Worship Review 8.2.15 – Lord, I Believe Help My Unbelief

What a great service this weekend! I’m excited about what God did in our midst and am looking forward to Oasis this coming week. If you haven’t yet registered you can regsiter at newsongchurch.com/oasis.

This weekend we sang a bunch of really great tunes:

  • At Your Name by Phil Wickham
  • Come Thou Fount by Norton Hall Band
  • The Mighty Hand of God by Citizens and Saints
  • You’ll Never Let Go by Matt Redman
  • Unstoppable God by Elevation Worship

Here’s a playlist! But, if you like the songs we sang please purchase them to support the artists who are providing so many excellent songs for the church to sing. Especially the Citizens & Saints album. That stuff is real good.


Last week, I went in to get my hair cut at the same place I’ve been going for over a year now, to the same lady who who has been cutting my hair quite fantastically in that time. Because it’s been some time I showed a picture of the last hair cut she gave me and said, “Give me this.”

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Quite nice. Long on the top, combover, short on the side, beard in prominence. Just the way I like it. So, I take off my glasses – making me essentially blind – and she turns the chair around so I can’t squint at the mirror. She begins cutting and trimming. When she finishes, she gives back my glasses, and lets me look. And it wasn’t quite the above haircut. So, I give further instruction, “Just a bit shorter on the sides please, and because of the way my hair grows take up the sides all the way to the part.” And I show her where exactly I mean. Glasses go off, she cuts, gives the glasses back and my hair looks like this:

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And, well, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. Awkwardly, I paid and left. And I drove straight home. Alyssa laughed out loud when she saw me; she LOLed at my new haircut. So, into the bathroom I went and buzzed what little hair I had left. And now I look like this:

Les Miserables (To be fair, I do sing most of my dialogue.)

What does this have to do with worship? Maybe, not much.

I opened up the worship set with a pretty brutal confession, although I tried to make it light hearted. Deep down, unfortunately, I believe God to be as fickle as myself. I’m addicted to Good Work so I think God must be too. Every week my spiritual tempermant is dictated by how much good or bad I do.

For the past two years I’ve had the great pleasure of being coordinating our Oasis conference and this year especially I’m proud of the work we’ve done – God must love me more, we’ll see.

And now that the logistics and behind the scene stuff is done, I’m avaiable to focus on the music we’ll sing and being on stage. Thus my new hair cut.

The anger I felt after I buzzed my head wasn’t proportionate to the offense. I’ve worn this hair style before, most people who’ve seen it have liked it, and it’ll grow back. Actually, less grows back each time, but that’s a different post.

Deep down I thought that if I looked good people would like me more and sing out at Oasis (and Sunday), which is crazy. And if I do my job well I think God will love me more. And who doesn’t want that? So, as much as I preach: “There’s nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less than He already does” my emotional and spiritual experience suggests otherwise.

And, I know, it may sound like a light hearted conversation, and maybe the shaved head example is frivolous but… Every week I interact with people who seem to think they don’t qualify for God’s love, or worship, or church, or reading their Bible, or prayer. They know in their minds that God’s love is constant and that He is faithful, but they and I don’t know it in our hearts.

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard, “But, Tommy, you don’t know what I’ve done…” After uttering this phrase some disappear unable to handle the weight of their guilt, others try and assuage their guilt with behavior management, and others yet lean in to truth that they do not feel.

One of my favorite instances in the scripture is Romans 7 when the Apostle Paul admits:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:15, 18-19

When I share this scripture with folks, and read it myself, I feel a sigh of relief, “Oh, I’m not the only one.” But, what I love even more than Paul’s confession in Romans 7 is his follow up in Romans 8:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,… but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies…  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:1, 23-39

Last week I picked the set list really quickly, which never happens. Normally, I labor and labor over the songs we sing. But, in a serendipitous moment I felt like the set was given to me, and I couldn’t tell you why but I chose to ride that wave. Only very late Saturday night driving home by myself from an event did I come to understand why we would sing about God’s unfailing faithfulness in the morning.

Lately, I’ve not felt like I believed the truth of Romans 8, that my story ends in Romans 7 – but my feelings do not determine truth. There’s a classic prayer: “Lord, I Believe Help My Unbelief.” So as I said when I asked you to stand and sing yesterday, “I’m gonna sing precisely because I don’t believe.”

My prayer this week is that we’ll remember that though our hearts are prone to wander there is, “No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

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Worship Review 8.2.15 – Lord, I Believe Help My Unbelief

Worship Review 4.12.15

So we shook things up yesterday. We have a pretty set order for what we do at New Song Inland Hills and yesterday that was completely tossed out the window. So let’s chat about why did what we did. And here are the songs to listen to while we chat about it:

God is Great (Hillsong United) – This tune is a a nice bombastic opening to a service. It’s loud, fast, energetic. It lifts our eyes from our own glory to God’s glory and the glory of His name alone. By opening and closing the service we boldy declare that what matters is not our hard work and efforts but His and His alone.

Behold Our God (Sovereign Grace Music) – Last week I quoted 2 Corinthians 3.18 about how as we behold the Lord we’ll be transformed into His image. Last night I was in a Bible study with two of my favorite students at Inland Hills and we were having a great conversation on the John 1.1-34. I told them that the whole point of the Bible, that the center piece of scripture, all of what we believe and all that we should do is summed up in half of a one verse:

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1.29b ESV

Their translations each had that opening verb as “Look!” which feels lame and half-hearted compared to “Behold!” And I asked the students why I thought the “Look!” wasn’t a strong enough verb, even with the exclamation mark. And one of them said that the word “behold” communicates this:

Stop! Drop everything you’re doing and pay attention!

We don’t get better from our sin-sickness by managing ourselves well. The root of sin is self-thoughtfulness. St. Augustine and Martin Luther had this wonderful Latin phrase, Incurvatus in se, meaing that we are curved in on our selves. Sin is inherent naval gazing. But, when the Spirit lifts our heads and we behold the glory God the light of Christ washes out the darkness in our hearts.

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Communion – Once a month we remember the mystery of Christ made man, dying our death, rising again, and coming back to reign by receiving communion. One of the mind blowing aspects of Christianity is it’s specificity. Jesus entered into our world at a specific moment, in a specific place. We can walk the same streets as Christ, and the same dust that coated his feet coat ours. Communion is a time when we remember that the omnipresent, omniscienct, immaterial, sovereign Lord of the universe became material. Bread and wine are very real. When we take communion all of our sesnses are engaged with the material reality of our God. He is a God intimately involved in our communal and personal history, our present tense, and in our future histories.

We’ve begun taking communinion differently at Inland Hills, instead of passively receiving communion and individually contemplating in our seats we stand and join together at the table. Psalm 23.5 say that the Lord prepares a table for us before our enemies. The communion table is where God has a set a table for His enemies, and we’re all invited to that banquet. At the table there is no difference between rich and poor, liberal and conservative, young and old, sick or well, male or female, sinner or saint. All of our dichtomities are false at the table. While we wait in line to receive the elements we stand together as one, and for at least a moment, it doesn’t matter who goes first.

There Is A Fountain (William Cowper; arranged by Norton Hall Band) – I love this hymn for so many reasons. But in our tradition it’s a bit macabre out of context, so I’m happy to have introduced it during communion as we begin to understand what is meant by blood.

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(Except filled with blood)

This song takes us from the moment of salvation to when our feeble bodies fail and we breath our last. In our short time on planet Earth we have a great hope of life everlasting because of Christ’s blood shed on the cross. I love the fifth verse of this song, Cowper’s lyrics when sung sound like what they are. It’s hard to sing “lisping, stammering” without lisping and stammering.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song I’ll sing thy power to save

The song leaves us silent in the grave, which is the reality we all face. But again, we have a great hope…

Christ Is Risen (Matt Maher) – Christ is risen from the dead and death has been defeated. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave dwells in us.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15.26

Our flesh will fail, but God will not. And He has proven Himself trustworthy by going before us in death and defeating it on the third day. How can we keep from worshipping:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the ressurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishablem, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you. 1 Peter 1.3-4a

Cornerstone (Hillsong United) – When we behold the glory of God we realize our wretchedness and have cause to tremble. And this is a universal fear. But at the table God makes a way for all, there we are washed in the fountain of God’s love, and we have a great hope that we will rise with Christ. That hope is not built on how good we seem, how hard we try, how rich we are, who we voted for, what church we attended that hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In our darkest moments of sin and heartbreak God is all the more trustworthy because we know He’s strong to save and never changes. Death was not the end of God and it’s not the end of us, it is only the beginning. And because of Christ’s blood and righteousness we can boldly go before the throne of God and be declared “faultless.”

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4.16 ESV

Worship Review 4.12.15