Friday, June 29, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

Covenant Community Church will observe the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, July 1, which is our custom on the first Lord’s Day of the month. In writing about this memorial meal, the apostle Paul said in I Cor. 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” God’s Word explains in this verse that part of this observance is gospel proclamation. Everyone who partakes of communion is preaching the gospel of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is not only a means of remembering what Christ has done for us, but it is a means of declaring the good news of His saving work – to one another, to unbelievers who may be present, to the unseen beings who observe what we are doing. For instance, we are proclaiming to the demons the sufficiency of Jesus’ work – that His death has atoned for sin and delivered captives from their clutches. This is not the only time participants in corporate worship proclaim the gospel. We also do it when we sing gospel-focused songs and read gospel-drenched passages corporately. The Lord’s Supper is, however, a God-ordained means of gospel declaration we should be aware of as we partake of the bread and cup. May we do so this Sunday.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Worshiping as a church: Showing up – for the duration (Second in a series)

'St Ebbes 11:45 Service' photo (c) 2011, Jimmy and Sasha Reade - license: is a saying that goes like this: “Half of life is showing up.” Now I don’t know about the 50 percent estimate, but I think there is something to be said for such an assessment. There are lots of things we may fail to do simply because we don’t show up.

In a sense, that bit of homespun wisdom has some application when it comes to corporate worship. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews thought it was important enough to mention to First Century disciples: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25).

If we don’t show up for corporate worship, there will be no opportunity for us to stimulate other Christ followers “to love and good deeds” or to encourage them -- at least in the setting described by God's Word. There will be no opportunity to confess our hope in Jesus with our fellow disciples. And I would add: Not arriving by the time corporate worship begins and not staying until it entirely ends will limit those opportunities as well. By “entirely,” I mean the entire time the church has established as its weekly Lord’s Day gathering. For Covenant Community Church, that includes not only the large group meeting that begins at 10 a.m. but the discipleship classes and share/prayer sessions that follow.

This ministry of stimulating and encouraging has both corporate and individual manifestations. In the corporate sense, presence is a means of stimulating and encouraging others who are with us in worship. Our brothers and sisters recognize our commitment not only to Christ but to them. In addition, singing with the rest of the body is a means of “teaching and admonishing” each other, as Col. 3:16 says, and thereby stimulating and encouraging one another. Individually, we have an opportunity to stimulate and encourage each other one on one before or after our time together.

There are other reasons for “not forsaking our own assembling together.” For example, it enables us to hear the Word of God taught systematically and, in so doing, have our souls fed, and it enables us to pray together for God’s gracious work.

Regrettably, our culture is no longer supportive of Christians “not forsaking our own assembling together.” Gone is the time when society carves out space on the Lord’s Day in deference to Christians who gather to worship.

As a result, disciples of Christ sometimes must make counter-cultural decisions in order to abide by the command not to forsake our assembling. It may require some tough calls for believers, especially heads of households. I acknowledge there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes they involve work and other situations.

Nonetheless, worshiping as part of a church is a priority, according to the New Testament, and it requires each follower of Jesus to make that time a priority. As I said in the first post in this series: “The gathering of the church on the Lord’s Day is normally the most important meeting we will participate in each week, except possibly those in our home.”

After all, we are those whom God has chosen to call to Himself for eternity. We are members of a body established by the cross of Christ. God calls us to gather regularly now with other called-out ones to rejoice in that bond. It is preparation for when with these same ones we will worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords eternally. It doesn’t get any better in this life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why preach the gospel to yourself (No. 10)

'martino vs martinus' photo (c) 2007, spike - license: is another reason to preach the gospel to yourself as provided by Milton Vincent in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians. It is because of the "Sufficiency in the Gospel:"
The gospel serves as the means by which God daily constructs me into what He wants me to be and also serves as the channel through which He gives me my inheritance every day of my Christian life. Hence, it could be said that the gospel contains all that I need "for life and godliness." It is for this reason that God tells me to be steadfastly entrenched in the gospel at all times and never to allow myself to be moved from there. The mere fact that God tells me to stay inside the gospel at all times must mean that He intends to supply all of my needs as long as I am abiding in that place of luxury.
(Scriptures cited: Acts 20:32; II Peter 1:3; Col. 1:23, 2:8-10.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Worthy Is the Lamb'

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir began in the mid-1970s with only nine members. It now numbers 280 and has become well known far beyond its ministry within its own church. The choir sings a song by Darlene Zschech of Hillsong in this video. It is great to watch the multi-ethnic choir and congregation sing and worship together.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

Praise and thanksgiving are integral elements of worship. We express praise and thanksgiving to the One who is worthy of worship. In praise, we respond to His attributes – or who He is. In thanksgiving, we respond to His works – or what He has done. Sometimes those flow together in worship. We see this in Psalm 111. In verse 1, the psalmist writes, “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly.” (That last portion is a great portrait of corporate worship.) We see this mixture of praise and thanksgiving in verses 2-4 as well: “Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.” May we ponder His attributes and works as we gather together this Sunday, and may we express our praise and thanksgiving as His people.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why this election of a SBC president was special

It helps to know the history of the Southern Baptist Convention to understand why what happened at its annual meeting Tuesday afternoon in New Orleans was so meaningful.

The convention -- the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States – began over the issue of slavery. Baptist churches in the South wanted to be able to appoint slave owners as missionaries. Baptist churches in the North disagreed. As result, those who saw no problem in slave owners being missionaries formed the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 1845.

On the SBC’s 150th anniversary, messengers – the title of delegates from churches to the convention – approved a resolution repenting of the convention’s pro-slavery background and often racist past, as well as its widespread opposition in the South to the civil rights movement.

On Tuesday of this week, the messengers of a denomination birthed as the defender of slave owners elected a man whose ancestors were slaves as president of the convention. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, became the SBC’s first black president. From all I understand, he is a powerful proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus and a faithful, sacrificial shepherd to the flock he has pastored since 1986. When Hurricane Katrina scattered much of the congregation to other cities in 2005, he continued to shepherd many of the members by traveling to where they lived in order to minister to them.

It was a special experience to stand with my wife and daughter Tuesday afternoon in the back of a huge convention hall to watch several thousand Southern Baptists stand to support the unopposed election of Fred Luter as president. It was another demonstration of God’s grace. He had shown once again He makes things new. He had shown once again His grace super-abounds over sin. He had shown once again the power of the gospel – the gospel that unites through the finished work of Christ those who were on opposite sides of a wall built with the bricks of pride and hate.

Russell Moore, theology dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., put it well, I think, when he told Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition: “A descendant of slaves elected to lead a denomination forged to protect the evil interests of slaveholders is a sign of the power of a gospel that crucifies injustice and reconciles brothers and sisters. The election of Fred Luter doesn’t mean the question of racial justice is settled for Southern Baptists, but it is one small step toward our confessing that Jesus Christ and Jim Crow cannot exist in the same denomination, or in the same heart. One has got to go.”

(For those who may not know, I am an employee of an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention and work at each year’s meeting as part of my job.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gospel-centered vs. child-centered discipleship

Parenthood is a great privilege. It also is a huge challenge. That’s an acknowledgement, not an announcement. Anyone who is a parent already knows it.

For disciples of Jesus, parenting is more than producing a non-rebellious teenager, a morally upright adult or an upstanding citizen. Parenting for us is about the glory of God, the exaltation of Jesus and the gospel of grace. Our desire is children who become whole-hearted followers of Christ who are passionate about God and His glory and the making of disciples.

Those goals don’t guarantee we will parent in accordance with them. We can still unwittingly rear our children in ways that undermine those goals.

I think the post below by Lula Simms can help you, as a Christian parent, think more clearly about child-rearing. She posted this article at Gospel Centered Discipleship, but she posts regularly at her blog, Gospel Grace. I linked May 8 on my blog to a post of hers about mothers being Christ-centered rather than child-centered. In the post below, she writes eloquently about gospel-centered discipleship of children as opposed to child-centered discipleship.

For instance, she writes:
I have lived with fear and anxiety over my children’s sins, and I’ve come to realize what was in my heart. I was not offended by their sins for the sake of God’s reputation, nor was I offended because sin is rebellion and an affront to the person of Christ himself. No, I feared sin in my children’s lives because I cared more about all the earthly consequences of sin.
I think her post is vital enough to merit being used in its entirety, and I hope it helps those of you who are – or who will be -- parents:
When Jesus instructs us to go out and make disciples of all nations, that includes our children—our closest disciples. Of course, discipleship should not end in the home, but our families are our most naturally-authentic relationships. Everyday, the gospel compels us to ask: How are we discipling our children? More importantly, how should we be discipling them? There is a tendency (sometimes unknowingly) for parents to fall into child-centered discipleship. This could happen for many reasons, even from a well-meaning desire to see our children become Christians. However, what we may fail to grasp is that we should be applying the gospel daily even to the relationships with our children. They don’t need something else; they need the same thing we all need—they need Jesus.

If we stop to consider the motivations of our hearts—what is driving us as parents—we can gain important insight into the discipleship of our children. The driver behind gospel-centered discipleship is the glory of Christ. The driver behind child-centered discipleship is the glory of our children, and by extension, our own glory. In order to understand my own motives, I’ve learned to ask myself: Do I want my children to know God, to rest in the person and work of Christ, to have their many, many sins washed in the blood of the Lamb, and to eternally glorify Him? Or rather do I want my children to be “good,” to scrupulously avoid sin and follow biblical injunctions, to avoid bad consequences in this life? Obviously, these are not mutually exclusive, but where does Christ ask us to put our emphasis? My answers to these questions revealed some very selfish desires. I have lived with fear and anxiety over my children’s sins, and I’ve come to realize what was in my heart. I was not offended by their sins for the sake of God’s reputation, nor was I offended because sin is rebellion and an affront to the person of Christ himself. No, I feared sin in my children’s lives because I cared more about all the earthly consequences of sin. For example, a little over eight years ago, I grabbed hold of Deuteronomy 6 and started rattling it like a sword in a battle cry for homeschooling. I had convinced myself that this was the only type of schooling capable of producing godly children. At the heart of my child-centered thinking, was the belief that I, as a parent—not Christ, as our Lord—must do everything to protect my children from the world and sin.

By pure grace, almost two years ago, I was convicted that I had valued my children’s well-being more than I had valued Jesus. I trembled at the realization that the comfort and safety (even the spiritual safety) of my children, had become more important to me than the person of Christ. Their “godliness” was a higher priority in my own life than was Christ’s glory. For all my talk about holy living, I was unwilling to follow Abraham’s spiritual example. I had denied Christ’s call to forsake all else and follow Him. Instead, I had attempted to supplant the Holy Spirit, to save and sanctify my children by my good works. This is the sad truth of child-centered discipleship—at its core it is self-centered legalism, even rebellion.

Because we are our children’s parents and earthly authority (while they are young) we can slip into the mindset that their salvation and sanctification depends on us. This slip then leads to mentoring and training that is child-centered. This is false. The Holy Spirit is responsible for conviction of sin and bringing people to salvation. That includes the little people in our homes. When we search out the Spirit, when we talk about Him and hold Him up before our children, we are modeling a life of Spirit-dependence for our children. This is training them to walk in step with the Sprit.

However, when we put our children, their needs (physical, spiritual or otherwise), their goals (or ours) before Christ, when we lead them without relying on the Spirit (by relying on ourselves to fulfill our children), we are being false teachers at worst and poor disciple-makers at best. It can’t be all about them; it has to be all about Jesus. This is hard and can be a real blind spot for parents because we are instructed in Scriptures to bring up our children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). But our wayward hearts can pervert even a verse like that by setting our efforts to secure our children’s spiritual well being above all else. Make no mistake, our efforts are very important, but our efforts do not have power to save and transform. Nothing that we do will ever eclipse the power and grace of Jesus.

How do we set a good example of a disciple before the eyes of our children so they can emulate us? It’s not just about making Jesus our priority. It’s about showing our children that our identity is in Christ. From our identity in Christ, our identity as parents will naturally flow. Along with this we must model a life of reliance on the Holy Spirit. Our children need to hear us say: “I prayed for the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit today.” Or, “I prayed for the Spirit to give you wisdom when you met with your teacher.”

How can we get there? The Holy Spirit often prompts us to take a hard look at the things that excite us. Our children pick up on our excitement and our passions. If getting through today’s installment from the church family worship book takes precedence over having compassion on a red-eyed child who is up past his or her bedtime, our children will begin to sense that checking off a box on our godly to-do list is more important than loving our neighbor.

D.A. Carson says this extraordinarily well in the context of the student/teacher relationship:

"Recognize that students do not learn everything you teach them. They certainly do not learn everything I teach them! What do they learn? They learn what I am excited about; they learn what I emphasize, what I return to again and again; they learn what organizes the rest of my thoughts. So if I happily presuppose the gospel but rarely articulate it and am never excited about it, while effervescing frequently about, say, ecclesiology or textual criticism, my students may conclude that the most important thing to me is ecclesiology or textual criticism. They may pick up my assumption of the gospel; alternatively, they may even distance themselves from the gospel; but what they will almost certainly do is place at the center of their thought ecclesiology or textual criticism, thereby wittingly or unwittingly marginalizing the gospel."

My husband and I saw this same mistranslation happen with our children when we were not deliberate about the gospel. Even worse than merely de-emphasizing the gospel, we started realizing that our children had become judgmental little scoffers. Why? Because we were so busy comparing and contrasting our education, parenting, and worship style choices with those of other parents that we had marginalized the gospel before our kids. We were way more excited about high church liturgy, classical education, “courtship,” family worship times, you name it. We actually believed they were signs of spiritual maturity. The only problem was, we had neglected the one and only thing that could ever give our children and us the power and strength for real spiritual maturity—the gospel.
(HT: Tim Challies)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For your attention

1. Things nobody tells you about being a dad – Chicago area pastor Daniel Darling, a father of four, provides some insightful reflections -- and funny ones, especially about the awesomeness of minivans – on the wonder and sometimes terror of being a father.

2. How the New Testament books were chosen – Timothy Paul Jones, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, explains what qualified writings to be included in the New Testament.

3. Heavenly mindedness makes a difference on earth – Author Randy Alcorn writes about the importance of Christians having a biblical understanding of Heaven.

4. The seduction of porn and the integrity of Christian marriage (Part 1) – Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reposts a two-part series that was first published seven years ago. He concludes in this first part about porn’s threat to marriage with this: “Pornography represents one of the most insidious attacks upon the sanctity of marriage and the goodness of sex within the one-flesh relationship. The celebration of debauchery rather than purity, the elevation of genital pleasure over all other considerations, and the corruption of sexual energy through an inversion of the self, corrupts the idea of marriage, leads to incalculable harm, and subverts marriage and the marital bond.”

5. The seduction of porn and the integrity of Christian marriage (Part 2) – Mohler describes what sex should be in marriage – as contrasted with what it is for the porn-consumed – and closes this way: “The deliberate use of pornography is nothing less than the willful invitation of illicit lovers and objectified sex objects and forbidden knowledge into a man’s heart, mind, and soul. The damage to the man’s heart is beyond measure, and the cost in human misery will only be made clear on the Day of Judgment. From the moment a boy reaches puberty until the day he is lowered into the ground, every man will struggle with lust. Let us follow the biblical example and scriptural command that we make a covenant with our eyes lest we sin. In this society, we are called to be nothing less than a corps of the mutually accountable amidst a world that lives as if it will never be called to account.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Satisfied in You' (Psalm 42)

The Sing Team leads music at one of the campuses of Mars Hill Church in the Seattle area. Brian Eichelberger leads the team and writes music. One of his songs is "Satisfied in You," based on Psalm 42. Here is what he said about the song, according to a post by Justin Taylor: "The song begins by following closely to Psalm 42 singing, 'As the deer pants for water so my soul thirsts for you.' The second verse then dives more into my personal response to the Psalm. A lot of times my tendency is to go into a depression looking into myself which only spirals me further down. The song is meant to preach to myself and call me to remember the times when I experienced the glory and goodness of God which can help bounce me out of that vicious cycle. It’s meant to get my eyes off of me and be satisfied in God alone." (HT: Dane Ortlund and Justin Taylor)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name" (Ps. 103:1). "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name" (Heb. 13:15). From these verses, I think we can at least make the observation that worship is not passive. Given that worship involves an active participation, I pose the following as some questions each of us could ask in preparation for worship as a church this Sunday:

-- What is an attribute of God that has been particularly meaningful to me this week?

-- What recent work of God do I have to thank Him for?

-- What difference has the gospel of Jesus -- and/or reflecting on the gospel -- meant in my life recently?

-- In what ways can I praise and thank God this Sunday so that He would be glorified and other worshipers would be built up?

-- Will I fight during worship to be focused -- and stay focused -- on our Triune God and his work?

-- Will I sing with understanding that I might teach others the truth in so doing?

-- How can I serve fellow worshipers this Sunday that I might exalt Christ and bless them?

-- Will I see my fellow worshipers as my true and eternal brothers and sisters who need grace as I do?

Worshiping as a church: An introduction

'St Ebbes 11:45 Service' photo (c) 2011, Jimmy and Sasha Reade - license: post begins a new series on corporate worship. My goal for this series is to help each of us worship in spirit and in truth each Sunday as a part of a church. I hope God will use it in some small way to help stir a revival of corporate worship among His people. I am writing it with our church – Covenant Community Church of Fredericksburg, Va. – in mind, but I hope it will help other disciples and their churches as well.

This post is an introduction to the rest of what I will write. The statements below are some of those I think are important on the subject and hopefully will explain why I consider this series vital to our church. They are not comprehensive. I could say much more about corporate worship. I write with the belief these truths are consistent with Scripture, especially the New Testament, and foundational to what a church is and what its worship is:

-- Each Christian is created and re-created to worship his or her Creator.

-- Worship is always personal but not always private. It also is to be corporate.

-- The church is the body that is to practice corporate worship regularly.

-- The church is the body of Christ, purchased by Him, gifted by Him and brought together by Him to glorify God, exalt Him and make disciples.

-- The gathering of the church on the Lord’s Day is normally the most important meeting a Christian will participate in each week, except possibly those in his or her home.

-- Corporate worship as part of a local church is indispensable to every Christian.

-- Corporate worship with a local church of which a Christian has become a member should be a priority.

-- Corporate worship is for participants, not spectators.

-- Worship, including corporate worship, is a response to God’s revelation of Himself and His works.

-- Corporate worship has both vertical (toward God) and horizontal (toward other worshipers) aspects.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why men are addicted to Internet porn and video games

Russell Moore can regularly be counted on to write provocatively and with keen insight. He has a way with words, and those words often cause me to marvel at the deep understanding God has given him regarding the gospel and its implications.

The theology dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary did it again May 25 in a blog post for Desiring God. His post is titled “Fake Love, Fake War: Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games.” He addresses a major challenge for the church, the family and the culture. Without a God-centered, gospel-infused engagement by the church especially, we indeed may lose much of a generation of males. I have reprinted his post below, because of its importance. I think anyone who reads it will benefit from its biblical, gospel insight.

This is another in a series of posts at this blog on the scourge of pornography.
You know the guy I'm talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he's a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don't recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn't about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community.

If you're addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty, on the quest for newer and different experiences. That's why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He's entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.

There's a key difference between porn and gaming. Pornography can't be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition. But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn't a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

When these drives are directed toward the illusion of ever-expanding novelty, they kill joy. The search for a mate is good, but blessedness isn't in the parade of novelty before Adam. It is in finding the one who is fitted for him, and living with her in the mission of cultivating the next generation. When necessary, it is right to fight. But God's warfare isn't forever novel. It ends in a supper, and in a perpetual peace.

Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression. The porn addict becomes a lecherous loser, with one-flesh union supplanted by masturbatory isolation. The video game addict becomes a pugilistic coward, with other-protecting courage supplanted by aggression with no chance of losing one's life. In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but venting one's reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.

Zimbardo and Duncan are right, this is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let's train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let's teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Temptation, porn and valuing Jesus

I didn't plan it this way, but our corporate worship May 27 as Covenant Community Church turned out to focus in a significant way on esteeming Jesus as our greatest treasure. Our musicians were out of town, so I chose the songs, in addition to leading in worship. I realized at some point -- I think during this time of worship -- that even songs I had not considered in this way were about Christ's supreme value. I thank God the Spirit for His leadership in demonstrating an important part of His ministry -- making much of God the Son.

For instance, here are some lines or verses about Jesus' value from the songs our church sang that day:

-- “For He alone is worthy, for He alone is worthy, for He alone is worthy, Christ the Lord.”

-- “On earth is not His equal”

-- “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also – the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.”

-- "I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom, but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection."

-- "Lord, You are more precious than silver; Lord, You are more costly than gold; Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds, and nothing I desire compares with You."

-- "Give me Jesus; give me Jesus; you can have all this world; you can have all this world; you can have all this world, but give me Jesus."

It shouldn't be surprising that valuing and treasuring Jesus should be at the heart of our worship as individuals and as a church. The Father has exalted Him to the highest place. We should seek in our worship to follow suit by exalting our Lord and Savior.

It seems to me our lives are largely about value. Whom do we value? What do we value? Whatever we value -- or whomever we value -- determines how we live much of our lives. What -- or whom -- we value receives our attention, time and resources. We dwell on in our minds what or whom we truly value. We commit our schedules to what or whom we truly value. We give priority to what we truly value. Other things and other relationships fade in comparison to what we truly value.

This concept has deep and wide implications for life. It affects our approach to spending time in God's Word and in prayer. It affects our approach to our church. It affects our approach to our marriage. It affects our approach to parenting, to finances, to work, to school, to friendships, to leisure time, to hobbies, and the list goes on.

It also affects our response to temptation, it seems to me. Whatever the temptation -- and gluttony, mindless entertainment, pornography and inappropriate relationships are only some -- it seems treasuring Jesus is an indispensable part of overcoming.

So some of the questions that flow from this reality are: Whom -- or what -- do we value supremely? Is Jesus our greatest treasure? If so, is that evaluation on our part reflected in how we live our lives?

In about three minutes, D.A. Carson -- author and professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago -- shares in this video interview with Desiring God about overcoming temptation, specifically porn. He comments on the practical, negative aspect but also on the positive aspect of delighting in Jesus.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Creation Sings the Father's Song'

Keith and Kristyn Getty have a passion for helping the church worship God in song. Natives of Northern Ireland, they have collaborated often with another great hymn writer, Stuart Townend. The song "In Christ Alone," co-written by Keith Getty and Townend, has been the most popular song in churches for the last six years, according to CCLI. The song in this video -- "Creation Sings the Father's Song" -- dwells "on not just the beauty of God's creation but how all of it points ultimately to Christ and eagerly longs for His return," the Gettys wrote in notes for the album "Awaken the Dawn." Kristyn is the vocalist and Keith the pianist. (The video quality is weak, but the audio seems to be fine. It is more difficult than I expected to find quality videos online of some artists and songs.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You” (Ps. 86:5). This is the God we – as His own -- will gather to worship this Sunday. David says He is “good.” That means everything – everything – He does is good. He is perfect in this attribute and all others He possesses – all at the same time. He is “ready to forgive,” David writes. He does not grudgingly forgive. Forgiveness is not something He has to be coaxed into or prodded to present. One reason we know this is because He has gone to supreme lengths to provide forgiveness: He sent His own perfect Son and gave Him into the hands of sinful men to provide the way of forgiveness. David says He is “abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon” Him. God’s mercy overflows. It is not like a trickle. It is like a flood. He pours out this undeserved favor upon all who trust in Him for it. These are just a few of the truths that will inform our worship as we gather once again as His church. May we respond to Him with the praise, adoration, thanksgiving, humility, submission, trust and love due Him.