Bring Worship To Your Family

Bring Worship To Your Family

 

It's important that we bring our families to worship, but it is also important to bring worship to our families. Here are a few recourses that may help you as you seek to disciple your children. Each of these books are also available to purchase in our Resource Center. 

 

THE LAMB

This book is an incredible way to teach your kids the truth of the gospel early. What makes this books great is the way it, “makes a clear link between Jesus and the Old Testament sacrificial lamb.” The Lamb begins with creation and explores foundational themes in the Bible. It concludes by showing God’s faithfulness in redemption and clearly articulates the gospel in a way your children can grasp. 

THE OLOGY 

Sometimes we think theology is only for the grownups but The Ology is a great way to begin teaching your children theology when they are young. “This beautifully illustrated storybook ushers children into a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder in which stye discover life changing truths about God, themselves, and the world around them.” 

THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE

The Jesus Storybook Bible, “tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby, the Child upon whom everything would depend.” This book is well-illustrated and walks through the Bible is a way that shows Jesus is at the center of God’s story of salvation. 

THE GARDEN, THE CURTAIN, AND THE CROSS

“This book is a tremendous resource for parents and children who want to understand the grand storyline of Scripture. The Garden, The Curtain, and the Cross not only teaches children the stories in the Bible but the story of the Bible — one that culminates in the atoning work of Jesus Christ who gives broken sinners access to God.” It is packed with incredible illustrations and has a coloring book that follows along with the story. However, don't let the coloring book fool you, The Garden, The Curtain, and the Cross is a theologically rich book that will help your kids grow in their understanding of Scripture. 

LONG STORY SHORT

If you are looking for something to help bring worship to your family, Long Story Short is a great resource. This book is “careful, creative, and Christ-centered without being corny, confusing, or condescending.” It also includes great questions to help lead family discussion. It only takes a few minutes to work through each section, but the time can be incredibly valuable as you help inculcate the truths of Scripture into the hearts of your children. 

 

Blessed Assurance Leads Us To Praise

Blessed Assurance Leads Us To Praise

Though she was blind most of her life, the impact Fanny Crosby made while alive was great. “It is estimated that she wrote more than 8,000 gospel song texts in her lifetime. Her hymns have been and are still being sung more frequently than those of any other gospel hymn writer.”[1] It was not uncommon for Fanny Crosby’s friends to compose music and then ask her to add words. This is the case with the song Blessed Assurance written by Fanny Crosby in 1873. The music for the hymn was composed by Mrs. Phoebe Knapp who was a close friend to Fanny. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this hymn, aside from its rich theological truth, is the rich imagery used to describe those truths. Let’s take a closer look at just a few of the incredible phrases we see in this hymn. 

 

“Blessed assurance Jesus is mine.” 

One of the most precious realities for believers is the understanding that “Jesus is mine.” Don’t misunderstand this concept. We do not own Jesus! When a husband says, “This is my wife,” it is not because he owns her. He says this because he is in relationship with her and they are united in a special way. 

When a person places their faith in Jesus a union also takes place. Jesus brings us from death to life and our relationship to him is forever changed. Just like a husband says, “That is my wife,” the believer at that moment can say, “That is my Jesus.” This relationship with Jesus provides assurance that supersedes any assurance this world can offer. The Apostle John writes, And, this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life. Here John simply affirms what we find throughout all of scripture; our assurance is certain if it is rooted in Jesus. 

 

“Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.” 

In his high priestly prayer Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[2]  In other words, eternal life is not primarily about heaven or even escaping hell. Eternal life is primarily about God bringing us into relationship with himself. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” In a very real sense, the greatest benefit we receive from salvation is already available to us, in Jesus. However, we also know that this world is not how is should be and that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Through the resurrection of Jesus, we have been born again to a living hope, “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…ready to be revealed in the last time.”[3] So while eternal life starts the moment we place our faith in Jesus, we also know that our experiences now are simply hors d’oeuvres (or a foretaste) compared to the glory we will experience for all eternity. 

 

“Angels, descending, bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.” 

This is perhaps one of the more unique phrases in the song. Though it is tough to know exactly what Fanny Crosby had in mind when she penned these words, we find in scripture that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.[4] While angels do at times minister to believers, it is important to remember that the primary way we experience the love of God is through the people of God. This doesn’t mean the song is inaccurate; simply that angels are not the primary way God mediates his love and mercy today. Certainly God is more than able to encourage believers in any way he desires but the primary way he works is through the local church. So as we gather throughout the week, we should constantly look for opportunities to show love and mercy to one another. 

 

Blessed Assurance Leads Us To Praise! 

When we consider our story, there is only one right response, namely to praise our Savior. Paul said it this way in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” John Piper says, “God is not worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed.”[5]  But, how do we learn to treasure God? Perhaps one of the best ways is by recalling to mind the blessings we have in Him. Like Fanny Crosby, when we understand the Blessed Assurance we have in Jesus, our lives will naturally overflow with praise. 

It is said that when Mrs. Phoebe Knapp brought the tune now associated with Blessed Assurance to Fanny Crosby and asked, “‘What does this tune say’ Fanny responded immediately, ‘Why, that says: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine.’”[6] Those words are no less true today than they were when she first wrote them and our response should be no different either. In light of our assurance, how could we do anything less than praise our Savior for the work he has done in our life?


[1] Osbeck, Kenneth W. 1982. 101 Hymn Stories. 4th Printing edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, pp. 43.

[2] 1 Peter 1:4-5

[3] Hebrews 1:14

[4] Piper, John. 2011. Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Multnomah, pp. 22. 

[5] 101 Hymn Stories, pp. 43. 

THEY SANG A HYMN OF PRAISE

THEY SANG A HYMN OF PRAISE

A governor called Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan (around AD 112) seeking advice on how to handle a newfound dilemma called “Christians.” Were they to be researched? Or punished? Should they be shut down or allowed to continue their “excessive investigation?” In order to investigate these Christians, Pliny tortured two female slaves. His matter-of-fact description of having the girls beaten is saddening. Pliny also described the gathering of Christians to Trajan. He wrote: “that they [the Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god...”[1]

“They sang a hymn to Christ.” Have you ever wondered what the early church music was like? What songs did they sing? How many songs were in a service? The apostle Paul said a defining mark of someone whose life is being led by the Spirit of God is music. “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:18-19). But we know very little about the music of the early church.

It is possible that some early church songs have been right in front of us, but we don’t know how to recognize them. For example, did you know some famous Bible passages are considered to be hymns? That is, they are poetic expressions of praise to God. Some Bible Versions (e.g. HCSB, NET) set the texts as poetry to show their distinct nature. A few of passages considered to be hymnic in nature are Colossians 1:15-20, Titus 3:4-7, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:3-4, Ephesians 1:3-14, and more. Perhaps the most famous, most glorious, theologically rich, hymn is Philippians 2:6-11. While many students of Scripture know it as one of the great theological passages about Jesus, few know that Philippians 2:6-11—the kenosis passage—is likely a hymn to Christ.

Bible scholars believe these texts to be hymnic because of their style, structure, and unusual vocabulary.[2] “The words are obviously carefully chosen, with the result that, when the verses are read aloud, the stress falls in such a way as to give rhythmical cadence to the lines. When the text is written in the form of poetry, this fact is more easily appreciated.”[3] Even if you don’t know Greek you immediately see how significant those texts of Scripture are. Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1, for example, are loved by many for their theologically rich, strikingly beautiful language about Jesus Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God.” “He is radiance of the glory of God and the exact representation of his nature!”

Does it really matter that these texts may be hymns? In one sense, not really. We need not get hung up on questions like “what was the original purpose of the hymn?” or “did Paul write this or did he include an already existing hymn?” We ought to study these hymns as they exist within the inspired text of Scripture rather than trying to get behind the text.

In another sense, however, if these hymns are a glimpse into the worship of the early church, they remind us that even the most complex theology is meant to lead us to praise our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The kenosis (Philippians 2), the hypostatic union (Hebrews 1), the deity of Christ (Colossians 1), even the doctrine of election (Ephesians 1) are not just texts for theologians. They are songs for every Christian. Gordon Fee said, “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” 


[1]  You can read the whole letter and Trajan’s response at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html

[2]  O’Brien, Peter. Philippians (NIGTC) 188-89).

[3]  Martin, Philippians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 110–111.

DEATH IS GAIN

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Imagine for a moment that you were given the choice between life and death. Which would you choose? For many of us, the question seems almost foolish. Duh, of course we choose LIFE. A more analytical person might say, “It depends on what is at stake.” But, if life and death were to run for office the popular vote would no doubt be in favor of life. Perhaps it is superfluous to say but life would then, unquestionably, be reelected for a second term. After all the choice seems elementary. We choose life!

However, this is what makes the Apostle Paul’s statements in Philippians 1:20-23 so astonishing. Unlike many, Paul did not view death as something to be feared or even avoided. Rather Paul considered death to be gain. Gain? Really? So what exactly allowed Paul to view death as gain? These verses teach us that death is viewed as gain when Jesus is seen as magnificent. This was true of the Apostle Paul and it is true of us as well.

In Philippians 1:20a Paul says, “...it is my eager expectation and hope.” At first it might seem strange to see these words side by side. After all, if Paul expects something why does he also hope that it will happen? But, Paul is not using the word “hope” in the same way we typically do. Paul is speaking in much more sure and matter of fact terms. We could define this kind of hope as, “expectation combined with assurance.”[1] This hope that Paul has is stated both negatively and positively in the second half of verse 20. Negatively he says, “that I will not be at all put to shame.” Positively Paul’s hope is that, “Christ would be magnified in his body.” Much like a telescope helps us to better understand the magnitude of Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. So also, Paul wanted the magnitude of Jesus to be better understood through his life – but also in his death. This is what he meant when he said, “whether by life or by death.” At this point we must pause and ask ourselves a question. How can a person show Jesus to be magnificent in BOTH their living and in their dying?

For many of us, it is not difficult to see how a life lived for Jesus can indeed magnify him. It is magnifying him in death that doesn’t seem to follow conventional wisdom. The hope found in the gospel, however, is not conventional. So while some may say that death, “robs you of the very life that can magnify him [Jesus].”[2] Paul anticipates that Christ will be magnified in both his living and his dying. He says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Sometimes it is easy to read these words without considering their importance. But for Paul, this verse was far more than a great saying to screen print on a t-shirt or coffee mug. This verse is a summary statement of the proceeding verses (i.e. verses 19-20). It tells us HOW Christ could be magnified in Paul’s life and death. Verses 22-26 could be described as a commentary explaining both halves of verse 21 more clearly.

In Philippians 1:23b we find how Christ could be magnified in his death. He says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” You might ask, far better than what? The answer. He is better then anything! How do we magnify Christ in death? “We magnify Christ in our dying precisely to the degree that we believe fellowship with him in heaven is more preferred than any person or any thing in this earth.”[3] When we view life this way, it changes the way we understand death. Death is no longer seen as a something that threatens too rob us of the things we love. Rather it seen as the fulfillment of our greatest longing, namely to be with Jesus. This is what Paul means when he says to die is gain. For Paul, “Death is gain because death means more of Christ, and he’s better than anything this life can give.”[4] 


[1] Eadie, John. A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. Reprint ed. Minneapolis: James and Klock Christian Publishing Co., 1977, 45-46.

[2] Piper, John. Don’t Waste Your Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009, 66.

[3] ‘John Piper’s Candidating Sermon at Bethlehem Baptist’. January 27, 1980. Accessed March 30, 2016. http://www. desiringgod.org/messages/john-pipers-candidating-sermon-at-bethlehem-baptist.

[4] ‘Philippians 1: 20–23: To Die Is Gain’. December 18, 2014. Accessed March 30, 2016. http://www.desiringgod.org/labs/ to-die-is-gain. 

 

Christ is Mine Forevermore

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For the last couple weeks, our church has been learning a modern hymn from CityAlight: Christ is Mine Forevermore. The hymn contains an absolutely beautiful melody that transfers perfectly for congregational singing. It is a highly accessible melody. The hymn also superbly uses the English language to convey heart warming and convicting truths of God.

One of my personal favorite lines is noted above. "Mine are tears in times of sorrow, darkness not yet understood." This phrase resonates with me because we have the intellectual understanding that God is sovereign over all, yet we have a difficult time reconciling that intellectual truth with our hearts. We know the world is skewed because of sin, and we are waiting for the day when Christ will reconcile all things to himself. The final phrase of the song speaks to Christ's reconciliation: the author says, "And mine are keys to Zion city, Where beside the King I walk, For there my heart has found its treasure, Christ is mine forevermore." 

This is a great song to incorporate into time with your family or in a personal moment of reflection. I have included links, lyrics, and a song video below. Check it out.

 

Christ Is Mine Forevermore

Mine are days that God has numbered
I was made to walk with Him
Yet I look for worldly treasure
And forsake the King of kings

But mine is hope in my Redeemer
Though I fall His love is sure
For Christ has paid for every failing
I am His forevermore

Mine are tears in times of sorrow
Darkness not yet understood
Through the valley I must travel
Where I see no earthly good


But mine is peace that flows from heaven
And the strength in times of need
I know my pain will not be wasted
Christ completes His work in me


Mine are days here as a stranger
Pilgrim on a narrow way
One with Christ I will encounter
Harm and hatred for His name


But mine is armour for this battle
Strong enough to last the war
And He has said He will deliver
Safely to the golden shore


And mine are keys to Zion city
Where beside the King I walk
For there my heart has found its treasure
Christ is mine forevermore


Come rejoice now O my soul
For His love is my reward
Fear is gone and hope is sure
Christ is mine forevermore

CCLI Song # 7036096
Jonny Robinson | Rich Thompson
© 2016 CityAlight Music
For use solely with the SongSelect. Terms of Use. All rights reserved. www.ccli.com
CCLI License # 171426 - Photo taken from CityAlight Facebook page

Holy Holy Holy

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Behind the Music

We worship a triune God. This means that we worship a God that is absolutely one God yet, at the very same time, three distinct persons. The Trinity has always been a hallmark of Christian doctrine. Even though it is a fundamental doctrine to our faith, it is a very confounding doctrine. The Trinity was a major discussion for the early church fathers and that discussion continues today.

While the doctrine can be confusing, it is comforting as well. We worship a God that is far greater than us and much more complex than we can understand. It wouldn't be comforting to worship a God that we could completely wrap our finite minds around. 

The complexity of this doctrine was not lost on Reginald Heber, the author of Holy Holy Holy. He was masterful with words and wanted to capture for the church the beauty and mystery of the trinity. Heber composed Holy Holy Holy, during the Romantic era when the broader culture began to use the english language in a more poetic fashion. Holy Holy Holy is a perfect example of poetry. In fact, it has been hailed as one of the greatest hymns from that era. "Heber shows his mastery of poetic design in composing each verse to re-emphasise the doctrine of the Trinity by using a 'trinity of words' to say something about God." 

This Sunday we will be singing a fantastic arrangement of Holy Holy Holy from Highlands Worship. This new arrangement keeps the integrity of the familiar melody but adds needed space for reflection with a great Hallelujah Chorus & a bridge section. Hope you will come sing with us. 


  1. This blog post is an adaption from a previous post in 2014.
  2. The quoted texted from Sermon Audio 

Family Roundup

A child can have no greater inheritance than the godly teaching and example of his parents. —John MacArthur

10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017 - Start off the new year with some great goals!

Parents: It’s Time to Wake Up About Pornography, Sexting, and Your Children - "The great majority of children, especially boys but also girls, who are allowed access to pornography will view it, either inadvertently or purposefully, and many of those will become addicted to it, ruining their lives and in many cases ruining their future marriages."

Husband, Learn Your Wife - "Every husband must dwell together with his wife in such a way that he knows her -- very well. That means, quite practically, that husbands must date (and continue to date!) their wives. The wedding ceremony doesn’t mean the work of learning one another has ceased. Rather, it only has launched!"

 

 

 

Hope in Adversity

With Christmas coming right around the corner, perhaps you, like me, are getting excited for all the things that go along with Christmas Day. Maybe you look forward to reading the Christmas story with your family on Christmas Day, eating Christmas meals, or simply enjoying time spent with friends and family. No doubt the holiday season is a special time. However, it’s no surprise that often there are things that fight for our attention this time of year and add stress to moments that should be nothing but pure enjoyment. Maybe it’s a relationship conflict. Maybe you, like many others, are feeling stretched financially and are unsure what 2017 might bring. Maybe you are beginning to get discouraged because of a lingering sin in your life. Or perhaps you just find yourself in a dark spot and feel abandoned. All of these are real things that add a huge weight to what should be a joyful time of year. 

Let me remind you, however, that on that very first Christmas in Bethlehem, Jesus was born in the middle of what some would call a “scandalous relationship.” The very reason Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem was to be taxed, and the Jews had lived 400 years feeling abandoned, wondering if the Messiah would come. It is into this context that we see the Savior of the world born. Jesus willingly entered into our “mess” by veiling himself in human flesh. The very one one who formed galaxies lay in a manger. The Creator of the world did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage, but instead identified with His creation by taking the form of a man. It can be easily forgotten, with all the commercialized nativity scenes, that Christ was actually born into a rather dark situation. Yet, isn’t that the reason He came, to provide hope in the midst of our adversity? 

So the next time you feel overwhelmed this Christmas season by the very real struggles of life and the trials you are facing, remember: Christ took the form of fragile humanity and entered into our broken world. "This is where the Christian message stands tall above any other teaching on pain and suffering and goes beyond any other answers to our problem… [for] Christianity alone offers a person.” [1] His name is Jesus. He is Emmanuel, God with us, and He is the reason we celebrate Christmas!


[1] Zacharias, Ravi and Vince Vitale. Why Suffering? Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’T Make Sense. United States: Little, Brown & Company, 2014, pp. 30. 

The Cause of Christ

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What do you want your life to be known for? What causes are you passionate about? What do you want people to remember you for when you are gone? Do you want people to think of your ability to lead an organization? Do you want to be remembered as a great software designer? How about your striking appearance? Maybe you want to be remembered for your dope skills on the basketball court! Maybe, you are more noble, and want to be remembered as a good husband, wife, father, or mother. Our old will constantly battles our new desires in Christ. John Calvin famously stated that "our hearts are idol factories". Every pursuit or desire apart from Christ will be in vain. It is easy for us to want to be remembered for the wrong thing. 

During this Advent season, we want to remind ourselves that the only worthy cause is Christ. The Apostle Paul was a great example for us when he wrote, "For me to Live is Christ, and to die is gain." Our lives should be reoriented around this truth: we want to live for the Christ. Every ability, talent, and hobby must be recognized as a gift from the Creator, and therefore, point us back to him.  

"The Cause of Christ,"  by Kari Jobe is written to correct and reorient our hearts to live only for Christ. Check out the final stanza and use it as a prayer this season:

It is not fame that I desire

Nor stature in my brother’s eye

I pray it’s said about my life

That I lived more to build Your name than mine

Family Roundup

3 Parenting Myths We Are All Tempted To Believe - "The truth is that even the perfect environment offers no guarantees of successful parenting, that raising godly children is not the ultimate goal of your life, and that you are dependent upon others in raising your children."

When You Want to Change Your Husband - "What should a married woman do when she wants her husband’s behavior to change? What’s a good starting point for initiating this kind of conversation with your spouse?"

3 Ways to Help Your Kids With Peer Pressure - "Peer pressure is like mushrooms, it grows best in the dark. Don’t let weeks or even months go between conversations you have about it."