Friday, October 23, 2009

Il Divo - Amazing Grace

A great song sung by the amazing operatic quartet Il Divo. Awesome setting, awesome bag pipes, awesome voices, AMAZING GRACE!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Strong Doctrine Guards Against Idolatry

The cross has become a very common image nowadays. You see it in the home displayed on walls as art, on tee-shirts, the back pocket of tattered jeans. It’s become a sort of fashion statement. It’s been trivialized to the point that the true meaning of the cross has become meaningless. The people who wear it give no thought at all to what happened on the cross, or that the cross was not a thing of beauty but an instrument of death. It was where Jesus Christ the Savior, my Savior, was killed.

It was my very own sin that made the cross necessary. For my sake God made Jesus, who knew no sin, a sacrifice, so that through Jesus I can know forgiveness of sin. What happened on the cross was horrifying. It’s not art and it certainly is not a fashion statement.

Isaiah 53
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

I found the following on Tony Reinke’s blog Miscellanies:

For the first four centuries of the church as “religion was still flourishing, and a purer doctrine thriving, Christian churches were commonly empty of images”. As soon as images were installed in churches they led to idolatry, “For men’s folly cannot restrain itself from falling headlong into superstitious rites”. The doctrine of the Cross is our instruction. Sinners are driven towards images and idols only when the doctrines of the Gospel are not made clear. “But whence, I pray you, this stupidity if not because they are defrauded of that doctrine which alone was fit to instruct them?” Indeed it is a good reminder that when crowds gather around icons and symbols that they arrive only because the true gospel has been withheld. Calvin says it so well,
“What purpose did it serve for so many crosses – of wood, stone, silver, and gold – to be erected here and there in churches, if this fact had been duly and faithfully taught: that Christ died on the cross to bear our curse, to expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, to wash them by his blood, in short, to reconcile us to God the Father? From this one fact they could have learned more than from a thousand crosses of wood or stone”.

Remember Calvin in this part of the Institutes is telling us how we can know God. Time and time again Calvin points us back to Scripture as the only sure guide to know Him. When the message of the Cross is gone, the vacuum it creates fills in with images and superstitions. Resorting to visual images in worship is a sure sign that the message of the Cross is no longer central. This is the big danger.

In all of this, it’s clear that Calvin sees venerated religious images as the fruit of idolatrous minds and the adoration and veneration of the icons, statues, and special crosses as nothing other than “fornications with wood and stone”. Beware of the “image fighters” who think Christian devotion rests upon paintings, crucifixes, statues and special crosses. Seek the display of God’s glory in his Word alone. Life comes by the faith in the Cross not the sight of crosses.

Icons are most necessary when the preaching of the gospel has been made unnecessary. We will not bow and adore images if the preaching of the gospel is strong. When preachers move away from the content of Scripture in sermons they move towards their own mentally carved image of God.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!
One in himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by his blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God

Music by Vikki Cook
Lyrics by Charitie Bancroft
As recorded on Depth of Mercy

Guitar Chords
MP3 Purchase

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Sword of the Spirit - Ephesians 6:10-20

Today's program is a sermon, part 2, delivered by Bill Lawless at Grace Covenant Church of Midland, Texas. The focus of this message is ver 17b.

We live in a time when bible study has been reduced to the reading of a book written by someone other than God. Nowadays in times of crisis we run to the self help books, Oprah or Dr. Phil. We live in a time when people who call themselves Christian find themselves defeated at every turn. Why? Because we are not using the most powerful weapon there is, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. We don’t use it because we do not know it.


Back to the beginning, where we started. We don’t use the sword because we don’t know our sword. Beloved, there are no excuses for not knowing how to use your bible. None! 5 Things:

1. Read your bible – This should be obvious and certainly the least that you should be doing. Do you read your bible? God speaks to us through His Word, we should regard every occasion of reading or studying that Word as an encounter with God Himself. This needs to land on us and impact us. We have the words of God right here. The creator of all that exist gave us a book so that we can know who He is. So we can know who we are and so we can know His Son Jesus Christ is. Knowing God’s word starts here.

2. Study your bible – Reading your bible is not enough. To know it requires study. Its important that we know what God’s word means. Don’t ask “What does it mean to me”. That’s point 4. Taking into consideration the 5 Ws. Who, What, Whan, Where and Why. Seek to understand what the bible means. Beloved we are so fortunate to have a pastor that wants us to understand what the bible means and takes us book by book and chapter by chapter and verse by verse.

3. Meditate on God’s word – This is not setting on the floor with your legs crossed contmplating you navel. Far from it.

J. I. Packer writes in his book Knowing God: “Meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us—‘comfort’ us in the old, strong Bible sense of the word—as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psalms 1:2-4, Psalms 4:3-5, Psalms 63:5-7, Psalms 19:24

4. Apply God’s word – Now you can ask the question “What does it mean to me” Think about it, it makes sence. You have to know what it means before you can apply God’s word properly. If we don’t apply God’s word to our lives then we may as well be reading People Magizine instead.James 1:22-25 - 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

5. Give God’s word to someone else – This may be anything from sharing your faith to providing comfort to someone in need.

Its only when we read God’s word, study God;s word, meditate on God’s word, apply God’s word and give God’s word that we will be able to use “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God effectively and experience victory over tempation and comfort in times of trials.

Sinclair Ferguson wrote, “It is only as Christ’s words remain in us and we remain in Him that we will be delivered from the rootless Christianity so characteristic of our times. As His word influences us, we begin to bear fruit and prove to be His disciples. (John 15:5-8) Only as God’s Word makes its impact on the way we think, live, and feel will we develop hearts that are characterized by obedience to God and filled with love for Him.”