There are songs that remain part of our personal worship years after they are sung regularly in the church. Eddie Espinosa wrote a song in 1982 that was a staple for years in the church, Change my Heart Oh God. Even now, nearly 40 years later, the simple lyrics echoing a prayer to have our hearts be changed still resonates in my quiet time. 15 years later, Darlene Zschech wrote The Potter’s Hand at the growing Hillsong Church in Australia, part of a worship music movement that has incredible impact even today. These two songs, largely part of our history in worship music, echoed a deep understanding that we must be changed.
These two songs are rooted in the biblical principles found in the opening verses of Romans 12:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of Worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We must never forget that our worship is not limited to the time of corporate worship together at a weekly gathering. Our worship includes the day-to-day things, the regular putting to death of our “old self” in Ephesians 4, the rejection of the world and the alignment of our thinking and values to that which reflects our Savior. It is easy to conform to our society’s cultural norms, bending our understanding of right and wrong be acceptable to those around us. Instead, we must pray that our hearts are changed, that we are molded by the Potter’s Hand, that we are not conformed to this world, but transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
For His Glory,
Perhaps my favorite songs from Matt Redman’s album 10,000 Reasons was Never Once. It was playing at about the same time a similar song was released from Vertical Worship entitled Not for a Moment. Both of these songs serve as reminders that through our victories, through our failures, through the “mountain-top” experiences, through the valleys of despair, through joy, through sorrow, through it all God is with us. What comfort it is for us to remind each other as we sing that even in the silence of our solitude our God is with us. As I read in another blog earlier this week, no matter how our day is going, we can say:
“God is on His throne, everything is going His way, and He loves me.”
I needed to be reminded of this personally this week as I heard news showing just how far our society has fled from our creator. It is days like this that I am reminded of one of my favorite minor prophets Habakkuk. When the book opens, we see Habakkuk verbally shaking his fist at God, demanding from God an explanation to why He seemed so silent in the face of growing atrocities in his nation. God’s response is one of my favorite verses:
"Look at the nations and observe – be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it.” (Habakkuk 1:5)
As the book progresses, Habakkuk’s attitude is changed as he expresses his trust in God in the final verses. He lists multiple things that cause him fear and concern, but concludes with this:
“Yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The LORD my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights.” (Habakkuk 3:18-19)
In our hurt, in our doubt, in our fears, in our turmoil… be reminded even today that not for a moment does God stop being sovereign, not for a moment does He forsake us, Never Once will He leave us. He is doing things, which if we saw, we would never believe!
For His Glory,
If you are going through the Five Psalms/One Proverb reading plan, you would have spent some time this week with Psalm 136 and may have been struck with the phrase repeated 26 times: “for His steadfast love endures forever.” Every single verse uses the same phrase, reiterating this truth as it is paired with other aspects of who God is. It struck me as I read it this week that if you take out that phrase, you still have verse after verse of thanksgiving and praise to our great God, but adding that phrase drives home that in His strength and power, in His sovereignty, in His provision…through all of it we need to be reminded “His steadfast love endures forever.”
We should be thinking of two things when we read this Psalm. In Hebrew a repeated phrase increases its emphasis and magnitude. After repeating this 26 times it is clear that the Psalmist wants us to know that the love of God is not wavering, nor does it have limit. This means no action can diminish, limit, or surpass the love of our creator-God. Second, as we pray through this Psalm we are reminded that there are going to be days where we need to be told 26 times God loves us:
I am feeling discouraged at work, but His steadfast love endures forever.
The budget isn’t balancing the way it should this month, but His steadfast love endures forever.
I feel emotional distance from my spouse, but His steadfast love endures forever.
My children have rejected the faith, but His steadfast love endures forever.
My friends and I cannot come to agreement, but His steadfast love endures forever.
The government is not behaving the way it should, but His steadfast love endures forever.
I feel alone, but His steadfast love endures forever.
Today, take time to read this Psalm again… pray through it as you face the challenges God has given you. Be reminded that while we have indeed been promised adversity, His steadfast love endures forever.
For His Glory,
Recently, one of the songs that has been on a regular playlist for me is “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” from Matt Boswell and Matt Papa. The two “Matts” have recently released a new album full of some of the modern Hymns they wrote that have made their way into many churches (including a few we sing regularly at FEFC).
Each verse we sing tells a different chapter of the Gospel. In verse one, we sing of how Jesus – who is GOD – made Himself low by taking on humanity for us. In verse two, we sing of Jesus’ perfect life – sinless, He fulfilled the law. In addition, the verse ends with recognizing how it is in Christ’s righteousness we are declared righteous.
Verse three begins with Jesus Christ on the cross, paying the cost of our own sin. What wonderful contrast in the words that say His victory was in the humiliation of the Cross, our Glory and Redemption found in such an act of shame! We round out the Gospel story in the final verse, jubilantly declaring that in Jesus’ resurrection we see His victory over sin and death…but what is more our assurance that our deliverance has been assured.
There are a lot of words to be sung here, in fact there are almost as many words in the song as there are in this summary of it. One might ask why we would sing a song like this on a Sunday morning. While the tune is certainly memorable, with this many words it will be hard to remember them on the following day. We sing them so that as we gather we remind one another of the Hope of the Gospel. It is for this that we gather… so that others may see the Glory of God reflected in all that we do!
For His Glory,
Earlier this week, we posted the “Top40” for worship music at First Evangelical Free Church. While this isn’t the first time we’ve done this, I know many attenders at FEFC may wonder why we sing the songs we do! There are literally hundreds of worship songs released each year, and the process of choosing the songs that enter into the “canon” of worship here at FEFC is a complicated process many of you never have the opportunity to see. Out of that realization, this week begins the first of what I hope to a regular series of blogs that will help us as a church understand why it matters what we sing each week.
In John 4, we see Jesus interacting with the Samaritan woman at the well. What should be fascinating to all of us is that in verse 19, when confronted with her sin, the woman asks a question that seems completely unrelated – a question about worship. The Samaritans differed from the Jews in many ways, but one of importance to them was whether or not their worship of God in the High Places was acceptable to God…particularly since they weren’t allowed into the temple to worship like the Jews.
Jesus answer should cause us to pause for a moment: “The hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Her question to Jesus was about where God accepted worship, Jesus answered by saying God was interested in how we worship.
Hopefully as we explore God’s Word and the songs we sing we will see how we can do just that: Worship in Spirit and in Truth.
For His Glory,