Category Archives: Worship

A Symphony of Praise–Weekend Survey

   Astronomers have recently discovered that the sun sends out magnetic sound waves that are similar in pattern to musical tones. When I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.”

   It also reminded me of the great Steve Green song, “Symphony of Praise,” which kind of put me in a nostalgic mood.

   For this weekend’s survey, tell us about some of your favorite Christian artists from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Perhaps you could share a favorite song or two of theirs. Let me give a couple of mine.

Steve Green: Symphony of Praise, We Believe

Sandi Patti: Morning Like This, Upon This Rock

Larnelle Harris: Amen

I hope you have a blessed weekend.

Play It Again

   I posted this hymn last year about this time. Since then it has been one of my most popular posts, particularly in search engines. To me, it is one of the most magnificent hymns that we sing in the church today. I hope that it will add a small measure of joy to your celebration of the resurrection of our Lord.

Hallelujah, What a Savior

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name

For the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude

In my place condemned He stood

Sealed my pardon with His blood

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we

Spotless Lamb of God was He

Full atonement, can it be?

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die

“It is finished,” was His cry

Now in Heav’n exalted high

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

When He comes, our Glorious King

All His ransomed home to bring

Then anew this song we’ll sing

HALLELUJAH, WHAT A SAVIOR!

Concert Review

   This past Saturday evening, my family and I had a wonderful time at a concert hosted by the Lighthouse Children’s Home in Tallahassee, FL. LCH is a wonderful ministry that for nearly thirty years now has been helping reclaim the lives of young girls who have been scarred by sin. Their choir started off the evening with some testimonies and songs that were a real blessing.

   A very pleasant surprise (for me) that evening was the Crist Family. I had never had the opportunity to hear this family before but I was incredibly blessed. They have one of the freshest sounds I have heard in years. Putting seven vocalists on stage allows them to be creative with their harmony and they did so flawlessly. They sang a particularly pleasing arrangement on the old classic “He Looked Beyond My Fault.” I look forward to getting to hear these folks again.

   They were followed by the Mark Trammell Trio. Mark is well-known for his years with the Cathedrals, Greater Vision and Gold City. The phrase that came to mind when watching them was “pure class”. This trio has an awesome blend and their song selection was great. Two songs that stood out to me were the old standard, “I Believe In a Hill Called Mount Calvary,” and their latest single, “Once Upon a Cross.” Don’t miss an opportunity to hear these guys.

   The evening was completed by Gold City. The fellows just got up there and did what they do best. Great quartet harmony, awesome vocals and plenty of energy made for an inspiring presentation. They sang many of their standbys such as “I’m Not Giving Up” and “Midnight Cry,” but some of their newer material like “Preach the Word” and “Truth Is Marching On,”were a blessing as well. Bass vocalist, Aaron McCune, did an outstanding job on Stuart Hamblen’s, “Teach Me, Lord, To Wait”.

   Above all, each group that took the stage exalted Christ. It was a blessing to see the truth presented unapologetically and the gospel given clearly. Praise the Lord for a wonderful evening.

The Abandoned Savior

   The thing that makes grace so glorious is the guilt that makes it so necessary.    Junior Hill

   One of the most haunting phrases in the Bible was uttered by Jesus on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani,” that is to say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

   As I pondered this statement recently, I wondered at the fact that God would forsake His Son. When I think of the love that I feel toward my own sons, I don’t believe there is anything they could do to make me despise them. If there is such a thing, it would be so heinous and awful that I cannot imagine what it would be.

   If I, with a flawed capacity to love, can love my sons that much, how much does God, who can love perfectly, love His own Son? I cannot imagine how awful Jesus must have become in the sight of God as He hung on the cross.

   We know, of course, that it was the bearing of our sins that caused God to forsake His only begotten Son.

   Imagine, all of the offense, pain, destruction, disease, brokeness, horror, injustice and death that sin has ever caused, or ever will cause, was concentrated in the person of Jesus Christ in one moment of time.

   Imagine, the wrath of God that is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness, the same wrath that flooded Creation, poured fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, visited the plagues upon Egypt and all of the other judicial actions of God’s holiness was poured upon one man, in one moment of time.

   In the midst of violent injustice, excruciating pain, horrible shame and the abandonment of His friends, the thing that caused Him the most grief was the knowledge that His Father had turned His back on Him.

   God declared Him guilty, as guilty as sin. My guilt. My sin. My shame. My cross. My death.

   Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

   He was wounded so that I could be healed.

   He was rejected so that I could be accepted.

   He was hated so that I could be loved.

   He was declared guilty so that I could be justified.

   He died so that I could live.

   He became what I was so that I can become what He is.

   Thank God for His wonderful, matchless, amazing grace.

   May my life be lived to the praise of the glory of that grace.

Is Loving Christ the First Love of the Church?

I want to write a follow-up to the post I wrote last week on what I believe to be the source and solution of the problems in the church. I want to say again how much I appreciate everyone who participated in the discussion and particularly the grace with which you did.

In the discussion that followed the post, we began to look at what is involved in worship and whether or not the “first love” of the church is actually love for Jesus. Some very good ideas and arguments were presented from a variety of viewpoints.

I think we can all agree that love for God and love for the brethren are inseparably linked. I think the question that remains is, are they one and the same?

While the two are closely linked, I believe there is a distinction between loving God and loving people. I listed several reasons why I believe this in one of my comments, let me briefly reiterate some of those reasons now.

1.  It is possible for unbelievers to have a degree of love for one another, but I believe that only believers can love one another in the way that God has prescribed. Thus, a relationship with God is a pre-requisite for loving the brethren.

2.  When asked about the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:35-39), Jesus first named loving God, then listed loving the brethren. He even made a distinction between the two, calling the one the “first and great commandment” and the other “the second”.

3.  In John 15, Jesus spoke of His disciples loving Him first, then gave the commandment to love each other.

4.  In I John 1, John begins the epistle (which many think was written to the Ephesian church) by describing his close relationship with Christ, then expressing his desire to fellowship with others based upon that relationship.

Now having given those reasons, let me say that our love for Christ will not be fulfilled until we love the brethren. I would never want to discount our love for one another. Those who have read my series of posts on I John from last year will know the value that I place upon koinonia and agape. But love begins with our love for Christ.

It is only when I am walking in love with Christ that I will be able to love the brethren in the way that God wants me to love. I think we could describe this as vertical love/fellowship and horizontal love/fellowship. The vertical, of course, is our relationship with Christ while the horizontal is our relationship with others.

We could illustrate this concept by comparing it to the crosshairs of a rifle scope. Ideally, when aiming a scope, the vertical crosshairs need to be straight up and down which by default causes the horizontal crosshairs to be properly aligned. When the crosshairs are properly lined up, the target will be hit. I learned this lesson the hard way last deer season when I missed a nice buck trying to shoot it from a cock-eyed angle.

When my love for Christ (vertical) is properly aligned, it will cause my love for the brethren (horizontal) to be properly aligned as well. In this way, they are inseparably linked, yet the focus is on Christ. When both are properly aligned, we will hit the target of glorifying Christ in the church.

Getting To the Root Of the Problem

As the discussion of ecclesiomethodology has unfolded over the past few months, a number of problems have been identified and discussed. Among these problems are lack of or stunted Christian growth, “worshiptainment” (that’s a good word that Steve coined) replacing genuine praise and worship, biblical ignorance, misunderstood and misapplied roles of leadership and probably several more that I am not listing here. If you think of one that I haven’t listed, feel free to add it to the rest.

These are legitimate concerns, please do not think that I am not giving them the attention they deserve. Anyone who thinks that I am overlooking these problems need only dig through the archives of some of the blogs I mentioned yesterday (especially Steve’s) and they will find that I have already stipulated the existence of these problems. So I see no need to revisit them in their details at this point.

There are two considerations that I would like to suggest before I progress any further.

First, I would suggest that, serious though these problems may be, they are but symptoms of a larger and deeper problem within the church.

Second, while these problems are certainly present in the traditional church model, could it be that they are not inherent to that model, but are so visible in that setting only because (until recently, at least) the traditional model has been the only game in town?

Church “systems” are, I believe, a product of the evolution of the church within its culture. Look at history and you will see the impact that culture had on the way that church was “done”. Persecution of the early church caused its dispersal around the civilized world of that time. The persecution by the Roman Empire literally drove the church underground. The politicizing and corruption of the medieval church gave birth to the Reformation, etc., etc.

Even in our time, if you look around the world you will see how geography, economics, political tensions, persecution and a host of other factors impact the way that church is carried out in various cultures. Believers may meet under a tree in the Sudan, in a house in China, in a hut in the South Pacific, in ancient buildings in Europe or in modern facilities in Western settings. I believe that this suggests that ecclesiomethodology is a fluid concept, not bound by rigid mandates of scripture, but a liberty given by God to adapt to the best way of letting us demonstrate the graces of God.

In whatever form the church has appeared, there have been problems. Every “system” has had its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Like forms of government their effectiveness is largely based upon the abilities of the people who administer them (I know, the church has a spiritual source of power, I am coming to that.). Monarchy can be a good thing, if you have a good monarch. Democracy is wonderful until elected officials become corrupted (are we there yet?). Some would even argue the merits of socialism, yet history is full of examples of the abusiveness of that form of government when it is in the hands of greedy leaders.

My point is, every church “system” is a method that is developed by flawed people. The problems that each system experiences are not a result of the structure, but are a reflection of the tensions between what the church ought to be and our sinful human nature (Romans 7:14-25).

So what then? Is the church just to limp along in its humanity, limited to the abilities of its members? Not at all. It is the body of Christ. We have a spiritual head that is able to compensate for and overcome our weaknesses. We have the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to carry out the legitimate functions of the body. We have the gifts and grace of God to strengthen one another and complement the individuality of each member.

Why then do we still have problems?

I believe the source of the problems as well as the solution is identified in the warning to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1-7. The Ephesian church was characterized by their work, their labors for others, their patience, their separation from worldliness, their doctrinal purity and their steadfastness. Sounds like a pretty good church doesn’t it? And yet we find they are chastised because they have departed from their love for Christ.

When the church, regardless of its format, is motivated by anything other than passion for Christ, its methods are doomed to failure. When we fail to obey the Great Commandment, we lose our connection to the source that guarantees our success. We become guilty of committing the most satanic of sins, pride.

Consider the difference that passion or Christ makes. If the Word of God is presented, whether in a sermon or around a table of fellowship, a heart that is in love with Christ will benefit from it. When music, drama or any other art form is presented by one who is truly performing as an act of worship, Christ will be glorified and it will cease to be entertainment. When leaders are motivated to serve others because of their love for Christ, abuses of leadership will not take place.

Christ is the foundation of the building, He is the husband of the bride, He is the head of the body. Whatever analogy you choose to use to describe Christ’s relationship with the church, it all comes down to this, the church’s first priority is to worship Christ Jesus. The church is about Him, not us. It is not about our needs, frustrations, hurts, or any other human factor. We are called to worship Him with all that we are.

I believe that the overall effectiveness of the body in fulfilling this priority is determined by the willingness of individual members to comply with God’s command to love Him. I have a personal responsibility to each of you as fellow-members to worship Christ.

For the sake of the body, let us look beyond our problems, our methods, our preferences, yes even beyond our ideals and return to our first love.

Blessed Quietness

“I just wish I could have some peace and quiet!”

How many times have we thought, or even in a moment of exasperation given voice to that sentiment. The desire for quiet solitude often reaches its zenith in times of stress or noise (or pretty much every day).

I recently attended a seminar in which the instructor asked us to find a place where we could be alone and just sit quietly for 30 minutes. We were not to complete any activities, we were not supposed to write, read or recite anything. We were just to sit quietly for 30 minutes and contemplate God.

You would not believe (or maybe you would) how difficult that was to do. We have become so programmed to activity and noise that quietness may actually be a distraction to some. Most of the time, the only time when quietness becomes a priority is when it is time to sleep. Even then, some require soft music, the TV or electronic noise machines to allow them to go to sleep.

One thing I appreciate about my wife is her understanding of my need for quietness. As strange as it may sound coming from a pastor, there are times when I just get tired of talking. From the beginning of our relationship, she has understood that I am not mad, I do not want her to go away, I just want to sit quietly with her. I can honestly say that some of the times that I enjoy the most with her is when we have the opportunity to just sit quietly in each others company. To me, this is genuine “qualiy time” with my wife. (Just in case you were wondering, there are times when we communicate as well 🙂 )

I wonder if we can’t share the same quality time with God? Can we not just sit quietly in His presence, enjoying His nearness and yet not say anything? Do we ever make doing this a priority?

Perhaps we cannot do it every day. But I am convinced that quality time with God trumps quantity time any day of the week. I believe that if we were to make the effort, soon the beauty of this time would so enthrall us that we would be driven to seek it even more.

What impact would this have on our living? Might not our stress level decrease? Is it possible that we would find a growing reservoir of peace within us that gives us strength to deal with life in better ways than before?

The Bible teaches us that God speaks in many ways. Some of these are very apparent and easily discerned, even among the babble of life. But if we are going to hear Him when He speaks in His “still, small voice”, we are going to have to learn to be quiet.

Be still and know that He is God.

Be still and know.

Be still.

A Gift Fit For A King: Myrrh

The third gift brought by the wise men to Jesus was myrrh. This was an ointment that was used in preparing a body for burial. This gift obviously was a gift that foreshadowed the sacrificial death of Christ.

 Just before He died, another person brought a gift that anointed Jesus for His burial. One of His devoted followers broke an alabaster box containing an ointment an poured it upon Him. This was pleasing to Jesus.

While we can honor Christ with our possessions (gold) and our worship (frankincense), there is no need for us to anoint Him for His burial. He will never be crucified again, never die again.

How then can we honor the death of our Lord?

We can show our thanks for His sacrifice by living a life that demonstrates the transformation of the resurrection in us. Those who are in Christ have passed from death unto life. When we live in such a way as to reflect that life, it exalts the love seen in His death, the power seen in His resurrection, and the glory seen in His ascension.

In the words of Frances Havergal:

Take my life and let it be,

consecrated, Lord, for thee.

Take my moments and my days,

let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Merry Christmas, Lord. All that I have, all that I am, all of my worship belongs to you.

Bits and Pieces

I just wanted to share some gems that I have found around the web this week. Some are designed to bring a chuckle, some a blessing.

Check out my nephew’s blog. Will is the oldest son of my brother, Cameron. For 8 years old, he does a great job of blogging. Visit his blog and tell him that Uncle Gordon sent you.

T.A. Blankenship has been doing a wonderful series of sermons on the scriptural basis of a pre-millenial, pre-trib rapture. He is about to take a month’s hiatus from blogging, so take the time to read this series.

 Bill Scott has a wonderful devotion that will bless you. HT Janice.

 Ken Fields at World From Our Window has a humorous article about Irritable Clergy Syndrome. (A must-read for those in ministry.)

Bonnie Calhoun is at it again as she lists some altered titles to Christmas carols as provided by various disorders. WARNING: Any liquids in your mouth are liable to wind up on your monitor screen if you attempt to drink a beverage while reading this post.

Southern Gospel fans will enjoy this link. I had not seen Gold City in person in a few years until last Friday night. They have not missed a beat, but are still providing the same great quality music you would expect. Check out their website, particularly the clip of them challenging Ernie Haase and Signature Sound to a steel cage match.

Finally, the Baltimore Sun has published an article detailing one man’s quest to learn more about the erratic and sometime devious behavior of city squirrels. City squirrels may be difficult at times, but I still say that they lack the tenacity and ferociousness of their country cousins. All of this talk about squirrels is driving me NUTS!! (Get it? Squirrels? Nuts? Never mind)

Hope you have a great weekend. If any of you want to hear a great piano player, come visit Pine Park Baptist Church in our 11:00 worship service this Sunday.

A Gift Fit For a King: Frankincense

A second gift of the magi to the Savior was frankincense. Used in worship, it was placed by the priest upon the altar to offer up a sweet-smelling savor to God.

The wise men gave this to Jesus as a way of foreshadowing the work of the high priest that He would one day do. He has truly become our “great high priest that is passed into the heavens”.

We cannot give Him the gift of frankincense, physically. We can, though, as a kingdom of priests continually offer up our worship to Him. As we love Him with all that we are, we give to Him a spiritual gift of frankincense.

As we bow before the King this Christmas season, may our worship not be a seasonal gift, but may it be the pledge of our unwavering devotion to Him. May our very life become an altar of incense unto the Lord.

I cannot help but believe that as Christ inhales the savor of our worship, that it brings a warm smile to His face.