There is no Gospel without the Cross.

Without the forgiveness of sins, there is no salvation.

These were some of the thoughts in my head and my heart as I put together the set-list for this last weekend at Compass Bible Church.

Recent Chapter 1 Partners Meetings fed these thoughts. Not only does this chapter explain what the clear fruits of justification will look like, it reminds us what justification is all about: sinful people being forgiven and made right before a holy God because of the work of Jesus Christ.

There are not truths to be remembered on occasion – they must be celebrated and sung about regularly. While I would hope that hardly a weekend at CBC goes by without singing about our great salvation, this last weekend we chose to focus specifically on the cross and the sacrifice Christ made for his people there.

This was our set-list:

The Glories of Calvary – F
The Father’s Love – G
Jesus, Thank You – G
–Announcements–
The Wonderful Cross – D-E
The One We Have Pierced -E
–Sermon–
Our God – G

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As Pastor Mike spoke about prayer and participation in the fourth installment of our recent “Compass Non-Negotiables” series, he reminded us of these words from the great missionary William Carey:

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

This quote and that sermon set up for some great songs in our worship set this last weekend. We introduces a new song called “God is Able” – a great anthem of confidence and expectation. While the song is biblical and beautiful, it does beg a question: What is God able to do? We wanted to tie this answer specifically to the mission of the church, so we opened with “Let Your Kingdom Come.” At CBC, we want to obey Christ’s command to seek his kingdom first, and we must believe that God is able to accomplish the purposes of his kingdom. We closed our set (and this sermon series) out with the song, “O Church Arise.” This beautiful modern hymn sounds forth a strong call for highly committed participants!

Here is the complete set-list from this weekend:

Let Your Kingdom Come” by Bob Kauflin (Enfield Arrangement – G)
God is Able” by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan (Hillsong Live Arrangement – B)
Hosanna (Praise is Rising)” by Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown
–Announcements/Offering—
Your Name” by Paul Baloche and Glenn Packiam (Wickham Arrangement – G)
O Church Arise” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (We used this arrangement/key)

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
-Ephesians 3:20-21

It was great to be back leading worship at Compass Bible Church after a trip to the East Coast! I was pretty fired up to apply some things I had learned at the Worship God Conference right out of the gate.

Here was the set (with links to the iTunes music store):

All Because of Jesus” by Steve Fee (Andy Frank Arrangement)
Salvation is Here” by Joel Houston (Lincoln Brewster Arrangment)
Always” by Jason Ingram, Kristian Stanfill (Passion Arrangement)
–Announcements/Offering—
How Great Thou Art” by S.K. Hine (Paul Baloche Arrangement)
Cannons” by Phil Wickham

Bryan Chappell preached an outstanding message at the conference from Isaiah 6. Any message from this text rightfully emphasizes the holiness of God, and Chappell masterfully showed us how God’s glory leads us to grace. Isaiah sees God’s glory and realizes his need for God’s mercy. He cries out, “Woe is me! I am destroyed!” Then we see the beautiful picture of God atoning for the prophet’s sin and preparing him for ministry. A true understanding of God’s holiness leads to a great appreciation for God’s grace.

This concept clearly comes out in the last two songs we sang. Consider these lines:

“I’m so unworthy, but still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are”
-“Cannons”

“And when I think that God His Son not sparing
Send him to die, I scarce can take it in”
-“How Great Thou Art”

I tried to emphasize this verse by repeating it at the end of the song and commenting on God’s holiness and mercy before we sang it again.

“Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou Art”

A Night to Remember

August 13, 2011

Who goes to a conference in a Maryland suburb of Washington D.C. without going into the city?

Not this nerd!

Last night after the evening session at Worship God Conference, my wingman Taylor and I jumped into our rental car and made a beeline to downtown D.C. We have no specific plans and only one simple goal – get a picture in front of the White House.

Because it was fairly late on a weeknight, the bustle of the Beltway had died down. We easily parked on Constitution Ave right between the White House and the Washington Monument. In only a few minutes we had accomplished our one goal. Memories of my past interest in pursuing politics filled my mind as we walked around the building. (Side note – it is pretty ridiculous that I think more of the fictional characters from The West Wing than any real political figures. I get excited when I see a gate because I think I have seen Josh Lyman walk out of it before.)

As we moved on and walked around the National Mall, I was struck how everything else we saw was built in order to remember something. We walked past the towering figure of the Washington Monument, which commemorates our first President. Heading West we passed the World War II Memorial on our way to the Lincoln Memorial which sits right next to the Vietnam Memorial.

All these memorials served their purpose last night because they caused me to remember some important things. The freedoms and privileges I enjoy in America the Present were secured in America the Past. Countless soldiers have given their lives to make this nation what it is. Presidents like Washington and Lincoln did not lead from a safe ivory tower, they made hard (but good) decisions even in the face of danger and opposition. I am foolish to enjoy the present without remembering the past.

The same is true of the church and even worship. Yesterday morning, a professor for Sovereign Grace’s Pastor’s College shared the story of Guido de Bres. Author of the Belgian Confession, de Bres was eventually captured and hung for his Protestant faith. The truths I get to sing out were protected and proclaimed by countless men and women who were willing to give their lives for it. As Bob Kauflin summed up, “What we sing about is a matter of life and death.”

I cannot walk around Washington D.C. without remembering all the sacrifice that has gone into making this nation great. I should not be able to pick songs for a weekend without remembering all the sacrifice that went into defending these holy truths.

Last night really was a night to remember.

Earlier this week I received a random yet wonderful gift. Someone sent me For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. The writings and sermons of John Piper have greatly influenced my spiritual life and ministry, so I was especially excited for the initial biographical essays.

Last night, I sat down to read and even though it was getting late, I could not put the book down. The chance to take a look behind the books and sermons and into the life of John Piper was more exciting than sleep at that moment. And one thing stood out of his character more than anything else: he loves Jesus. One of his associate pastors describes him as a man “with Christ at his core as the glad and glorious ‘blazing center.'” His personal assistant says, “The greatest single benefit from working with John the last four years is that I love Jesus more.”

This characteristic passion and love for God not only characterizes John Piper, but every truly good pastor I know. When I think of my current pastor (Mike Fabarez), my former pastors (John MacArthur and Rick Holland), my sermon preparation teacher (Scott Ardavanis), or my father, I think of men who are not just driven by discipline but compelled by a passion for God.

If I want to be a successful minister of the gospel, and if you want to be a vibrant growing Christian, one thing is essential. We must simply have a blazing love and passion for Jesus Christ.

Whole Heart

February 11, 2010

I never thought that I would get paid to rap.

But with the last two Revivals, it has been my job to put together a rap for a promotional video. For the “Heat to the Snow” video, I not only had to come up with the lyrics for the rap, but the melody as well. At some point in this songwriting process, a thought dawned on me. If I can write a silly song promoting Revival: Winter Edition, why can’t I write a serious song promoting whole-hearted worship of God?

I wanted to write a song that went along with the theme of Revival: Winter Edition. So, I searched for a Psalm of David that expresses the desire to be a person “After God’s Own Heart.”. In Psalm 86, David not only praises God for his great power and love, but he also makes this request in verse 11. He says:

“Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.”

David asks God for a united heart, and we should be crying out for the same thing. Because there is no one like our God, we should long to love him with our “Whole Heart.”

Good and forgiving
Love so abounding
Who is good like you?
You gladden my soul
My cup overflows
Who brings joy like you?

Teach me, Lord, all of your ways
Unite my heart, all of my days
To fear your name and walk in truth
For my whole heart I give to you

Mighty in power
Awesome in wonder
Who is great like you?
Strong to deliver
You reign forever
There is none like you

Hear my cry, O God
According to your grace
And with my whole heart
I will seek your face

You can listen to the song and download it here!

I don’t know how it happens, but whenever I run, I hear music. A steady beat from a piano and synthesized percussion builds into a beautiful melody. Nowhere can I run and avoid this occurrence, but it is heightened when I run at the beach. For the life of me, I cannot figure out who is following me and playing the theme from Chariots of Fire every time I run.

Or maybe it is just playing in my head.

I am sure I am not alone in my experience, because it seems that whenever you see someone running (especially in slow motion) someone will invariably start humming the tune. However, while everyone knows the song, not many know the movie…or the story it tells.

Chariots of Fire tells the story of a group of youth British athletes as they prepare for the 1924 Olympic Games while giving particular attention to two of them: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. After the famous opening scene, we first meet Abrahams, a young Jewish man entering a fine English university with a chip on his shoulder. He sees the whole world as against him, and he is out to win (or as he puts it, “Run them off their feet.”)

In contrast to Abrahams, Eric Liddell is introduced. Instead of being out to prove himself when he runs, Liddell runs because he believes God has given him the ability to do it, and “when runs, he feels God’s pleasure.” Above everything else (including running), he commits himself to his God.

Through the telling of the story of the Olympic games we see two very different men. The desire to win consumes Abrahams. Every loss destroys his confidence and fear racks his mind as he prepares for the final race. On the other hand, Liddell faces a different predicament. When the preliminary heats for the 100 meters are scheduled for a Sunday, Liddell chooses to honor his conviction to not run on the Sabbath. Even when he is placed before the Prince of Wales, he will not compromise.

Both Liddell and Abrahams end up winning gold medals (Abrahams in the 100m; Liddell in the 400m). But contrast appears yet again in victory. Abrahams’ victory seems to be a joyless occasion, and he shuns his teammates for a drunken conversation with his trainer. In Liddell’s victory, we see joy, a reunion with his family, and the satisfaction of knowing that he honored his God.

The movie provides so much more than a powerful melody that runs through my mind, it also encourages me. Worldly success is not the goal of this life; bringing glory to God is. And only when we live our lives for his pleasure will we experience true pleasure ourselves.

Do I Have to Read My Bible?

November 16, 2009

In response to this question, I would say, “No, but yes, yes, and yes!” (In case you didn’t catch it, that was a triple “yes.”)

Is reading the Bible necessary for growth as a Christian? Yes! This question would be the equivalent of asking, “Does a baby need food to grow?” Like a baby needs milk to grow, a Christian needs God’s Word to mature. (1 Peter 2:2)

Is reading the Bible something a Christian is commanded to do? Yes! While the Bible does not say “read your Bible” in as many words, it does say things like “crave pure spiritual milk” (1 Pet 2:2) and “let the word of Christ dwell in your richly” (Col 3:16). These commands are more at the level of desires, so if a Christian is obedient to long for God’s Word (and has access to it in his/her language the ability to read), he/she should read the Bible.

Finally, will a born again Christian have such an unquenchable thirst for and delight Scripture that they are compelled to read it? Absolutely yes! A Christian should not view reading the Bible as a “got-to” but a “get-to.” Once a redeemed soul has “tasted that God is good,” (1 Pet. 2:3), that taste should create such an uncontrollable craving for his word, that this person HAS to read it.

Is reading the Bible a requirement for salvation? Absolutely not. Salvation does not rest upon whether one checks the box of Bible reading off; it rests upon Jesus Christ. Also, reading your Bible is not a legalistic obligation. The act of sitting down with your Bible and reading it does not somehow earn you righteousness or favor with God.

Let’s sum it up. Do you have to read your Bible to be a Christian? No. But as a Christian, do you have to read the Bible because you need it, God wants you to, and you want to because you have tasted that God is good? Yes, yes, and YES!

Who Do You Trust?

May 3, 2009

Contemplate how incredibly bad a real epidemic disease would be.

I imagine it would begin with rumors and fear. You would begin to hear about the disease–where it is, how it is affecting people, how fast it is traveling, etc. While it may seem distant at first, the questions would begin to creep into your mind. Will it spread to where I live? Will people I know or interact with get sick?

Then, if the disease should spread to your area in a true and deadly epidemic fashion, I can only imagine how bad the terror could become. And more than that there would be an incredible internal conflict within each individual between fear and care. As loved ones began to get sick and even die, how would people decide whether to stay and care for them or to flee and avoid the contagious disease? The paranoia would be unreal.

That brings us to the swine flu–the current “epidemic” that is making headlines in our world today. How do we as Christians respond to the possibility of an epidemic? In the face of something so potentially scary, do we respond with worry or peace?

It’s easy to base our trust and peace merely on rational thinking. We tell ourselves, “The swine flu is not that big of a deal. People in America aren’t really dying from it. The statistics aren’t really worse than the regular flu, which kills thousands every year. Honestly, this whole thing is overblown.”

Personally, I would generally agree with those statements. It sounds like this swine flu thing is a bit over-hyped. However, I’ve been really challenged about the basis of my lack of anxiety. Am I not anxious because of rational thinking, or is there also an underlying foundational trust in a sovereign God?

Let’s face it. Someday we all might face something that we cannot reason away by saying, “It’s not that big of a deal.” Where will our trust be then?

Will it be in some comforting statistic we got from FOX News?

Or will it be in the God described in this Psalm?

1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.

2 Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

3 The seas have lifted up, O LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.

5 Your statutes stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days, O LORD.

*P.S. I just wanted to be clear that by saying the swine flu is “over-hyped” I am not trying to negate or minimize the real people who are really suffering and dying from this disease. It is a serious thing that deserves our prayers and concern.

Today is Earth Day.

Disney is coming out with a nature documentary from Planet Earth footage called “Earth.” It looks pretty sweet, it’s narrated by James Earl Jones, and it apparently contains no evolutionary material.

The cafeteria run by Bon Appetit here at The Master’s College celebrated by serving some kind of environmentally friendly lunch. I opted out of that and used an In-N-Out gift card instead.

But all of that is neither here nor there. The point is this: On this Earth Day in 2009, how many people will acutally think about, give thanks to, and worship the One who created this planet?

Don’t let Earth Day go by without giving glory to the Creator!