We Sang ‘Silent Night’ on Easter Sunday

 

 

Manger Clip Art               

                               Make the journey from Silent Night to Resurrection

Yes we did! – though just the first verse. But this is why we did sing this Christmas song:

Do you believe that the baby you sang about a little over three months ago, was crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day?

Sadly, most people don’t. It’s easy to sing about a helpless, vulnerable, and cuddly baby. It’s another thing to sing about a sovereign King who rules over everything – including the grave. This is why so many music artists produce Christmas albums but have nothing to sing about on Easter.

We hope you made the journey from the manger to the empty tomb. And if so, then continue on “looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). Keep singing, believing, looking, hoping, seeking, loving, serving, praying – keep holding on to your confession by loving what Jesus loves – the church. It’s the only group that makes it to the other side.

“I will believe in anything, just not Jesus’ Resurrection”

The world approves of every form of human enlightenment as long as Jesus’ Resurrection is not the reason. Hindu has Karma and Reincarnation. Islam has Janna/Paradise, which is an eternal sexual voyage, except for women of course. Entrance to Janna is earned by good works; bonus points if you kill infidels. Then there is Orthodox Judaism, Mormans, Jehovah Witnesses, Scientology, and all forms of false Christianity, all of which can be lumped together: you get to heaven, earning your way by good works.

While these are treated with a level of tolerance, Jesus’ resurrection is not. While these are viewed as credible, Jesus’ resurrection in incredible. While these are all viable and reasonable ways to Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, Your-Favorite-Eternal-Hobby, Jesus’ way to heaven is not. And here is why:

Jesus said, “I Am the Way” (all other ways are false)

Jesus said, “I Am the Truth” (all other claims are lies)

Jesus said, “I Am the Life” (all other ways and claims lead to eternal death)  John 14:6

No one ever spoke with such authority and exclusive language than Jesus did. Either you can get to the next phase of enlightenment in the after life by any man-made means possible, or only Jesus (John 6:44; 14:6). This is why Jesus is so threatening. This is why we crucified him. This is why we cannot tolerate Jesus. This is why Jesus must go. But as they say, ‘you can’t keep a good man down,’ even more so with Jesus, it’s impossible to keep him down because it was not man that took his life in the first place. He voluntarily laid it down and he has the authority to raise it up (John 10:18).

Tomorrow in worship, we’ll sing this song also, along with “It is not Death to Die” (previous post). May Christ be enjoyed over all the earth, in every tribe, tongue, people and and nation!

 

It is Not Death to Die

 

Tonight our church will worship with a Passover Meal because God passed over us; his wrath landed on his son, on the cross. And because it did, our physical death no longer has the final word – Jesus rose from the dead and by faith in him as Lord and Savior, my substitution, the consequences of my sin have been removed as far as the east is from the west! This Sunday, we sing this song based on Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” May the Risen Lord be your hope and joy.

 

 

Repentance vs. Defensiveness

I enjoy reading anything that Ray Ortlund writes. Here is an example of what his son, Gavin, can do with the gospel. This article was originally posted here:

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/repentance-vs-defensiveness

Enjoy!

“It seems to me that we tend to respond to accurate criticism in one of two ways: repentance or defensiveness. These two reactions are as different as heaven and hell.

A defensive heart says, “But look at what I did right!” (diversion). A repentant heart says, “Here specifically is what I did wrong” (honesty).

A defensive heart says, “But look at what was done to me!” (distraction). A repentant heart says, “Here is how I contributed to the conflict” (ownership).

A defensive heart says, “It wasn’t that bad” (downplaying). A repentant heart says, “It was a big deal” (admission).

Default Defensiveness

Our default mode—in and out of the church—seems to be defensiveness. I know mine is. Nothing is more natural when we feel threatened by a criticism than to divert, distract, and downplay. It’s as instinctive as flinching when a punch is coming.

In my experience, a heart of repentance is something I have to work at. I have to say things like:

Wait a minute. Think this through. Why does this criticism hurt you the way it does? Remember your identity is in Christ, so your identity isn’t at stake. Relax! Is there something you can learn here?

It’s a counter intuitive feeling, like learning to use a muscle we didn’t know we had for the first time—or, better yet, finally learning to relax a muscle we’ve always kept tight. It’s a kind of paradox: an effort at relaxing, a striving to cease striving, a struggle to give up.

The gospel alone can free us for honesty, ownership, and admission, because the gospel alone destroys the sting and judgment associated with criticism. The gospel takes away the fear that drives defensiveness and frees us to openly admit our shortcomings.

The gospel says, “In the place of your deepest failure and shame, you are loved most tenderly.”

The gospel says, “Your deepest fears were already borne by your Savior.”

The gospel says, “Your sins were exposed, and dealt with, at the cross. The battle is already over.”

It makes me think of a man standing on trial before a large audience. A long list of (accurate) charges is read. Everyone is watching. He responds:

The charges against me are 100 percent true and fair. I’m responsible. No one else is to blame. There’s no excuse. And it is a big deal.

A man free to be that non-defensive is the happiest and most indestructible man in the world. He has died to himself; his identity comes from something or someone else. He is fearless.

This is what the gospel does for us. In the court of heaven—which matters infinitely more than any human court—we’ve already been tried and through Christ we’ve already been acquitted.

Thank you, Jesus. Help us to be so secure in your love that we are fearless to repent.”

O My Soul, Arise

 

“Arise, My Soul, Arise” was written and published in 1742 by Charles Wesley. Though in our hymnbooks, most of the Western Church does not sing it. Unfortunate! Thanks to the Lord, Sovereign Grace Ministries has again resurrected a great song that has nearly died with a music score that matches the emotional longing that the lyrics call for.

We’ll sing this in congregational worship this Sunday, March 13, and again on Resurrection Morning, March 27.

Enjoy!

“The Doctrine of Election Saved Me From Depression”

An encouraging post by Jimmy Needham at Desiring God Ministries – Enjoy!

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-doctrine-of-election-saved-me-from-depression

“A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

For many years, what immediately came into my mind when I thought about God crippled me. Depression was a constant companion. Fear about the genuineness of my conversion haunted me like a ghost. I couldn’t see it at the time, but my feelings were symptoms of my misguided theology. God was small. Worse than that, he was weak. Worse even still, he was fickle in his love toward me. It led me into despair.

About five years ago, as I spent more time in the Bible, I began to see a bigger vision of God. He was not only big and strong, but merciful and steadfast in his love toward me. It changed everything. My depression started to unravel before my eyes, and I rediscovered joy in God.

My understanding of God’s sovereignty in suffering, evangelism, and salvation underwent the greatest and most needed change. For years now, this big God theology has proven to be an antidote for despair. I can’t help but think that there are some reading this right now who have been searching for that kind of comfort, freedom, and stability.

Joy in Our Suffering

The mother of my wife’s childhood friend died in a collision with an eighteen-wheeler. It was the truck driver’s fault. At the funeral, the officiating pastor offered these chilling words for her family and friends: “That truck driver robbed this woman of the long life that God intended for her to live.” The pastor meant to comfort them, but that commentary is anything but comforting.

What a nightmare to think that the plans and purposes of God can be undermined by any careless, distracted trucker at a busy intersection. When we believe this line of thinking, we make God into an absent-minded, fumbling security guard. If he had only looked up from the newspaper in time, he could’ve stopped the burglars from making off with the company’s goods. An even worse accusation might be that God simply lacked the power or authority to prevent the tragedy, even if he wanted to.

The truth is that our God is perfectly in control of all things — of our best days and our worst days, our best moments and our worst. Lamentations 3:37–38 rhetorically asks, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”

The only truth that can still and strengthen our hearts when we suffer is the truth that our good, kind, and all-powerful heavenly Father is permitting our temporary pain for a short time to bring about our everlasting pleasure in him. When we suffer, we can remind ourselves: In Christ, all of my pain is infused with God-wrought purpose and meaning (Romans 8:28). God towers bigger and far above the blazing hot sun of our suffering. And we do well to rest in the cool of his shadow.

Election Electrifies Evangelism

In college, I was an evangelism zealot. Everywhere I went, I was handing out tracts and telling people the good news. I was also miserable, exhausted, and terrified that I wasn’t doing enough to reach the lost or please the Lord.

There’s a misguided sense among many Christians that one cannot simultaneously affirm the electing sovereignty of God and have an urgent, mobilizing passion for evangelism. That view changed entirely for me as I sat with Paul’s second letter to Timothy. From prison, he writes to his son in the faith, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

Paul felt zero tension between the doctrine of election and desire to win the lost. For Paul, God’s electing love didn’t squash his passion for gospel-proclamation; it motivated it! Imagine for a moment: You’ve been given the inside scoop by God that no matter what people group you visited, no matter what distant island you sailed to, you were promised there would be people there who would eventually respond to your message about Jesus. O, how this would awaken an excitement to go and tell, to see some respond everywhere you went, fulfilling God’s unbelievable promise.

This is the very reality we find at the end of the Bible:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9–10)

I have never had as much God-glorifying drive to win the lost as when I finally began believing that it was not ultimately up to me to win them in the first place, when I realized that salvation was God’s project from beginning to end — promised, purchased, and accomplished.

Blessed Assurance

If ever there was an enemy of our joy in God, it is the sneaking suspicion that we aren’t secure in his saving grasp of grace. I’ve spent many years and reams of paper trying to trace my depression and anxiety back to their roots, and it led me finally to this: I was unsure whether I was firmly in the grip of God.

How many of us, if we’re honest, are struck with terror at that thought? What a relief it would be to our hearts if we knew that eternal security was real, that our adoption could not be reversed, that salvation was never ultimately contingent on our efforts but on Christ’s? It’s all true for those who believe. Perhaps the greatest by-product of a belief in a big, sovereign, choosing, decisive Savior is that we are liberated from the fear of a fickle Father.

If your faith is placed firmly in Christ, take time to rejoice in this today: Jesus has chosen you (John 15:16). You’re name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20). You have been transferred into Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13). And no one is able to snatch you from God’s grip (John 10:28–29), because you are his child now and forever (Romans 8:16).

What you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you. The bigger and more biblical our ideas of God are, the bigger our joy will become.”