Category Archives: Worship

What creates unity and maintains fellowship?

For the last 5 months I have been studying and teaching 1 Corinthians, Paul’s letter to a dysfunctional, divided, immature, selfish and immoral group of churches.

One general recurring question that continues to resurface as I study is, “what creates unity?” or “how do we maintain fellowship?” If a church started by Paul in a city that he spent more time than any other, except for Ephesus, could end up with so much dysfunction and disunity, how do we avoid their problems?

In 1 Corinthians Paul addresses their specific problems and questions, which address many issues that we face in our contemporary culture. So, though a difficult book to study, it covers a broad range of important issues—central is the need to for unity in the church (1 Corinthians 1:10-11).

There are many contemporary books that address the “what?” and “how?” of developing fellowship with many good recommendations and programs. But I think this quote from A. W. Tozer has the most important challenge.

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity- conscious” and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: Updated Edition (Kindle Edition, 2015 Kindle Locations 1002-1005, Aneko Press). (First Edition 1948, Christian Publications).

Whatever our personality (introvert or extrovert) or whatever our background, age, gender and preferences, unity—which the Lord designed the church to possess and demonstrate His Glory—is created and maintained by each individual tuning their own affections towards God. Which allows us to be other-centered not seeking our own advantage and it allows us to see people the way God, leading to loving them the way God does.

My Worth Is Not in What I Own

(http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns-myworth.aspx)
My Worth Is Not In What I Own

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Refrain

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

Refrain

By Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick
© 2014 Getty Music Publishing and Make Way Music (admin by MusicServices.org)

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

I’m in a study in the Upper Room Discourse or what I prefer to call the Farewell Discourse in John 13-17.  As I work through the end of John 15 with the challenging warning of the coming persecution, I heard this beautiful hymn. The focus is the full salvation yet awaiting.

“Yet how rich is my condition! God and heaven are still my own.”

“Haste thee on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer.”

“Hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.”

(Thanks to Dane Ortlund for posting the video)

JESUS, I MY CROSS HAVE TAKEN

Text: Henry Lyte

Music: Bill Moore

1. Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I?ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

2. Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

3. Man may trouble and distress me,
?Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ?tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ?twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

4. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

5. Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o?er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father?s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

6. Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven?s eternal days before thee,
God?s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

© 2001 Bill Moore Music.

Oh, How I need You

Everyday, every moment, Oh, how I need you Lord!

Psalm 105:4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! (ESV)

1 Chronicles 22:19 Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a house built for the name of the Lord.” (ESV)

Colossians 3:1–2 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (ESV)

Isaiah 55:6–7 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (ESV)

 

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

Background and Depth of Handel’s Messiah

I did something this week that I have never done before–I listened to the whole of Handel’s Messiah (two sittings).  But the reason was not because I’m a big fan of classical choral music.  Actually my musical tastes are much more eclectic and not that sophisticated. The reason I listened was in appreciation for the theological depth and purpose behind the oratorio.

At the end of this post you will find resource links, I’ll keep my observations short and provide the links for the curious.

Music

George Frederic Handel was a famous opera composer, but the popularity of opera was waning, his health was not good and he had contemplated retirement.  His main supported and collaborator, Charles Jennens, compiled the Libretto (text) and ask Handel to compose an oratorio.  Handel completed the whole oratorio–all 2 hours and 15 minutes long, with its 3 parts and 53 movements–in 24 days.

Since I am not musical, what I was primarily interested in was the text (Libretto) and the purpose.

Libretto

As a member in the Church of England in the early 1700s Charles Jennes was concerned with the growing challenge of Deism—a belief that rejected the reality of divine intervention into human affairs and the deity of Jesus Christ.

So Jennens carefully selected 73 verses primarily from the Old Testament though they are from 7 Old and 7 New Testament books.  Most are prophecies which spoke of Messiah…

His promised birth,
His death on the cross and victory over a rebellious world
and resurrection which secures redemption for individuals and subsequent exaltation of Messiah.

Jennens aim was to show what Scripture taught.  That God does involve Himself powerfully and purposefully in the affairs of man.  And that Jesus was Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies and provide salvation.

One commentator on Messiah declared that it is a “remarkable confluence of Hebrew theology and biblical truth, Italian operatic genius, English class, and German piety.”[1]

Purpose

Jennens purpose started out theological, but after writing the composition Handel felt that the purpose was evangelistic. Rather than have the Oratorio only sung in churches he schedule performances in theaters and had “secular” sings perform the leads in order to make it accessible to the masses.

First performed during the Easter season, April 1742—we traditionally hear just the first of three section (though the Hallelujah chorus is moved from the conclusion of the second part to the first).

At the end of the composition, above his initials Handel wrote the 3 letters SDG—Soli Deo Gloria—To God alone the glory.

Observations

A wonderful reminder of the reality of God’s active guiding of history to His desired conclusion for His glory and our good.

Jennens and Handel used what was in their day entertainment to reach people with a deep true.

They did not let critics dissuade their taking something “sacred” to the masses.

And while we think of Handel’s Messiah at Christmas, it was first performed at Easter, and it doesn’t end with the birth or the resurrection, but it focus is the conclusion–the exaltation and glorification of Jesus Christ, Messiah.  He is not just the babe in the cradle or the savior on the cross, but the King wearing His crown on His throne.

May He be glorified in me.

Resources

Daniel I. Block http://www.sbts.edu/documents/icw/messiah.pdf

Ben Witherington http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/bibleandculture/2009/12/handels-messiah-the-story-behind-the-classic.html

Mark Roberts http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/handels-messiah-an-unexpected-easter-masterpiece/

A performance of Handel’s Messiah lasts somewhere around 137 minutes, give or take five minutes depending on the pace of the conductor. The birth of Jesus (“For unto us a child is born”) comes just about 25% into the performance. The resurrection (“But thou didst not leave His soul in hell”) occurs just before the 60% point, which leaves 40% of the entire Messiah to focus on the fact and the implications of the resurrection. A substantial portion of this 40% concerns the resurrection, not of Jesus, but of those who believe in him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structure_of_Handel’s_Messiah

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Messiah

List each of the 53 selections (47 movements) of the 73 verses with the ability to listen to each individually.

Scriptures used

Biblical Passages--Messiah

This list is from Daniel I. Block, see link above.

_________________________

[1] Daniel I. Block, Handel’s Messiah: Biblical Theological Perspective http://www.sbts.edu/documents/icw/messiah.pdf

Peace on Earth

We live in a sin cursed world.  Though we are lulled to sleep in comfort and easy, we periodically are jarred awake by the vile nature of sin.  We instinctively ask “why?”  But no answers will truly fill the void.

But we are not hopeless.
We hope in the One who can bring true peace on earth.
So we long for the day when He returns to rule in justice.

He came once, full of grace and truth, but in lowly form.
He will return, full of grace and truth, but this time in power and glory.

So now the only hope we have is to remember and anticipate.
Remember, He broke into history and changed the world.
Anticipate, He will be the climax of history and change us–completely and permanently.

So, now we pray for peace on earth.

(See next post for the words to Longfellow’s original poem and the story behind the song.)