The power is in the Gospel

The power is in the Gospel

When our musicians, instruments, lighting, and technology aren’t impressive, we can wonder why people would come to our church. They come because we have something the world doesn’t: the amazing news that Jesus Christ died in the place of lost, rebellious sinners to reconcile them to God. Music, no matter how great it is, can’t raise a dead soul to life. The gospel can and does. Your church may never come close musically to what the church down the street does or what people listen to on their iPhones. That’s okay. Faithfully preach, sing, and explain the gospel and you’ll see lives changed.

http://worshipmatters.com/2017/10/26/worshiping-limitless-god-limited-resources/?platform=hootsuite

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Standing your ground in hope – Lauren Daigle’s “O’Lord”

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19 NLT)

There is a unique perspective offered in this song, sung by Lauren Daigle: that we stand in and on our hope in the Rock of Christ. It is all about Him. He is the source of our hope, the anchor of hope. The grace that comes to us in Him, both in what He has done and will do, provides an unshifting hope, more valuable than any material thing the world offers. We can stand our ground and maintain our hope only because Christ gives us the strength to do so. This strength comes in His Spirit, living in us. He is completely trustworthy – our salvation is complete in the Cross of Christ. I trust this song will be a blessing to you today!

O’ Lord

Verse 1

Though time it seems like I’m coming undone
This walk can often feel lonely
No matter what until this race is won

Pre-Chorus

I will stand my ground Where hope can be found
I will stand my ground Where hope can be found

Chorus

O Lord O Lord I know you hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

Verse 2

Your strength is found at the end of my rope
Your grace it reaches to the hurting
Still through the tears and the questioning why

Bridge

Make it right, Make it right right
I will stand my ground
I will stand my ground

 

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



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.”

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

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.)

When God shuts the door

I’ve been procrastinating about finishing this blog post for over a year now. Why the delay? Partly, it is the strange irony of a church song/worship leader who can no longer sing, who is also the author of a blog about church music and grace. Shouldn’t God just be giving more grace, and healing, so that I continue in this role which has been so much a part of my identity for 26 years?

My reluctance is also partly down to the enormity of the struggle in my head; having to explain it to you means I have to think about it, and try to reason with it, and accept it to some degree.

Let me fill in some of the background.

Since the end of 2015, I have been struggling with the effects of a hiatus hernia (where the top of your stomach bulges up through your diaphragm, at the place where stomach meets the end of oesophagus, and this allows acid to flow upward. Gruesome isn’t it?). The result is reflux, oesophagitis and coughing, particularly when singing – or when playing any number of wind instruments, which is something I’ve also done for almost four decades. The medication I take for this situation is reasonably effective, but not when I have to sing or project my voice. So, for the last year, I’ve contributed to church music only from behind the keyboard.

Few people know the enormous sense of loss I feel not being able to stand out the front and do what I can (do well, apparently) to lead people in enthusiastic praise of our great God. Worse still, I can’t even sing as part of the congregation, unless I want to pay for it with a tight throat, cough and stinging tongue for the rest of the day. My participation is thus reduced to lip syncing and whispers.

Now I know that some people would be quite content with this amount of involvement in congregational singing. For them, my loss would seem pretty minor. Not so for me.

And there’s more.

Moving beyond what I was originally going to describe (in that difficult blog post I’d been avoiding), I now must share another loss: the end of high school teaching.

About five weeks ago, I realised that my throat/hernia could no longer cope with the demands of the classroom. Despite six weeks symptom-free in the Christmas school holidays, I came back to Term 1 and things soon got pretty bad, brought on by full days of enthusiastic English teaching. With worsening symptoms, I made the difficult decision to leave at the end of term.

Today is the last day of term. Tough day, made more difficult by the flood emergency in Brisbane which kept students away from school for two days. I didn’t really get to say goodbye.

But I will cherish the moment with my Year 12 students a few weeks ago. When I told them of my impending departure their reaction was priceless: they stood around me in a circle, holding hands, and prayed through tears for healing and blessings for my future.

As you may imagine, I now feel like I’m in the middle of a ‘Job’ experience (you know, the guy from the Old Testament who lost everything, as a test in a spiritual battle). I feel like much of who I am is being stripped away, taken away, and I’m wondering what is left. Sure, I have a degree in journalism, so I still have a useful skill to offer. But is this really God’s perfect plan for me? Is it some test I have to endure? Is this punishment? And what is left of me when all that is gone? What happens now that the teaching and the music fades away?

I could easily choose to give in to despair at this point. In some moments, that is exactly how I feel. I’m sad for lost relationships with students, and lost opportunities to challenge them and bring out their best writing. I also grieve the many good friendships I had at work, friendships which will never quite be the same again. A Christian school is such a unique community, and across three different schools I’ve seen such a consistent witness to the grace of God which transforms lives. I’ve been blessed to see the power of Christ working in people from such diverse backgrounds, yet with a common outcome – we become more like Christ.

As I reflect on all this, I must choose my attitude, and in Christ’s strength fight the despair, and focus on the fact that our sovereign God does all things for a reason. In fact, as things are stripped away (that I have relied on to validate my existence) I more clearly see that only one thing of value remains –  Jesus Christ, Lord of my life, Ruler of my heart. He gives and takes away. Blessed be His Name!

For whatever reason, God has shut the door on this season of my life. But no matter what happens, my continuing purpose is to give him praise. Please pray for me that I will do just that. 

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” (John Piper)

Blessings, 

Ros.

(I wrote this on March 31, but I accidentally have an older publishing date. It’s just one of those enigmatic things about the internet!)

Magnificent & Song of the Father

Loving these songs from Urban Rescue. Excellent and uplifting lyrics – “Magnificent

And “Song of My Father“:

MAGNIFICENT

Welcomed in, I’m overcome at the feet of perfect love
I am ushered in by Your nail scarred hands
to the place where my chains come undone

Chorus
Magnificent! Magnificent!
We crown You Lord of all, Lamb upon the throne
Magnificent! Magnificent!
Awake my soul to sing to Him who died for me
Magnificent!

See His face now glorified
See the grave where death has died
By His royal blood
Christ has covered us
Crown Him Lord, crown Him Lord of all
He is Lord, He is Lord of all!

Bridge
All of heaven bows down
all creation cries out
‘Jesus, Jesus, Je-sus!’
All of heaven bows down
all creation cries out
“Jesus, Jesus, Jes-us!”

 

Song Of My Father

Verse 1

When silence falls
I hear You call in the secret place
You still my soul with quiet joy
And I’m wide awake

Chorus

In the middle of the night
I look up to the sky
I can hear You singing over me
Through the fire and the flood
I know that I am loved
I can hear You singing over me (yeah)

Verse 2

You spoke the earth with just one word
And You hold my heart
My ev’ry step my ev’ry breath
Is Your work of art

Bridge

I hear Your melody I hear Your symphony
There’s nothing louder than the song of my Father
(REPEAT)

Count it all Joy that God is in control

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

The call to ‘consider it pure joy’ when we face trials and sufferings is quite the challenge. Should we actually be happy that we have lost something or someone, or that we are rebuked and persecuted? Can we really find pure joy in such a situation? Or are we called simply to put on a brave face, or fake smile?

While trials may not bring us direct or obvious ‘happiness’ they can bring us lasting joy – when they push us to rely on God, rather than ourselves. They shout a loud reminder through our shattered shell of comfort that He alone is in control. God is God, and I am not.

These lyrics come from an older song by Sovereign Grace Music, which works quite well as a congregational song. I hope you find it encouraging.

(Here is the link to get the sheet music)

Count it all Joy
VERSE 1
Lord I’ll count it all joy
When my troubles
Close me in on every side
Lord, I’ll count it all joy
When this road of faith
Runs through the darkest night
For I know You’re at work in me
Yes I know You’ll provide
All the grace I need 

CHORUS
You have always been my Rock 
I will trust You forever, forever 
You have never failed me God 
I will trust You forever, forever 

VERSE 2
Lord I’ll count it all joy
When the weight of sorrow
Drives me to my knees
Every heartache and pain
In Your mighty hands
Is forming Christ in me
And I know that Your Word is true
Yes, I know every trial
Will only prove 

BRIDGE
Who can separate us
From You and Your great love 

Words and music by Steve & Vikki Cook © 2004 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music/Sovereign Grace Worship