Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Incarnation

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars,

might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.


- Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Angry At Death

In his book Scandalous, D.A. Carson gives us a good perspective on how the believer should think about death:
There is a school of thought in [some] Christian circles that almost views death so much as a blessing that you are not allowed to cry... So why do you feel angry?

The Bible is..brutally realistic.  It dares to recognize death as the last enemy.  Death is an enemy, and it can be a fierce one.  Death is not normal when you look at it from the vantage point of what God created in the first place.  It is normal this side of that fall, but that is not saying much.  It is an enemy.  It is ugly.  It destroys relationships.  It is to be feared.  It is repulsive.  There is something odious about death.  Never ever pretend otherwise. But death does not have the last word.  It is the last enemy, but more to be feared yet is the second death.  Thank God for a Savior who could claim, "I am the resurrection and the life." Thus when we come to grips with these things, there needs to be both outrage and pain on the one hand and trust and quiet confidence on the other. (emphases added)

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Deeds Of Love

Sharing hope through God's transforming grace means doing simple acts of service that prove we've been changed by Christ.

"Only where hands are not too good for deeds of love and mercy in everyday helpfulness can the mouth joyfully and convincingly proclaim the message of God's love and mercy." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together (emphasis added)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Face Of A Forgiven Sinner

If there's a book that should be recommended for anyone who is part of a church body, it is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's brief and readable Life Together.  Find it at the link or your local bookstore. The passage below shows us the way to defeat interpersonal conflict and friction through prayer:

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.  I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.  His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner...There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession as far as our side of it is concerned.  Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day.  The struggle we undergo with our brother in intercession may be a hard one, but that struggle has the promise that it will gain its goal.    ~ From Life Together, emphases added.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What A Love!

Stop for a moment and consider the amazing love of God:

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1).  The word John uses, potapos, means 'of what kind'.  Here it may have the meaning, 'of what a size!' In fact potapos is from the earlier classical Greek podapos, which means, 'from what country'. Perhaps that captures John's meaning - he is talking about a love that belongs to another country, or world altogether!...It is...incredible that God should make us his children!  
~From Children of the Living God by Sinclair Ferguson 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obsessed People Serve

"If a guy were dating my daughter but didn't want to spend the gas money to come pick her up or refused to buy her dinner because it cost too much, I would question whether he were really in love with her.  In the same way, I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.
People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8)."

~ From Crazy Love, by Francis Chan

Monday, October 29, 2012

Connected, Like It Or Not

Quoting from D.A. Carson in his book, Scandalous:

“I suspect that if I were not a Christian, I would not spend a lot of time seeking out people who are very different from me.  I like people who are like me. But if this gospel is important to me and important to you, then we will discover that we have links with the strangest people all over the world.  Part of my job takes me to country after country.  I have come to know brothers and sisters in Christ in many dozens of different ethnicities.  This gospel, this righteousness from God, is for those who trust Christ – for ALL who trust Christ,, for ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Those deep commonalities must transcend our personal tastes in music, food, clothing style, economic status, sense of humor, intellectual interest, diverse national histories, and the like.  Equally, it must drive our evangelism.  Does not Jesus himself teach in the Sermon on the Mount that any pagan can find friends among people who are like him, but it takes the grace of God to transcend those kinds of limitations?”  (emphases added)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Singing Is A Form Of Prayer

Today we look again at an article on singing in the life of the Church originally posted at Matthias Media.  Pastor Kent often refers to the connection between singing and prayer, that is the very subject of this post:

We turn now to the subject of singing and prayer. For just as praising God is bigger than singing, so singing is also more than praising God. How so?

Singing is a form of prayer!


Perhaps it may not have occurred to us before, but singing is (or at least can be) a form of prayer. Or, to put it round the other way, prayers can be sung. This is not just an obvious truism (inasmuch as anything that can be said can also be sung), but an observation from Scripture. The book of Psalms, once again, is our prime example here. For a large proportion of the Psalms are, in fact, prayers (e.g. Pss 3-8, 9-10, 12-13, 16‑18, etc.). And if there’s one thing we know about the way the Psalms functioned in the life of the people of Israel, it is that they were sung. Moreover, as we’ve already noted, they were also sung by the New Testament churches (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Jas 5:13).

The way in which music and song minister to the affective dimension of our humanity is something that Martin Luther understood only too well. That’s why he once made this strong claim:
Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions… which control men or more often overwhelm them… Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to subdue frivolity, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate or to appease those full of hate… what more effective means than music could you find.3
Singing the Psalms, then, is an immensely powerful thing to do. Not only are we praying as we sing, we are praying divinely inspired words! More than that, the singing of these words helps us to engage and express not simply the conceptual dimensions of the truths we are articulating, but their emotional dimensions as well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

No More Wimpy Singing!

[T]he God who has held back nothing from us, not even his only Son, deserves far more than the dregs of our attention and the leftovers of our affections. John Wesley, ever sensitive to these dangers, offered the following exhortation as part of his instructions included in the preface to Sacred Melody:
Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
For similar reasons, Martin Luther used to call his whole congregation together midweek so that they could learn new hymns and practice their singing for Sunday. But, of course, Sunday itself is also practice—practice for heaven, a rehearsal for the resurrection life of the world to come.

(Excerpted from this post at Matthias Media. Emphases added.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Singing As Praise

Today's post is a follow up to this previous article, which was originally published at Matthias Media.

SINGING IS A VITAL FORM OF PRAISE

How should we think about praise? The first thing to note is that, according to Scripture, praising God normally has two faces or aspects to it: we can praise God to God and we can praise God to others. In this sense, a parallel exists with the way we can praise one another. For example, I can praise my wife by telling her how wonderful she is, or I can praise her by telling you how wonderful she is.

The second thing to note is that praising God doesn’t always have to take the form of singing. Indeed, it would be a mistake, biblically speaking, to equate praise with singing. Whilst praise normally involves words, everything we do should be for the glory and praise of God (1 Cor 10:31; Phil 1:11).

But, thirdly, there’s likewise no escaping the fact that singing is a vital form of praise. Many Scriptures (particularly many of the Psalms) bear this out. Not only do they link praise directly with singing, but they frequently speak of the two faces of praise in virtually the same breath, often sliding from one to the other with barely so much as a gear change! Consider, for example, the opening verses of Psalm 96:
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous works among all the peoples!
The point could not be clearer. We sing to the Lord, blessing his name, and we sing of the Lord, declaring his glory. And, of course, we often (if not always) do both at once. For even when we’re singing of the Lord to others, he is present to receive his praise!

Monday, October 1, 2012

SYATP 2012 A Success

Well, to be honest, it would have been a success if only one student had shown up, but last Wednesday 61 high school students gathered at Jeff West to pray for their school.  Between 40-50 students did the same at Jeff West Middle School.  How often do you pray for our students?



 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Singing In The Life Of The Church

(Originally posted at Matthias Media)

THE MANY PURPOSES OF SINGING 

One of the chief things that Christians are renowned for, both historically and universally, is singing songs and making music. This is in contrast to Islam, for example, where many regard music as haram (forbidden), and singing does not normally feature in Mosque practices.

Now there are all sorts of reasons why Christianity is a singing faith; for the practice of making melody to the Lord, and of hymn singing in particular, has many purposes. My intention in this article is to focus specifically on congregational singing (rather than Christian music generally), and to open up its three principal purposes; the three main reasons why, according to Scripture, God has given us this ability and called us to engage in this activity. These reasons are: (1) to help us praise, (2) to help us pray, and (3) to help us proclaim.
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll have a look at each of these points in more detail.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Expression In Worship

The following is part of a conversation started over at Worship Matters regarding our physical expression in worship.

Worship of God was never meant to be mere intellectual engagement with biblical truths. Nor is it limited to an inner emotional response. God created our bodies to glorify him (1 Cor. 6:20). We aren’t pursuing a Gnostic spirituality that downplays or negates the importance of the body in true spirituality (Rom. 12:1; Phil. 1:20). God commands us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That certainly includes the bodies he’s given us.

Many of the words that we translate as “worship” in both Greek and Hebrew contain the idea of bodily movement. The two most prominent words – histahawah in the Old Testament, and proskynein in the Greek – connote the idea of bending over at the waist or bowing down as an expression of homage. In addition, physical expression is both commanded and spontaneously modeled in Scripture as a way of giving God glory. (Ex. 12:27; Job 1:20; Ps. 47:1; Ps. 95:6). Those expressions include clapping, singing, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, shouting, playing instruments, dancing, and standing in awe (Ps. 47:1; Eph. 5:19; Ps. 95:6; Ps. 134:2; Ps. 33:1; Rev. 15:2; Ps. 149:3; Ps. 22:23).

Some have pointed out that the New Testament contains few references to physical expression other than kneeling, singing, and lifting hands (although this last one isn’t emphasized too often). However, it’s not readily apparent that the bodily responses commanded in the Old Testament have been superseded or fulfilled in Christ’s high priestly work, or that we now obey them only in a “spiritualized” manner. (“I’m shouting in my heart.”) Rather, we need to seek to apply these Scriptures in a way that truly honors God and edifies the church.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why Posture Matters In Worship

(This post was originally published by Stephen Miller at the Gospel Coalition blog and is copied directly from that site.)

Growing up, I was Michael Jordan's biggest fan. I regularly wrote him to ask for his autograph and invite him to my birthday parties. I was convinced I would one day be great like him, so finally after much pleading, my parents sent me to basketball camp when I was a pre-teen.

I hated it. It was nothing but drills on proper free throw techniques. Coach would shout, "Bend your knees. Follow through. MILLER! BEND YOUR KNEES! FOLLOW THROUGH!" I was not a natural-born athlete, and it felt awkward. Eventually I realized that I would never be the next Air Jordan, but I did get to a point that shooting with the proper posture didn't feel so uncomfortably awkward---it felt natural.

Posture matters.

When a young man meets a young woman that he wants to impress, he stands up straight, shoulders back, gut sucked in. He maintains eye contact and a smile. When he wants to propose, he gets down on one knee. When he has messed up royally and needs to apologize, it's two knees. If someone points a gun at you, your hands rise in surrender. If your children want you to hold them or lavish affection on them, they raise their arms. At sporting events, when your team scores, you jump in the air, pump your fists, and shout as loudly as you can. When the ref makes a bad call, you throw your hands up in frustration and boo vigorously. Your heart is caught up in the experience of the moment, which causes your body to respond outwardly.

We were created as holistic beings with intellects, emotions, and bodies all working in concert with one another to express ourselves. Depending on the study, we learn that anywhere from 70 percent to 95 percent of communication is non-verbal. We say a lot about what we think and feel without uttering a single word.

Outward Expression, Inward Reality

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:8, "I desire then that in every place [people] should pray, lifting holy hands." He is referring back to many passages in the Old Testament where people were encouraged to pray and worship using specific postures---in this instance, the raising of hands.

King David, the innovator of music in corporate worship, wrote hundreds of songs for the purpose of engaging the mind, heart, and body in worship. He understood that posture outwardly expresses an inward reality. Our body naturally acts the way our hearts feel. So we see encouragements throughout Scripture to bow humbly, raise hands joyfully, shout and sing loudly, clap hands, and even dance before the Lord.

This must have felt awkward to the people of the day, who had never before seen anything like this. Similarly, we have been shaped by our experiences and may be tempted to forego these postures to avoid feeling awkward or uncomfortable, saying, "That's for other people. I was raised (whatever denomination), and we never did that." In doing so, we do not realize how our posture is shaped by our heart. Outward expressiveness in corporate worship is not the only indicator of our delight in the Lord, but it can be a telling one.

God Wants All of Us

Still, worship posture does not mean the same thing in every context and congregation. In more traditional Western congregations, expressive worship of God may look like smiling as we loudly and fervently sing rich doctrinal truths and our hearts delight in him. In more contemporary contexts, we might raise our hands as we grow more fully consumed with adoration of God. We might bow before God as we become more fully immersed in a deep sense of humble, reverential awe.

Yet no matter the context, as we experience the inward heart reality of worshiping God with all we are, our bodies reveal our heart's condition. That is why God wants more than for us to go through the outward motions without actually worshiping. The fruit of our outward expressiveness reveals the root of our hearts.

Certainly there are moments when we should stand still in silence before the Lord---that in itself is a posture of worship. However, if we consistently find ourselves in corporate worship with our arms folded, mouthing the words with a blank, glazed over or bored look on our face, this posture indicates we may not be experiencing an inward heart of adoration, wonder, and awe that is characteristic of true, spiritual worship. But rather than forcing our hands in the air, we should ask God to draw us nearer to him and seek how he desires to be worshiped. We should plead with him to captivate our hearts and reveal any sin that might be keeping us from seeing and savoring him with all we are.

God wants our hearts, not just our fake smiles, arms raised or our knees bent. He wants more than just our shouts or our songs. He wants more than just our theological intellects. He wants all of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Church and the Kingdom

The Church represents and reflects the Kingdom
"In the heavenly city Christians will enter fully and eternally into the love of God.  The church on earth today presents the glimmering and growing picture of this coming reality."
Excerpted from The Church: The Gospel Made Visible by Mark Dever

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Priority Of Membership

"A married man goes to work as a married man and goes to the store as a married man, and the fact that he's married affects how he interacts with others at work and the store, but neither his work nor shopping are an intrinsic part of being married.  In the same way, a member of a church follows Christ in all sorts of ways that are not tied to the work that God entrusts to the local church in any institutional fashion.  But the individual's membership should affect how he does everything outside the gathered church."
~ Excerpt from The Church by Mark Dever, emphasis added.

Monday, August 13, 2012

CO*Motion Youth @ Fine Arts Nationals


Eighteen members of CO*Motion and five adult sponsors returned from a successful trip to the National Youth Convention and Fine Arts Festival last Saturday morning.  All of the teens scored either "excellent" or "superior" in their events, and earned college scholarship money in doing so.  Without the support of a fantastic church family, this trip and the benefits that will follow from it would not have been possible!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Seeking Peace & Unity

Within the church,
"...the desire for peace and unity should follow naturally from the obligation to love...unity is a natural expression of [the Spirit of Christ]. Given the sin which remains in believers in this life, however, unity often requires effort.  Thus Christians 'stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.'  Strife should be actively avoided."  ~Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible

Saturday, July 28, 2012