29 Aug

Wednesday Is for Worship: “You Never Let Go”

Have you considered Colossians 1:15-17 lately?  It says:

  • He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Friend, if you are in Christ, that is the Lord and Savior who has you firmly in His benevolent grasp.  Since He holds all things together, you’d better believe that He upholds you.  Today’s Wednesday worship offering reminds us of this truth.

“You Never Let Go” was written in 2005 by Matt and Beth Redman and published through Thankyou Music.  It was first released in Redman’s 2006 album “Beautiful News” (listen to Redman’s version here) and has been covered by Christian artists such as Rebecca St. James, Stellar Kart, and Jeremy Camp.

I’ve really enjoyed worshiping the Lord with this song because it puts hope under my feet that God will not let my foot slip, even in the treacherous places (Ps 66:9).  What a firm and loving grip He has on me!!

Worship the Lord today along with Stellar Kart as they lead us in their version of “You Never Let Go.”

VERSE 1
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know you are near

PRE-CHORUS
And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

CHORUS
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

VERSE 2
I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

BRIDGE
I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

____________________

Verse 1 starts out with an allusion to the beautiful, faith-building 23rd Psalm and reminds us that God is always with us, which should erase fear.

The pre-chorus asks the same question that the 27th Psalm asks:  whom shall I fear?  The answer to the rhetorical question is “Nobody, if God is on your side.”

Verse 2 reminds us of the truth told in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  The verse and bridge go on to encourage us to continue in faithful following until our Deliverer returns.  Praise Him ever the more strongly until that day!

The chorus breaks in celebrating that God has ahold of us at every moment of life.  We often do not think much about His sovereign grasp in the calm and in the highs and often wonder where He is in the storm and in the lows, but in both He’s there, never leaving us or forsaking us.  What a blessing He is to us!

May this song encourage you and lead you to consider all the ways God has blessed you through good and tumultuous times.  He’ll never let you go!!

21 Aug

Pastor, Abandon Not the Flock

The stillness of the night is shattered by the howl of a hungry wolf, making the wool of the sheep stand on end in terror like an electric shock just ran through it. Those little sheep really have nothing to fear as long as their brave and strong shepherd stands watching, ready to defend his sheep with his very life. The shepherd, who is a stalwart specimen of manhood, eyes the darkness to see from which way the wolf might come and then picks up his staff to … run the other direction?! Hey, wait … where’s … where’s the shepherd going? What about your sheep?!

That man by anybody’s standard would be a bad shepherd. He might feed the sheep, water the sheep, and interact with the sheep, but to abandon the sheep in their greatest moment of need nullifies the good he had done.

Jesus seemed to think so, as well, as He figuratively spoke of Himself as a shepherd and of people as sheep. He called Himself the Good Shepherd and defined that label as a shepherd who cares so much for the sheep that he puts his life on the line for them instead of running away (John 10:11-13).

Undoubtedly, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and will one day personally shepherd His flock when He returns, but for the meantime, He has placed men over His flock who are supposed to be good shepherds, as well. These “pastors,” a word derived from the Latin word for “shepherd,” are ultimately measured by Jesus’ definition of a good shepherd.

I have been a pastor now for a decade and long very much to be a good shepherd. Yet, I have to be honest and admit that I am often tempted — when the wolf howls — to grab my things with haste and run. The wolf takes many forms for pastors: conflict in the church, financial issues, egregious sin in the lives of congregants, discouragement over personal shortcomings or the shortcomings of the church body, difficult people, discontent with your leadership or preaching.

But before you jump up and run away into the night for safety and ease, consider:

1. Your leaving should only be by the permission of God.

Paul told the Ephesian elders to “be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood,” (Acts 20:28). You have been called and placed by God where you are. Since this is true, it’s not up to you when to leave. He called you go there, and He will call you to leave there. Until then, stand and persevere against the wolf!

2. Your leaving very well may cause you to miss something glorious that God is doing.

The 16th-century Reformers rallied around the slogan “after darkness, light.” Scripture and history prove that saying to be wise. It’s often the darkest of hours that precede glorious days of light. Stay put and rest in the sovereignty of God who “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Light is coming!

3. Your leaving could erode the trust of the sheep for the next shepherd.

In a field, when you leave the sheep to the wolf, he likely will get a few of them, but those that remain will still be vulnerable even after they have a new shepherd because they won’t trust him. They’ll expect him to run when the wolf comes, leaving that next pastor an uphill climb to gain the trust of the sheep, which will cause ministry to be greatly hindered. Step back, and look at the long-term, big picture. What effect will your leaving the sheep to the wolf have on the church for years to come?

4. Your leaving might say something about your pastoral motivation.

Jesus says that hirelings run away when the wolf appears (John 10:12). They are shepherding primarily for selfish reasons — what they can get out of it — and when the wolf shows up, a quick cost-benefit calculation leads the hireling to decide that the sheep and the benefits aren’t worth the trouble of dealing with the wolf. “They don’t pay me enough to mess with that!” the hireling says. In contrast, Jesus wasn’t concerned about what He was getting, but whom He was serving. In fact, Jesus came not to be served but to be serve (Mark 10:45), and that caused Him to be willing to face the wolf even if it meant death. He was that concerned for the sheep! Is that same mentality in you? Ask yourself why you are pastoring and why you are thinking about leaving your flock. What motivation surfaces? Is it Christ-like?

5. Your leaving might be based on what you can do instead of what God can do.

We look at situations and say in our flesh, “it’s hopeless,” but is that declaration ever true in light of the God of the Bible? No way! We who walk by faith and not by sight say with Jeremiah, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, … nothing is too hard for You!” (Jeremiah 32:17). We often run away because we think that the wolf is too much for us, the whole time being right but forgetting that God will face the wolf with us. Alone, the wolf wins, but with God, the wolf loses. Don’t base your decision to leave upon what you can do. Keep in mind what God, the one with whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), can do.

Brother Pastor, when the wolf howls outside the sheepfold, abandon not the flock. May you stand firm against him and endure for the sake of the sheep and the glory of Christ, the Chief Shepherd!

____________________

This article was first published at Baptist Press on August 20, 2012.  You can access it there at http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=38541.

16 Aug

Far and Wide

I suspect that you are familiar with that fun Christian children’s song “Deep and Wide,” which alludes to the abounding grace of God found in Jesus Christ.  The news of that deep and wide fountain needs to be spread far and wide.  We need to spread the fame of God!

To help you do that, here are 10 biblical ways to make God’s name famous.  These are things that if you will do them in the name of the Lord, you will be so contrary to the norm of this age and this world that people with say, “God is awesome and worthy of praise!”

So, make the Lord’s name famous by:

  1. Living each second as if it says something about the glory of God because it does (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  2. Making God your heart’s desire (Psalm 37:4; Matthew 22:37)
  3. Loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
  4. Loving those who don’t love you (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28)
  5. Boasting about God instead of yourself (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
  6. Longing to please Him more than your flesh or man (Galatians 1:10)
  7. Giving your money a primarily kingdom-focus (Matthew 6:19-20)
  8. Leaving room for the vengeance of God (Romans 12:19)
  9. Sharing the gospel everywhere possible (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)
  10. Longing for the return of Christ (Revelation 22:20)
15 Aug

Wednesday Is for Worship: “How Firm a Foundation”

Today I want to share with you a song that has been on my heart this week.  I’m finding myself humming its melody and singing its lyrics.  It’s a song published in 1787 from John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors.  No one is really sure who actually penned the words, but the melody is attributed to Joseph Funk from 1832.  The song I’m talking about is “How Firm a Foundation.”

Worship the Lord with this great hymn of the faith!

VERSE 1
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

VERSE 2
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

VERSE 3
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

VERSE 4
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

VERSE 5
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

____________________
Are you going through troubles?  This song is one you need to sing to the Lord because it’s an excellent faith-building song, and each verse is designed to do so.  Verse 1 pushes us to trust the Bible by making it our foundation.  Verse 2 aims to still our fears by reminding us that Almighty God is with us and upholding us.  Verse 3 sings of God’s unfailing, benevolent presence, especially in times of trouble, and Verse 4 encourages us even further in that vein by declaring that trials and tribulations are actually designed by God to refine us and make us more like Jesus.  Verse 5 echoes to those who have rested on Christ God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us.
Oh my goodness!!!  What a faith-buidling song!!!  Sing this today for the good of your soul and the glory of God!
08 Aug

Wednesday Is for Worship: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Today here at Wednesday Is for Worship, I want to point you to THE song that began to change my worship song taste buds.  The Lord saved me when I was 17yo, and I soon headed off to Hanover College in Indiana.  I got into worship leadership there on the campus and at Camp Loucon, which was the Christian summer camp in Kentucky that I worked at during college.  In those years, I cut my teeth on contemporary worship songs with their typical verse/chorus/bridge construction.  I knew almost no songs written in hymn style.  I loved to worship the Lord but almost never did so with hymns.

When I graduated from college in 2002 at the age of 22yo, I began vocational ministry at Smiths Grove Baptist Church in Kentucky as the Associate Pastor, Minister of Youth and Music.  I have to say that the transition from leading college and camp worship to leading a traditional Southern Baptist worship was a challenge for me.  That’s when I really began to learn to worship with hymns, and to be truthful, I wasn’t really crazy about them.  But, that all began to change for me when my then pastor Brandon Porter introduced me to today’s song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

Written in 1995 by British worship leader Stuart Townend and published through Thankyou Music, the song was given new life in the early 2000s when Townend teamed up with Keith Getty to write the now becoming classic hymns “In Christ Alone” and “The Power of the Cross.”  As these songs rolled out, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” began to be noticed and was introduced to a much greater audience in 2002 through a New Song Café DVD.  I still remember the feeling of being gripped when Pastor Brandon played that DVD for me.  The words, the melody were just enthralling, soul-gladdening, and faith-building.

This contemporary hymn opened up the door for me to the historic hymns of our faith, which I with great joy now worship the Lord with.  May it have the impact on you that it’s had on me as you contemplate today the great lengths to which your heavenly Father went to redeem you!

VERSE 1
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

VERSE 2
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

VERSE 3
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

01 Aug

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Ain’t No Grave”

Well, it’s Wednesday, and I can’t make up my mind.  Have you been there before?  I do know which song I want to share with you, but I’m just not sure about which version.  Today’s song is “Ain’t No Grave.”

This spiritual was penned in 1934 by the fairly famous singer-songwriter and Pentecostal Holiness preacher Bro. Claude Ely.  Ely pastored churches in Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio and hosted a radio program called “The Gospel Ranger Show,” which aired all throughout Appalachia.  He was a pioneer in rockabilly gospel music and died in 1978.

There is a version of Ely’s out there, but I’ve got my mind vacillating between Johnny Cash’s version and Selah along with Jason and Adam Crabb’s version.  Both are really good but have different moods.  Selah and Crabb’s is closer to what Ely originally wrote with its upbeat and celebratory rock feel, but Cash’s just grips my soul.  Its darker and more somber mood and folkie feel still has a decidedly triumphant shimmer to it.  Perhaps that’s because it was recorded by a man who was basically on his deathbed.  Cash’s version is believed to be the last song he recorded before he died.  Truly a fitting ending!

Well, I can’t make up my mind.  So, here’s both.  You be the judge, but just know that if you are in Christ, the Judge has already counted you righteous and because of that, when Jesus returns, you’ll be raised from the grave to everlasting life with God!

There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound I’m gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down

Well, look way down the river, what do you think I see?
I see a band of angels and they’re coming after me
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down

Well, look down yonder Gabriel, put your feet on the land and sea
But Gabriel don’t you blow your trumpet ’til you hear it from me
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down

Well, meet me Jesus, meet me. Meet me in the middle of the air
And if these wings don’t fail me I will meet you anywhere
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down

Well, meet me mother and father, meet me down the river road
And momma you know that I’ll be there when I check in my load
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down

____________________

The resurrection is going to be awesome!  Jesus’ resurrection is our first fruits.  The grave couldn’t hold Him down, and neither can it to those who trust in Him.  Praise the Lord this Wednesday!