King of Heaven – come now!

paul-baloche_christmas-worship-vinyl-image_web-2At Christmas we remember the coming of the infant King of Heaven, Jesus Christ. God could have sent him as a fully grown man, and provided a grand entrance with enough pomp and circumstance to rival any contemporary celebrity. Yet God chose for him the womb of a virgin and a lowly cave/stable as his first resting place on the planet. Jesus shared the growing pains of our humanity so that he could be our perfect counsellor, Saviour and Lord. This King of Heaven is coming again and we probably should spend a lot more time praying for such an outcome, rather than sitting comfortably in the limitations of our mortality.

Paul Baloche’s KING OF HEAVEN (2012 – “The Same Love” album) is a song which captures something of the longing we (should) have for Jesus’ return. Here is his Christmas version of the song combined beautifully with Hark the Herald Angels Sing:

And here is the original song, performed with All Sons and Daughters: (don’t mind the 40 seconds of silliness at the start – the song officially gets going around 45 secs. I’m determined to included KING OF HEAVEN as one of our congregational songs next year.)

KING OF HEAVEN

Jesus, let Your kingdom come here
Let Your will be done here in us
Jesus, there is no one greater
You alone are Savior, show the world Your love

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign shining light the day
King of Heaven come
King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King of Heaven come

We are children of Your mercy
Rescued for Your glory
We cry, Jesus set our hearts towards You
Every eye would see You lifted high

Ooh, ooh, ooh, King of Heaven come

Setlists for Christmas

christmas-tree-sheet-musicWorship Together recently posted a series of Advent and Christmas songs as set lists to mix and match. They include traditional carols as well as recent praise and worship songs. You can watch a New Song Cafe video and play along with the charts! I hope you find something useful for your service planning. Blessings!

Set List #1

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Glory In The Highest) // Rend Collective

Looking For A Savior // United Pursuit

O Come, O Come Emmanuel // Crowder

We Have A Savior // Hillsong Worship

 Set List #2

Emmanuel (God With Us Forever) // Bryan and Katie Torwalt

Angels (Singing Gloria) // Matt Redman

Adore // Chris Tomlin

When Hope Came Down // Kari Jobe

Set List #3

Even So Come // Passion

Give Me Jesus // Jeremy Camp

He Shall Reign Forevermore // Chris Tomlin

O Come Let Us Adore Him // Hillsong Worship

Set List #4

Hearts Waiting (Joy To The World) // Matt Redman

A King Like This // Chris Tomlin

O Holy Night (O Night Divine) // Rend Collective

We Have Come // United Pursuit

 

http://www.worshiptogether.com/blog/advent-2016/

Image from https://au.pinterest.com/explore/sheet-music-crafts/

Let’s Stop Underestimating Christmas

imag5856_1Today’s post comes from the Gospel Coalition and echoes much of what I spoke of a few days ago – about the great worth of remembering God’s great works at Christmas time. I am currently reading Keller’s book mentioned below, titled “Hidden Christmas” – which is surprising me more and more, in a good way, with each passing chapter. It would make a great gift this Christmas.

“Christmastime is here. For some of you, that sentence evokes nostalgia and joy. Others of you, not so much. Yet one thing many of us share in common this time of year is hearing the classic readings from the Gospels (if not in church then from Linus). And all the while, we can become so familiar with the incarnation that we end up domesticating it.

Christmas is familiar, but it isn’t tame. As Tim Keller puts it in his new book, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ (Viking), “Christmas is both more wondrous and more threatening than we imagine.” Working from the writings of Matthew, Luke, and John, he illumines the modern import of the ancient story.

I asked Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and vice president of TGC, why neither the god of moralism nor the god of relativism would’ve bothered with Christmas, how unbelievers try to “name” Jesus, and more. (And yes, this brief book would make an excellent Christmas present.)

In the book I say that about the theme of “light in the darkness” that’s so prominent not only in the biblical understanding of Christ’s birth (Isa. 9:2Matt. 4:16) but also in most contemporary celebrations of Christmas. The Bible doesn’t say “from the world a light has dawned” but “upon the world a light has dawned.” The point is that the world is a dark place that needs salvation to come from outside of it. This means the end of cheery statements like, “If we all pull together, we can make the world a better place.” No, we can’t. We don’t have what it takes.

The Bible doesn’t say ‘from the world a light has dawned’ but ‘upon the world a light has dawned.’ The world is a dark place that needs salvation to come from outside of it.

This is a clear-eyed, realistic approach to our problems. It’s not rah-rah optimism. Yet it’s not pessimistic either, because there ishope, and a certainty that God will eventually destroy all evil.

Why is it foolish to rush past the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel? 

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus does a lot of work. First, it roots Jesus in history. The gospel doesn’t begin “once upon a time.” Christ isn’t a legend; he was a flesh-and-blood human being in space and time. Second, the genealogy includes women who were racial and cultural “outsiders” (Rahab and Ruth) as well as involved in incest, adultery, and prostitution (Tamar, “Uriah’s wife,” and Rahab).

Even the ‘begats’ of the Bible drip with God’s mercy.

In ancient and less individualistic times, one’s genealogy was like one’s résumé. Like today’s résumés, many things were usually expunged to make it look better to the reader. Women were seldom put in ancient genealogies at all, let alone women who reminded readers of the sordid sins and corruption of ancestors such as Judah and David. All of these figures would have been disowned or expunged from a normal genealogy, but here they are not. They are all—male and female, king and prostitute, Jew and Gentile—equally part of Jesus’s family. So even the “begats” of the Bible drip with God’s mercy.

Neither the god of moralism nor the god of relativism would have bothered with Christmas, you observe. Why not?

Moralism is essentially the idea that you can save yourself through your good works. And this makes Christmas unnecessary. Why would God need to become human in order to live and die in our place if we can fulfill the requirements of righteousness ourselves? Relativism is essentially the idea that no one is really “lost,” that everyone should live by their own lights and determine right and wrong for themselves. The “all-accepting god of love” many modern people believe in would never have bothered with the incarnation. Such a god would have found it completely unnecessary.

The ‘all-accepting god of love’ many moderns believe in would never have bothered with the incarnation. Such a god would have found it completely unnecessary.

Why was the naming of baby Jesus significant? 

All parents have the right to name their own child. It’s a sign of their authority over the child, and the power they have over how the child will live and who the child will become. This was even truer in ancient patriarchal societies than it is now. But the angel doesn’t allow Joseph or Mary to name Jesus. One reason is that Jesus was the first child ever born who was far older than his parents! The other is that, even though Jesus submitted to his human parents authority during his childhood (Luke 2:51), they weren’t ultimately his master. He was their master. By refusing to let Mary and Joseph name their son, the angel was essentially saying something like this: “If Jesus is in your life, you’re not his manager—he’s your manager. You don’t name him or tell him who he is—he’s come to tell you who you are.”

What can we learn about the difference between closed-minded doubt and open-minded doubt from contrasting Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1?

When the angel Gabriel appeared and told Zechariah he would have a son, Zechariah expressed doubts about how this could come to such an elderly couple (Luke 1:18)—and he was disciplined for his doubt (Luke 1:20). When Gabriel appears and tells Mary she will have a son, she expresses doubts to the same angel in almost the same words—wondering how this could come to a virgin (Luke 1:34). Yet there’s no word of rebuke, only a further explanation. Why the difference? The only real possibility is that the inner motivations and dynamics of Zechariah’s and Mary’s doubts were different. There’s a kind of doubt that really is seeking more information—that “wants” to believe if it’s possible. There’s also a kind of doubt that really is looking for a way out, that doesn’t want to believe or submit, that’s looking for a way to keep control of one’s own life.

This is a wonderfully nuanced approach to doubt. The Bible doesn’t view doubts as always rebellious, nor does it encourage people to live in doubt perpetually. That’s why we’re told to “be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22).”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/tim-keller-wants-you-to-stop-underestimating-christmas

All together – yet not connected?

alone together.pngA while ago I posted this on Face Book (with some degree of frustration). It was met with widespread affirmation!
“Wish this was in the Bible: Dear children, you will gain much freedom and respect by showing self-control in your use of digital technology, which feeds egos and selfishness (there is a reason for the label ‘i’ on many of these devices) and largely discourages you from living out your faith by acts of kindness and service. What really matters is faith expressed in loving action. Don’t be slaves to the inertia of the digital interface…but slaves of Christ, free children of God. You are my hands and feet, not just my fingers.”

It seems that many Christian parents are also struggling with the digital revolution and the changes it has made for how our teens are relating to us and each other.

Earlier this year our Sunday paper included a news article about “iPlods“- a rather sad nickname for the primary school children involved in their research. These children were so unfit and lacking in basic core strength, they didn’t have control over their core muscles. They exhibited “an inability to control what their spines were doing. . . The vast majority did not have the core strength, flexibility or co-ordination to achieve exercises considered “basic foundations” of movement.” (Schools put iPlods through their paces, June 30, Sunday Mail)

But the problem is not just potential long term physical damage, or missing out on the simple joys of childhood. The problem is for adults, teens and children alike. The problem is with the tendencies of our selfish hearts, expressed here in Philippians 2:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

How precisely does this nail what is wrong with this “i”-everything era? Paul could have penned this as a direct instruction to us in 2016! Despite its many useful applications, modern technology both feeds and makes socially acceptable (and desirable?) our desire to be selfish. We can now sit and play endlessly throughout the day and night, amusing ourselves and ignoring others. We (think we) look very sophisticated, very advanced. Yet this perception makes it just that much harder to disconnect from our self-interest and tune in to the needs and interests of those around us.

Casting Crowns, in the song ‘House of Their Dreams’ (Album:”Thrive” 2014), described this modern plight, or perhaps blight!
“Now they’re trapped in their own worlds, in their own wars
With their cell phones and the closed doors
It’s funny how quiet and peaceful that it seems
But they’re all alone together
In the house of their dreams.”
This chorus holds up to us a shocking mirror-image of the reality so many of us have fallen into – sitting in separate rooms, plugged into our own distractions and missing out on the relationships we have been planted in the midst of. Perhaps it is time to dig ourselves out of this sad situation?

It can start with simply putting the phone down – or unplugging the Wifi!

 

Is it worth remembering Christmas?

hith-christmas-raditionl-eThis is a post I wrote for Christmas 2012, when many of you hadn’t joined me on this Blog. Thanks for reading this year! Blessings to you for a wonderful Christmas.

Ever since the Roman church fixed Christmas on December 25 (440AD) there have been a vast array of opinions about whether or not we Christians should in fact be celebrating Christ’s birth in this way. Some people wholeheartedly support it, and go all out in their celebrations. Others try to avoid it, and mock or despise those who do celebrate Christ’s birth at the time of an old Pagan Sun-god festival. Some families I know refuse to partake in the gift giving of the day (with much sadness for their children).

In 1647 Christmas was abolished in Britain by Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan parliament. December 25 was a working day from 1644 to 1656. There were riots across the country. Christmas church services were broken up by armed soldiers. Shopkeepers came off the worst: if they closed then soldiers forced them to open; if they opened, the rioters forced them to close! Christmas decorations in London were torn down and burned by the mayor. Christmas puddings were banned.

In America the Puritan leaders followed suit and banned Christmas in some states (1659). A New England state law said:“Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas shall pay 5 shillings as a fine.” And you could buy a lot for 5 shillings! The Christmas ban was dropped in 1681 but it wasn’t until 1836 that Alabama said 25 December was to be a holiday, then everyone in the USA copied them. By then people in Victorian Britain had lost interest in Christmas, but when Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 they decided Christmas was a wonderful idea.

dec 25For me Christmas has always been a wonderful time of year, full of family fun and traditions – but does that justify the celebration? While the commercialism is distracting (and the concept of an jolly Father figure who rewards us according to merit is in total opposition to the forgiveness and grace found in Jesus) I do think there is a case for celebrating wholeheartedly as Christians.

And it all comes down to remembering.

Throughout the history of God’s redemptive intervention into our fallen world, He told us to keep remembering what he has done. For example, it was on the basis of covenant promises, given to Abraham, that Israel was rescued from slavery through Moses – slavery to both Egypt and sin. The Passover Lamb which saved them from death (well, God saved them!) was so important to remember that a whole special menu plan was devised. As people ate they would remember and teach their children to remember what God had done. When the new generation of Israel emerged from the wilderness wanderings (their parents caused), Moses spent a whole book (Deuteronomy) explaining how important it was to remember and obey all the laws God had given, to guide and direct their new lives in the Promised Land. They were to live lives worthy of their God and show the world what he had done for them. He rescued them into a covenant relationship, for the glory of His Name.

So why wouldn’t we remember the one event which reminds us of the time God stepped into human history Himself. This is when the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, to save us! While the Cross is the thing that saves us, we must remember the beginning of that journey to the Cross: Christ born as a helpless baby, fully God and fully man, in such lowly circumstances. He was born, destined to be despised and rejected, for our sake.

What a great opportunity we have at Christmas time, when even non-Christians are willing to celebrate the birth of a Saviour whom they do not know! They are remembering, even though they don’t fully understand. We have the full story to share – to explain to them what they are really celebrating! Let’s open the dialogue at every opportunity, even in those long line-ups at the checkout! Let’s show them how to remember in thankfulness and awe the Incarnation of God’s son, sent to save.

May the glory go to our great God this Christmas – as we remember!

You may also enjoy:

Great Christmas music                                    Is He really making a list and checking it twice?

Why Jesus came

This post comes from John Piper at Desiring God. It is a really helpful explanation of the reason for the season.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15) 

Hebrews 2:14–15 is worth more than two minutes in an Advent devotional. These verses connect the beginning and the end of Jesus’s earthly life. They make clear why he came. They would be great to use with an unbelieving friend or family member to take them step by step through your Christian view of Christmas. It might go something like this…

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood…”

The term “children” is taken from the previous verse and refers to the spiritual offspring of Christ, the Messiah (see Isaiah 8:18; 53:10). These are also the “children of God.” In other words, in sending Christ, God has the salvation of his “children” specially in view. It is true that “God so loved the world, that he sent [Jesus].” But it is also true that God was especially “gathering the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52). God’s design was to offer Christ to the world, and to effect the salvation of his “children” (see 1 Timothy 4:10). You may experience adoption by receiving Christ (John 1:12).

“…he himself likewise partook of the same things [flesh and blood]…”

Christ existed before the incarnation. He was spirit. He was the eternal Word. He was with God and was God (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9). But he took on flesh and blood and clothed his deity with humanity. He became fully man and remained fully God. It is a great mystery in many ways. But it is at the heart of our faith and is what the Bible teaches.

“…that through death…”

The reason he became man was to die. As God, he could not die for sinners. But as man he could. His aim was to die. Therefore he had to be born human. He was born to die. Good Friday is the reason for Christmas. This is what needs to be said today about the meaning of Christmas.

“…he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…”

In dying, Christ de-fanged the devil. How? By covering all our sin. This means that Satan has no legitimate grounds to accuse us before God. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect, it is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33) — on what grounds does he justify? Through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9).

Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. If the death of Jesus takes it away, the chief weapon of the devil is taken out of his hand. He cannot make a case for our death penalty, because the Judge has acquitted us by the death of his Son!

“…and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

So we are free from the fear of death. God has justified us. Satan cannot overturn that decree. And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the happy ending to take away the slavery and fear of the Now.

If we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free. Free for joy. Free for others.

What a great Christmas present from God to us! And from us to the world!

Watch “Chris Tomlin – Noel (Live) ft. Lauren Daigle” on YouTube

Carol of the bells – The Piano Guys

Some more fantastic festive music for you from the Piano Guys:

the_piano_guys_family_christmas_5114053 You can find the album here on iTunes

Book of Luke in song

This is a post about an album and a song which is no longer new News, but in case you missed it, it may be worth a look: Songs for the Book of Luke by The Gospel Coalition

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/11/05/luke-album-named-best-of-best/

You can follow links here to listen and access sheet music for all the songs on the album: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/lukealbum/
https://thegospelcoalition.bandcamp.com/album/songs-for-the-book-of-luke

luke-songCome to the Feast (track 9) is a song about the lavish banquet of God’s grace that abounds for any and all who would have it. Yet, it is also a call for the church to serve as heralds of this feast, both to those who know their need (the poor) and those who don’t (the rich). It comes from the parable of the great banquet found in Luke 14:16-24 where Jesus gives us a picture of the gracious kingdom of God that woos and welcomes the most broken, sinful, and lost of people. The musical style is not the mainstream. You may find it a refreshing change. (If used for the congregation, I would suggest the tempo could go up a little.)

COME TO THE FEAST

Go to the highways and hedges, go to the farthest of fields
Go and compel, the sick and the well
For our Father’s house will be filled

Go to the streets of the city, bring in the crippled and blind
All who would taste this banquet of grace
Must come and waste no more time.

Chorus
Come to the feast, come to the table
The great and the least, the rich and the poor
Come to the feast, come to the table,
Come and hunger no more

In the robe of the lamb you’ll be covered
Dressed in his pure righteousness
For all of your guilt, his blood it was spilt
So come by your Father be blessed

Words and Music by Jeff Lawson © 2012 Jeff Lawson Music

 

Help from Heaven

matt-rContinuing the journey through Christmas albums, here is a beautiful song from Matt Redman’s newly released Christmas Lights album, called Help from Heaven.

“When the road ahead is hidden
And we need a new beginning
When the battle’s closing in, still believe oh
One more step into the promise
And the hands of grace that hold us
Just believe, Just believe in help from heaven”

Indeed, this may be where you are right now, facing the hidden road ahead. Yet it is the hope of heaven, anchored in Christ, which brings help and strength to us in the daily challenges . . . and in the more difficult challenges: things like declining health, aging, broken relationships, injustice and inexplicable tragedies. As I listen to this song I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1-4.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Christ is our life! What an assurance. If that is not help from Heaven, I’m not sure what is. Blessings to you!

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/help-from-heaven-matt-redman/

Help from Heaven

There is a moment ev’ry heart needs a rescue
There is a season ev’ry soul needs a breakthrough
Help from heaven, We all need help from heaven

There is a whisper a voice of hope inside you
There is an answer a name above to guide you
Help from heaven, We all need help from heaven
Help from heaven

Chorus 1

When the world is on our shoulders
And we need a hand to hold us
When no miracle is found still believe oh
When the sea of night surrounds us
And all questions try to drown us
Just believe
Just believe in help from heaven
Help from heaven

Verse 3

There is a reason these tears will not be wasted
There is a future for all these broken pieces
Look to heaven
All we need is help from heaven
Help from heaven

Chorus 2

When the road ahead is hidden
And we need a new beginning
When the battle’s closing in still believe oh
One more step into the promise
And the hands of grace that hold us
Just believe
Just believe in help from heaven
Help from heaven

Misc 1

(Bridge)
Taking heart and holding on
Hope is closer than we know
Heaven will not let us go
Help from heaven
(Never will let us go)
(REPEAT)
Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman © 2016 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Crossroad Distributors Pty. Ltd.)
http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/help-from-heaven-matt-redman/