Held Fast

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Last week, I had the privilege of taking Jacob with me to the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, KY.  Time nor space allows me to describe all that it meant to me, especially getting to share an experience like that with my son (and, hopefully, Andrew’s time is coming, too!). IMG_6001 I will say that one of the surreal moments I had as a father was following a tour group around as Jacob participated as a prospective student of Boyce College!  Obviously, no decisions have been made, but as a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary (which is also home to Boyce), it was an odd feeling to be there in that capacity.

At the beginning of each T4G session, we spent time in worship.  It’s something you just have to experience to get a grasp of the sense of awe: 10,000 voices singing simple, often very old hymns, to the accompaniment of an extraordinarily gifted worship leader/pianist.  I get excited and impatient when I think that’s just a little bitty foretaste of heaven!

One of the hymns we sang has come to mean a great deal to me.  It is a reminder of all God has done to secure me, both now and for eternity and I hope it can be a comfort and encouragement to you, regardless of the circumstances you face.  Maybe today you need to be reminded — He will hold me fast!

One of the Fruits of Being Justified By Faith

A favorite section from R.C. Sproul’s classic, The Holiness of God:

When our holy war with God ceases; when we, like Luther, walk through the doors of paradise, when we are justified by faith, the war ends forever. With the cleansing from sin and the declaration of divine forgiveness we enter into an eternal peace treaty with God. The firstfruit of our justification is peace with God. This peace is a holy peace, a peace unblemished and transcendent. It is a peace that cannot by destroyed.
When God signs a peace treaty, it is signed for perpetuity. The war is over, forever and ever. Of course we still sin; we still rebel; we still commit acts of hostility toward God. But God is not a cobelligerent. He will not be drawn into warfare with us. We have an advocate with the Father. We have a mediator who keeps the peace. He rules over the peace because He is both the Prince of Peace and He is our peace.
We are now called the children of God, a title granted in blessing to those who are peacemakers. Our sins are now dealt with by a Father, not a military commander. We have peace. It is our possession, sealed and guaranteed for us by Christ. (chapter 7)

A call to and reason for worship for all who have experienced this peace!

How Deep Indeed!

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How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I knoww that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


[Words and music by Stuart Townsend]

Giving Pause: Taking Action When Conviction comes

ImageSomething happened to me Sunday just before I got up to speak at The Gathering.  Clearly, the Spirit of God was working through the time of worship and I had the impression that we needed to pause…I knew I needed to pause.  Things weren’t right.  Earlier that morning, I had gotten upset with my 12 year-old son because he was acting like a 12 year-old.  The nerve of that kid!  I’m ashamed to say that I was, too.  Thankfully, I’m the only dad who does that kind of thing.  What would the world be like if every father responded to their kids in a less-than-mature way?

I was reminded of Matthew 5:23-24:

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

I fell under heavy conviction that morning in worship and had the feeling there were others who had, as well, for one thing or another.  I took a few minutes after a very moving time of worship to deal with these things in silence, during which I went to my son and begged his forgiveness.  It’s one thing to feel remorse, but that is worth little unless it drives us to acts of repentance and restoration.  It seems others in worship that morning experienced something like that, too, as at least a few people moved towards others within worship to address personal issues.

I don’t know about you, but I find it so easy to become wrapped up in pride to the point that relationships become strained or damaged as a result sometimes.  The beautiful thing is that, when we decide to repent, both to God for a childish attitude, and the other person we had the issue with, forgiveness generally flows easily.

My son was quick to forgive me as I repented and gave my assurance that I am going to work much harder in submitting to God’s leadership in making me a godly role model for him. I want the legacy I leave to be a positive one.

So, do you struggle in this area, too?  Do you find yourself acting the juvenile in relationships sometimes?  How quick are you to repent?  How quick are you to forgive when wronged?  What are some things you do to maintain an attitude of humble submission and repentance when you are wrong?

On Patriotic Worship

If you come to The Gathering on big-time patriotic days like the 4th of July expecting fireworks, flag waving, or a full repertoire of chill-enducing patriotic songs, you’re likely to be sorely disappointed. The reason is simple: we don’t do it. The more important question is, of course, why.

I know that in America, it is considered downright unchristian not to have major patriotic services on important days, but the fact is, I have a strong conviction that it is closer to unchristian to have them. Now, as a disclaimer here, I’m not saying I believe it’s wrong to show a brief appropriate, God-honoring video or even to have a short segment (such as prayer for the Nation) dedicated to the subject, but when the bulk of our worship time is dedicated to the celebration of a Country (or anything/anyone other than Christ, alone, and His Kingdom), I take issue.

The sole purpose of a Church in worship is to worship…God. The magnification of Christ is to be our solitary focus; singing songs to Him and about Him and focusing on His Word of Truth is why we do what we do. Look, I’m as patriotic as the next guy. I love my homeland, as messed up as she is, but there is an appropriate place and time for those sorts of celebrations and I contend that the time designated for worshiping Christ together and focusing on our true citizenship is not the time and not the place. Not even just once a year.

So, enjoy the fireworks, listen to the band play The Battle Hymn of the Republic, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and whoop it up for the Stars and Stripes, but unless you are intentionally engaging in a soft form of idolatry, please don’t do it in a worship service. Please don’t do it in place of corporate worship of the one, true God who, alone, is worthy or our worship and allegiance.

Oh, and P.S. Don’t let politicians hijack your pulpits either…but that’s another subject (sort of).

That’s my take. Feel free to share yours.

The Warehouse

I’m looking forward to The Warehouse this Friday night at The Gathering.  A couple of local bands will be leading worship along with our own Worship Project Band from The Gathering and I will be giving a talk for about ten or fifteen minutes on significance.  If you live in or near Chattanooga, you definitely need to check this out.  Doors open at 5:45.  I think it’s going to be an incredible night.  Admission is free with a canned item for HaCoBaCare (our local ministry to the poor). Get more information at The Worship Project Band Facebook Page.

The Power of Worship

This morning, I talked with the guys at our men’s discipleship breakfast about the power of worship I experienced while Karen and I were on our cruise last week. It was amazing because everywhere I looked, I saw the magnificence of God’s creation: ocean in every direction, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, cloud formations planted right into the distant, watery horizon. It was breath-taking. At every moment, I found myself engulfed in worship, praising God for His majesty and the display of His nature right there before me to see.

I am reminded of Psalm 19 where David must have been in one of these type situations in nature as the worship of God burst forth from the depths of his soul:

19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

An interesting thing happened to me as a result of this spontaneous worship I experienced aboard ship: I was “sucked into” the very presence of God and put into a place where I was able to experience some things over the next few days I don’t think I would have been prepared for otherwise.

God took me on a journey for the next several days aboard ship and during our ports of call, where I was exposed to some of the most horrible injustices and poverty I’ve ever seen. My heart broke as I listened to stories of the ship’s staff of their families back home, the long months away from them so that they can escape the poverty that engulfs their homelands and provide a living for their families. I saw scum-filled areas in Jamaica where people are subjected to abject poverty. My stomach was turned as I watched rich vacation-goers (which included all of us!) eat as much as possible and then send the rest to the trash by servers who can only imagine having such luxuries, probably wishing their families back home could have the left-overs.  The contrasts were shocking.

Though I experienced a great time of refreshing and relaxation on vacation, it wasn’t an escape. Through the worship that I experienced, being sucked into the presence and reality of God, I was taken on a journey of discovery, where my eyes were opened and my life was changed. It is interesting to see how God can and will often take something intended for our own purposes and use it for His purpose and glory…and it most often comes through the power of worship.

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