Sunday, July 22, 2007

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Wade Burleson at Grace and Truth to You posted the history of the composition of a hymn by T.A. Dorsey. The song, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" is a reminder that some of the greatest blessings can come out of the most intense pain. It also serves a reminder that the Lord extends such grace to His children. We can thank God for this song that has been a comfort to many through the years, and I encourage you to click here and view this post.

I cannot help but be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Worship Notes: The Work of Missions

Here is tomorrow's "Worship Notes" bulletin insert:

We will hear and sing about missions this morning during the course of the worship service. If you have not done so already, please take a moment to read the passage found on the back of the bulletin. Those words come from the opening chapter of a book by John Piper entitled Let the Nations Be Glad! The next paragraph from the opening chapter continues:

But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!”, who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoiceI will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High (Psalm 104:34; 9:2). in the Lord…. Missions begins and ends in worship. (p. 11)

Our goal in missions work and in spreading the gospel is not simply to have more people who will experience the joy of a relationship with Christ, although that is part of our desire. Our goal is to bring others to Christ mainly because it grieves us to know that others have not bowed the knee to Jesus Christ as Lord. Our goal is for the Lord to be glorified by others coming to know Him and bringing glory to Him through a new life wrought by the Holy Spirit. This is also why we sing songs of praise and worship. We sing not for our own benefit; we sing because we cannot be silent. The Lord is worthy of our praise, and we want Him to be glorified.

Songs for Today

Send the Light” is based on Acts 16:9 where Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia “standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (NASB). As believers, we are instruments in God’s hand to reflect the Light, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5, NASB). Our mindset should be like that of John the Baptist: “He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light” (John 1:7-8, NASB). In that way, we proclaim the message that we sing about in “We Have Heard the Joyful Sound”: “Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”

I Saw One Hanging on a Tree” was written by John Newton, a man who truly understood the fact that—although we are guilty and deserving of God’s wrath—the heavenly Father’s wrath was appeased by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, in our place. This stirs our hearts, “To think He died for me!”

1. I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood;
He fixed His loving eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

2. Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

3. My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there.

4. A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive:
This blood is for your ransom paid,
I die that you may live.”

5. O, can it be, upon a tree
The Savior bled for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!

We end with the reminder that in the end “Jesus Shall Reign” over the whole earth! Let us ponder the Lord’s majestic reign throughout this week. Stop to thank Him for reigning over every facet of your life.

Worship Notes: Our Adoption as Believers

Although somewhat late, here is last week's "Worship Notes" bulletin insert (July 15, 2007):

This morning we meditate upon the doctrine of adoption. This much-neglected doctrine is one of the most comforting aspects of salvation. God, without any obligation to do so, has freely chosen a people for Himself. Being specifically elected by God the Father to be one of His children is a reminder both of our inability to save ourselves and of God’s great mercy and grace in choosing us for salvation.

Every Christian has been adopted into the family of God. This is a family that far exceeds the fellowship of the world that we once knew. Now, we have a unique relationship with Jesus Christ. Hebrews 2:11 (NASB) tells us that Christ “is not ashamed to call them brethren,” when speaking of believers who have been saved in and through Christ. However, Christ is the natural Son of the Father, the “only begotten” (i.e. unique; one of a kind), while we have been adopted. How glorious it is to consider that even though we are not the natural children of God in the way that Christ is, we still “have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:11, NASB). We receive the blessings of sonship for which the Holy Spirit is “given as a pledge [or down payment] of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14, NASB).

If your trust is in Christ alone, thank God that He has given us the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NASB). If you have not come to the point of trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, consider your hopeless and helpless state. You are not His child and thereby stand under judgment without the blessing of adoption. This morning, come to the true Son, Jesus Christ.

Songs for Today

Today we glory in God as our Father, a reflection of the fact that we have been adopted. We begin by singing, “Redeemed,” a hymn that reminds us that we can only be called God’s children because of Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God (John 14:6). Since we have been redeemed we can sing, “His child and forever I am.”

Our next song, “The Child of God,” is one compiled from verses of a hymn by Isaac Watts (v. 1-3) and one verse from a hymn by Charles Wesley (v. 4). I encourage you to follow the internet links in the footnotes and read the full texts of both of these hymns.

The Child of God
(Sung to the tune of “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”)

1. [As] new-born babes desire the breast,
To feed, and grow, and thrive;
So saints with joy the gospel taste,
And by the gospel live.

2. They find access at every hour
To God within the veil;
Hence they derive a quick'ning power,
And joys that never fail.

3. Lord, I address thy heav'nly throne;
Call me a child of thine;
Send down the Spirit of thy Son
To form my heart divine.

4. Assure my conscience of its part
In the Redeemer's blood;
And bear thy witness with my heart,
That I am born of God.

God, the Father of Your People” reminds us that God is our Father, and we are united as a family of spiritual brothers and sisters as children of the heavenly Father. This song brings to mind the reality of God’s promise to us: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33).

Finally, “Be Thou My Vision” serves as a hymn of response to remind us to keep our focus upon the Lord at all times. We glory in the words of verse two, knowing that God is “my great Father, I Thy true son.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Powerful Sermon

Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society preached a powerfully convicting sermon confronting nominal Christianity at a youth conference. Click here to download this sermon. It brings tears to my eyes...tears of remembrance, tears of repentance, and tears of sadness. I remember my life before Christ and how easily I become complacent in my Christian experience, leading me to repent of my stagnation. I am saddened that I have family and friends who claim to be Christians, but they are not committed to the local church nor do they show any signs of fruit. The truth is that I wish I would have been confronted with preaching like this a few years ago before I became a Christian. I was the kind of nominal Christian that Paul preaches about in his sermon. I was a false childhood convert who wasn't a Christian due to the simple fact that I was not truly following Christ.

As a Christian, this sermon convicted me and brought a renewed sense of zeal and purpose to my walk with Christ. Oh, how easy it is to slumber in the comfy bed of contemporary American evangelical Christianity. Too often I become acclimated to the conditions of this world. My prayer is that the Lord would stir within me an enmity toward this world's charms and riches.

I am reminded of the words to Isaac Watts' great hymn, "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" One particular stanza expresses the prayer and resolve of my heart:

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Worship Notes: God as King and Law-Giver

Here is the latest edition of the Worship Notes bulletin insert for July 8, 2007:

God as King and Law-Giver

This morning’s worship service focuses on God the Father in His sovereignty and role as Law-Giver. God rules over all of the earth (Psalm 47:8), and His creatures must submit to the rule of His law as found in Scripture. He has the right to set the standard, because He is holy and His standard is holiness and perfection (1 Peter 1:15-16). Mankind’s condition is that of an innate sin nature and the perpetual failure to keep the law of God, placing all of humanity under God’s just judgment, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB).

The law is God’s gracious provision to reveal this condition to us. As a verse from today’s Scripture reading reminds us, we would not have been aware of our sinful state were it not for God’s law (Romans 7:7). Today’s sermon will serve to remind us that the law is what leads us to Christ as we realize our sinfulness and cast ourselves upon Him.

As you sing this morning, be mindful of God’s holiness and His sovereign rule over us. If you are a Christian, thank God for His mercy in bringing you to Himself. If you are an unbeliever, realize how far you are from God’s standard, and flee to the Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith in humble repentance. You can be made right (i.e. “justified”; Gal. 2:24) by faith in Christ.

Come, Thou Almighty King” serves as one of the most popular hymns that call the people of God to worship Him, the King. This hymn was originally sung to the same tune as Great Britain’s national anthem, “God Save Our Gracious King,” which also serves as the tune of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” During the Revolutionary War, British soldiers once invaded a church and demanded the singing of the British national anthem. The church responded by singing the correct tune but instead sang the words we sing today: “Come, Thou Almighty King, Help us Thy name to sing,” serving as a reminder that no earthly monarch can usurp the role of the King of kings and Lord of lords. [1]

O Worship the King” also reminds us that God is King, with a special focus upon His role as Creator, based on Psalm 104. The last verse declares God as “Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.” Notice the progression: “We know God first as our Maker, our Creator. Then, even before our conversion, He is our Defender, our Keeper from harm. We know Him then as Redeemer, our personal Savior from sin and its penalty. Finally, as we walk day by day with Him, as we commune with Him and enjoy His fellowship, we know Him also as Friend.” [2]

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” culminates in a downpour of descriptions of God in His glory. The words can be overwhelming in their succession, but this may serve to instill in us a sense of the wonder we will experience when beholding our God one day in all of His perfection. Beholding Him “will overwhelm us far more completely than does this hymn, and we will find ourselves lost in praise.” [3]

In response to God’s law and its purpose in leading us to Christ, we will sing “Jesus Paid It All.” The law shows us that “nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim” (v. 3). Thankfully, for those of us who have placed our trust in Christ alone for salvation, Christ’s death paid the debt to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), canceling out the debt that stood against us (Colossians 3:14).

How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You.
(Psalm 65:4, NASB)

[1] Osbeck, Kenneth W., 101 Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1982), 49-50.
Brown, Rober K. and Mark R. Norton, eds., The One Year Book of Hymns (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1995), July 9th reading.
Grudem, Wayne., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 183.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"Just Friends"

I just came across an article on the Boundless website, and like much of their material, it really caused me to think. I commend the article, "Biblical Dating: Just Friends," to all single believers who are serious about acting with integrity in male-female relationships.

Likewise, I recommend much of what Scott Croft has written in the biblical dating series. I'm afraid that there's not enough good, solid, biblical material on the topic of dating and relationships, but I'm thankful for the ministry of Boundless that seeks to fill that void.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dr. Moore on Southern Culture

I'm a storyteller, and I enjoy being one. By storytelling, I'm not referring to lying. Instead, I refer to what Dr. Moore referenced in a recent post on southern culture on the Henry Institute website, entitled "Reading Southern Culture": "Southerners are storytellers and myth-makers, and the ethos of the South can be better felt than analyzed." He's right, and my southern roots never show so much as when I relate the experiences of my dear Aunt Linda (from Williamsburg, KY) or tell the story of an eye-opening encounter involving a food pantry. Dr. Moore hits the nail on the head when he writes that southern culture is "better felt than analyzed," and I like the feeling.

So, take a minute or two and read Dr. Moore's latest entry, preferably with a Mason jar of sweet tea at hand. In the meantime, I'm going back to work after being on break. I hope you enjoy the read!

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Bible in Worship (Bulletin Insert)

The Word of God should be central in the worship of God. This simple statement guides my understanding of services of the worship of God. Below is the bulletin insert from Sunday, June 24.

The Word and Worship

One of the unique aspects of worship services at Parkwood Southern Baptist Church is our emphasis upon the Bible. The words of our God call us to worship every Sunday morning as Pastor Todd reads a psalm. A Scripture reading is placed in the middle of our hymns and songs to remind us of the centrality of the Word of God in our services. In the evenings, we are reading through the book of Proverbs to complement our pastor’s preaching in the book of James, both books of which are very practical in focus.
Why so much Scripture? The late Presbyterian pastor James Montgomery Boice gives a cogent response:

To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us. God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship. [1]

Our worship is not a generic service of worship where we simply gather to do the act of worship. We come together to worship God, so that Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries prefers to speak of church worship services as the community gathering not for a “Service of Worship” but for a “Service of the Worship of God.” Therefore, if our worship is to be God-glorifying, it has to have the Word of God at a central place. Worship is not about our collective feelings, and we do not gather to worship so that Our hearts will be blessed, although our good God does often see fit to quicken our affections for Him and His glory as we worship. Our services of the worship of God are all about Him and His glory, and thus His book, the Holy Bible, has center stage in our church. No person, song, instrument, or emotional response should take center stage in our worship. The moment these things become the focus of any church the Word of God becomes supplanted, an idol has been erected, and God’s glory is offended so that what happens bears no resemblance to what can rightfully be termed Christian worship.

One church shares a similar high view of God’s Word with regard to worship. This church—First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi—has a motto that captures this view of the Bible as it relates to worship: “Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible.”[2] The pastor, J. Ligon Duncan, sums up the aim of biblical worship:

“Our aim then is to have a public worship service that is according to Scripture: that is, a service rooted in the Bible’s teaching about the form and substance of congregational worship."[3]

These are some of the reasons why the Word of God is implemented in various ways during the course of our service. Our attempt is to shape and fashion our worship services according to the Word of God and a proper theological understanding that comes from the study of God’s Word.

On this Lord’s Day, consider an important question: Is the Word of God a central theme in your life? If our worship is based on Scripture, how much more should our relationship with God be governed by the principle of Scripture-centeredness? May the Lord be pleased by our worship today and by our devotion to Him and His Word every day of our lives.

[1] Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, eds., Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), [vii].

[2] J. Ligon Duncan, Worshiping God Together: Congregational Worship at First Presbyterian Church (Jackson, MS: First Presbyterian Church, 2005), 9.

[3] Duncan, Worshiping, 13.