October 17, 2014 by
Categories: International | Bolivia
“A mission trip will change your life.” With those proverbial words ringing in my ears, a group of 15 teens and adults from KingsWay Community Church in Midlothian, Virginia headed out to invest eleven days with a network of churches and ministries in Bolivia. In hindsight, we were unprepared for the impact of those days on our hearts.
Chris Deloglos and I traveled to the south of Bolivia with the pastors who lead the movement, Johnny Dueri and Jorge Del Castillo. For the next four days, we listened to, shared with, and prayed for men and women who live hundreds of miles from a city and who own next to nothing. But we encountered faith instead of self-pity and joy in place of sorrow. These people have a glorious hope and a contagious faith that deeply affected our hearts. I received far more than I gave.
The rest of our team traveled seven hours through the mountains of central Bolivia to an orphanage in the city of Caranavi known as Casa de Esperanza (House of Hope). This refuge for children was originally started by a missionary from Holland and was later turned over to the care of the Sovereign Grace Church in La Paz. The orphanage, lead by Fidel and Charro Corrales, provides food, shelter, and spiritual direction for over 70 orphans who would otherwise have been abandoned or forgotten. To be among the children is to experience the joy of the Lord is a unique way.
Some members of the team taught basic sewing skills, which included some girls completing a backpack. There are plans to return and continue the progression of sewing skills along with the strengthening of relationship between the girls.
During the second part of the trip, they returned to the capital of La Paz and nearby El Alto where they served in a ministry called Suti Sani which provides dignified employment for women coming out of prostitution. This ministry shares the hope of the Gospel and offers medical support, strategic workshops, discipleship, and children's programs. One of the women in our church, Tammy Bishop, has traveled here on several occasions to train ladies in sewing and pattern-making specifically for handbag production.
One evening, the team was involved in outreach that included a movie with a Gospel message and a dinner where the men in our group personally served these women. This simple action had a powerful effect in expressing the Father’s love to these women who had only experienced abuse by men.
Since we returned, I asked the team members if they were planned to return to Bolivia. Without exception, each one is committed to doing so. Praise God for His faithfulness in using us and meeting us!
For those attending our Pastors Conference next week, I am hosting an informational meeting on Bolivia with Johnny, Jorge, and two other pastors from Bolivia on Thursday afternoon at 3:30 pm. We would love to have you come!
La Paz photo from Shutterstock.
Gene is the senior pastor of KingsWay Community Church in Midlothian, Virginia. He and his wife, Liz, have four adult children.
In March 2014, Grace Church Bristol partnered with Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music to host a WorshipGod conference here in the United Kingdom. People came from more than ten different European countries and over 100 different churches from across the U.K. We received a lot of positive feedback regarding that conference and have just released details of our second conference in the U.K. in May 2015.
Our desire is not only to serve churches in our nation through conferences, but also to develop and strengthen relationships with like-minded pastors and build genuine partnerships between gospel-centered churches so that the good news of Jesus Christ might shine brightly into and dispel the darkness that covers the U.K. In an effort to start moving toward that goal, we recently hosted a pastors lunch in Bristol.
We managed to hijack Jeff Purswell’s return trip from teaching at the Arche Pastors College in Hamburg, Germany to participate in this pastors lunch.
On Wednesday, October 1, 26 pastors gathered together for a time of fellowship, encouragement, and refreshment in the gospel.
Jeff powerfully opened up God’s Word to us from Lamentations 3:19–25 and reminded us that, though much of the call to be a faithful pastor involves caring for people as they walk through pain, trials make life complex because of the effects of sin. Even though our own lives and ministries often involve loss, opposition, and loneliness, there is a divine perspective that we need to recall to our minds and speak to our hearts: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. Although situations and circumstances may remain unchanged, God desires to become our portion as we fix our eyes on Christ.
As you would expect, Jeff’s warm, winsome humility and joyful manner won the hearts of all the men in attendance, with many of them telling us that this was a word in season for them in the face of ongoing personal and ministerial challenges. One of the particular highlights of the day was seeing Jeff take an active interest in each man by greeting them, asking about their stories, and caring personally for them.
As a local church and a pastoral team, we so appreciate our deep friendship with Jeff that has been forged over the years, and we are so glad for the opportunity to introduce him to and share him with other pastors and friends here in the U.K. We thank God for our family of churches and the shared mission and tangible partnership that we experience together that generously enabled us to host the lunch, have Jeff participate, and give some free books and music to these men in order to bless and encourage them. We are grateful to each man who took time out of his schedule to join us that day. We pray and hope for ongoing and developing relationships as we build together with some of these men and their local churches. Please pray that God would graciously grant the gospel to spread all across our needy nation for the glory of Jesus’s name!
Nathan is the senior pastor of Grace Church Bristol (UK).
October 15, 2014 by
Jeff Purswell, our Director of Theology and Training, recently preached a message from Hebrews 12:1–2, and the Sovereign Grace staff thought it might encourage and strengthen you.
This message, called “A Steady Pace and a Fixed Gaze,” is available for audio listening or download as well as video. We’ve also included the video at the bottom of this post.
Below, we have included some highlights from his sermon with the prayer that God would speak to you through the preaching of his Word:
The very essence of our existence as believers—as followers of Christ—is that our life is a race. The Christian life doesn’t call for fast starts or flashes of brilliance or trigger-fast reflexes. The heroes of the faith aren’t muscular sprinters. They don’t “strike a pose” to celebrate their victories. Rather, following Christ calls for a steady pace, a wise and thoughtful strategy executed, not in seconds, but over time. No character quality is more important to our lives than endurance.
But there is a finish line. There will be fruitfulness—fruitfulness you’ve never dreamed of! The effects from your labors and prayers and serving and giving will baffle you. Your rewards from God will humble you. The text says, “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have shown for his name in serving the saints!” (Hebrews 6:10). God knows your every step, every blister, every pain, and every disappointment. He waits at the finish line with glories in his presence that we’ve never even imagined. God himself laid out your course. He fashioned you for it. He designed it. And he did so to shape you, to use you, and to make you more like Jesus.
Therefore, we are to take off and lay aside every weight or burden or impediment (Hebrews 12:2). We must cast off anything and everything that would impede or burden or distract or hinder our race—our pursuit of Christ, his glory, and his purposes. We are to evaluate all our activities and our resources in light of their effects on running the race. This takes supernatural wisdom. It calls for counsel from others who are running the race with you. But that’s the call of this text: If anything hinders your race—if it robs you of faith or passion for Christ or love for others or a burden for the lost or the use of your gifts in the local church—then it might be a weight.
Some hindrances impede us; but sin entangles us. Other hindrances weigh you down; sin will bring you down. You can’t run the race and cherish sin. You can’t run the race and cultivate sin. You can’t run the race and indulge in sin. You can’t run the race and be apathetic toward sin. That’s why we need the local church. Look around and you will see that there are runners everywhere, ready to help. Earlier the author of Hebrews wrote, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25). Do not take the body of Christ for granted.
Christian, you’re not just floating through life—you’re in a race. You must trust in the promises and faithfulness of God. Entrust yourself to God by desiring not what the world has to offer, but what God offers you through His promises. And remember that you are not alone. You are part of a noble company. There are many powerful examples of those who trusted in God’s promises and faithfully endured (see Hebrews 11). You are upheld by the same God as they were.
Therefore we look preeminently to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Just as an athlete concentrates all his energies upon his prize, marshaling all his resources to capture that trophy or cup or medal, so are we to fix our gaze entirely on our Savior. We look to Jesus first because he’s the founder or pioneer of our faith. Christ blazed a trail before us, showing us the way. He endured shame and hostility from a world opposed to God. And he did so because our salvation—and the vindication of his Father’s honor—was his joy. As the founder of our faith, Jesus opened the way for us to enter the presence of God. He fully accomplished what was required for us to be forgiven—to draw near to God.
Because Christ finished his race, we can finish ours. The Christian’s fundamental call is steadfast endurance, with our gaze fixed on Jesus. While we run this race, Hebrews 12:1–2 wants Jesus to dominate our vision. He ran the ultimate race. He guaranteed our forgiveness and access to God. He is our source of power to persevere in the race.
Race photo from Shutterstock.
Bryan (@BryanDeWire) is the Communications Manager at Sovereign Grace.
October 14, 2014 by
Categories: Interviews | Music | Resources
We recently announced that there is a new Christmas album from Sovereign Grace Music called Prepare Him Room. In that post, we said that there are some other exciting resources accompanying the album (by the same name): a family devotional and a classroom curriculum.
Marty Machowski wrote the devotional and curriculum while Bob Kauflin partnered with him by overseeing the creation of the album. So, I took the opportunity to ask these men some questions to give you a more behind-the-scenes look:
How long does a project like this take?
Marty: For some writing projects, I get an idea, plan out a schedule, and start plugging away. Most of my writing projects have taken six months of intensive study and writing. Prepare Him Room didn’t follow that pattern, and each of its three components came together a bit differently, over a longer period of time.
The short Christmas story “Bartimaeus” that I’ve included in the devotional was first written for my children. Later, I passed it along to our homeschool ministry who turned the storyline into an original Christmas musical. After the musical performance, I decided to rewrite the story to see if I could polish it up enough to have it published. I probably rewrote that story three times over two years.
The devotional began as a project for our church family at Covenant Fellowship. Jared Mellinger asked me to write an Advent devotional for folks in our church to use. Most of that came together in one blessed day when I got the idea to connect the Christmas prophecies in the Old Testament with the New Testament fulfillments. It was that devotional which became the framework for the Advent devotions in the Prepare Him Room devotional.
I wrote the companion curriculum last of all to bring the same truths of Scripture into the Sunday school classroom. That took about a month to write working about an hour and a half each day, or about 50 hours.
Bob: From Marty’s first email, the project took about 15 months. We actually started writing songs in January of this year and finished in early April. The recording took about six weeks.
How did you end up partnering with each other on this project?
Marty: I’ve known Bob for 27 years—ever since he first spoke at a Covenant Fellowship singles retreat in the 90’s. Bob is such a gift to us and I love his heart for God and his gifting in writing music. So when the idea came up in conversation with New Growth Press to put together a Christmas album highlighting the themes from Prepare Him Room in song, it was a no-brainer to contact Bob.
With all Bob has going on, I thought it was a long shot—and a dream. Having Bob on the project would be getting the best. What a joy to have this work out. In the end, Bob was excited by the prospect of doing another Christmas album, and we were able to work together to create a grouping of songs that work amazingly well with what I’ve written.
When Bob sent me the first rough-cut video of “Who Would Have Dreamed,” it took my breath away. The lyrics were amazing, and his daughter, McKenzie, killed it!
Bob: Marty sent me an email in June of 2013 asking if I’d be interested in having Sovereign Grace Music produce an album to accompany his children’s Advent curriculum and devotional. I had been thinking about recording another Christmas album the past few years, since Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man came out back in 2006. This provided the perfect opportunity to pursue that impulse.
Why are you releasing the CD album, the devotional book, and the curriculum together?
Marty: Jesus was born to the chorus of angels singing to the shepherds in the fields. Christmas isn’t Christmas without songs celebrating the coming of our Savior. When I developed the Prepare Him Room curriculum and devotional, I wanted to include singing as a part of what the children would do.
This Christmas album stands alone, as does the curriculum, but when you put them together, you have a wonderful Advent program in study and song that we hope will be a blessing for families and churches partnering together to bring the gospel to the next generation.
Bob: Partly because of the way the project came about. The album really is a companion to the devotional and curriculum. I think we would have come up with a different album without Marty’s materials. The specific Scriptures caused us to focus on the particular themes of each lesson and gave us more diversity than we would have had otherwise.
What audience are these resources meant for?
Marty: The target audience for the family devotional and curriculum is preschool through elementary age children. I wanted to provide a gospel-rich set of activities families could use to build Christ-centered family traditions that will last. While Prepare Him Room is written for 4–10 year-olds, the rich biblical theology I’ve included is material for people of any age. I remember first discovering the truths of biblical theology well into my adult years and marveling at some of the very same prophecies we teach in Prepare Him Room.
Bob: While the curriculum and devotional are intended for 4–10 year-olds and their families, the album is for all ages. We aimed for a specifically “Christmas” sound that is timeless, rather than trying to produce a pop album with Christmas lyrics. We were really pleased with the result. One person described it this way: “The album as a whole has a depth and movement about it that is both sobering and hopeful.”
How can I order these resources, and what are the most strategic ways I can use them?
Marty: Go to New Growth Press for both the curriculum and the devotional.
I am hoping churches 1) purchase the curriculum to use the four weeks prior to Christmas and 2) encourage their families to use the companion family devotional. The goal of these two resources is to bridge the gap between church and home and to serve as a tool for pastors and families to use together.
It brings me great joy when I think that families can also be singing Christmas hymns and songs at home along with the album Bob put together and then singing those same songs on Sunday. I’ve made it my mission to provide resources that help parents bring the life-transforming message of the gospel to their family.
I honestly can’t think of a more comprehensive Christmas program that teaches children the true meaning of Christmas through word, deed, and song. I hope churches and families in Sovereign Grace (and beyond) take advantage of this program and see the gospel proclaimed to a new generation who we trust will carry the torch of the gospel when our days are complete.
Bob: Marty explained how to get the curriculum and devotional. The best place to get the album is the Sovereign Grace Music website. From there, you can purchase it from a number of retailers or websites.
Every Christmas, we’re bombarded with voices from our culture trying to tell us what is most important about the Christmas season, whether it be gifts, parties, family, or traditions. This album, combined with the devotional and curriculum, will be a huge help to parents who want to take consistent time to focus not only on the birth of Christ, but also its purpose. Jesus was born to save us from our sins. That is the greatest miracle to celebrate at Christmas or any other time for that matter. And after sitting down to go through the devotional together, families can reinforce and deepen those truths anywhere and anytime as they listen to the songs on the album.
Marty serves as a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church and has written numerous resources for children and families.
Bob is the Director of Music and Worship for Sovereign Grace and serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.
October 13, 2014 by
It has been said that long before God became Creator and Lord of all, he was Father. Think about that for a few minutes, and you’ll realize that it changes everything about our primary understanding of God.
Please don’t quibble with me over the theological precision of what I’m about to say, but this truth about the eternal Fatherhood of God is the kind of truth that can make you feel born again, again. I think you know what I mean. It can make you feel like you’ve met God for the first time.
We believe in God the Father Almighty, the eternally begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit. Forever the One has been Three, the Three, One; an eternal Tri-unity of Love. The unfolding drama of Creation through Redemption to Consummation is simply that Love overflowing into human hearts for their everlasting joy.
There you have it: a summary of essential Christian faith in 50 words.
It is this faith that hundreds of Sovereign Grace local ministry leaders will be celebrating at an upcoming event. More than 350 people have registered so far for our Northeast Regional Ministry Team and Small Group Leader Conference. That’s over 350 men and women who serve in our regional churches who are coming together on November 13–15 at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania to worship, get equipped, and be encouraged by focusing on the theme: “Love Overflowing: Discovering Trinitarian Life and Ministry.”
We think that, while ministry is something we most definitely get to do, it is also and often something we have to do—and to be sustained in both, we need refreshment and replenishment. That’s what this conference is about. It’s about giving our faithful serving men and women a place to catch a fresh vision of God that will replenish needy hearts and equip eager hands.
This conference will blend solid, God-centered expositions with joyful worship and extremely practical break-out sessions, all set in the context of Sovereign Grace-style fellowship and partnership. In addition to five main sessions proclaiming God in Three Persons, we will offer breakouts on such ministry-friendly topics as:
- Father-Like Encouragement
- Table Grace: How Hospitality Serves Our Mission
- How to Handle the Loss of People (from your ministry) You Love
- How to Balance Ministry and Family Life
- Nurturing Spiritual Gifts and Ministry Times in Your Small Group
- Secrets of Endurance: Handling Ministry Fatigue, Both Yours and Your Team’s
- Weeping with Those Who Weep: The Art of Shared Suffering
- Productivity: Balancing Life While Bearing Fruit
- God-Glorifying Leadership
- Praying for Holy Spirit-Filled Ministry
- Opening Gospel-Sharing Doors through Gospel-Shaped Community
- Building Ministry Team Quality
More than 15 regional pastors will speak, making this a celebration of our regional Sovereign Grace partnership even as it is an equipping of our local ministry leaders.
This is a large, significant event that will have a small, intimate, Sovereign Grace-fellowship feel, and we’ve got room for a lot more. Take note however: Registration ends October 31, so you’d better sign up now.
Tim is the Regional Leader for Sovereign Grace’s Northeast Region and serves as a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA).
October 9, 2014 by
Categories: Lawsuit updates | Letters
On September 22, Maryland’s highest appellate court denied the plaintiffs’ request for the court to review the lower appellate court’s dismissal of the civil lawsuit that was brought against Sovereign Grace in October 2012. The dismissal of this case is a significant moment for everyone involved, and may be the subject of much conversation in and beyond our churches. On behalf of Sovereign Grace’s leadership, there are some thoughts I want to contribute to that discussion.
But before I do, I want to thank you for the patience and support you have shown to your local churches and to Sovereign Grace during the last two years. In the midst of an aggressive lawsuit you have faithfully served and prayed to keep your local churches strong and by extension you have strengthened many others. So thank you for your “labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
What Matters Now
I realize that the court’s dismissal of the suit does not answer the question, “What now?” Let me share with you how I’m responding to that question.
First, there is my response as a Christian. Sexual abuse is a heinous sin which causes harm to all victims of abuse and their families. Therefore it is right that we grieve with them, do all we can to care for them, and pray that God would grant them the comfort and hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, there is my response as Executive Director for Sovereign Grace. The specific allegations made against Sovereign Grace in this suit were those of conspiracy claiming that we covered up abuse. Let me be clear that we deny—in the strongest terms possible—that any Sovereign Grace leaders conspired to cover up abuse as alleged in this lawsuit. There were allegations made in the civil suit against current pastors of Sovereign Grace churches, namely John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, and C.J. Mahaney. I want to be clear regarding these men: We believe these allegations are not true. I along with the entire Leadership Team continue to fully commend the character of these men and their ministry to the body of Christ. In addition, the elders in their local churches continue to commend their character and ongoing service as pastors.
While a response to allegations is necessary, our priorities would be out of sorts if we were only concerned with vindicating ourselves in the public arena. Yes, we have been the target of misinformed critique in both the secular and Christian media, and more will likely come. I pray that God gives us all grace to respond wisely and biblically. But regardless of the public discourse, we are strongly committed to ensuring a safe environment for the children in our churches.
I’m personally grateful that Sovereign Grace churches have taken the protection of children and care for victims seriously for many years. All church leaders today should have a heightened awareness of the steps they can take to create safe environments including the reporting of abuse and cooperating with civil authorities to prosecute any abuser. We continue to evaluate how we can grow in these areas.
While it is the responsibility of each local Sovereign Grace church to provide child protection policies and effective care, we want to do whatever we can centrally to serve our churches, particularly in the area of training. To that end, Sovereign Grace has arranged to provide child sexual abuse awareness training for our pastors and leaders at our Pastors Conference later this month. This training will be led by an attorney from MinistrySafe, an organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse in ministry contexts. We have also retained the services of Love & Norris, a law firm associated with MinistrySafe. They are evaluating child protection policies in some of our local churches, and providing recommendations for improvement. Lastly, we are providing MinistrySafe membership for all of our churches, with their 5-part safety system. This gives our local churches access to the best training and safety measures available.
Sovereign Grace Churches exist because of Jesus Christ and our passion is to make Him known. Our collective efforts to provide safety for our children is not a redefinition of our gospel mission, but a part of demonstrating Christ’s love to our children and keeping our witness before a watching world.
Our Shared Effort
Over the past 14 months I have traveled to 31 of our churches and spoken with many members and leaders. There isn’t a group of people in the world with whom I would rather labor in advancing the gospel than you. Please join me in continuing to make our churches places where children are loved, protected, and given every opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your partnership in proclaiming and advancing the gospel in your communities and around the world. May our collective labors for the gospel bring great glory to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
With appreciation for our gospel partnership,
October 6, 2014 by
Categories: Articles | Polity
This post is the first in a series on encouraging strong, meaningful church partnerships.
I want to convince you about the importance of real, biblical partnership between churches––the kind that involves councils and committees and even a Book of Church Order––and I want to do this by telling you about a house I once almost bought.
Miraculously, almost impossibly, the house appeared in our search for our first home. It was in the perfect area of town. It was exactly the age and style we dreamed about. It had recently been upgraded, with a refinished gorgeous wood floor and granite countertops and new paint. When we first walked in, we immediately imagined parties in the den, hanging out in the kitchen, and walking to the park nearby. It seemed simply perfect.
But then we noticed that while the walls were painted with a textured and cracked look, there were also very real and non-decorative cracks in the walls. And when we brought in an inspector, he found that the very foundation of the house was bad and that this meant the structure and walls it supported were unstable. Quite literally, the inspector said, the house could split open one day. While the property owner had spent significant money on the inside of the home, they had neglected the less obvious but more important aspects of the house.
Here’s the point: In day to day life in our churches, we often focus on the stuff inside the house, but the stuff we don’t see matters at least as much, if not far more. We see tweaks and changes to ministries and groups, like furniture being rearranged in a room. We see new and departing members and leaders, like friends coming and going inside the house. We get really excited when we knock down something existing to create a new ministry, like a wall being knocked down to expand a room. But behind the scenes, you need the foundation of the house to stand firm, you need the beams in the walls to hold, you need the roof to stay strong.
Think about what supports your local church life through the metaphor of the house: You need a solid foundation of theology, you need healthy beams of structure and governance, you need to tap into resources your church does not have by being hooked up to utilities, you need a life beyond your house, and you need help from outside you when something in the house goes really wrong. You should care deeply about these things as a pastor, or deacon, or church member. Much of this happens solely on a local level, but there are very key ways that being linked together with other churches provides needed strength.
I believe in our polity and governance at Sovereign Grace, first because I believe it accords with Scripture. But beyond the question, “Is it Scriptural?” comes the second, but extremely important question, “Is it helpful? Does it make a compelling difference in my local church?” I believe the answer is a resounding yes. Look very briefly at the four points that Phil Sasser shared with my church earlier this year and see their practical value:
1) Our union of churches itself is a testimony to the gospel. It is one thing when a neighborhood or city has the same zip code, but it is another thing for that place to feel and act like a real community. It is one thing to confess the unity of the church on a theological level, but it is another to see a group of diverse churches link arms and commit to walking together through the good and bad and to practically live this union out. In the same way, the unity of a local church is testimony to the gospel (Ephesians 4:3, 13)—the unity of a family of churches points to the gospel.
2) Our union of churches helps to guard the gospel and sound doctrine. If the foundation of our church is our theology, it means we should do everything possible to build and keep strong foundations. Being linked theologically and confessionally with other churches holds our foundation steady. See Acts 15:1–35 for a compelling example of this reality.
3) Our union of churches provides help in troubled times. Most home problems we handle ourselves, but when a pipe bursts or a roof caves in, we need help. While a biblical process for handling accusations against an elder, or providing an avenue of appeal may not seem particularly exciting, it’s absolutely vital when things go wrong. In places like 1 Corinthians, an Apostle outside the church helps a local church when things go wrong. While we have no more Apostles, we should display the same heart and desire to be helpful to one another in ways that respect our local governance but provide extra-local help when needed.
4) Our union of churches enables us to much more effectively accomplish the mission of the gospel. One house on its own can accomplish significant things, perhaps even faster without red tape or pesky neighbors. But that pales in comparison to what a city can do, to what whole groups of homes can do when they have a common mission and purpose. In the church in Antioch, we see a local church that both receives help from outside pastors (Acts 11:22), as well as sends some of its own pastors beyond itself on mission (Acts 13:1). Key people from other churches join this mission team (Acts 18:18, 16:13), and some return later to strengthen the church again (Acts 15:35).
So by all means, pursue ministry in your church––meet with your small group, participate in mercy ministry, tell others about Jesus. But don’t neglect the foundation and walls, because they are the parts that make ministry possible. And while you give attention to the unseen things, pray for the unseen union of churches that helps each church stay strong.
Window photo from Shutterstock.
Ricky is the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, he serves on Sovereign Grace’s National Church Planting Group. He and his wife, Jenn, have two sons.
Tonight and tomorrow, Bob Kauflin is leading The Gathering: New Orleans, hosted by Lakeview Christian Center and First Baptist Church of Kenner. Pray that many would be encouraged through this event!
Beginning this Sunday, Grace City Church (Northeast Philadelphia, PA) is hosting a course about their values. Watch a video featuring pastor Rob Chisholm explaining the values and the purpose of this course.
Hear from Jon Payne, senior pastor of Redemption Hill Church (Round Rock, TX), about the main point of the story of David and Goliath: “Trusting in Jesus for all of salvation, and seeking to be like him in grateful worship, is the right answer to our Bible question.” Read more at the Redemption Hill Church blog.
Dave York, senior pastor of Covenant Life Fellowship (Roseburg, OR) shared some reasons he loves his church.
Bauer Evans, senior pastor of Crossway Church (Franklin, MA), is doing a blog series about personal devotions. Read part 1 and part 2.
Looking for some resources on studying the gospels? Aaron Mayfield, a pastor at Redemption Hill Church, recommends Let’s Study John by Mark Johnston, and Eric Turbedsky, who pastors Sovereign Grace Church (Orange, CA) recommends Jared Wilson’s The Wonder Working God.
Carrie is a communications assistant at Sovereign Grace.
In June of 2013 I received an email from my friend, Marty Machowski. Marty serves on the pastoral team of Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Church near Philadelphia, PA. He has also written children's books and devotionals, most notably The Gospel Story Bible.
Marty asked me if Sovereign Grace Music wanted to produce an album to accompany an Advent devotional and curriculum he had written for New Growth Press. I was instantly intrigued by the idea. Our first and only Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, had came out in 2006 and I thought we were long overdue for another Christmas project.
Marty's devotional had 13 lessons, each focusing on a particular Scripture. He had already picked traditional carols to go with each lesson, but some didn't fit the theme of the lesson, and others lacked any reference to the gospel. He wondered if we could come up with a mix of traditional, altered, and original Christmas songs that could not only accompany what he had written but could stand on its own as a Christmas album.
After a number of phone conversations, face to face meetings, a songwriting retreat, 200+ emails, numerous Skype sessions, dozens of hours in the studio, and a lot of prayer, we have an album.
And I couldn't be happier with the result.
From the start, I wanted us to produce an album that "sounded" like Christmas. It had to have intimate moments as well as celebrative ones. It would be an album you'd want to sing along to as well as listen to. It would feel familiar and fresh at the same time. Most of all, it would help us focus on the joy, awe, mystery, and wonder that God becoming man should produce in our hearts. J.I. Packer wrote:
"'The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets." (Knowing God, p. 53)
That's what we tried to communicate through these songs.
We ended up with six Christmas carols and eight originals. Of the six carols, we only left "What Child is This" untouched. "Come All Ye Faithful," "Joy to the World (Our God Reigns)," and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" received some minor melodic variations and lyrical additions. We wrote three new verses for "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and Kevin Hartnett, a NASA scientist and poet, contributed two new verses for "O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story)." As the title implies, the new lyrics take us into the redemptive meaning of that holy night:
Humbly He lay, Creator come as creature
Born on the floor of a hay-scattered stall
True Son of God, yet bearing human feature
He entered earth to reverse Adam’s fall
Here's a sample of lyrics from some of the original songs:
He Who is mighty has done a great thing
Taken on flesh, conquered death's sting
Shattered the darkness and lifted our shame, holy is His name
(He Who is Mighty - Rebecca Elliott & Kate DeGraide)
One still night, while Joseph dreamed, he saw a vision within his troubled sleep
One small child, his bride would give, Deliverer delivered, to save us from our sin
(One Still Night - Neil & Kate DeGraide)
And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan to save the world
(Who Would Have Dreamed - Jason Hansen & Bob Kauflin)
There blooms a rose in Bethlehem from tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse's line this flower grows as men of old have sung
Isaiah told us long ago about this rose we'd find
In virgin arms, we shall behold the Savior of mankind
(There Blooms a Rose in Bethlehem - Neil DeGraide)
Come and see the inconceivable, and believe the unbelievable
God has come to dwell with us
Begotten Son born into Adam's earth, promised One fulfilling ancient words
God has come to dwell with us
(The Unbelievable - Steve & Vikki Cook)
The vocalists and instrumentalists did a fantastic job on the album and were ably led by Neil DeGraide, who ended up producing the project, assisted by Steve Cook. Neil is a gifted musician and part of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He created a sonic palette of engaging cello parts, tasty piano patterns, mesmerizing guitar riffs, and warm acoustic sounds that invite the listener in. The album also benefited from the keyboard and arranging contributions of David LaChance, Jr., Neil's cousin. David's version of "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" is hauntingly beautiful.
But you don't have to take my word for it. You can listen to the tracks on our Bandcamp site and download the album there as well as Amazon or iTunes. Physical CDs can be ordered from the Sovereign Grace webstore starting October 6.
If you're looking for charts and lead sheets they're available for free on the album page on our site (piano scores will be posted later this week). We're hoping to get a few orchestrations and 4 part arrangements up soon as well.
Our prayer for this project, and every project, is that people who listen to and sing these songs will have a greater love for the One who came to free us from our sins by taking on our flesh and dying in our place.
The long night is over. The light of the world has come. Prepare Him room.
September 24, 2014 by
Categories: Church Updates
I am deeply honored to announce that Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange, Georgia is now part of Sovereign Grace Churches!
They have pursued a relationship and affiliation with Sovereign Grace for the past several years. After much prayer, discussion, and assessment, the Southeast Region voted unanimously to adopt Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange a couple of weeks ago. We asked their senior pastor, Russell Tusing, why they wanted to join our family of churches:
We began pursuing relationship and association with Sovereign Grace approximately 6 years ago. During that time, we have developed many meaningful connections and friendships—brotherly and sisterly bonds that we hold very near and dear. This holds true even beyond our Southeast Region. The times our leaders have spent with others at the Sovereign Grace Pastors Conferences (and beyond these), both corporately and privately, have been excellent and necessary for our relationship. This time, for us, has been nothing but a display of a gospel-saturated culture. After all, Christ has not only cared for His church, but He continues caring for His church! Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange has experienced this in profound ways. The church being the church is an astonishing display of Christ in us. Sovereign Grace has shown this beyond dispute.
My fellow regional pastors have shown such interest and care for Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange. These men and their wives have extended themselves to my wife and me, as well as to the rest of our church in so many ways. For instance, they returned a phone call at 4:30 AM (on a Sunday morning!), they joined us for a local leaders outing, they ministered at our leaders seminar, they included us at a Regional Retreat, and so on. I could go on. These guys and their wives are great!
We are excited about being a part of Sovereign Grace. Our church is looking forward to the many ways and opportunities that this partnership will allow us to minister to and serve others within our family of churches. The gospel-centered culture and enthusiastic worship is so refreshing to be a part of. Having been independent for so many years, thinking that our local theology and practice was peculiar or unique, only to find that there was a larger body of believers just as peculiar or unique as us, was refreshing. Confusingly refreshing, albeit. I mean, Evangelicals who are passionately Reformed Continuationists? Really? How can this be? Someone pinch me! How could we not partner?
I’m so glad Russell, his pastoral team, and their church are now a part of the Sovereign Grace family. Please join me in thanking God for this new partnership, and pray that much gospel fruit will be produced through our labors together.