Sing!, pt. 2

Selections from chapter 2 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristy Getty

“Christian singing is far more than doing our duty, but it is never less.  We are commanded to, ‘Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.'” (Ps. 149:1)  There are more than four hundred references to singing in the Bible and at least fifty direct commands.  We are not to disregard the command because we don’t like the music or the personnel or are not in the mood.

We are commanded to sing in “the assembly of the saints.”  Since we are one in the assembly there will be songs you may not have chose and will be willing to lay down your own tastes for the good of the wider assembly.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” So we are to sing about God specifically as revealed in Christ and in His work upon the cross.  This passage also instructs us to sing with thankfulness and with heart.  This scripture is not instructing just mere lip service of song. Does our singing reveal what is truly important to us?

Have you considered that we have a singing savior in Jesus Christ?  Matthew 26 informs us that on the night he was betrayed and before He died for us he was singing with his friends.  Can you imagine his song as he knowingly was approaching his darkest hour?

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Sing!

Did you know that people have died because they sang congregationally in praise of the Lord?  One in a list of accusations against Bohemian Jan Huss was martyred for speaking the “heresy of congregational singing.”  In fact, part of Martin Luther’s reformation was bringing congregational singing with his hymns.  If a town heard a congregation singing, then they knew that people had departed the Catholic church and were under the influence of Protestantism.

“Melodies matter. Words matter. Our songs always say something. We have been created to use language. to reflect and meditate on His words, to remember over and over again His voice.  Singing together organizes notes and words in beautiful ways to shine God’s dazzling truths into the relativistic grays of our culture”.
(pg. 8-9)

“As we sing to God and about God together with the people of God, we reflect the truth that we were designed for community, both with God and with each other”.

When we sing as God’s people, it brings us into line with the whole of the rest of creation:

 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98

“God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life.  The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life.  His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity”.

Pastor Jarrod Scott

Missionaries – At Home and Abroad

Out of town this past Sunday, Judy and I attended Auke Bay Bible Church for worship.

Two reflections…

First, the service revolved around a missionary couple who had just returned from serving in Venezuela  for the past 20 years. In their mid 40’s the husband felt called by God to retire early from a promising career. They went to a very remote village to support a couple who were spending their lives translating the Bible into the local dialect. Their two kids, in middle school, were put in a boarding school, a 3.5hr flight away. We can second guess their priorities (family vs. foreign missions) but not their commitment to Christian service. Story after story of hardships, dangers and the confirmation of God’s grace, they were a testimony of one couple’s lives devoted to the Lord. Now deep into their 60’s and in poor health, returning “home” with humble spirits and, I suspect, though never said, little in the way of financial reserves. It reminds me, with some trepidation, of the verses in Matthew 6 and Philippians 3 that our treasures and our citizenship are not of this earth, but reside eternally in Heaven.

Second, the worship leader asked for prayer for his step-sister who does not have a personal relationship with Christ. Standing two seats down from me was a guest who I know believes good deeds are the ticket to heaven. Ignoring the Bible, it would seem so logical that if heaven exists, good folks would be the ones going. But His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55) and we are ALL sinners and fall short of Heaven (Romans 3:23), regardless of how good we may appear.  It also reminded me that week after next I will be spending a couple of days alone with a confessed atheist, working on a project. He is such a nice, kind-hearted guy but, in God’s infinite wisdom, currently destined for an eternity in Hell. My prayer is to have an opportunity to share the Three Circles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynABoGMoxgc) with him.

Some food for thought.

Blessings,
Jeff Hilles

“Let it be”

I recently was listening to an interview with Paul McCartney as he detailed some of the stories and contexts of songs he has written for the Beatles.  One of his more popular ballads is the song, “Let it be.”  I was intrigued to know that the reference to “mother Mary” was to his actual mother, named Mary, whom he did dream about and her words to him in his turmoil was “let it be.”   I had just assumed he was appealing to the Catholic teaching of praying to the mother Mary, which surely didn’t hinder sales.  McCartney shared how the dream brought comfort to him in a rocky season of his life and consequently the song comforted many in a troubled time of history not only in the late 60’s and early 70’s but also after 9/11.

As I listened to the lyrics again in light of this new information, I couldn’t help but hear the hope for redemption.   This redemption hope was the basis for peace and form the underpinnings for optimism in the midst of darkness and broken hearts.

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be

For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer
Let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be

Yet the song falls short in explaining our confidence that we can “Let it be.”  The assumption is that there is a wise power who is engaged, sufficiently powerful, and working on our behalf.  Yet we don’t have to live in assumption but in revelation.  Perhaps this next song makes explicit what is implicit.

There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

 

What a day that will be when the broken-hearted people living in the world will see The One who saved them by His grace; When He takes them by the hand, and leads them through the Promised land, What a day, glorious day that will be.

Jarrod Scott

Bigger Than Huge

There are two huge events taking place this summer.  One is the World Cup.  This international soccer championship, which began on June 14 and concludes July 15, takes place every four years and is the most popular sporting event in the world.  I don’t want to bore you with too many statistics, but since 1 billion people watched the previous World Cup final in 2014, apparently there are a few soccer fans on the planet.

The first official World Cup in 1930 was won by Uruguay.  In total, 77 different nations have played in at least one World Cup, but only eight have won it.  Brazil has five titles, while Germany and Italy have four.  In 2014, teams from 207 nations participated in the qualification tournaments, seeking to be one of the 32 teams to play for the championship.  In 1950, when Uruguay beat Brazil for its second title, there were 171,772 people in attendance at the match in Rio de Janeiro, the most ever for a World Cup event.  Some studies have indicated that the World Cup has an increased effect on the number of heart attacks in nations whose teams are competing in the event.  Sadly, death threats and worse have been known to occur when one’s team gets eliminated from the tournament.

The other huge summer event going on is Vacation Bible School.  Driving around town, you would be hard-pressed not to see a banner on church grounds promoting that church’s VBS.  Though not as internationally recognized as soccer, VBS has been a part of our nation’s churches, especially Baptist churches, for over 100 years.  Ms. Walker Hawes, the wife of a doctor specializing in medical ministry to kids, noticed that the children of New York City who visited her husband’s clinic received injuries while playing in the streets of New York.  She determined they needed a safe place to play and occupy their time.  So in 1898, she rented a beer hall in New York’s East Side in which to conduct her Everyday Bible School.  In 1901, the New York City Baptist Mission Society took the lead role in the school, and by 1903 there were 17 different schools being conducted for the kids.

Eventually, in the 1920’s, VBS began to gain popularity in the South.  In 1926, approximately 300 vacation bible schools were conducted in Southern Baptist churches.  By 1950, the number had surpassed 20,000.  In 2009, the enrollment for Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School was around 3 million people.  And approximately 10 percent of those identified themselves as unchurched.

This week is our church’s VBS.  By God’s magnificent grace, we will host many more kids than the total attendance of our church on Sundays.  And just as VBS has always done, ours will reach dozens who do not attend church or follow Jesus.  I have a special memory of VBS from my childhood, and our hope is that these kids will have wonderful memories, too, that will lead them to worship the Savior who loves them so much.  So, thank you to Ms. Hawes, for reaching the kids on the streets of New York right where they were.  And thank you if you’ve served in or prayed for VBS.  The next generation needs King Jesus more than ever.

Rich Holt

Puerto Rico

Jeremiah 33:2-6unnamed “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name,  Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. For thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah which are broken down . . . Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them, and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”

This morning I was reading this verse as part of our F260 Bible reading plan and thinking about my recent Puerto Rico trip.  The picture above is the home that an 89-year-old man put together from the remains of his home destroyed by hurricane Maria eleven months ago.  It is a home that one of the World Changers teams will be rebuilding in the next two weeks. It is just one home of many blue-tarped homes through the island that is lacking power and an adequate shelter.  The island still is struggling with power and numerous schools are closing because thousands are people leaving the territory.  This community feels neglected by the U. S. government to whom the island belongs as a territory.  There is a feeling of isolation and abandonment and impending fear as the hurricane season cranks up again.

These same feelings were being felt by the people of Judah as they were exiles in Babylon.  God gave the above passage to let the people know they were not forgotten or forsaken, but the broken state would be temporary.  Restoration would occur and the end result would be better than the original state, not just despite, but because of the current brokenness.  As Puerto Rico reminded me, we are still in a very broken world, but God still has His promises of redemption.  In fact, until the Lord returns, those with Christ in their lives, are to be vessels of His redemption.  In Puerto Rico, I didn’t see much activity of FEMA but I did see God’s people at work.  What is broken around you? Pray for God to lead us in ways to show and bring restoration.  Don’t be surprised when the path of restoration comes at a sacrifice to you, that is the way of Christ, it is the way of the cross.  Do you feel abandoned and forgotten?  You are not! Wait on the Lord who died and rose again for you.

Jarrod Scott

When God Judges

As I have been reading the F260 material from the Old Testament, it has struck me that much of Scripture speaks of God’s favorable/unfavorable view of Israel, or the Jewish people, as a nation. The lives of individuals such as the prophets and important characters like Ruth, David, Samson, etc. are detailed. However, when God speaks of favor for those who follow and punishment for those who don’t, it is very often outlined in broad terms. In the past I have reflected on the inequity of these broad brush strokes of God, deciding in my own shallow and sin-stained mind that “surely the remnant of faithful followers received better treatment” , or in times of repentance, “those who continued to turn away from God must have been held accountable for their individual actions”.

This morning I was reading the last two chapters of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament, before 400 years of silence from God). Chapter 3 begins and ends as follows:

“”Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts…….. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Generalizations are often full of exceptions, and what I am about to suggest is no different. But it seems to me that part of God’s story for humankind begins with individuals (Adam & Eve), transitions to a chosen people (Israel – OT), and then ends (will end) with a one-on-one judgement (Great White Throne / Bema Seat). Two things in all this stand out to me.

First, what happened to individual Jews in the Old Testament, or what may happen to each of us today, may seem fair or unfair, depending on our faith and trust in God (Prov. 3:5). Cancer or starvation vs. perfect health or fortune would seem to us as very different life experiences. However, what we so easily pass up  is that peace and joy come from a relationship (with Christ), not from physical conditions. The more we (and the Israelites) can (could) accept what God offers recognizing it will ultimately be in our best interest, (Matt. 6:26)  the better we will be.

Second, if the Prosperity Gospel is truly false (which it is) and yet God is the perfect judge (which He is) then this short earthly life is almost exclusively about His will, and not the place where the scales of right and wrong, sin and Christian sacrifice are weighted and apportioned (Rom. 9:14-18). If the saved (redeemed and forgiven) and the lost (sinners in the hands of an angry God) can be rich or poor, sick or healthy in this life, then it should only make eternity more compelling for some and more terrifying for the rest.  Each of us needs to reflect on the question of all questions…. Is our name written in the Lambs Book of Life?

Jeff Hilles

Friend of Sinners

I want to take some space to follow up with some lacking information from Sunday’s sermon. We live in a world of people that are different in values and lifestyles.  There will be many who will vehemently disagree with a life surrendered to Christ and His ways.  Yet, Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and those who follow Jesus should be also known in the same way.

Some may object, and implore the authority of scripture for reasons to separate from unrepentant sinners.  There are some grounds for that in a believer’s life but maybe not as much as one might think.  Often 1 Corinthians 5 is utilized to provide such an argument which states, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

However, I would observe that this text is uniquely addressing professing Christians that are repeatedly falling to a specific temptation and/or no longer calling the sin wrong.  The instruction to disassociate with “sexually immoral people”  is explicitly directed to professing believers and not to those in the world.  So there is an implication that we are to be involved in the lives of those in the world.  Indeed, seek to love them and befriend them in the context of being an active and interdependent part of the local body of Christ.  We are not to be the ones that make recipients of our love “jump hoops’ before we can love people.  We do not have to approve everything that others do.  Who can do that anyway?  Jesus is the only one we can wholly approve.  There are many times I do not approve of myself specifically because I love myself and expect more.  However, we can love and respect people while not at the same time approve all of their decisions.  This means that as we examine the multiple interactions with those outside we can lean more toward “yes” to invitations and responses.  We will pray for wisdom to examine when our activities with friends may become an approval of their actions.  Many times those implied approvals can be negated with a frank and loving conversation about our lifestyles convictions.  At the same time, understand that anyone who follows Jesus’ commands on sexual expression will be increasingly bizarre in a society that wants the freedom of sexual expression to rank as high as freedom of speech, and religion.   This takes us to the essential command to allow Jesus to cross our will as we trust and love Christ and His work.

While Jesus had many friends who were sinners there were only a few that He entrusted himself to “because he knew what was in their hearts.”  This is evidenced in John 2:24 where Jesus differentiates levels of friendship yet He loved them all.  This “entrusting” idea is a very conscious decision of the level of influence we give to someone to shape our thinking and identity. Jesus looked to the Father for his identity and sought the Father’s voice in the words of others around him.    We don’t have the benefit of the knowledge of heart Jesus possessed, though words and actions can reveal much of our heart.  The principle of degrees of friendship is a wise principle.  These friendship degrees will be separated by our level of entrusting ourselves to a friendship and thereby determining the level of influence.

A helpful resource to help you think through your relationship and friendship can be found in Brad Hambrick’s book.Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends

Jarrod Scott.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothers

Sunday was Mother’s Day.  Outside of Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, I’m not sure there is a more deserving focus of recognition than mothers.  To be sure, Father’s Day has its place, as God has given fathers their unique calling and place in the structure and design of the home and society.  And as significant and historic as was the accomplishment of our nation attaining its independence, I would still place Mother’s Day ahead of July 4th.  And though setting aside a day of the year to remember and honor our servicemen who have died for our country is hardly thanks enough for their sacrifice, Memorial Day also takes a back seat to Mother’s Day.  Certainly holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Labor Day pale in comparison to the day chosen to honor our mothers.

One of the things that makes mothers, and by extension Mother’s Day, so special is that they are worthy of honor simply for who they are, and not because they have done anything extraordinary.  But do not misunderstand, what I might refer to as less than extraordinary would be for the males of our race literally inconceivable.  But beyond the ability to conceive and carry a child (or more), the splendor of a mom is revealed in the thousand little things that make them who they are, things that come out as naturally as you and I breathe, things which would be extraordinary for a mere human.

For moms are superhuman, aren’t they?  At least, I hope you see yours as so.  I certainly view mine that way.  God blessed me with a mom who grew in faith in the Lord only after I had become an adult.  And whereas Christ was far from a priority for her as she raised us, in her later years, He became central to her thoughts and behavior.  But all the while, through an unhappy marriage and jobs that demanded so much of her time and energy, her love for me never wavered, and her vigor seemed to never deplete, even to the day before she went to heaven.  Ultimately, God took her body and soul simultaneously, and for that I am extremely grateful.

And now, my kids have the same kind of mother.  She works circles around all seven of us, and her heart is tender to the slightest offense in them.  She loves and serves her husband, and has God’s glory as the desire of her heart.  Her faults are just like yours and mine, small and momentous, occasional yet recurrent.  And they remind her of her need for a Savior who loves without condition.  Yes, as Proverbs 31:10 says, she is a virtuous wife worth far more than rubies.

Your mom deserves a day.  She probably deserves a month, maybe even her own planet.  For God could have started and grown families in a million other ways, but He chose to give each of us a mother.  And for that, I say thank you.  Mothers, I hope your day was special.

Rich Holt

Full Joy

Who is the most joyful person you know?  Have you wondered why they are so joyful or why you are not as joyful as they?  You might have contributed it to some personality quirk or maybe they just don’t care as much as you do and thus not burdened by life.  Maybe this joy-filled individual just needs some more responsibilities in their life?

However, I believe that the Bible presents the most joyous being as God Himself, who is the creator and sustainer of all things.  You could respond that we would have joy too if we had all power and wisdom.  Did you know that God desires you to experience His very own joy?  We can walk our life with all of its cares, burdens, and responsibilities and do so with God’s very own joy in our heart.  Consider what Jesus had to say in John 15:10-11,

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in HIs love.  These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

The secret to experiencing the very joy of Jesus and that at its fullness is to remain under the authority of Jesus.  Whenever we choose to disobey Jesus, we may get what we want, but we will lose what we most desperately need.  This day we may get fleeting happiness or we may experience enduring joy.  May we think clearly when it comes to the attitudes and decisions of our heart today.  A suggestion that I have recently have received is to find those people who can be your “Joy mentors.”  As a joy seeker, I could use a guide from someone who has walked similar paths and did so with joy.  Joy in living gives great glory to God as we worship and live for Him.  Consider a spouse who grudgingly is faithful or joyfully commits, which options speak of greater love to the spouse?  So too, don’t settle for just duty to God but seek the delight of the Lord in our living.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength today.

 

Jarrod Scott