We are a people of story-tellers. Through our stories we are transported to other times and other places, to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to go beyond our daily life into something more. To be sure many are told simply to entertain, however even in the most superficial of stories we find things that shape our world view, our understanding of one another and the world. Most importantly, as believers when we tell stories we are communicating the truths about God and the world He created.
I’m an easy mark for good story-telling, regardless of the medium. I become engrossed in the characters as they have situations thrust upon them they must find ways to overcome. The best stories inspire us to do likewise… and some of the best stories are found in the pages of the Bible itself – God’s story of His creation and the ultimate redemption of His people. Along the way there are a myriad of stories that rival and surpass the best Hollywood has ever offered.
Starting this week here at FEFC, Pastor Bill and I will begin a series of sermons entitled “For such a time as this…” while Pastor Rob is on Sabbatical. Each week, we will explore a different story from the Old Testament. Far more than mere historical accounts, these are stories that capture the imagination and challenge us to emulate the men and women that God has called according to His plan. Through it all we learn not only something about these stellar individuals from the annals of biblical history but of the consistent and trustworthy character of God. And in these strange times, we certainly need to take the time to remind each other of God’s supreme faithfulness!
For His Glory,
A couple of songs have been rattling around my head the past few days, coming to my mind as I’ve considered all that is happening in our city, our nation, and the world. My wife and I enjoy collecting memes as we find them throughout the day and sharing them with each other at the end of the day, and of course a recurring them for the past few months has been the growing realities of the COVID-19 Corona virus. Whether it is masks, vaccines, ventilators, politicians, or quarantine behaviors the ongoing pandemic permeates every aspect of our culture… to be sure, we don’t need clever picture captions to be reminded that the world is a stranger place than we thought it would be at the beginning of the year!
Through it all, I’ve been reminded of the same two song… “I Choose to Worship” and “The Joy of the Lord,” both by Irish worship leaders “Rend Collective.” Both songs hold a similar theme: though there is uncertainty, doubt, and even in fear I will still worship. Our strength is found not in confidence in the circumstances around us but in the unfailing, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God.
Here in Colorado Springs, we are looking at the possibility or returning to our “Safer at Home” policies given the COVID numbers in our county. After having some of those restrictions lifted or eased in the past month, I am certain that I am not alone in looking at that possibility with no small degree of frustration. Perhaps that is why God is bringing to mind these two songs for the “soundtrack” playing in my head. Our strength and confidence is not found in the certainty of tomorrow but in the certainty of the Cross and the God of our salvation. What fear should I have for tomorrow when I know who holds tomorrow in His hands?
My prayer for myself, my family, my church, and believers throughout the nation and the world is that we find Joy, we find confidence, and we find courage in knowing that God is in Control. My prayer is that we do not choose to fear, do not choose to speak hastily, do not choose to give in to the anxiety-filled world around us but that we Choose to Worship. We choose to remind ourselves (and others) that in a world of Chaos we have a God of Order. In world and culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to one another, we serve the Prince of Peace that brings Unity through the Cross.
Brothers and Sisters, we are not given a spirit of fear but one of power and love and self control as we rest in the truth about our world and about our God that is found in His Word (2 Timothy 1:7). Rest in the Truth, rest in the God of Truth… Choose to Worship.
For His Glory,
I’ve been a fan of the worship music duo “Shane and Shane” for some time now, particularly their acoustic arrangements. Their “Worship Initiative” series has been helpful in showing worship leaders around the world how they can adapt a song to a smaller sound, as most churches don’t have access to the same instrumentation or musician that many recording artists use when they release their music. I have been grateful for the work they do in creating resources for churches everywhere with their intentional approach to leading worship, not merely creating music.
Last Friday (July 10), Shane and Shane released a new album full of classic worship songs entitled Vintage Worship. Each of the 10 songs on this list inspires a sensory memory of some of the foundational times in my own walk with Christ, where I gathered with other teens my age and raised voices and hands in worship. Perhaps my favorite track is the arrangement of the Ron Kenoly classic from the early 90s “Ancient of Days.” It has an explosive energy that brings this nearly 30-year classic right into the musical language of this year. I’ve included a link to their “Songs from Home” arrangement at the bottom of this blog so that you can listen for yourself!
From time to time, churches will wrestle with singing songs that are new versus old. We as Christ-followers should be constantly looking for ways to worship our creator-savior-God, and there are some truly excellent songs written in the past few years to help facilitate that corporate worship together. However, albums like Vintage Worship remind us that some of these older songs certainly deserve to be re-vitalized and brought back to our regular worship! They remind us of the times when God was particularly at work in our lives and often call us back to worship in times of turmoil. What a great album for times such as this, I encourage you all to give it a listen!
For His Glory,
One of the passages I return to continually is Colossians 3:16-17
Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. In whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col 3:16-17 CSB)
What a beautiful picture of the church, gathering together in the name of Christ, calling one another to righteousness. Many of you know that for the past few months, it has been heavy on my heart that one of the greatest dangers present during quarantine was the lack of that fellowship. Without fellow believers around us to encourage and admonish us, the process of putting to death the old self and putting on the new becomes significantly more difficult.
I have seen people turn away from a life influenced by scripture in the past year, partially because they had intentionally removed themselves from the fellowship of believers who would call them to righteousness – how thankful am I that I am surrounded by people who call me to more Christ-like living! We as followers of Christ are to function as believers in community… which means during Quarantine or times apart we need to be so much more intentional about reaching out to one another. Be transparent with one another, call each other to sanctified living (and be ready to receive the same input from others), and find ways of building one another up!
With many states talking about resuming some of the restrictions, I encourage all of you make time for (social distanced) discipleship together. Challenge a friend to read through the Gospel of John or an epistle, go through a video series together using a YouTube party app, take a moment to pray specifically for one another – not just a vague prayer but bringing specific requests to God from one another’s life. This is discipleship. This is Christianity. This the way we are called to live.
For His Glory,
One of the essential purposes of the church is to worship together. In our gatherings we sing, we pray, we sit under the teaching of God’s word, we call one another to righteousness, and we testify what God has done – not just for the world but in each of our lives. On Sunday, we will sing the Chris Tomlin arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” and the first verse of that Hymn is still my favorite:
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound / that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found / was blind but now I see.
The Gospel story is one of transformation, to show that we were once one way but through the grace of God and the power of the Spirit we are being renewed into the likeness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. What joy it is to remember the cross! What delight it is to share with others how we are not now what we once were. We are also observing the Lord’s Supper this week at FEFC. The very act of communion is a rite of remembrance. During the very first Lord’s Supper, Jesus commanded us to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
We are a people who remembers.
We remember what God has said.
We remember what God has done.
We remember that God is the creator of the Universe.
We remember that God regularly displays his power over the world.
We remember that though we rebelled, justly earning condemnation, God provided a path to reconciliation.
We remember that while we were still Sinners – Christ died for us.
We remember who God is, we remember who we were, and we remember who we are because of Jesus Christ.
As we remember, we tell others.
As we prepare to worship this week, I call all of you to take time to ponder all that God has done for you and for the world and share it with your friends, your family, and your community.
For His Glory,