What defines your identity?

What if the new 2017 Fall college student was able to say to the hazing rite offered by the campus Greek Squad:  “No thanks – my identity is in Christ”?

What if the latest job application was denied but still you could say in your heart, “Thank God my identity is not based upon their approval of me”?

What if your children’s rejection of your hope in Christ, though painful, did not unravel you, but you could still say, “I love my children, but my hope is not found in them but in Christ alone”?

What if a disability, a disease, a physical catastrophe, even old age are all whispering, “you’re not worth much these days” was met with “my heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26)?

What if your boyfriend, or employer, or a certain other who can elevate your status wants you to have sex with him/her was found to be a cheap commodity compared to the extravagant wealth that you already have in Christ?

What if your hero is no longer heroic – yet, your eyes are still on Christ?

What if hoarding the things of this earth finally felt empty compared to the abundance of joy that is found in Christ’s love for you?

What if you could move toward whatever fear is telling you to run – simply because no matter what happens you will still have Christ – and he would be enough – no matter WHAT HAPPENS!!??

Today is Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. What if from here on out you will fight against identity-dysfunction by preaching the gospel to your heart? What if you were no longer a slave to fear, but knew your identity as a child of God? Here is a song that our worship team is learning and will lead in congregational worship soon. Enjoy!

 

When Sunday becomes both the hardest and the most hopeful day of the week at the same time.

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I remember when I first heard the word ‘juxtaposition’ used in a sentence. To this day, I never use it because I think it sounds snooty. But, Sunday has become just that: a contrast of two opposites at the same time. On Sunday, I now and forever will feel sour and sweetness, hope and despair, joy and anger, ‘dream way’ and ‘dead end’ at the same time. Corporate Worship with the saints on Sunday reminds me of years and years punching the time clock with my dad. Like Sanford and Son, though many miles apart, yet, my dad and I worked side-by-side preaching the gospel, shepherding and discipling the saints, evangelizing the lost. I sorely miss my Monday reviews talking with my dad how things went on Sunday.

Each Lord’s day was like working with my dad. And now that he’s no longer working with me, I feel very alone in the shop that we once milled about. Sunday brings this out: a feeling that feels like my right arm is missing but I must raise it anyway. It’s very hard to do something when you feel like a piece of you is missing. And this brings me to saying something to you, dear reader:

When your Sunday becomes your hardest day of the week, it just might be a mixed blessing. Why? Because Christ-centered worship exposes what is broken with this world, and you need to be reminded weekly of that brokenness lest you become too infatuated with the false hope that this world offers. People who spend their Sunday sleeping in, then get up and make a late breakfast, attend a local baseball game, start eating burgers by mid afternoon, stop by the grocery store to pick up a few copies of the latest tabloid scoop at the check-out, spend 3 hours on social media getting all whacked out over politics, wrap the day up purchasing a few lottery tickets and going to sleep midway through the latest Redbox fair, NEVER feel the awful weight of their sin and the consequences of sin – death. And consequently, NEVER feel the awesome hope that is found in Christ’s forgiveness of sin and his death-defying Resurrection. Sunday is now my hardest day of the week because worship exposes the deep, deep loss that comes with living in this world.

When I hear ‘Tis So sweet to trust in Jesus’ – it now hurts because my need to trust in Jesus is more urgent than before my dad died. When we sing ‘In Christ Alone My Hope is Found’ it now hurts more deeply because I feel more deeply my need to put even more hope in Christ alone. When on Sunday morning we read together, “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4), it is like a knife in my heart because I feel more deeply the present impact of “the former things” having lost my dad. Do not be surprised then if Sunday becomes your hardest day of the week. But there it is: you will find it your most hopeful day of the week at the same time. Why? Because what worship exposes as loss it also then offers the greatest hope: Christ really does become your all in all. Christ becomes sweeter the more you lose in this life.

So dear reader, if the losses in this life are beginning to pile up, and you feel like skipping church because it reminds you now of that loss on a deeper level, you are prime for putting even more hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t let the awful pain of loss deter you from the very worship that exposes your need to put more hope in Christ. Your Joy depends on it.

 

 

For those who loved my dad

It’s been a year since the Lord took my dad home. And it’s been a year since I was at this spot . . . I should not have waited so long. I’m not sure why, but it was medicine for my heart to weep, play my guitar, sit and remember dad where we buried him. For family and friends who can’t make the trip, may this short clip(s) help you also to reflect and give thanks to the Lord for the life that he gave to Bud Truman.

Two clips are provided for you because of different scenery and sound quality.

 

I’ve never been angry at God for the injustice committed against Jesus. Why not?

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I’ve been disappointed, perplexed, and confused with God. I’ve felt abandoned by God. And I’ve been angry at God for many reasons – for the atrocities that happen to children all over the world each day, I want God to put an end to it. I’ve longed for the injustices that take place all around us to disappear: “Why do you take so long to stop the injustices”, the heart pleads. But I have never been angry at God for the injustices committed against Jesus. The one person who was and is completely innocent, I am joyfully humbled that the injustices committed against him were not intervened. Why not?

I think we know why. But my point in making this statement is for another reason. And it is this:

If I can glory in the cross where the grossest of all injustices was committed, then whatever grievances linger in my heart over the injustices of this life, I can trust God with them, that one day, all will be made clear, and God will be found Just.

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are all your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. 

Revelation 15:3, 4

Put on the Gospel of God

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Putting on the armor of God is like putting on the gospel of God – you arm the mind and heart  with what God has done for us in Christ – “the mystery of the gospel.” And having armed your mind with the gospel, you are prepared to take a stance against what the world, your flesh, and the devil tells you differently about life. Each piece of the armor is like a piece of the gospel that shapes our identity in Christ. Read Ephesians 6:10-20, then spend some time in prayer asking the Lord for grace to arm your heart for this week’s walk of faith.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

Jesus Christ is my “belt of truth.” Therefore I reject any claim on how to live my life if it does not lead to knowing Christ more fully.

Jesus Christ is my “breastplate of righteousness.” Therefore I reject all performance-based impulses that attempt to impress a Holy God.

Jesus Christ is my “shoes for my feet.” Therefore I will gladly embrace the truth that reminds me that God is no longer angry with me; he has defeated my sin on the cross and now I stand firm in the gospel of peace.

Jesus Christ is my “shield of faith.” Therefore I reject any notion that Christ is insufficient for what it takes to persevere to the end. When I begin to doubt and linger too long around the campfires of the devil, I will move in faith to Christ, for he has prayed for me and I will return to the hard and narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Jesus Christ is my “helmet of salvation.” Therefore I reject any and all propositions that attempt to undermine my identity as “in Christ.” I will preach the gospel to my head and heart when the world calls me to assimilate my faith to its idolatry.

Jesus Christ is my “sword of the Spirit.” Therefore I will at all times take up the Word of God, praying in the Spirit, to stay alert to any scheme of the Devil that attempts to dethrone Christ in my heart. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords! No worldly offer of personal peace and prosperity can match what I already have in Christ. No kingdom of man can over-rule the Kingdom of God. My life is not my own, for I was bought with a price and therefore I will glorify the Lord with my whole being until he returns.

“Alleluia” is better for our worship than “America”

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The Scriptures teach that all corporate singing of the church is to have the “words of Christ,” in them. Also, our songs are to have two audiences only: “one another” (that’s the church) and “God” (see Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; see also the psalms, lamentations, the songs recorded in Exodus 15, David’s songs recorded in Samuel, and John’s songs recorded in Revelation). Meaning, the gathered church is to sing the truth of God’s word to both one another and to our Lord. Our singing is to give a witness of the gospel to those who do not know Christ.

This truth about the corporate singing of the church raises several questions that can keep us on track with what the Scriptures teach. Here are a few questions that help guide us for Sunday morning singing:

  1. Can this song be sung to worship God who sent his son Jesus Christ?
  2. Can this song be sung to worship God by edifying and speaking to the saints as those in Christ?
  3. Can this song be sung in other countries where Christians gather, AND, would edify those saints? Remember, all of scripture teaches that when the saints sing, they sing from the perspective of “out of every, tribe, tongue, people, and nation”, instead of a “tribalism” that focuses on ones national identity with an earthly kingdom. The Local Church is to display the Universal Church  – “sons of Abraham” – so that the song you sing, if translated into another language, that people group could worship Christ, too.
  4. Is this song scriptural – the words, the philosophy, the purpose and aim? or is it sung more out of tradition, sentimentalism, nostalgia?
  5. Does this song cause me to think of either what God has done for me in Christ and/or what I am to do for my Lord and my fellowman (Love)?
  6. Is the gospel expressed in this song either implicitly or explicitly?
  7. Can this song be sung by believers only, truly in heart and conviction, or can this song be sung by unbelievers outside the church?

Now let’s take a look at what is called, Patriotic Songs. A quick overview of these songs provides helpful discernment for why I do not approve of using them in the corporate worship of the saints.

Battle Hymn of the Republic – Julia Ward Howe, 1862. This song is neither sung to saints nor to God in Christ. This song was written during the Civil War as a war-cry for “Our God” who is marching on, to trample the Confederate South into the winepress where ‘the grapes of wrath are stored.” It is impossible for me to rejoice in the fact that over half-million southern men and women and children were brutally killed so that the union could be saved. I’m glad for the union’s solvency under God’s sovereignty but that does not mean it’s something to be worshipful about. Besides, this song has an unbiblical line: “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea.” And, it equates saving souls from hell with saving men from southern slavery – “as he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free”.

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee – Samuel Smith, 1832. This song is neither sung to the saints nor to God in Christ; it is sung to America, the political, geographical land. Only on the last verse does it then turn to God, but only to call on God to keep us politically free. The audience of the song is found in “thy name I love.” Meaning, to sing this song is to set one’s affection on the land of America. It exalts political freedom from tyranny as the purpose: “sweet freedom’s song” – “bright with freedom’s holy light” – “protect us by thy might”.

The irony is that in the year that it was written, America, the land of liberty, was murdering 10’s of thousands of “native Americans” under Andrew Jackson’s presidency – (see “Trail of Tears”) and was buying and enslaving 100’s of thousands of blacks. “Sweet Freedom’s Song” evidently was for white people only. In addition, “our father’s God,” that this song writer is appealing to is not the God who sent Jesus Christ, but the god that the French Enlightenment produced, like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who denied that Jesus was God in the flesh. They believed in the deist god, an impersonal deity who created men as basically good (which the bible denies, “there is no one who does good” – Rom. 3:10ff).

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

The Star-Spangled Banner – Francis Scott Key, 1814. Let’s just keep this in the ball-parks and stadiums. Besides, no one can sing this better than Whitney Houston.

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

America, the Beautiful – Katherine Bates, 1893. This song is neither sung to the saints nor to the God of the Bible; the Audience of the song is America. Its main focus is the exaltation of political freedom: “patriot dream” – “heroes proved in liberating strife” – “for freedom beat”. It also stresses the natural goodness of America and to keep this goodness going: “crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” This is difficult to express since the bible teaches that no one has intrinsic goodness but God alone. However, I do appreciate “God shed his grace on thee” as acknowledgement of common grace. But when this common grace is praised because of a future utopia that is brought upon this land through political and military might – then I cannot abide that. Read carefully the last verse:

“O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years” (a future American Dream)

“Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears” (a time when no sorrows will ever be found upon our soil again, i.e., utopia by the progression of political freedom NOT the Return of Christ!).

This is typical Dominion Theology or Theonomist language that believes in bringing about World Peace by legislation and military might.

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

I love it when the church worships our Risen Lord with rich, scriptural, passion-filled singing. I’ve longed for our church to sing to our Risen Lord and to one another as saints of God with a song that calls the citizens of this country to turn to the Lord, and to put a prayer in our mouths for our country, that upon hearing it, sinners who live in America would feel the weight of their sin and turn to Christ and seek a city whose builder and maker is God. Below are the lyrics of a song that I have been working on for many years. It is sung to the tune “America the Beautiful”. Like many of our songs in our hymnal, the tunes were written as ballads for other lyrics, but song-writers along the way wrote biblical lyrics to these old tunes. Likewise, this is my feeble attempt to use a beautiful ballad but worship Christ with biblical truths. This song is based on Psalm 8 and 19, and sections of Revelation. May Christ get all the glory this coming Lord’s Day.

 Alleluia! Alleluia!                                                                                                                                

O beautiful for spacious skies,  for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!                                                     Alleluia! Alleluia! Your grace has set us free
May all confess, Your Righteousness
From sea to shining sea

What glory you have giv’n to man, to care for all you’ve made                                                 You fashioned him with loving hands, Majestic is your Name                                       Alleluia! Alleluia! The earth pours out your word                                                                     The law your fame, with grace proclaim                                                                                       From sea to shining sea

What plague then spreads upon this land, that fills the air with doom?                         Creation groans, the Serpent roams, we do not love our God!                                           Anathema! Anathema! Your judgment now has come                                                           Your Word transgressed, there is no rest                                                                                     Oh God, what have we done?

My guilt and shame, I can’t repair, no sacrifice I bring                                                             Who is this Lamb, upon a tree, The Son of God has won                                                        And now I know, sweet Love bestowed, You gave your only Son                                         The curse you broke, with one pure stroke                                                                              Sin’s victr’y is undone

Your Kingdom come, your will be done, We pray for this dear land,

Send out your church, stretch forth your arm, Awake the heart of man

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ Jesus is Enthroned

May all confess Your Righteousness

From sea to shining sea