27 Feb

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Blessed Be Your Name”

Wednesday Is for Worship

 Welcome to this edition of Wednesday Is for Worship where my goal is to point you to great songs of the faith so that you might greatly worship the Lord today.  Today our song is “Blessed Be Your Name.”

Written in 2002 by Matt and Beth Redman and published through Thankyou Music, “Blessed Be Your Name” has been one of the most popular church worship songs for the past decade.  In fact, it is still #5 on the CCLI Top 25 List, which ranks how often a song is sung at churches.

Based on Job’s epic statement in Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD,” the song balances the moutain-top and the valley experiences we face in life.   It’s easy to bless the name of God when things are good, but this song reminds us that we’re to praise Him in the face of difficulty and calamity as well.  In fact, Job uttered those words after he’d lost all of his children and many of his possessions to disaster.  So, whether the Lord gives or the Lord takes away, we should bless His name!

Matt Redman has a recording of this song, but the definitive recording of it was done by the South African Christian rock band Tree63.  They included it in their 2004 album The Answer to the Question, and in 2005, their version of the song was nominated for Song of the Year and Worship Song of the Year at the Dove Awards.  You can sing along with Tree63 below.

Whether you are in the land that is plentiful or in the desert place, may you bless the name of the Lord today!

Verse 1
Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Verse 2
Blessed be your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say…

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Verse 3
Blessed be your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Verse 4
Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name

20 Feb

Wednesday Is for Worship: “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

Wednesday Is for Worship

It’s Wednesday and time to remember that God gave you tongue for many reasons, but one of those reasons surely is to return praise to Him!

Today’s song takes us back to 1739 when the great hymn-writer Charles Wesley penned these words.  Although we typically sing only about a fourth of what Wesley wrote, I’ve provided the entire lyric below.  Carl G. Gläser originally set it to music in 1828, and then Lowell Mason adapted and arranged it in 1839.  The video below is David Crowder*Band’s version from their 2007 album “Remedy.”

Join in your tongue with the 1,000 tongues, and give great praise to God!

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

In Christ your Head, you then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul He shone
And filled it with repose.

Sudden expired the legal strife,
’Twas then I ceased to grieve;
My second, real, living life
I then began to live.

Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine,
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Savior mine.

I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!

I found and owned His promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I knew
When written on my heart.

Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the Æthiop white.

Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine.

Murderers and all ye hellish crew
In holy triumph join!
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Savior died.

With me, your chief, ye then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.

Chorus added by Crowder
So come on and sing out
Let our anthem grow loud
There is one great love

Bridge added by Crowder
There are so few words
That never grow old
There are so few words
That never grow old

14 Feb

Why Are Evangelists Not Being Used?

On Tuesday I posted on reevaluating the role of the evangelist.  In that post I basically argued through my personal testimony that to ignore the role of the evangelist is to ignore the Scripture.  Today I’ll explore why churches aren’t using evangelists as much these days and will try to put forth a way of going forward so that we can be closer to the scriptural norm and utilizing all the resources given by God to advance the Kingdom.

However, before I put forth the primary reasons I see that churches are not using evangelists, let me list a couple of false reasons.  The first false reason that has gotten thrown out there is that churches just don’t want hear unmitigated truth preached anymore.  That reason usually comes from the mouths of evangelists that are seeing their calendar not filling up as it once did.  So they conclude that it must be the churches who are the problem—”The churches must have an aversion to truth, or they would be begging me to come share it with them.”  Unfortunately, this proposed reason comes more out of a bruised ego than reality.

The second false reason thrown out is the resurgence of doctrine commonly known as Calvinism.  The myth is that those who are more Calvinistic are less evangelistic, and therefore, evangelists are used less.  I use the word “myth” because the notion that our Calvinistic brothers are less evangelistic has been proven to be false in both a 2006 LifeWay Research study and a 2007 North American Mission Board study 1.  Furthermore, according to a 2012 LifeWay Research study, it’s clear that the great majority of churches in the SBC are not Calvinistic—66% to be exact 2.  That stat means that regardless of a resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC, there should still be plenty of churches for evangelists to fill their calendars with if Calvinism was really the problem, yet evangelists are still being underutilized.  So, the resurgence of Calvinism is a false reason that churches are not using evangelists.

Now that we’ve gotten those false reasons out of the way, let’s turn to the real reasons in no particular order and try to find a way to go forward.

I believe the first reason churches are not utilizing evangelists is that they simply do not trust them.  They’ve seen too many over the years utilize methods that evoke “decisions” through man-centered, Finney-like measures and not conversions.   The evangelist can travel on boasting of ever how many “decisions” while the pastor is left to sort through what actually happened and many times it’s not so good.  Pastors are just afraid that confusion over salvation will be brought into their churches.  Furthermore, some pastors I’ve talked with don’t trust evangelists because they are afraid that evangelists are more concerned with numbers than gospel fidelity, knowing that more “decisions” will likely land them more revivals.  I pray that this isn’t true of evangelists and want to believe the best about brothers in Christ, but in our contemporary results-driven culture, I don’t doubt this is a temptation for evangelists.  The driving question I want to ask is:  what are evangelists doing to build trust with the pastors and churches?  “Just trust us” isn’t good enough.

Second, I say that churches are not using evangelists because they simply don’t know the evangelists.  Just calling oneself an evangelist and being affiliated with COSBE or the state evangelism association isn’t enough.  Pastors don’t feel comfortable putting a man in their pulpit that they do not know.  Pastors want to use men that they know.  This desire isn’t some sort of “scratching your buddy’s back” syndrome.  Rather, it goes back to the trust issue.  It’s hard to trust somebody you don’t know.

I know this remedy is hard work, but both pastors and evangelists must work to get to know each other.  Personally would be best, but even providing sermon audio on evangelists’ websites would be a good start.  Many evangelists, as far as I can tell, have no samples of their preaching for pastors to listen to on the web.  If both pastors and evangelists would work to make personal connections with each other, I believe pastors would be more likely to utilize evangelists.  So, what can we do to build these personal relationships?

Third, churches are not using evangelists because evangelists are not serving the needs of churches who are changing their approach to evangelism.  Evangelists seem to be only geared up for the “come and hear” evangelism. The fact is that churches are not holding revivals or evangelistic rallies as often as they used to.  Now some of this might be because churches are just losing their evangelistic fervor, but I believe that’s the great minority.  By and large, I believe churches want to see people come to Christ, but after attempt after attempt of trying to get lost people to come to us to hear an evangelist preacher with no turnout, churches are moving to other approaches of evangelism that are geared toward “go and tell.”

The evangelistic revival/rally has been very fruitful in the past, but it’s still is just one approach to getting the gospel out.  I’m not saying the days of the revival meetings are over.  The church will always need revival, and there will always be a few lost in every church crowd, but the approach of inviting lost people to come hear an evangelist at your church preach the gospel is yielding very little fruit because lost people are for the most part not coming.  I wish this situation was not so, but that’s reality, at least where I’m from.  Therefore, churches are fishing with a different lure, so to speak.  So, what are evangelists doing to serve the churches who are changing their methods of evangelism?

I pray that we can turn this trend around.  I want to be as faithful to the Scripture as I can be and want to utilize every resource God has given for the advance of the gospel.  May evangelists and churches be reunited for the sake of the lost and the Kingdom!

13 Feb

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Happy Day”

Wednesday Is for Worship

It’s Wednesday, and for followers of Jesus Christ, it’s a happy day!  Today’s song rejoices in the happiness that Jesus brings by washing our sins away and changing our life around.

Ben Cantelon and Tim Hughes wrote “Happy Day” in 2006 and published it through Thankyou Music.  It’s an upbeat celebration of the joy of salvation.  Sing along with Tim below.  You and God both will be happy, happy, happy!

Verse 1:
The greatest day in history
Death is beaten, You have rescued me
Sing it out, Jesus is alive
The empty cross, The empty grave
Life eternal You have won the day
Shout it out, Jesus is alive
He’s alive

Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I’ll never be the same
Forever I am changed

Verse 2:
When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours, Jesus, You are mine
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate, Jesus is alive
He’s alive

Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious name

12 Feb

Revisiting the Role of the Evangelist

One of the great pleasures of being a human is the ability to change your mind.  That’s a tremendous blessing, especially when a wrong needs to be righted.

I have striven to be a man of the Word.  I want to live my life and do church as closely to the revelation that God has given us in the Bible.  However, the Holy Spirit recently began to convict me that I was ignoring one important aspect of Scripture—the role of the evangelist.

The Holy Spirit through Paul clearly says that God has given some men to be evangelists for the good of the church.  It’s right there in Ephesians 4:11-12, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.  There’s the evangelist right along with apostles, prophets, and pastors/teachers.  While the role of apostle and prophet has ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, the role of evangelist is as ever relevant as the role of pastor/teacher.  Yet, I have largely ignored it.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  I’m not saying that I’ve ignored evangelism.  I share the gospel far and wide.  However, I have ignored the role of what we might call the vocational evangelist, that man who has been set aside by God and gifted by the Spirit for the express purpose of preaching the gospel.  In fact, in my five years at West Main Baptist Church, I have used an actual evangelist for only one preaching service out of probably fifty services dedicated explicitly to revival/evangelism.

The Lord began to prick my heart toward this shortcoming over year ago, and the moment that really drove it all home for me was when I listened to a 9 Marks leadership interview last fall.  Mark Dever, who is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and the founder/president of 9 Marks, was interviewing Iain Murray, who was Martin Lloyd Jones’ assistant and co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust publishing house.  Dever, in his usual interviewing style, was asking a wide range of questions on various topics, and due to Murray’s background having served in Britain and Australia and interacting with churches all over the world, he began to wonder if Murray would have anything specific to say to American churches.  The interaction went as follows:

Dever:  “Any word you would give to American Evangelicals in particular?”

Murray:  “I have the privilege and great encouragement of seeing bright spots in the States and to me they are bright, encouraging. The lack of evangelists comes home to me more and more.  Palmer Robertson, he said to me that evangelistic preaching has almost died out in the States.  I didn’t quiz him on that, but it’s true in Britain.  Suppose you are pastoring a church.  Now God has helped blessing the preaching, and there are people who are concerned and awakened.  It would be a good time to call in a friend for a week’s preaching for the gospel.  Who would you call?  How many men could you call for that role?  Not many in Britain.  Do you want a teacher and an expositor?  Yes, we can provide them.  Now what’s the reason for that?  Lloyd Jones believed and more and more I think he’s right that evangelistic preaching is the hardest preaching, in part because it drains you emotionally more. We had a very good address at this conference this weekend.  It was the point that you have got to find the emotion of the text and that emotion needs to be in the preacher.  Now when it comes to evangelistic preaching then, it has to be real compassion and sensitivity and sympathy with lost men and women.  You can’t just prepare a message and expound it.  It’s something more than that and that’s really draining. So when you think about the evangelists of the past in the States and going back, we are lacking in such men.”

As I heard that, something just clicked in my spirit.  I need to utilize the role of the evangelist in my local context.  God has given them as a good gift to the church, and to ignore them is to handicap the spread of the Kingdom.

So, I declare today that I’m repenting of my ignoring the evangelist.  In fact, I actually repented back in the fall and have one booked already for this spring!

In a follow-up post, I’ll explore why evangelists aren’t being used as much today and will try to put forth a way of going forward so that we can be closer to the scriptural norm and utilizing all the resources given by God to advance the Kingdom.

Now it’s your turn to respond. Do you use evangelists for ministry in your church?  Am I correct that the role of evangelist is a relevant and important role for the church today?  How is the church hindered when we ignore the role of the evangelist?

06 Feb

The Vines of Mischaracterization

Today at SBCtoday.com, which is maintained by Truett-McConnell College (the new “Traditionalist” intellectual Zion in the SBC), Dr Jerry Vines gives a written interview in an effort to promote his upcoming John 3:16 Conference, part deux.  As everybody knows who has been following the soteriological debate in the SBC over the last decade, Dr Vines is no fan of the doctrines of grace and what has been styled “New Calvinism,” which is nothing more than a resurgence of evangelical Calvinism.

In his interview, Dr Vines makes clear that his motive in planning the John 3:16 Conference is “to offer a response to the 5 points of Calvinism” and to promote an “ongoing conversation relative to New Calvinism” (Questions 1 & 2).  He feels there must be a response because he sees it as a threat to the life and orthodoxy of the SBC.  Dr Vines has repeatedly gotten wind “of our churches being adversely impacted by New Calvinism,” (Question 5).  I bet there’s another opinion on the impact New Calvinism has had on those churches!

Furthermore, Dr Vines is wary of New Calvinism because he believes that “if [New Calvinism is] left unchecked, the result will be what Baptist churches experienced in the 1830s. Those that were 5-point Calvinists in their theology became what we call today Primitive Baptists. The lack of evangelism and the decline in membership of Primitive Baptist Churches is evident,” (Question 5).  That’s where Dr Vines goes fundamentally wrong.  He tries to connect New Calvinism to HyperCalvinism, which poses that evangelism and believing on Christ are unnecessary for salvation.  That’s a false connection and has been corrected innumerable times.  I think I understand why Dr Vines tries to make that connection and am afraid that this mischaracterization doesn’t reflect very highly on him.

New Calvinism is intensely evangelistic and doggedly missions-focused.  In fact, a 2006 LifeWay study found that in the SBC, Calvinist pastors baptized people at a higher rate than nonCalvinist pastors (there’s a growing trend in the SBC for nonCalvinists to call themselves “Traditionalist”).  The study shows that Calvinist pastors averaged a baptism rate of 7.59 per 100 attendees while nonCalvinist pastors averaged a baptism rate of only 6.71 per 100 attendees.  If baptism rates are an indicator of how evangelistic a pastor is, then the Calvinists are more evangelistic than the nonCalvinists in the SBC.

Whatever the case may be, one can say with great certainty that the Calvinism that is resurging in the SBC is NOT HyperCalvinism.  In fact, SBC Calvinists hate HyperCalvinism.  At least this one does.  We love to preach the gospel far and wide, calling on every person to repent and believe on Jesus and then giving God every ounce of the glory when they do!

I’m thankful that Dr Vines desires to have a conversation about soteriology in the SBC because it’s a conversation worth having, but I pray that in an effort to “win” the conversation, he doesn’t resort to mischaracterization.

Now it’s your turn to respond.  Am I correct in concluding that “New Calvinism” is not HyperCalvinism?  How is mischaracterization like Dr Vines has shown in the interview detrimental to SBC cooperation?  Do you believe that the John 3:16 Conference is going to further cooperation or division?

06 Feb

Wednesday Is for Worship: “O Church, Arise”

Wednesday Is for Worship

It’s Wednesday, and it’s time to arise!  Today’s Wednesday Is for Worship song will call you to do just that as we sing along with “O Church, Arise.”

Written and published through Thankyou Music in 2005 by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, who have shown themselves to be today’s premiere modern hymn-writers, this song is a battle hymn for the church.  We who are followers of Jesus Christ must never forget that we are indeed in a battle.  Although out warfare is not conventional but spiritual, it is nevertheless real and present.  Thankfully, God has equipped us with every spiritual weapon to face our foe and has actually already won the victory through the cross of Christ.

As you sing along with Keith’s wife, Kristyn Getty, may you be encouraged to stand firm in the battle in the strength that God has given!

O Church Arise and put your armor on
Hear the call of Christ our Captain
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies
An army bold whose battle-cry is “Love!”
Reaching out to those in darkness

Our call to war to love the captive soul
But to rage against the captor
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valour
When faced with trials on every side
We know the outcome is secure
And Christ will have the prize for which He died
An inheritance of nations

Come see the cross where love and mercy meet
As the Son of God is stricken
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet
For the Conqueror has risen
And as the stone is rolled away
And Christ emerges from the grave
This victory march continues till the day
Every eye and heart shall see Him

So Spirit come put strength in every stride
Give grace for every hurdle
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful
As saints of old still line the way
Retelling triumphs of His grace
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When with Christ we stand in glory

05 Feb

10 Ways to Keep Your Gospel-Urgency Stoked

During the first decade of my childhood, my family had a big old wood-burning stove in our house to keep us warm in the winter.  There was one thing that we always had to keep in mind:  keep the fire stoked so that the fire would stay hot.  I remember distinctly watching my dad, or doing it myself as I got older, put that poker into the fire and work it around to stoke up the flame.  Within seconds that dying fire would blaze up brightly.

Stoking fire

Much in the same way, we must have our gospel-urgency stoked up.  Life, laziness, and laxness zaps the fire in us that pushes to go share the gospel as far and wide as we can and as quickly as we can.  From time to time and perhaps more often than we like to admit, we need to have that urgency rekindled.  Here are 10 practical ways to stoke your gospel-urgency up:

1.  Pray to God to keep you stoked and to help you see people’s spiritual need
Your first answer in all spiritual deficiencies is to call out to God who has all the resources in the universe and desires to equip you. Whatever it is you need to complete a task He’s given you, He will provide. As you get on your face before God, asking Him to just stoke you up, the Holy Spirit that indwells you will fill you and that fire will begin to blaze. And, while you’re there on your face before God, ask Him to give you His eyes for people so you might see them as He sees them. These eyes of flesh will mislead us, but when we look with the spiritual eyes of God, our hearts will break for those that do not have Christ as their Savior.

2.  Get outside of your Christian bubble to be reminded there are truly lost people
Intentionally or not, many of us live inside a Christian bubble. We have Christian friends and listen to Christian music and read Christian blogs and watch Christian channels, but there is a lost and dying world out there that we can easily become oblivious to. That’s why we must get outside our Christian bubble to be confronted with lostless, to be reminded that things are not as they should be, to realize afresh how badly this world needs Jesus.

3.  Hear the voices of those who are already suffering torment
While you and I might not actually be able to hear the voices of those who are already suffering torment, we can certainly read the testimony of them in Scripture.  In Luke 16:19-31, we get to hear from a rich man who died and went to Hades. His testimony is one of agony, torment, and great fear that one of his loved ones would come and experience the place where he was. Voices like this one should drive us to compassion, pity, and love for those who do not know Christ because it should break our heart to think of any of our fellow man going to experience what this man was experiencing in the Bible.

4.  Set a goal for how many times you’ll share the gospel
Setting a goal is one of the most practical ways for us to accomplish that which we believe to be important. Whatever becomes a goal is what will be accomplished.  It is also a way to challenge us to grow in sharing the gospel and to measure that growth. Maybe your goal is to share the gospel one time this week. If that’s one more time than you shared last week, then amen. That’s growth! Maybe your goal is three times a week or once a day or twice a day. Whatever goal you set is fine as long as it’s a challenge to you and helps you accomplish God’s purposes in your life as a witness for Him.

5.  Create a list of people to pray for and share with
A simple tool to help us keep that fire stoked it to create a list of folks that we are praying for and plan to share the gospel with. This makes lostness personal. It puts a face and a name to our outreach. It may be a coworker, classmate, family member, neighbor, or someone else. Whoever’s on that list, that list will help you to focus your spiritual energy on these people so that your heart will be ablaze for them. I would suggest doing a list of three to five people.

6.  Die to self
What is the greatest barrier to you sharing the gospel with someone else? I bet that it’s selfishness. At least that’s what I see as the greatest barrier in my own life. Would you be so transparent as to agree that that’s true for you as well?  We say things like, “I don’t want that person to think I’m a fool,” or “I don’t want to ruin this relationship I have going with this person,” or “I don’t really have time to share the gospel right now.”  All of these excuses are selfish.  We must die to self!  In other words, we must live for others!!

7.  Love someone to life
Have you heard someone say, “I just love him to death!”?   How about if you instead loved someone to life? Sharing the gospel with someone is the most loving thing that you can do, and it is the power unto life. So, let love stoke up your fire, and don’t stop loving until you have loved them to life.

8.  Stay as close to Jesus as possible
Jesus is on a mission. He has come to seek and save the lost, and His mission is to be our mission. The closer that you and I are to Jesus, the more you and I will live out His mission and the hotter our fire will burn for those who are lost.

9.  Pursue the joy of evangelism
“Joy” is probably not the first word that comes to your mind when I say “evangelism,” but it should be. First, you have been commanded to share the Gospel, and what great joy there is in being obedient to what God has commanded us to do. Second, is there a greater joy then being used by God to bring someone to Christ? Even Heaven erupts with a party when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7,10).  Great joy awaits you as you share the gospel!

10.  Never forget their fate without Jesus
The fate of those who die without Jesus is flames forevermore. Their worm will never die. Their flame will not be extinguished. Eternal, conscious, physical, torment awaits them. If there is any heart in you at all, this truth will drive you to share the Gospel as passionately and as quickly as you can so that no one faces this fate.

May your gospel-urgency be ablaze!