Archive | April, 2006

Songs from Together for the Gospel

Numerous people have asked me to post the songs we sang at the Together for the Gospel conference. I’ve listed them below. I’ve also given the song number from the 1990 Trinity Hymnal (TH). Wednesday PMPraise to the Lord the Almighty (words by Joachim Neander, tr. by Catherine Winkworth, TH53)In Christ Alone (Lyrics by Stuart Townend, Music by Keith Getty) Thursday AMHow Sweet and Awful is the Place (Lyrics by Isaac Watts, TH469) NOTE: Cyberhymnal lists a verse 2 that we didn’t sing at the conference. We guessed that singing about "the bowel of our God" might have been a distraction.How Deep the Father’s Love (Stuart Townend) Thursday …

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Some Reflections on Together for the Gospel

It’s Saturday, and as I thought, the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky was a whirlwind. Much to remember, much to celebrate, much to respond to. Who knows what kind of fruit will emerge from these three days? One thing is certain. C.J. Mahaney, Lig Duncan, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever have not only instructed us on the unity the Gospel brings. They have demonstrated it. This conference brought men from very diverse backgrounds together to talk, worship God, learn, and grow. And it’s all because of the Gospel. Music was one area in which the effect of the Gospel was obvious. There’s no question that music in the church …

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How Familiar Should Songs Be?

I recently received these questions from Lisa, a music coordinator whose church has had an influx of new guests. People are starting to comment more frequently that they don’t know the songs being sung. That situation has raised these questions: 1. How important do you think familiarity is in facilitating worship? 2. Do you limit your pick list somehow, even “retiring” good songs?  If so, how? 3. How can we help our congregation familiarize themselves with the songs we sing, outside of church? I’ve often heard it said that singing familiar songs contributes to people engaging in true worship of God. While a well known song can often …

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The Perils of Technology

I should have known these things by now. I’m down in Louisville, Kentucky this week, enjoying the privilege of leading corporate worship at the Together for the Gospel conference. About 3000 pastors have gathered to learn about, celebrate, and respond to the central truth around which our unity is built – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The conference is the fruit of four men who have share a deep and meaningful friendship around the Gospel. Ligon Duncan pastors a church in Mississippi and has significant influence in the Presbyterian Church in America. Al Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is often quoted or interviewed …

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You Formed Me

I didn’t meet her until yesterday. I’m not even sure of her name. Julia maybe. Perhaps Kate Our interaction was somewhat one-sided. I talked. It didn’t look like she was listening at all. But I know this about her. God has been intimately acquainted with her for quite a while now. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.     Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your …

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Monday Devotions – Unmeasured Grace

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (1Cor. 16:23) Grace. It’s a term that’s much easier to understand than experience. Actually, I’m not sure we understand it very well, either. Do you have a malnourished view of grace? It’s not too hard to tell. Do you live in a constant state of fear and discouragement that you aren’t measuring up to God’s standards? Do you wonder if God’s forgiveness covers your worst sins? If so, you’re failing to benefit from the unmerited acceptance God offers us through the grace of the cross. Or maybe you have the ill-informed perspective that being a Christian really isn’t all that difficult. …

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The Humble Critic

This question came in from Amy, after reading my post on “Entering the Draw Me Close Conversation.” “How do you balance discernment without being critical? I find myself struggling with this constantly. Where is the balance between noticing and being concerned that the theology presented in songs/sermons is man-centered, or that the gospel is missing, vs. being critical of the music and preaching and thus being unable to actually worship?” Great question. How do we exercise doctrinal discernment and personal humility at the same time? First, we need to recognize the importance of being faithful to Scripture. We aren’t simply …

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With Apologies to C.S. Lewis

(I mistakenly thought I had posted this last Thursday. Instead, I had saved it as a draft. Oh well…) My friend Ron Man, who puts out the monthly Worship Notes, has composed a number of fictitious letters based on C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. In light of recent conversations about Draw Me Close to You, I thought this one was particularly appropriate. Let me make it clear that pastors need to determine what kinds of songs their people are singing, and repeatedly singing theologically shallow or emotionally driven songs will produce Christians who live by musical experiences rather than the unchanging Word of God. However, in these …

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Monday Devotions – The Day After Easter

Our senior pastor, Josh Harris, spoke on Luke 24 yesterday at our church. His insightful preaching on this passage provoked some of these thoughts. What were the days following Jesus’ resurrection like for the first disciples? Jesus had died, and he was dead no longer. Just as He promised, He had overcome death, the last enemy. But what did it all mean? Surely, it took time for them to fully comprehend the whirlwind of events that had taken place the previous week. Before He returned to his Father, Jesus helped His followers to realize some of the implications. (Lk. 24:27) His death and resurrection were no aberration in God’s plan. …

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Reviewing Awesome God Children’s CD Reviews

Near the end of 2005, I offered to send a free copy of the Sovereign Grace children’s CD Awesome God to the first 50 people who would post a review on their blog. THANKS to all of you who responded! We read every one and were grateful for the encouragement and helpful feedback. I wanted to let you hear what others are saying about the CD, partly to give you a better feel for the CD, but more importantly to provoke your thinking in the area of songs for children. Joshua Richie at Deception in the Church picked up on the intentional progression of the songs. “The whole CD seems like one complete message that flows from creation to the culmination …

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Monday Devotions – Living by the Righteousness of Another

A few weeks ago I shared thoughts on preaching the Gospel to yourself. I find myself continually returning to this theme. Perhaps that’s because we so easily forget what is meant to be the mainspring of our lives – the relationship made possible with God through the saving work of Jesus Christ. I’ve been thinking about where my motivation for godly living comes from. How do we remain motivated to pursue a life of holiness and fruitfulness, regardless of our circumstances? Here’s what happens to me. I’m doing well for a season. Quiet times are going great, I’m experiencing grace in resisting temptations,  and seeing some …

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Entering the “Draw Me Close” Conversation

In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Chuck Colson has an article entitled “Soothing Ourselves to Death.” He begins with this paragraph: When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We’d been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called “Draw Me Close to You,” which has zero theological content and could just as easily be sung in any nightclub. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed. “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” he asked. “No!” I shouted, loudly enough …

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Doxologue

I’ve added a new URL to my list of recommended websites. It’s called Doxologue and describes itself as "conversing about, and calling for, God-centered worship in the local church." It’s a newly begun conversation between David Ward, who is a good friend; Eric Schumacher, who has written some great hymns; and Kevin Larson, a pastor in Columbia, Missouri. While you may not agree with everything they say, they will definitely cause you to think more deeply and precisely about why and how we worship God. Which is always a good thing. …

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Watts on Prayer #5 – Persuading Us to Pray

I’m in the middle of a writing retreat, working on a book for Crossway Publishers. I mentioned a while back that this book was going to cause me cut back on blogging somewhat. However, I wanted to finish this series today so that I could move on to other things next week. Watts’ final chapter is called “Persuasive Arguments to Learn to Pray.” He begins:“It is to little purpose that the nature of prayer is explained, so many rules framed and directions given to teach persons this divine skill of prayer, if they are not persuaded of the necessity and usefulness of it.” (p. 167) In other words, it’s useless talking about it if we …

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Watts on Prayer #4 – The Spirit of Prayer

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing summaries of chapters from the book A Guide to Prayer by Isaac Watts. I’ve been using it in my own prayer times, and want to share the benefits. I know I could be addressing many other topics, and will eventually get to them. But if my sense is right, I think that prayer, both public and private, is an area of our relationship with God that we would all love to grow in. In his chapter on The Spirit of Prayer Watts reminds us that all the rules and directions he’s laid out for praying will be ineffective without the aid of God’s Spirit. After providing extensive Scriptural support for the Spirit …

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