December 9, 2013 by
If you were to choose one thing to do on a daily or weekly basis, something that you thought would have the greatest impact on the world not just in your life but over the long haul – what would you do?
I’m not even going to attempt to list what some of the possible answers might be (there are too many of them), nor to rank or evaluate their relative merits. But I do want to suggest one that might seem too mundane to make the list, or at the least wouldn’t be our first response. If you want to change the world, teach children the gospel.
Surprised? I was struck by this thought while reading the book Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought by Stephen Nichols. In 1529, as Luther was touring Germany and visiting churches that had sprung up in the aftermath of the Reformation, he was dismayed by the poor spiritual condition of many of the young congregations he observed. His solution? Write a catechism to train pastors and a catechism to train children. The latter, called The Small Catechism, was one of two books that Luther considered his most important writings (this from a man whose translated writings fill fifty-five volumes). But Luther was convinced that training the next generation was crucial to insuring that the preaching of the gospel would continue long after his life. “The youth is the church’s nursery and fountainhead,” he wrote. “I admonish you parents, [that if] you do not help, we shall accomplish little with our preaching” (quoted on p.163 and 164 of Nichol’s biography).
So let’s return to our starting question. Do you want to change the world for the better? In particular, as a Christian, do you want to change the church for the better, to give your life to something that will ensure healthy, gospel-preaching churches for years to come? Then train children to know, love, and cherish the gospel. Only God can cause their salvation, but He uses means. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)
Parents, breakfast table devotions or bedtime Scripture stories may not seem like a big deal – but they are the seeds from which men and women planted deep in streams of living water grow. Children’s ministry teachers and workers, an hour on Sunday mornings trying to keep the attention of a dozen 5-year olds, follow a lesson plan, and keep Goldfish crackers from being ground into the carpet might seem like wasted time – but you are doing pioneering mission work among people who are only just beginning to know the name of Christ.
So let us train our children and teach our classes, for the glory of our God and the gratitude of future generations who will themselves hear gospel from these little ones in our care!
December 6, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Weekly roundup
We are so grateful for all the moms who sacrifically serve their families. This video captures the beauty, joy, and sacrifice wrapped up in motherhood.
December 6, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Conferences | Worship
I’m excited to let our European friends know that Sovereign Grace Music will be hosting our first WorshipGod UK conference 5th-8th March, 2014, in Bath, England. The theme is Called to be Faithful.
WorshipGod UK is designed to encourage and equip pastors, musicians, vocalists, songwriters, tech personnel, those involved in planning or leading congregational worship, and anyone who wants to grow in their understanding and practice of biblical worship.
The lineup of speakers and musicians includes Mike Reeves, Jeff Purswell,Tim Chester, Craig Cabaniss, Donald Whitney, Stuart Townend, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, Philip Percival, and more.
The idea for doing a UK conference came as a result of talking to Nathan Smith, pastor of Grace Church, a Sovereign Grace church in Bristol. He wanted to equip the musicians in his church and as we talked the vision grew. Why not seek to serve leaders and musicians in other churches? I suggested we could do something similar to what we had done this year at WorshipGod West and WorshipGod East and he agreed to do the groundwork in the UK.
My burden for this conference is to encourage and equip those who faithfully labor in their churches, week in and week out, to serve God’s people through word and song. They may not have a CD or be known outside their community. But they’re faithfully stewarding the gift of proclaiming God’s Word and the gospel through song.
But what does faithfulness look like as a leader? As a musician? As a songwriter? As a sound engineer? How do we make sure we’re keeping the main things the main things? How do we resist the world’s definitions of success and pursue what matters to God?
We’ll be discussing these questions and more at WorshipGod UK. The main sessions will address how God calls us to be faithful to receive his grace, proclaim the gospel, engage with him, serve others, grow in our knowledge and skills, and prepare people for eternal realities.
You’ll also be able to attend 4 of 26 seminars, with topics including planning your meeting, the leader’s relationships, working with other generations, songwriting, making room for the Spirit’s leading, prayer, sound applications, as well as vocal and instrumental classes.
And if the conference isn’t enough for you, you can also register for a pre-conference intensive on Wednesday afternoon (1-4:30pm) where I’ll be speaking specifically to those whose responsibility is to plan and lead corporate worship. I’ll be covering topics that include the role of the worship leader, pastoring through song, and a leader’s relationships.
Rates are available for individuals, groups of 5+, and students. Super early bird rates last through December 7! So when we say super early bird, that’s what we mean.
You can check out the WorshipGod UK website for more information.
And please help us spread the word!
December 5, 2013 by
Like anything, “applying the gospel” can become just another trite phrase with little connection to our actual lives. Without real and specific connection to our lives, saying “Well brother, you just need to apply the gospel," is just another one in a long string of platitudes we offer when we’re not quite sure what to actually do. This is like handing out pamphlets in a doctor’s waiting room for medicine then sending people on their way, untreated. It feels good to read the pamphlet but it’s no help at all.
So how do we actually apply the remedy of the gospel to our daily lives?
I struggle with this myself. It’s as if I hold in one hand the message of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died for my sins and rose again (1 Cor 15:1-5). Then, in the other hand, I see my own impatience, my lack of trust in God, my anxiety. I stare at what is in each hand wondering, “Okay, so, how do I actually connect these two things now?”
I can see the connection on paper sometimes, but not feel like following through. At other times I feel a great love for Christ but I’m not sure what specific change looks like. At other times I find myself obeying first and my heart following behind.
Why is this? What I’ve begun to see is that the writers in the New Testament don’t “apply the gospel” in the exact same way in each place. Sometimes Scripture uses logic, other times it fires up our affections, at other times it simply charges. This has had the effect of helping me see that often gospel application requires three connections: Head, Heart, and Hands.
In 1 Cor 6:20 Paul connects the gospel to the issue of sexual immorality: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV)
In this context the Corinthians were sleeping around, saying what they did with their bodies really didn’t matter as long as they went to church and had their “spiritual life” taken care of. Get the logic there. The gospel is that Jesus died for us. The implication and connection is that we’re not our own, we belong to God. In a real sense he “bought” us! The logical gospel application for our conduct is that we’re supposed to do what God says with our bodies.
We must work hard to find logical gospel connections to areas of our lives. How is the message “Christ died for you” good news for that particular area of your life?
At the end of Ephesians 3, before moving on to specific application of the doctrines laid out in chapters 1-3, Paul prays for the Ephesian church. His prayer seems strange to us because he asks, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19, ESV)
Why would Paul pray for the Ephesian church to have strength to comprehend God’s love? And why pray this just after explaining Christ’s love and just before applying it to daily life? Paul is strategically linking head and heart by praying that the hearts of the Ephesians would be filled with God’s love. Our hearts are crucial in gospel application, because as our love for Christ grows our desire to follow him grows. Thomas Chalmers called this the “expulsive power of a new affection”. As our affection for Christ grows it pushes out our affection for sin and so we grow in godliness.
We don’t apply the gospel simply by inputting data and outputting change. Our affections for Christ must be stoked at the foot of the cross. We must word hard to find gospel heart connections to areas of our lives.
Later in Ephesians Paul charges the husbands to connect the gospel to their daily life: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV).
Paul is trying to exhort the husbands in the church to lay down their own interests and really serve and love their wives. But circumstances in marriage change daily and this looks different daily. Wisely, Paul roots the call to husbands in the example of Christ. This is what practical love for your wife looks like, Paul says, it looks like treating your bride the same way Jesus treats his bride. That’s a powerful picture of what change is supposed to look like in our lives, a powerful example of what connecting our hands to the gospel should be. In other words, Paul makes a behavioral connection to the gospel. The gospel is supposed to change the way we act.
But how does that connection actually happen?
Here’s the paradigm I think might be helpful: Think in terms of connecting your head, heart, and hands to the gospel.
So the next time you’ve got the gospel in one hand and a specific area of need in the other ask questions like this:
- How do I connect my head to the gospel here? What gospel logic do I need to understand?
- How do I connect my heart to the gospel here? Am I stoking the flames of my love for Christ by remembering all he’s done for me?
- How do I connect my hands to the gospel here? What would the example of Christ call me to in this area?
Let’s stop giving out platitudes and start giving people the gospel remedy that changes lives.
December 4, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Church planting
Jon Payne is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church, which was just recently planted in Round Rock, Texas. We asked Jon to share what God is teaching him as a church planter. These lessons Jon shares are wise words for anyone in leadership, not just church planters.
Church planting is going to school under the wise instruction of God. Every day, every week, every month he is teaching and training and helping me, helping me grow in my understanding of him in the schoolhouse of planting a church. Here are a few of the lessons I have received so far.
Know what to build before you start building. The temptation to craft messages and structures to create numerical success or to appease the widest audience is never greater than in the first, vulnerable days of a church plant. Building on Biblical values and gospel centrality means accepting in advance that not all interested guests will want to stay.
Don't let your heart rise and fall with attendance and the bank account. Security and impact seem to be tied up with enough money and enough people - yet unless the Lord builds this house we will be laboring in vain.
Beware of success that tempts you to neglect prayer. Seeing immediate fruit can lead to complacency in prayer, long before there is complacency in study or leadership.
Beware of disappointments that lead to anxiety and micromanagement. Godly effort and leadership is marked by peace. Pride causes worry and demands perfection.
Delegation is an act of worshiping God. Trusting God means trusting his grace at work in others - each fulfilling their own role in the body in their own God-given way.
Encouragement and thankfulness is a constant priority. Team members quickly feel the burden of the church planting task and need the strength communicated by a leader constantly pointing out how God is using them. Also, be much more concerned about preserving your team's joy and faith than upholding your ministry's appearance for guests.
Don't underestimate the familiar moments that happen every week. Anticipate God using this particular sermon, song choice, counsel, comfort to the suffering, spontaneous ministry moment, public humility, display of faith, repeated emphasis on the gospel. Church defining moments don't always advertise themselves.
Build for 100 years from now, or until Jesus returns. Your first week, month, year, sermon series, failures, successes, and new members classes, will not define the final testimony of your church. You're building for the long run. The Word, the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit will bear fruit. Don't get dismayed by the little hills and valleys in the various decades along the way.
Highlight partnership for your church. Celebrate your partnership with the theologically orthodox church of history past and a family of supportive churches in the present. Prepare your church for the potential of your own serious failure by recommending the wisdom of leaders that they can trust if you fall. Make sure they know who to call if if you die or dare to turn away from the Lord. Don't build the church's ultimate confidence into your faithfulness.
Enjoy true fellowship and friendship with your team, whoever they are. Receive correction, advice, encouragement, and accountability and enjoy moments of fun when you are not making church decisions or leading a meeting. You need Biblical community.
Enjoy your wife and children. Give time to your family, even in the earliest days of church planting. Even when you'd love a little more sermon prep. Even when you have phone calls to return. There will always be more to do, but prioritizing the family requires a constant choice to leave the "more" in the hands of the Lord.
Pursue joy in the Lord as your strength. The gospel is good news. You're going to heaven even after the end of the worst day. The worst and best emails don't define your identity. You always have hope to give people. You always have hope for yourself.
If I really had it all together, this would be a list of seven or ten lessons. But I don't have it all together, and I'm not sure which lessons to leave out. I'm grateful for all of them, as I am for the church planters that have gone before me and passed them on to me. I'm most grateful for the Lord's gracious patience to keep teaching me as I go to school each day.
Teach us, Lord, we are listening.
December 3, 2013 by
It was a rare moment where I was driving down the highway by myself, meaning that no one else was in the car with me. I was all alone. (Which really means that I could think and finish a thought.) I actually prefer the beautiful chaos my kids provide. But in this moment, God was speaking to me in the quietness of my Honda Odyssey.
There were some recent events that had led my mind into thinking about fear and how God relates to us in our fear. For me, there are some easy triggers that ignite a despairing fear in my heart and mind. It can, at times, feel like I can’t get out of the darkness of my fears. But God’s light and his promises are so much bigger than my fears. And I’m learning to trust them.
On this particular day, I was thinking about my girls and how fear develops in their lives. My firstborn seems afraid of everything. Really. Lint? Terrified. The sound of tractor trailers stopping at the light near our house? Runs in the house to hide. And I was thinking about my recent battle with fear and how she will handle fear. How will I teach her about how God helps us in those scary moments? Where will she struggle when there are truly fearful situations? In my heart, I quickly vowed to protect my girls from anything that would cause such fear in them.
And it was in that moment that I felt God gently say, “I sent my son to protect you (and them) from fear.” Simple, I know. But it can profoundly shape the way I view God and life. I had forgotten how the gospel speaks to my fear. I had forgotten that he is the one who calms the sea. I had forgotten that Jesus died on the cross so that I no longer have to be a slave to fear.
In his book, Running Scared, Ed Welch writes, “As we possess more things, care about more people, accumulate more bad experiences, and watch Fear Factor and the evening news, it is as if we absorb fear. If they are not obvious in your own life, perhaps it’s because you have been living in a war zone your entire life. At first you noticed every gunshot. After a while the mayhem blends in with the rustle of the trees, the TV, and the children playing in the other room. Fear gradually became the background noise of everyday life” (21). Until I was in the quietness of my van, I hadn’t realized how accustomed I had become to fear being the background noise of my everyday life.
So what’s next? I find comfort in 1 Peter 5:6–7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I find rest in humility, rest in the mighty hand of God, rest in God’s timing, rest in casting all anxieties on him, and rest in the knowledge that he cares for me. Ed Welch calls this the secret to battling fear. I call it my resting place when fear is overtaking my mind and heart.
Fear is never too far off; anxiety is a constant temptation. But the results are never satisfying. Let’s learn to repeat and trust the promises of God in the small and big fears and anxieties of this world, believing that He will deliver us and that in the midst of it all, he truly cares for us.
Erin and her husband, Chris, have two daughters and are members of Covenant Fellowship Church.
December 2, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Worship
Today and today only ALL Sovereign Grace Music digital albums are only $5. Five dollars! You can't even purchase a Value Meal at McDonald's for five dollars any more. Some of the albums available are:
And many more. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL LIST.
What are you waiting for?
November 27, 2013 by
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.” John 2:11
Jesus turned water to wine. Does that make a difference in my life today? It should. It is an event that will replace complaining with gratitude, discouragement with hope, and self-centered introspection with Christ-exalting extrospection.
The whole point of this miracle is captured in John 2:11: Jesus is manifesting his glory. This powerful sign of Jesus points to the splendor of Jesus. First, we glorify him for his creative power. The one who turns water to wine also made something out of nothing. He was there in the beginning. We exist because of him. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).
Second, we glorify Jesus for his abundant provision. The prophets spoke of a day in which there would be a never-ending supply of wine, symbolizing the bounty and provision of salvation. God will come to his people, and in that day, the mountains will drip with sweet wine. Jesus is a generous king, giving us gospel blessings filled to the brim and causing our hearts to overflow with gratitude.
Third, we walk away from this wedding glorifying Jesus for the hope of a future feast. This wedding feast reminds us of a coming wedding feast—the great banquet of the Lamb that is coming at the end of the age for all who believe (Rev. 19:6–10). No matter how low we are taken in this life, and no matter how poor we find ourselves, there is a feast Christ has won for us through his death.
This is only “the first of his signs.” John selected seven signs to record in his gospel: turning the water to wine (John 2:1–12), healing the official’s son (John 4:46–54), healing the paralytic (John 5:1–17), feeding the 5,000 (John 6:1–14), walking on water (John 6:16–21), healing the blind man (John 9:1–41), and raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1–46).
John is writing against the backdrop of the Old Testament signs in the book of Exodus—the plagues. But those were signs of judgment; these are signs of salvation. The signs in Exodus culminated in darkness and death. Darkness covered the land in the ninth plague, and the tenth plague focused on the death of the first born sons. Jesus, however, does not bring darkness and death. His signs culminate in the exact opposite—light and life. The blind man who walked in darkness will see through the power of the one who is the light of the world (John 9). The dead man who was buried in the grave will live again through the one who is the resurrection and the life (Lazarus in John 11).
This is intentional on John’s part. He knows Exodus. He knows what he is doing. Back then, it all started when water was turned to blood. Now it all starts when water is turned to wine. John’s entire gospel is written as a new Exodus, which is why he has already introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God and the reason he will make a really big deal out of the significance of the death of Christ occurring during the annual Passover, when all the lambs are being slain.
Every sign manifests his glory. Every sign showcases the worth of Jesus Christ. Find strength today in the one who turned water to wine. The one who created us is upholding us by the word of his power. The one who walked with earth is with us today. The one who stepped into our darkness and death brings light and life. The one who knows all our suffering and sorrows promises a wedding feast. Look to Jesus today, and he will manifest his glory yet again.
November 26, 2013 by
Categories: eBook | Resources
Today only, Amazon is offering an free Kindle eBook version of Marty Machowski's Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.
Marty is a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church and authored The Gospel Story for Kids curriculum. Long Story Short is a family devotional program designed to explain God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament and is suitable for children from preschool through high school.
Enjoy a free download of the eBook today!
HT: Gospel eBooks
November 26, 2013 by
Exposed, uncovered, unprotected, found out.
Always on the outside, never with the “in-crowd.” Rejected. An outcast.
Not as good as everyone else: not as pretty, not as slim, not as strong, not as smart…not as valuable. Worthless.
Have you ever applied these labels to yourself? This list is intended to put flesh and bones to a concept you may think doesn’t apply to you: shame. Here’s the dictionary definition: “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” That works, but let’s put the definition into stories.
Shame is what you experience when your spouse commits adultery and quits the marriage, leaving you wondering, Is there something wrong with me? Am I the problem? Shame is the emotion you feel when you’re praised for doing something well, but inwardly think, If they only knew the real me, they’d never say that. Shame is gathering for Thanksgiving with your extended family and knowing you have the smallest income, the fewest business accomplishments, or the kids with the smallest number of recitals or sports awards to boast about. Shame is feeling dirty and stained because of something someone did to you in the past.
Shame is not the same as guilt. You can be declared “not guilty” and still feel like a wretch. You can know you’re forgiven, but still feel like damaged goods. Shame makes you want to avoid deep and transparent relationships, to hide from being truly known – even if you’re convinced that you’re not going to Hell for the things of which you’re ashamed. To feel shame is to feel tainted.
Does the Bible speak to shame? Yes, it certainly does. Just as the gospel provides the solution to our guilt and sin (forgiveness and justification), so it also provides the solution to our shame and dishonor. Here it is in a nutshell: honor by association. Or you could say, glory shared. Worth given. Consider this passage in Romans 9, quoting the prophet Hosea: “Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.' And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.’”
Remember, this is Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the maker of all that is. And he says to dishonored, shamed sinners, “You are my beloved.” Not just “your sins are forgiven” – as glorious as that is! – but, “I delight in you. I accept you. You belong to me.” Do you see it? Honor by association. You belong to the King.
One more passage. 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Do you see how this passage goes beyond forgiveness (again, as glorious as that is) to include honor and worth? We are God’s chosen race, a people for his own possession, the apple of his eye (Deut. 32:10, Psa. 17:8, Zech. 2:8). In other words, honor by association. Shared glory. Worth given.
A blog post can only begin to address a topic as big as shame. But if something in this resonates with you, if shame clings to you and constantly whispers in your ear, if it defines your identity more than being a child of God and fellow heir with Jesus Christ – then you need to dig deep into the riches of honor by association, of shared glory, of worth given by God our Redeemer.
Psalm 25:3: “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.”
Psalm 34:5: “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
Note: the thoughts in this post came from Dr. Ed Welch’s book Shame Interrupted. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in this topic. Consider this a blog-length introduction to themes Dr. Welch explores at length.