Gracefully Broken

Enjoying this new Matt Redman song, from his latest album “Glory Song”

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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

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

 

The truth that rescues, renovates and restores

rainbow treeAnd I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)

I just love the grace and truth of these two favourite passages (of mine) from God’s word. They sum up the compassionate heart of a God who would send his own son to die in order to make alive those dead in their rebellion against himself! They explain that the abundant new life we have in Christ is in no way something we have dreamed up. This is the intervention of an all-powerful God into the hearts of mortal men and women!

I also love the way the band Tenth Avenue North have described this rescue and restoration plan of our loving God (album: Light Meets the Dark). He came to bring us truth, which is his very substance. He came to bring us back to the start, to a relationship with him unhindered by our sin. He came to touch our hard hearts, to soften and make them tender and alive toward him. I trust you will enjoy meditating on the truth of these verses, particularly the grace of God which they reveal, grace which comes to us by no merit of our own.

“The Truth Is Who You Are”

It would be easier if You were just a thought in my head
Simply something that I once read
A belief needing my defense

And it would be easier if You were something I once knew
A hope just to hold on
But You’re holding out Your hands

You came to take us back to the start
You came to touch the hardness of our hearts
You gave us truth, that truth is who You are, it’s who You are

And it’s not enough to just say, “I believe”
‘Cause truth is that talk is cheap
So grace give me eyes to see

You came to take us back to the start
You came to touch the hardness of our hearts
You gave us truth, that truth is who You are
It’s who You are

Flesh and blood You offer us
Oh, to eat the bread and drink the cup
Oh, to taste, to see, to feel, to touch
Emmanuel, God with us
Emmanuel, God with us

‘Cause You came to break the chains apart
To wake the dead and the sleeping of our hearts
You gave us truth that truth is who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are

Here is a video commentary by the lead singer, explaining more about the meaning of the song:

Greater is the One living inside of me

mercy welcome‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

These lines are the chorus of a really lively and encouraging song on the latest Mercy Me album. The song is titled Greater. It explores the fact that the Great One – Jesus Christ himself – lives in us by grace, through faith!  From His perspective we are redeemed, we are fully accepted by Him, with all our guilt and pain. Though there are days we lose the battle, “grace says it doesn’t matter”.  He is living in us and He is greater than the world that would condemn and discourage, and call us fools.  I pray that your joy and strength may be renewed in the Lord as you sing along.  Below you will find the lyric video, the story behind the song and the lyrics themselves. (If you don’t have a copy of the latest Mercy Me Album, this site says it is just 5.99 on iTunes for a limited time: http://mercyme.org/)  Blessings to you!

GREATER (Mercy Me, Album: Welcome to the New)

Bring your tired and bring your shame
Bring your guilt and bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not your name
You will always be much more to me

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world, In the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

Bring your doubts and bring your fears
Bring your hurt and bring your tears
There’ll be no condemnation here
You are holy, righteous and redeemed

Every time I fall
There’ll be those who will call me
A mistake, Well that’s OK

Chorus:

There’ll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn’t matter
‘Cause the cross already won the war
He’s Greater, He’s Greater

I am learning to run freely
Understanding just how He sees me
And it makes me love Him more and more
He’s Greater, He’s Greater

Songwriters: Barry Graul, Bart Millard, Ben Glover, David Garcia, James Bryson, Jim Bryson, Michael John Scheuchzer, Mike Scheuchzer, Nathan Cochran, Robby Shaffer

You would probably also like this song from the same album: Flawless
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/05/14/the-cross-has-made-you-flawless/

 

Reflections on effective Preaching: “A view from the pew”

  1. 14–Charles-SpurgeonFor a preacher to have mastery of a passage, the passage ought to have mastery over him.
  2. Preachers who preach God’s truth into life (births, deaths, marriages, job losses, debts, breakins, car accidents, cancers etc.) give me the equipment to fight and survive as God’s child in the real world.
  3. Good preachers obliterate the divide between lofty grandeur of God and the messiness of real life, so that I see and do something about the constant rub of idolatry against the call to discipleship in my own life.
  4. I love it when preachers tell me what arrests, intrigues, amazes and captivates them from God’s word. A preacher’s delighted, wide-eyed insight is a massive aid to engagement.
  5. Preachers with a humble conviction about the authority of preaching pack more punch.
  6. “Unpacking a passage” is much less exciting than releasing a wild lion into our midst.
  7. I sense when a preacher’s preparation has included preparation of his own heart, because he preaches not only to me but to himself.
  8. I find preachers who walk boldly into a passage hungry for vital truth, fearless of apparent exegetical, theological or pastoral difficulty are far more compelling for their courage.
  9. I like to hear a preacher’s certainty born of a thoroughness of preparation and theological conviction.
  10. It is frustrating when a sermon has no application.
  11. I am discouraged when applications are effectively an exercise in heaping guilt on the listener. Rhetorical questions are a cheap way out! It is different from being challenged by gospel. My guilt has been taken by Christ!
  12. I’m captivated when I get sense that the preacher’s hardest fight has been the fight for his own soul, obedience, understanding and submission to the truth.
  13. Only after taking God’s word to his own heart is a preacher able to cleverly, sensitively, wisely, boldly craft a sermon that has the hearts of others as its goal. Pastors make good preachers – they are students of their own heart and other’s. They anticipate my questions.
  14. Laughter opens hearts and minds and helps me stay awake.
  15. Listeners lose interest when the preacher has lost interest first. (Boredom is the new morality – if it is boring it is more than wrong!)
  16. Every preacher must ask himself at the end of every sermon, “So what!?”
  17. God-breathed scriptures are full of risk, danger, opportunity, drama and daring – not like a stuffed lion in a museum. Tame sermons turn the living Word of God into a lifeless museum exhibit.
  18. Preachers shouldn’t be afraid of deep truths that average mortals have to take time and thought to comprehend. It isn’t bad that a listener doesn’t understand something this time round.
  19. I feel secure when preacher shares his sermon structure/aim for his sermon with me.
  20. Passion in preaching is by product of love for God.
  21. Preachers who tell me how to feel – or how they feel – leave my feelings unstirred. Challenge is to so use their words and their insight into the text and people to add the weight of all their energies to the Spirit’s sovereign work.
  22. Choose someone interesting if you are going to copy another preacher!
  23. Poetry and art are the preacher’s friends – they move hearts and stir affections…that my life would be warm to God!
  24. Biblical theses and models are helpful in my understanding and recall of breadth, theme and unity of the bible.
  25. Biblical theses and models can suck the life out of sermons when they become wheel ruts.
  26. Good preachers don’t take themselves too seriously, but take God’s truth seriously enough to die for.
  27. A sermon must be personal, passionate and pleading – not just a talk.
  28. A truth known intellectually may not be a truth truly comprehended, believed and obeyed. (It’s helpful when a preacher knows I believe it, but that I haven’t acted on it or truly comprehended it. It’s great when a preacher probes, personally, from pulpit!)
  29. You may never say anything really new, but that’s no excuse for not saying it in a fresh way.
  30. My obedience (thought, word, deed) completes God’s purpose for preaching.(These points were taken from a talk given at the QTC Preaching Conference 2012 by musician Colin Buchanan)

Pursuing Unity in the Spirit of grace

unity tree“Unity is unique because it relies on the Holy Spirit. While uniformity is built upon the preference of the individual, unity is built on the foundation of Christ. The same Lord that dwells in my soul is the same Lord that dwells in your soul, and the Spirit of God will literally agree with itself inside two believers when we put aside personal preferences and insignificant differences.

The church can and should be a motley group of believers working together for the gospel, but this kind of unity is counterintuitive to sinners. It requires love, patience and self-control – all character qualities we don’t naturally have.

If you and I ever want to experience true unity with one another, we need to take advantage of the abundant grace in Christ so that we can give that same grace to our brothers and sisters. And because of the Cross, that grace is made available to you every morning.”

Paul David Tripp

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/

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

How do you measure if Christ is growing in you?

20140521-222228-80548305.jpg
If you want to get serious and take an honest look at your Christian walk, then these eight questions (from Tim Keller’s book Center Church) will be very helpful. They have been effectively crafted to make you take a good look at your progress in becoming more like Christ. Talk them through with your growth group or a spouse or close friend or prayer partner. Pray about them too! They won’t make you feel comfortable, but since when was change comfortable? God is most definitely in the business of changing us.
 

  1. Do you have spiritual assurance of your standing in Christ? How clear and vivid is it?
  2. How does the Holy Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are his child? Are you conscious of a growing spiritual light within, revealing more of the purity of the law, the holiness of God, the evil of sin, and the preciousness of the imputed righteousness of Christ?
  3. Is your love for Christians growing? Do you find yourself have a less critical, judgmental spirit towards weak Christians, those who fall, or those who are self-deceived? Have you been cold to anyone?
  4. Is your conscience growing more tender to convict you of the very first motions of sin in the mind, such as the onset of resentment; worry, pride or jealousy; an inordinate desire for power, approval and material comfort; and an over-concern for your reputation? Are you becoming more aware of and convicted about sins of the tongue, such as cutting remarks, rambling without listening, deception and semi-lying, gossip and slander, inappropriate humour, or thoughtless statements?
  5. Do you see signs of growth in the fruit of the Spirit? Can you give examples in which you responded in a new way – with love, joy, patience, honesty, humility, or self-control – in a situation that a year or two ago you would not have?
  6. Are you coming to discern false, idolatrous motives for some of the good service you do? Are you seeing that many things you thought you did for God you are actually doing for other reasons? Are you coming to see areas in your life in which you have resisted the Lord’s will?
  7. Are you seeing new ways to be better stewards of the talents, gifts, relationships, wealth, and other assets that God has given you?
  8. Are you having any seasons of the sweet delight that the Spirit brings? Are you finding certain promises extremely precious? Are you getting answers to prayers? Are you getting times of refreshing from reading or listening to the Word?

Discussion Questions for GOSPEL RENEWAL (from chapter 6 of Timothy Keller’s Center Church, 2012)