Archive for June 2014

Consider the Seed

Jesus said:

 “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds…fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:3-4, 8, NASB) 

Consider the seed.
It’s so small…and hard…and dry…
very unspectacular in appearance.
We bury it in the earth.
We water it. We tend it.
We protect it. We watch it.
And do you know what happens?
Nothing.
Nothing happens… at least not immediately.

But hidden in that seed is a mysterious, powerful, irrepressible life.
And if we wait patiently,
one day a tiny, tender sprout begins to push up through the earth.
That sprout becomes a little stem,
and after much more watering and tending and protecting,
it produces flowers for us to see and smell.
It gives delicious fruit for us to eat and enjoy.

But do you know what else it produces?
More seeds!
Our one seed is now hundreds, even thousands of seeds.
And if those seeds fall to the ground and die,
some will bear flowers and fruit
and give more and more seeds.

The entire earth could become a beautiful, fruitful garden
from one seed.

Jesus Christ was one seed.
Each of us is just…one…seed.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Bless This Seed
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Praying for Fellow Workers

This is the 22nd in a series of Friday posts on congregational song.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21, NIV)

I urge… that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for … all those in authority. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV)

We all have to work with other people, whether on our jobs, at home, or in the church. Some are our co-workers. Some are our supervisors. In both cases, our work is interconnected with theirs. If the other person doesn’t do a good job, our work is damaged.

This is particularly true in music. Singers, instrumentalists, writers, directors–none of us is an island. The quality and effectiveness of our work is dependent on other people. That can be very stressful!

In dealing with such situations in my own life, the Lord has brought me back to what the Bible says about submitting to one another and praying for one another. I’m discovering that is great, practical advice.

Instead of fretting about whether another person will do a good job or whether a supervisor will make the right decision, I’m learning to pray for them. I pray that God will guide them and work through them to accomplish His will.

Then, having prayed for them and trusted the Lord to work through them, I can more easily rely on them and be submissive to them. And when I still feel I must disagree, I can do so in a non-defensive, non-territorial manner, remembering it is God’s work, not mine, and He will accomplish it.

Sometimes we feel that if everyone would just leave us alone, if we weren’t so dependent on others, everything would be terrific. The Bible declares that that simply isn’t so. Each of us has a particular role to play. By ourselves, we are so limited. We were designed to work most efficiently and productively in relationship to others. We are each like one part of the body that must work with other parts if the whole body is to function successfully. God created us to be dependent not only on himself but on each other.

Prayer is the best way to make such relationships work. Through prayer, we lift up those on whom we are dependent. Through prayer, we maintain the right attitude toward them. Prayer for fellow workers fosters the unity and interdependence essential for all of us to be and do our best together.

And through prayer, we keep our faith focused on God’s will and on His ability to accomplish that will through us, not just through me.

Freedom

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

When I fail to trust God, I fail.
And I have failed so often.

Sometimes it’s been a troublesome, recurrent sin.
Sometimes pride,
worry,
selfishness, or
unkindness.

But in all these years, I have never used up His mercies.
We draw on them over and over, and
they are never diminished.
They are “new every morning.”

I feel ashamed and presumptuous to come to Him again for forgiveness.
But He asks me to come, and
I come in obedience.

Lord, in obedience,
I trust Your mercy once again.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Daily Confession
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Freedom in Christ

 “Come to Me…Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  .  .  .  Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

Lord Jesus, in what ways am I still in bondage?
In what ways am I not enjoying all the freedom I have in You?

Give me the freedom from self that
only Your Spirit,
only Your love brings.

Give me freedom from binding lifestyle patterns and habits
that limit me from walking constantly in You.

Give me freedom from the anxiety
that is unnecessary for me now as a child of God.

I come to You, Lord Jesus.
Help me to walk more completely and freely in You.
I am Yours.
I am listening.
I will obey.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: We Come and Rest
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Remember

This is the 21st in a series of Friday posts on congregational song.

Remember, we hymn lovers and hymn leaders are part of a Body with many members. We are not an isolated entity pursuing our own ends. We must always think and work as one small member of the Body, with Christ as the head.

Remember, God isn’t fundamentally interested in songs, styles, pleasing sounds, emotional thrills, applause, or any of the other human commodities that so preoccupy us musicians. God is interested in people. As His servant, love people. Minister to people. Draw people to Him.

Remember, when a hymn is sung, the hymn is not the focus—not for the pastor, the worship leader, or the congregation—and certainly not for God. God’s Word is the focus. The response of His people is the focus. The hymn is simply a vessel that must stay out of the way. It should never intrude or distract.

If God is speaking, the hymn should present His Word with the clarity and power it deserves. If God’s people are responding to Him, the hymn should voice their response with all the energy and honesty that God’s living presence demands. A hymn should never drain off attention for itself.

And finally, remember that much of your ministry will be helping people remember. Help us remember what we must never forget. Most of us in the Church already know the vital truths that lead to a fulfilling life in Christ. But in the press of daily obligations and competing priorities, we desperately need to be reminded—regularly, clearly, compassionately, firmly reminded. Through hymns, help us remember that God is our Father. Draw us back to faith, worship, confession, love, and self-sacrifice. Teach us again that perfect peace is always ours in Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness Is Always Available

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you…
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
(Psalm 32:3, 5, NIV)

Are you unsure of your relationship with God?

You don’t need to let uncertainty put a cloud between you.
You don’t have to wonder.
You don’t have to wait.

If you think you’ve failed Him, talk to Him right now.
Forgiveness is always available.
He makes it available to you every moment.

 

Jesus, I accept
today’s forgiveness for
today’s failures.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Song of Confession
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Living Without Guilt

Jesus said,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28, NASB) 

1 John 1:9 promises this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

I know about guilt. I know about the shadow deep inside, the heaviness, the darkness. I know about being deeply, unforgettably aware of the wrong I’ve done.

I’ve tried to deal with that guilt in a variety of ways.

I’ve tried to deny it: “It’s just a state of mind…an emotion…it’ll pass.”

I’ve tried to rationalize it: “Everybody does wrong once in a while…I’m no worse than most people.”

I’ve tried to blame it on others and escape it: “It’s just the way my parents raised me…society’s false standards…If I ignore their rules, I’ll eventually get past this feeling.”

I’ve tried to make up for it somehow: “I will be nice to people…do good deeds…give money…That will make up for the wrong I’ve done…My good deeds will outweigh the bad.”

But none of that lifts the blackness. None of it makes me clean. None of it changes the person I know I am. My wrongness is not a feeling, or a fiction, or a passing phenomenon. It’s a fact.

But thank the Lord, I also know what forgiveness feels like. Years ago friends told me about Jesus. At first, hearing about Him only made the guilt worse. I felt painted in a corner. My wrongness, my sin, was bigger than ever. It loomed over me. It stared me in the face.

Finally, in desperation, and in feeble hope, I turned to Jesus. I just opened myself to Him. I admitted how wrong I was, and I asked Him to help me.

And you know what happened? He didn’t scold me. He didn’t punish me. He just forgave me. Forgave me! Freely, completely, unconditionally forgave me! I was a brand-new person! I felt bathed in His love inside and out.

I can’t describe the freedom. I can’t describe the cleanness, the joy, the rightness of life.

I’m not talking about a feeling. It was a fact. I was a different person, and everyone who knew me knew I was different.

No, I wasn’t perfect. I’m still not perfect–not by a long shot. But I’m learning to trust Him, and He’s helping me to live a clean life, a loving life, above the wrong that once dragged me down.

And when I fail, I just ask Him to forgive me, and He does, as freely and completely as ever.

If you’re living with guilt, let me tell you: you don’t have to. You don’t need to deny it. You don’t need to rationalize it. You don’t have to make up for it. Jesus forgives sin. Jesus takes away guilt completely. Jesus makes new people. Jesus can make you a new person.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Come, My Friends!
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

One in Christ

This is the 20th in a series of Friday posts on congregational song.

There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-5, NIV)

Communion was being served at our local church. Servers stood at the head of each aisle with a plate of bread and a cup. All the church rose and filed down together, waiting to receive the elements and hear the words, “This is my body. This is my blood.”

Being on the far side of the sanctuary, I looked across and saw all those people standing together, filling the aisles–people of every shape, size, and personality imaginable–the elderly and the children, the brilliant and the mentally handicapped, every background, every life situation, every problem and struggle. Each had been personally invited by Jesus Christ, and there they were all together, coming to Him.

What a stunning picture of redemption! For each of us, Jesus has become the bread and wine of life. We have come together in Him. We are one body and one Spirit in Him. We have been lifted to one hope. We cling to one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father who is over and through and in us all.

Unity is largely unexplored territory for us. It is an undiscovered blessing. Let us pray that the Lord will burn into our hearts its possibility and its glowing promise. More and more let us see other people in Him. Let us react to them in Him and love them in Him.

Remember, this picture of redemption is just a glimpse of a day soon to come:

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
          “Salvation belongs to our God,
          who sits on the throne,
          and to the Lamb.”. . .
They are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst…
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
          And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
(Revelation 7:9-10, 15-17, NIV)

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: See Them Come
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Forever Faithful

Jesus, I know You are here with me.
I know I can pray anytime.
I know that life’s purest joy and peace are only a breath away.

But I forget.
I get wrapped up in my own little world.

Still, You keep coming to me.
You prompt me through a need or a crisis,
through some anxiety or
through my own inner neediness.
You prompt me through a blessing,
then You remind me to thank You for it.

Through my busyness,
my worry,
my weakness, and
my foolish pride,
You keep calling me,
drawing me, and
welcoming me to You.

Thank You, Jesus.
You are forever faithful!
You are forever with me.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Almighty God Is Near!
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Knowing Jesus Better

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
(Ephesians 1:17, NIV)

If being a Christian is knowing You, Jesus,
then growing spiritually is knowing You better.

I don’t want to just know about You, my Lord.
I want to know You.
I want to know You as You really are—
as You really are right now, here with me.

Saul turned from killing Christians
to vigorously arguing for You in just a few days (Acts 9:1-22).
The difference wasn’t additional study.
The difference was meeting You.
He saw You as You are,
and it changed him radically, forever.

Jesus, my Lord God, I want to know You.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Come and Follow Me
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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