December 20, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Christmas
As I sit here writing this blog entry with Christmas lights shining through the window, the Christmas tree beautifully dressed with ribbon and ornaments, and the stockings hanging above our fireplace, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ah yes, the Christmas season is here again. There’s always something very comfortable about this time of year. I mean, it feels right: good cheer and good will to all men, “God bless us, every one!” But is that all Christmas is about? Is it just a good feeling of doing good and a sense of nostalgia?
In the first chapter of Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, George Whitefield makes this point, “Shall we yearly celebrate the birth of our temporal king, and shall that of the King of kings be quite forgotten?…No, my dear brethren, let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church with joy in our hearts; let the birth of a redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s love never be forgotten!”
These truths should encourage our hearts to have a gospel-centered Christmas season. Oh, may the adoration and gratefulness of Christ be ever on our lips during this season. George Whitefield again comments, “Did Jesus come into the world to save us from death, and shall we spend no part of our time in conversing about our dear Jesus?”
So let’s use this Christmas season to share the hope that is within us with everyone with whom we come in contact. May others see that we celebrate Christmas differently than the world does: with greater joy, greater gratitude, greater hope, greater generosity, and greater kindness to our fellow man. Let’s not run past this Christmas season, as years gone past, without highlighting the wonderful love of God who sent his Son to die for our sins so that we might have eternal life.
Kurt Weaver is a pastor at Crossway Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
December 19, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Testimonies
From time to time we like to highlight God's wonderful work taking place in one of our local churches. What follows is the wonderful salvation story of Martia Hayes. Martia Hayes is a member of Grace Community Church in Ashburn, VA and appreciates cultural diversity, being hospitable, and is best known for her motto: "As long as your heart beats...dance to the Glory of God."
I grew up with a vague understanding of God. My grandmother often discussed the Lord when I was around her and always listened to Christian music. However, I thought she had to these things because she was…well…old. The most my family spoke of the Lord was during meals when we individually recited “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Bow our heads, we all give thanks; Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” From this prayer, the only thing I knew about God was that He was great and good. God, to me, was simply a “something” out there in the universe that existed. I attended church infrequently because I was taught, “Tia, church is in your heart. It’s not a building.” I was also taught that I had an individual relationship with God, and that it didn’t matter if I attend church.
As a result, I just focused on being a “good person.” On the outside, I appeared happy. I was going to school, studying, making good grades, and working. I prided myself on being independent, strong, and overcoming many of the challenges faced with growing up in Washington, DC and Prince George County, MD. God became a compliment to my accomplishments. However, on the inside, I was deeply troubled.
Since my early twenties, I lived with this emptiness that eventually led to me having suicidal thoughts. I was doing everything right, yet I was left broken, lonely, and rejected. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy with myself. I was accomplished. I was focused and driven. I avoided drugs and crime. I didn’t get pregnant. Yet, I continued to feel this intense emptiness. In fact, in 2007, I wrote these words in my journal “I am 24 years old and I don’t know who I really am or what I’m supposed to be. I’m doing all in life that I’m supposed to do: school, independence, etc. But yet I still find emptiness.”
I looked to various things to fill that emptiness. I began to adopt a life that consisted of partying, drinking, and sexual impurity. My image often conformed to what was trending in the world and yet, I was never satisfied. By age 28 I was dying spiritually and physically, after my last rejection from a guy I was dating, and being fed up with unanswered questions that were torturing me for years. At the beginning of January 2012 I was researching ways to die.
I noticed my suicidal thoughts over the years increasingly grew to the point where this time felt different. This time, I took things too far. I walked in my bathroom and opened my medicine cabinet to see what pills I had. Disappointed by the selection, I went on the internet and put these words in the search engine: “best methods to commit suicide.” Till this day, I cannot recall what that search brought up. I can only recall having an interruption of sanity. I decided to call the police and explain to them that I was alone and scared, and I had no family to reach out to, and I didn’t know what to do. I asked for help because I felt tempted to kill myself. The dispatcher that took my call sat in silence for a minute before he said in a nonchalant tone, “What do you want us to do?”
I informed him that I wasn’t sure, but I just felt scared, and maybe the department could direct me to someone. The officer again repeated, with the same tone, “So, what do you want us to do?” Immediately I started to feel foolish and rejected. I remember apologizing extensively for wasting their time with this nonsense and hung the phone up. I instinctively got up to follow through with suicide.
Before anything happened, I recall feeling my phone vibrate. I was smiling because I saw a little ambulance with sirens running across my screen. I even chuckled a little because I didn’t know what was happening. I finally realized that it was someone calling me. When I answered the phone it was the dispatcher that I had hung up on.
His voice was shivering, and I heard nervousness as he apologized to me and begged me to stay on the phone with him. In less than five minutes, I heard police officers knocking down my door. They began searching my place and found the pills that I had pulled out of my medicine cabinet. They immediately called the ambulance to take me to the hospital. Once at the hospital, when I tried to leave, the doctors informed me that for my safety, if I left I would be arrested. From the hospital, I was committed to a psychiatric hospital. I was strapped to a stretcher and had tubes running from my body.
While riding to the psychiatric hospital in the ambulance, I experienced a moment of shame. I realized, no matter how much of a good person I was, it didn’t matter in that moment. All my accomplishments, independence, drive, money etc., couldn’t help me in that moment of shame. I was emotionally and physically numb. I lifted my eyes, and without any doing of my own strength, I found myself saying to God, “I can’t do this anymore. Please help me. My ways are killing me.”
For the first time, God became my refuge. He was no longer a compliment to my accomplishments. In that moment, I let go of everything to finally embrace Him. I can’t really explain in words what happened after I embraced the Lord, but I had this “feeling” to fight and live. Although I wasn’t sure how to live life, I was certain I did not want to die. For weeks, I constantly asked for help and protection. Night after night, when the sun set, I cried and asked for protection. I looked up, not sure if He was listening, but I sought Him daily.
On February 3, 2012, after weeks of seeking His help, I was suddenly overcome with sorrow as my own strength was failing. I started to struggle again with thoughts of suicide to help ease my pain. That night, I wrote the following words in my journal “God, I am scared!! It’s Friday and I am alone. Please give me strength. Protect me. I am so scared.” The following day, I woke up. I don’t even remember falling asleep. I was overcome with joy because I rested and I survived that night.
I wanted to know more about God and ways to seek Him, so I bought a Bible and researched local churches in my area. Grace Community Church popped up immediately on my search engine. I spent at least four hours on the website, viewing pictures, reading about the pastors, and the Gospel. However, what particularly stood out to me was the section on “care groups.” While reading about the different care groups, I came across the single’s group and I read “singleness is a gift.” Care groups were described as an opportunity for members to care for each other while sharing God’s word. This particularly stood out to me because although I was beginning to rely on God, I felt I needed people to help me stay connected to Him. As I was reading about the different care groups, I begin to understand seasons of life. I never viewed my season of singleness as a gift. I always viewed singleness as the result of not being desirable or good enough. I was baffled by the idea that I was given a gift that will allow me to serve God without distractions.
From that point, I wanted to know more. The next day, on February 5, 2012 I went to Grace Community Church. I wore red pants, my hair was barely done, no makeup, and I was scared. These may be minor details for most people, but that Sunday morning, I wanted to simply go to Church. I grew up where great emphasis was placed on your “Sunday’s Best” attire. I didn’t want to focus on my looks and didn’t care how I appealed to others. To some degree, I was hoping my appearance would keep people from approaching me. I was scared because I was a black girl in a predominately white church. I wasn’t sure how I would be treated.
I remember sitting in the back near the door, feeling ugly and not wanting to talk to anyone. A handful of the members greeted me and made sure I was not alone that day. Although I wanted to resist, Catherine, a member of the church, gathered my belongings and guided me to sit with her and her husband JB. I was then invited to lunch, and later to a Super Bowl party. For the first time, I felt fulfilled. What fulfilled me was seeing love as explained in 1Corinthians 13. What fulfilled me was hearing folks constantly talk about their love for God and sharing His word so casually in conversations.
I was so happy that day that I cried and prayed to God that I would have more days like my first day at church. I even called my mother, crying as I explained to her that there was “something” among these group of people and I wanted it.
I started attending Catherine and JB’s care group. On my first visit, I shared with JB and Catherine that something was happening to me and that it felt good. I was starting to connect to the Bible and I felt full of hope and peace. JB asked me if I knew what the gospel was. I was ashamed by my answer of, “No”, but JB explained to me that it meant Good News. There was a problem in this world that separated us from God. In order to save us, God sent Jesus to bear all our sins. He died for sinners on the cross to save us, and now we are forgiven and have new life. I cried and cried as he was sharing that Christ suffered to give me hope and eternal life. Before I left, JB encouraged me to learn about Jesus by reading the first four books in the New Testament.
Every day I read, cried, and prayed for forgiveness. I couldn’t stop reading this story about Jesus and what He had endured to bring people to God. Finally, I knew who God was. God began to move with love within me. I was being transformed to His image through the reading of His word. The Lord started occupying first place in my heart the more I was learning about Him. The intense emptiness I was experiencing was going away with each day I was following Christ and reading the word of God. God was filling me with His love and faithfulness. He was filling the holes in my heart, cleansing me, and making me more like Him. I was starting to understand that people and things can never satisfy me. I started to understand that my accomplishments in this world meant nothing to God. After reading about David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 16:7, God taught me that what’s most important to God is the heart.
I was hungry and thirsty for righteousness. I wanted to be taught His design for everything my heart desired. I started learning God’s design for womanhood, manhood, marriage, the church, children, money, sex etc. I was baptized on August 5, 2012. Later, on December 9, 2012 I became a member of Grace Community Church. I am now 30 years old, living life for Christ. The intense emptiness that I was feeling is now occupied by His mercy, grace, and Word. I live for His glory. God is no longer this “something” that exists in the universe. God is something that exists and lives in me. I no longer view church as something in my heart. I am now the church, which represents belonging to the body of Christ, living to spread the Good News to others.
December 17, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Church planting
We recently had the privilege of adopting Community of Grace Church, located in Buffalo, New York, into our family of churches. We asked pastor Rob Saathoff to tell us a little bit about the church.
How long has you church been in existence?
The church began in 1990.
How long have you been the pastor of the church?
I came to pastor the church August 1991.
How did you become the pastor?
The semester before I graduated from seminary, my wife and I took our spring break to visit some friends who graduated from seminary the prior semester. He and his wife moved to western New York to plant a church. The church I currently pastor was the sponsoring church for his plant even though it did not have a pastor yet. During our spring break visit I preached at the sponsoring church and a connection was made that started a process that ended with my wife and I coming to Buffalo in August of 1991. Originally neither the church or I was interested in each other, but God used that process to turn our hearts toward each other. Just a side note, being a native Texan, it has been a bittersweet thing to have all my children born yankees. God’s grace is sufficient.
What are some things which make your church unique?
I don’t think of my church as being that unique. I think we are probably like most churches with solid, faithful members who have a really great Savior. We love Christ and are devoted to his will and kingdom. We love the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to this, I love that we are multi-generational. I love how all generations are serving together. I love that my church is committed to disciples making disciples. I love how members of the church are involved in a variety of local ministries that serve single mothers, the homeless, and crisis pregnancies. I love the close fellowship and support we experience as a church family. I love that every Sunday is like a family reunion around a gospel feast. I love that I have been in the church long enough to see young children become young adults, get married and have their own children. I love how generous, kind, and welcoming my church is.
What was your first contact with Sovereign Grace?
I first became aware of Sovereign Grace through their music. I was looking for contemporary songs that have some doctrinal grit. My wife, Terri, and I began to notice the same copyright on a number of songs we loved to sing. I did some research and found Sovereign Grace Ministries (PDI at the time) and saw they offered a worship conference. I planned to attend the next worship conference, but circumstances prevented me. The following January I was able to take a group of young adults to the New Attitude conference in Louisville. While there I was befriended by a Sovereign Grace pastor who invited me to the pastor’s conference. I was stunned by what I heard at both New Attitude and the pastor’s conference. Every song, every sermon, every prayer was textured and permeated with the gospel in ways I have never experienced.
Why do you want to become part of Sovereign Grace?
It became apparent to me that my church and I were running on parallel tracks with Sovereign Grace. What God was doing in my church seemed to be mirrored in Sovereign Grace. We held similar values such as the priority of the gospel, sound doctrine, expository preaching and the vital role of the Holy Spirit. I realized we were essentially a Sovereign Grace church though we were not officially a member. I also saw gospel fruit in so many of the people who had befriended us in SG and wanted that fruit in my life, in my marriage, my children and in my church. We want to be part of what God is doing through Sovereign Grace: to preach Christ, and to plant and support Christ-exalting, gospel-centered churches.
How is your church reaching out to your local community?
In September the church was called to pray and fast, asking God to fill us with a passion to bring Christ to our community. Currently the whole church is being trained through the evangelistic curriculum “MyCircle Initiative.” This training inspires people to be on mission with God by taking responsibility to give the gospel to people in our circle of influence. In this training we learn what it means to have a gospel presence in someone’s life in order to have a gospel voice. Through this training my church is challenged to pray everyday for unbelieving family, friends and neighbors, and to seek weekly opportunities to give a gospel witness.
You can find out more about Community of Grace Church on their website.
December 16, 2013 by
By Mike Seaver
“We can accomplish more together than we can individually.” While most of us know this is true, this is not often a statement used when discussing the cooperation of local churches. Partnership among local churches is not always valued, and sometimes it is competitively undermined.
However, for Sovereign Grace Church of the Lowcountry, we saw this statement fulfilled out on a local level recently. Two weeks ago, we partnered with 12 other local gospel-believing churches from across denominational lines for an event called “Love Gave.” Our goal: to raise $150,000 for local adoptions and orphan relief in the lowcountry (that’s the coast of South Carolina for ya’ll uninformed types). We started this past Thursday at 9AM and finished on Saturday around 11PM. It was over 60 straight hours of talking about adoption on a live streaming website and asking Walmart shoppers to purchase goods for those in the foster care system.
It was exhausting, but the love God has given us for adoption and the orphans spurred us on. I (Mike) was able to do many interviews with people who have adopted children as well as interview adults who had been adopted as children. I was blown away by God’s grace in how physical/legal adoption points continually to our spiritual adoption in Christ. We are so loved, and so we can love others (1 John 4:19).
We are loved by a God who finds no problem with flexing his muscles to provide money for adoptions and orphan relief. He cares for them and loves them even more than we do. By God's grace, we were able to provide $10,000 adoption grants for eleven different families. We raised $159,000 total! We did this, not in competition with other churches, but as a display of the unity that the gospel brings to local churches! We certainly can accomplish more together than we can individually. We’re grateful we were one of the churches that got to learn this lesson last week doing Love Gave.
To find out more about LoveGave.com, you can watch the video below.
Mike Seaver is the lead pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of the Lowcountry.
December 16, 2013 by
Why does heart-felt joy often seem so elusive? Good news of great joy. Yes. Yes. Yes. We believe it. But why do our hearts often feel so heavy and dark and unresponsive to the wonders we sing about?
I'm sure there are many good reasons. But here's a big one that I have discovered. It's found tucked away in a little gem hidden away in the book of Proverbs:
An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices. Prov 29:6
Catch the parallelism here. The first line throws light on the second and vice versa.
Being caught in a trap is not conducive to joy. Being released from a trap however releases the soul to sing! As Oswald Smiths hymn proclaims, “It's the song of the soul set free!”
Maybe before we can fully respond to God in worship,we need to fully respond to sin in repentance. We gaze best at Him when we look away from all that is not Him. Perhaps before we pursue our advent readings, attend the Christmas play, or the party at a friends house, or sing Christmas carols, we need to ask the Lord to free us from sins that have captured our hearts. Maybe a prayer something like this...“Oh holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.”
Then as he comes to us by his Spirit, we root out any joy-killers lurking in our hearts, such as...
- Bitterness – Is there anyone you do not like, that you will not forgive, who you avoid speaking to that you once enjoyed sweet fellowship with? Christ initiated and pursued those who sinned against him even when rebuffed. That's the direction the gospel river flows in. Its hard swimming against the current—joyless really.
- Lust – Anything you are looking at that is feeding sensual cravings? Little nibbles of forbidden fruit? Any secret habits? Any secret thoughts? Any private fantasies ensnaring the soul? Each nibble takes a bite out of our soul and smothers joy to death.
- Greed – What do you think about most of the time? When was the last time you gave anonymously without even the thought of a receipt? Nothing like extravagant generosity to jump start joy!
- Isolation – Turtle pride is just as bad as peacock pride because both are focused on oneself rather than others. So glad the Son spun out from the circle of the Trinity towards our lost race. Any closed circle you need to spin out of?
- Ingratitude- Are we more aware of what is missing from our lives or what is present? Have we stopped noticing the little things? Are we more aware of annoying sins in others or of the growing grace in them? Have we lost our awe of the divinity-humanity bold rescue jumping into the bottomless abyss of the cross?!
Joy is like a hot air balloon. It needs more than something to make it rise. It also requires untying from the stakes that tie it to the ground. My friends, joy might be as close this Christmas as just one more untied knot.
Evil people are trapped by sin, but the righteous escape, shouting for joy. Prov 29:6 (NLT)
December 13, 2013 by
This morning was a three-snooze morning. You know, the kind where the battle with the alarm takes at least three snoozes before you finally give in and get up. The first snooze is pure instinct: silence that noise! The second is more like settling a grudge: it’s back again…SMACK! That’ll teach it! The third is a pleading compromise with reality: please give me five more minutes, and I promise I’ll get up!
That first part of the day can be pretty rough. Though I’m a morning person by nature, I still need something to motivate me to roll out of bed and start the day. The hope of a cup of coffee and a piece of peanut butter toast is enough to get me through the first few minutes, but once the coffee is poured and the peanut butter is spread, I need something more. Remind me again: why did I get out of bed?
What’s your reason for getting up in the morning? Beyond the insistence of the alarm, beyond the coffee and the breakfast…what’s the motivation for your day? What gets you up and keeps you going?
You might not self-consciously reflect on these questions (especially not in the early morning!). But you and I need a reason to get up, a sufficient purpose to face the day’s challenges. Here’s the conviction that, though I need continual reminding, ultimately gets me going each day: today I can be a partner in God’s work.
Could there be a better reason to vanquish that beeping alarm and start your morning? Today God wants to use you and me as partners in his glorious work in the world. How so, you ask?
Well, for starters, each one of us is made in God’s image, and part of that image-bearing includes the call to take dominion over creation as God’s representatives (see Gen. 1). I know, that sounds overly theological and probably like it has nothing to do with your day. But let’s think about it. Taking dominion is using our God-given gifts and energy to bring order out of chaos and fruitfulness out of that which, without us, has only the potential to be fruitful.
That’s why God calls each of us to specific vocations: carpentry, business, music, cooking, plumbing, mothering, and all the rest of the spectrum of human activities. And when we take dominion in our specific callings, we are partnering in God’s work. As Martin Luther observed, God answers our prayers for daily bread through people: a farmer, a baker, and everyone else in the long chain from field to peanut butter toast (okay, that’s my addition; but I’m sure Luther would have eaten peanut butter toast if he’d had the option).
But let’s take this another step. In Christ, we are now part of God’s redemptive plan to “gospelize” the whole world. We are God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus, created for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). And you know what? Most of the time, those good works are nestled in the folds of ordinary life. Let’s make this personal: God has good works prepared for you, in your ordinary, day-to-day life.
I’m convinced that if, for a moment, you and I could see the mundane, routine moments of our days from God’s perspective, we would be amazed. You thought your day was a wasted battle with dirty laundry, dirty diapers, and dirty dishes. But from God’s perspective, that day is part of a pattern of faithfulness that he is using to create a greenhouse for the gospel seeds you have planted in your children. Yes, it’s ordinary—but in Christ, God transposes that ordinary effort into part of his extraordinary plan.
You thought your day at the office was a weary trudge through a mass of emails, phone calls, and meetings, and you almost forgot the brief encouragement you gave to the unbelieving coworker who is contemplating a divorce. Such a small, ordinary thing—but from God’s perspective, that word was a part of the divine kindness that is slowly, unfailingly leading that man to repentance and faith. Ordinary, yes—but through Christ, a partnering with God in his work.
We could go on. Every Christian is a partner with God in his plan to spread the gospel to every corner of the globe. We live ordinary days and ordinary lives—but because we are united to the extraordinary Jesus, we live days and lives of eternal significance.
So tomorrow when the alarm goes off, hit the snooze if you need to. But when your feet hit the floor, remember this: today, in Christ, you can be a partner with God.
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.