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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Song Series: Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Julia H. Johnston, 1849-1919

"But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21)

God's grace is not merely a sufficient grace; it is an abounding grace--"that you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). His grace provides our eternal salvation as well as the enablement to know life more abundantly. It is available for our every problem and need.

Sometimes the argument is advanced that since God's grace covers all our sins, then we are free to live as we please. God's grace does provide for our freedom, but it is meant to free us from a slavery to our selfish, sinful nature in order that we might pursue "every good work"--to become all that God intends us to be.

Julia Johnston was for many years involved in the work of Sunday schools at the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Illinois, and as a writer of lesson materials for primary age children for the David C. Cook Publishing Company. She also wrote approximately 500 hymn texts. The composer of this hymn, Daniel B. Towner, was for many years the director of the music department at Moody Bible Institute. "Grace Greater Than Our Sin" first appeared in Towner's compilation, Hymns Tried and True, 1911.

Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Julia H. Johnston, 1849-1919

"Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured--there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
"Sin and despair, like the seawaves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss; grace that is greater--yes, grace untold--points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.
"Dark is the stain that we cannot hide; what can avail to wash it away? Look! there is flowing a crimson tide--whiter than snow you may be today.
"Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, will you this moment His grace receive?
"Chorus: Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!"

What does the term "grace" mean to your life? Try to define it in your own words. Discuss your insights with another. (Osbeck)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Song Series: Happy Am I

Happy Am I

Read: Hebrews 13:1-6

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”        – Hebrews 13:6

I have such fond memories of what some ministries used to call “Children’s Church”. For those of you who’ve not heard of this concept; basically, it was a church service for grade school age kids. We had our own children’s pastor, bible games, flannel graph story times (as close as we got to high tech) and of course, music. Now that I think of it, we even had our own child led worship team.

Basically, it consisted of a trio of us boys who figured out how to sing in harmony. We got pretty good at it and were invited to sing a little ditty called “Do Lord” for the adults in the “Big Church” service. Stevie, Billy, and I stood around a single microphone accompanied by Bob and Avis Swartz on organ and grand-piano respectively. What a hoot! But, singing aside, I think we kids really did learn a lot about Jesus through these kid-centric times together.

We understood that our happiness wasn’t found in hitting a ball better than Bobby or getting better grades than Greg. Our joy wasn’t dependant on being better than anybody or anything at all; joy was found in walking with Jesus. After all, we grew up intimately knowing missionaries, like the Bells, who had very little money but a whole lot of happiness, even after spending three decades in a foreign land. We saw that walking with Christ costs something, yet also observed how the dividends far outweighed the sacrifice. I guess, as kids, we just accepted what the bible had to say as fact; and that was that. Not a bad way to live, actually.

Songs, flannel graphs, and walking talking examples encouraged us to believe that Jesus was enough, so as kids, we believed. Like one of our favorite children’s church songs simply stated, “Happy am I, Jesus is mine forever”.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me. He was enough then and He’s enough now, even when I begin to worry about “Big Church” people stuff.

Happy Am I

Happy am I: Jesus is Mine Forever,
Never to leave: always in each endeavor,
Leading me on - in a life ending never.
Giving a smile, every mile, - happy am I.

Happy am I: all of my sins forgiven,
What a great day: Life is now worth the living!
One of these days, I'll be enjoying heaven,
Now that I know, upward I'll go - happy am I.

Happy am I! How can I help but shout it?
Every day - telling the world about it;
Jesus is real - only believe, don't doubt it.
Then you will be happy like me; happy am I.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quiet Time: One Voice

One Voice

READ: 2 Chronicles 5:1-14

in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the LORD saying, “He indeed is good for His loving-kindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, - 2 Chronicles 5:13 (NASB)

Unity is powerful. That’s why I think, musically, unison can also be powerful.

In this passage referring to the dedication of Solomon’s temple we see the instrumentalists and vocalist getting the attention of everyone in attendance by singing and playing one line of song in unison. However, the message was also heard in the heavenlies, and it was visibly received loud and clear by the Levite’s audience of One, as God amened His approval by filling the temple with His presence just as He did in Moses day. What more could a musician ask for than to be in the presence of his master.

Oh, that the church in unison would proclaim with one voice, "Yes! God is good! His loyal love goes on forever!" (MSG)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quiet Time: Meet the Band

Meet the Band
Read: 1 Chronicles 16:1-7

He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the LORD God of Israel: - 1 Chronicles 16:4

Just about every live concert has a “meet the band” break somewhere near the end of their program where each member of the group is introduced to the audience. Church worship bands don’t normally take the time to do this on Sunday mornings for obvious reasons But, I don’t think it hurts to introduce them to the congregation from time to time. It may even be a good idea to place a personal bio for each of them in the bulletin once in a while, or, at the very least, give them a spot on the church web site.

The Holy Spirit seems to think it’s important to know the names of the musicians who played in Old Testament times. He’s very specific; almost like He’s giving us a “meet the band” break in the middle of the action.

Here are just a few of the guys who served in the Davidic tabernacle, as well as, who marched along with the arc of the covenant as it was paraded back to Jerusalem from Obed-edom’s house with songs of joy:
Asaph (collector) Music Director, vocalist, played the lyre, harp, and loud cymbals.
Benaiah (Yahweh has built) played trumpet, was an army commander (1 Chr. 27:5), killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day! (1 Chr. 11:22)
Eliab (God is a father) played the harp tuned to alamoth or soprano harp and was a gate keeper
Heman (faithful) prophet, vocalist, who played both the lyre and the harp, as well as, the loud brass cymbals
Jahaziel (God Sees) a priest and trumpeter
Jehiel (God lives) played a harp tuned to alamoth
Jeiel (treasured of God) gate keeper to the sacred tent, played the lyre tuned to sheminith - probably a large 8 stringed harp tuned below the the soprano (alamoth) lyre.
Mattihiah (gift of Yahweh) played the lyre tuned to sheminith. was also a tabernacle gatekeeper
Obed-edom (Edom is serving) kept the arc of the covenant at his house for three months before it was brought to Jerusalem, was gatekeeper for the arc in Jeruselem, also played both the harp and lyre
Shemiramoth (highest fame) played the soprano harp and was a gatekeeper
Zechariah (Yahweh remembered) priest, trumpeter, played the soprano harp and probably the 8 stringed harp as well.

Do you know your worship leaders by name? When was the last time you handed them a "Thank You" card or stopped to tell them how much you appreciate them? May I offer a suggestion? While you’re worshipping this Sunday, really listen to what each team member is doing. Then, find something specific in regard to their playing or singing to compliment and share your observation with them. Trust me, not only will you strengthen their spirit but you will revitalize their desire to serve.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quiet Time: Raise Sounds of Joy

Raise Sounds of Joy

1 Chronicles 15:15-17

Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. -    1 Chronicles 15:16

When people want to celebrate, music is invariably involved. We use bands at ruckus football games and somber graduations. Orchestras fill the air with stringed music at weddings, as well as, coronations. And, if we can’t afford a full band or orchestra we hire DJs to mix soundtracks of music to fill the silence. Most of the secular gigs I’ve played have been in celebration of one event or another. Joy and music just seem to go hand in hand.

David knew how to celebrate. He put together the first traveling troubadours. Ok, ok, I know these guys were more than folk singers, but one thing’s certain, they were the best musicians in the kingdom. I mean look at the list of artist: Heman, Asaph, Ethan, basically first chair musicians, not to mention Zechariah, Ben (only three letters, are you kidding), Jaaziel, and all of their buddies including Chenaniah, the top notch director over the vocalists. We get the impression that David wanted everyone everywhere to know that something BIG was taking place; something no one wanted to miss, and it would be a time of incomparable joy and celebration of the presence and power of the living God.

Sometimes I think the church has lost its sense of celebration. Ernest thoughtful songs can help us contemplate the reverence and awesome holiness of God, but loud, festive, upbeat praise can really add a feeling of victory and power to our corporate worship time as well. Worship leaders can have a direct impact on whether or not a congregation is jubilant or dull, and of all the people everywhere, Christians have the most to get excited about.

So, break out the tambourines and high sounding cymbals. Celebrate the joy of your salvation!