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

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

Chorus
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

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

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?

12 Sep

Can Christians Vote for a Mormon?

Are you struggling with whom you are going to vote for in November?  Are you being tempted to simply just stay home and not vote because you can’t vote for the incumbent, and you can’t bring yourself to cast a ballot for a Mormon?

Yesterday, Baptist Press ran an excellent article summarizing the crucial conversation held at yesterday morning’s chapel at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The panel was called The Mormon Moment?: Religious Conviction and the 2012 Election, and the article on it from Baptist Press was called “Panel asks: Can Christians vote for a Mormon?”  The actual panel from SBTS is below for you to watch.  Please watch it!  I’ve also included the entirety of the Baptist Press article below in italics.  Please, please read it!!  If you only have time for the video or the article, read the article.

 

“Panel asks: Can Christians vote for a Mormon?”

–Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press, with reporting by Craig Sanders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.–

Addressing an issue on the minds of many evangelical voters as a Mormon runs for president, a Baptist seminary panel said Tuesday that evangelicals must jettison — for the good of their faith — the idea that the White House occupant must be a “religious mascot” for Christianity.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted the panel discussion, less than two months before American voters will choose between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who is Mormon.

“We are going to have to give up — on both sides — the idea of president as religious mascot.”
–Russell Moore

“I heard someone in recent days say, ‘I would never vote for anyone who is not an authentically professing evangelical Christian,'” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary. “Well, if that’s the case, then as far as I can see, you have about three candidates in the last 100 years or so … that you could possibly vote for: William Jennings Bryan, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.

“The question is not John 3:16 in terms of reading the regeneration of the person’s heart,” Moore said. “The question is Romans 13: Does this person have the kind of wisdom to bear the sword on behalf of God’s authority that He has granted to the state? And can I trust that person to protect society? That’s the fundamental question.”

American Christians too often, said seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., have seemingly assigned a “priestly role” to the White House, hoping the president will represent and promote the Christian faith. But that is a uniquely American idea, Mohler said, and unhealthy for Christianity.

“I had a pastor say to me, ‘You just can’t be faithful and vote for someone who represents such things or believes such things [as Mormons believe],'” Mohler said. “And I said, ‘What if you’re a Christian in Utah? Do you just not vote? What if your decision is between two Mormon candidates?’

“Throughout most of Christian history, folks haven’t struggled with this question because they didn’t have the luxury of struggling with it. … The separation of the priestly role from government is something that has to happen in the minds of American evangelicals,” Mohler said, warning against viewing government as an idol.

Moore agreed, saying U.S. Christians have been guilty of trying to Christianize American history.

“So many evangelicals want to go back and claim Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and John Adams as orthodox, evangelical Christians,” Moore said. “The problem with that [is that] Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were great men who did fantastic things for our country, but once you start claiming them as orthodox evangelical Christians, you’re not elevating those men, you’re downgrading the Gospel into something that fits whatever they happen to hold. And you wind up with [modern-day] politicians who learn the language of evangelical faith in order to use it, in order to manipulate people into supporting them.”

The four-member panel said Americans on multiple occasions have elected candidates who did not hold to evangelical beliefs. Among them were Unitarian William Howard Taft and Catholic John F. Kennedy.

“We went through this back in the ’60s with John Kennedy,” said Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Seminary. “They thought, ‘Oh, if we elect a Catholic, then the Pope will just have a hotline and tell him exactly what to do.'”

The panel, though, said evangelicals still face tough questions about potentially electing a Mormon for president — mainly whether a Mormon president would boost the image of Mormonism around the world.

“How do we think of that in terms of world missions?” Mohler asked. “How do we think about this in terms of missions on Third Avenue in Louisville, Ky.?”

Greg Gilbert, pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., said it’s a “difficult question.” Mormonism clearly isn’t part of orthodox, historical Christianity, panelists said.

“It may not be a kind of atomic moment where the whole nation wakes up and thinks, ‘Oh, I like Mitt Romney’s tax policies; I’m going to take a look at the Mormon church,'” Gilbert said. “I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Instead, Gilbert said, a Romney president would give Mormonism more “respectability.” In that scenario, Gilbert said, it would become “increasingly important” for Christians “to clarify” the differences between orthodox, historical Christianity and Mormonism.

Mohler said he hopes Christian voters will think with deep theological concern and receive guidance from their pastors to help them make sound decisions.

Said Gilbert, “This is an educational moment for evangelicals, and it could turn out to be a healthy thing for the church if they can learn to think more carefully about how to agree with a person’s policies while disagreeing with his theological beliefs.”

Moore said the Bible includes multiple stories of how God uses non-believers for His good. Among them is Persian King Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Israel following their captivity.

The question Christians should ask, Moore said, is: “Between these two people — President Obama and Gov. Romney — who is going to do the best for the common good and in protecting the United States of America and all the other questions that we’ve got to keep in mind.”

Moore added, “We are going to have to give up — on both sides — the idea of president as religious mascot.”

An Obama-Romney campaign, Moore said, is a “good thing for American evangelicals.”

“It enables us to simultaneously honor the king,” he said, alluding to 1 Peter 2:17, “and to boldly proclaim the Gospel — in a way that we see happening all through the Book of Acts. We are able to love and pray for President Obama while we disagree with him on life and religious liberty and marriage and some really important things. …

“And if a President Romney is elected, we’re the people who ought to be able to say, ‘We respect and honor this man as president. We’re able to … serve with this man as president, and we’re the people who are willing to — if we’re invited into the Oval Office — say, ‘President Romney, here’s where we agree with you; here’s what we like about what you’re doing. And we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Closing out the discussion, Mohler reminded attendees: “Above all we have a Gospel responsibility, that we are first and foremost citizens of the heavenly Kingdom and our concern is that others will become a part of the Kingdom through the proclamation of the Gospel.”

To read the article at the Baptist Press site, click here.

____________________

I’m really interested in what you think about this whole thing.  Please feel free to log a comment below so that others may be helped in how you are thinking this through in your mind.  May you vote and vote well!

12 Sep

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

A blessed Wednesday to you!  It’s a good day to arise and praise the Lord, especially as the feel of fall is strikingly in the air.  Today I’m going to take you back… way back to 1742.  In that year, one of the finest hymns was put to paper called “Arise, My Soul, Arise.”

Charles Wesley (the brother of the famous preacher and founder of Methodism John Wesley) wrote this hymn in his native country of England.  He was a prolific hymn-writer with over 6,000 songs to his credit.  Absolutely amazing!  The melody was composed by Lewis Edson, an American in New England, in 1782.

I have been greatly blessed to sing the Wesley/Edson version of this song.  I pray you will be as well!

VERSE 1
Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

VERSE 2
He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

VERSE 3
Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

VERSE 4
The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

VERSE 5
My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

____________________

If the original is a little bit too high church for you, then I’d highly recommend Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace’s version.  It’s very celebratory and offers a chorus more inline with our modern singing.

Sovereign Grace also has a great modern version composed by Eric McAllister, which is a bit more meditative than the original but has a bright and awesome Christ-centered chorus!  You gotta hear it!

06 Sep

Discerning Minds Want to Know: Sharpening Discernment for Our Trying Times

In the year 2012, discernment is golden.  To be honest, it’s always been that way.  The ability to decide between truth and error has been needed ever since God created mankind and placed them in the Garden.  However, given the current trying milieu of multiculturalism, multi-religiosity, and postmodernity, it just seems like discernment is needed now more than ever.  Mark Twain once remarked that a lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is putting on its shoes.  If that was true in the 19th century, then it’s most certainly true today with mass and social media.

Discernment in its simplest definition is the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong, even best and better. It’s akin to wisdom, and they go hand in hand.  One who discerns well is wise, and one who is wise discerns well.  So, just as one can grow in wisdom (Ps 19:7), one can also grow in discernment as God through the writer of Hebrews alludes to:  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil, (Heb 5:14).

It’s important to note here at the outset that discernment is listed as a spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 12:10, but it’s not just a spiritual gift.  It’s also a spiritual discipline.  Some by the supernatural gifting of the Holy Spirit have the ability to easily and quickly perceive whether something or someone is from God or Satan.  However, those who do not have this gifting can work at developing discernment through exercise, and even those that have the gifting can better the gifting.  As Hebrews 5:14 tells us, we can train our senses to discern good and evil and should do so.  Romans 12:2 reiterates the same thing, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Discernment is so crucial for the following reasons:

1.  We are faced with potentially life-changing choices every day.  It’s not every day that we make “big” decisions, but every day is filled with seemingly insignificant choices that have the potential to completely change our lives.  Therefore, discernment is as crucial to Christians as the steering wheel is to a car.  Without them, you’ll easily go in the wrong direction and perhaps even off of a cliff.

2.  We are bombarded with messages contra to God’s revealed will.  God has revealed to us in Scripture what pleases Him, but everywhere we turn, we see images, info, and ideals that run contrary to biblical insight, which can with little trouble draw us away from God and His desire for our life.  You’ve probably heard that if you hear a lie enough, you begin to believe it, and that’s still the case today.  It’s an all-out blitzkrieg on our minds and hearts.  Therefore, discernment is needed to navigate to spiritual safety in the dangerous world we live in.

3.  Wolves wear sheep’s clothing.  Spiritual danger is not always obvious as God through Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”  The angel of darkness and his servants masquerade as angels of light so that we might be sucked in and then devoured.  Discernment helps us see through the disguise, keeping us safe.

4.  It’s an indicator of growth.  In the verse just prior to Hebrews 5:14, which we’ve looked at twice already, we read, For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant, (Heb 5:13).  That is followed up with, But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil, (Heb 5:14).  These verses talk about moving from infancy to maturity, from liquid food to solid food, which is nothing more than growth, and growth is evidenced by having trained our senses through practice to discern well.  You know you are growing if you are getting better at discerning.

5.  We who follow Christ want to please Him.  If you are a follower of Jesus, your greatest joy should be the thought of His smile, that He would be pleased with what you have done.  But, in order to do the things that make Jesus smile, you must first know what those things are.  Therefore, discernment is the key to blamelessness before God, as God through Paul tells us in Philippians 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”  If you’re going to please your Lord Jesus, you must grow in discernment.

Now that we’ve established what discernment is and why it’s so important, let’s turn our attention now to how to grow in discernment.  I want to share with you eight principles to sharpen your discernment.

1.  Ask God for it.  I know that sounds simple, right?  But, it’s fully biblical.  God tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:31 to “earnestly desire the greater gifts” and then again in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to “desire earnestly the spiritual gifts.”  If we couple these scriptures with what God tells us in James 4:2, which says “You do not have because you do not ask,” then you need to desire to grow in discernment and ask God to give it.  Seriously, ask the Giver for the gift!

2.  Read the Word.  We need to have a steady diet of Scripture going in to us, which means we need to regularly read the Bible.  Simply reading through the Scripture at even a surface level will give you a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible and help you become acquainted with the Bible so that your discernment will begin to be sharpened.

3.  Study the Word.  While simple reading of the Bible will help you, you also need to dig deeper into the Word.  Again, as Hebrews 5:14 points out, “solid food is for the mature.”  Studying the Bible gets at that solid food, which will in turn train your senses to discern good and evil.

Before we move on, let me point you to a very dangerous but common pitfall when it comes to discernment.  Instead of studying the Word so that one might know truth from error, many people depend on their feelings, their gut, their spirit their heart to guide them.  I have had several folks tell me, “That just didn’t agree with my spirit,” and my usual response back is, “But does your spirit agree with the Word of God?”

Never just trust your heart.  Let me say that again louder:  NEVER JUST TRUST YOUR HEART!  The heart is a terrible guide because it so easily gets messed up.  As Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”  I don’t want to completely disregard the role that our feelings, gut, spirit, or heart can play.  These things might be the beginning of your discernment.  The things might be the warning buzzer that raises your discernment antennae, but they cannot be your final measure because your feelings, gut, spirit, or heart can be untrained, poorly trained, or misguided.  You need knowledge of the Word of God, which comes through study, to prepare you to discern rightly.

4.  Acquaint yourself with false teachings.  An important tool in the discerner’s tool box is being familiar with false doctrines and philosophies.  When you begin to understand what’s out there, you can more easily spot the error when it pops up.  Being a student of history is also helpful in this area because it’s likely that some Christian somewhere has had to deal with the false teaching you’re facing.  However, we must still heed God’s word to us in Romans 16:19 “to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.”  In other words, get acquainted with false teachings, but be better acquainted with truth!

5.  Test the spirit and teaching.  You can’t just accept things at face value.  God tell us to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world,” (1 John 4:1).  Whenever you hear something, go straight to the Word of God, and make sure it’s in agreement.  That’s what the Bereans did with Paul and Silas in Acts 17:10-12, “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.”  They tested the spirit and the teaching against the Word, and you should as well.

6.  Develop relationships with discerning, godly people.  Discernment like most other things can be caught as much as taught.  Therefore, you should surround yourself with people who discern well so that you can imitate them and be sharpened by them.  Might I throw in that the best place to do this is the local church?  Oh, I just did.  Get connected to the local body for these relationships!

7.  Seek the counsel of discerning, godly people.  More than just learning to do what they do and to think how they think, discerning, godly people are a great resource for you.  If you are having trouble discerning or are unsure of your discernment, get their input.  God gifted them with their ability to discern for the benefit of others (1 Cor 12:7).  So, let them fulfill God’s purpose by seeking their counsel.

8.  Guard your heart against a critical spirit.  God wants you to be discerning, but Satan loves to take a good gift or discipline and use it against you.  As you develop your discernment, you must constantly check your heart against pride, which manifests itself in a critical spirit or a holier than thou attitude.  Do not seek growth in discernment without seeking growth in humility as well!!  Too many do not and become a blemish on the church instead of a help to the church.

May your discernment become razor sharp for the pleasure of God and the good of yourself and others!

05 Sep

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Shout to the Lord”

It’s Wednesday once again.  Are you ready to do a little shouting?!  A shout of praise, that is.  There’s a lot to shout about, and today’s song will help you along.

“Shout to the Lord” was written in 1993 by Darlene Zschech and published through Hillsong Music Publishing.  It is by far the most popular song Zschech has written.  In fact, here in 2012, it still remains on the CCLI Top 25 List, which charts the most-used worship songs as reported monthly by churches.  That’s 19 years after it was published!  I’d say it now a classic and here to stay.

It’s easy understand why.  The lyrics are wonderfully Christ-centered and Christ-exalting, and although the lyrics are simply one verse and a chorus, there’s a lot to feed the soul on as you praise the Lord.  I’ve been worshiping the Lord with this song since 1997 when the Lord saved me and to this day, love to give the Lord a shout of praise with this song.  Why don’t you do the same today?!!

VERSE
My Jesus, my Savior
Lord there is none like You
All of my days I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love
My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

CHORUS
Shout to the Lord
All the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty
Praise to the King
Mountains bow down
And the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name
I sing for joy at the work
Of Your hands
Forever I’ll love You
Forever I’ll stand
Nothing compares
To the promise I have in You

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!