February 22, 2015
Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace have helped, directly or indirectly, shape and deepen worship for hundreds and thousands of congregations. Indelibile Grace was at the forefront of the movement to renew old hymns by setting the rich lyrics to newer music. While, no doubt, this had been tried before, it was Indelible Grace music that seems to have been widely used. Others followed, also seeing thier songs used in congregational worship throughout the USA, and the Church at large has been blessed by it. at least that is my take on it.
What was, and is, significant about Indelible Grace music, whether the re-written hymns or the newly composed songs, is that they are substantive – they bring to bear deep theological themes and truths and apply them to the emotion, without being emotionally manipulative. They simply give vioce to deep gospel truth experienced.
This video tells the story of Indelible Grace. And the featured concert held at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville… I had the privilege to be there – sitting with my wife and several of our closest friends. Great night; great memories.
February 21, 2015
As I reflect upon the need of our church to constantly cultivate community among those within our congregation, as well as between those already part of the congregation and those who have newly arrived, I am pondering the poignancy of this statement by Stanley Grenz, from his book Theology for the Community of God:
“Only in our Spirit-produced corporateness do we truly reflect to all creation the grand dynamic that lies at the heart of the triune God. As we share together in the Holy Spirit, therefore, we participate in relationship with the living God and become the community of Christ our Lord.”
February 21, 2015
by Wesley Hurd
At the end of one of his films, Deconstructing Harry, writer/actor Woody Allen delivers a movie-ending confession that offers a perverted coherence to the film:
“All people know the truth. Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.”
For believers, though, desiring truth – undistorted – is central to the process and experience of our salvation. Nothing is more fundamental in our striving for sanctification – our striving to be good as God is good – than our embracing the truth at every level at which it confronts us.
One of the most common names for the presence of God in our lives is the Spirit of Truth. He is the author and source of all that is valuable, good, pure, and true. It follows, then, that believers in the true Gospel – a work the Spirit of Truth authors in our hearts – will seek what is true. Our commitment to living according to what is true is a “litmus test” for whether we are authentically interested in knowing God and learning to love what He loves – truth, justice, and mercy. Are we interested in knowing God? Then, in the end, we will be open to following the truth wherever it leads us. This will be a lifelong process for us, however, because, like our distant ancestors Adam and Eve, we are more inclined to hide from truth than to seek it or to embrace its consequences. Our fallen, darkened hearts do not naturally respond well to truth, especially when it surprises and inconveniences us, when believing and acting upon the truth costs us something.
In his gospel narrative (John 18.28ff), the Apostle John portrays a powerful scene in which Jesus and his captor, Pontius Pilate, engage in a profound exchange over this issue of truth. Their conversation shows two levels at which truth confronts all humans. Both levels can potentially reflect a person’s moral disposition, but the second level proves to be spiritually crucial. Let me explain.
The first level of discovering truth involves whether or not a person believes truth exists at all in a practical and philosophical sense. Is there truth? If so, how do I know it? How can I be confident in what appears to me to be true? In the John passage, Pilate interrogates Jesus and his accusers, attempting to ascertain the true circumstances that led to Jesus’ arrest. At this level of truth seeking, Pilate assumes the truth can be known and assessed. His inquiry proves he believes truth is objectively available and can be sought and found. Having received adequate firsthand testimony, Pilate determines that Jesus is innocent of the allegations against him. The truth made itself plain to Pilate. Pilate then attempts political maneuvers to free Jesus, but he fails when Jesus’ accusers threaten anarchy that would put Pilate himself in political jeopardy.
Yet Jesus intrigues Pilate, who engages Jesus further, asking Him questions that lead Jesus to claim, “For this I have been born…to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.” Now the second level of our relationship to truth appears. Once we believe we know what is true, are we willing to embrace it and to act accordingly? Pilate was not willing. His reply to Jesus, “What is truth?”, enables Pilate to keep the conversation at the philosophical level rather than going to the second level of personal, existential response.
Jesus identified himself with the vital truths about a person’s relationship to God and eternal destiny. Jesus spoke the truth about God — who He is, what His will is, and how human creatures can align themselves with those truths. Jesus was concerned not only about the factual truthfulness of what one believes (truth at level one), but also about the deeply personal moral posture of one’s heart toward factual truthfulness. Does one’s heart lean toward or away from letting the truth have its way in one’s thought, choices, and behavior? For example, I can know and agree with the theological truthfulness of man’s sin and fallenness, while simultaneously refusing to allow its factual truthfulness to penetrate my personal conscience and thereby own the truth of my guilt and need for repentance.
February 20, 2015
The Holy Spirit is mysterious to many, perhaps especially to those in more intellectually inclined traditions. Most Christians probably understand that historic orthodoxy recognizes the Holy Spirit to be part of the Trinity, and therefore God, but I suspect many are somewhat less certain about what that means. Often the Holy Spirit is referred to as a depersonalized “it” despite being the third person of the Trinity. Maybe even more questions surround what exactly the Holy Spirit does.
Some time ago I ran across a satirical confession of faith, one that ostensibly reflects the functional beliefs of a typcical American evanglical. Mimicking the pattern of the Apostle’s Creed, the clause regarding the the Holy Spirit declares:
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, who did some weird stuff at Pentecost, but doesn’t do much more anymore except speak to the hearts of individual believers.
How close to the experience or belief of most, I cannot say. But I suspect, and fear, that it is discomfortingly close to the functional belief of too many.
Recently I have enjoyed a four-part series of posts by Jon Payne from Sovereign Grace Ministries blog, titled: The Role of Holy Spirit. I commend them for a thoughtful introduction and overview:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – The Trouble With Nicodemus
- Part 3 – Who is the Holy Spirit? and What Does He Do?
- Part 4 – Transaction at the Fountain
I believe this series provides a good Introduction and/or refresher about this one who is often referred to as “The Shy Member of the Trinity”. Hopefully it will whet your appetite to look further, and to study more deeply.
For those who are interested in digging into this subject, into this Person of the Holy Spirit, I would suggest two things:
First, stay away from some of the more bizarre claims by the likes of Benny Hinn, Perry Stone, Lester Summerall, and others from the Name-It-Claim-It camp, who refer to themselves as “Full Gospel” Christians. More often than not, there is little gospel reflected in the writings of these folks – at least not the gospel of the Bible. (See Galatians 1.6-9) These, at best, offer fascinations that lead away from the Cross.
Second, delve into a copy of one or more of the following books. This list is hardly exhaustive, but I think all of these provide substantive and sound insights about the Holy Spirit:
- Forgotten God by Francis Chan
- The Mystery of the Holy Spirit by R.C. Sproul
- Keep In Step With the Spirit by J.I. Packer
- Baptism & Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today by John Stott
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by George Smeaton
- The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson
- The Holy Spirit (Puritan Paperbacks) by John Owen
February 19, 2015
Charles Spurgeon once quipped: “God is to be praised with the voice, and the heart should go therewith in holy exultation.”
While Spurgeon is right, the problem is that in many congregations the people are not “praising God with the voice”. If the folks at Renewing Worship are to be believed, part of the reason is that many churches are turning worship into a spectator sport – where attendees watch and listen to a concert as well as a message. As Kenny Lamm expresses it:
Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches, changing what should be a participative worship environment to a concert event. Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess.
Lamm goes on to say he sees nine reasons congregations aren’t singing anymore:
- They don’t know the songs.
- We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing.
- We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.
- The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.
- We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment.
- The congregation feels they are not expected to sing.
- We fail to have a common body of hymnody.
- Worship leaders ad lib too much.
- Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation.
In his article titled 9 Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship, Lamm elaborates on each of these observations. His thoughts are worth exploring, and comparing to our own church worship practices.
It may be that your church, like ours, defies this trend. In our church people do sing out, and at times, when the sancturay is full of people, and the voices seem to overflow the sanctuary, it feels majestic. Not only do we encourage singing, but we also usually offer a liturgy that invites the participants to praise God with their voices, even if not in song. So, if you have a singing congregation, GREAT! Lamm’s observations can serve as a great affirmation. They can also serve as a wise of caution, things to look out for, to minimize the possibility of drifiting.
On the other hand, if your church has been moving more toward the spectator… I hope Lamm’s concerns will challenge you to re-examine what worship is and how it really ought to be done.
February 19, 2015
There should be little debate that the most influential group of people in the world are Moms. While not necessarily true in every individual situation, collectively it is difficult to image any group running even a close second. With this in mind, John Piper plugs a new book, Mom Enough, written by a collection of godly women who are also gifted writers:
- Carolyn McCulley
- Rachel Jankovic
- Gloria Furman
- Rachel Pieh Jones
- Christine Hoover
- Trillia Newbell
- Christina Fox
On a personal note, Christina Fox, and her now husband George, were members of the church I had the privilege to pastor in Chattanooga while they were both attending Covenant College. It has been exciting to see how God has worked in Christina, and how he is now working through her writing and her speaking. Check out Christina’s blog: To Show Them Jesus
If you are a Mom, know a mom, or have a mom, this book is written for you.
I agree with those who suggest that a vibrant children’s ministry is one of the five core programs essential to a healthy church or church plant. We are fortunate at the church where I serve to have a very capable godly Children’s Ministry Coordinator on our staff. But even having the best Children’s Ministry Coordinator or the best Children’s Ministry program is no substitute for God’s design.
In a post found on Relevant Children’s Ministry, titled: 5 Reasons Church Should Not Be the Primary Place Where Children Learn About God, we are reminded of what I consider to be the God-given pattern for raising children to grow in the Christian faith. While the church plays an important, even a vital, supplemental role, the church should never usurp the authority or the primacy of the parents.
Here are the five reasons:
- God has Called Parents to be the Primary Spiritual Leaders of Their Children
- No One Has More Influence in a Child’s Life Than His or Her Parents
- Kids Spend Much More Time at Home than They Do at Church
- The Church Compliments What Parents Are Teaching Their Kids at Home, but Cannot Replace It
- The Church’s Job is to Equip Parents to Lead Their Kids Spiritually
These principles are reflective of what I (and many others) would call a Covenantal Children’s Ministry.
Interesting that while studies have been conducted to discover why so many leave the church upon emerging adulthood (after high school graduation) most of those studies are revealing that in homes and churches where the principles of Covenantal Children’s Ministry are followed, not only do the kids not end up leaving church as often as they do from churches where kids are segregated and entertained, but the vast majority of Covenantal Kids don’t leave the church at all.