Thursday, December 30, 2010
Well... there are 4 things that seem to be connected here... A virtual Quadfecta!
Urban Dictionary (to which I will not link because of questionable material on the site) refers to a quadfecta as a Beer-pong shot that lands on the tops of 4 cups...
That is NOT what I mean here.
As I have been reflecting on the year 2010 and thinking about 2011 I recalled a message from Pastor Matt Chandler that I heard in September of 2009 that really challenged me. I think I even blogged about it in two parts PART 1 and PART 2 or if you want to listen to the message fresh from Chandler you can hear it HERE.
Much of it dealt with a Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, humility-pursuing, non-self-glorifying approach to life and ministry and our need to be content that the Gospel is about Jesus and we are invited to play our part in His story.
So... Matt Chandler Sermon re-visited... Part 1.
This got me thinking about how there are principles to which we (church folks/pastors/leaders) subscribe for effective leadership, or casting vision, or building the kingdom often end up becoming twisted somehow.
Leadership principles without a Gospel core are just business... vision that loses sight of God's greater purposes of Gospel expansion in our neighborhoods and in the world and become small visions of our own glory pursuits... or striving for a kingdom with a small "k" in which we sit on our own little thrones...
Then... a couple of weeks ago one of the guys on our leadership team mentioned he was reading a book called Radical: Taking back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. At first hearing of the title I was dismissive. I assumed it was another book in the long list of folks who want to throw stones at the Church instead of helping her and serving her by being part of her and loving God and others from within her... but i was wrong. I started a little research and found that David Platt loves the Church and pleads with Christians to be careful not to see "the American Dream" of "the pursuit of happiness" as an end in and of itself... but rather the pursuit of Christ and a love for God and Love for others as paramount. So... the Holy Spirit continued his work of conviction in my heart and I just ordered the book. It should be here tomorrow.
Radical by David Platt... Part 2.
Some were passing through Fargo on their way back to Seminary after a Christmas break with family. A young man and his wife. It was great to be able to see them and get/give updates on life in the last year or two... but more importantly, as they got back in their car and I packed up my bag to head home for dinner my heart was encouraged and challenged. This couple was pursuing practical Gospel-ministry while in the midst of a rigorous academic schedule... in an environment (like many seminaries) where the pursuit of knowledge and the academic process are held in high regard... sometime too high.
They, like so many others are almost given permission to dis-engage from "mission" while they "fill up" on all they need to know for mission later... only many of them find their "muscles" for Gospel-mission have often atrophied... Now, I'm not taking a cheap shot at Seminaries or students. In fact, this very couple praised many mentors and professors for practicing the Truths they were teaching... which is highly commendable! The POINT is that the more I fill my mind/heart with the Truth of the Word and knowledge of the Gospel the more I SHOULD be moved to mission for the sake of that Gospel and in pursuit of its expansion! My heart was refreshed and challenged by our time with these friends. Thank you.
Gospel Word moves us toward Gospel Mission.
Conversation with friends... Part 3
And finally... the quad of the quadfecta.
I read this article by Kevin DeYoung called "The Glory of Plodding". He says that we are often not content faithfully plodding along carrying the vision of Gospel expansion because that is boring and we want to be revolutionaries. But what the world and the church need is faithful men and women... committed to the scriptures... committed to the Gospel of Jesus... committed to the Church... and committed to the world around them.
The Glory of Plodding... Part 4
So... what do:
1 - a 2009 Matt Chandler conference message
2 - a book I haven't read yet (did I mention it is coming tomorrow... so then I'll start)
3 - a visit with some friends
4 - an article from a PCA pastor (who has written some good books by the way)
all have in common?
My prayer as I think, read, listen, pray, & plan toward 2011...
God, thank you for your kindness. Would it lead me to greater repentance? Would you fix my gaze on you so that I would not turn aside to lesser things? Would you give me a bold and courageous vision for Gospel expansion in this city and in my own heart? Would you give me faith to pray and ask for you to do impossible things to bring yourself glory here in this city? God, would you help me to play my part well... love Jesus faithfully, pastor my family well, care for your people here at River City... for your name to be great...
Soli Deo Gloria
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
In any case... I'm working on getting back at it with this whole blog thing. Specifically with putting up music for worship and working through the ins and outs of it for personal and corporate worship.
Today's track is from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. We sing a number of their songs at River City here in Fargo. We haven't done this one yet but I've been listening to and reflecting on this one over the past two days. Below you'll find the text to the song and a link to myspace so you can listen to it. (Sorry I had to link to myspace... yuk.) Then below that will be a link to iTunes where you can purchase & download the song or the whole album (highly recommended) and then some of my own thoughts on the song.
There Is A Peace - Charlie Richardson
Come, weary and tired, worn out from life
Step out of the shadows and walk into light
Come, sinner or saint, slave-man or free
Bring blessings and offerings, then you shall you see
Won’t you bring blessings and offerings, then you shall see
There is a peace to settle your soul
There is a peace that is calling you home
You’ve been tempted and shaken, tested and failed
You’ve been so far from Jesus and too close to hell
Your vision’s been clouded by the world’s delight
But I tell you, you’re not of this world, so stand up and fight
He said you’re not of this world, so stand up and fight
There is a peace to settle your soul’
There is a peace that is calling you home
There is a peace, perfect and true
The Prince of Peace is calling for you
Listen HERE (click on "There is a Peace")
This a great call to response song. It sounds like Isaiah 55 or Jesus in Matthew 11... "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Jesus' call to the broken is clear and strong... you are broken and needy and I am a good shepherd who will welcome you into my fold! "Come sinner or saint, slave man or free..." Even in this call to "come to Jesus, the salvation is initiated by the one who saves... not the one being called. That is so important!
Even at the end of the first verse where the song says, "Bring blessings and offerings..." You might be thinking, "now wait a minute... I have to bring something? If I bring something to the table of salvation it isn't grace is it?"
If you brought something to your own salvation... yes... it wouldn't be free and it wouldn't be grace. However, it sounds a LOT like this from Malachi 3, "He [God's Christ] will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord."
HE purifies and thus makes the offerings pure. They are not righteous because of their offerings... their offerings are not righteous before they are offered... they are made pure by the righteous one receiving them!
So good. This one is a great song of reflection on the Gospel and could be good for communion or after the challenge of a well-preached sermon calling people to Jesus...
I really appreciate so much of the music that is coming out of Sojourn. I'd love your thoughts?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I made vows before God & our friends and family that I believed that day. 8 years later... I still mean them. In fact, I mean them more today because the promises made that day have been tested by trial and joy alike. They have been tempered by fire and strengthened in my heart and mind.
Here is what I said and meant 8 years ago today:
Happy Anniversary Amy. Walking this journey with you at my side has been God's rich blessing to me. I Love you.
Monday, June 14, 2010
In any case we'll get back to the Worship Theology posts, and posts/links about Church Planting... but for now... just this:
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
"Hosanna" is a song I first heard sung by Christy Nockels. She was part of the duo Watermark with her husband Nathan and has been featured at Passion Conferences and recordings as a worship leader in her own right. She is a talented musician and gifted leader. Her husband is a music geek so that works for some great music production.
This song called “Hosanna” was actually written by Brooke Fraser who does a lot of work with Hillsong United and has some really good solo stuff out there too.
HERE is a version of the song on youtube as sung by Brooke Fraser and the Hillsong folks.
I’m not going to write up a breakdown on this one... I’d love to hear what you think as you pick apart the song:
Hosanna - by Brooke Fraser
Soli Deo Gloria.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Love of Christ Is Rich and Free
The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.
His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.
Chorus: Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.
Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.
He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.
At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.
Tag: Which never could from them remove.
Words by William Gadsby
Music by Sandra McCracken
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
This is a modern-day hymn from our friends at Sojourn in Louisville, KY. You can listen to the tune HERE.
Here are the lyrics:
Lead Us Back (Falling Down Upon Our Knees)
by Bobby Gilles, Brooks Ritter - Copyright © 2006
Falling down upon our knees,
Sharing now in common shame,
We have sought security,
Not the cross that bears Your name.
Fences guard our hearts and homes --
Comfort sings a siren tune.
We're a valley of dry bones;
Lead us back to life in You.
Lord we fall upon our knees,
We have shunned the weak and poor,
Worshipped beauty, courted kings
And the things their gold affords,
Prayed for those we'd like to know --
Favor sings a siren tune.
We've become a talent show;
Lead us back to life in You.
You have caused the blind to see,
We have blinded him again
With our man-made laws and creeds,
Eager, ready to condemn.
Now we plead before Your throne --
Power sings a siren tune.
We've been throwing heavy stones;
Lead us back to life in You.
We're a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You.
We've become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You.
We've been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You.
It isn’t real flashy but it does take a simple hymn structure with the refrain at the end of each verse section and makes it musically compelling. Not always the easiest melody lines for congregational singing however there is some really good Biblical confession woven throughout.
This really works well as a corporate confessional song. Although it’s modern verbiage doesn’t have as many direct Biblical references (there are a few) the parallels are many and accomplish their seeming intended purpose.
The most prominent Biblical reference is from Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones. The bones needed the Word of the Lord and his Life-giving breath to live again. Although the prophecy speaks of Israel, we too, can find ourselves dry and dead in our comforts, having forgotten the promise and power of the living God in our lives... and wither in our ‘life’ in God through Christ. Instead of seeking refuge in the shadow of the Almighty we instead build fences around our houses (and lives) in hopes of gaining some temporal security... at the expense of our Spiritual vitality and very lives.
Verse 2 is a reminder to ACTUALLY care for the widow and the orphan. To serve others and see others as more important than ourselves. (Matthew 25) And how often we seek personal gain and making the most for ourselves at the expense of others which should not be the mark of a disciple of Jesus. (Jeremiah 22:17 & 1 Timothy 3:8)
Verse 3 is, perhaps the strongest verse in my opinion. Upon hearing it I immediately recalled Jesus’ call to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. “WOE TO YOU... for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Now, it could be challenged that we may be tempted here to be soft on sin “lets not cast stones” ... but I think the audience of the song must be noted. This is a song of confession. This is to guard the believer from becoming a pharisee by priding ourselves on our religious accomplishments while at the same time creating man-made hoops for people to jump through to receive our approval and the approval of God. (See Matthew 23:15)
The language is modern and the tune is simple... but if more songs sang their confessions like this... and if more men and women lived lives that mirrored this repentance we may see a healthier Church, less burdened by the weight of sin and better vehicles of God’s grace... because we are reminded that we also are daily in need of grace... and daily in need of the Gospel preached to us!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
[originally When my eye-strings break in death]
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It is hard to talk about sin in a say that doesn’t immediately refer to something you do. Let’s do a little word association. I say a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. I say “sin” and you say what? Murder, malicious talk, porn, fornication (not that anyone uses that word anymore), hitting your brother?
Ok... so that is how my 3 year old understands sin... “Don’t push Ben.”
And although it is that simple it is not that simplistic... that is only half of it.
If we only see sin as the “bad stuff we do” then we only need a “gospel” that meets our surface needs (see my last post).
As I mentioned in my earlier post, the past couple of years have been a journey of being humbled while learning what it means to put the flesh to death and much has that has happened under the radar in the deep recesses of my heart... slowly being exposed to more and more light.
A little background...
A few months ago Pastor Matt Chandler spoke at a training “Boot Camp” I attended in Louisville, KY. If you would like to listen to his teaching (and I would strongly encourage you carve out 47 minutes and buckle up) you can hear it HERE.
But one of the biggest challenges for me came from a text many of us have read a lot... and until then I had not fully understood.
Hebrews 11. This is often called the “faith” chapter. It speaks of the saints who “by faith” trusted God even though they couldn’t fully see the promise of God realized. It reads like a roll-call of epic heroes who did unbelievable things and serve as the "IT" guys of our faith history.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab... "And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection." (Hebrews 11:32-35a)
The problem is... we too often stop reading right there... in the middle of verse 35. The anemic gospel points at that list and says, “See! This is all that God intends for you if you are really a Christian. You will always defeat sickness, and foreign enemies, and lions and always cheat death...” and we leave it at that.
As Chandler says it, “...we’ve held up guys who have put armies to flight and we have held up guys who have shut the mouths of lions and said, ‘this is normative’.”
The reality is that there is another part to verse 35 and to the rest of the chapter:
"Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:35b-40)
You see... I want the life of Hebrews 11:32-35. That’s the ministry that I want. Because of the flesh that still wages war in my heart and rises up against Christ’s sanctifying work in me I desire putting armies to flight and shutting the mouths of lions... not for God’s name to be made greater but for my name to be made greater. Idolatry.
You see, the remedy for me is a full Gospel.
Hebrews 12 is a very familiar passage but has been shaking my self-righteousness to the core:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I have a new desire of late... I just want to play my part well. I want to run the race set before me... looking to Jesus...
I want to be the kind of man who, like Chander says, “the man that loves Jesus Christ deeply, when he’s getting overrun... when he’s getting overrun by the army he’s able to say, ‘if this is my role in the furtherance of the Kingdom, Praise Your name.’”
You see... if we have an anemic gospel we will always see all hardship and suffering as anti-us and not-from God. Not that all hardship is because of sin or discipline... like God is waiting for us to sin to that he can punish us... but that is for another post... and another day
What is interesting is that Matt Chandler has become a reminder and a fresh dose of “full Gospel” in recent days as I have been tracking his ministry in the midst of cancer treatment. Just a few weeks after this conference, this past Thanksgiving, Matt was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was very aggressive. Much has been said about this whole situation but his response to the whole thing has been one more example for me of being the man who would play his part well for the furtherance of the Kingdom and for God’s glory.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
“Gabriel” is a name that means, “God is my strength” and we thought that it would be a fitting name for our little boy who wasn’t able to stay with us. We spent most of Sunday in the hospital just waiting. At 6pm Amy delivered and we were both caught by surprise despite the waiting. The doctor and nurse were amazed at how smooth the process was for Amy. Our nurse, Laura, said she had never seen anyone go through that process with so little discomfort and our doctor said that outside of a miracle heartbeat, this was the best possible way it could have gone. We were able to spend some time with just us and him and although we shed tears, we were assured, even then, that ultimately He does not belong to us. We were able to entrust Gabriel into the hands of our merciful God whose ways are not our ways.
We were able to come home that night and hug our kiddos and sleep in our own bed. Although tired, Amy is doing very well. Her physical health is one more in a long list of tangible mercies from God and answers to all of your prayers.
This all happened so fast... a week ago we were anticipating an ultrasound of a 20 week old baby and today we are walking through an odd mixture of mourning and joy.
I honestly cannot fully comprehend how we got to this point other than the pure grace of God. He has been our strength and our shield and is walking us through this time of mourning into healing. Thank you for your prayer.
Although there have been times of trying to figure out the “why” of all this, I think we can honestly say that our faith has been strengthened through it all. God has been our portion during this time and He will be on the other side of this as well.
A special thank you to our family at River City. Your kindness was much needed and your prayers have been heard during this whole process. Gabriel pointed us to the Glory of God in Christ Jesus and in 1 week preached the Gospel to me in a way I had not yet heard but needed to.
Thank you again.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Jake, Amy, Natalie, & Ben
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
1 Pathology. a quantitative deficiency of the hemoglobin, often accompanied by a reduced number of red blood cells and causing pallor, weakness, and brethlessness.
2 a lack of power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness; His writing suffers from anemia.
I think that for far too much of my life, I was content in believing in an anemic gospel. One that was weak... and literally lacked the power in the blood. I was content in believing that the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his suffering, his death and his resurrection were primarily to make my life generally happy.
Now don’t get me wrong, my parents, mentors, brothers and sisters in Christ... for my whole growing up, did a wonderful and faithful job at painting a clear picture of Jesus. A Jesus who calls me to repentance and into a relationship with the Father through the cross! Its just that I wanted to see Jesus through my own eyes. Aren’t we all a bit like that?
John Calvin wrote, “Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols." And, I think, is the root of my problem for so long... I was content to craft a Jesus... and a "gospel" for myself... to suit me.
One of the benefits of having church on Sunday evenings is being able to eat cheerios and watch the Sunday morning TV preachers. Not so much to learn from them but to laugh at them.
--- I may be walking a fine line between a righteous indignation at the loose handling of the Word of God and an irreverent and unhealthy disrespect for a “brother” in Christ... but I am willing to deal with the consequences and laugh (& cringe) anyway. ---
There is one TV “preacher” (and I use the term “preacher” lightly because I don’t so much hear a man who prophetically speaks the Word of God to his listeners by the power of the Spirit but rather a motivational speaker who makes his listeners feel “positive” and consider opening their wallets to “support... the work... of the Lor...D!”) and I can’t help but think he may have the same problem that I had. He seems to talk about a Jesus that makes people generally happy but it is there that his message drops off.
Now... I don’t want to be “that guy” who takes pot-shots at the guy on TV with the plastic smile and overpriced designer suit from some sort of spiritual high ground...
And I don’t want to be “that guy” who is willing to bring division for the sake of division and argument for the sake of arguing something...
However, I also don’t want to be “that guy” who is satisfied with hearing, believing, and regurgitating a “gospel” that is half-hearted and half-true.
I almost titled this post “A half-assed gospel” but then I thought my mom might post a scathing review and threaten to wash my mouth out with soap... (oh the childhood memories of having a smart-mouth).
But that is the definition that might almost fit better.
I am/we are often so willing to believe in a God who brings healing, provides us with almost innumerable blessings (wife, children, home, food, family, friends, joy, happiness...). We are willing to believe in a “gospel” that promises to fill all the holes, fix all the wrongs in the easiest ways, and make us happy (according to our own, short-term and short-sighted definitions)... because, after all... God wants us to be “happy”... doesn’t He? But we are unwilling to believe in a God who may sovereignly superintend over even the crappy parts of life and may even bring pruning into the lives of his children to bring about the choice fruit of humble maturity...
The reality is that we don’t have to try very hard to believe that half-___ed "gospel"... do we? And if that was that "gospel that God intended he probably wouldn’t have to work too hard to achieve that one.
The reality is that the Gospel DOES bring Joy and enables us to find more happiness in this broken world that would be possible if we did NOT have Jesus... And God has designed it that way:
“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place ” (Acts 4:27-28). Central to Christianity is the truth that God sent his Son to die. (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1553_The_Unparalleled_Passion_of_Jesus_Christ/)
You see... the problem with this anemic "gospel" is that it sets us up for creating a god in our own image (which is the root of our problem) but that it also gives us virtually NO way to deal with suffering, cancer, earthquakes, pain, opposition, etc...
And, to come full-circle, I find that I want progress in my walk with Christ without the pain it takes to get there. The anemic "gospel" offers me chicken-soup-platitudes but no power... and often I (and far too much of the church in America) remain there... I want wisdom beyond my 29 years without taking the hits from the world and the enemy OR the firm discipline of the Lord meant to bring about humility and maturity.
The “gospel” that was so firmly held in my heart has been getting a steady “transfusion” over the past few years and, I think, a fresh dose of AB- (rare blood type), over the past few months... but that comes in part 2... The death of idolatry and the discipline of the Lord... stay tuned (all three of you...)
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
If you have time... read it. I'm sure there will be, if there aren't already, clips on youtube of John Piper giving this message as well!
Soli Deo Gloria,