Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
This is a funny clip that I found on the blog of Mark and Stephen Altrogge. They are gifted song writers and churchmen. Mark pastors The Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Stephen leads worship at the same church. Mark is an avid musician and has been writing songs for Sovereign Grace Music for several years now and Mark, his son is following in his Dad's footstepts. You can learn more about their dynamic worship music Here. Look around and listen to some of their christmas music.
This Christmas, my church will be learning and singing "Hope Has Come" which is featured on the website linked above. You can download a PDF Lead Sheet for FREE HERE.
These guys aren't only talented. They're funny. Here is a video I found on their blog. I laughed for several minutes. Enjoy the music and the laughs.
(ht: The Blazing Center)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
In my last post, I mentioned the importance of preaching to one's self the truth of the gospel when we observe communion and when we sing songs in worship. I wanted to spend a little more time thinking about the importance of this in the life of the believer and to see a few ways scripture exhorts us to make this a priority in our own lives.
Last Sunday night, I had the opportunity to bring the sermon in our evening worship service. I spoke from Psalm 43 which is an amazing prayer to the Lord where the psalmist ends by preaching to himself to "hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
The psalmist begins with a prayer of vindication from his enemies in verse one.
1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me
to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you
with the lyre, O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Psalm 43 (ESV)
We see that he is locked in a struggle with those around him and he is tormented by the thought that he is forsaken and rejected by God because he is enduring persecution. He is a man with a divided mind because he admits that God is his refuge, but feels that he's forsaken. So he has outer circumstances influencing his inner spiritual life.
But there is a drastic shift in verse 3 that gets to the heart of the matter. The psalmist may be struggling in a battle against those around him, but ultimately it is not the REAL battle. His real battle is against unbelief. It is worship of the true and Living God that is the solution. He asks for guidance (send your light and truth) so that he will be led to God's presence and to the altar where his sins are forgiven and finally to God himself who is his ultimate and final greatest joy. When God, as his exceeding joy (or literally the gladness of his rejoicing reigning) is in His rightful place at the center of this man's worship, the Psalmist confesses that he will be whole.
He walks through these truths: that God gives guidance through light and truth; that God forgives sins; that God is to be the soul and foundation of all joy; that God is rightly to be praised even in the midst of persecution.
The result of recounting these truths is that the Psalmist then turns inward on his divided heart and preaches to himself. He questions his own heart in the light of these great truths when he says, "Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you downcast within me?" His next step is to preach to himself to hope in God. He acknowledges that his circumstances and his feelings are not the source of his hope. As Christians we are not to be tossed about by our circumstances and he confesses this. All of this culminates in the hope that in spite of circumstances he will worship and praise God and worship him.
On Sunday nights, part of our worship practice at our church is to read through a chapter or section of scripture together. We always have a scriptural call to worship in our Sunday morning services but we seek also to have the plain reading of scripture in our other services in accordance with 1 Timothy 4:13. We began this practice with Psalm 119 and we have read about 30 psalms, the books of Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude and we just finished Ephesians. This Sunday night we read Ephesians Chapter 6. In this chapter, Paul exhorts the church to put on the full armor of God as a way to combat the the attack of Satan and reminds us that the battle we fight, ultimately isn't against earthly forces or our earthly enemies (just as the Psalmist understands). My sermon was a little long so I didn't get the opportunity to draw out this point from this passage, but I was pondering as we read that PREACHING to YOURSELF is how we "PUT ON" the belt of truth and the helmet of salvation.
This is not optional for any true Christian. The act of "putting on" truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation is the act of preaching to ourselves these truths. We are to actively affirm what scripture tells us to our hearts. We are to actively speak to our divided hearts. We all experience it and it is combated in our hearts by putting our minds and emotions in the way of the train of God's word: his light and truth. This is why it is so necessary to preach to ourselves.
Next Sunday, as you enter your place of worship, pray with Paul that great prayer he prayed for the Ephesians that the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened in order to know what is their hope.
Next Sunday, when you bow your head in prayer at the close of your churches service of worship, preach to yourselves the light and truth that you have sung and heard opened to your mind in the sermon time.
Next Sunday, make God the gladness of all your rejoicing!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
My church observes communion on the first Sunday morning of every month. Prior to this, we observed the Lord's Supper every quarter, but not on a set Sunday, so at times it seemed sporadic. I have been so thankful and happy about this change to our service planning. I love communion. I love proclaiming the Lord's death till he comes. I love glorying in the cross and in my savior Jesus Christ. I love my brothers and sisters at my church and I love seeing a visible representation of our unity in Christ as we take the elements together. I am also encouraged and strengthened as I see foreshadowed before our church, the great final supper where the bride will meet the bridegroom and feast in the comfort and peace of the Lord, God Almighty.
The Lord's supper could be preached every Sunday and the immeasurable riches of God, the unparalleled sacrifice of our Savior, the glory of being accepted into God's family, the hope that it gives as a sign that he is coming again, the beauty of the atonement, the pervasive reality of the forgiveness of our sins, the importance of eating it in a worthy manner, the importance of the proclamation and remembering, all these could never be mined to their depths in any way. Nonetheless, we try. We remind ourselves of its significance. We seek the wisdom and encouragement of its promise. We seek the communion with our risen Lord.
This past Sunday, my pastor preached a wonderful sermon on the importance of proclaiming the Lord's death till he comes. It was a beautiful service although it had a few glitches that bother the worship leader side of me (caused by yours truly!!!). But as a worshiper, I was reacquainted with my hope that is expressed in a multitude of ways through participating in communion with my brothers and sisters. And it is this hope and our assurance of it that sustains us. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV) Proclaiming the value and the nature of Christ's death till he comes is one of the most tangible ways that we can preach the cross to ourselves as well as preach our hope for his return to own mind and heart.
Preaching to ourselves is something I'll pick up on later, but more and more I see that singing is exactly this. I think that when Paul tells the Ephesians to "speak to one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual psalms" he's giving them the greatest tool they have to preach to one another and to themselves. Singing songs in worship, for me, is a chance to meditate on great spiritual truths and to preach them to my own heart.
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and Righteousness"
"Let goods and kindred go, the mortal life also. The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still"
"No guilt in life, no fear in death: this is the power of Christ in me. From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny"
"What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face."
"There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be."
"He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His rightousness and wonders of his love."
"All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain, Who hath borne all our sins, and hath cleans'd every stain."
I could go on and on, but I won't. My point is that when we sing these lines, we preach to one another the truth of scripture in these songs. So, we preach to ourselves as we sing as well as when we take communion. Below is a new hymn for communion written by Keith and Krystyn Getty. Read and preach its truths to your own heart.
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