along with a selection of hymns and Hillsong. If this sounds similar to your own range of song sources, then hopefully you will find something useful here. This first list of songs is relevant to 1 CORINTHIANS. Enjoy!

All I have is Christ (Sovereign Grace)

Be thou my vision (hymn)

Before the throne of God above (hymn)

Come Hear the Angels sing (EMU)

Cornerstone (Hillsong)

How deep the Fathers love for us (Townend)

How great is your love, oh Lord (No eye has seen)

I will boast  (Paul Baloche)

I will glory in My Redeemer (Sovereign Grace)

Jesus Son of God (Tomlin)

Jesus Thankyou (Sovereign Grace)

Man of Sorrows (Hillsong)

May the Mind of Christ (Mark Peterson EMU)

My Hope (Paul Baloche)

Overflowed (Trevor Hodge)

Oh the deep deep love of Jesus (Sovereign Grace)

Show us Christ (Sovereign Grace)

Stronger (Hillsong)

The Church’s one foundation (hymn)

The Power of the Cross (O to see the Dawn) (Townend and Getty)

Undivided  (EMU)

Faith in our strong God magnifies Grace

father holding hands with daughter walking in shallow water at beachToday’s post comes from John Piper, but his childhood story struck a chord with me. I can faintly remember a similar moment when my dad rescued a mini-me  from under a freak wave at the beach (in his good shoes). I trust you will find this an encouragement:

I do not nullify the grace of God. (Galatians 2:21)

“When I lost my footing as a little boy in the undertow at the beach, I felt as if I were going to be dragged to the middle of the ocean in an instant.

It was a terrifying thing. I tried to get my bearings and figure out which way was up. But I couldn’t get my feet on the ground and the current was too strong to swim. I wasn’t a good swimmer anyway.

In my panic I thought of only one thing: Could someone help me? But I couldn’t even call out from under the water.

When I felt my father’s hand take hold of my upper arm like a mighty vice grip, it was the sweetest feeling in the world. I yielded entirely to being overpowered by his strength. I reveled in being picked up at his will. I did not resist.

The thought did not enter my mind that I should try to show that things aren’t so bad; or that I should add my strength to my dad’s arm. All I thought was, Yes! I need you! I thank you! I love your strength! I love your initiative! I love your grip! You are great!

In that spirit of yielded affection, one cannot boast. I call that yielded affection “faith.” And my father was the embodiment of the future grace that I craved under the water. This is the faith that magnifies grace.

As we ponder how to live the Christian life, the uppermost thought should be: How can I magnify rather than nullify the grace of God? Paul answers this question in Galatians 2:20–21, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God.”

Why does his life not nullify the grace of God? Because he lives by faith in the Son of God. Faith calls all attention to grace and magnifies it, rather than nullifying it.”

http://www.desiringgod.org/books/future-grace

Watch “CityAlight – I Want to Know You”

Am loving this song from City Alight, which perfectly sums up the ongoing desire to grow in knowing Christ.

Lyrics

I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways

My fears to quell, my hopes to raise

But what I need, Your word has said

Is ever, only, Jesus

You died, you live, you reign, you plead

There’s love in all your words and deeds

This weary heart finds all it needs

In ever, only, Jesus

I want to know you, Jesus my Lord

King of the Heavens, King of my soul

I trade my treasure and all my rewards

Jesus to know you, then know you more

Though some should curse me for your name

I have no fear, I have no shame

You stand with me for all my days

My ever, only, Jesus

Like wave after wave on the ocean

Like all of the sand on the shore

Your beauty and glory are endless

O Jesus I must know you more

Resources

Chords & Lyrics

Credits

Michael Farren, Jonny Robinson, Rich Thompson, James Proctor

CCLI 7073331

http://www.cityalight.com/i-want-to-know-you/

Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn)

Sometimes it is easy to miss out on a really great song that could be a great encouragement for your congregation to sing together. We have been using this four-verse modern hymn for a while, courtesy of writers Keith and Kristyn Getty, with Stuart Townend. It is great for communion/Lord’s supper and Easter celebrations. If you have missed it, then it’s time to catch up. Blessings!

“Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us – and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Torn for you – eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you – drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of grace
Around the table of the King.

And so with thankfulness and faith we rise
To respond, – and to remember
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.
As we share in His suffering
We proclaim Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King ”

— WORDS AND MUSIC BY KEITH AND KRISTYN GETTY & STUART TOWNEND

9 Glorious things about Jesus’ Resurrection

empty tombSharing today a great post from Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center – because I couldn’t have said it better myself. The resurrection is the most significant event in history, which changed everything – and continues to change everything for individuals, families, communities, and the world as a whole. Here are 9 glorious things which the empty tomb means for us:

“The resurrection baffled everyone. When the disciples came to Jesus’ empty tomb, they couldn’t comprehend what they were seeing. They had witnessed him die, saw the spear plunge into his side, heard him cry out, “It is finished!” But they couldn’t make heads or tails of the resurrection and the vacant grave clothes and the stone that had been tossed aside. What did these things mean? John 20:9 says:

…for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

They knew Jesus was not there but they didn’t really understand what his resurrection meant. We can be just like the disciples. We know that Jesus rose from the dead but we don’t know what it means for us. . . 

1. THE RESURRECTION MEANS JESUS IS ALIVE

This may sound like I’m stating the obvious but think deeply about this for a moment. Paul said that if the resurrection didn’t happen, we are most to be pitied. Everything we’ve believed and built our lives upon is a horrendous trick, a lie of demonic proportions.

But the resurrection IS true, which means that Jesus is alive, which means that everything he promised will happen. It’s not a myth, fairy tale, or children’s tale. Christ is risen from the dead and is achieving EVERYTHING he said he would.

2. THE RESURRECTION MEANS JESUS IS REIGNING

Our risen Lord is just that – Lord. He sits on the throne of heaven, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our lives and the world may seem insanely chaotic but there is nothing outside of the sovereign rule of King Jesus.

Satan, every demon, and every nation may plot against us and the Lord, and yet Jesus responds like this:

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision (Ps 2:4).

Nothing can stop our Lord from accomplishing his good plans.

3. THE RESURRECTION TOMB MEANS A MAN SITS UPON THE THRONE

This is utterly mind boggling. The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ mean that a man, a human, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, is seated on the throne of heaven.

God is not distant, unfeeling, and unable to sympathize. We have a king who became like us. He knows hardship, grief, sadness, and rejection. Jesus the King is high and exalted, Jesus the man draws near to the brokenhearted.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8).

4. THE RESURRECTION MEANS THE PENALTY FOR SIN HAS BEEN PAID

The wages of sin is death. Those who love wickedness must face the just consequences of their choice. Our rightly deserved punishment is both spiritual and physical death.

When Jesus rose from the dead, it demonstrated that the penalty for sin – death – had been satisfied. Nothing else was needed, the price was paid, all had been accomplished.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:

The Resurrection is the great announcement of the momentous fact that Christ has finished the work He came to do. He is no longer “under the law.” He is back in glory. Why? Because He has done everything that the Law could demand. Now the Law has exhausted itself upon Him, and He will die “no more.”

When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” he was not exaggerating or adding theatrics. It was a beautiful statement of objective truth.

5. THE RESURRECTION MEANS JESUS WILL MAKE ALL THINGS NEW

In the song “All Things New,” Andrew Peterson writes:

So hold on to the promise
The stories are true
That Jesus makes all things new

Jesus will come again, and when he comes he will make ALL things new. Every tear will be wiped away, sin will be eradicated, and this rickety, run-down, sin-stained world will be made new.

Thank God that this world is not our final home. Thank God our life doesn’t consist of eating, drinking, and then dying. The risen Christ will make all things new.

6. THE RESURRECTION MEANS WE WILL RECEIVE NEW BODIES

Christ is the first fruits of the harvest that is coming.

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Co 15:49).

Right now, our bodies decay. Fall apart. Go to pieces. We afflicted with cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, and ALS. But this won’t always be the case. Christ will return and we will receive new, resurrection bodies that don’t feel the crippling effects of sin.

That is such good news.

7. THE RESURRECTION MEANS WE HAVE A SYMPATHETIC GREAT HIGH PRIEST

The risen Jesus is our Great High Priest, taking us into the Most Holy Place, and praying on our behalf. Because he also suffered, he is able to sympathize with our weakness.  He knows our frame, knows that we are dust, and strengthens us accordingly.

Jesus is near to us, helping us, praying for us. He brings our requests to God, purifying and sanctifying them. Because of our sympathetic great high priest, we can draw near with confidence.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:15–16).

8. THE RESURRECTION MEANS WE HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT

Now that Jesus is alive, he gives the Holy Spirit to all who believe in Him.

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear (Acts 2:32-33)

Praise God, the Holy Spirit is no longer reserved for prophets and mighty men and women. He comes to all who believe, weak and strong, young and old, mature and immature.

Through Christ, we are brought into a relationship the triune God.

9. THE RESURRECTION MEANS WE HAVE HOPE

Though we struggle and flail and stumble now, we have hope. Though we are pressed and afflicted, we are not destroyed. Though we walk through the Valley of Death, we will fear no evil. We can let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, Jesus has risen from the dead.

Risen indeed!

Back to 3:16 – Your reason for hope (1 Peter)

sunrise for hope1 Peter 3:14-16 (NIV)
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  

Greetings fellow bloggers,

It is nearly three years since I stalled in my exploration of the Three Sixteens, but today is the day to jump back in. With only four more of these 3:16 verses to go, perhaps I will make it to Revelation by Christmas! (If you missed all the earlier posts, on Matthew 3:16 through to James 3:16, then I’d encourage you to go back to the start and check them out.)

It is truly astounding the way such rich theology is anchored at this point in nearly every New Testament book. Admittedly, the more memorable verse sometimes does fall at 3:15 or 3:17, but this one starts in 15 and carries on.

Firstly, some context. In Chapter 3, Peter has been writing about submission to Christ and to each other, about our witness, and suffering in doing good. Verse 14 says, if we are doing what is right and suffering for it it, we should not fear the threats and slander of mere humans. These should be of no consequence to us (which is much easier said than done, right?). In fact, Peter says we are blessed/rewarded for the suffering we must endure, as we seek to live a holy life. This right behaviour ‘in Christ‘ (done in his strength and for his sake) is further described in verse 16. Other people are going to speak maliciously against us, but Peter says that when we act in good conscience, the slanderers who criticise our good behaviour will ultimately be put to shame. That’s tough for them, but good for us. (However, you certainly wouldn’t want to be doing ‘good things’ with that motivation in your heart – to shame others!)

So, what is the heart of the matter in this 3:16?

As I said before, verse 16 begins in 15, and it starts with a big BUTBut in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. In the midst of suffering and slander, revere Christ. This is Peter’s solution.

The presence of the BUT tells me that our natural inclination is to do just the opposite. Our natural reaction is NOT to revere Christ as Lord. Instead, we hold the opinions and power of mere humans as being more important than that of Christ. We are naturally afraid of living in a way that brings suffering for following Christ (verse 14). That is the precisely the way the World lives –  fearing one another, and the power that others’ have over us, yet constantly seeking the approval of those very people.

That’s why Peter has to say, “But . . “ do this instead! Honour Christ. Fear Christ.

Rather than fearing Man, we Christ-followers are to revere Christ as Lord, to recognise that He is the Lord of this universe and He holds ultimate power. Because He will Judge each of us, He is the right person to fear. And when we fear the right thing, everything else falls into place. When we fear the Lord, the suffering that brings blessing for us also brings hope and peace!

This is what Peter alludes to in verse 14, which is a reference to Isaiah 8:12-15:
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (NLT)

In the fear of the Lord there is refuge and sanctuary. In fearing the Lord we find peace and confidence (we are not frightened), because we revere the true power! Isn’t that astounding?

Perhaps it is only when we patiently suffer for Christ that we find the strength and opportunity to express the HOPE that is in us.

What an encouraging bunch of verses we have here, which remind us that our strength comes from Christ! The meat in the sandwich (verse 15) is honouring or revering Christ, which brings us hope and a readiness to share the hope. This hope allows us to cope with the suffering wrapped around our hope, as we live for Christ in a world that despises him, and us.

Ultimately Peter’s message is this:
As you live for Christ, you will suffer – but you will be blessed and strengthened in your hope as you honour Christ as Lord of your life.  

That sounds like a pretty significant message to take away.
Thanks for another great 3:16, Peter!

(Note: If you have ever wondered how we got chapters and verses in the bible, you can read about it here.)