It’s a strange thing to have so much going on but not a whole lot to say. At least it is for me. I used to be the kind of person that was always writing things down, but now it seems like either the words have run out or I’ve forgotten how to share them.
This is probably due to the nature of what has been going on. Things are absolutely happening but they’re not at a point where I can really talk about them properly yet. Exciting things, but it’s still early days.
I can say that I have been doing a lot of reading as of late. While I have friends that write lots of blog posts about the books they read, I don’t think that is something I’m going to end up doing. I’m not a particularly fast reader and I find that I don’t often have a whole lot to say when I’ve finished reading a book.
The nature of the books that I’m reading right now leave me with work to do rather than words to write.
Other than this, life is generally a little bit crazy. It was properly crazy while the kids were still in school, but even when you aren’t going to get to take a vacation, summer does bring a bit of calm to things.
This is kind of a non-post. It’s mostly so that the blog doesn’t look completely abandoned since the last time I posted was back in March.
I’m hoping to start posting more regularly. They might be a bit… more like commenting on articles I read or something like that. Not really the big drawn-out pieces I always hoped I would be writing. There’s only so much you can do when you have a big family, work full time and help lead a ministry in the local church.
As I’ve written previously, I’ve been reading a book by John Calvin called A Little Book on the Christian Life. It’s an amazing book and you should absolutely buy it and read it. Seriously. It’s only $5 for the ebook version. It’s a quick read if you don’t have four kids and a full time job and ministry responsibilities. Actually, even then, it’s a quick read.
Each chapter takes about 20 minutes to work through and what you get in return is blessed.
Reading this little book is like being spoken to by your pastor with a Bible between the two of you. It isn’t filled with complicated theology or any mention of the Canons of Dort that somehow keep getting pinned solely to Calvin.
Instead, what you read is an exhortation to treasure the Word of God and relationship with Him above all else. More than riches, family, comfort or life itself.
That last bit is… well, it takes on a whole new meaning when you are flying.
My flight left on time and was looking to arrive something like a half hour early. I was feeling good. That’s when the turbulence began.
When we left Orlando, the pilot told us that the weather in Chicago was 79 and clear. When we were over Indiana, some passengers noticed that we had begun to fly in a circle. That’s when we were told that the temperature in Chicago had dropped to 45, visibility was about 8 miles and the wind was gusting up to 25 miles an hour.
It was right then that I was being told by Calvin to treasure Christ over my own life. To trust in Him alone, as I wondered if I was going to see my family again.
But the thing is that he was right. It’s in those moments when you are reminded that your life is not in your hands. It’s in His, and He will do a far better job with it than you ever could.
So while it wasn’t the most comfortable place to be reading the book, as I was surrounded by the sounds of people who had just been to Disney World being sick in paper bags, but it was definitely the right place to be reading that book.
I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been getting the emails every day now, sometimes twice. I tried the junk mail folder, but somehow, you’ve made it back to my inbox.
So it’s time to unsubscribe, but you’ve left me in a bit of a predicament.
See, I know for a fact that you’re lying to me. Because at the bottom of the email that is sitting here in my inbox, the email that I never should have received because I never actively opted in to get messages about all the stuff I can give you money for, at the bottom of that email is a button.
And that button says “Unsubscribe”.
But I’ve clicked buttons like those before. Oh, I’ve clicked a literal, metric, crapload of those stupid, little buttons.
Only to be brought to a page asking me to do something other than click another button to confirm that I want to unsubscribe. No, that would be too easy for me to do, to actively opt-out of your marketing messages with the tap of a button.
Instead, I have to edit my notification preferences by signing in.
That’s right. I’m so angry about this that I can’t even use real words to describe it.
Instead, I have to use a bunch of emojis and whatnot.
Because having the gall to make me do something other than press a button is so ludicrous that, were I a real-rather-than-pretend British man from the 1940’s, I am literally begging your pardon.
Here’s the deal.
You put the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the newsletter. Go ahead, make me scroll all the way through the whole thing. I’m not reading it anyway. I’m just looking for that button. I am willing to go all the way down there to the bottom of everything to get to that button.
When I press that button, there better be three things waiting for me:
- The words, “By confirming, you are unsubscribing”
- A pre-populated text field containing my email address
- A button right below it that says, “Confirm”
And that’s it. That is literally all I am asking for. That is the easiest page in the world to code. Here, I can barely write code anymore but I’ll do it for you:
<h1>By confirming, you are unsubscribing</h1> <form> Email Address:<br> <input type="text or the person's email address or whatever" name="emailaddress"<br> </form> <button type="button">Confirm</button>
And that’s it. That’s all you have to do, basically. I mean, the backend for your site might have a lot going on, but seriously, I just gave you the front end code. That’s all you need.
So please, for the love of all that is good and lovely, don’t make me sign into an account that I never use just to unsubscribe from your stupid newsletter?
We have a time of confession every week, which might seem odd to those whose entire experience of the church is limited either wholly to Roman Catholicism or to your average non-denom. We include it as part of our liturgy because we see it in Scripture, particularly in the way our liturgy is built around Isaiah 6.
After seeing the holiness of God, Isaiah is undone and confesses that he is a man of unclean lips. We do this in our worship every week after we have been called to worship and had a time singing songs of adoration.
It is an unavoidable truth that when we behold a holy God we become so very aware of our uncleanness. It’s there at the beginning in the garden when Adam and Eve hid from God. And it is there today, when we look to God and then look down and see the leprosy that seems to always be there no matter how hard we try to clean it off.
So the time of confession is not only for the unsaved sinner, it is for the saved sinner. Through confession we remember that we are needy creatures but that Jesus is a great Savior. Which leads me to the song we are singing as a part of our time of confession.
We don’t always sing during confession, but it feels appropriate to as we center around the communion table and what the elements mean. And the gospel feast preaches to us all that Christ’s body was broken and His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins to the glory of the Father. And so we will be singing Come Ye Sinners because that is our message every week. Sinner, come and repent and believe. Jesus is able and willing to save.
It is in this moment that we feel the weight of our sin while also knowing that the weight of that sin has been removed from our shoulders and was placed on Christ as He bore the cross. It’s through confession and heading the call to come that we experience the gospel in our worship gatherings. It is here that we are reminded that we can confess without fear of damnation because Christ bore the Father’s wrath in our place. That which was rightfully ours was given to Him and in return we receive pardon and righteousness in the Father’s eyes. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to live lives that are empowered by God Himself. To live in such a way that we are made increasingly like our Mediator, that we are made to grow in holiness and to better reflect our Father.
All of this we experience here, as we prepare to walk down the aisle toward the table to receive the elements. As we stop looking at our sin and instead look to the God Who has forgiven us.
Like many churches, we begin each worship time with a call to worship, usually something from the Psalms like this week. In this case, it is a couple of sections from Psalm 104. Beginning in this way gives us a moment to focus our attention to the task at hand, namely the worship and adoration of our God.
This Psalm describes the greatness of God in His work of creating and upholding the universe. Whenever we open with a Psalm like that, I try to find some way for us to sing I Sing The Mighty Power of God. It too is a hymn about the works of the Lord.
As it moves and progresses through its verses, we end up in the very place where we will be at the very end. All bowing before our God and singing praises to Him.
It’s a bit of an oddball for us to begin with, though, as the arrangement that we use is quite slow. Most churches, ours included, begin with something anthemic. But this week, as we are focusing on the communion table, I wanted our musical worship time to be more dynamic. Having the sermon and the songs focusing on one element of our liturgy can lead to an almost monotonous experience. Changing up the way we arrange those songs, though, can give the illusion of movement even though we are going through the same liturgical order we follow every week.
When I was first learning how to lead worship, there was nearly no thought put into this process and how the church would actually be led. Charismatic churches tend to be all about one specific thing and that isn’t necessarily making sure that the worship gathering is rooted in the Word.
Now, for me, this is an exciting challenge every time I prepare the liturgy. Having this framework in place allows me to work through it devotionally, ensuring that the songs that are chosen are appropriate for their place in the gathering and ensuring that we are being pushed toward our eventual departure from the building and out into the mission field that we call the work week.
This coming Sunday at Redeemer the sermon is titled A Theology of Wine and a feature that I want to add to this blog is a way to get us ready for the coming time of worship.
Because this sermon is more topical than normal for us, the songs are also topical, though they still fit within the liturgy that we use.
In the church, we tend to associate wine with the Lord’s Supper and are reminded of the blood that was shed for the cleansing of our sins. There aren’t many songs that are focused on wine, but we have many on blood (and they all seem to be written by Isaac Watts) so the songs this week are meant to lead us to the table where we receive the elements of communion.
I have always loved the song When I Survey The Wondrous Cross but I haven’t always loved the long, slow, somber arrangement of it. I mean, I get it. The lyrics of it are meant to be contemplated as it is a song that describes contemplation as a form of worship. But it is also a song describing Christ’s victory of sin on our behalf and that is something for which we can rejoice.
So we are introducing Ghost Ship’s arrangement of this hymn along with the chorus and bridge that they added. I know that there are other arrangements and we’ve used them in the past, but I especially appreciate Cam Huxford’s additions that focus on the blood itself and what it means.
I’ve been writing at least 500 words every day this month in an attempt to get back into the habit of doing so. A couple of the posts that are here have been a result of that practice.
Most of what I have been writing can never see the lift of day, though. Even with multiple rounds of editing it is really bad. Apparently if you keep writing, though, it gets better.
The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.
The above quote is from the Westminster Confession of Faith and we’re going to be reading it during our time of Expiation at Redeemer tomorrow. It summarizes passages from Hebrews, Roman, 2 Peter, Ephesians, Luke and Acts and that summary is that the fact that you are able to believe is not your own doing but it is a work of grace.
We are saved by faith but that faith is a gift. If we were able to believe of our own accord, we would be responsible for our own salvation. Instead, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes so that we can believe. We see this specifically in Ephesians 1:17-18 where Paul prays for the eyes of the Ephesians’ hearts to be enlightened.
So even this faith is a gift of grace.
We’ve been going through the doctrines of grace (aka the Canons of Dort or the five points of Calvinism) and for tomorrow and the following week, Pastor Joe is preaching on my favorite of the five. They are my favorite above the first three because I find that in the life of the Christian, or at least this Christian, they are a source of great comfort.
With Irresistible Grace we see that all of the elect will be saved. It’s put this way in John 6:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
We know that apart from the Father’s drawing, no one will come to Christ of his own volition and we see here that all of those given to Christ will come. The text doesn’t say that the elect may come, it says that they will come.
I find this comforting because it is a source of assurance. Were it not for the calling of the Father, I would not have believed. I would not have had my eyes opened to see that Christ died for me. While we see and experience this truth in other doctrines, I see it most here. It means that God’s work has been effective and motivates me to want to grow in godliness, a trait that is not present in the unregenerate.